Written Reviews

Out of Frame (Requested Review)

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The purpose of art is to awaken the deep seeded emotions that lay dormant within the far reaches of the viewers mind. Through the use of images, both shocking and beautiful, the artist explores the darkest depths of our souls, exposing the carnal nature of the supposedly civilized man.

While art by its very nature is subjective and inevitably provokes different reactions from onlookers, there is a single universal concept that supersedes all personal and cultural boundaries and connects all of humanity (past, present and future). It is the notion of death that manages to blend sheer horror with ephemeral beauty and blurs the distinction between disgust and arousal

The film “Out of Frame” explores the often overlooked connection between violence and beauty, through a story that challenges traditional notions of art.

Damien Drake is a professional photographer, known for his unorthodox line of works known as the “Death Series”. This series of portraits consisted of models covered in artificial blood and strategically posed to resemble murder victims. However, unbeknownst to the public, the secret behind the realistic quality of the death series is that the models portrayed are in fact dead. Hoping to leave his violent past behind him, Damien attempts to reinvent himself by moving away from death and violence and focusing on different themes entirely. Damien’s new direction is met with poor audience reception, leaving him bitter and unfulfilled as an artist.

Damien contemplates the the direction of his art, when his former employer John abruptly re-enters his life. The past and present collide, as John urges Damien to resume his former life as photographer of death. Struggling to rebrand himself, while trying to keep his violent urges suppressed, Damien’s inner turmoil eventually erupts into a violent confrontation with John.

In the aftermath of the fight, Damien ultimately decides to reject both the senseless violence of the death series and the empty, uninspired art from his new life. He instead chooses to follow his own path embracing his murderous nature, to create new works that reflect his appreciation of beauty and desire to create meaningful art.

Typically films with murder and death as central themes explore the motives and psychology of the killer. “Out of Frame” successfully subverts this cliche by presenting the killer as both an individual character as well as a representative of humanity itself. Through Damien’s conflict, we’re presented with both the blood thirst animal and the aspiring artist that make up the contradiction that is mankind.  

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Troll Inc. (Review)

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The art of trolling is one that many attempt, but few have mastered. Separate from online harassment, Trolling requires a deep understanding of society combined with a natural thirst for truth and the drive to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior. 

“Troll Inc” chronicles the various endeavors of the notorious internet troll known as Weev. Having received international notoriety from a stunt involving a security breach at Apple, Weev has become a controversial figure, whose eccentric behaviors and lack of decorum has gained him the admiration of some, and the ire of others. 

At first glance, Weev appears as little more than a nihilistic clown, taking pleasure in disrupting the status quo for his own amusement. While this view isn’t entirely off base, it would be dishonest to summarize a character such as Weev by such a simplistic description. 

As any good documentary should, “Troll Inc” explores the mindset of the infamous troll and provides a greater understanding of who he is. Underlying the cheap thrills inherent in trolling, the film presents a man set on challenging the boundaries of social convention and pushing the limits of the first amendment. 

The advent of the internet has led to an age in which the distinction between the personal and public has become nearly undefinable. As society expands to encompass more of the world into the global economy, the individual is reduced to a mere consumer, void of culture and lacking in personal intimacy. The consumer apathetically drifts through life, passively following the latest trends while surrendering his personal autonomy to international corporations and special interest groups.

As a result of an increasingly competitive society, some people choose to disconnect from the world entirely. They drift off into the dark corners of the internet, growing increasingly cynical and hostile towards anyone outside their small circle of compatriots. Others choose a more productive path by utilizing the internet to reach an audience of thousands dedicated followers and exposing them to the truth, while also showing the elites of society that they aren’t as untouchable as they may think. 

At the end of the documentary, the audience is left to make their own judgement about Weev and others like him. Is he just some obnoxious interloper, causing trouble just for laughs (for the lols as many prefer to say)? Or is he a crusader of justice, attempting to return control of society to the masses? I believe the answer lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Modern day internet trolls like Weev are a product of the time period. They’re people looking to expose the fragility of the current system, while laughing at the ensuing chaos.

Attack of the Killer Shrews! (Review)

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Paying tribute to the 1959 classic sci fi Low budget film “The Killer Shrew”, “Attack of the Killer Shrews” by “White Lion Studios” puts a comedic on the story told by it’s spiritual predecessor. The film begins with an extremely well done stop motion summary of the story, following a brief introduction by B-Movie Icon Lloyd Kauffman of “Troma Entertainment”. 

Following this opening, any pretense of seriousness that may have been expected is decisively shattered, ushering in a barrage of nonsensical and random comedy, complete with gratuitous blood played entirely for laughs. 

