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!

Unleashed, Nature Inspires the EVIL in All of Us! “In The Earth” reviewed (Neon / Digital Screener)

A deadly virus has ravaged the world, placing the inhabitants on a high alert edge of incessant sanitation and relentless paranoia. Martin, a scientist from the city, ventures to an ecological nature preserve to convey equipment for tests being conducted deep in the forest. Park Ranger, Alma, guides him on a two day trek toward a camp in total isolation supervised by Dr. Olivia Wendle, but during the second day of the journey, Martin and Alma are attacked in the middle of the night, left with no gear and a vague sense of what happened. The virus has yet to stake a claim on those living within the woods, but another malicious-driven presence, entombed by superstition and mental manipulation, enacts the forest to come alive around them, forcing them into a direction that presents a summoning of nature’s folkloric revenant.

COVID-19 has brought a tremendous amount of sorrow and an unforgiving plight upon the world, but for a few filmmakers, a global pandemic has been a source of inspiration that been a silver lining amongst the Earth’s population upheaval. Director Ben Wheatley tapped into that filament, you could say ,with his man versus nature mystery horror “In The Earth.” The filmmaker of “U is for Unearthed” short from the “ABCs of Death” and soon-to-be helming the follow up big screen sequel to novelist’s Steve Alten’s widely popular monster shark book series with “Meg 2: The Trench,” Wheatley writes and directs a quarantine start-to-finish feature that also incorporates the pandemic into the story, much to the same likes as Rob Savage’s “Host” that uses the virus as a means to drive the characters into doing something they normally wouldn’t be doing. The UK production is from Wheatley’s founded Rook Films and Neon, who last co-produced Brandon Cronenberg’s violent sci-fi thriller, “Possessor.”

With the pandemic resulting quarantine and a story set in the thicket of woods, “In The Earth” is innately slim around the casting waistline that concentrates the performance zest amongst a few, beginning with the introduction of Martin the scientist walking up to the sentry lodge located at the forest edge. Played by Joel Fry (“Game of Thrones”), the London born actor must endure as a hapless city boy taking woodland shots on the chin without much complaint, but definitely a grimace, a whimper, and a pass out. Guiding Martin through the woods is Alma, a seasoned park ranger under the eye of “Midsommar’s” Ellora Torchia who balances out her travel companion’s near ill-equipped, yet hazardously attempting, roughing the outdoors. Martin and Alma are nearly mirrored by the only other two people they come across in the forest – Zach and Dr. Wendle. Yet, Zach and Dr. Wendle’s similarities channel through how they instrument a link to the forest being, known as Parnag Fegg, that calls them to release it from the timber and foliage prison. Zach (Reece Shearsmith of “Shaun of the Dead”) honors Parnag Fegg with ritualistic images and symbols while Dr. Wendle (Hayley Squires) uses a combination of technological lights and experimental music to speak with the powerfully alluring presence. Shearsmith is devilishly certifiable with Squires backing up his character craziness with her own version that never places Martin and Alma into a safe haven’s circle. “In The Earth” rounds out the cast with Mark Monero and John Hollingworth.

“In The Earth’s” binary coding of nature versus urban, plus sublets of traditions versus technology, runs as a seamless motif to a bigger theme that nature has a global network web of personified communication and reason. I imagine Wheatley succeeded in what M. Night Shyamalan tried to accomplish in the Mark Walhberg’s headlining “The Happening” with bringing nature to the forefront stand against man who continuously seeks to destroy themselves and the world, forcing nature’s hand to take drastic measures, but Wheatley’s film more so tells not the story of a worldwide assault on mankind but rather as the resurrection of a single entity, an archaic necromancer of local legend, eager to walk the Earth once again after being driven to disembody their spirit to the forest. “In The Earth” also provokes a literal meaning toward an age old saying of “nature calling” by using the aforesaid network to unconsciously lure specific individuals into the woods and gather near a gateway relic or stone,. This act of intention calls for a sacrifice of purity and so one of the four individuals – Alma, Martin, Zach, and Olivia – will involuntary be the vessel of Parnag Fegg’s return while the others, under the persuasion of forest spirit, due it’s song-and-dance bidding. Ben Wheatley taps into a very John Carpenter archetype of people on the cusp of unleashing certain doom upon the world, invoking not only a spirit but also that very sense of last stand against damnation as epitomized in “The Thing” and “The Prince of Darkness.” “In The Earth,” however, isn’t so easy to see the forest through the trees with an first act setup that zips through the situation that leads Martin and Alma trekking through the woods and Parnag Fegg is only briefly dappled to be a dangled carrot for bigger things to come.

