After the success of writer-director James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” a sequel begins to shape from the mind of aspiring filmmaker Spencer. Spencer’s quest is to locate the perfect, the one-and-only, Jennifer actress, who must bare the birth name as well. With a trip to Los Angeles and the help from his former high school buddy Mac, Spencer has quickly lined up a handful of potential Jennifers in hopes of one of them becoming his leading lady. Spencer and Mac finally decide on Jennifer Pope, a young actress who has yet to see the original film. Everything seems to be on track, but a dark cloud lingers overhead, slowly developing upon a hidden secret that’ll take the sequel “2 Jennifer” to the next deranged level.
Hunter Johnson’s directorial debut hits the home entertainment market three years after Bressack’s iPhone shot suspenseful thriller “To Jennifer” in 2013 courteously from Psykik Junky and MVDVisual. Johnson, who also dons the role of the film’s star, Spencer, writes and directs the official sequel about the unofficial sequel to “To Jennifer.” You got that? Bressack tags along as executive producer with the Sector 5 distributed indie horror, which is also shot on cellphone cameras and small digital cameras, co-starring David Coupe as Mack and Lara Jean Mummert as the film’s namesake – Jennifer. To throw in a couple of familiar and iconic horror actresses to legitimize “2 Jennifer,” “Deadly Revision’s” Dawna Lee Heising and “Sleepaway Camp’s” Felissa Rose make cameo appearances that are strategically satirical.
Now, I haven’t yet sat down to view James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” even though I do own a copy. However, the sequel can and does stand alone as a separate body of work, an entity that doesn’t need to crutch or leech itself from the original movie. “2 Jennifer” sets up the necessary information in the prologue with numerous faux interviews, one of them being Dawna Lee Heising, needed to convey to comprehend any sort of background in order for blind buy viewers who don’t know that “2 Jennifer” is a sequel (or viewers like me who haven’t yet watched the original, but is aware of it’s existence) to proceed with a voyeuristic tale of disturbing macabre.
The story starts off slow. With the artificial interviews designed to construct a clean and clear enough picture of Bressack’s original film, super fanatic Spencer then jumps into camera view to fulfill Bressack’s wish, as seen from the last interview segment, of a brand new filmmaker tackling a followup to his hit film. Spencer seems like a normal joe, cultivating crew, equipment, locations, and talent that sizes him up to be a gung-ho participant for his Jennifer horror story. While Spencer dedication is unwavering, his underlining intentions are hard to surface and, eventually, something isn’t quite right with Spencer. Mack senses turmoil, but doesn’t grasp the full picture either. As Spencer start to unravel is when the tale begins to pick up a dangerous and unpredictable amount of steam, energizing a massive, ominous train of horror and lunacy that funnels down a twisted tunnel of reality disconnecting tragedy.
The acting overshot the mark of realism by a hair over the margin. For a film that’s shot digitally on phones and handhelds, a more natural performance needs to be approached and all the acting conveyed nothing short of very staged. Staged in a good way as the acting wasn’t terrible, but far from it. The affect just didn’t fit the mold. Hunter Johnson performed troublingly naturalistic with his transmogrified character whereas David Coupe profusely oozed of trained actor. Even Bressack’s semi-small role of himself perceived overly rehearsed with the director portraying to be coked out of his mind and joyfully intoxicated in the midst of his small party of fraternizers and partakers of substances.
Sector 5 distributes the original LAHorror.com “2 Jennifer” film through local cable providers and pay-per-view services come this August. The 90-minute film sent to me was a burned screener disc copy and won’t have the audio or video qualities critiqued for obvious reasons. Bottom line is to give Hunter Johnson’s “2 Jennifer” a go, especially if you’re a fan of the first film. The characters develop nicely with their niceties getting their throats cuts in a jaw-dropping, gut-checking ending that’ll sure to please every gore fan.
Unorthodox exorcist and hobby writer Richard Vanuk lives a depressing and humble life full of endless booze and filthy altruism. Driven by the need for alcohol and an underline desire to help possessed strangers for a small fee, Vanuk barely maintains his own sustainability. With each challenging case of demonic inhabitance, the poor full time exorcist, and part time writer, expels demons from their misfortunate hosts into his own wretched soul, draining his self-respecting humanity out of him one demon-expulsion job at a time. The deeper Vanuk spirals downward into nihilism and the deeper he goes into severe debt, the choice to withdrawal from the toll of exorcising demons becomes no longer an option, but a fruitlessly fateful venture to just surviving in a world that’s scarce of good people.
My second undertaking into a Daniel Falicki horror film has the “Awaken The Devil” director batting a solid hundred percent on the ever honest critique block, going a strong two-for-two with his latest film, 2016’s “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s drenched with a despair atmosphere that swallows the intentionally pathetic character who is granted only a glimmer of unattainable hope for a good life. The writer-director has a keen eye for developing horror in various comedic, dramatic, and absurdly berserk formatted segments, delicately defining details to capture memorable moments. Falicki also stars as his own character, Richard Vanuk, and Falicki charms the audience by creating a likable anti-protagonist whose cavalier about demonic possessions and begrudged by a “corporate” employer who pays very little for the precision of demon banishment; this same company performs a stigmata on him after every exhausting job, discarding his limp, unconscious body in a different snow covered park afterwards.
