Trippin’ on Grief Conjures Internal Evil. “Woodshock” review!


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.

“Woodshock” on Blu-ray!

It’s in Human Nature to be Evil. “It Comes At Night” review!


Set in an infectious diseased post-apocalypse world, Paul, his wife Sarah, and their son Travis have fortified themselves in a dense forested and isolated house to ride out the easily spreadable disease. Always prepared and ever suspicious, Paul expects everyone to follow a rigorous routine, following procedures in order to avoid becoming infected, but when a young family, seeking supplies and refuge, enters their lives and their home despite Paul’s hesitations. Paul’s family’s routine and order face disruption that opens themselves up to the ever present danger outside and inside their home.

“It Comes at Night” is an intense, heart-pounding mystery thriller set inside the close quartered confines of a desolate house where trust doesn’t come without auspicious interrogation and teeth clinching suspicion. Writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ sophomore feature has layers upon layers of underlying human nature undertones when people are put up against an unsurvivable situation inevitably with their backs against the wall, literally, when confronted to whether to implement the good will nature of their humanity or not, to take that risk to help others or to save their own skin, and to attempt to reconnect with other people or stay separate from the masses. Even the “it” in “It Comes at Night” isn’t as simple as one would first think. Most unfamiliar audiences would assume “it” is a snarling, brooding, oozing, and grotesque creature, or perhaps even a devilishly grinning clown, that comes around when the sun falls; instead, the “it” is an occurrence, an event sparking nightmares inside the human mind that formulates fear and a tall order of exemplary caution.

The Australian born Joel Edgerton (“The Thing” remake) stars as Paul, the father of the family he’s trying to protect at all costs. Edgerton perfectly pitches as a, supposed, American voice, since the story doesn’t exclaim a locality, but the assumption is the setting is nowhere, U.S.A, and plants a firm foot down as a rugged resident of wilderness survival accompanied by his wife Sarah played by Alien: Covenant’s Carmen Ejogo. Ejogo’s offering to her character gives Sarah a powerful will to do what’s necessary and to support Paul in his determination to protect their only son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Edgerton, Ejogo, and Harrison opposite up well against the foreign element, another family with their performer genetic makeup of Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, and Griffin Robert Faulkner as Will, Kim, and their just above toddling son, Andrew. Each actor embraces the role in their respective family and at first, the interactions are genuinely jovial, but then the uncomfortable thick tension evolves from the point of an extreme pivot into the folds of deception and fear.

Shults maintains an ominous atmosphere of overwhelming strain amongst the characters and “It Comes at Night” has a unique perspective set inside an already apocalyptic ravaged population despite the lack visual expositions. Yet, the finished project feels incomplete. Pacing is the biggest concern with the timing of events between the introduction of Will’s family and their destined downfall that results in a climax that’s so bellied-up in an sorely anti-climatic fashion that the notion of being cheated out of a more gut-punched ending pulls at the core of the cinematic soul. That’s not to say that the film has one, if not more, interpretations; in fact, Shults’ entire feature is or could be considered open for interpretation, with examples from the duly noted “red door” to the Travis’ child-like personality, and usually those types of heavily subtext films stick around more way after the credits roll, but also, in a slightly bittersweet cause and effect, leaves more of a foggy formulation of events during the unfolding of the story. Also, an aspect that didn’t help the cause was shying away from a powerful scenes that should have left an impact, but R-rated feature delivered no acute moments of remembrance and leaving much to the imagination with only the majority of the rating pie being flavored with tasteless language.

Lionsgate Entertainment presents the Animal Kingdom and A24 produced “It Comes at Night” on a 1080p resolution in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The imagery lavishes in a gritty, woodsy detail that organically defines the sea of trees and natural flesh tones, but as the title suggests, most scenes are shot at night that are moderately blanketed, yet ineffectively intrusive, in digital noise. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix definitely has more girth during the livid nightmares and vigorously tense scenes, but, surprisingly, the dialogue track lacks gusto in the wake of a more lively surround quality. During exchanges of hushed tones, dialogue is rendered nearly inaudible and the option English subtitles had to be deployed. Spanish subtitles are also available. Special features include an audio commentary by writer-director Trey Edward Shults and actor Kelvin Williams Jr and a cast and crew discourse in a segment entitled “Human Nature: Creating ‘It Comes at Night.'” Overall, the psychological and humanity breakdown of the characters of “It Comes at Night” is worth the price of admission along with the teachings that family is key and to never rely on the goodwill of strangers, but finishes with a weak sense of direction that ruptures an unsavory cyst that doesn’t conclude coherently.

Own It Comes at Night on Blu-ray!

Evil Hate Trumps Good Love! “The Hatred” review!


