On the campus of Williamsburg University in 2006, a popular fraternity house holds an upscale house party, filled with the most beautiful students dressed in formal wear, liquored with martinis and gin and tonics, and customized to fit the luxurious lifestyle the men of fraternal brotherhood. When the fraternity president Christian Roane conducts a round around to greet guests, he catches glimpse of Sarah Stein, a coed being a good sport by giving into her friends’ urges to party greek. Christian’s unhealthy obsession with Sarah starts innocent enough, but when Sarah doesn’t take that step toward sharing the same affection, Christian’s control goes into self destruction that not only threatens Sarah, but also threatens to unearth the true and ghastly nature of the brotherhood and the brothers aim to lockdown their secret by any means necessary.
“Somebody’s Darling” is the 2016, independent drama horror from the multi-faceted filmmaker, writer-director Sharad Kant Patel, churned out from a story by Sebastian Mathews. In his directorial debut, Patel, known more for his short film work, heedfully courses through detail and treads lightly on the coattails of a sensitive social issue. His film skirts on the subject of rape culture in the American college and university setting while also touching upon sexuality complexities and severe anguish in today’s youth. Basically, “Somebody’s Darling” is a higher education dissertation on the experiences of collegiate life with a horror twist and all the along the way, Patel slowly paints Christian and his brotherhood onto a canvas of ambivalent malevolence by deconstructing Christian to quickly reconstruct him in a ravaging roundabout. Patel throughout leaves a bread crumb trail of clues that don’t make sense at first, that might lead to other conclusions, and that doesn’t explicitly genre “Somebody’s Darling” as a horror.
Christian is the film’s central focus and with a dark and brooding character, a dark and brooding soul must ride parallel and Paul Galvan intently delivers a cryptic persona. Peppered erratic is Christian obsession Sarah Stein, a run-of-the-mill coed playing darlingly enough by Jessa Settle. Then there’s the brotherhood, whom are begrudgingly split on how to action Christian’s off course fixation, consisting of a youthful lineup of white, stuck-up preppy frat boys with an actor list to match including Fred Parker Jr., “Spirit Camp’s” Matt Tramel, and Mike Kiely. Sarah also has an entourage but not as prominent and, to be honest, the brotherhood weren’t just a hair more involved, but Kristen Tucker and Cathy Baron (“The Lights”), who play Madison and Riley, hit the stereotypical college coed right on the head as the two look to score big when scouring their hot boy wardrobe and provide unnatural sexual banter toward their goody-two-shoes friend, Sarah.
“Somebody’s Darling’s” independent genetic makeup doesn’t hide under a flashy production, but presuming an indie dramatic horror that’s more bark than bite isn’t worth wild should is the incorrect assumption as the climatic end will be attention catching. Granted, the dialogue’s overdrawn breathiness can bog down a regular popcorn viewer and turn away heads that have a disdain for immense screenplay scripture, but to comprehend the whole story and to become invested in the characters, being a viewer from start to finish won’t go in vain. Patel personal investemnt extends to much more than spitfire directions and scribing with a hand in producing, composing, editor, and digital effects with the latter being used sparsely to convey the Christian’s internal aspirations and quondam self. When effects do come into the real word, a practical, lifelike approach is taken and that intensifies the horror tenfold.
Distribber released Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” onto various streaming platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on December 1st. I was provided a screener disc and can’t focus on or comment too much on the details of image or sound quality, but the disc did provide bonus material including the making of the score and behind-the-scenes in creating the dream sequence. Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” has an edgy appeal that draws you in like an unsuspecting moth to an alluring light and then zaps a fatal shock right into the nervous system as soon as the undertones are evidently a metaphor for something far more sinister.
