In the year 2024, the world’s superpowers are on the edge of nuclear warfare as Earth’s resources are dwindling at a rapid pace. A halt in knife edge conflict and the construction of temporary peace, known as the RAND Treaty, allowed nations to build underground, sustainable bunkers for a restarter population. Plethura 04, one of these bunkers, is being monitored, maintained, and prepped by Roy, an labeled “undertaker” scientist, whose setting the stage for a group of survivors known as Priority One, but when the sudden fallout alarm blares, Plethura is locked down early, trapping Roy alone in a cavernous and cold bunker alone with the exception of an A.I. program that Roy named Arthur. As time passes, Roy sanity comes into question; so much so, that Roy believes that Plethura might just be a drill simulation. Also, is there really something in the bunker with him? Is Arthur trying to confuse him? Questions, isolation, and terror seep into Roy’s mind, perhaps, or perhaps not, manifesting a lurking presence.
“Its Alive,” also known as “Twenty Twenty-Four” is the intense psychological thriller from the United Kingdom. Written and directed by first timer Richard Mundy, “It Lives” is helmed in the same vein as “Buried” with a solo performer in an isolation crisis. Produced by Ripsaw Pictures and Entity Film Company, the feature has some production power behind it that makes the indie film seem to have a fluffier value than its actual worth and garnishes a cherished and chilling atmospheric cinematography by Nick Barker. A real sense of a cold cleanroom can be just as frightening as a filthy slaughterhouse and the Mundy-Barker team hone in on that very concept, performing a bariatric surgery on the heaviness and the plentiful of the up top, outside world and reducing it to a few corridors, a couple of living chambers, and beast-like belly of a generator room. The filmmakers fabricate isolation and the perception of isolation well with a tremendous set up of the scenario: the preparation and the sudden, unexpected calamity of a nuclear fallout.
Actor Andrew Kinsler has the toughest job in the world, acting without feeding off the energy and the lines of other fellow actors. Kinsler goes at the role alone as Roy, a scientist prepping Plethura 04 for the arrival of Priority One survivors and knowing that he will die when he trades spaces with the group as he has to go topside. That’s notion, of having to sacrifice yourself for strangers, is a deep concept. Its easier to sacrifice oneself for the sake of those you love and care for, but complete strangers is pure mental mayhem, especially when all the work of getting the bunker ready was done by Roy. Kinsler keeps up the part of coping with his mortality, accepting it, and then being crushed by it when the world ends at the blink of an eye. Questioning everything as he immerses deeper into isolation, Kinsler relies more on the artificial intelligence to be a companion, despite seemingly being annoyed by the very lack its thirst for human complexities.
Many popcorn viewers don’t care for an open book ending films where the personal interpretation opens up a vast range of theories. “It Lives” is one of those films. Most certainly a disturbing psychological thriller, the story perpetually has Roy second guessing every anomaly that spooks him, even to the extend of thinking a computer program has infiltrated his subconscious with trickery and confusion tactics. Then, the ending smacks you right in the face and then smacks you again with a three finale questions: Was it a dream? Was it madness? Or was it all real? Christopher Nolan similarly put the fate of “Inception’s” Cobb into the hands of audiences when he spins a toy top to see if he was still in inception or if he was in reality. If continuously in motion, that would signify Cobb’s in a fantasy world, but Cobb’s spin is cut short with a cut to black, begging the answer of whether his happy ending was true or a inceptive pipe dream. Roy’s scenario is a lot darker and, if not, deeper that’s challenged by an internal struggle of self-preservation. Has Roy become a fixture of the cleanroom aspect? Has he become a cold figment of accepting his fate and has suppressed his emotion about it to the boiling point that his subconscious is fighting for his own survival? “It Lives” is an exceptionally juicy psychological film worth exploring.
Second Sight presents “It Lives” onto DVD home video this July 30th! Since the screener was a DVD-R, a full assessment of the audio and video aspects will not be covered. There were also no bonus material on the disc. What I can say is that Harry Kirby’s score is the utmost jarring; reminds me of Mark Korven’s unsettling and unique unmelodious score in “The Witch.” As part sci-fi and part horror, the surface level narrative is sheer terror and fear. Below surface, the wicked and frightful stir an embattling vortex of arguments in the grossest of grotesque forms, aka a complete mind destabilization. “It Lives” has indie roots that spread wide and fierce, shredding through temporal lobes like soft butter and delivering one hell of a terrifying psychological horror.