In 1968, former Nazi occult officer, Samuel Sears, runs a strict farm in rural America, restricting his only daughter Alice from the corruption of the outside world with an infinite workload, and Alice violently rebels against her tyrannical father, Samuel kills her with rage. Hidden deep in the dark basement of his plantation home, a powerful Nazi-occupied amulet, charged by fear and hate, feed on his rage and fear and curses him to do the unspeakable. In the present day, four college girlfriends retreat to a friend of the family’s recently purchased foreclosure farm house, the abandoned and forgotten Sears farm, for a relaxing weekend getaway, but after night of drinks and games, the amulet reignites an ominous and dark cloud, reviving long forgotten, evil spirits who search for an endless quantity of fear and hate and will stop at nothing to swallow the souls of each and everyone inside the Sears’ estate home.

“The Hatred” is the 2017 haunting thriller from writer-director and Brooklyn native Michael Kehoe and produced by long time “Halloween” franchise producer Malek Akkad. Kehoe tells the story in two parts with the first delving in the Sears family, getting a first hand look at the hardworking German mennonite character that is Samuel Sears whose a former war time Nazi that’s settled down and raised a family in America’s backcountry. From what can be gathered about Samuel Sears, the farmer protects his past identity and isn’t ashamed of yet, but rather proud of his accomplishments alongside the Führer. All of the attributes of a proud countryman come suddenly alive when he receives a mysterious package containing the amulet, a photo of him in full Nazi dress standing with Adolf Hitler, and a signed letter personally acknowledged by the Nazi leader himself offering him the amulet as a gift for his fine work during the War and that ultimately becomes his downfall, pitting him against his family. The second part of the film tells a more uncharismatic story of four young girls staying at the Sears farm in present day. One of the girls, Regan, just finished college and is about to start a new job and what’s her ideal getaway with her girlfriends? An old (haunted) farmhouse.

“Wishmaster” himself, Andrew Divoff, gives “The Hatred” much more life despite his joyless character Samuel by somehow giving the former Nazi, now American farmer personality traits that are haunting in an unforgettable performance during the first act. The same can not be said about the four girls – Regan (Sarah Davenport), Layan (Gabrielle Bourne), Samantha (Bayley Corman), and Betaine (Alisha Wainwright). There’s no comparison as Samuel is a superiorly written and finely performed character than those he stalks beyond the afterlife. The gaggle of women offer no substance in the face of adversity or just plain ole progression of their character. Numerous times does Regan’s sick grandmother have scenes and Regan passively forgets about her poor grandmother’s health or Samantha’s uncanny interesting in history that really goes no further than the random facts that she spews. Regan and Betaine seem to have this close knit relationship, yet it founders and is suddenly cut short when all hell breaks loose. There are no personal connections established, offering little-to-no worth to their lives when Samuel comes calling for their souls, and leaves “The Hatred” in the take-it or leave-it column in the second and third act. Darby Walker, Nina Siemaszko, and Shae Smolik complete the cast.

Kehoe does display intense, nail-biting visuals with the materialized embodiment of fear and hate as well as sly editing with a scene involving Shae Smolik’s Irene, a little girl whose friends with Regan, who asks Regan to check under her bed, for supposed shadowy figure. When Regan pulls back the skirt to look, she sees another Irene putting a finger to her mouth, hushing Regan, and saying, “that’s not me,” as she points upward toward Regan’s impending doom. The heart-stopping moment will tear eyes away from the screen in anticipation of what Regan will see atop of Irene’s bed. However, that’s the sad truth in the extent of Kehoe’s story; a story riddled with plot holes and underdeveloped subtexts in which one in particular pertains to the aforementioned subplot of Regan’s ill stricken grandmother that goes undercooked when attempted to connect with the supernatural portal that of the Sears farm home. Characters disappear to never be seen again, character motivations go unexplained, and backstories are like a hazy dream and the entire ensemble is a mismatched, muddled mess in a premise that should have continued with the motif of the Nazi infiltration into America and less about scaring the wit out of witless girls with the creepiness of an alternate dimension seeping out of an unholy amulet.

The Lionsgate Films’ “The Hatred” is presented by Anchor Bay Entertainment on Blu-ray and UltraViolet home video in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio from an encoded AVC 1080p transfer that’s sleek and well lit, especially capture Samuel’s earthly and grim nature. The overall atmosphere doesn’t particular hone in a horror palette design, but offers realistic ventures into brightly lit areas of dark scenes. Details are fine in more of the natural aspects of the film whereas the CGI goes soft at times, but still very well detailed. The English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 keeps Kehoe’s film buoyant with a leveled mix through and through with clear fidelity and good, if not great, surround sound output. Instilled with conventional horror schemes, burdened with design flaws, and unfocused in it’s inability to pin down an narrative identity, Malek Akkad and Michael Kehoe’s spook house feature “The Hatred” requires much tender loving care to uplift this unkempt cliche horror into a coherent thriller.

“The Hatred” on Blu-ray+UltraViolet!

Jigsaw (aka Saw 8) trailer is here!


The trailer for this year’s Jigsaw (Saw 8) has arrived online! The San Diego Comic Con red band trailer promises to bring back the grisly games, the blood, and the terror. You can’t have Halloween without the Jigsaw Killer as the two of synonymous and expect Jigsaw, who was sorely missed over these passed few years, to ramp up his games this October 27th!