Maisy and her socially reclusive brother, Bo, venture on a mountain getaway trip with Maisy’s former college friends. With Bo documenting with a handheld video camera as part of his way in comforting his anxiety, he captures the dynamic of how each of Maisy’s friends have changed over years, especially with Asher and his recently High School graduated girlfriend, Pam. After breaking down on the side of the road, falling behind the rest of the caravan, they encounter a strange man with an axe, harshly warning them to not continue up the mountain pass. Shrugging of the warning and returning to their now working vehicle, the group resumes their drive, but makes a wrong turn and becomes lost in the mountains’ thicket of the Sierra Nevada. They decide to setup camp for the night and continue their way back the next morning, but the discovery an ominous, skull-riddled altar in the woods unleashes a frightening presence that won’t allow them to leave. As tensions rise and night falls, Bo keeps his camera running as a soul inhabiting evil has fallen upon them that seeks to destroy them one-by-one.
“Altar” is the 2016 found footage horror from writer-director Matthew Sconce. Sconce is actually able to harness a fraction of the mysticism and presence that made the found footage genre a thing back in 1999 with the ground breaking flick “The Blair Witch Project” and does a well enough job implementing it into his very own version of an allusive satanic cult ghoul, but with more specials effects and screen time. Despite being titled “Altar,” the story barely wraps itself around the titular object with only a handful of brief scenes, one of the scenes being the thinly-connected introduction that intensely catches the attention, while mostly focusing on the friends’ road trip chatter, breathtaking scenic gasps, and becoming lost on the mountain without much peril in-between. Even the creature, whom makes the scene approximately the last 10 minutes, has more of a presence than the altar itself.
The plot follows around Maisy Marks and her Aspergers labeled brother, Bo Marks, played by Stefanie Estes and Jesse Parr who pull off the socially awkward brother and the cutesy overprotective sister well enough to pass muster. Maisy’s other “beau” is Ravi, played by Deep Rai, and along for the ride as well is muscle head Asher, Tim Parrish, and his ditzy, teenage girlfriend, Pam, played by Jessica Strand. Rounding off the group is Chelsea, a communications graduate who could only find work as a bartender who seems to be stuck in life, and she’s catered to by Brittany Falardeau. Michael Wainwright, Tina Johnson, Master Dave Johnson, and Catherine Wilcox make up the rest of the cast. As a whole, the acting wasn’t terrible even if the script was conventionally kitschy and with a group of young actors, I’m fairly encouraged to see more of their work.
However, acting is only a third of the battle when critiquing a film and “Altar” has falters more in it’s own story and script that’s peppered with cliche after cliche. The scenes leading up to the mayhem constantly hyped that something bad is going to happen; Bo finds an online article of two newlyweds missing for six months (part of the introduction), characters kept comparing their scenarios like horror films, or a daunting man, named Ripper, sternly warns them with a very large axe in his hand. Moments like these try to build tension, but when overtly and grossly laid out for views, sustaining the substance behind them is lost and waters down the effect toward campy foreshadowing. Special effects weren’t overly cinematic nor where they similar to video nasties and kept simple, much like “The Blair Witch Project, with a little more padding to them. The Evil Spirit, as it’s credited in the film and portrayed by Nicole Osborne, is a black and white nightmare that’s effective on camera; slightly cheesy with a hint of gooeyness, but edited in nice and sporadically for those eye-clenching jump scares.
Production company Movie Hero Studios partners with Distribber for a VOD nationwide release of Matthew Sconce’s “Altar,” including platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, PlayStation Network, and on Hulu. A DVD-R screener was provided and so commenting on video and audio quality will not be critiqued and there were no extras on the reviewed disc. “Altar” is, disappointingly, just another found footage casualty with hasty slivers of hope of not falling into the muck that has become an over-tapped genre. What Sconce has done with “Altar” makes the film enjoyable enough for a single viewing with little-to-no repeat value as everything lays out in the open and the only subtly in the entire film is the altar itself.