Brothers Justin and Aaron struggle to maintain a normal and fruitful life outside Camp Arcadia, the UFO death cult camp they fled as young men. When Aaron feels empty, poor, and hungry as a cleaning serviceman on the brink of poverty and social misfortune, he convinces his older brother to take him back to the camp for one day. Once they’ve arrived, the two felt as if nothing has changed, even the cultists haven’t aged in the decade they were gone. Aaron seeks to reintegrate during his time at the camp while Justin is eager to vacate the premises pronto, but an otherworldly phenomenon promises answers to Justin and Aaron’s perceptions of their former cult and leaves questions to the unexplainable events that surround the camp site. The brothers must solve the mystery before being ensnared by the phenomena that lurks all around them with an ever present eye.
“The Endless” is the 2017 science fiction horror film from a pair of directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who helmed a segment in the anthology, “V/H/S Viral.” The duo also star as the leads in the film as Justin and Aaron. Benson penned the film’ script that has grand originality and fosters an underlying Lovecraftian concept and despite the limited budget, “The Endless” has favorable special effects of mind-boggling proportions incorporated with a splash of mildly dark humor in this blithe fantasy horror. Reminiscent of such other off-the-wall commingling genre films such as Don Coscarelli’s “John Dies at the End” or Madellaine Paxson’s “Blood Punch,” where the supernatural and bizarre collide and the characters are equally demented for a pinch of extra pizazz.
Benson and Moorhead may be the stars of “The Endless” and essentially are the epicenter of the entire premise, but their characters wouldn’t be aptly as important if it wasn’t for the cast that supported them. One of the actors is Tate Ellington (“Sinister 2”) as the unofficial camp leader Hal with the gift of gab and just as mysterious as the camp itself. Ellington’s one of many of the camp so called UFO Death Cult characters that make the story really stick out as odd as there’s Lew Temple (“The Walking Dead”) too. A very unshaven and unkempt Temple weighs the look of an Civil War soldier in Tim and Tim’s distant expressionless is very much Temple’s bread and butter. Rivaling the unnerving silence of Lew Temple is “Alien: Covenant’s” Callie Hernandez. As Anna, Hernandez plays the girl next door, flirting with Aaron with trivial matter that toys Aaron’s inherent innocence. The rest of the cast includes Emily Montague (“Fright Night” remake), James Jordan, Kira Powell, Peter Ciella, and David Lawson Jr. as Smiling Dave.
“The Endless” could be said to have a slew of metaphors and symbolism, even the older brother Justin frustratingly points out how camp leader Hal always speaks in metaphors. So, what is causing all the weird and terrifying atmospherics at Camp Arcadia? Arcadia ends up being an oxymoron as the camp is not harmonious or a utopia as believed, but rather a coiled purgatory with an ominous presence thats ever present. Don’t know what’s watching, where it came from, or what it wants, but it’s driven fear of the unknown as noted during the title card epilogue of a quote. What we do know is this presence, this thing, is massive, looming over the hills and in the depths of a nearby lake; the thing is very Lovecraftian in proportion to what that means. Hell, even the quote I mentioned earlier about fear of the unknown is pulled from H.P. Lovecraft himself – “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The brother symbolism fear for they have fear of the outside world and fear of their unforeseen and possibly poverish future, but once Justin and Aaron come to terms with ending being at odds with each other, the brothers know they can conquer whatever comes at them together.
Well Go USA Entertainment presents Snowfort, Love & Death, and Pffaf & Pfaff productions’ “The Endless” onto Blu-ray home video. The single disc BD-50 has a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. Image presentation has fair natural tones with a set of a rather light yellowish tint during desert sequences. Color palette is enriched especially when the inexplicable does come ahead; moments of heavy tinting, such as a heavy red flare, inexplicably stand out. Blotching, DNR, or banding are an issue here, leaving the details considerably intact in a plenty of the duration. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound has not gaffs about it. The plentiful dialogue is clearly present to get the full story told, ambient and phenomena effects proportionally ranged and appropriate, and the soundtrack supports to dialogue and story with the amount of depth. Overall, the tracks are consistent throughout. Bonus features include an audio commentary with directors and producers, a 30+ minute make of segment, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, Visual effects breakdown, a “Ridiculous Extras” featurette that includes casting, and trailers. Don’t let the peppered black comedy in “The Endless” fool you; Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have constructed an original sci-fi horror that shells out an unsettling ambiguity of a modern and universal fear too invasive to try and stop the perpetual replaying of attempting to know the unknown.
