EVIL Says Lights Out! “The Power” reviewed (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)



East London, January 1974 – a young nurse starts her first day at a stringent hospital during a political war between the government and mining union workers.  Resulting form the conflict is a nightly shutdown of electricity across the entire country.  As the hospital falls into darkness, the young nurse is forced to work the nightshift at the behest of the hospital’s stern matron, ordering her care for the unresponsive in the intensive care unit that’s receiving a limited feed of generator power.  Afraid of the dark, the nurse finds herself short of pleasant company who are knowledgeable of her sordid past, making her feel more alone in an already isolating and gloomy environment.  When she feels an aggressive presence surrounding her, watching her every movement, and even possessing her for short periods of time, dark hospital secrets come to light and her past connects her to be the key to it all.

Partially based off the 1974 Three-Day Week measure implemented on January 1st to battle inflation and avoid an economic collapse in the UK, Corinna Faith’s things that go bump in the dark ghostly feature, “The Power,” pulls inspiration from the government versus trade union war political contest as a backdrop set for the Shudder exclusive release.  To briefly catch inform you, part of the plan was to have Britain’s private sector pay was capped and bonuses eliminated to cutoff high rate inflation, infuriating much of the coal mining industry who were responsible for a good percentage of fueling much of Britain’s energy at that time.  During the month of January 1974, nightly blackouts were issued for all commercial use to conserve coal stocks.  Inspired by this short-lived UK struggle, the 2021 English film became the sophomore written and directed project for Faith, but is chiefly her breakout film following the over a decade and half, father and son Irish drama, “Ashes,” released in 2005.  “The Power” has topical supremacy with a strong parallel of, as the title suggests, power and a delicate allegorical presence of women taking back control of their lives after being suppressed by wicked and disregarding men and their collaborators.  Conglomerating production companies are behind Corinna Faith’s “The Power,” including “Cargo’s” Head Gear Films and Kreo Films, the prolific British Film Institute, Stigma Films (“Double Date”), and Air Street Films.

Starring in her first lead role, Rose Williams plays the mild-mannered and meek young nurse, Val, with an enigmatic and subversive past that has seemingly caused some controversary at a private school.  Williams turns on the docile humility, laying on thick Val’s readiness to submit to any command without contest despite the young nurses visible cues of uneasiness and bumbling hesitation.  Val’s qualities purposefully pose her mindset molded by a system she has shunned her for an unspeakable act that’s skirted around persistently throughout the story.  Faith really puts emphasis on having Val feeling extremely isolated and alone in the old, dark hospital with antagonist characters who some are familiar with Val and others who are new faces to the young nurse, but still exude an uncomfortable impression, such as the strict matron nurse (Diveen Henry, “Black Mirror”) and bizarrely skeevy maintenance man Neville (Theo Barklem-Biggs, “Make Up”).  Even a familiar face in fellow nurse Babs (Emma Rigby, “Demons Never Die”) strives to make her not forget about her unpleasant past.  Only in foreigner child, a patient named Saba, an introductory performance by Shakira Rahman, Val discovers a kindred spirit of an equally alone and frightened prisoner of the hospital.  For the two sole apprehensive souls, I really couldn’t pinpoint the trembling fear in their eyes or understand how they’re not crippled by the immense inky blackness that seems to engulf everything and everyone with an enshrouding sinister presence.  Gbemisola Ikumelo, Charlie Carrick, Sarah Hoare, and Clara Read make up the remaining cast.

The electricity backout is merely more for harrowing effect, creating lifeless atmospheres of bleak corridors and dank basements that swallow securities with meticulous ease, but “The Power” is more than just a lights out, afraid of the dark, paranormal picture as Faith pens a parallel theme that fashions the title in double entendre stitches.  Audiences are not immediately privy to the backstory that disturbs Val to the core as she finds consternation in the dark’s unknown possibilities.  This we can clearly see in her scattered imaged nightmares and her reluctance to forcibly work the night shift with little-to-no illumination.  As the story unravels, Faith drops breadcrumb hints and misdirection indicators that not only reveal more into Val’s background but also the background of Saba’s and the presence that is targeting them both in playful manner as if an invisible “Jaws” shark was tugging and pulling in all different directions in the tightly confined hospital setting, leading up to what and whose power truly presides over them.  Dark becomes light in the water shedding moment that defines Val’s lightning rod purpose in being a ragdoll puppet for a ghost’s whims and while the story successfully builds up to that climatic moment with blank eye possessions and unconscious grim mischief told in reverse order, “The Power” ultimately tapers off with a finale that falls apart on the precipice of something significantly special for the voices of traumatized women everywhere in recovering the power over themselves.  Though abundant with tension-filled jump scare frights during the puzzling mystery, the horror element also suffers a misaligning derailment in the end with a happy-go-lucky procession of no longer being afraid of the dark, dropping the bulk of scares like a sack of unwanted potatoes no longer ripe for a tasty reward.

