In the year 2024, the world’s superpowers are on the edge of nuclear warfare as Earth’s resources are dwindling at a rapid pace. A halt in knife edge conflict and the construction of temporary peace, known as the RAND Treaty, allowed nations to build underground, sustainable bunkers for a restarter population. Plethura 04, one of these bunkers, is being monitored, maintained, and prepped by Roy, an labeled “undertaker” scientist, whose setting the stage for a group of survivors known as Priority One, but when the sudden fallout alarm blares, Plethura is locked down early, trapping Roy alone in a cavernous and cold bunker alone with the exception of an A.I. program that Roy named Arthur. As time passes, Roy sanity comes into question; so much so, that Roy believes that Plethura might just be a drill simulation. Also, is there really something in the bunker with him? Is Arthur trying to confuse him? Questions, isolation, and terror seep into Roy’s mind, perhaps, or perhaps not, manifesting a lurking presence.
“Its Alive,” also known as “Twenty Twenty-Four” is the intense psychological thriller from the United Kingdom. Written and directed by first timer Richard Mundy, “It Lives” is helmed in the same vein as “Buried” with a solo performer in an isolation crisis. Produced by Ripsaw Pictures and Entity Film Company, the feature has some production power behind it that makes the indie film seem to have a fluffier value than its actual worth and garnishes a cherished and chilling atmospheric cinematography by Nick Barker. A real sense of a cold cleanroom can be just as frightening as a filthy slaughterhouse and the Mundy-Barker team hone in on that very concept, performing a bariatric surgery on the heaviness and the plentiful of the up top, outside world and reducing it to a few corridors, a couple of living chambers, and beast-like belly of a generator room. The filmmakers fabricate isolation and the perception of isolation well with a tremendous set up of the scenario: the preparation and the sudden, unexpected calamity of a nuclear fallout.
Actor Andrew Kinsler has the toughest job in the world, acting without feeding off the energy and the lines of other fellow actors. Kinsler goes at the role alone as Roy, a scientist prepping Plethura 04 for the arrival of Priority One survivors and knowing that he will die when he trades spaces with the group as he has to go topside. That’s notion, of having to sacrifice yourself for strangers, is a deep concept. Its easier to sacrifice oneself for the sake of those you love and care for, but complete strangers is pure mental mayhem, especially when all the work of getting the bunker ready was done by Roy. Kinsler keeps up the part of coping with his mortality, accepting it, and then being crushed by it when the world ends at the blink of an eye. Questioning everything as he immerses deeper into isolation, Kinsler relies more on the artificial intelligence to be a companion, despite seemingly being annoyed by the very lack its thirst for human complexities.
Many popcorn viewers don’t care for an open book ending films where the personal interpretation opens up a vast range of theories. “It Lives” is one of those films. Most certainly a disturbing psychological thriller, the story perpetually has Roy second guessing every anomaly that spooks him, even to the extend of thinking a computer program has infiltrated his subconscious with trickery and confusion tactics. Then, the ending smacks you right in the face and then smacks you again with a three finale questions: Was it a dream? Was it madness? Or was it all real? Christopher Nolan similarly put the fate of “Inception’s” Cobb into the hands of audiences when he spins a toy top to see if he was still in inception or if he was in reality. If continuously in motion, that would signify Cobb’s in a fantasy world, but Cobb’s spin is cut short with a cut to black, begging the answer of whether his happy ending was true or a inceptive pipe dream. Roy’s scenario is a lot darker and, if not, deeper that’s challenged by an internal struggle of self-preservation. Has Roy become a fixture of the cleanroom aspect? Has he become a cold figment of accepting his fate and has suppressed his emotion about it to the boiling point that his subconscious is fighting for his own survival? “It Lives” is an exceptionally juicy psychological film worth exploring.
Second Sight presents “It Lives” onto DVD home video this July 30th! Since the screener was a DVD-R, a full assessment of the audio and video aspects will not be covered. There were also no bonus material on the disc. What I can say is that Harry Kirby’s score is the utmost jarring; reminds me of Mark Korven’s unsettling and unique unmelodious score in “The Witch.” As part sci-fi and part horror, the surface level narrative is sheer terror and fear. Below surface, the wicked and frightful stir an embattling vortex of arguments in the grossest of grotesque forms, aka a complete mind destabilization. “It Lives” has indie roots that spread wide and fierce, shredding through temporal lobes like soft butter and delivering one hell of a terrifying psychological horror.
Her night was supposed to be a wonderful occasion of celebration, a night to showcase her lustrous career as an established actress, a night where she was set to receive her crowning lifetime achievement award, but when the gowned Amanda stepped into a luxurious, fully-loaded limousine, the night that was to be a collective jubilee of the last twenty-years of Amanda’s life will be turned into a terror ride of unspeakable acts in the name of pure hatred. Once inside, the limousine’s inescapable locks detainee Amanda as a voice behind a voyeuristic camera commands her every subversive move and a sadistic chauffeur uses pain to thwart any of Amanda’s attempts of refusal in on an interrogation on four hellish wheels.