The film waste no time getting to the point, immediately introducing the cliche mad scientist character, who in typical mad scientist fashion, creates an army of blood thirsty rodents intent on massacring everything in sight. The Shrews themselves resembled the cheap quality of the shrews from the original film, but with enough self awareness to know how ridiculous they appeared. The shrews would randomly pop out of no where and act in manners that defied any logic, but came off as appropriate given the nature of the film. 

The human characters were nearly as ridiculous as the shrews they fought against. They consisted of various cliches and served little purpose other than to move the plot along and as subjects of jokes. It would have been pointless and inappropriate for any of the characters to be taken seriously, or to spend an unnecessary amount of time developing them. Instead, their brief introductions and simple personalities granted the film consistent pacing, with the jokes primarily relating to the plot. 

Overall, “Attack of the Killer Shrews” is a entertaining, low budget comedy that never pretends to be more than it is. If you have an appreciation for classic low budget films and over the top comedy, then “Attack of the Killer Shrews” is definitely a film worth your consideration. Though you may want to check every corner of your house before hand. Just in case something is waiting for you. 

Homicide McLeod (Review)

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What happens when you combine aliens, gangsters in Cthulhu hats, talking blow up dolls and a detective with anger issues so severe that he makes Dirty Harry look like Gandhi? You get the 2017 Action/ comedy film “Homicide Mcleod” by Born Scared Studios.

The only word that can accurately summarize this film is anarchy. Complete and total anarchy, with each scene managing to be more bizarre and shocking than the last. The story follows the antics of detective Homicide Mcleod as he sets out to stop a perpetually constipated drug lord in order to save his father, who was abducted by aliens. All the while simultaneously parodying common cliches from both 70’s blacksploitation films and old detective noir films, by running wild with them to the point of hilarious absurdity. Despite the seemingly disconnected events that make up the plot, the film manages to somehow come together in a coherent manner that can only be explained through divine intervention.

Homicide Mcleod is a born badass in the most literal way imaginable. His kill count began before he could even speak, after he gunned down a hardened mob boss in order to save his father’s life. He grows up to become a man with an irrational and incurable rage. His character parodies the “cop who doesn’t play by the rules” archetype, taken to the point where he doesn’t think twice about blowing someone’s head off for looking at him the wrong way. He has no regard for the law or human life in general.

Keeping up with the chaotic nature of the Homicide Mcleod Universe, blow up dolls appear as characters almost as often as humans, making the film look like a discount Muppet movie. The laws of nature could be discarded at random given the situation.

The few special effects shown throughout the film were intentionally cheesy and played for laughs in a manner that any seasoned B-Movie fan can appreciate. The film is self aware enough to take advantage of it’s limited resources to play up the absurd elements going on throughout the story.

The score consisted of a mix between hard rock and 70’s funk music. This range of blended decades of music in the course of minutes, which was both fun and further stirring the pot of chaos that is Homicide Mcleod.

For any B-Movie fan who isn’t offended by gratuitous violence and have a healthy appreciation for cheap, low budget antics, then Homicide Mcleod is a film to check out. Just don’t piss him off, if you value having a head above your neck.

 

 

 

Written Review: For Her (2017)

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“For Her” is a short horror film by Director Daniel Young and Viral Films UK. The film follows the progression of a relationship between a young couple. What begins in the style of a romantic comedy, progresses into chaos before reaching it’s bloody climax.

The film revolves around a young man named Jonathon. Jonathon is seemingly good natured guy, whose undertake the responsibility of taking care of his bedridden girlfriend Elizabeth. As the narrator of the story, the film is presented through Jonathon’s perspective, essentially putting the audience in his shoes.

The relationship between Jonathon and Elizabeth slowly deteriorates as the film progresses, transitioning from endearing affection to annoyance and contempt. This deterioration is exacerbated by the growing severity of Elizabeth’s illness and her increasing dependency on Jonathon. The stress of caring for Elizabeth takes its toll Jonathon, causing him to question his own motivations. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s attitude towards him changes from that of gratitude to aggression and self entitlement. A darker side of her personality unfolds through her actions towards Jonathon. Conversely, Jonathon’s personality develops through direct interaction with the audience via narration. This provided a greater understanding of the two characters. Both as individuals as well as in relation to each other.

As the film progressed, the care Jonathon showed towards Elizabeth has decayed from unconditional love to conditioned servitude. Losing all rationality and perspective he began unquestionably committing acts violence at Elizabeth’s will. He is exposed as weak willed and reliant on others for direction. By the end of the film, serving Elizabeth becomes his sole reason for living. He exist only “For Her”.

