Furbish the Four Walls EVIL Lives Inside of Your Brain with “The Yellow Wallpaper!” (Hysteria Pictures / Digital Screener)

A prominent physician escorts his wife, Jane, and newborn child to a secluded countryside home after a severe episode of hysteria rattles Jane’s mental state.  For three months in the Summer, Jane is confined to the house grounds with strict instructions to do nothing to exert herself other than to partake in a little gardening.  Even writing, which was profusely Jane’s pursuit, is harshly forbidden.  The bedroom she shares with her husband is nearly unadorned with only their bed in the middle of the room and yellow wallpaper ornamenting all four walls.  As the weeks pass in isolation, Jane can’t escape the feeling the yellow wallpaper is creeping into her mind, imprisoning her, and driving her mad, lending her relaxing retreat from societal nervousness be laid to waste in solitude. 

Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” has seen a fair share of filmic adaptations in over a span of a century since being published back in 1892, but all of those variated works have been grounded in the last four decades .  Amongst the numerous shorts and a handful of features, the most notable version of “The Yellow Wallpaper” would be Logan Thomas’ 2012 interpretation, starring Juliet Landau, daughter of the late Martin Landau.  That’s the funny thing about public domain property is it opens up a plethora of pathways to spin and redefine creativity to rework Gillman’s feminist tale from the artists’ voices speaking of the times when women’s mental health, and mental health in general, was perceived naively as anxiety.  Kevin Pontuti steps up to the plate to take a crack at the spiraling to madness story as the filmmaker’s inaugural feature directorial of the American and Ireland co-produced celluloid from an adapted screenplay written by the director and co-written with the story lead actress and producer, Alexandra Loreth.  Under the duo’s entertainment banner, Hysteria Pictures in association with Ireland’s Emerald Giant Productions, the crowdfunded “The Yellow Wallpaper” project receives the latest contemporary treatment that brings Gillman’s words back to the screen.

Co-writer and producer, Alexandra Loreth, takes the lead as Jane coming down off the ledge of a nervous breakdown but still ballooning with instability that’s stretching her fashioned societal-front seams. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is also the California based filmmaker’s first feature film alongside Pontuti, basically penning Jane’s entire mindset of combating the time’s unfamiliar sexisms and mental health. Loreth crawls on her hands and knees, feign glossy, far away eyes, and be cold and distant to be in tune to a woman disassociating with herself and reality and, truth be told, portrays a convincible case that shows feature debut courage with on screen nudity and a stamina for being the focus for the entire 99 minute runtime; however these acts remain stuck in a excessive loop that roots Loreth’s character decline to one a taciturn setting, lacking range and depth to carry Jane into full metal straightjacket crazy. Opposite Loreth is Irish actor Joe Mullins as John, the physician, the only character mentioned in Gillman’s short story. Mullins impels like an automaton through the role with not a lick of zestful misogyny to contrast against. Loreth completely dominates the screen as you barely notice Mullins whisk in and out of scenes to medicate Jane or comfort her with little white lies. John’s dismissive attributes were more dispassionate with Mullins behind the wheel that leaves only half the work’s presence omitted and it’s sorely felt. In the role of Jane’s domicile caregiver, Jeanne O’Connor paves a road of sturdy era authenticity that also is fleeting from “The Yellow Wallpaper” and with her 19th century genteel aesthetics, we’re sucked into the period to keep us grounded in time. Performances round out with Clara Harte as the abstruse infant caregiver and Mark P. O’Connor briefly standing in as Jane’s doctor brother.

