In the wake of losing their father and husband, Leah and her mother struggle to cope and are at their wits ends with each other. Leah, an impressionable and angst-filled teen, embraces the occult lifestyle after her father’s untimely death despite her mother’s distaste for it. Leah’s mother also battles the everyday familiar feelings of her constant surroundings that remind her of her dear husband and the sensations compel her to move her and Leah more than an hour away, away from Leah’s only friends including a boy she’s become fond of, but the constant and languishing heated disagreements invoke Leah to act impulsively, gathering her ritual articles, and while in the woods, naively summon a witch, named Pyewacket, to kill her mother. Regretting her actions almost immediately and fearful of what’s to come, Leah is cautiously ever attentive to her surroundings as each passing night a presence makes itself known and is eager to not only harm Leah’s mother, but also intends to rise it’s wickedness toward Leah.
“Pyewacket” is a 2017 Canadian horror-thriller from writer-director Adam MacDonald. The Montreal born MacDonald constructs an impressive and suspense-riddled sophomore film that offers a beautifully bleak atmosphere while touching upon layered themes that are relatable to anyone who grew up with an overbearing parent. “Pyewacket” succeeds as a stark melodrama of a hurting mother and daughter who are looking for some kind of pain relief and a fresh start. MacDonald takes it to the next level, churning out a cautionary tale, by implementing the theme of being careful for what you wish for because you just might get it. Oh, and there’s spine-tingling moments involving a ghoulish witch with an appetite for deception and have you squinting yours eyes in fearful anticipation of when she’ll strike.
Another Canadian, the Vancouver born Nicole Muñoz stars as the disquieted Leah. Muñoz dark assets heighten her disdain and resentment she evokes out from her character toward her mother, played by the former “The Walking Dead’s” Laurie Holden. Tall and blond with a more verbose attitude in putting her feelings outward, one would have difficulties placing Muñoz and the “Silent Hill” star as daughter and mother on screen. Holden manages to be the glue that keeps the story moving as Leah rarely has much to the say and is only reactive instead of proactive about her situation, making the two actresses dynamically challenging that purposefully sparks uneasiness in every scene. Leah’s friends serve as her lifelines to the world outside her new country home that her mother has unfairly displaced her to. Her best friend Janice, the Toronto born Chloe Rose, whose alternative appearance and nonchalant, cocky persona encourages her to be Leah’s confidant. Rose seemingly enjoys the role that offers vibrantly colorful stripes of hair with lots of gothic makeup that comes complete with leather and plaid outerwear. I was a little disappointed with Leah’s love interest that was Aaron, shoed by the tall and thin Eric Osborne. Aaron really wasn’t showcased much though MacDonald’s script attempts at hinting more to the character, but unfortunately for Osborne, Aaron falls the ranks of a back burner boyfriend trope.
What might be the undoing of “Pyewacket” is simply the timeliness. Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” and André Øvredal’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” completely overshadow the JoBro Production & Film Finance (which is kind of funny because the same production company also did some funding for “The Witch” so in essence, “Pyewacket” is “The Witch’s” little cousin) with two already fantastic tales of non-broom riding and mind tampering witches that share the same intense ferocity of pure hatred and dark magic on a much bigger and grander scale when considering production value that relies on a viewer relatable story. A story involving a mother-daughter warfare is inarguably human to us all, but in competition with that, MacDonald seems to embrace that side of the story with slight favoritism as the director is light with a slow burn of the catalytic turn of events that evokes the titular character despite it being the most gripping portion of the film; instead, the focus is more honed in on Leah’s experience that intimately distances her from each of those that are closest to her: Janice, Aaron, her mother. Left in the wind is much of the witch’s background and how the witch becomes familiar to Leah which goes relatively unknown. And, also, not to forget to mention that the witch, or familiar spirit, is screened through shadows, long shots, and quick takes so to get a shape or a image around the appearance, all I can suggest is that Pyewacket resembles Samara from “The Ring” with stringy, filthy hair, slender figure, and moves around like a spider. Aside from a popular teeny-bop occult novelist, Rowan Dove played by “Bitten’s” James McGowan, the only facts touched upon about “Pyewacket” are that the spirit is extremely malevolent and can deceive the perception of people and events.
From Signature Entertainment, the DVD and Digital release of Adam MacDonald’s “Pyewacket” hits retail shelves April 23rd and digital retail shelves even earlier on April 16th. Since a digital screener was provided for this review, an in-depth critique of the video, audio, and bonus material will not be covered. Though clutching to the money-bagged coattails of bigger, better witch films from the last three years, “Pyewacket” is still a mighty story with complex characters complete with sheer dread from an obscure and grievously sorcery crone pure with black heart that will definitely elicit shortness of breath and rapid heart palpitations if watched alone in the dark.
