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.
Costa Rica’s beauty attracts tourists with it’s crystal clear ocean beaches, idyllic and serene island surroundings, and being a luxurious phenomenal getaway for last hurrah bachelor or bachelorette parties. Costa Rica also conceals Casey’s, the bride-to-be, dark and drunken affair and a deadly murky water dwelling insect inhabiting the depths of a secret sublime pool far off the beaten tourist path. When Casey sustains a bite from the unseen bug, she brushes off the injury as nothing more than a little bug bite, but as Casey recovers from her alcohol-fueled trip back home in the States, she notices strange open sores along her skin, she can’t hold down any food, and her hearing enhances by tenfold. Scared beyond all else, Casey alienates herself from her friends and fiancé as she slowly mutates into a nightmare creature, spawning eggs from her mouth throughout her small apartment and supplying fresh bodies for her millions of offspring as soon as they walk through her door.
Body horror is alive and well and in your face as Chad Archibald’s 2015 film “Bite” is living proof that the human form is completely, and biologically, mutable. Elma Begovic stars as Casey, recently engaged to a financial investor named Jared living in the same building that’s owned by her soon-to-be mother-in-law, and as her personal troubles mount after a night of alcohol induced memory loss in Costa Rica, Casey’s outlook on her future with Jared diminishes as she second guesses long term commitment and the situation doesn’t help itself when you’re biology transform into an acid bile spewing fiend. The film also stars Jordan Gray as Jared, Annette Wozniak and Denise Yuen as Casey’s bachelorette party friends Jill and Kirsten, and Lawrene Denkers as Jared’s overprotective mother whose a real nasty crone and is written by Jayme Laforest.
Secreted with an absolute nod of respect by attributing a creature that’s familiar to David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” remake, “Bite” also has an individual personality about it with an extreme Jekyll and Hyde complex containing stark contrasts of smooth, clean structures, such as the apartment building Casey and Jared reside, and with conventional presence in the characters themselves. Reality is then turned on it’s head with visually foul and putrid mucus and a slew of glistening caviar covering the walls and the floor, transforming Casey’s apartment into an eerie swamp of terror and vomit green. A metamorphosed Casey, who resembles a blend of creatures from “Species” and “Splice,” is now the proud owner of a home of horror where every room reeks of death and slick with organic discharge.
Archibald visually and audibly charges “Bite,” getting up close and personal with Casey’s rancid, boil-infested bite and we’re also subjected to external factors such as extreme outside light, in-and-out screeches, and a clear and positive sensitivity to water to help the audience transition better along with Casey and to not be too much in show when the final result comes to fruition. Elma Begovic’s human Casey constantly feels uncertain. From the first moments of the handheld cam during the bachelorette party, Casey wavers about her relationship with Jared. Back home, she continues to float through the situation and through life. We’re continuously exposed to Casey’s extreme discomfort with marriage, with no having kids, with her displeasure with Jared’s mother, and she also doesn’t even seem to have a job except for walking a neighbor’s dog everyday, which looking back on those scenes seem fairly irrelevant to the story. Only when Casey’s fully transitioned does she firm up her place in life, oozing with confidence and animal instinct, and cozy’s up in a lime green, soft yellow glow comfortable habitat for her new, arguably improved, surroundings. Elma’s glowing bug-eyes are a bit campy, but add to the transforming effect.
Her apparent plight is a synonymous exaggeration of her tremendous guilt and shame for not being truly committed to Jared and for her blackout one night stand in Costa Rica. Her body horror represents sustaining the physical manifestation of a sexually transmitted disease while, at the same time, discovering she’s pregnant. There’s is so much shame in Casey that even when she can’t confront the problem to her fiance, she can’t even go see a doctor face-to-face and reduces her interactions with a physician by using an ineffective tele-doc instead. Stir her shame and guilt with an abrasive landlord/future mother-in-law and it’s not wonder Casey seeks escape from a hell that dominates her normal life.
