Biding Time Can Be Dystopianlly EVIL and Claustrophobic. “Tin Can” reviewed! (Dread / Blu-ray)

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

A viral fungus pandemic has plagued the world.  Fret, a parasitologist, has worked toward a cure to stop the spread of a virus that grows Clavaria-like basidiocarps from inside out the body that’ll eventually enclose the victim to death in an organic cocoon.  Before Fret can develop and distribute the recently discovered global cure for the virus, she awakes in a confined metal container constructed to suspend life duration for those who contracted the illness.  Confused and disoriented, Fret learns she’s not alone as others awake around her and able to talk with through the containers, including your infected husband John.  Unaffected by the virus and believed to be encapsulated in error, Fret works desperately on an escape from her well-intended prison in order to save humanity before it’s too late.   

By now, most of us can relate to a pandemic-driven storyline because, well, you know, COVID.  The 2020 sci-fi body horror “Tin Can” is no exception despite having been filmed prior to all the pandemic induced deaths and lockdowns.  Perhaps premise creator and director Seth A. Smith had a little foresight into coming events that inspired the Canadian project co-written with Darcy Spidle.  “Tin Can” is the fourth pen-to-paper collaboration between Smith and Spidle who previously completed two feature films (“Lowlife,” 2010 / “The Crescent,” 2017) and one short (“The Brym,” 2016) along with “The Willows,” the duo’s fourth feature film and revolving once again around preternatural events, that is currently in pre-production. For “Tin Can,” Smith and Spidle entangle a science fictional, dystopian, Hell in a handbasket world with selfish motives that outweigh saving the world. Seth A. Smith’s Nova Scotia based production company, Cut/Off/Tail Pictures, develops the story produced by company producer Nancy Ulrich and financially backed by the executive producing team of Michael Baker, Marc Savoie, Tim Lidster, and Rob Cotterill (“Possessor”).

“Tin Can” might evoke a sense that one main character will be the focus point for the entire storyline, such as with “Buried” that stays put on the singular person trapped in this very tight, very claustrophobic-inducing soda can. Yet, that is not such the case with “Tin Can” that does circle around a centerpiece character in Fret (Anna Hopkins, “V/H/S/94”) but the cure-all scientist waking up in a life-extending canister while on the edge of saving mankind isn’t alone. Surrounding Fret are strangers, colleagues, and even her husband, some of whom, such as her husband, are suffering the protruding fungal fairy fingers of the virus. Anna Hopkins fields a hefty, difficult role after an initially a humble beginning as a scientist that more so-or-less feels the pangs of a low rent indie, but as Hopkins’ Fret transcends time by waking up weeks (or maybe months…years?) later, her environment becomes frantically imprisoning. The tight confines of the titular object with medical tubes dangling from the ceiling, a Tracheostomy tube down the throat, a malfunction video screen, and mysterious bars that light up one-by-one set a stronger stage for the actress to be put up against and Hopkins nails the mindset of a woman vehement and determined with escape to not only save her own life but the life of billions across the planet. In the cans beside Fret, providing Hopkins with more serve-and-volley fuel, is her husband John (Simon Mutabazi) inflicted by disease but becomes more than just a victim, Wayne (Michael Ironside, “Starship Troopers”) who I couldn’t really grasp as a component in the story as he’s like a project financier in the tin can project to save his own skin from being reskinned by fungus, Darcy (Amy Trefry) as a colleague-friend of John and Fret, Whistler (Tim Dunn, “The ABCs of Death”) who is the most interesting and weird doomsayer of the bunch, and a fist banging mute (Sara Campbell) also inflicted. For much the back-and-forth in the cannister talk, the dynamic is more of a talking head roundtable of initial discussions of popping open a small air vent so they sce outside their enclosed cell and eventually lead to more depth and deception that narrows the story with the what, when, why, and how.