Still, “The Power” is a single-setting period horror with potent scares along with an even more compelling subtext significance. The region 2, PAL encoded, 83 minute feature is presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a single disc BD25 with a 15 rating for strong supernatural threat, violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual threat. Perfectly capturing the precise black levels, the Blu-ray renders a nice clean and detailed image, leaving the negative space viscerally agitating while waiting for something to pop out of the dark. The color is reduced, and slightly flat, to de-age the filmic look for a 1970’s bleaker of cold, sterile atmospherics. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix is a chocked full of robust fidelity. The jump scare ambience and short flash of up-tempo works along with the rest of the solemn score. Where “The Power” lacks is with the dialogue and not within the confines of prominence; instead, capturing the dialect cleanly was challenge to undertake as most of the cast mumbles through most of the Liverpool-esque dialect and dialogue. Special features on the release include an audio commentary with director Corinna Faith and Rose Williams and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. A feminist noteworthy horror, “The Power” connotes powerful and uncomfortable contexts that’ll surely make you squirm far more violently than being alone in the ill-boding dark.

Neighborly Isn’t In EVIL’s Vocabulary in “Red Letter Day” reviewed! (Dread and MVDVisual / Blu-ray)


A divorce lands Melanie Edwards and her two teenage children, Madison and Tim, to redefine their live a new and quiet suburban community called Aspen Ridge. While adjusting to their new normal and becoming acquainted with their new neighbors, the Edwards receive a mysterious red letter in the mail, calling for each person to kill a neighbor from an algorithm, created by a masked anarchist group named The Unknown, has vied them against by working from the parameters set to calculate each individuals’ polar opposite personal, political, or religious beliefs. Every resident in Aspen Ridge has received a red letter with the same instructions that mounts tension amongst friends and neighbors until, eventually, all hell breaks loose and it’s kill or be killed.

Welcome to part one of my unofficial independent horror films out of Canada series where we take a look at Cameron Macgowan’s written and directed 2019 horror-comedy, “Red Letter Day.” Filmed entirely in Calgary, Alberta providence, Macgowan and his production crew claim numerous AirBnB rentals to exact the sleepy, suburban, sanctuary to instill the murderous wrath that simmers just beneath the surface of every mild-manner person living next door, seething with contrasting opinions and beliefs. As a sort of a permission granted for carnage, “Red Letter Day” aims to set itself a part from the typical archetypes that hide the horror in the dark shadows and obscured corners with a bright and sunny morning melee armed with shotguns, baseball bats, sledgehammers, and a kitchen knife with a transfixed cooked chicken on it. “Red Letter Day” is a product of Macgowan’s Calgary, Alberta based production company, Awkward Silencio” in association with Tanda Films.

“Red Letter Day” focuses around the Edwards family who have just gone through the trials and tribulations of divorce proceedings, settling into their new surroundings with relative ease in Madison finding love with an older boy, Tim rounding out a routine, and their mother Melanie shaping a safe haven environment as a soft cushion for her children from the spoils of her ex-husband, but their ease comes with some conventional teenager microscopic social nuisances beneath the surface that places the barely adult Madison as a defiant outlier and the 17-year old, almost in adulthood, Tim as a clinching mama’s boy. All the breakdowns of their everyday life becomes superficial and, at the same time, becomes thought provoking on how they view themselves as a family when a domestic terrorist group invokes hunting season on the neighbors to kill their specific opposite of themselves. Dawn Van de Schoot (“Ice Blue”) steps into a role she’s relatively familiar with in being the mother, Melanie, and while Van de Schoot is perfect as the down to Earth, cool mom with some loose ground rules and sizes up tolerably being a proactive mother, her overall performance is shaky at best as she never finds solid ground in the malicious circumstances that are unfolding around her. Despite being a good chunk of exposition, there isn’t much on-screen friction between Melanie and her daughter, Madison, played by Hailey Foss making her feature film debut. Foss well walks the shoes of a naïve and expressively angst teen that unfortunately does cross beyond that as her character is written to almost physically fade out of the story with an inaptitude toward re-bonding with her mother. The introduction as Kaeleb Zain Gartner as kind of a dorky, smart-mouthed, but overall nice kid, Tim, is perhaps the better of the three character and performance to not only be written as a dependent driven millennial who musters up an ounce of strength to defend his mother, but also acted well by Gartner’s boyish charm. Together, the three less inexperienced actors harness the story enough to push it forward, even if that bind is attached by a thread. Rounding out “Red Letter Day” is Roger LeBlanc (“Painkillers”), Arielle Rombough, Michael Tan, Peter Strand Rumpel (“Devil in the Dark”), and “Friday the 13th Part V’s” Tiffany Helm in a religiously passionate cameo.