A chiseled, fey story with a dark, ominous cloud of impending doom lingering overhead, “In The Earth” is transcendence horror at it’s finest. Neon is set to release the R-rated, 107 minute film, “In The Earth,” in theaters on April 30th. The scaled down budget didn’t hinder Wheatley’s grand platform and with Nick Gillespie’s sophomore credit as feature film cinematographer, the playbook was unwritten for Gillespie to rework how to shoot a film under the confines of a pandemic with limited cast, a living forest, and still maintain safe social distant practices under strict mandated guidelines. Gillespie formulated wide-angles to capture an expanse of trees diminutively enshrouding the characters, almost like the forest was going to gulp them at any moment. A composition of artful imagery compiled together in a collage of intoxicating colors and feverish styles interprets nothing concrete in the heroines journey of an nearly unknowable presence only knowledgeable by world of mouth, leaving also the audience induced with a psychedelic vision at the whims of Wheatley’s direction. There were no bonus scenes during or after the credits and the perfunctory ending opens the door for interpretation that can be more impacting than a firm resolution. Born and bred from the depths of the coronavirus pandemic, “In The Earth” dispatches a diversion from the immediate, the real world, and the tumult of a virus with a bewilderingly diversion of troubling folk horror sown directly into Mother Nature herself.

An Elite, EVIL Assassin Loses Herself as the “Possessor” reviewed! (Neon / Digital Screener)

Tasya Vos is the top professional assassin employed by a hire-for-murder agency who uses surgically implanted brain transceivers to insert agents’ consciousness into a person’s body who can get close to their intended kill target. The no contact procedure has been successful with some severe drawbacks, such as the potential for slipping out of your own identity in being, in one way, a part of many distinct personalities. When Vos’s next assignment is to insert herself into the mind of the soon-to-be son-in-law of a powerful tech CEO, her individuality begins to crumble, losing her grip as the primary inhabitant of the body. The commingled souls share thoughts and memories and when Vos takes a backseat in a body that’s no longer under her control, her life becomes vulnerable to a confused and unhinged man seeking vindictive measures to evict the assassin from his mind.

Like an existential extension of his father’s career, writer-director Brandon Cronenberg’s foothold within sci-fi horror is anchored by functional practicality, substantial social commentary, and a knack for exhibiting cynical undertones in his sophomore film, “Possessor,” a gripping tech-thriller avowing the soft-pedaled ambiguous identity and corporate invasiveness. “Possessor” is the blood soaked corrosion of individualism that strips morality and replaces it with unapologetic nihilism in a film that feels very much David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” merged with Paul Veerhoven’s “Total Recall” with that plug-and-play dystopian coat of paint that’s being brushed over the quickly disappearing free will. Studios involved in the making of “Possessor” include Rhombus Media (“Hobo with a Shotgun”) and Rook Films (“The Greasy Strangler”) in association with a WarnerMedia division company, Particular Crowd.

“Possessor’s” leading lady, Andrea Riseborough, is no stranger to idiosyncratic roles in equally atypical films having starred in “The Duffer Brothers'” “The Hidden” and played the titular character in the avant-garde horror, “Mandy,” across from Nicholas Cage; yet, from her experience with big-budget studio films, such as “Oblivion” starring Tom Cruise, the English actress felt the uneasy atmospherics to be pressurizing and uncomfortable Riseborough has thus exceled with films such as Cronenberg’s “Possessor” that’s pivots into an alcove just off the main halls of horror and science fiction. Riseborough looks nothing like herself from “Oblivion” by sporting a stark white hair on top of a thin frame, which could be said to be the very counter-opposite of what a typical, bug-budget assassin should look like, but Riseborough delivers stoic and uncharitable traits of a character on the brink of losing herself. Christopher Abbot delivers something a little more chaotic when his conscious retreats back into the depths of his psyche only to then seep back into his mind where he stumbles to catch up on current events. The “It Comes At Night” Abbott disembodies himself not once, but twice, becoming an avatar for Tasya Vos to play, picking up where Abbot’s Colin left off, and then Abbot has to regain control, splicing Colin back into the cockpit where Tasya commands the yoke. The dueling dispositions cease being unique as one attempts to control the other in a mental and corporeal game of chess, confounding audiences of who is in control during certain scenes, especially when Colin goes into a blackout murdering spree of people Colin himself knows and trusts. As a puppeteer moving a marionette, pulling as an influential strings behind company lines, is Girder, a poker-faced agent head seeking the absolute best in the company’s interest, who finds her thimblerigger in Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh, whose experience with David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ” brought a high level of cognizance to “Possessor” having been an cerebral deep virtual reality trouper previously, folds in the nerve of any level of management that would guilt someone else into doing the work necessary to get the job done. Girder opposes Tasya’s external humanity in a silent, but deadly manner by appealing to the killer instinct in Taysa, letting red flags of the out of body experience fly by the waist side that ultimately wears away at her star pupils moral conscious and turn her into a stone cold killer. “Possessor” cast fills out with Tuppence Middleton (“Tormented”), Kaniehtiio Horn (“Mohawk”), Rossif Sutherland (“Dead Before Dawn 3D”), Raoul Bhaneja, Gage-Graham Arbuthnot, and “Silent Hill’s” Sean Bean in a worthwhile role just to see if his role will succumb to a typical doomed Sean Bean character as the undesirable tech CEO.

