On the campus of Williamsburg University in 2006, a popular fraternity house holds an upscale house party, filled with the most beautiful students dressed in formal wear, liquored with martinis and gin and tonics, and customized to fit the luxurious lifestyle the men of fraternal brotherhood. When the fraternity president Christian Roane conducts a round around to greet guests, he catches glimpse of Sarah Stein, a coed being a good sport by giving into her friends’ urges to party greek. Christian’s unhealthy obsession with Sarah starts innocent enough, but when Sarah doesn’t take that step toward sharing the same affection, Christian’s control goes into self destruction that not only threatens Sarah, but also threatens to unearth the true and ghastly nature of the brotherhood and the brothers aim to lockdown their secret by any means necessary.
“Somebody’s Darling” is the 2016, independent drama horror from the multi-faceted filmmaker, writer-director Sharad Kant Patel, churned out from a story by Sebastian Mathews. In his directorial debut, Patel, known more for his short film work, heedfully courses through detail and treads lightly on the coattails of a sensitive social issue. His film skirts on the subject of rape culture in the American college and university setting while also touching upon sexuality complexities and severe anguish in today’s youth. Basically, “Somebody’s Darling” is a higher education dissertation on the experiences of collegiate life with a horror twist and all the along the way, Patel slowly paints Christian and his brotherhood onto a canvas of ambivalent malevolence by deconstructing Christian to quickly reconstruct him in a ravaging roundabout. Patel throughout leaves a bread crumb trail of clues that don’t make sense at first, that might lead to other conclusions, and that doesn’t explicitly genre “Somebody’s Darling” as a horror.
Christian is the film’s central focus and with a dark and brooding character, a dark and brooding soul must ride parallel and Paul Galvan intently delivers a cryptic persona. Peppered erratic is Christian obsession Sarah Stein, a run-of-the-mill coed playing darlingly enough by Jessa Settle. Then there’s the brotherhood, whom are begrudgingly split on how to action Christian’s off course fixation, consisting of a youthful lineup of white, stuck-up preppy frat boys with an actor list to match including Fred Parker Jr., “Spirit Camp’s” Matt Tramel, and Mike Kiely. Sarah also has an entourage but not as prominent and, to be honest, the brotherhood weren’t just a hair more involved, but Kristen Tucker and Cathy Baron (“The Lights”), who play Madison and Riley, hit the stereotypical college coed right on the head as the two look to score big when scouring their hot boy wardrobe and provide unnatural sexual banter toward their goody-two-shoes friend, Sarah.
“Somebody’s Darling’s” independent genetic makeup doesn’t hide under a flashy production, but presuming an indie dramatic horror that’s more bark than bite isn’t worth wild should is the incorrect assumption as the climatic end will be attention catching. Granted, the dialogue’s overdrawn breathiness can bog down a regular popcorn viewer and turn away heads that have a disdain for immense screenplay scripture, but to comprehend the whole story and to become invested in the characters, being a viewer from start to finish won’t go in vain. Patel personal investemnt extends to much more than spitfire directions and scribing with a hand in producing, composing, editor, and digital effects with the latter being used sparsely to convey the Christian’s internal aspirations and quondam self. When effects do come into the real word, a practical, lifelike approach is taken and that intensifies the horror tenfold.
Distribber released Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” onto various streaming platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on December 1st. I was provided a screener disc and can’t focus on or comment too much on the details of image or sound quality, but the disc did provide bonus material including the making of the score and behind-the-scenes in creating the dream sequence. Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” has an edgy appeal that draws you in like an unsuspecting moth to an alluring light and then zaps a fatal shock right into the nervous system as soon as the undertones are evidently a metaphor for something far more sinister.
After suffering the tremendous loss of her in-home hospice cared mother, Theresa descends into an inescapable state of grief and severe isolation inside her mother’s woodland home. Stumbling through life, she manages to show up at work, a cannabis distributor in town, with the verbal encouragement from her eccentric boss, but Theresa’s mind can’t grasp the reality of the situation and loses focus resulting in another tragic loss when she mistakenly hands over fatally potent pot to the incorrect customer, subsequently a friend. Along with grief and isolation, guilt comes into the fold and she begins lighting up her own stash of mind altering cannabinoids that thrust her mindset into disjointed delusions and sleepless strolls through the forest.