Pontuti and Loreth’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” targets the very essence of Gillman’s journal narrated themes of the downplayed and untapped mental health and the secondary expectations of women in 19th century society.  The differences between the 1800’s paper and 2021’s movie narratives are ever so slightly tweaked into the contemporary medium with Loreth narrating right from Gillman’s pages word-for-word in between the auxiliary scripted dialogue and the finale concluding toward a more grim avenue that will surely satisfy the more macabre of hearts.  Yet, not enough material could be extracted from the short story to entice as entertainment as the adaptation lingers in monotone fashion. Jane carries on about the woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper and is shown going in circles of staring at the wallpaper, crawling on her hands and knees on the estate grounds (as describe in the short story), and just being listless throughout the entirety with her mental issues linked to post-partum and drowning in passive despair.  Perhaps better suited for a short film, as many have been completed already, audiences will become tiresomely and frustratedly lost in all of Jane’s 99-minutes of tedium as there just isn’t enough to sate a feature length film unless you add embellishing bells and whistles in the realm of supernatural or the puppeteering of an unseen force symbolizing Jane’s fractured mindset. Don’t expect “The Yellow Wallpaper” to paint a gripping tale of feministic horror as the story peels off in a superannuated ream of soapbox issues.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” made its world premier this past March at Cinequest in San Jose, California. The film is shot in a modernly unconventional 4:3 pillarbox aspect ratio aka the black bars on each side of the near square image presentation. The intention by cinematographer Sonja Tsypin (“Scare Package”) was to meet the age of Gillman’s original. Yes, I know in 1892, video wasn’t exactly a thing, let alone pillarboxed formats, but aspect ratio does point the a modern adaptation into the right blast from the past direction. What is also curious about Tsypin’s photography, and I’m not positive if this is in fact intentional or not, is the lesser frame rate that induces jumps in the picture in an almost lag effect that doesn’t add much but of annoyance to the viewing pleasure. I was slightly more impressed with Robert J. Coburns score fathomed the depth of disturbance going through Jane’s head and lured out the creepy that played like a broken-melody music box. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits. Even with a well established and powerful ending shot, a preserving memento of the patriarchy’s ill-conceived mansplaining of a woman’s mind and body, and an intrepid performance by Alexandra Loreth, “The Yellow Wallpaper” stagnates in faithfulness to Gillman’s short and doesn’t offer new and improved ideas of century old, feminist gothic literature.

Can You Survive Rob Zombie’s Evil Death War? “31” review!