Its safe and sufficient to say that Cronenberg’s “Possessor” is not a feel good story; the amount of tooth-chipping, eye-gouging, and throat stabbing gore takes care of any hope and ebullient energy that one could misperceive. Yet, while the disgorged grisliness stands on it’s own, Cronenberg possesses a factor of tropes that multiply the film’s bleak, icy landscape inhabited by unpleasant characters that ultimately seek and destroy the little good exhibited. The obvious theme is the disconnect from one’s own identity. Tasya Vos mental capacity nears the breaking point being an inhabitant of numerous bodies and with each callous, bloodletting assignment, Vos’ indifference for the things she should hold dear strengthens immensely drowns in the persona of another person and the psyche breaking acts of violence. Her latest assassination attempt even blurs the lines of her sexuality as her feminine body parts merge with Colin’s masculinity in one of the craziest sex scenes to date. Colin’s individuality is too threatened but from Vos’ intrusion, equating the quiet, strange behavior to a sudden vagary toward a person’s dejection, being estranged from their own life, on the outside of “Possessor’s” alternate reality of science fiction’s hijacking of one’s brain. On the subject of intrusion, a not-so obvious theme, but certainly has a strong motif, is the severe invasion of privacy. Vos’ spying on Colin and his lover for personality intel, Vos’ inspection of the entire Colin body while inside inhabiting him, and the data mining of Sean Bean’s character’s tech company, which pries itself through the optics of people’s computer cameras to garner information, such as the fabric of window curtains in this case, divulge an uncomfortable message that privacy is a luxury we are unable to ever grasp. There’s even a scene where Vos, in Colin, becomes a voyeuristic participant of a couple’s explicit sexual intercourse during data mining work hours. Despite the breadth of technology that are brimming near our fingertips today, “Possessor” has a very analog approach with dials and switches of seemingly antiquated electronic circuits, thus rendering the story grounded in nuts and bolts rather than being lost in the overly saturated and stimulated advanced tech. Beguiling with a somber serenade, “Possessor’s” a highly-intelligent work of diverse, topical qualms seeded by years of body horror and existentialism and is released into a world that’s perhaps not ready to come to terms with much of the themes it will present.

Come October 2nd* to select drive-ins and theaters, “Possessor” will be distributed uncut by Neon, implanted in the midst of horror’s biggest month of the year. Since not a physical release as of yet, the A/V attributes will not be critiques, but the film is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is under the cinematography direction of Karim Hussain, who has previously worked with Brandon Cronenberg on his debut film, “Antiviral.” Hussain adds rich two-tone coloring for a symmetry of sterilization that is, essentially, white and black with every shade of both in between tinted slightly with a dull hue on the spectrum and with the blood being that much more graphically illuminated against the backdrop. There are moments of composites that could render a person disabled with epilepsy, so be warned. The audio is a smorgasbord of a jarring ambience and soundtrack, adding to “Possessor’s” fluxing turmoil, but the dialogue discerns a little less sharply across; there was difficulty in understanding characters’ monologues or discourse who came across mumbling through scenes of fuzzy earshot. There were no bonus materials to mention nor were there bonus scenes during or after the credits. Perhaps the best movie you won’t see this year, “Possessor’s” an impressive follow up feature that reaches out beyond the outlining border of a vast and prolific filmic shadow looming over the filmmaker, but Brandon Cronenberg contrives new vitiated wonderments and is capable of casting his own umbra that would eclipse to throw light onto his soon to be seen cathartic body of work.

 

* Release date correction (9/29/20)