“Woodshock” is the 2017 drama thriller directed by two sisters: Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Credited as their freshman film, the Mulleavy sisters embark on an internal, unhinged perspective from their main character, Theresa. With that in mind, the filmmakers’ use of nature has both a symbolic and practical substance that paints the inner workings of Theresa’s thought process. Shot on location surrounded by the giant red oak trees of Northern California puts Theresa, this tiny human being, right smack dab in the middle of ginormous towers of pure ancestral nature and unable to fathom the full scope of the trees metaphorically explores how Theresa is unable to fully comprehend the overwhelming amount of emotions she ultimately succumbs to that lead her down a darker path. Nature, whether trees, butterflies, or, more so in general, landscapes, becomes a familiar motif throughout the film with the trees being the most repetitive aspect being exhibited in numerous scenes of being harvested by loggers, stripped and stored at mills, and lingering remnants of their once intact past.
“Melancholia’s” Kirsten Dunst fully embraces the role of Theresa with her mind, body, and soul by not holding back in a role that demands more of a solitary, voiceless performance blanked with grief. Dunst nails it with ease. Accompany the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” actress is Denmark born Pilou Asbæk as the pot dispenser shop owner Keith who conspires to work out deals with his special customers in need of once and for all ceasing the pain of ailment. The dynamic between the two is hot and cold as the sensation of tension is always present even if the dialogue is not. Asbæk’s Keith actually drives the plot, creating situations that put Theresa in a dilemma inducing pickle and he certainly takes advantage of her grief. Asbæk smug performance couldn’t get anymore complex as he portrays an arrogant, hippie-esque pot shop entrepreneur in a small Washington state town, but exhibits a softer side, especially for his friends and for Theresa, at times. Joe Cole (“Green Room”), Steph DuVall (“Scanner Cop”), and Jack Kilmer costar.
“Woodshock,” as a whole, attempts to grapple too much in the dimension of the subliminal. The Mulleavy sisters focus on symbolizing and using metaphors rather than being straight shooters to communicate Theresa’s internal struggle and between the montage of trees, the vibrant visuals, the double exposures, and various angles of a single action, there’s a choke that occurs, making apprehension hard to swallow. The siblings also display their inexperience at times. Despite completing impressive artistic visuals and able to create some slight movie magic as independent filmmakers, the directors’ choice to keep scenes from being cut and left on the editing room floor are questionable. One example would be Keith in the bar, moving his arms in a slow, locomotive motion, listening to a mellow track on the jukebox This scene is late is near the latter part of the film and doesn’t convey anything more about the character than already established with no transition scene to provide any kind of setup, background, or foreshadowing.
Lionsgate Films presents “Woodshock” onto a slip-covered High Definition, 1080p Blu-ray plus Digital HD. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-25 disc has an widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 that’s conventionally stable. Faint grain filters through, but this could be an intentional cinematography tactic. The English DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t wired to pair with such slow, mellow storyline that doesn’t have a range to fully test the HD quality except for invigorating Peter Raeburn’s enlightening hodgepodge score. The dialogue track is muddled and nearly unintelligible by the overshadowing score. Bonus material includes “Making Woodshock: A Mental Landscape” that opens up Kate and Laura’s intentions in expressing Theresa as a character, their style in filmmaking, and to up sell their cast and crew. “Woodshock” is an artistic visual stimulation with no rival, but Kate and Laure’s inexperience emanates through more than their subliminal sub-contexts. Kirsten Dunst marvelously challenges herself that inarguably gives her even more of a range as an actress that only proves her ability to not be a one trick pony in and out of Hollywood.
Zaki owns a small kebab shop in England’s vern own party central in Bournemouth on the South Coast. Every night, Zaki withstands the late night drunken antics of the local party goers in the hope his son, Salah, would continue his graduate studies and to also, maybe, one day own his own fine dining restaurant, but when he becomes involved in a scuffle with a late night rowdy bunch, he’s killed in a fit of alcoholic whims. Salah takes over his father’s shop, neglecting his studies, and continuing the serve the intoxicated public in his father’s memory, but when he accidentally kills one stubborn customer, he mincings his body parts into kebab meat instead of calling the police and whenever a deplorable enter his shop, he serves them the newest menu item. One sloppy drunk customer after another, Salah wages a vigilante’s war on party world, especially toward a new dance club that masks over a drug trafficking ring.