“Tin Can” aspires to be a chaptered three-act conundrum. I don’t mean that in a negative perspective. What Smith brings into existence is a polished independent film of Cronenberg-esque and has ensuing weirdness act-after-act only paralleled by the double-crossing exoneration or a retaliating impugn of keeping one alive after being severely scorned. The first act plays out like the world of today, a devastating pandemic that has ravaged the human population. The second act unsheathes the mystery of waking up inside the tin can device with people she knows and is eager to discharge herself from a capsule that’s supposed to sustain her life. Then, the third act rolls in, the third and final chapter, and time has officially been corrupted as we know it with a futuristic beings suited in various colored alloys. Alloys are definitely a theme beginning with title “Tin Can.” Fret discovers a cure for the diseases by commingling it with an alloy and each containment artificer is suited in a different metal and are credited as Copper, Gold, Silver, etc. What Smith could be suggesting is the element that could cure us could also incapacitate or, even worse, transfigure our existence with a lifesaving, yet life altering, solution to the extreme. Cinematographer Kevin Fraser industrializes the look of “Tin Can’s” existential view and is a glorious rusty bucket of a cheerless life. If Smith wanted to convey a life of nihility and automaton, Fraser nailed down the oxidation state. “Tin Can’s” a cold hard look at the cost of saving the world that, in the end, might not be worth saving.

A part of the Dread Central at home release line, “Tin Can” arrives onto a high-definition Blu-ray distributed by Epic Pictures and MVD Visual. The region free Blu-ray is presented in a throwback 3:2 with letterboxing and has a color reduction implemented to give it that demoded depiction. Image looks amazing without an inkling of any kind of compression issues especially with many of the scenes shot in darker and bleaker circumstances. Fraser delivers some awe-inspiring, creative angles that produce a how-did-they-do-that response to get a 360-degree single take of Anna Hopkins in the cannister or the rotation of a limp body on a large wheel door. The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio mix has solid sound design as more than half of the picture is off the principals talking through their metallic cylinder containers that created a muffled depth and low range flickering in the backorder, the mechanized hum mixed with scraping metal, does wonders to sell the dystopian effect that borders steampunk. No inherent or noticeable flaws in the final product. English subtitles are available. Special features include a commentary with Seith A. Smith, The Last Bell Doe Toll – the making of “Tin Can'” exhibits the construction and creation of the displaced subsequent future, how to achieve a few of those crazy Kevin Fraser shots, and provide cast and crew interview insights, and the bonus content rounds out with two music videos – The Last Bell Does Toll and ZAUM – The Enlightenment (Part I). “Tin Can” runs at 104 minutes and is not rated. “Tin Can” is ingenious on a level many will not fully understand and, frankly, I barely can tether my impression and have it make sense, but there’s a unique ore core to this science fictional, ill-fated fantasy that can be so odd at times you can’t help but not look away.

“Tin Can” on Sale Now at Amazon.com!

Entombed With an EVIL Loneliness. “Alone With You” reviewed! (Dark Star Pictures / DVD)

“Alone With You” on DVD at Amazon.com

Charlene anxiously awaits the return of girlfriend Simone who has been away on a photoshoot.  Today is their anniversary and Charlene wants everything to be perfect by creating a lovely evening together for just the two of them in their New York City apartment.  As the night progresses and still no sign of Simone, despite her flight landing hours ago, Charlene begins to worry but her phone suddenly malfunctions and her apartment front door jams, locking her inside with no way out.  To make matters worse, the outside is blacked out from something covering her widow to where no light can penetrate and she can’t see anything exterior.  Throughout the night, voices and shadows slowly surround her, dark silhouettes stand motionless in her storage basement and outside her jammed door, and the video calls with her mom and friends turn to an unnerving end as it seems Simone nor anybody else is coming to recuse her.  Intermittent flashbacks of her at the beach and a neighboring voice are her only company that menacingly mess with Charlene’s mind as she quickly realize that something is terribly wrong. 

If you’re looking for a compact, close-quartered, psychological barrel of scutter apprehension and fear, I wholeheartedly believe filmmakers Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks have what you need to inject that tar black cathartic dread right into your emotionally hungry veins with their latest film “Alone With You.”  Born and bred out of strict COVID times, “Alone With You” is the 2020 filmed mind-torturing, hell in a cell shot inside Emily Bennett’s NYC apartment during most of the shoot, using telecommunication technology to invite other actors into the spatial bubble and interact with the main lead without physically being on set.  We’ve seen a ton of other COVID-created content over the past two years, but “Alone With You” definitely shines as not only isolating madness but also a fear of disconnect in reality, mental struggles over brittle relationships, and an illusionary life stemmed out of disenchanting circumstances.  “Alone With You” is written and directed by Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks as their first feature film and is produced by “Underworld:  Awakening” actor Theo James and Andrew D. Corkin of the 2019 created production label, Untapped.