Fun-loving couple, Jen and Farhang, seem like your average young twosome. Underneath the common surface, they plot a sinister murder of a random stranger. Toying with hardware store supplies and dissecting the knowledge of the human anatomy, Jen and Farhang are well prepped to tackle the abduction, the murder, and the disposal of a human being, but when Jen’s obsessive nature can’t hold back her desire to kill any longer, the couple’s relationship will be harshly tested when a hesitant Farhang is unexpectedly confronted with Jen’s opportunity to kill a kind-hearted dinner guest and decides to pull out from their ghastly thought out preparations that results turning a potential grim bonding experience to a deadly relationship fallout.
“Capture Kill Release” is the 2016 Canadian film from co-directors Nick McAnulty and Brian Altan Stewart. McAnulty also penned the script. The handheld POV thriller has a story that places Jen and Farhang’s union in a familiar, yet deceiving manner, coupling routine relationship quibbles and desires with an unorthodox principles shared amongst them. While acting upon their romantic affair in the archetypes that include one-sided back rubs, jointly frustrating shopping adventures, and an infinite amount of trivial bickering, the dynamic between them feels no different from ours with their interaction with each other in their isolated internal pact being very relatable for audiences with partners or had the experiences with former partners. Enormous, thick tension sets the foundation for “Capture Kill Release” that continuously mounds an already pressurized and emotionally compromised partnership, strained to the brink of chaos that’s hard to dig out from under.
McAnulty and Stewart cast unknown Jennifer Fraser as Jen, much of the cast keep their namesakes with their respective characters, and Fraser, placing aside her remarkable beauty, inarguably locks in Jen’s sociopathic charm. Jen’s manic personality, jumping from conversation piece to conversation piece without smooth transitions and unable to focus without the determination to kill on the mind, contrasts sharply with the more reserved and constant Farhang, a role awarded to Farhang Ghajar who has worked on the directors’ prior film, “Uncle Brian.” Farhang’s conservativeness bares an ugly unconfident image that Jen wholeheartedly exploits, nearly forcing Farhang to go along, or play along, with Jen’s disturbed fantasy. Farhang Ghajar simply plants his character in a shot without much a change between appearance or delivery whereas Fraser frequents and embraces more everyday changes, including even minor ones like her hairstyles that seem to change every scene. Polar opposites, homeless guy Gary and ‘Rich guy’ jerk, round out the significant characters with actors Jon Gates and upcoming “Exorcism of the Dead” star, Rich Piatkowski.
In retrospect, “Capture Kill Release” feels rather depressing. The angst that’s imploding from within the Jen and Farhang bubble touches upon the everyday relationship attributes where couples fight or couples unite in not so extreme measures. Jen shows no empathy or sympathy for anybody with the exception of Farhang, a grappling, fleeting emotion to cling on someone who loves you for you. To further the depression, the recent hike in POV films beats into us the obsession with vanity. The camera, no matter the capacity, is a vain concept and McAnulty and Steward’s thriller spares no expense of arrogance when Jen can’t put down the camera, no matter how much Farhang pleads and persuades her, but If I were an amateur plotter toward killing an absolute stranger, I wouldn’t be a complete novice and record my handy work. This is where McAnulty builds in an unspoken caveat that Jen has a passion for filmmaking, dreaming big of directing, one day, her own feature, a notion that’s explored more during her rooting of her mother’s stored VHS collection from Jen’s childhood. The filmmaking approach to Jen’s obsession loosely bounds the implement of the handheld and feels forced like a last minute decision, especially when genuine home videos of Jennifer Fraser are cut into the story that’s out of place.
Midnight Releasing has released “Capture Release Kill” as a high definition online streaming video feature. I was supplied with a screener and can’t comment on quality or bonus features, but the co-directed film is available on these formats: iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, XBox, FlixFling and more. Even with the brief moments in gore, the blood runs extra thick with sickeningly realistic and shocking scenes of butchery. Gory found footage, such as “The House with 100 Eyes” or the more viscerally vigorous “The Butcher,” have been gaining momentum in their popularity with the handheld camera bringing a little authenticity to grisly murders that are on the other side of the spectrum of being a very anti-Hollywood concept that less sensationalized, but devilishly effective, on a budget. Throw in a handful of motivated and talented actors, such as Jennifer Fraser and Farhang Ghajar, in this semi-exploitation gore-thriller and you can strike gold with “Capture Kill Release” that’ll please even the harshest of found footage or handheld camera critics.
Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are best friends. They’re also two superficial 15-year-old girls who are nose deep into their social media campaigning cell phones, jamming in their girl punk band Glamthrax, and living by the unorthodox, yet namaste driven, yoga practices while exasperatingly working at one of girl’s father’s convenient stores called “Eh-2-Zed.” Set in the Great White North of Canada, the Winnipeg, Manitoba sophomores are surprisingly invited to a senior party, a lure by a popular, good-looking senior boy who has a darker, Satanic side to him. The Colleen girls’ run in with a murderous devil worshipping senior inadvertently opens another hidden danger lurking 37 feet beneath their “Eh-2-Zed” soles. A slumbering Nazi mad scientists has been awoken and aims to finish his Third Reich master plan to take over Canada with a cloned army of Bratzis, living Bratwurst sausages who are pint-sizes Nazis, and seeks to unleash evil upon the Manitoba Earth.