“K-Shop” is the 2016 horror from writer-director Dan Pringle in his first helmed feature that aims to explore the troublesome nature of the after party, intoxicated human plagued upon sensible people. Pringle strengthens the social commentary by implementing actual footage of drunken debauchery filmed right on England’s South Beach that range between spewing chunks onto the sidewalks to heated back and forth fisticuffs. Pringle’s script tackles that insatiable inner urge everyone has felt at least once in their life when dealing with unreasonable nightlife and that is to raise a fist against them to show how to act like a decent human being. “K-Shop,” which denotes being a double entendre for Kebab Shop and Kill Shop, takes the act one step further, introducing a cannibalistic element to the mix as Salah rids scrum from the earth by slicing and dicing them into his kebab mixture. Salah’s father, Zaki, is a Turkish refugee and him and his son are essentially immigrants that becomes another script undertone brought up the club owning, drug trafficking, all over bad guy Jason Brown.
Salah is brilliantly executed by Ziad Abaza who brings a cache of raw emotions to his character. “K-Shop’s” trailer hinted at a horror-comedy feature, but there’s nothing funny about Abaza’s Salah who seems that life is wholeheartedly against him as a downtrodden college student in a search for basic human decency and compassion. Salah is pitted against an egregious Jason Brown played by Liverpool native Scot Williams and Williams embodies and embraces being a person of high social status and fame, a person of who lavishes in luxury, and epitomizes being a slime ball. Brown’s a stark contrast against Salah who has to slave away and earn his living while Brown takes his life for granted. The supporting cast are also very interesting starting with Reece Noi as Malik who voyeuristically takes an interest in Salah’s vigilantism and who also, perhaps, shares common cultural aspects, but Malik is just a kid acting beyond his age at times and then drastically at his age at the most crucial moments during his dynamics with Salah. Another character is Salah’s potential love interest in Sarah portrayed by Kristin Atherton. Atherton provides a sweet, quiet, and intelligible demeanor to Sarah that projects onto Salah whereas other women in Salah’s life, mostly his patrons, are loud, obnoxious, and corrupt. Lastly, “Doomsday’s” Darren Morfitt instills a catalytic character in fallen from grace Chaplin Steve. There’s a bit of a confessionally staged event between Salah and Steve that offers a realization and a tale-end twist that just puts that unwanted pit into the bottom of stomachs.
Now “K-Shop” isn’t totally perfect, especially in the flow of the film. Pringle doesn’t clearly provide a timeline of progression. Between the holidays Christmas and News Years is perspectively prominent, but Salah’s calling, or mission, seems to extend weeks, if not months, and that isn’t clearly communicated. Plus, there’s slight difficulty understanding turn page moments that dilute the significance of events whether it’s through too much exposition or choppy editing. Where “K-Shop” is weak, Pringle makes up with gore and story. The gore is absolute from scorching an inebriated man’s face sizzling in a vat of hot oil to chopping up limbs with a butcher’s knife in order to make his delicious kebabs. Pringle’s conclusion is absolving, satisfying, and also, at the same time, fruitless because even though Salah makes a stand against immorality, a realization washes over him that nothing will ever change despite cutting the head from the snake.
Breaking Glass Pictures distributes “K-Shop” on to an unrated DVD home video. The DVD is presented in a widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio and the overall quality is stunning sporting a dark painted picture and still convey a healthy color palette even if lightly washed in a yellow hue. The’s no attempt to enhance the image as the natural color tone comes right out and off the screen and that dark gritty matter really speaks to Pringle’s capabilities to create shadows. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is surprisingly hanging around par level as, some of those key moments once spoken about, are lost in a muddled heap in the dialogue track, but there’s range and fidelity thats good on the output amongst a balanced five channel track. Bonus material includes a behind-the-scenes segment and deleted scenes plus Breaking Glass trailers. “K-Shop” is dark, gritty, and eye opening backed by a versatile lead in Ziad Abaza and helmed by newcomer filmmaker Dan Pringle, seeking to entertain and unearth our inner and deadly vigilante doppelgänger in the midst of social indecencies.
Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.
In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!
“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.
Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.
AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?
