Being Dismissed is EVIL That’s Hard to Choke Down. “Swallow” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / BD-R Screener)

Newly pregnant housewife, Hunter, putters around the house while her workaholic husband enjoys the fruits of success and friendship with colleagues.  When she’s not cleaning the house or preparing a meal for herself, Hunter stares into the oblivion of her isolating environment.  The country girl who really had nothing to her name has fortunately found an opportunity to never be worried about financial insecurities and with every material thing a person could want in their right at her fingertips.  All Hunter has to sacrifice is her control.  Feeling lonely, powerless, and trapped, Hunter discovers swallowing inedible, dangerous objects gives her great joy and something she can control.  As she goes deeper into this obsession and her perfect world begins to crumble, she’s confronted with reexamining her dark past that stems her unusual eating habit.

Sometimes it’s our strange quirks, our self-destruction behaviors, and our subconscious need to be noticed, or in control, or out of the pockets of others that can deliver horrid outcomes that, ironically enough, can be also our incognito liberator.  As such displayed in Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ written and directed introductory feature film, a blend of family melodrama and interior body horror, with “Swallow.”  The 2019 released psychological thriller is difficult to digest, literally, as the protagonist struggles coping with external control issues in a seemingly perfect life, a life that has never quite felt like her own, while also encouraging an alarming new physiological appetite for what is known in the eating disorder circles as Pica.  Set in upstate New York, shot around the idyllic Hudson Valley area, “Swallow” is produced by the award-winning “Nomadland’s” Mollye Asher and “Black Box’s” Mynette Louie, who have a long history in investing into bold and interesting emotional depth tales, and is a production of the France based companies, Charades and Logical Pictures.

Undertaking the daunting task of Pica emulating is Haley Bennett.  “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” and “Hardcore Henry” actress tethers a line to the core basis of her character Hunter who has to gradually chip away portions of her blank exterior of a person subconsciously suffering from similar symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome.  Hunter very much believes in the social saturation of wifely duties at an attempt to please her bread-winning husband Ritchie (Austin Stowell, “Colossal”), constantly gathering reassurances and happiness from him.  I also like the play on words with the husband name Ritchie that speaks to his haughty behavior.  Bennett, in great detail, captures Hunter’s disfigured, uncertain happiness and wholehearted attempts to join the ranks of a proud housewife, an area mirrored by silent authority from her mother-in-law Katherine (Elizabeth Marvel, “All the Little Things We Kill”).  As soon as Hunter swallows that very first foreign object, Bennett derives true delight from the bizarre action.  From then on, blistering is away is being a slave to Ritchie’s wealthy ties as that little object, that spherical inkling of hope, gets the marble rolling down the gullet of taking back what’s hers, her life.  Bennett and Stowell finesse their characters’ relationship with a teetertotter of genuine sympathy and ingenuine gratification in what’s a blurry line of compassion or a total fake façade for the allusion of appearances.  The weakest character, for me, is Luay, the Syrian expat who fled the turmoil of homeland war and has become something of a caretaker to Hunter.  Played by Laith Nakli, Luay’s sympathy for Hunter runs deeper than her psychological disorder, and Nakli can dish out awkward, slow burn compassion with the best of them, but that connection between Luay and Hunter misses the timely mark with a blank and acute switching of allegiances gone unspoken and with inaction.  Luna Lauren Velez (“Dexter”), David Rasche (“Cobra”), Babak Tafti, Nichole Kang (“Ten Minutes to Midnight”), Zabryna Guevara, and “American Horror Story’s” Denis O’Hare rounds out the cast.

Hunter’s fixation can be compared to the likes of any other vice and soul-swallowing addiction – gambling , drugs, sex – but the very fact that it’s Pica, and on a certain level of the OCD spectrum, makes Mirabella-Davis’ script somewhat of a curious oddity as the filmmaker builds a story around a dysfunctional family and one’s own personal grasp on destiny.  Though set in modern times, “Swallow” very much has a 1950s-1960s vibe with the dynamic of the working husband and the wife stays home to spruce up the house; there’s even a particular scene of Hunter vacuuming in a 50’s-ish tea length swing dress.  Despite the story’s curious and odd nature and the stuck in time antiquated gender inequality veneer, Mirabella-Davis utilizes these aspects to shape and shed light on the more diabolical of inner detriments with Hunter’s lack of confidence and autonomy stemmed from a difficult to swallow past and a financially affluent relationship that actually disallows personal freedom.  “Swallow” is oppressive in ways as Ritchie and his family and friends attempt to squeeze every ounce of value out of Hunter with value being the unborn child amongst other things.   The psychology of “Swallow” melds past and present together to form Hunter’s dangerous method of taking over the reigns of a life she never steered and Mirabella-Davis crafts an exquisite niche thriller to encourage us to gobble up.