At a run time of twenty minutes, “For Her” covered a wide range of themes. Each scene builds off of the previous one in a manner that felt natural and kept the story moving at a consistent pace. It neither felt rushed nor slow.

Anyone expecting an unrelenting blood bath may be disappointed, as the gore is conserved for only a few scenes. However, the visceral effects that were present were done well enough to satisfy seasoned horror fans.

Overall, “For Her” provides a terrifying glance into the darker sides of relationships and the savage nature of love.

Arte Factum “Wages of Cine” (Requested Review)

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“Arte Factum” is a sci fi anthology film by “Wages of Cine” productions. Written and directed by Dan Beck and Duane Brown.

As an anthology, Arte Factum is composed of several different short stories connected by a central theme. In this film, each tale revolves around an ancient relic referred to as the Arte Factum, a mysterious orb containing boundless power, which drastically alters the lives of all those who encounter it.

The central story is situated at the Seven Bowls Tavern. A western style bar located in the middle of a nameless desert. Seeking the power of the Arte Factum, a woman enters the tavern where she meets a mysterious cloaked man. The man reveals the secrets of the Arte Factum through twelve stories about people whose lives permanently altered through their interactions with the Arte Factum.

The most striking element of the film involves the chaotic nature of the Arte Factum itself. Defying logic and existing beyond the confines of time and space the Arte Factum can appear anywhere and during any time period, therefore the stories span various time periods and settings from the middle ages of Europe to a distant future set in the far reaches of space. There’s no apparent logic regarding where the orb will appear. It manifestations seem completely arbitrary.

The Arte Factum acts as a force of nature, free of moral judgement its influence is unbiased and acts without regard for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves within its power. Through the Arte Factum, some characters find salvation, ultimately benefitting from its presence. Others are less fortunate find undue suffering at the orbs presence. No one safe from the unpredictable nature of the Arte Factum. Fate is taken away from those who find the orb as they unwittingly surrender their autonomy.

The themes showcased throughout Arte Factum are perfectly summarized in the word of author H.P. Lovecraft, which briefly appears on screen as the film transitions from its first half to its second half. “The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind”. This quote encapsulates the futility of struggle and forced submission experienced by of the characters of Arte Factum, whose self-determination is abruptly stolen from them the moment they came into contact with the Arte Factum. The horror of finding yourself helpless in the face of forces beyond reason and comprehension is both intriguing and unsettling.

The acting in Arte Factum is exceptional overall. While some performances came off as more experienced than others, there were no performances that broke immersion of the experience. This was helped greatly by the professional sound quality which was clear and concise while also remaining consistent throughout the film.

Despite its overall high quality, there were two noticeable problems in Arte Factum that were difficult to avoid noticing. The first problem involved the action scenes. During the physical confrontations the scenes would inexplicable slow down just as a punch or a strike was launched. This effect unfortunately broke some of the tension in what was intended to be scenes. However, this scenes were few and when put into proper context, these scenes were done quite well when the budget of this independent film is taken into consideration.

The second issue was in regards to the usage of CG. In general, I am not a not a fan of CGI, preferring practical effects if necessary. However, I am aware that practical effects can only go so far in regards to things such as explosions and background effects. Unfortunately, with the vast array of multi billion dollar CGI film, it’s difficult to avoid noticing cheaper and less realistic looking CGI. This is just an unfortunate reality of modern day film, and should not be held against the film and detract from its overall quality.

In conclusion, Arte Factum is a well-constructed film that explores complex topics in an intelligent and entertaining manner. Each story helped build upon the mystery behind the Arte Facte, culminating into a satisfying film experience.

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*Special thanks to Dan Beck and “Wages of Cine” for their support of the show.

Written Review: Hellraiser (1987)

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“Hellraiser” is a film that manages to disturb viewers in all the right ways. It blurs the already nebulous line between pleasure and pain, mixing love with cruelty in a way that provokes curiosity into the raw vulgarity hidden within our subconscious. It’s a violent and visceral experience, but takes meticulous efforts not to waste a single drop of blood. Despite the plethora of carnage there is no excess. Every disgusting detail serves to further explore a reality in which sin and vice are unfiltered by societal norms and where people wander endlessly in the pursuit of materialistic satisfaction. Within the tumult of lust and greed exist an order of demons referred to as the Cenobites. The Cenobites act as the gatekeepers of chaos. They shield us from the harsh realities of human nature and maintain order between the savage beast and rational being that make up the contradiction that is mankind. Through the Cenobites, we are given a glimpse into the darkest corners of the human soul, where fear and desire intersect and become indistinguishable from each other. A place we try to deny and turn  away from, but is permanently engraved into our very being.