Abbey Bell is extremely worried about her teenage son, Jacob. Worried that Jacob, an intelligent boy with good grades and is a social magnet, is plotting a mass shooting at his school. After countless preemptive attempts to warn authorities and medical professionals of her suspicions of his psychopathic tendencies, Abbey begins recording a diary and setting up spy cameras inside the family home hoping to catch Jacob’s unpredictable and dangerous suggestions and threats on tape. The videos will also serve as blog fodder for other desperate mothers experiencing similar disturbing behavioral issues with their children. As the single mother and her son continue their at home war of bickering words and distraught suspicions, the maternal bond once shared between mother and son begins to deteriorate and evolve into unsurmountable distrust between each other; a distrust that has been simmering ever since Jacob was a toddler stemmed by Abbey’s dark family secret sheathed for many years until Jacob weaponizes it for his utmost survival against his concerned mother.
Before the coronavirus pandemic transformed powerful sovereign nations into panic-induced introverts wetting their pants at the first spray of a sneeze hitting their skin, news medias around the globe delectably ate up headlines of mass shootings as there would seem, at least for a good stretch, to be a sad and unfortunate mass shooting every single day. Tucia Lyman’s “M.O.M. Mother of Monsters” derives from that fearful climate while also purposing another sub-topical issue of a parent’s position in that circumstance. Lyman tackles one fictional woman’s tale of internal turmoil as her directorial debut and the sophomore script of a feature film not in a documentary format, pivoting away from the “Untold Stories of the ER” and “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” junk food that consumes about 2/3’s of television comatose Americans. The “found footage” 2020 released psychological thriller is produced by Elain White and Austin Porter whom both have collaborated with Lyman in the past.
While not as sexily depicted and as authoritative as Emilia Clarke is depicted to be the Mother of Dragons in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” New York City born Melinda Page Hamilton can surely sell a mother of a monster as Abbey Bell, vending sharply laid out doubts and uncertainties with a mountain of convincing circumstantial evidence against her only child. The “Not Forgotten” actress quietly folds into herself as the submissively passive Abbey on a histrionics mission to out her son as a danger to society. Bailey Edwards commands a subversive and rebellious teenage Jacob Bell that can use his millennial powers to steamroll over his mother’s lack-of-assertive powers. This film will be Bailey’s first substantial co-staring venture, along with minor performances in “My Dead Boyfriend” starring Heather Graham and Netflix’s “Bright” with Will Smith, and who will subtly introduce Jacob as some white nationalist, gun enthusiasts who has a gas mask with a swastika insignia, first person shooter gear and video games, and scenes of him walking in front of gun shops. While Hamilton and Edwards dominate the majority of screen time, the short cast list rounds out with Janet Ulrich Brooks, Julian de la Celle, and a special appearance from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s” Ed Asner as a behavioral doctor Skyping perspective therapy with Abbey. Does anyone believe a 91-year-old knows how to use a video chat? It’s a bit of a stretch….
“M.O.M. Mother of Monsters” throws caution to the wind embarking on a viewpoint of how far a mother will go to expose her child’s dissident and, potentially, deadly behavior. Lyman also digs deeper into the psyche of the mother and the child, sticking them with a ticking time bomb that is the heredity factor. Mental illness is a huge underlined theme that Lyman slips into the fold as signs of one person’s erratic behavior can be stemmed from the secrets of little known relatives and their seemingly destined out of control path can no way be influenced externally without reserving counseling, extenuating the age-old debate of nurture versus nature. Lyman’s storytelling smartly preserves an obscured aspect, cloaked by selective denial and tremendous paranoia, that becomes a catalyzing game changer of disturbing consequences. The narrative isn’t at all flawless with weak spots in the character structure that pigeonhole the roles to be stuck inside this cat and mouse cycling mindset between Abbey and Jacob. For instance, Abbey’s an obsessive, 24-hour recording zealot whose documenting never reveals anything else happening in Abbeys life, like work, friends, etc., whereas Jacob’s intermixed recordings with a female friend outside the contentious home reveal a life beyond his skirmish with this mother and his videogame shut-in habitat, but these recordings stick out awkwardly as much of the story’s is from Abbey’s perspective so how did Jacob’s casual conversation videography become a part of Abbey’s cautionary tale for other distraught mothers? Whether intentional or not to exhibit the imbalanced social complexities between Jacob and Abbey’s personal lives or lack thereof, Jacob’s exterior scenes course out of bounds, penalizing portions of the plot.