“The Glass Coffin,” aka “El ataúd de cristal” is a 2016 Spanish thriller from first time feature film director Haritz Zubilaga and co-written with Aitor Eneriz. From the moment Amanda steps into the limousine built like a tank, Zubilaga’s film goes from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes with thick tension and high horsepower suspense. “The Glass Coffin” is a depraved film. This isn’t a sugar-coated stuck in a glass box Hollywood thriller like “Phone Booth.” Oh no. Zubilaga and Eneriz hitch your emotions on a tow bar and drag them through the filthy muck without as so much of a care. Is this a game like Jigsaw would construct in “Saw?” No traps or snares here, but there’s an ominous shroud of mystery behind Amanda’s captor that could certainly give Jigsaw a run for his money. “The Glass Coffin,” in fact, goes more in tune with Joel Schumacher’s “Phone Booth” when considering the villain. Well, more like a Eurotrash, alternate version of “Phone Booth” antagonist anyway because aside from deriving the guilt and the sin from Amanda, there’s a sleaziness about the captor whose presence becomes more and more gothic the closer we learn more about them on top of their already extreme methods in the right-the-wrong stance.
Very similar to most films with a slim-to-no cast, like the Ryan Reynolds’ thriller “Buried, “The Glass Coffin” fits the bill as a one actor film. Paola Bontempi stars as the targeted starlet Amanda and the Canary Islands born actress musters enough courage to accept such a punishing role where her character’s humility and pride stems from a base layered motivation in not wanting to become the masked Chauffeur’s punching bag. Amanda goes from high time to gutter low in an ugly show of stripping moralities and ethics in order to reveal one true self. A pivot does occur, turning the shredding of facade into plain and simple revenge that becomes the flashy bullet points of European horror and Bontempi changes with it in one fluid motion of character revival and redemption.
The diabolical game is, well, diabolical and sincerely rich in providing an attractive story, but the film doesn’t go without it’s problems. Whether lost in the Spanish translation or just simply unexplained, an opaque mystery clouds Amanda’s captors, especially with the maniac Chauffeur and his bizarre relationship with the planning perpetrator, that puts a sour afterthought into analyzing “The Glass Coffin.” The Chauffeur was one realistic element of an intriguing conglomerate that tipped the ice berg of sinister deplorability and I was yearning for more of that; instead the game turned, the plot transformed, and “The Glass Coffin” took an approach that routed far into left field. Not a bad route to take as, like much of Zubilaga’s film, the moment had me at an astonished state as the film continued to keep me guessing what was going to occur next.
MVDVisual and Synergetic Films distributes the Basque Films production, “The Glass Coffin,” onto DVD home video. Short in giving any sort of physical or emotion breaks, the 77-minute runtime feature is presented in a vibrantly engrossing widescreen presentation and while at times soft on the auxiliary background, the image quality is flashy and sharp surrounding Amanda. Darker scenes in the tail end lose quite a bit of definition that makes eyeing the moment difficult to capture. The Spanish 2.0 stereo mix does the job and profusely invigorates the voice behind the camera, a voice made of nightmares and all that horrifying in the world. The English subtitles sync well, but I spotted a couple of typos along the runtime. There are zero extras on this release and even though a smidgen of behind-the-scenes material would have been curious to view, the film is a simple bliss. “The Glass Coffin” arches over the niceties and lands right smack into obscenity to destabilize integrity in a cruel ride of exploitation. I wanted more, the unfiltered, fully unadulterated, story of Amanda and her polar opposite antagonist, but I’ll settle for the Cliff Notes version. For now.
Heather and Steve take a trip into the city in June of ’88. Adversely, their romantic holiday turns into a nightmare of claustrophobia, torture, and a fear when a maniac abducts the couple and holds them in small, enclosed basement of a middle of nowhere house in a undisclosed location. Using a broken rotary phone that only receives inbound calls, the abductor plays a horrifying psychological game that will test the bounds of Heather and Steve’s strong relationship.
Director Gabriel Carrer and screenwriter Angus McLellan have proven that their diabolical host lives up to being the epitome of unsympathetic, unreasonable, and sadistic in “In the House of Flies”. The captor leaves no room for wiggle and makes the outlook for our hero and heroine look tragically bleak and sorrowful. The method on how Steve and Heather manage to overcome their host doesn’t jive well with me. Surely a smart and methodical person would not be so careless agains’t two individuals who have to be delirious and weak after weeks of isolation and starvation. Yet, somehow in a matter of a few minutes, the delirious and weak couple hardly break a sweat and barely struggle for victory. I hoped for a better ending, but I shouldn’t take away from the devilish qualities of their capture who lives up to other iconic insane captors such as John Kramer.