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Traveling across a remote highway, five carnival workers journey to their next small top gig on Halloween day in 1976. Stopped by scarecrow-like figures in the middle of the road, the carnies find themselves led into a hostile trap and are kidnapped, held hostage to be poorly prepped for the dilapidated warehouse “Murderworld.” The violent death labyrinth is set for a hellish game entitled “31”, launched yearly by the sadist Father Death with Sister Serpent and Sister Dragon, that pits the captive against a series of killers, specialized in their own brand of merciless murder. To survive inside “Murderworld,” you have to stay alive for 12 hours in the dark, dank warehouse.
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After a self produced campaign, a hefty amount of soul crushing crowdfunding, and a slew of production and distribution ups and downs, “House of a 1000 Corpses” director and shock rocker Rob Zombie was finally able to release this year his latest horror installment “31” since 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” Lionsgate acquires the home entertainment rights to deliver “31” with a R-rated version of the Zombie’s claimed return to roots horror. The survival slasher, when compared to the director’s other work, capitalizes as the most seriously disturbed work to date, but the premise is not particularly original. We’ve all seen the placing of disoriented victims in a life or death game scenario before; Schwarzenegger’s “The Running Man,” based off the Stephen King novel, strikes many similarities, closely relating the two films by sheer plot alone. With Zombie’s “31,” the differences stagger between the main characters being simple carnies looking for a place in the world and “Murderworld” not being a total dystopian future of skewed justice. Instead, the shock rocker pens in his own ‘motherfucking’ motivations of satanic rituals to filthy the pot of sadism and mayhem.
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Overall, I thought “31’s” characters were inviting and interesting even if they’re a cookie-cutter roster engineered by the likes of Rob Zombie. The idea is good to have five ordinary folks enduring a 12 hours bout of being hunted by a pint sized nazi enthusiast, a pair of chainsaw wielding hillbilly whack jobs, a tall German in a pink tutu and his Harley Quinn modeled femme fatale, and, then, there’s Doom-Head, portrayed by the impeccable Richard Brake. My first experience with Brake came from another facet of the word ‘doom,’ 2005’s “Doom,” to be exact, the adaptation of the popular id Software survival horror video game, and even then did Brake have the outer shell of a complete sleaze ball, dipped in an indescribable amount of pure malevolence. Rob Zombie is able to tap into Brake’s true potential with Doom-Head, an egocentric nihilist professionally suited for murder while oozing with unapologetic shamelessness. Along with Brake lies co-stars very familiar from prior Zombie films and these individuals are Jeff Daniel Phillips, deeply blue-eyed Meg Foster, and Judy Geeson from “The Lords of Salem,” the legendary Malcolm McDowell and Lew Temple from the “Halloween” remake, and, of course, Sheri Moon Zombie, the dedicated wife who stars in everything the man does from movies to music videos. Rounding out the film has Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Kevin Jackson, Jane Carr, Pachno Moler, David Ury, Torsten Voges, and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’s” Elizabeth Daily on the docket.
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The problem with the characters are not that their ‘cookie-cutter’ characters, as I aforementioned, but rather their just well, well under written. Developmentally, almost every character becomes wasted space, floating stagnantly across the 103 minute runtime. For the hunters aside from Doom-Head, they’re backgrounds are mysterious which fits the rules of “31.” Doom-Head is a different story because he’s the golden child of “Murderworld,” spoken very highly by Father Murder and graced with so much monologuing that it’s absurdly comical and, unfortunately, predictable. As far as the carnies are concerned, most of the group never blooms into relevancy and I couldn’t help but to root for most of their savage deaths. Sheri Moon Zombie’s Charly character was the slice of life, the slither hope, that showed promise. Yeah, Charly looks and sounds much like Baby Firefly, but Charly is a fantasy heroine with a modest range of emotions and when even faced with defeat, she’s stands strong.
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Though I wanted “31” to exceed all my expectations with the promise of untapped brutality, here we stand with a cut version Rob Zombie’s crowdfunded film. I’m interested in what exactly hit the cutting room floor because, just taking in “31” at first viewing, every single scene could be remedied by reimplementing, if any, omitted scenes. From my understanding, Rob Zombie submitted the survival horror numerous times to the MPAA in order to purposely retrieve a R-Rating and the ending result suggests a heavily cut film: off camera moments of attack, choppy warehouse segments, unintended shortened character developments, etc. Something more must be behind the scenes that holds back a fan well-deserved and fan well-funded unrated version and I’m not totally knocking this rated Lionsgate release, but a perception has been cemented on the fact that fans were promised an unadulterated Rob Zombie spook show and ended up not getting what they paid for ultimately.
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing the Saban Films’ “31” on Blu-ray on December 20th in 1080p High Definition with a 16×9 widescreen 2.46:1 presentation and an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. A DVD version is also available. The presentation is in the detail of the image quality with only some minor dialogue loss, slightly muddled amongst the levels, in the DTS track. Certainly not a disparaging opinion, but once in close quarters, such as the carnies’ van, the ambiance hum of the engine, the tires on the road, and the jingle-jangle of objects in the van drown out parts of dialogue from Meg Froster and Jeff Daniel Phillips. An impressive 2-hour comprehensive documentary on the making of the film entitled “In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn” and an audio commentary with writer-director Rob Zombie completes the bonus material. “31” feels like a Rob Zombie film; the rocker’s trash talking grit and loads of rockabilly swag leaves his unique brand seared into the horror scene, but Zombie’s “Murderworld” story is a promise-filled return to roots sensation for the director. Honestly, Zombie never strayed from his grungy grindhouse of inhuman torture and death origins, but only for a fleeting moment, and so “31” stays the abrasive, distasteful course that’ll speak, like in cult comprehensible tongues, to only his fan base.

Rob Zombie’s “31” on Blu-ray!

“31” on Motherfuckin’ DVD!