Sometimes the success of a movie is in the details and while “Bite” has great horror house detail, a few aspects bother me and are more about the consistencies than the facts or production goofs. For instance, the bug bite Casey endures in the Costa Rican pool has a much higher location, just above the line of her bikini bottoms, but changes to just under the bikini bottoms, a shade above the middle of the side of her thigh. A stronger case lies with Characters’, other than Casey, perception of the transform apartment. Neither Jared, Kirsten, and Jill react to the extreme odor emitting from Casey’s apartment that was so clear to the landlord who came knocking to confront with former neighbor complaints about the strong odor and neither of the above characters truly reacted with sheer trepidation upon entering a dilapidated apartment owned by this person they know. The indifference the characters displayed didn’t invoke fear, hindering audiences fear to fully enjoy the film.
While the unfortunate details nag at the back of my brain, “Bite” is undoubtedly icky-sticky effective body and creature feature from “The Drownsman” director. UK distributor Second Sight releases the Black Fawn Films and Breakthrough Production film “Bite” onto DVD this October! If you’re a fan of Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” “Bite” is a simpler, thinner modern version sans teleportation machines and Jeff Goldbum. The DVD specs include a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen of the 85 runtime feature with two audio options including Dolby Digital Stereo and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. I was provided a DVD-R screener disc with no bonus material except a static menu with scene selection and can’t critique the audio or video quality, but the film dotes solid SFX and moderately palatable acting in this gunky-gross story stemmed from one little single bite.
Victor, a pioneering and experimental genetic scientist, has done the impossible, cloned a living human baby and named the girl Elizabeth. Obsessed with learning from his creation, Victor works tirelessly, neglecting his wife and two children. He also neglects a dark secret from his past that threatens everything he’s worked for and achieved. Religious group and lawful prosecutors blind him from the underlining and he continues with his research, diving deeper into the mysteries of Elizabeth. When Victor’s dark past catches up with him and reveals itself, he becomes forced into protecting his family and his creation Elizabeth from harm.
The Billy Senese sophomore written and directed film about the inevitable consequences of cloning shares a familiar similarity to being an adult version of Larry Cohen’s monster baby macabre “Its Alive.” Instead of hideous and murderous Davies baby, “A Frankenstein Story” caters more to realism with a deformed, genetically developed child growing up in pain and in secret. Senese tunes into a style that’s comparable to the likes of “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh, soaked in a contrast of composure and slightly solemn.
The “A Frankenstein Story” title is a UK title. In the USA, the film goes more recognizably under “Closer to God,” which is a line withdrawn from the film, and while I do think “Closer to God” is a more suitable title, the gothic-like title has holds water in an off color way. Aside from a man creating a human out of biological genetics instead of using body parts and electricity, the Senese film homages the old Mary Shelley tale in some other respects. Lead actor Jeremy Childs plays Victor and we all know Victor is a the first name to the titular character Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s story. Also, Senese, wether intentionally or not, has envisioned and dressed Childs as the creator and the monster. Victor is toweringly tall, freakishly broad shoulders, and has a square like face, making him appear like The Creature.
Senese’s narrative has promise at the very beginning and the very end with everything else in between being quite stagnant in developing and displaying Victor’s awfully well hidden secret. There also isn’t any exposed motivation between Victor, and some of the other characters, in behind the laboratory conceiving of Elizabeth. The only conclusion that’s explicit is that Victor becomes obsessed with being God, a very fine line between being human and the Almighty, putting the science more in the background and putting his fatherly strides first in defeating nature.
The High Fliers Films DVD hit retail shelves in the UK this past Tuesday, January 25th. The disc was a DVD-R review screener and contained just the film so I can’t speak upon or review the bonus material or the film’s quality. However, we’re not totally sold on Billy Senese take on the mad scientist genre, even with a semi-favorable review. The last 15 minutes is intense, tragic, and compelling that the second act needed so desperately to keep interest and to keep the story developing along.