Sara, a desperate young mother, infiltrates a secret facility workplace under the false pretentions of becoming an employee of the critical janitorial department. After losing custody of her adolescent daughter Jenny in court, the child becomes misplaced when her custody awarded father, an employee, loses Jenny in the facility that’s conducting unusual activity involving the building’s light energy source. With everyone on constant edge and under the powerful and dangerous influence of the light, including her very organized and unstable employer, Sara is able to find a sympathizer in the head janitor and by exploiting his mental map and valuable knowledge of the building, Sara goes deeper into the structural bones of a nightmarish reality where evil lurks in the shadows and not everything is what it seems.
“Feed the Light” is a H.P. Lovecraft inspired sci-fi horror directed and co-written by indie filmmaker Henrik Möller with Martin Jirhamn sharing the co-write. The gothic tale stems from the Lovecraft short story “The Colour Out of Space” that tells the tale of a meteor crash landing in the hills near Arkham, Massachusetts, poisoning and deforming all the living creatures nearby that creates chaos amongst the locals. The light, that never dulls, becomes the driving force of everything malevolent and that carries over into Möller’s film, but isolates the setting to a dilapidated building instead of a natural landscape and focusing more on the people inside rather than vegetation or livestock as the Lovecraft short story builds upon. Originally shot in color, Möller thought best to suck the color out from the reel and produce a mostly black and white film, sprinkled with color at strategic moments, that would convey the importance of the ever-present light and interpret a far more dramatic effect to play out; a decision I whole-heartedly agree because if laced with color, much of the abandoned warehouse setting would be a monotonous eye-sore. Instead, black and white enhances the light’s presence, makes it almost seem to stand out amongst the greyscale, and give way to more inspirationally vibrant hues when they are revealed.
For Henrik Möller, this is the director’s first dive into feature films and for the filmmaker whose better known for his shocking shorts, “Feed the Light” doesn’t water down the deranged, creative machine that just steam-plows through a 75-minute runtime and still managing to be mechanically sound to comprehend the Lovecraftian tone. Lina Sundén fills the lead shoes as Sara and Sundén embodies complete innocence and bewilderment when her characters goes forth into this strange facility, but doesn’t show much fear as if a mother’s determination is her driving force to go beyond being what frightens her. Alongside Sundén is Martin Jirhamn, who you might remember me saying he co-wrote the script, as the sympathizing janitor. Jirhamn has collaborated on many of Möller’s shorts, feeling comfortable taking on the challenge of a full length feature by taking on more of a scripted role that has a face with two sides. Rounding out the cast of memorizing characters are “Not Like Others'” Jenny Lampa as an authoritarian boss of the facility who tries to keep Sara from going on Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in the basement and Patrik Karlson otherwise known as the VHS-Man and Jenny’s father in the film.
“Feed the Light” has undertones beyond that of Lovecraft. The story feels nearly anti-establishment, a surreal and extreme look at how doing the same job, in the same office, staring at the same fluorescent lights can make one loose one’s humanity. The boss is a strict enforcer of the rules and doesn’t shrug at the thought of one of her employee’s burning out as long as the job gets done, but it’s not burning out that’s the problem. The light symbolizes obedience and control, turning those with a soul into mindless workers. There’s an unseen power embodying them such as with the dog man, played by Morgan Schagerberg, who, literally, sounds and acts like a canine that just happens to have glittery dust goo ooze out of it’s anus. Yup, weird. “Feed the Light” is jarringly weird, but also laminates into the prospect of hidden doom that’s very similar to the truth is out there concept reveled in the “X-Files.”
The Severin sub-label, Intervision Picture Corp., usually subjects us to older projects, but embraces newer indie films such as Henrik Möller’s “Feed the Light” and with the help of CAV Distributing, Möller and “Feed the Light” can be exposed to every house hold on Earth as a region free Blu-ray in 1080p full Hi-Def. The full frame is a staple of Intervision and doesn’t necessary cause any distress over cropped images. There is a fair amount of interference, but again, only enhances the indie labels reputation. Other than that, the image is fine laid under a Swedish language dual channel audio track that’s well balanced with a brooding industrial soundtrack by Testbild, a Möller familiarity. There are two extras accompanying the feature: one is a making of featurette and the other is an interview with the director, Henrik Möller. “Feed the Light” is a science fiction oddity chocked full with surreal depictions and nightmare creatures with a Lovecraft base and a passionate director’s otherworldly view of how light and color powerfully dictate our everyday lives.