With a small indie feature film during pandemic pandemonium, the odds the cast and crew are downsized, probably meagerly paid, and limited by the pandemic-stricken environment and lack of funds.  “Alone With You” is just that film because at the principle lead is none other than Emily Bennett, one of half of the directing duo.  Bennett, who has a solid acting career with even a role alongside “The Devil’s Rejects’” Bill Moseley in the “House of the Witchdoctor,” gets cozy in her own two story apartment that suddenly becomes an ensnarement of unveiling and disturbing truth.  Bennett hits every level of descension without an immediate belief that something isn’t right with her surroundings.  Charlene takes multiple gradual hits of paranormal punches and Bennett executes her fear with great poise without any lopsidedness to give away too much too early that can sometimes kill momentum before the spookiness starts to really get good.  Through flashbacks and video calls, other actors interject moments of levity, different sides of tension, and, frankly, break up the Bennett monotony and from those brief moments, we get a sense of who Charlene is and a slither piece of her backstory.  The amazingly talented “Bliss” and “VFW” actress, Dora Madison, plays Charlene’s inebriated-uncouth friend Thea over a cell phone video call, zooming in is Charlene’s rightwing mother played by the ever versatile and extremely lovely Barbara Crampton, and, lastly, Emma Myles, in an unrecognizable role in contrast of a greasy haired addict and former Amish turned inmate performance in “Orange is the New Black,” is the always beyond arm’s length away love interest Simone.

What I like most of about “Alone With You” is the atmospherics of being in your safe, cozy place that has instantly turned in a prison of peripheral moving shadows, an invasion of privacy, and, most frighteningly of all with most millennials, none of the modern technology is working properly.  The story design feels extremely pushed toward a wash, rinse, and repeat cycle with no other areas in the apartment to explore other than the handful of main rooms and so we’re constantly in the bedroom, then living room, then front door, then basement, and then repeat for most of the 1 hour and 22 minute runtime but do you know what happens with that?  Bennett and Brooks strategize and outline the snowball of bad feelings inside the ominous compact, starting small and working up to a cacophony of madness to where Charlene is literally moving back and forth between truth and deception induced by being scared to shivers of her own apartment’s clad and taken for granted discomforts, such as the front door sometimes being stuck or the crying lady neighbor who you can hear clearly through the air register.  “Alone With You” fiddles with the theme of disconnection.  Here you have Charlene, a small town girl who moves into the big city, has discovered her sexuality, and has found a vocation that suits her to which all this change go against her mother’s approval, and she feels strongly attached, like an extension of herself, to girlfriend Simone and as the story progresses, we get the sense that not everything is lovey-dovey between the two and Charlene’s dependent world is slowly being severed.  Simple, yet effective, “Alone With You” is an undoing nightmare of personal happiness, a sentiment we all share and relate to during height of the pandemic.   

Now, we all suffer in Charlene’s insufferable loneliness and disconnection with the “Alone With You” DVD home video courtesy of Dark Star Pictures. The region 1, dual layer DVD is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio of standard 480p resolution definition, but the DVD image renders nicely on screen with digital sharpness unaffected by any compression issues, especially with much of the space saving special effects coming in practical and mostly done in the editing room. The video calls vary in quality which is pleasantly dispersed to the appropriate electronic devise, i.e. television, phone, etc. Details are clearly there but only slightly softer around the edged delineation. Two audio tracks are available with an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 and a stereo 2.0, but the 5.1 track is an allocating alicorn for a low-budget DVD. Shawn Guffy and Nicole Pettigrew’s sound design is meticulously on point and on cue with every synchronous audio nudge to point Charlene in the right direction for another round of dread. The varying levels of the Phil Mossman’s soundtrack adds a blended flavor of melancholy and fear. Dialogue output renders clearly and cleanly with no issues. English SDH subtitles are available. DVD comes stocked with special features including a blooper reel, a bit of a waste of space on the deleted scene reel that doesn’t add much to either the character or story, a lengthy and in-depth filmmaker and cast interviews, a behind-the-scenes featurette of Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks remarking on the struggles of feature filming around their apartment during COVID spikes, and a director commentary with the duo. “Alone With You” has a heavy artsy side to it that can leave viewers wandering for answers but if pieced together, if paying close enough attention, the correlation between the story in the camera and the life behind the camera are really not terrifyingly different. One just happens to be more of a representation hyperbolized with terror of a crashing down reality than the other.

“Alone With You” on DVD at Amazon.com