Under the sadistic thumb of their ruthless father, two physically and mentally abused brothers as children follow in their father’s footsteps in adulthood, falsely portraying to be EMT’s in old ambulance 37 and slaughtering those who desperately need medical attention on an infamous and isolated stretch of road. When the brothers’ loving mother becomes the victim of a hit and run by a group of young teens, the brothers’ quest to kill gets personal. Unbeknownst to them as the brothers’ targeted prey, the arrogant and rowdy teens live their complex and immature lives, overflowing with trivial matters such as fast cars, dating, and cosmetic surgeries.
“Old 37” (aka “Ambulance 37” or aka “Death Call”) wrecks before reaching the finish line. Bittersweetly, the story by Paul Travers, written also by Paul Travers and Joe Landes, is an interesting concept of life savers taking lives and, interestingly enough, a similar idea was in the news recently where a supposed unmarked cop cart pulls over young women, but the driver is actually a cunning rapist instead of an actual officer of the law. “Old 37” is essentially art mimicking real life. We feel safe when an emergency civil servant or agent is present or tells us not to worry, as exhibited in “Old 37.” “Don’t worry, I’m a paramedic,” says one of the demented brothers.
“Old 37” greatly has much going for the Three Point Capital funded movie. Three Point Capital has backed many other notable films such as “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “Nightcrawler,” and Kevin Smith’s “Red State.” Partnered up with Joe Dante’s “Burying the Ex’s” post-production company Siren Digital, the two companies had the mucho dinero to sleekly design, which it does, and to hire a moderately formidable cast, which they do. Kane Hodder and Bill Moseley headline, being the pair of horror icons forced to be reckoned with, and slide into the shoes of the two ambulance driving, bloodthirsty brothers, intercepting 911 calls via their scanner for victims. Hodder hasn’t lost that Jason Voorhees gait and menacing body motions and Moseley, without even trying, has the uncanny ability to sinister up an entertaining and terrifying persona. Together on screen, a powerhouse of an unimaginable magnitude as they are, hands down, the highlight of “Old 37.”
With high-end production value and two of probably the most prolific names in horror attached, what could go wrong? Well, the first wrong is “Old 37” is mostly an unfunny teen comedy rather than a horror movie. It’s more “She’s All That,” than “Scream.” It’s more “American Pie,” than “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” It’s more “10 Things I Hate About You,” than…you get the picture. Horror didn’t surface into full eligibility until about the last 20 minutes with the archetypical final girl chase finale and even then was the horror story still underdeveloped. The teen characters’s lives are too complex as they take over the story, including one awkward, self-loathing lead character, Samantha, eager to fit in (even though she does), eager to look beautiful (which she already does), and eager to obtain breast augmentation (though she doesn’t need them). The breast enhancement scenes drastically change the direction of the film, throwing me for a serious loop for various reasons: Samantha gets the okay right away when she asks her mother for new breasts, she gets new breasts in a matter of days, and she isn’t sore or in pain directly after receiving them. Time is an illusion when two the contrasts display Samantha throughout going forward from the entire beginning to end process for new flesh pillows while one of her crude friends gets murdered. Something doesn’t add up.
Special effects guy Pete Gerner and his talented crew do blood spattering justice with the sanguinary written murders and while I feel the brutality and the blood is amongst the film’s aurora, the gooey gory scenes are quickly edited, taking away the time to where we can’t fully appreciate, fully engulf, nor fully digest the “I Sell The Dead” Gerner effects. The final nail in the coffin is director Alan Smithee. If you Google Alan Smithee, results will show that Alan Smithee is a pseudonym used by directors who want to disown a project. Christian Winters removed his name from “Old 37” because he thought his control over the film wasn’t his anymore. And that’s fairly accurate as “Old 37” seems and feels incomplete, much like Rob Schmidt’s 2011 unfinished debacle “Bad Meat,” directed under his pseudonym Lulu Jarmen, and just like “Bad Meat,” “Old 37” has the potential, the substance, and the talent to what could have been a solid horror narrative.