Become submersed in dark thoughts and monomania with Tucia Lyman’s “M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters” hitting the digital HD VOD platforms soon after premiering at the Los Angeles Arena Cinelounge this past Friday the 13th through Indie Rights distribution. Since this is a theatrical and VOD title, there is no home video release to provide technical specs and assessments; this also includes no special features. “M.O.M. Mothers of Monsters” hammers down the sociopolitical hot topics of mental illness, gun violence, and presumptive fear teeming in America with a spitting image and climate aware psychological thriller bristled with family dysfunction.
After squandering a shady investment group’s money, a struggling filmmaker stages a last attempt effort in writing and directing an all-out and profitable horror movie. Isolated on a stretch of private land sits a house which his movie will be set. The director installs camera monitors, archaic printers in each room, and fashions a room for himself in the confining attic space, turning the house into a platform for five young actors to perform at his instructional, omnipotent influence without having to ever personally interact with the actors, a group he strongly loathes. His despise for actors and the financial pickle he finds himself in with shark investors places him at the centerpiece of his slasher film as the masked killer. With the stage set and the actors all in place, the directing maestro helms unsuspecting actors to their violent deaths in the name of art, self-preservation, and actor genocide.
As a film that turns the slasher mythology on its head, G. Patrick Condon’s “Incredible Violence” is a serrated vision of bleak, dark comedy too sharp to really fully digest and that’s okay. Filmed in Canada of 2018 and released this year on SVOD from The Hunting Party Inc., production studio, “Incredible Violence” strays away from the young, naive victims points of perspective and opens the path up for a nihilistic killer to control the narrative around his desperate motives. Though having complete control over most of the factors and planning ahead of time, “Incredible Violence,” as a partial comedy, folds miscreant mishaps and caricatured flaws on top of, indeed, incredible violence and while that vehemence is focused primarily on actors as a while, a good portion pivots and breaks down even further to the individual level that can be personal and can be insensitive for women who have to best themselves, sometimes together and sometimes separately, against two different antagonistic foes of the opposite sex.
The largely based Canadian cast begins with Stephen Oates playing the hack director and self-imposed killer, named after director G. Patrick Condon, of the titular film and though that might seem egotistical of the Condon, enough humiliation smothers the self-assuring and struggling character to the point of utter satire with even going as far as poking fun at his last name in a brief quip of dialogue. Oates, who has starred alongside Jason Mamoa on the historical Canadian action Netflix series, “Frontier,” is an intriguingly no-shame filmmaker who hustles together a plan schemed to save his life. Sporting a wife beater, long fur coat, and an unadorned mask, Oates exhibits Condon perfectly as a hack artist in filmmaking and in being a badass serial killer. Then there’s Grace, the lead character bound for stardom as an untrained actor taking a role in, what she considers, a performance art film and naively goes into the project with such gusto that she blatantly ignores all warning flags from the beginning, a role very well suited by the striking eyes of M.J. Kehler. Grace endures shots left and right, from friends and foes alike, as a hopeful artist, but like “Incredible Violence” shows, a true inclination comes out of people when push comes to shove and Grace, through Kahler’s physical bombarding of a final girl trope, doesn’t need acting school or any other doubters to trump her will, passion, and ferocity. One scene to note is between Foster, Kahler, and Kimberly Drake and Kahler’s Grace is just stricken by fear over being ask to kill someone, she’s screaming and is essentially rooted to her spot. The moment is grippy and terrible empathetic to know that true fear does freeze one’s fundamental functions of survival and of morality. “Incredible Violence” co-stars Michael Wotherman, Kimberly Drake, Erin Mick, Meghan Hancock, and Allison Moira Kelly.
“Incredible Violence” bursts with a talented cast with deserving of a curtain call performances and lives up to the title with incredible, if not whole heartily gratuitous, violence and some brief macabre nudity, but Condon’s story has a lot of zeal that doesn’t properly switch tracks when characters break under their obscure tormentor’s direction. Condon, the director, builds the tension more through the repetition of violence with a slight tweak every time rather than crafting a breaking point, a catalyst that dissembles sanity and refigures patchwork insanity, making characters alliances difficult to place that ultimately crumbles the dynamics into just a bunch of people beating each other to a pulp. The same kind pivoting told differently can be said about the strange, public television show Celebrity Autopsy paralleling as intra-story that often feels disconnected to Oates and his film. I guess with a film entitled “Incredible Violence,” a substance merit to the narrative would be a long shot, but as an exploitive, self-described meta-horror centerpiece, “Incredible Violence” is made up of all sorts of gut-checking goodness with torture, madness, and cynicism helmed by sadism without the presence of slasher-esque, blank evil.