Falicki drowns Vanuk in vices and addictions. Aside from the obvious alcohol and constant inebriation, Vanuk needs the pain of performing exorcisms as much as he loathes the process and the people who employs him. The character can’t reform, can’t function properly in normality, as witnessed when his successful brother offers Richard a once-in-a-lifetime position at his mundane company of pigmentation for sports equipment. When the exorcism well runs dry, Vanuk goes into full blown, borderline psychotic detox as he’s cut off from his, one and only, natural born skill and the ceasing of his per diem position sends him into frantically gulping down bottles of cold medicine to get a soothing fix. Falicki punishes the audience beloved, unconventional exorcist by having Vanuk fall to the bottom by not being unlucky or plotted against, but by simply self destruction and having God turn his back on his loyal servant when the promise, or a test, of a favorable outlook reveals itself.
The casting couldn’t be much more perfect with a cast of talented b-movie stars such as Jason Roth (“Awaken The Devil”), Chris Kotcher, and Jeffrey Goodrich to quickly name a few. Falicki owns Richard Vanuk, embodying the character so brilliantly that I would have a hard time relinquishing Richard Vanuk from Daniel Falicki’s face. Falicki pulls out all the stops by putting every once of degradation the director can muster into the downtrodden exorcist with a performance that sells his hapless nature and spew-filled gigs. Every client Vanuk attends to is portrayed honestly and earnestly from Sherryl Despress’s role of a desperate mother turned possessed super sewer to Patrick Hendren’s blind and levitating demonic being who goes on to have a heart-to-heart with Vanuk after an exorcism recovery.
“Accidental Exorcist” is unapologetic and shameless; a real nasty bitch to love unconditionally. The fun soars above the summit and the ingrained heart bursts beyond the restrictive seams of the reel. The film is nothing I’ve ever scene before; yet, still manages to homage legendary films that “Accidental Exorcist” built it’s bones upon. Similarities to, of course, the iconic William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” are apparent throughout with the almost beautifully grim and isolated atmospheric exterior scenes of foreboding destiny. Falicki’s film contains special effects so convincing by leaps and bounds when compared to other modern independent horror, portraying Vanuk so well within the confines of his dank and dejected existence that it’s as if he’s sharing his grime and his loneliness with us that’ll result with a quick shower when the credits roll.
Sector 5 Films and Rotomation Studios courtesy produces “Accidental Exorcist,” that’s not related to the Joshua Graham novel, but the audio and video will not be critically reviewed since I received and viewed a press screener and the film has yet to be released onto a home entertainment platform. However, make no mistake that “Accidental Exorcist” strides cockily into the first half of 2016 horror season, flying unnoticed, under the radar, as sleeper agent dangerous to demonic possession film competitors. Director Daniel Falicki is on the up and coming watch list like a high target terrorist, striking the heart of modern day horror and putting fear, and comedy, into a cynical cauldron.
After the tragic and accidental death of their young son, Richard and Doreen escape from their painful memories by moving to a quick-sell, rundown house with their two children, Jen and Ben. The house holds a unfathomable mysterious past with the previous family disappearing without a trace, leaving many of their possessions behind in the house’s desolate rooms. Ben, who hasn’t spoken much after the untimely death of his twin brother, encounters humanoid creatures in the attic at night when they roam the house. Ben becomes unsuccessful communicating about the horrifying creatures to his parents and even his older sister, shrugging his warnings off as a sign of his continuous grief. When Richard and Doreen leave Jen and Ben home alone in order to go to all night work function, the creatures descend from their attic abode and seek to devour people they can get their hungry hands on.
“Above Us Lives Evil” is the freshman film of Jason Mills circa 2009 and transpires to be a visually interesting piece of creature feature horror cinema even though the story is a bit undercooked and the acting more than often feels like watching a robotic cluster, monotonously reading the script line-by-line. The story opens ambiguously enough with a glum looking man, sitting in his car with a young boy laying motionless at the foot of man’s front bumper while Doreen cries hysterically over him and another boy, Ben, stands in tragic shock over the dead body of his brother. The opening only connects the rest of the story by the segue of the family driving, moving away antagonistically from their tragic past, but the melodramatically written opening needs being revisited, perhaps in the third act, but doesn’t make a reappearance, missing the opportunity to explore deeper into the family’s separation, and becomes sorely adrift from the rest of story’s girth.
The story continues to plug along of a supposedly grieving family, starting a new life in a new home where we’re informed by the strange neighbors that the previous family just up and vanishes. That sums up the complete backstory revealed of the previous inhabitants. Similar types of voids also rear their ugly little heads. The development upon the creature’s existence isn’t forthright nor is there any explanation into their background, making their existence to be fixtures of the house. These human devouring beings could have been born in the house and lived in that house since the beginning of time for all we’re led to understand.
The Canadian based produced film stars 30 year old Vancouver native Nicola Elbro as the eldest sister Jen. Nicola maintains a solid performance throughout to pull off this low key creature feature and with a little elbow grease added on, I can see Nicola moving from low budget features to the major leagues of horror Hollywood. However, the rest of the cast shares similar generic performances that painfully lead us by the hand, as if we’re not-yet-ready-for-horror-movie toddlers, through the exposition of everything that could have been just simply implied. Even though being one of the more experienced actors on this project, Robert Duncan’s monotony only suffers more drastically from his dimwitted, excuse-ridden character as Nicola’s father Richard. Richard neglects his children’s immediate needs and fears, dismissing them as if they’re too young and naive to know how the world works. Combine everything said here about Richard and he becomes the worst character amongst the rest of underdeveloped characters and there are quite a few.
The creatures had more personality with their caveman-like gaits and ghastly limber appendages, chasing down quickly disposable characters (which inconsequentially are also the main characters). Jason Mills and his relative Simon and Johnny take on “The Strain” resembling creature roles; the Mills’ lanky builds added that extra something to the overall appearance of the creature. Jason Mills took the creature look and ability a bit further with the adjunct mandibles that cover the snake-like tentacles; the construction of this achievement is a mixture of practical effect and CGI. Usually, I’m not a big fan of CGI, but Mills strategically, and successfully at that, obscures much of the creature, hiding the full overlook in the shadows, in the quick cuts, and in the low-light. Many of the effects are obscured; the special effects team mainly uses slight CGI and a bucket of blood or two to create their desired creature attacking effect. Most of the attacks are implied or too far in a long shot, creating the allusion of vicious creature film.
The Sector 5 Films and Chemical Burn distributed home DVD release technically suffers. Digital interference plays havoc, graining certain portions of night scenes while also causing digital waves on other night scenes. The loss of frame rate during other night time moments result in an awkward slow motion. “Above Us Lives Evil,” much like the creatures, should store itself in the attic until ready to descend for blood and to be more captivating with the characters. Jason Mills and Nicola Elbro show promising attributes that can contribute to the horror community and while their contribution may not be with this particular Jason Mills film starring Nicola Elbro, I’m sure we’ll see more of the two in the near future either on another collaboration or separate projects that could, and probably should, begin to turn some heads.
Here is an entertaining little piece of UK slasher horror that will sure be appreciated as well as thrilling. “Slasher House” had finished filming and was wrapped up in a nice bow two years ago but, finally, made an appearance on DVD just last year in the UK. A whole another year later and “Slasher House” hits retail shelves this past Tuesday in the States – about damn time – courtesy of Sector 5 Films. In all honestly, the good old USA missed out on releasing “Slasher House” as this English film’s crew and cast were the highlights of turning a run of the mill survival film into a great little unknown gem of a movie.
Red wakes up stark naked in a cell of a grungy rundown prison. Plagued with amnesia, she can’t remember who she is let alone how she how she got here. When her cell door opens up, Red discovers she isn’t alone as their other captives, but these captives are not so innocent. Within these iron bars and walls, she is trapped with notorious serial killers who are being released from the cells one by one. With no way out in sight, Red must elude the killers as they hunt for her in the corridors. There are more sinister means behind this game, but she must go through the players first to find out why she’s here and who she really is.
Leading lady Eleanor James was labeled one of Britain’s new age scream queens. Though she delivers no real scream here in “Slasher House,” James’ character resembles more of Milla Jovovich’s Alice character in the Resident Evil series – more so with the red dress, calm demeanor, and feistiness with less kung fu, ESP abilities. Her performance as Red has you rooting for her all the way because she is the first and last “last girl” in “Slasher House” against a handful of murderous sonuvabitches.
Each notorious slasher has a trademark and a unique personality – a child killer, an operator, a brute, a dual personality – leaving no room for boring characters. Their backstories are briefly told in a flashback anecdote just short enough to give you their whole persona. The plot is a bit more complex than it’s unique cast of characters. I like the idea of bringing a lineup of serial killer allstars into a dirty old prison and letting them face off. I wish there was more of that. Half of “Slasher House” was trying to find an exit and the other half was escaping the maniacs. No real dull moments plagued the film, but with a premise that involves a battle royal amongst the worst of the worst, you would think you’d be up against a blood spattered wall and heads would be constantly rolling. The other half of my mind says the slowed down story goes better with a film like this to build the characters up for a great and glorious downfall.
“Slasher House” plays out like a graphic novel and could be well turned into one. A great one in fact. “Slasher House” also delivers a twist ending that you won’t see coming until the very end! Speaking of the movie’s end, the open ending doesn’t explain much to the character’s situation. One could only guess to the purpose behind the game, but none of the plans are plainly explained.
“Slasher House” is a must buy from Sector 5 Films. Two years have I waited for a film like this that could entertain me on a budget while pulling off major production status. I’m very impressed by director MJ Dixon and his vision and his future is bright with indie pictures and possibly get a gig in Hollywood if he keeps turning out good films. If you have a fear of clowns you may want to stay away; other than that, pick this DVD up that was released this past Tuesday the 26th!
Eleanor James – Brief Topless / Butt
Anna Murphy – Possibly covered topless