“Red Letter Day” could be construed as an interesting social experiment if people were given the freedom to carry out their anger on another person due to their conflicting ideologies. The film feels very much like a part of a small world portion of “The Purge” universe in a sense that the premise allows individuals to blow off resenting steam in the most old testament way: murder. Being that the story’s setting locale is in Canada, a typecast for welcoming benevolence, adds to the already dark and dry humor charm director Cameron Macgowan has applied to his script paralleled with some terrific gory prosthetic work from Stacey Wegner (“Decoys 2: Alien Seduction”) involving a bloodbath drenched meat fork through the neck and a gnarly split down the middle jaw courtesy of a meat tenderizer, adding yet another layer of subtle comedy with household items turned into melee weapons. Macgowan’s adamancy about practical effects hones in on the fork to the neck and a prologue kill scene involving a shotgun being the only two scenes to receive a VFX treatment by adding touches of gore components to sensationally sell the effect and the result is simply and effective complement to the scene without the visual effect grossly absorbing the moment with an indelicate cringe of an ornate polish that becomes the unintended main focus. With a runtime of just 76 minutes, “Red Letter Day” jockeys right out of the gate in this don’t-mess-with-mama bear fighting frenzy.

Presented by Dread, “Red Letter Day” finds home onto a Blu-ray home video distributed by MVDVisual. The region free release is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the digital image has no obvious imperfections or color obstacles to hurdle over in this vividly detailed hi-def release. The cinematography by Rhett Miller poises a neighborly atmosphere of a bright and sunny picturesque community in the throes uncuffed chaos. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound displays a well-balanced layer between dialogue, ambience, and soundtrack with the dialogue in the forefront. Considering the material, range isn’t a big factor into the film’s repertoire built into the story, but is sufficient to pass with minor edits of videogame jingles, various gun shots, and a few whacks with a sledgehammer or meat tenderizer. This also translate well into the depth that some of the acts happen offscreen up or down stairs in these community’s houses and that’s reflected properly as well along with the minor random acts of implied violence in the distance outside. Bonus features includes a commentary by director Cameron Macgowan, a make-of documentary that charts pre-production through post-production with cast and crew interviews, an interview with Tiffany Helm who recollects her filmic career, and Dread trailers. File “Red Letter Day” as a social media thriller bordering on an episodic premise similar to that of “Black Mirror” that infuses technology with the deinstitutionalize of ethical niceties and neighborly good deed for miscreant terror and murdering.

“Red Letter Day” is on Blu-ray and Included in Prime Video!

The Cycle of Life Can Be EVIL. “Vivarium” reviewed! (Screener/Vertigo Releasing)


Gemma and Tom are a happily in love young couple who are looking to purchase a starter home. They visit a real-estate agency for a brand new housing development called Yonder. Met by a strange and persuasive real-estate agent, they’re convinced to follow the unusual agent to tour the neighborhood that has been marketed as the family forever home with everything they could ever need and want. A row upon row of identical houses and yards go as far as the eye can see and before the tour of the rather ordinary house number 9 ends, Gemma and Tom find themselves alone inside with the bizarre agent gone. Their efforts to leave the mysterious residential suburbia proves impossible as each turn leads them back to house number 9. When a box containing a baby boy is left at the doorstep with a note to raise the child to be released, the young couple reluctantly reside into domestic confinement.