1091 Films, in partnership with G. Patrick Condon’s The Hunting Party Inc., presents “Incredible Violence” that runs 89 minutes onto a plethora of media streaming platforms, such as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu, and on-demand cable services. Unfortunately, “Incredible Violence” is a streaming only feature so image and audio qualities will vary across streaming devices. There were also no bonus material or special features present, but as an extra tidbit about production, the film took approx. 2 years to complete with the unpleasant misfortunate of one of the original cast members passed away during rehearsal. This forced the script to be re-written, delayed, and ultimately triggered G. Patrick Condon to write himself, as a character, into the script. Futhurmore, the cast and crew had agreed to stay in the house set location until filming wrapped which resulted in some actual anxiety and stress to spill out into the performances. Contextually sound in the confines of violence, “Incredible Violence” finds footing staggering abroad the cascading carnage of horror-comedy with a single character arch involving making it big in the acting world only to just make it out alive and in one piece of this film.
From being stuck in stand still Floridian hurricane traffic to waking up in a hospital without any recollection of how she got there, Amy Barrett finds herself in a seemingly evacuated sanitarium on the verge of being hit by a category 5 hurricane. When she finally makes contact with the limited hospital staff, Amy discovers that the staff are not in the position to help, but desire to perform unnecessary surgeries. Then, she finds herself in traffic again. Then, she wakes up in hospital…again. Amy, and other patients, find themselves trapped in a nightmare loop forged by the powers of the massive hurricane. Before the storm passes over, Amy must find a way to end the corkscrew of timelines that propel her limbo hell or else she will be trapped in the hospital forever.
To the O.R. stat! From writer-director Christopher Lawrence Chapman comes “Inoperable,” the horror equivalent to Bill Murray’s exceptional dark comedy “Groundhog Day.” As Chapman’s sophomore directorial, first in the realm of horror, the director takes “Inoperable” to rebrand the quantum paradoxical plight by introducing a medical butchers with hours upon hours, days upon days, years upon years of experience with exploratory surgery and ghastly invasion procedures. Behind the wormhole of terror script with Chapman is co-writer, the b-horror screenwriter, Jeff Miller whose extensive credits include “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” and “Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove.” In this go-around, Miller explores the space-time-continuum, or does he, with Amy reliving the same moment, experienced slightly differently, in an endless loop of grisliness.
Starring in “Inoperable” is the “Halloween’s” franchise third favorite star, behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleseance, being Danielle Harris (“Halloween 4,” “Halloween 5,” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” remakes). Harris keeps and maintains the tension, supplementing an increasing annoying and frustrating tone with each and every reset, and does superbly in extended takes running through the hospital’s dark corridors. Amy’s center storied character really puts Harris to work on her ability to flex in sequentially illogical scenes that go in various tangents and come to a dead halt in the end, flipping the script that forces the modern day scream queen to relive some of those killer “Halloween” moments. Harris is accompanied by Katie Keene and Jeff Denton, both whom worked with Chapman previously on the clownsploitation slasher “ClownTown.” Keene and Denton’s characters are also caught up in the same situation as a Denton plays a beefy good looking cop named Ryan who brings in a witness, Keene’s JenArdsen, a dolled up blonde who while in his custody, to the hospital following a multi-vehicle pile up; the very exact incident Amy in which Amy was involved. The two fall for each other more and more with each and every restart and that pain coldly passes over when to bare witness to each other’s demise over and over again is disturbingly twisted. Rounding out the cast is Chris Hahn “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan”), Cher Hubsher (“The Amityville Terror”), Michelle Marin (“Bloody 27”), Philip Schene, and Crystal Cordero.
The trio of resetters formulate a wildly speculated theory that a nearby military compound, experimenting in spatial physics, was ravaged by the hurricane that oozed out their experiments that disrupted timelines, affecting this particular hospital, and the only way to escape the madness is by displacing the same energy that was put into it; so for example, since Ryan and JenArdsen arrived together, they would have to escape together. As long as Amy doesn’t die, every trapped soul is eligible for escape. Wait, what? Like aforementioned, Amy is the centerpiece to the puzzle and the whole entire situation actually revolves around Amy, intentional or not. Even though clues try to put a monkey wrench in that notion, the story always seems to revert back to Amy much like the loop she’s caught in. That in itself is the biggest hint of all that funnels to a underwhelming ending in null and voids the rest of the story.