The subject matter is obviously dark and realistic. Heather and Steve are put into a position where their love for each other is tested to the brink of it’s limit. Will Steve kill himself to save Heather? Will Steve kill himself to save Heather and their unborn two-month term baby? Will Heather kill Steve to save herself? The couple reach breaking points and question their adoration. The host is firmly behind the wheel of his own sadistic game and wants only one thing and that is the destruction of Steve; his will knowns no limits when dealing with women or unborn children. Though the plot reeks of sinister events, the dialogue and the characters actions don’t reflect the film’s blunt storyline. Heather and Steve are a bit too comfortable in their newly dim basement home and kind of accept being kidnapped or give up far too quickly. Rated as unrated, “In the House of Flies” has a tame dialogue. The rap between Steve and Heather and the host doesn’t convey the aggression one may convey if frightened and angry. Graphic scenes are another tame portion of the film that I feel a movie of this caliber could have heightened, but I admire filmmakers that can provoke without having to visually exploit and that is what “In the House of Flies” does here.
The cast of three is fairly solid. Much can’t go wrong if you have a limit number of actors and actresses and other films have proven this such as Ryan Reyonlds in “Buried” or even the Sandra Bullock lost in space film “Gravity.” Surrounded by unbreakable nothing can be more unsettling than the most vicious and ruthless of villains and can bring out the greatness in most actors and actresses. While I believe Ryan Kotack (Steve) and Lindsay Smith (Heather) do an amazing job as struggling survivors, the characters are a bit overly dramatic very early in the film showing signs of weakness and lethargy too early for effect. Punk rocker legend Henry Rollins is the voice of the caller and I must say I couldn’t even tell it was the punk rock icon. Rollins delivers a monotone sardonic voice that could scare the shit out of anybody.
“In the House of Flies” shows that independent exploitation horror is not yet dead. This film will burn right into your brain leaving you scarred and scared of the cruelty in the world. Though still very Worthy of all the film festival nominations and wins, this thriller was given an 80’s retrofitted treatment that doesn’t quite live up to the video nasty era, but does invoke questions about love in dire situations and who would you save: Your unborn baby? The love of your life? Or yourself? Check out the Parade Deck Films feature distributed on DVD January 20th, 2015 by my pals at MVD!
No Nudity 😦
A young investment banker awakes with a major headache and trapped inside a vault. Having no idea how he landed inside this death trap, he struggles to find a way out before he dies of dehydration or starvation. As he tries to piece together who has an immoral vendetta against him, an escape from the vault leaves him desperate and energy spent while the questions of his mysterious circumstances are almost too much for his mind to bare.
We’ve seen this type of movie before where one or more people wake up to find that they have no idea where they are or how they got there. Iron Doors plays on top of that age old aspect that normally what scares the crap out of people – the unknown. Iron Doors resembles a lot like 1997’s Cube without the traps. Instead, the rooms are filled with different objects that might or might not leave foreboding clues to their whereabouts – such as a coffin and a grave. The idea behind these types of movies, which also include the first two Saw movies and Ryan Reynolds Buried, are giant concepts and yet somehow these filmmakers, including Iron Doors director Stephen Manuel, are able to take the minimalistic routes and produce a thrilling story.
However, unlike Saw and Cube, Iron Doors ending bares a big disappointment and leaves the audience more questions than answers. I can tell you that the ending left me yearning for more answers, but I guess we have to make our own conclusions and nothing can just be handed to us as a freebie. I hope this won’t spoil too much or if any at all about the movie, but I want to provide my own interpretation of the status on our main character actor Axel Wedekind and his companion actress Rungano Nyoni, an African woman who doesn’t speak a lick of English. I strongly believe the characters are dead and have been stuck in limbo where the duo must be capable to work together, supporting each other to dig, chisel, and survive their way out of the vaults. The clues are this, and I’ve mention these two already, the coffin and the open grave. Two straight forward signs of recent death. Also, when Axel wakes up in his vault, what accompanies him is a maggot infested dead rat and that, again, suggests that death surrounds him. When Axel tries to recall what he was doing before he awoke in the vault, he states that he was out at the bar (he continuously states that he will never drink again) and didn’t know where he left his car suggesting that Axel was very intoxicated and probably crashed his car, killing himself in a DUI incident. Rungano, in subtitles, mentions being from Africa where we know genocide and disease plague most of the un-urbanized parts of the lands. Rungano’s traditional outfit suggests that she leaves in a primitive tribe. A bit of a stretch on my end, I know. Plus, the vault itself is supernatural and every time the characters enter a new room they are confronted by the same four walls and a vault door, but only the objects are different.
The film never really picks up the pace and sometimes the tediousness of the characters’ attempts to escape are captured too long in a scene extending the scene way past it’s prime. Their survival instincts, drinking their own urine, eating maggots, using a discovered oxygen tank for air, are seemingly instinctively smart, but realistically very ill-advised. We can only blame panic on the part of Axel, but opposite Axel, Rungano is calmer and level headed yet she is persuaded by Axel who has been awake three days longer than Rungano. Yet desperation gets the better of her when knowing her existence is near end and breaks down to enjoy compassionate love with a barely alive Axel in what could be their last hours on, what they believe, is their world.
MVD releases the Germany born and bred English spoken Iron Doors, a suspenseful thriller I would recommend for any fans of Cube or Buried. If you’re claustrophobic, then I’m sorry because you probably will not enjoy this film; you’ll most likely suffocate at the idea of being locked in a small room with a dead rat. Purchase the film at MVD!