Overall, “Old 37” has the financial backing, has some serious blood that made the cut, has a great soundtrack assortment, and has motherfuckin’ Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder. What the disowned film lacks is a well-written narrative, contains poorly written and idiotic teenage characters, and needs a director with an eye for direction instead of a producer with greedy big pockets. “Old 37,” under the name “Death Call,” will be hitting DVD shelves from UK distributor High Fliers films. If you’re a fan of Hodder and Moseley, but don’t expect a typical horror movie as this film goes through multiple genre transitions and doesn’t settle just on one at any point. There is one delicate scene of Olivia Alexander which I’m sure will be pleasing to any viewer.
Married couple Jennifer and Luke move to Jennifer’s small hometown in Kansas suburbia after an incident with Jennifer’s pregnancy at their city home in Chicago causes concern for the baby from both Luke and Jennifer’s mother Meredith. Feeling not at home and isolated, Jennifer quickly detaches herself from everyone around her, but when spooky occurrences start to slowly reveal in their new home, Jennifer desperately needs her family and friends to eagerly believe that the house is haunted. When everything firmly believes that Jennifer might be suffering from another pregnancy episode like in Chicago, the young woman experiences a psychological horror that drives her into a blurred line of what’s she seeing is either frighteningly real or a nightmarish psychosis.
“The House on Pine Street” is a chilling, effective thriller helmed by twin brothers Aaron and Austin Keeling, who both also co-wrote the film with newcomer Natalie Jones. The Keeling twins, along with numerous short film cinematographer Juan Sebastian Baron, were able to capture alluring framing and uncomfortable camera angles, consisting of the use of medium and close up shots, that suit the film’s unsettling and haunting nature. The poetic beauty of the vibrant exterior contrasted with the bleak and rundown features inside the Luke and Jennifer’s home tell the harrowing story of where the dread begins and lingers to languish and the brothers were really able to set the entire pace of the film, prolonging out the story’s suspense, and able to create an engaging tale within about a two month time spatial difference and have it laid out logically.
Aside from the obviously talented crew, the phenomenal cast ranks this lesser known 2015 ghost film near the top. Emily Goss embodies Jennifer’s loneliness and fear through the subjection of constant ghastly occurrences. Whereas Jennifer’s husband Luke played by Taylor Bottles, even with the slick and enduring hipster hairdo, feeds off Goss’s non compos mentis situation, making the character Jennifer drown in darkness without any compassion. Personally, Jim Korinke captured my favorite performance as the neighborly quasi medium. With no acting credit to his name, Korinke’s ability to keep up and maintain with a younger, more experienced acting talent is beyond remarkable on screen and fun to watch.
Much like the film’s generic title, the story is simplistic; however, the story is without a mind blowing twist which most of Hollywood gets off on. “The House on Pine Street” speaks in underlining messages. The motif of energy keeps reoccurring throughout much of the plot, sparking the conversation that negative or positive energy will be the inevitable karma influence. If a person emits negative energy, bad juju will be the result and visa versa. While the story hovers around Jennifer’s locus, her negative, pessimistic attitude contributes to the tribulations toward other characters. The Keelings were able to subtly convey the energy message without being blatant and expositive.
“The House on Pine Street” works and works well regardless of the overused and lackluster title that has become more repetitive and an unfortunate eyesore to those scouring the retail racks, looking for an engaging thriller, but the Keeling duo are a pair of cinema prodigy twins, who with the right cast and crew can take a smaller project, like this, and polish it into gold. Second Sight distribution is set to release this spin-chilling “The House on Pine Street” thriller onto DVD home video in the UK on February 1st. Just in case you’re not completely sold, take it from me that goosebumps will occupy every inch if your chilled flesh when watching in the dark and the light.