Kevin Smith’s latest pop-cultural flick, a comedy-horror feature, entitled “Yoga Hosers” is the second installment, following 2014’s film “Tusk”, in Smith’s horror-inspired trilogy known as The True North Trilogy. Did you noticed I labeled “Yoga Hosers” as a comedy-horror instead of a horror-comedy? The “Mallrats” and “Clerks” director basks more in the familiarity of witty, profane humor in this second of three films, but Kevin Smith has known to dapple, gradually stepping over to the dark side into horror with his radical religious sect piece “Red State” and, like aforementioned, the body-horror “Tusk.” The Jersey native also has an occasional appearance on AMC’s “The Talking Dead,” a talk show about “The Walking Dead’s” post-premier of each episode, and has meddled in the realm of the fantastic. Not only is Smith a strong advocate and sincerely passionate comic book enthusiast, coinciding with his own AMC show “The Comic Book Men,” but “Dogma,” starring the late Alan Rickman, delivers divine revelations and, now, with “Yoga Hosers,” a villainous Nazi clones miniature Bratwurst soldiers. Smith holds, in my opinion, one of the most extremely diverse bodies of work in our lifetime.
Where as “Tusk” goes gritty and gory with R rated horror-comedy, Smith’s intentions for “Yoga Hosers” has always leaned toward that of PG-13 and, maybe, that’s due in part of the two films’ minoring connection. The connection, presumably set in the same whacked out alternate universe, stem from the two Colleens, one played by Smith’s hysterically funny daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and the other being Harley’s longtime, kindergarden friend Lily-Rose Depp. Yes, the daughter of mega star Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis brings her inherited talent and French dialect to one-half of a buddy comedy. The 15-year old girls, who are also 15-year old in character, transfer their natural offscreen relationship into being an entitled millennial pair with every intent on neglecting responsibility until faced with the moment of truth. Teamed up well with Lily-Rose’s father, Johnny Depp, under the heavy makeup of a fictional French manhunter named Guy Lapointe, also from “Tusk,” with scene-to-scene rotating facial mole, the crime fighting, buddy trio awkwardly moves across the plain in an enjoyable double entendre performance of simple wit. Accompanying Depp, Smith, and Depp are an eclectic roster of Kevin Smith’s usuals such as Justin Long (“Tusk,” “Jeepers Creepers”) as a reality-severed Yoga instructor named Yogi Bayer, Jason Mewes (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) in a bit part, and, of course, Kevin Smith himself as the devilish Bratzis. New faces also make the scene with an unrecognizable Haley Joel Osment (“Sixth Sense”) as a young Canadian Nazi and “Orange is the New Black” Natasha Lyonne portraying a slutty Eh-2-Zed manager who sleeps her way to the top with Colleen C’s father, “Veep’s” Tony Hale.
“Yoga Hosers” explodes with Canadian farce that’s laced heavily with jokes on ‘aboots,’ hockey jersey-wearing patrons, an alternate version of Lucky Charms called Pucky Charms, and many more stereotypical references that satirically poke a good humored finger at Canadian culture and pop-culture. To top this satire sundae, the smug Colleens define the very title of the film with their dimwitted sludge and white girl yoga written into every storyboard moment. “Yoga Hosers'” buddy film concept gives an opportunity to two young and clueless teen girls who genre pirate the story with a jalopy of unsystematic plot humor, sucking away and discarding like garbage the sole ounce of blended “Gremlins” and “Puppet Master” cavalier subgenre horror that’s comfortably pleasant and inarguable right for a fun film of this triviality. Though I think the Colleens’ have had their story told, I’m intrigued to see what the pair of aloof teens offer in Smith’s third film of the trilogy, “Moose Jaws.”
MVDVisual distributes a dual format Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release of the various production companies’, including main investor, Invincible Pictures, and Kevin Smith’s founded SModcast Pictures, “Yoga Hosers.” The Blu-ray disc is a MPEG-2 encoded 1080p transfer with a 2.38:1 presentation and, rarely, flutters under a mediocre bitrate. Image brightens with a glossy coating that revels in brighter hues of blue, pink, orange, and yellow while starker bolds such as red and purple pop with vividness. Yet, sharp details are thin, less defined to bring high definition to present technological age. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track slightly elevates the ambient noise, especially during the girls’ punk rock practice that muffles out portions of their vocals, yet still manages to vary and balance. The only bonus feature available is a behind-the-scenes featurette that includes some insightful interviews. “Yoga Hosers” oppresses a melancholy reminder that the old Kevin Smith is no more and dawns a Kevin Smith 2.0 who transforms his satirical trademarks and his witty banter into strange misadventures, involving, in this case, two teenage fools flighting from one sub-narrative to another in a mixed bag of comedy and inferior minion horror.