Vivarium defined is an enclosure, container, or structure adapted prepared for keeping animals under seminatural conditions for observation or study or as pets, like an aquarium or a terrarium. “Vivarium,” the 2019 movie, embraces the definition, twisted into an idiosyncratic neighborhood block of duplicity from the “Without Name” director, Lorcan Finnegan. Story concept is flushed out by Finnegan and “Vivarium’” credited screenwriter, Garret Stanley, in their second collaboration for the director’s sophomore feature endeavor that’s a panicking puzzle in every square foot of Yonder’s backwards backyard. The film resonates with echoes of Finnegan and Stanley’s seminal short film, “Foxes,” from 2012, revolving around a couple living in a remote and forgotten housing development and become drowning in obsession, madness, and malaise as shrieking foxes surround their isolated home. There’s an equating animalistic instinct to each film that brandishes many of the same motifs as well as joining themes that are corralled in Finnegan’s copious foreboding and disconnecting dehumanization narrative. “Vivarium” is produced by XYZ Films (“Tusk”), Fantastic Films (“Stitches”), PingPong Film, and Frakas Productions (“Raw”).

The happy, young love birds are played by Imogen Poots (“Green Room” and “Black Christmas” 2019 released remake), who has an underlining affinity for not typecasting herself in the same role, and Jesse Eisenberg (“Cursed” and “Zombieland”), who manages to step a foot outside his conventional performance of a rattle mouth, know-it-all. However, Eisenberg deserves the praise of a man with severed ties from reality as the actor embraces a reserved manic by channeling Tom’s obsessive need to dig, an aspect of his handyman profession he’s good at in perhaps providing an escape from cage-less confinement, and being the bearer of skepticism of caring for an abnormal child. Gemma has complications of her own confronting her educator responsibilities for young children. She struggles with internal conflict, does she still use her innate care and instruct a young mind or in self-preservation, take Tom’s passive aggressive approach? Poots and Eisenberg share a mutual, caring bond that defines Gemma and Tom kind of steady, kind of loose relationship that gradually devolves civilly, like the amicable breakdown of a marriage revealing lost, but not forgotten love between two people. Along with the surreal atmosphere, “Vivarium” grades well in the creepy kid department with the child in Tom and Gemma care, but don’t even bother giving a name. Dubbed with a playful man’s voice, a shrill scream ignited by displeasure, a knack for imitating, and always dressed in Sunday’s best, Senan Jennings’ middle aged boy presence is a supernova of chilling proportions with a performance that gives his co-stars a run for their money while Eanna Hardwicke is equally spasmodic and creepy as the grown up, young man version of the boy with a little more alienating know-how and clandestine about his origins.

Finnegan and Stanley pursue thought-provoking substance of human corporeal limitations and how we, as humans, cycle through them with such cavalier ease. The opening scenes examples this with the practice of the common cuckoo laying their mimicry egg inside the nests of other birds. As a brood parasite amongst birds, the cuckoo egg hatches and the cuckoo chick pushes out the mother birds’ inborn chicks and becomes the sole chick in the nest with the surrogate mother tending to the cuckoo’s dietary needs. When the cuckoo is matured, it is grossly larger than the mother bird and, also, mimics the bird species to an extent, much in the same way of the boy or young man Gemma and Tom surrogate as being the unintended mimicry that infiltrates and ousts the limitations of his foster parents. Finnegan and Stanley also explore the parental lifecycle with the theme that our children will replace us, extend our legacy, but we will ultimately be forgotten. “Vivarium’s” craft dictates a larger scale, disproportionate, otherworld teemed with secret subterranean corridors leading to other disturbing observatory immures, making for a stimulating meta-induced terrarium as we watch miniature versions of Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots suffer inside a screen from the comfort of our couch.

If you’re stuck at home, living the quarantine life you’ve always wanted, “Vivarium” may just break of your introverted stance on home with it’s “Black Mirror” and “Twilight Zone” encouragement. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vertigo Releasing and Wildcard Distribution released film has circulated digital only on the following platforms in the UK: iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Google Play, Rakuten, BT, Playstation, Microsoft, Curzon Home Cinema, and BFI Player. Unfortunately, I will not be able to comment or critique of the audio, video, or bonus features of this release due to the varying elements of a digital screener. Novel, suspenseful, and a great film to brood over, yet difficult envisaging, “Vivarium” truly resembles slithers of somber dimensions of an upside world with lashings of surveillance paranoia.

Amazon Prime Video is one way to watch! Rent or Buy “Vivarium” with Prime Video