Four dark and terrifying tapes tell tales of a petrifying horror through the camera lens of various found footage assets. Whether between the bleak, grim nature of disturbed mankind or the ominous, otherworldliness of menacing creatures, each story’s ultimate objective is to expose what lies behind the scenes, to shine a light upon what lives shrouded in shadows, and to unearth what lurks in the mind’s subconscious. At first glance, the dark tapes might seem uncorrelated, but at closer examination, the tapes share a deep rooted evil that connects every afflicted recorded event and makes one think twice about their perception on reality.
“The Dark Tapes” are a formidable found footage anthology that resembles a familiar “V/H/S” layout under the meticulously constructed eyes of co-directors Michael McQuown and special effects guru Vincent Guastini (Child’s Play 3). Scripted by the anthology creator, Michael McQuown, “The Dark Tapes'” four interlocking episodes will leave inside you a paralyzing case of nyctophobia as the genre-spliced anthology has no shortage of bone-chilling creepiness; in fact, “The Dark Tapes” epitomizes the very term and with an alternate universe mixture of ghastly ghouls, ghosts, and grisliness, the extremely exhausted found footage genre might have discovered some new, and much needed, life before being on the brink of a near death extinction in this quaint independent production from Michael McQuown.
The three internal tapes, directed by McQuown, are entitled, and in this order, “The Hunters and The Hunted,” “Cam Girls,” and “Amanda’s Revenge” with Vincent Guastini’s external wrap around segment, “How to Catch a Demon,” being broken into four parts between each tape and each tape should be viewed in complete and utter darkness to achieve maximum level of pants-pissing fright. Your overworked heart will skip with long deadly pauses in between, your lungs that keep you breathing will cease to provide breath, and your mind will warp to unfavorably play tricks on your eyes from an unrivaled nightmare witnessed on “The Dark Tapes.” The full body-stopping, comatose-inducing effect can’t be accomplished without the collaborating cast that includes Brittany Underwood, Tess Munro, Stephen Zimpel, Meredith Thomas, David Roundtree, “Sushia Girl’s” Cortney Palm, Anna Rose Moore, Shawn Lockie, Jo Galloway, and Michael Cotter to just name a few.
Much is right about Michael McQuown’s “The Dark Tapes.” Always welcoming practical effects are better than most indie ran features, especially in the anthology category, and the effects can best some lower-end Hollywood productions inside eye-glueing, on the edge of your seat narrative designs that are smart, gripping, and definitely heart-stopping scary, but to be somewhat of a devil’s advocate, the acting was overall a bit stiff across the plane with an awkward uneasiness in the vary of lackluster performances and overzealous deliveries that petered scenes from reaching full potentials. Production wise, “The Dark Tapes” impress inside the sets of bland reoccurring locations, but coincide them with a vast amount of timely, well placed special effects that quickly mutate the stark locations and the uninteresting backdrops turn into vivid portraits of hell.
The Thunder Road Incorporated produced, “The Dark Tapes,” has been slated for a worldwide video on demand distribution release come this mid-April after a theatrical stint this past March courtesy of the Epic Pictures Group. VOD platforms include Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo. Unfortunately, I was provided with an online screener of the festival favorite and can’t necessarily comment on the video or audio qualities nor any bonus features that might be available on a home entertainment release, but I can firmly state that, visually, “The Dark Tapes” is the Haribo of horror eye-candy with the different flavors of thrilling genres in a pint-sized package and while a little tame with the cherry red graphic content, director Michael McQuown seizes the opportunity to instill an open faucet of fear rather than tease with gore and sleaze with sex. If I had to recommend a horror anthology for 2017, “The Dark Tapes” would be on the very short list.
Friday night, A stranger breaks into the home of Tom and Alison. After tying up and torturing Tom, leaving him in the bathtub, he reveals a weekend long scheme that involves convincing Alison to genuinely want him by Monday morning. The stranger’s psychological game slowly breaks down Alison’s perception of her relationship with her husband through consequential threats toward a battered Tom, survival obedience, relationship morals, and untapped desires while Alison desperately attempts to squeeze away her captor’s maniacal grasp any way possible. With Alison’s husband undergoing continuous abuse throughout the weekend, the stranger persistently exhibits various versions of being the perfect husband to appease Alison’s preference in a partner, a striking contrast that begins the spiraling doubts about Tom and the life to which she’s submitting to with him.