SYNOPSIS

One of the highest grossing Horror franchises of all time is back, taking the Jigsaw killer’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level.

Cast: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort (“Bitten”), Mandela Van Peebles, Paul Braunstein, Brittany Allen, Josiah Black

Directed by: The Spierig Brothers (“Undead” and “Daybreakers”)
Written by: Josh Stolberg & Peter Goldfinger
Produced by: Oren Koules, Mark Burg, Greg Hoffman

A Lionsgate release, Twisted Pictures presents, a Burg/Koules/Hoffman production.

In a Seemingly Fresh Corpose Lies a Legendary Evil.  “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” Review!


An unknown corpse of a young woman, found naked and half-buried in the basement of a home involved in a gruesome crime scene, is strolled into a small town family morgue and crematorium by a puzzled local sheriff.  Without any idea who this woman is and how to explain the her presence at the scene, the sheriff wants a cause of death on his Jane Doe as soon as possible and it’s up to Tommy and his son, Austin, to investigate what caused her demise and to determine her involvement in the grand scheme of the grisly events.  When the medical examiners begin to peel back the layers, each segment of the autopsy reveals impossible and unspeakable horrors underneath her cold flesh that go against their combined years of medical experience and the deeper they dig into her body, the more the autopsy room becomes a spine-tingling area as strange occurrences begin to happen to the father and son. Their only hope in stopping the ominous terrorizing presence and surviving the hell-bent stormy night is to continue the examination in order to unravel the enigma that surrounds Jane Doe.

“Troll Hunter” director André Øvredal helms a contemporary horror masterpiece with the Americana horror film,”The Autopsy of Jane Doe, that can be described as American folklore lit ablaze with modern day macabre that plays like a gruesome adult version of the children’s game Operation. Øvredal pulls inspiration from present day classical horror, including such films as the widely popular James Wan franchise, “The Conjuring,” by not embarking on an overkill journey of heavy duty effects or relying on gallons upon gallons of fake blood to sell his film. Instead, André Øvredal’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is patient, subtle, and massively creepy, utilizing the dated morgue and crematorium basement setting to construct a dreadful, despairing dungeon atmosphere and focus on being very particular with every scene having a function to take advantage of the overwhelming brooding aurora and pop scare moments that can scare the pants off a mannequin. Øvredal heightens moments of complete pin-drop silence to amplify the terror and plays with camera angles that linger longer to leave an unsettling residue pooled in a spine-tingled soul.

Not only is the Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing script palm-sweaty frightening, tack on A-list actors like Brian Cox (“Manhunter”) and Emile Hirsch (“Killer Joe”) as a father and son team pitted against a dead body and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” jumps up by tenfold as a must-see. Brian Cox is masterful as the widowed mortician whose numb to the pain of life and shock of work, making him a dedicated professional at uncovering the truth inside corpses, and he’s well companioned with Emile Hirsch, the mortician’s eagerly loving son and apprentice to the family business. The only problem is Austin doesn’t want to be a part of the family legacy, but is rooted by his continuously cloaked grieving father and you can see the struggle in Hirsch’s wish-washy character. The pair of veteran actors play off each other well being a medical super duo by conducting examination procedures and digging right into the corpse of dead, disfigured bodies like it’s just another day at the office. The gorgeous Olwen Catherine Kelly is dead on being a dead body. Though Kelly literally doesn’t move an inch for the entire runtime, her slim frame and blank facial expressions are truly haunting, if not also alluring to behold.

Immediately, my first impression of André Øvredal’s film had me stroll back to the past, nearly a decade a go to 2008, with the Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel thriller “Deadgirl.” The premise of the film told the story of two high school aged boys discovering a seemingly near dead young woman in an abandoned asylum; the dead girl being played by Jenny Spain.  Whereas each film have their separate horrific identities, their end games bare supernatural similarities. What also separates André Øvredal’s film from Sarmiento and Harel’s “Deadgirl” are the two protagonists; instead of two teen boys pulling hormonal hijinks on a motionless attractive female body, Tommy and Austin are strictly professional, focused on their task to answer the riddle lying inside the very fabric and bones of Jane Doe. The only gripe I can bottom barrel scrape out is how Tommy and Austin had this big ‘what if’ epiphany that becomes the very basis of the entire film and, in my opinion, felt that scene was extremely chintzy and a cop out.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment delivers “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” from production companies 42, Impostor Pictures, and IM Global onto UK DVD and Blu-ray.  Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was sent to me, resulting in no true examination of the audio and video qualities and the only extra on the disc was a Q&A with directorAndré Øvredal. Even if viewers might be able to guess the nature of the corpse – I did about halfway through – “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is still way ahead of it’s genre brethren in being the best horror film of 2017 with an unlimited amount of sinister wretchedness that tugs at your soul strings and weighs heavy in your mind’s cache as soon as the lights go out for bedtime. I would recommend this title to anyone seeking an unadulterated horror experience.