Second Sight Films, a label known for it’s substantial and lavish re-releases, snacks on another high profile film with their profound limited edition Blu-ray of Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ “Swallow.” The single disc, PAL encoded, region B BD-25 is presented in the original aspect ratio of a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Since a BD-R was provided for review purposes, I am unable to comment on the true characteristics and qualities of the audio and video, but do note Katelin Arizmendi’s stunning cinematography that’s full of palpable texture to every minute piece of inedible edibles Hunter puts down her throat and the gorgeous long shots of Hunter being engulfed by the depth with the isolating forest setting that looks to be lurking in the background. The limited edition release hit shelves this past Tuesday, the 22nd, and has a ton of features to check out, including a new audio commentary by director Mirabella-Davis and producers Moilye Asher and Mynette Louie, A Personal Story exclusive interview with the director that’s seriously in-depth and passionate about his work on “Swallow,” Something Bubbling Underneath exclusive interview with producer Moilye Asher, The Process exclusive interview with editor Joe Murphy, Metal and Glass exclusive interview with composer Nathan Halpern, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’s take on “Swallow” A Room of One’s Own, Mirabella-Davis’ short film “Knife Party,” and a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Haley Turnbull along with a soft cover booklet with an introduction by the director and containing essays by Anne Billson, Jordan Crucchiola, and Ella Kemp. Lastly, at the tail of the special features are 6 beautiful collectors’ art cards. “Swallow” is rated UK 18 and runs for 94 minutes. Bennett wins the prize for making “Swallow” a throat-clearing success and bravo to Mirabella-Davis for being brave enough with an unusual story set around an uncommon eating disorder and directing the hell out of it.

Limited Edition Blu-ray from Second Sight Films Available at Amazon.com

Takes Evil to Know Evil. “The Anatomy of Monsters” review!

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Timid sociopath Andrew patrons alone at a low-end bar, sipping delicately on straight whiskey and waiting for the perfect opportune moment to approach the right lonely woman. Andrew is not looking for a one night stand. Andrew is on the hunt for a victim, but when the night’s odds don’t seem to be in Andrew’s favor, a lovely young woman approaches him at the tail end of the night and begins to make small talk. After a night of coincided flirting, the woman seductively invites Andrew back to her motel room for some provocative foreplay, but before Andrew can move in for the kill, he suddenly realizes that the woman might just be as more of a sociopath than he could ever imagine by turning Andrew’s moment of a gratifying kill into her tragic tale of a more experienced and assured killer.
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Suspense thriller “The Anatomy of Monsters” is the sophomore film from the multitalented writer-director Byron C. Miller and stars Tabitha Bastien, Jesse Lee Keeter, and Connor Marx in a twisted narrative involving love, death, and the struggle between the two. Miller, unfortunately, wrestles to keep buoyant the scope of his story contained as scenes teeter when holding an airtight structure as Bastien’s character, Sarah, asserts her mortal coil. Her plight doesn’t grasp the attention needed to draw in an audience; instead, the back and forth between her present plea with Andrew and her past of leading a double life of affliction with whether to act on her killer instinct with the love of her life or not either passively regresses or just stands completely in place, not moving a motivational inch to take the much needed mile in making us believe in Sarah’s tragic love story and the story is actually, well, tragic by not building the passion between Sarah and Nick, played coyly by Connor Marx, as they just hunker inside Nick’s quaint apartment, affixed to his bed or couch while contemplating their instantaneous love for each other.
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A part of the film’s indelicate sting comes from Tabitha Bastien’s performance. Sarah, in the very definition of the character’s persona, is a sociopath which denotes a monotonous person to be without empathy, to have an ice cold demeanor, and to be calculating in their actions. While Bastien epitomizes a sizable amount of emotionlessness, her presentation leans a bit more toward being ingeniously staged, emitting a phoniness that doesn’t naturally crossover. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed Bastien was a T-100 cybernetic organism underneath a flesh and blood outer layer from “The Terminator’s” apocalyptic bleak future. What Bastien does attribute very well to “The Anatomy of Monsters,” aside from her mechanical display, is a pair of piercingly bright eyes set upon a unique belle face akin to that of the nice looking girl next door you peeping tom on through the cracks of your window shades. Jesse Lee Keeter opposites Bastien with a more genuine approach that favors a Michael C. Hall similarity complete with a kill kit. Keeter’s Andrew is an example of well-written hesitation, exhibiting more of a killer’s struggle to maintain a low profile whereas Sarah leaves nothing to the imagination, baring it all out on the proverbial table with the extreme potency of egocentric cockiness.
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Along with Miller’s stationary script, the industrial rocker’s sporadic editing technique can be best described having a short-sighted attention span and his shaky handheld camera visually impairs the viewing pleasure of one monster’s monstrous thirst for death. “The Anatomy of Monsters” feature does play the role of being the quintessential independent product, but without stability and patience, Miller’s artistic craftsmanship suffers heavily from the technical aspects with really the only exception stemming from the minor gore scene during Andrew’s brief description of past murders, committing to a solid neck piece mock-up that realistically seeps blood in order to get the good throat slit shot.
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A fond blend of John McNaughton’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and Showtime’s “Dexter,” “The Anatomy of Monsters” is slated for a DVD and Video on Demand release on November 15th from the Philadelphian distributor Artsploitation Films. Certainly a film that’s an attestant to an American-horror, Byron C. Miller explores the corners of the dark and deranged minds associated with serial killers while meddling through the conventional intimate affairs of the masses, spurring an atomically explosive situation from a slowly, simmering boil. Though technically unattractive with arguably underwhelming and sulky performances, suggestions of a greater notion leaves behind an everlasting scar tissue from the necessary urges and the unquenchable desires of a killer can be appreciated.