The director who gave audiences a reason to believe in their zany childhood imaginary friend in “Drop Dead Fred” and who drove viewers through the depths of Satan’s domain on the epic retrieval of love journey that was “Highway to Hell” has resurfaced. Director Ate de Jong’s 2014 film has found a home for his British exploitation thriller eloquently entitled “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey.” at the Philadelphian based home entertainment distributor Artsploitation Films. An intense eye-opening experience that makes couples’ therapy a cut rate rekindling process, the “Deadly Virtues” story comes from the talented, yet relatively unknown, drafter Mark Rogers whose characters contribute a fierce and engaging potency.
Characters can be written from head to toe with gargantuan electricity, but it takes the actors and actress portraying the characters to actually flip their switches on, vividly toggling their characters to shine. Edward Akrout’s puts forth a dangerously sophisticated Stranger excellently defining the term acting. Every unique touch of the binding rope used on Tom and Alison, every calculated sinister action taken against Tom, and every apt expression emits just enough information to state the Stranger’s purpose without spoiling the character’s mysterious motivations. Akrout is joined by American actress Megan Maczko with a selfless performance that pits her character Alison in a cat-and-game mouse against the Akrout’s Stranger. There are bits of unwanted sexual activity and nudity and role playing BDSM that might mistakenly place Jong’s film in the incorrect genre; instead, Akrout, Maczko, and, even Matt Barber as Tom, acutely pivots the subject matter, even with the provocative nude and bound woman graced film poster.
Not all is copacetic with “Deadly Virtues.” Some of the pacing slows down a bit where the motivation feels arguably aimless as Alison quickly becomes content and comfortable with a man who just softly raided their home and violently turned their lives upside down. Also, as a matter of character, Tom needed fine sprucing from being painfully forceful with how the character critically needed to know, to ultimately compute, trivial information at the most inappropriate moments. The story itself might have forced Tom’s inadequacies and insecurity issues to completely tell the story within the total 97 minute runtime, but in the end, the finale loses that little something something to put the final nail into an already furbished piece of work by director Ate de Jong.
Artsploitation Films’ latest release, “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey,” surfaces deep rooted marital issues in an extreme, hostile manner, bringing to the forefront the versus struggle of adapting or fighting back, and also touches upon the beauty of the overlooked. The film’s poster, which I already remarked upon having some minor nudity, accentuates a woman’s other pleasant bodily features including the small of her back, her long neck, and her protruding deltas which Akourt’s portrayal of the Stranger similarly remarks briefly upon when more pigheaded men not noticing, or appreciating, other, less obvious, parts of women. I’m sure for most viewers, gazing at Megan Maczko strung up and suspended in an inviting position can stimulate a lot of interest. “Deadly Virtues” is currently only exclusively available in United States via VOD formats, such as Amazon, Vimeo, and GooglePlay, courtesy of Artsploitation Films.
““The Orphan Killer” is a tour de force murder flick that defies classification. It goes far beyond current trends in gore and breaks open a new suffering genre of horror. Marcus Miller is a serial murderer hellbent on teaching his estranged sister Audrey what it means to have family loyalty. His lessons are taught in massive doses of vulgar and unimaginable pain. Throughout her brutal torture we learn that Marcus is not the only Miller with Killer in the bloodline as Audrey proves to be a formidable adversary.”
Cast: Diane Foster, David Bachhaus, Karen Young, James McCaffrey, Matt Farnsworth
Special Features Include:
Behind The Murder – Exclusive Video Diary
Blu-ray/DVD combo Specs:
SRP: $34.95 UPC: 881190600498 Cat: RGR004
Color 83 minutes In English with Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese subtitles
All Regions Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1 DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround