Superpowers Can Be Just as EVIL as They are Good. “The Unhealer” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

“The Unhealer” on Blu-ray home video from Scream Factory!

An old graverobber unearths the supernatural powers of an ancient Native American burial ground that gives him the ability to heal as well as to be resilient against injury with self-restoring powers.  When exploiting the local residents of his newfound “Godly” gift, a botched healing of a bullied teenage Kelly with severe pica disorder transfers the powers to him, curing his disorders and restoring his health while also leaving the old graverobber to die.  With a new lease on life, Kelly pursues his dreams, standing up to his relentless tormenters, and even finding the courage to ask out a girl, but when the powers prove to be addiction beyond control and the bullies never let up on their aggression on him, Kelly uses his newfound gifts to exact a deadly course of revenge. 

“Pet Sematary” meets “Christine” – a Stephen King-esque bully-revenge, supernatural thriller “The Unhealer” from the Argentinean born director Martin Guigui.  The music video and feature film director returns to American horror nearly a decade later after helming the 2011 “Beneath the Darkness,” starring Dennis Quaid, with a thrilling teen angsty script penned by first time screenwriters Kevin E. Moore and J. Shawn Harris that recalls a narrative very familiar to the late 80’s to early 90’s with oppressive high school bullying by the jocks and the turning point revenge by the receiving end pipsqueak.  Originally scripted under the title “Pica Boy,” “The Unhealer” reveals the dangers of severe polarities between one disorder to the next with the humbling fragilities trapped inside one’s own psychological disorder to the over-confidence of feeling invincible due to physical anomalies that result in no pain being suffered, losing one’s empathetic reasoning.  “The Unhealer” is produced by writer J. Shawn Harris and his sibling actress, “Night of the Demons 2” and “Night of the Scarecrow’s” Cristi Harris along with star Natasha Henstridge and “Why?” filmmakers Corbin Timbrook and Galen Walker with Horror Business Films and 7 Ideas serving as production companies.

Headlined with three big and recognizable names inside the genre circles and out, the film stars Lance Henriksen (“Pumpkinhead,” “Aliens”), Natasha Henstridge (“Species,” “Ghost of Mars”) and Adam Beach (“Windtalkers,” “New Mutants”) playing variable degrees in their roles important to “The Unhealer’s” story progression and each performance never overlaps prominent personalities that can sometimes stall out and unbalance a production.   Henriksen plays a long in the tooth snakeoil salesman named Pflueger who exploits the locals with his newfound healing powers and when he’s hired by Kelly’s desperate mother, Natasha Henstridge, the scene becomes a passing of the torch as Pflueger unintentionally transfers his powers to Kelly (Elijah Nelson, “Chain of Death”) that magically heals him of his longtime psychological Pica disorder. Not so much a youthful soul anymore, Henriksen has tall tell signs of showing his age, but the 81-year-old New York City born actor can still sear memorable performances into our psyche with a wisecracking charlatan conman in Pflueger, dressed from head to toe in a shabby white suit and tossing up awkward hand gestures when deriding burial ground protecting Shaman Red Elk, played by long time serial supporting man Branscombe Richmond (“Commando,” “Hard to Kill”). More awkward in his reaction to receiving an unexplainable supernatural gift is Elijah Nelson who goes from deaths door to want to join the Navy Seals in a matter of minutes after the Pflueger plot point passes. The writing doesn’t exactly assist in Kelly’s transition with an acceptance of power without an inkling of trying to comprehend is as Kelly tries to hurt himself and tries to encourage being pounded by bullies as if he already fully understands the immense reality of his abilities. Even his mother, who under the understanding that she has tried everything possible scientific medicine man has to offer to cure her only child, is instantly okay with Kelly’s rushing into the unknown. A nearly unrecognizable Natasha Henstridge from her “Species” franchise days after a thyroid autoimmune disease diagnosis doesn’t stop the late 40’s blond beauty from being just that – a beauty – in an overly protective mother role desired by the local single men from the house visiting doctor to the Adam Beach’s Native American Sheriff Adler. Beach becomes the absent father figure for Kelly and a person who has a foot in both the Native American spiritual world and in the Anglo-Saxon realities and melodramatics. Beach proceeds as the main lead of the third act, following Henriksen and Henstridge to keep a constant, recognizable presence throughout and providing his own stamp as the voice of reason whereas the first two culminated extreme biases toward Kelly. Kayla Carlson, Angeline Appel, Gavin Casalegno, David Gridley, Mike Gray, Thomas Archer, Will Ropp, and one my new personal favorite actors in Chris Browning (“Agnes”) fills out the remaining cast.

Very early on initial reactions toward “The Unhealer” were poor mainly because of the luridly unflattering dialogue and perplexing transitions between scenes that don’t exactly hit the mark matching up character intentions, but the more I watched, the more an optimistic sensation started to arise in me. Starting small in the recesses of my cerebral film database then growing until metastasizing fully into my mind and, eventually, into my nostalgic-detecting ticker is “The Unhealer’s” robust recollection toward how fun bully-revenge-thrillers from two to three decades ago can be with a carbon copy simulation ingrained with a novel narrative surrounding Midwest Native American mysticisms carrying with it that age old “Spiderman” insinuation that with great power, comes great responsibility, but in “The Unhealer’s case, as the tagline suggests, comes great pain. Screenwriters Moore and Harris burden Kelly with a King Midas touch that no matter how hard the character tries to contain his nearly invincible power, outside forces influences and unforeseen happenstances steer Kelly toward self-destructing disaster. Between a group of buffed up and obnoxious high school jocks as unyielding tormenters, Kelly pushed into a self-protecting corner despite a generous passive attitude, especially being run over with car at one point, and the unpredictable and limitless avenues built as substory awry to make “The Unhealer” a joyful hidden gem, the Martin Guigui film on the outside appears to be a cheap, indistinguishable, B-movie, but if you dig deeper, dig until you unearth a medicine man’s ancient dusty bones, and you’ll discover deep seeded veneration, a gripping story, and dark magic carnage.

“The Unhealer” will undoubtedly fly under many viewers’ radars but is a must watch from (Shout!) Scream Factory’s distribution label in a cooperation release with VMI Worldwide (“Orphan Killer”). The full HD, 1080p Blu-ray of the 2020 production is an encoded region A release with unrated certification and a runtime of 93 minutes, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Generally nothing to swing image quality from one spectrum to the next with a RED Weapon Dragon digital shot. Already decent at compression, the RED camera provides a crisp demarcating image in the forefront and capture the textures in a literal closeup with focus precision. “The Unhealer’s” lighting and set dresses cater less to the supernatural phantasmagoria with Massimo Zeri’s realistic Arizona landscapes and suburbia venues that don’t excite the camera with its cold truth realism rather than the mise-en-scene tropes of horror atmospherics. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also has zip to complain about with high resolution quality with a surprising ample range of effects. Dialogue is prominent and clear as well. English SDH subtitles are an available option. Special features include one-sided individual cast/character behind-the scenes interviews which is basically cut and edited footage of the actors describing their characters in footnote fashion. The gag reel is a better feature that takes the same interview format, intertwines it with music, and lines up the gags with an instrumental soundtrack in one seamless show of goofs and hijinks throughout production. Deleted scenes and extended/alternate scenes, surrounding mostly around Kelly and Dominique’s coy love interest, cap the features. At first glance of the final package, “The Unhealer” looks totally like a rip off inside and out of the cardboard slipcover with a “Star Wars'” lightsaber color scheme and a character illustrated design underneath the title dressed in “Stranger Things” font, but don’t let parroting cover fool you as “The Unhealer’s” dark journey from being the bullied to the bully is an unabated and inescapable catch-22.

“The Unhealer” on Blu-ray home video from Scream Factory!

Creepy. Kooky. Mysterious. Spooky. All Together EVIL! “The Addams Family 2” reviewed (MGM and United Artists Releasing / Digital Screener)

RENT “THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2” ON PRIME VIDEO

Morticia and Gomez Addams have lived dangerously head on for all their grotesque lives and loving every second to the fullest with their strange family.  Nothing scares the macabre mother and father of Wednesday and Pugsley until their children begin to display the adversarial and angsty signs of growing up, creating a distancing wedge between them.  As Morticia and Gomez are missing the hideous and fright-filled family time once shared morosely and adventurously between them and the children, a zany road trip is planned across the deepest, darkest parts of the country to rekindle again that kooky Addams family bond, but when the threat of possibility that Wednesday may not truly be an Addams comes to light, Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Thing, and even hairy cousin IT, will do anything, kill anyone, to prove Wednesday is a full-blooded Addams.

For over 80 years, Charles Addams’ creepy-crawly and spookily quirky family has been entertaining the masses with their avidity for danger and the deranged.  Now, one of America’s favorite bizarre families is back on the big screen with the animated sequel, “The Addams Family 2.”  Returning directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon delivered an origin story in 2019 that developed the who and how the demented Addams came to be one as one of the most lavishly and lovable lamentable families we all grew up with in popular culture.  The Canadian-American filmmaking twosome take the Addams’s on a road trip into a whole new direction with a standalone story separate from the first’s that revolved around inclusion and not judging a book by its cover.  “The Addams Family 2” is a production of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Cinesite Animation and presented by BRON Creative, a Jackal Group/Glickmania production, with Conrad Vernon, Gail Berman, Jason Cloth, Aaron L. Gilbert, Kevin Miserocchi, Andrew Mittman, Alison O’Brien, and Danielle Sterling return as producers and executive producers. 

The sequel reteams the loaned voice talents of “Dune’s” Oscar Isaac as Gomez, “Prometheus’s” Charlize Theron as Morticia, “Suspiria’s” Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, “Big Mouth’s” Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, and “Hocus Pocus’s Bette Midler as Grandma, picking up almost entirely where they left from the first film, voicing the core characters with twisted, haphazardly happy soul that keeps aligned the original concept with room for originality.  Hip-Hop and gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg also returns as the manipulated high-pitched voice of Cousin IT and lending his more vocational vocals on a couple original songs for the soundtrack, including “It Ain’t Nothin’.”  However, one original film voice doesn’t make an encore.  “Stranger Things” and the upcoming “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” star Finn Wolfhard is replaced by feature film newcomer Javon “Wanna” Walton as Pugsley Addams due to, supposedly, Wolfhard’s pubescent changes in his voice.  To circumvent an obviously different sounding Pugsley, Tiernan and Vernon reduces Pugsley amount of dialogue to nearly zilch with only an exclamation or two as Pugsley becomes more of the running gag, punching bag trope for Wednesday’s diversely ingenious methods to off a die hard Pugsley.  Also new is Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”), who always manages to be typecast in animation as a pygmy, shrewd character – see “Incredibles,” “Toy Story,” and “Happily N’Ever After” for reference – playing a hired hand to “It’s” Bill Hader, who comes aboard as chief antagonist, Cyrus, with a master plan to make a lot of money off Wednesday’s unmatched smarts. 

Cinesite’s animation continues to be a tribute to Charles Addams’s original comic strip characters in appearance and keeping the action cutting edge with a variety of textures and fluorescent lighting to sustain a tightly spooky, yet still toon like, veneer without being chunky or plastic in appearance.  Frequent collaborators Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit are joined by “Cars’” screenwriter Ben Queen and “The Spy Who Dumped Me’s” Susanna Fogel with a script that hones in on the mad dash, madcap hallmarks of sword fighting, axe-throwing, flame shooting, and monster brawling that makes the Addams family THE Addams family.  The script keeps the action moving as the family traverses across the nation, evading Cyrus’s dissimilar henchmen, while the two Addams children find their place in pre-adolescence with Wednesday battles alienation and Pugsley attempts at wooing the opposite sex, but absent from the script is landed comedy.  Chock-full with slapstick humor, many of the jokes will go over the head of PG youngsters who won’t understanding Pugsley wanting dating advise from a Cousin It’s pimp-like status or the overabundant morbid humor that crosses the line, even for the Addams, with a Donner Party joke and one of the characters actually being killed off by Wednesday.  Considering the PG rating, the two latter bits really stick in the mind of an adult with children.  Also, the script honestly lacks something else, an important staple in Addams grim culture that can be challenging to apprehend if not present, and that is the Addams’s house.  Family and house are separated for nearly the entire duration, leaving the diabolical funhouse as an omitted character lost to the whims of Grandma’s large house party which is scarcely and sorely revisited.  Instead, Thing, who has an eyeball on the wrist by the way (never knew Thing had any sort of optics), and Uncle Fester, with a side-story of him metamorphizing into an octopus as a result Wednesday’s story-opening grandiose (mad) science fair project, drive an ostentatious camper that pales in comparison as the house substitute.

Hitting U.S. theaters nationwide today, October 1st, “The Addams Family 2” is a solid kickstart to the beginning of the Halloween season as a United Artists and MGM distributed release.  The sequel will also be available to rent through the following platforms:  Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, Vudu, DirectTV, Spectrum, Xfinity, and among other digital outlets and pay TV operators.  Aforementioned, the 93 minute, animated feature is rated PG for macabre and rude humor, violence and language with much of the more grave content flying over children’s heads.  Trust me, my 7-year-old and 4-year-old either didn’t understand the references or didn’t catch the intent.   Seeing the kooky antics of the Addams family back in the spotlight keeps the lovable ghoulish characters alive for generations to come, but with “The Addams Family 2” borders being insipid with a trying-to-impress out of the box and unconventional Addams road trip narrative that nearly creates the unthinkable to happen – making the adventurous Addams family a dull bunch.

EVIL is a Giant Cockroach Trying To Bite Your Head Off…Man! “Love and Monsters” reviewed! (Paramount / Blu-ray Review)

For seven years, monsters have ravaged the human race to nearly extinction after nuclear nations destroyed an planet killing meteor in space, but the radioactive debris that fall back to Earth mutated the smallest creatures into monstrous killing machines.  Humans have been divided into colonies forced into underground bunkers.  Joel Dawson has been barely surviving with bunk mates who see him as a liability in his inability to act when faced with a monster situation and has been unable to connect, romantically, with another person.  When Joel discovers his high school sweetheart is 85 miles away in another colony, Joel decides to leave the bunker safe haven and journey across the dangerous surface for seven days for the sole purpose of love.  Forced to face his fears and adapt to survive a perilous land full of giant centipedes, hungry massive toads, and a crusty crab the size of a two story building, Joel must rely on his instincts and the help of rule-following topside survivors to see again the girl he thought he lost.

Add “Love and Monsters,” a monstrously romantic creature feature, right up there with “Warm Bodies” as this decade’s version of horror and love dancing the tangled tango in this kill or be eaten comedy-love pursuit directed by Michael Matthews.  The 2020 release is Matthews’ sophomore directorial from a script co-written between Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson off a Duffield’s original “Monster Problems” script.  Duffield is best known for penning last year’s water leviathan success, “Underwater,” starring Kristen Stewart, with “Monster Trucks’” Robinson coming aboard to finesse the grand adventure mechanism that makes “Love and Monsters” a singular trek through heart-thumping terrorland.  The Canadian production filmed in the amalgam terrain of Australia is produced by Dan Cohen and Shawn Levy, who both know a thing or two about doomsday premises in producing Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and the Denis Villeneuve sleeper sci-fi first contact film, “Arrival,” under 21 Laps Entertainment in association with Entertainment One and Paramount Pictures distribution in North America.

A singular journey of bushwhacking and survival falls upon the shoulders of a young man who hasn’t yet transitioned to be an adult. From the time he was 16 years old, Joel Dawson knew love, but didn’t know how to fend for himself when life gets tough….really tough, like, full of carnivorous creatures in an end of humanity and heading to extinction tough. Yet, as adults, we thrive on challenges as our brains have learned to adapt with each new level of adversity and obstacle. For Joel, being stuck in the past, reliving a swift romance, has suspended him in nowheresville as he struggles to find love and age-appropriate interaction with of his kind peers. Dylan O’Brian captures Joel’s inability to see the clearly world around him because, literally, he hasn’t seen or experienced the world for about a third of his young life. Portrayed early on in young adult fiction with his feet firm in the heartthrob remake of “Teen Wolf” television series and coming out of adapted for film “The Maze Runner” trilogy, O’Brien discovers that being feeble and lonely can be just as powerful as being a werewolf or a dystopian survivalist; instead, O’Brien up-plays the quirky, quick-witted, outcast with delusions about his solitary and unpopularity as he finds fortitude by trekking seven days through a monster-riddled hell to rekindle his relationship with Amiee, the last person he personally felt a connection to who hasn’t been squished under the foot of a Granddaddy Long Leg. “The Head Hunter” and “Underwater” star, Jessica Henwick, retunes her vocal chords to present her best American English accent in order to be Joel’s live-or-die love interest, if she hasn’t changed in the last seven horrible years. Yet, before Joel and Amiee reunite in what’s a finger-crossable moment of love again at first sight, the meek Joel Dawson needs to go through, what half the monsters outside have already gone through, is a metamorphosis of sorts to be bigger, tougher, and more self-reliant. This is where MCU alums, Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) and Ariana Greenblatt (“Avengers: Infinity War”) step in. As Clyde, Rooker’s the Bear Grylls of monster land, knowing all the tips and tricks of topside survival all the while sporting a Richard Simmons perm, whereas Greenblatt, as the orphaned Minnow traveling in companion with Clyde, is just rugged despite her pintsize. “Love and Monsters” really focuses on these four individuals that mainly perpetuate only one of them, Joel, to be the best survivor he can be at the bottom of the food chain, but other minor characters do arise and nudge brash action that requires the solidity of an unbroken community chain. Dan Ewing (“Occupation”), Ellen Hollman (“Asylum”), Pacharo Mzembe, Tre Hale, Senie Priti, Amalie Golden, and “The Road Warrior’s” Bruce Spence makes a cameo appearance as Old Pete.

What I find interesting about “Love and Monsters,” that’s more prevalent in most post-apocalypse themed plots, is the lack of dog-eat-dog between humans.  While the story mainly skirts around the concept with a running gag that the real reason Joel left his colony is because he’s a no-good food stealer, Joel’s interactions with his and Amiee’s colonies, plus in his travels with Clyde and Minnow, showed no sign of deception or greed, a rare and humbling dynamic when starved, weary, and scared people are backed against a wall and cutthroat advantages are at arm’s length; instead, a real sense of community and compassion is committed that brings a sense of hope, not for just Joel in a world conquered by monsters, but for also audiences with pessimistic views about the volatility of man.  Even with all the fears of A.I hostile takeover, tender moments of man face-to-face with machine seals that threat into inexistence as Joel comes across a damaged MAV1S unit, an anatomical automaton built for servicing humanity, borders that plane of complex human emotions with all the right things to say and able to read what Joel needs to here to keep him moving in a sacrificial scene of the androids’ last hurrah before complete battery drain.  “Love and Monsters” doesn’t do a complete withdrawal from the hypodermic needle of inhuman poison, but the concept is certainly not the emphasis.  With a title like “Love and Monsters,” you want the monsters to be, at the very least, half of the story, as promised, and we’re treated to a slew of different monsters with different personalities and with different innate weapons. Not all the monsters are blood thirsty. Some are gentle, but judged for their immense size and scary physical attributes and Matthews points this important theme out in a trope about-face, signifying that just because this is a monster movie, doesn’t mean all monsters have been unjustly deemed vicious and terrorizing. In a way, these monsters parallel in being judged just as inaccurately as Joel is by his survivalist peers without so much as the benefit of the doubt and only when a trust evolves from out of being scared is when judgements wash away with sheltered conventional thinking. Diminutive inside a fantasyland of behemoth horrors, “Love and Monsters” has a tremendous heart with an interpersonal message about understanding connections with people inside the mixed-messaged confines of coming into adulthood.

If we don’t nuke ourselves out of existence first, the lifeforms underneath the soles of our shoes will gladly seize dominance for an easy, human-sized, snack in Michael Matthews’ “Love and Monsters” now released on Blu-ray plus digital, as well as 4K Ultra HD and DVD, courtesy of Paramount Pictures. The PG-13 action-adventure creature feature is presented in high definition, 1080p, widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Australia is already a futuristic land of gorgeous overgrowth and untouched wonder, Lachlan Milne trades in the practical (zombie horde) aesthetics of “Little Monsters” to a transcending larger types of monsters to scale an open world environment to eventually be combined with post-production visual effects of Kaiju-sized myriapods, crustaceans, and amphibians to just name a few. Award winning VFX company, The Mill, has seamless and organic creations that blend truth and deception with the scariest of ease as creatures explode out of the ground or lumber above head with no angle left uncovered or underdeveloped in giving audiences unmistakable visuals of our nightmares. The English language 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is the epitome of well balanced with clear dialogue, a complimentary soundtrack, and a long range and diverse depth of sound engineered monsters being monsters from low, sonorous gutturals to the high cracks and pops of creature movements. Inside a cardboard slipcover, The Paramount Pictures Blu-ray comes with a digital movie code to add to your digital movie collection to watch anywhere, but the release also comes with deleted scenes, a “Bottom of the Food Chain” featurette feature snippet interviews with the cast and crew, and “It’s a Monster World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape” that dives into the natural preserve combined with production design to create the apocalypse illusion. Adventurously invigorating and outside the norm of telling story patterns, “Love and Monsters” romanticizes the post-apocalypse with a self love theme in a hope-inspiring and fun creature-crammed monster movie.

Blu-ray of “Love and Monsters.” Click poster to purchase at Amazon.com!

Never Had An EVIL Friend Like Me! “Come Play” reviewed! (Focus Features / Digital Screener)

Elementary student Oliver has autism that impedes his speech, requiring near obsessive use of the phone and tablet to communicate with touchtone words as well as using the device for recreational binge watching of SpongeBob SquarePants to calm him when agitated.  Unable to make friends, Oliver’s loneliness causes him to sink deeper into his devices while his parents bicker amongst themselves on the endless topic of caring, treating, and assisting with Oliver’s needs, such as speech therapy and daily routine.  On another dimensional plane, looking inside-out of Oliver’s devices, is Larry, an equally lonely, misunderstood monster trying to break into Oliver’s world and take him away to be forever friends.  It’s up to his overprotective mother and insouciant father to stop Larry’s aggressively desperate out reach into Oliver’s world and pluck him forever from a life of being misunderstood. 

Forget the monsters lying in wait underneath the bed!  Forget the monsters lurking inside the dark closet!  The monster in your phone, capturing your attention span on a glossy-eyed level, should be the monster we all fear from Jacob Chase’s written and directed tech creature feature, “Come Play.”  “Come Play” introduces Jacob Chase into feature filmmaking after being involved wearing multiple hats in a series of short films, spanning over in the last decade and half, with his 5-minute long short film, “Larry,” plotted out as one third shift bored parking lot attendant who discovers an abandoned iPad inside the lost and found box located in his booth and releases a disfigured titular creature that lumbers toward him after reading through  “The Misunderstood Monster” children’s tale on the device, becoming the foundational work inspiring a 96 minute, fully fleshed out narrative with dangerous undercurrents of voyeurism and loneliness coinciding with an equally-hazardous theme in the detriments of being a helicopter parent, hindering the independent growth and maturity of youth. “Come Play” is a co-production of Amblin and Reliance Entertainment.

When they’re in a career hot zone, child actors flourish and grow inside a broad base of horror, being nurtured either from or by the creepy child sub-category or from or by being the unlikely hero that has the save the oblivious adults (just look at the kiddie cast of “Stranger Thingsfor example). Azhy Robertson falls into the latter as the epitome of innocence in playing Oliver, a young boy with autism unable to communicate clearly the monster stalking him from a stratum between two existences. “Marriage Story’s” Robertson continues to gleam versatilely as an actor who can use his imagination to not only react to a rendered behemoth creature but also submerse into the characteristics of autism and not oversell beyond what’s needed. Robertson also continues his girth toward a well-rounded career that now has a notch for horror under his broadening belt. Like many monster-plagued kid horror, the parents are always oblivious and dismissive to the situation and “Come Play” continues the trope with a pair of quarrelling parents in the midst of separation that undoubtedly adds to the extramundane energy fueling Larry’s need for Oliver. Gillian Jacobs (“Bad Milo”) and John Gallaghar Jr. (“Underwater”) butt heads sorely on one topic: Oliver. As their marriage dissolves through unspoken subtleties under the Oliver epicenter, that missed mightier connection could have been more powerful on how the split up affects the reactionary consequences of Oliver’s developmental disorder, an affect so tremendous that it componentizes Larry and his aggressive and brazen abduction tactics that are not so discreet. However there characters are perceived, Jacobs and Gallaghar modestly pack a punch in what has been laid to be the Azhy Robertson show of a vulnerable, yet smart, child versus a relentless and grotesque monster. Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright, and Eboni Booth round out the cast.

Jacob Chase has proven to be able to handle building breath-holding suspense and tension with the otherworldly plane Larry, a Slenderman-like in appearance and character inspired villain lumbering around not only in Oliver’s house, coursing through the electrical currents in his sub-plane world, but also by peering from out of closets, shying away in the darkest corners of the house, and looming around in a parking lot’s graveyard shift hours only to be perceptible through the phone and tablet camera lenses and, at times, manifesting a translucent presence that has force behind, the latter being an added side dish, transcending from Chase’s short film, to Larry’s predacious tech-manipulating arsenal when obstacles stand in the way of his BFF.  Even if “Come Play’s” superlative thrills ride on the heels of potent jump scares and unnerving silence with bated breathed, hiccups do arise in a more alleviated roller-coaster that shreds holes into the well-established terror instead of nurturing the tone.  Now while I understand the rating is PG-13 to secure a wider audience and, maybe, be a little lighthearted at times, an awkward diluted dread douses the credibility of the characters in strife with actions, such a scene include Oliver’s parents striking down upon his tablet with alternating hammer blows.  In what almost seems like a joke with an archaic technique that old-timey railroad workers use when nailing in track spikes or when carnies – one being a clown – hammer in spokes in unison to erect the big top, the scene is just out of focus in regards to the rest of the scope and there are other scenes like these sprinkled in throughout that raises character quandary concerns.  Why not just one parent whack away on the destruction of the dag’on device?  A handful of the reactionary actions to protect Oliver are glazed with an unreasonable, panic-stricken defense that begs the question whether they’re fit to actually be parents, which, if looking on the flipside of the argument, might also play into more of the unbeneficial family structure that originated the Larry intrusion.  Speaking of originating and the monster, Larry’s exact origins is obscured from the audiences as no plot points touch in depth upon Larry’s background and, you know what, that’s okay here; the more mysterious path is sometimes the best and, in “Come Play,” Larry’s inexplicable being as a child seducing abductor relates much more frighteningly and unfortunately in real world occurrences. 

Predators come in all shapes and sizes.  In this case, Larry’s atrocious presence, trying to obscure his real identity innately, symbolizes the very personalities of the real monstrous predators living among us, trolling online to prey on the vulnerable.  “Come Play” is an oxymoronic subtle hyperbole that serves as a cautionary warning for parents and children molded with pure monster in the closet entertainment in mind releasing theatrically on October 30, pushed from its original July release due to COVID-19, courtesy of Focus Features.  Serving as director to photographer is French cinematographer and serial shadow worker, Maxime Alexandre, who was worked with acclaimed horror director Alexandre Aja on “High Tension,” “P2,” and “Crawl.”  Alexandra manipulates the space, melding wide, full and closeups, to work the perceptions toward a post-production visual design in adding Larry into the frames and honing in on the lighting to just show enough of the space to make the allusion of Larry’s presence even more ominous. The back and forth of the underused practical Larry and the mostly CGI Larry sparsely have any difference between the final product outcome. The visual effects team of Mr. X saunter with what could have been a clear disaster of composite creature imagery with all the trademarks of synthetic splicing; instead, Larry matches well to the point of an indistinguishable challenge between what’s real and what’s not. The score by the “Don’t Breathe” and “Evil Dead” remake’s Roque Banos does the job to subversively infiltrate the security earmuffs to wring your cochlea to an inch of its life, but doesn’t resonate with you much more than the length of the film; however, Larry’s clicking and snapping of his appendageal joints and his guttural clatters emanate vicinity apprehension, as if the audiences can hear the dun dun hook as a tall tale sign of a circling shark in the water.  Sound design is half the fun in the film as the monster is more than half there when it’s on screen. No bonus material accompanied the release and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits, but I’ve included Chase’s short, “Larry,” below for your own comparison and enjoyment!  “Come Play” boosts many unsavory themes between the parameters of technology and children underneath a mask of a faceless friend willing to frighten and fight anyone into submission to obtain complete, domineering companionship to end his chilling fairytale story.

Larry: Short Film

Millennial Martian Mayhem Is EVIL’s Wheelhouse in “Save Yourselves” reviewed! (Bleecker Street Media / Digital Screener)

Brooklyn couple, Su and Jack, find their noses constantly buried in their devices as the relationship between them begins to stagnate with unfulfilled measures.  In an effort to reconnect with each other meaningfully and detach themselves from the wedging worldwide web, they accept a close friend’s offer to use his upstate cabin as a rekindling retreat getaway from the mundane routine, away from the bustling city, and away from their highly addictive technological devices, shutting themselves off from the numbing side of the world to focus on each other.  As they become acquainted with their isolated surroundings and truly work on themselves, an attack from an alien race of pouffe balls has invaded Earth.  When they finally figure what’s happening, the serenity cabin therapy has been abruptly severed by besieging extraterrestrial furballs from space and they must rely on their little know-how to survive.

To all the modern millennial couples living comfortably in urban stasis and experiencing the world vicariously through the internet, “Save Yourselves!” is a calling and an unlikely savior you didn’t even know you needed from the writing-directing team of Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson.  The duo’s introductory feature length film is a satirical sci-fi side-splitter of the celestial kind that, frankly, exposes the rudimentary sustaining people like Su and Jack who we all know exist and wouldn’t know how to start a fire with the quick strike of a match let alone save themselves from an apocalyptical alien invasion, but much like Su and Jack’s understanding of their surroundings and also to their defense, what does anybody know about surviving creatures from another planet?  “Save Yourselves!” is produced by Peter Traugott and Adi Ezroni of the New York based Keshet Studios as the company’s sophomore feature, Eamon Downey and Philip Erdoes of Last Rodeo Studios (“Scare Me”), and Joshua Blum of Washington Square Films.

Internet obsessed couple Su and Jack can barely not fiddle with their phones, laptops, and even Alexia for more than a minute, scouring the limitless online resource for information and entertainment that even infiltrates into their livelihood of administrative assistant scheduling and online popup box retail services.  “Mr. Robot’s” Sunita Mani sits into the internet top 10 list fixated mindset of Su with a complimenting structure revolving around her character’s meticulous life layout constructed by internet page browser tabs.  Equally as reliant on the power of the internet is her beau Jack, played by “Stranger Things’” John Reynolds in a hipster blend of Crispin Glover with the voice comparisons to Hanna-Barbera’s The Funky Phantom.  Mani and Reynolds accorded a charmingly naïve pair of social media engulfed millennials on a path of monotonous self-implosion and take their characters’ arcs over the growth threshold as their thrust to survive without knowing nothing of the tangible (Jack’s own word) world.  “Save Yourselves” is essentially the Sunita Mani and John Reynolds’ show, but the cast rounds out with bit part performances from Ben Sinclair, John Early, and Johanna Day.

Su and Jack are extremely likeable characters with some real and some fantastical unlikeable problems of social media addiction and space beings snatching their planet right under their touchscreen pressed noses. “Save Yourselves” knits a palpable double meaning that not only conveys the impractical saving of themselves from the impending attack of furry aliens, isolated in a thick, unfamiliar wooded ecosystem, but also save themselves from their own social network debilitated selves who rely too much on the glitzy pyrite of the Gram (Instagram) and Facebook to rule their lives.  Directors Fischer and Wilson gamble with a good chunk of the story’s unresolved aspects the plot points build up so well that might leave audiences scratching their heads while a lip-curling complexity freezes their mouths agape in wondering next steps for hapless couple Su and Jack. For the defense of the unexplained, the Earth invasion is an, as we know it, impenetrable fact of pure science fiction, glimmered in 1960’s fashion with resemblance to the Shatner era Star Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” alien pouffe balls (the filmmakers must have been “Star Trek” fans) of various shapes and colors beleaguering an assault with Spider-Man-like bio-lash to get around, an unquenchable thirst for Ethanol, and sonic fluctuance. When you type it out loud it sounds ridiculous, but “Save Yourselves!” harps back on the classic Sci-Fi features with a contemporary wit toward the inept abilities of today’s modern young adults and their reliance on social media.

Going off the grid nonplusses city dwellers with formidable diurnal life routines in the indie science fiction comedy “Save Yourselves!” that has invaded theaters and at-home platforms this week, distributed Bleecker Street Media. The 93 minute, rated R social commentary satire is shot mainly in an unfiltered, natural light with a handheld and steady cam, grounding the filming within the wilderness of New York’s upper state with a sound staged to recreate the tuning fork of kooky otherworldly sound bites and soundtracks. Since this is a theatrical new release, there will be no review on the A/V aspects. There were no bonus material included or any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Save Yourselves!” is an eye opening gag of real time, real world dependents forced to outlast the odds and grow individually, and collectively, as independent people valued more than thought.

Pre-orde “Save Yourselves!” on DVD ahead of it’s October 9th release.