Watch The Anatomy of Monsters on Amazon Video!

Kevin Bacon and the Evil Cult! The Following (TV Series – Ep. 1 Review)

The-followingFox usually has some pretty entertaining shows.  I was a religions Hugh Laurie House M.D. follower and Tim Roth’s Lie To Me really had me going until the show was canceled for some, most likely, idiotic reason.  After that those two shows were no longer running new episodes, I occasionally watched Family Guy, The Simpsons and Football whenever the Detroit Lions were playing.  This new crime/horror thriller show called The Following had aired January 21st and I can’t say I was eager to turn away from Monday night’s The Biggest Loser that airs at the same time that The Following airs.  I’m not ashamed to say that my wife and I caught The Following on On Demand and I’m impressed.  What a great first episode to set up all the characters and their stories and now I am eager enough to start being a religious follower; however, I will not turn away from watching obese people sweat to death and curse at their trainers for a killer’s killer cult.  Something about big people struggling to lose weight has more of an appeal, but thank you On Demand for being so convenient in helping me catching up on my shows (Dexter, American Horror Story: Asylum)!

The Following is about a charismatic and powerfully persuasive English professor Joe Carroll who is also a murderer of young college women to capture the essence of Edgar Alan Poe’s literary work.  FBI agent Ryan Hardy tracks down Carroll and single handedly arrests him despite being stabbed in the heart.  Years later, Carroll escapes just a week before his execution and now the ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy has to once again track him down.  Before Hardy is able to apprehend once again, Carroll sets forth a plan that involves his loyal followers doing his murderous bidding for him which will tie up loose ends and most certainly involved the wash up agent Hardy.

Kevin Bacon in the first episode had a good first impression, but I didn’t empathize with him.  This is not to say that his character will develop more into something more in depth and I can’t wait.  My third eye tells me that there will be more to his character and his story.  Bacon isn’t a stranger to horror (Tremors, Stir of Echos, Flatliners, Friday the 13th) and his performances usually stands out.  I believe in the Bacon.  Plus, with being the brain child of Scream series screenwriter Kevin Williamson, I have no doubt that we’ll get some great thrills.  Episode one delivered some fantastic and dark scenes, especially with Joe Carroll’s potential serial killer prodigy and his dog experiments.  The cast is well rounded out with Shawn Ashmore (Lord of the Rings, Frozen), James Purefoy (Resident Evil) and Natalie Zea.

What I seriously hope to be a brutal series, I kind of have my doubts that this will be anything like American Horror Story.  Unlike it’s more edgier little brother F/X, FOX seems to be a tamer, more conservative counterpart and FOX, much like ABC and NBC, have had too many shows that are a hit and a miss and are canceled before you can say seven degrees of Kevin Bacon.  I see The Following lasting beyond the first season and I see my ass in bed turning in a couple of days after the airing to catch up!  Keep your eye on this one from FOX.