A father mysteriously goes missing when visiting aliens violently abduct him from his serene cottage home. Thought to be a deadbeat husband and father for abandoning his family, the man returns three years later at the doorstep of his wife’s London flat. A bewildered and conflicted wife struggles with his return while the live-in boyfriend makes it clear that he wants the man out, shelling out a vicious cold shoulder whenever in the same room, but the returned father seeks to resume his patriarchal position amongst his family; however, he’s not exactly the same person he used to be as he garnishes an exterior shell of a human and the interior of a hostile extraterrestrial with ulterior motives. His return has nightmarish affects on his traumatized son whose becoming a device of deviancy at the hand of his father’s otherworldly influence, issuing carnivelesque ill will toward other flat tenants. By the time the boyfriend suspects something, the not-so-friendly alien might have already established the intended invasion into a family so eager and willing to accept their sorely absent loved one.
Perhaps one of the most out of this world science fiction horror films ever made that’s set on Earth, “Xtro” is the Don Coscarelli-like bizarre horror film from British filmmaker Harry Bromley Davenport. Co-written the story with Michael Parry (“The Uncanny”), Davenport’s blended American and British financed 1982 unsettling venture was penned by Iain Cassie (assistant director on “Schizo”) and Robert Smith. Honestly, no other film comes within a comparison zone of “Xtro’s” sheer creativity that doesn’t just redesign the genre or it’s tropes, but, rather, embraces a new kind of fragmented oddity by telling an uncomfortable story consisting with the graphic birth of a full grown adult, the flesh crawling sensation of an adult man bending down to child level to drink from the bare skin of a child’s shoulder, and the exhibition of the dark pageantry of humor underlined death. Over an umbrella of horror shades metaphorically a fairly common family crisis baseline premise of an inattentive father’s return home to try to reinstate himself with conflicted wife and eager son only to, once again and concretely, destroy them internally.
Philip Sayer sets foot into the duplicitous titular space invader. The trained veteran actor had experience from the stage that translated to what could be considered performance art in “Xtro” to embodied a creature on the inside to his humanity on the out. Sayer costars alongside an unseasoned child actor, Simon Nash, as the young Tony and the pair make a inharmonious father and son with cankerous performances by Nash who doesn’t exactly fit, when considering accent and even appearances, his portrayed parents. Bernice Stegers is the other half of Tony’s folks and the “Macabre” star does a phenomenal job as the stiffly conflicted mother and wife Rachel Phillips, straining toward more what’s best for her love life rather than to the care of her son. The live-in boyfriend Joe, portrayed by Danny Brainin, limps by as a fairly useless character who doesn’t contribute either way to a conclusion. Other than providing a minor tether to Rachel Phillips life to normalcy, Joe can’t swallow his emotions and the best the character can offer is to abandoned his girl and son, another frail male in their life. Brainin’s performance is good for the character’s weak minded attitude. The cast rounds out with Maryam d’Abo (who goes onto to be a bond girl in “The Living Daylights”), Peter Mandell, and Anna Wing.
Though thought provoking and wildly entertaining through soul rattling imagery, “Xtro” is by far from a perfect film. Sure, the Tom Harris special effects pull at innard chords you may never knew you garnished and certain scenes would be the subject of mysterious gif images in the dark corners the internet that proclaimed creatures do live unknown amongst us, but the British science fiction horror film, a video nasty of the time, just might have been too absurd in the nonconformist form that struck unpopular opinions with audiences and critics because the villain wasn’t necessarily tangible and wielded a blood stained machete and more so involved obscure telepathic references that were non-explicit. There’s literally no connective tissue which makes this film so beyond the mind’s grasp. “Xtro’s” niche saw non-homaging aspects, but had familiar flavors such as a bit of Peter Jackson humor, a dry slapstick that’s hard to enjoy, but fascinating to take in at the same time. That’s the whole idea behind “Xtro” was to create an off-structured horror film that pushed the limits while not just replicating other great horror movies.
