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!

Don’t Let Evil Give You The Shaft! “Down” review!


One of New York City’s popular skyscrapers, the Millennial Building, is a modern marvel with 102 floors sought to be visited by national and international tourists, looking to reach the zenith and take a once-in-a-lifetime, awe inspiring gander across the Big Apple’s urban jungle landscape or seeking to be a working stiff inside the immaculate bones of the building’s historical foundation. Every day, thousands of visitors and employees ride the Millennial Building’s 73 elevators, assuming the safest ride possible to the touch the bottom of the sky, but when a deranged scientist implements a controversial biomedical computer into the building’s elevator vascular network, one tragic accident after another compiles fatal consequences within the vertical box that draws negative national attention. Elevator mechanic Mark Newman teams up with a rebellious newspaper reporter Jennifer Evans to investigate and uncover the a larger-than-life conspiracy behind a killer elevator organism.

Over three decades ago, Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas wrote, directed, and released the killer elevator film, simply titled “De Lift,” in the Netherlands. About 18 years later after his commercial success for “De Lift,” Mass spawned an American remake of the film entitled “Down,” also known as “The Shaft,” that transformed into the forgotten bastard when compared to Maas’ 1983 feature. To be frankly, “Down’s” terror-comedy knack with spunky characters and zany deaths put the 2001 remake right smack dab at the top of the repeat value charts and despite the lack of rigorous plausibility, the refreshingly no-holds barred, fun zone horror film doesn’t think twice, charging forward with gun blazing in an elevator ride to cinematic hell that shows no mercy and gives not one single care with each surpassing floor level. Be damned the backstory with meager exposition! Be damned the underdeveloped characters who are pivotal to the plot! Be damned the complexities of how the biomedical elevator system is able to live, breath, and reproduce through murder and mayhem! “Down” has a black and white, up and down glory that’s considered b-horror good that’s very reminiscent of the early films of Peter Jackson.

If you’re going to remake a killer elevator film, go big with the cast and Mass surely pulled through by signing cult genre stars of the time. Naomi Watts was just coming into the mainstream scene as she tackled well-received projects around that same time frame between David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” and “The Ring” a year later, but the “Tank Girl” actress showed more than just her aesthetic assets, more than just shrieking horrific screams, and more than just displaying her big guns. In “Down,” she proved to be a gung-ho, rough-it-with-the-boys portrayer of a feisty reporter whose hot on the trail of a conspiracy helmed by surreptitious characters played Michael Ironside, who did not lose an arm in this film like he does in “Total Recall,” “Starship Troopers,” and “The Machinist,” and Ron Pearlman (“Hellboy,” “Cronos”). However, James Marshall, in the lead as the elevator mechanic, couldn’t ratchet tight a performance that called for concern and durability; instead, Marshall, known for playing James Hurley in “Twin Peaks,” schlepped clumsily on screen compared to the aggressively hungry Watts. Eric Thal (“The Puppet Masters”), Dan Hedaya (“Alien: Resurrection”), Edward Herrmann (“The Lost Boys”), and Kathryn Meisle (“Basket Case 2”) round out the remaining cast.

“Down’s” commercial success was plunging disaster. Reasons ranging from a flimsy premise to being an unconventional horror to the genre were, more than likely, not the major players in “Down’s” inability to elevate an audience. More so, the reasons stem solely between one or two factors, if not both. For one, Maas writes New Yorkers as belligerent morons, cocky, greedy, and deranged. Many of the characters are like this and if there was any that embodied any sliver of rationality or humanitarian attributes, there screen time was quick and fruitless. Secondly, though “Down” released in the spring of 2001, a film set in a New York City high rise with multiple mentions of terrorists and even verbally conveying a foiled plot to take down the twin towers probably hurt the film’s home entertainment value to the point where a DVD release didn’t surface until a good two years after the theatrical premiere.

Aside from all the delays, harsh reviews, and a shoddily cropped Artisan DVD release, Blue Underground delivers a godsend presenting “Down” on Blu-ray/DVD combo. The 1080 HD on a BD 50 dual layer disc has a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and radiates with clarity; so clear, that I had a hard time placing the year as the image certainly outshines most turn of the century products. An immense amount of detail just exemplifies the extraordinary content without appearing as a discount deal for special effects. Audio options include an English and French 5.1 DTS-HD and an English and French Dolby Digital stereo with both including optional English SDH subtitles and Spanish subtitles. The amount of range is leaps and bounds beyond the Artisan’s par quality with the 5.1 channelling maximized quality and clarity. Dialogue track is clear and free from obstructions with the only stain being the horrendously dubbed diner jerk that punches James Marshall in the face, but that’s not necessary a make or break blemish. Bonus materials include audio commentary with writer-director Dick Maas and stunt coordinator Willem de Beukelaer, the making of “Down,” behind-the-scenes footage that’s exclusive to the Blu-ray, theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery, and teaser trailers of upcoming releases. The casing itself harnesses a collectible booklet with new essays by Michael Gingold. “Down” finally shines through with a stellar release from Blue Underground, a leader in restoring and releasing cult films. If in the mood for a story without much thought while desiring to choke on out of this world terror-comedy then “Down” is a must on the upcoming marquee!

Own “Down” on Blu-ray!