New Line Cinema’s “Xtro” is coming to a limited edition Blu-ray set from UK distributor Second Sight. The newly restored extended presentation of the transfer will also have option alternate ending plus will also be accompanied with the original video version. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for this particular review and comments about the image and audio presentations will not be commented on. The disc did include extras such as a brand spanking new 57-minute documentary that included new interviews with Harry Bromley-Davenport, Mark Forstater (producer), Bernice Stegers, Susie Silvey, Tim Dry (Tik), Sean Crawford (Tok), Robert Pereno, Alan Jones and Craig Lapper. Also included is a new featurette with Dennis Atherton, Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater, ‘Beyond Xtro’ – a new featurette with Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater looking ahead to new reboot, ‘Xtro – The Big One’, including exclusive test footage, ‘Loving The Alien: A Tribute to Philip Sayer’ featuring exclusive Brian May music tribute, and ‘Xtro Xposed’ archive interview with Harry Bromley-Davenport. A venturous Robert Shaye at New Line Cinema wanted to match wits with his own one-two punch version of a video nasty. The result was an out of body experience alien feature with unapologetic tastes and unafraid wills to push the shock market limits. “Xtro” might be one of the billions of stars in the film archive, but at least it’s one of a kind.
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.
Twelve strangers awake confused and scared in a desolated and impenetrable shed. Suspicion surrounds their bafflement as they attempt to determine the reason for their captivity and who is behind it. Suddenly, a phone rings and the testing begins. The voice on the other end of the line wants something and if the twelve captives don’t comply or fail to deliver, the secretly injected virus previously pumped into them during their unconscious state will transform them into blood thirsty, demon-like creatures and fatally strike them down within 24 hours. If they attempt to escape, they will be shot down. In addition to the already extreme situation, relentless ambient gunfire and explosions rock the world outside the shed walls. The only way out, to survive the whole ideal, is to abide by their captors rules and be the last one left alive.
The notion of the inability to escape is an anxiety-filled fear all can relate toward; in fact, many may have had the suffocating buried 6-feet under in a pine wooden box nightmare that induces shortness of breath and sweat on the brow – I know I have. Writer-director Stephen Patrick Kenny’s film “Captive” attempts to relay that fear on a grander scale with the twelve strangers trapped inside a shed at an unknown location – the equivalent to that “pine wooden box.” The scenario puts the audience in the shoes of the characters, who are also asking themselves numerous questions that race through their minds. Why am I here? Who did this to me? What’s going on? With each turn of a minute, the questions are slowly answered, whether the characters would favor the answer or not. However, the audience is acute to a little bit more information then the twelve unlucky souls. Information, such as the two men in hazard suits placing their limp bodies into the shed and from the black title cards used to formally announce the death of each character, that a type of brutish test is being conducted and that takes the audience out from the unknown and into a solely voyeuristic perspective.
Being voyeuristic should entitle all to witness the end result of the twelve players involved, but, unfortunately, we become just as clueless and lost toward the characters’ fate and the situation around them. This hybrid role of the audience, whether we’re a part of the situation or an outside party, aches and pains the logical and rational portions of the mind. In Kenny’s sophomore film, characters come and go, Houdini-like, in and out of the story without much explanation and the same can be said about their deaths. In a tail end scene, a character is alive and in the next scene, the character’s sprawled out on the floor…dead. The kill shot, the smoking gun, are omitted. A limited budget, poor editing techniques, and use of stock sound effects result in this crude determination of characters’ final destination and leave gaping holes that sour the story’s appeal.
The director’s style is visually comparable to the outer stories of a modern day video game plot without the enjoyable interactive game play. Stocked with a heavily hazy blue tint that sears into your vision, paper mache like special effects and graphics, and black title cards that act as chapters to each character’s demise path, “Captive” is more similar to a video game than a film. What’s also concerning is the lack of character development of any kind note worthy of virtue or quality. The Kenny script focuses more on the title cards rather than structuring a coherent story on the basis of solid characters and, sadly, each character is hindered from any sympathy or concern.; in fact, numerous characters quickly become dispatched within a smidgen of their awakening and if you blink, you’ll even miss their scenes. The actors, majority a cast that has had a working relationship with Kenny, don’t quite sell film as the performances are rigid and forced upon deliveries and reactions toward their hand dealt goes unnaturally and uncouth.
Even though many flaws plague Kenny’s film, I’m glad to see horror out of Ireland has not completely been forgotten. However, I’m just not seeing much heart or creativity behind “Captive” and the hopes were high going into the film after watching a vigorous trailer that displayed promising non-stop “demon” horror, suspense, and ultra-violence. None of those attributes made the final cut, I suppose, marking Stephen Patrick Kenny’s and Hoodup Film’s Sci-Fi horror-thriller “Captive” not superbly captivating.