ITN Distribution presents “Inoperable” onto DVD and VOD. The DVD is presented in a widescreen to “preserve the aspect ratio of its original exhibition” and, yes, this was done so. Nothing too particularly to note about the image quality being a modern release, but the color palette is balanced and vivid. The English language 5.1 Dolby Digital track has some good range and clear dialogue that effective communicate all theories and explanations on why this is happen to Amy, Ryan, and JenArdsen. Extras are slim that include a cast and crew commentary and the theatrical trailer. The Zorya Films and Millman Productions’ “Inoperable” is open heart surgery gory and is unique in a deadfall environment that’s sublimely refreshing for the over saturated genre, but culminates flaccidly with a conventional finale too predictable for comfort.
Just off the rough stormy shores of Nova Scotia is a remote island where American Tom Doherty becomes the newly hired lighthouse caretaker in search for good money. Already overwhelmingly cloaked with the lighthouse’s creepy adjacent housing and being forewarned by the island’s infamous legends, an isolated Tom experiences the abilities of dark force first hand and doesn’t know whether the forces are real or madness has swallowed him from the extreme isolation. As Tom continues the work, he discovers clues along the way that suggest the island holds a nefarious past involving murder, suicide, and cannibalism, but an old bible with a list of names is the key that has the potential to unlock all the island’s mysterious doors and can also be Tom’s unfortunate undoing if he maintains being the lighthouse caretaker.
Based off the Angela Townsend book with the same title, “The Forlorned” is the 2017 silver screen adaptation of Townsend’s mystery-thriller from “Dead Noon” director Andrew Wiest who has helmed a jolting, supernaturally visual and auditory accompaniment to Townsend’s literary work. To maintain authenticity, Townsend co-wrote a script alongside Wiest and Ryan Reed that’s riddle with an ill-omened story leading audiences down a path of insanity-ladened darkness. But what exactly is “The Forlorned?” Forlorn has two definitions: 1) pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely 2) unlikely to succeed; hopelessness. Either of the disparaging definitions, if not both, can be used to described “The Forlorned’s” eerily gloomy story that’s saturated in a motif of burdensome loneliness and relentlessly bashes the concept into our heads in a constant reminder that no one can ever escape the island even in postmortem. The character Tom is the very definition of the forlorned. Whether because of due diligence or a dark force, his role of caretaker is a permanent position allotted to him unwillingly by a sadistic, secret-keeping demon that seeks to swallow more unfortunate souls.
Colton Christensen inarguably shapes the role of Tom Doherty into his own with a solid solitary performance for more than half the film. Christensen also, for much of the last ten minutes of the story, had to systematically break away from his character in order to forge a combative persona to Tom and while Christensen does the job well for one character, shouldering a second didn’t suite the actor’s abilities despite a total embrace of character and a few jabs at his own humility. Wiest has worked with Christensen prior to “The Forlorned” and has seemed to continue the trend of using his own entourage of actors with the casting of Elizabeth Mouton (also from “Dead Noon”). Mouton’s character is briefly mentioned near the beginning as a little girl of a previous caretaker, but her adult version only makes the scene in the latter portion of the story to provide a better clarification and exposition into the demon’s background. Also serving exposition as story bookends and peppered through as emotional support is Cory Dangerfield’s “Murphy,” a sea-salty old bar owner who liaisons with the lighthouse committee and can make a mean clam chowder. Murphy hires Tom to do the restoration and caretaker work and while Murphy initiates Tom existence into the fold, Murphy, for the rest of the film, serves as slight comic relief and, in a bit of disappointment, an unfortunate waste of a character. I also wanted Benjamin Gray, Shawn Nottingham’s priest character, to be built upon and expanded more because the character is a key portion that, in the end, felt rushed with quick, messy brush strokes in order to finish painting the picture.
At first glance, Townsend, Wiest, and Reed’s script screens like a typical, if not slightly above par level, haunting where Tom encounters sportive spirits, ghastly visions, and a slew of ominous noises inside a time-honored lighthouse home, but then a twist is written into play, pitting Tom against a masterminding demon whose conquered many other bygone caretakers and whose the epicenter of all that is sinisterly wrong with the island. The demon, who has taken the form of a man hungry hog, lives only vicariously through the camera’s point of view, never bestowing an appearance upon to Tom or even the audience, but referenced numerous times by island locals and boisterously given hog attributes whenever the demon is near. The concept fascinates with this demon-hog thing kept stowed away deep inside the isle’s bedrock even if the dark entity never makes a materializing appearance, but where that aspect thrives in “The Forlorned,” a pancake thin backstory for the demon goes simply construed with a slapped together account of its languished two-century long past and wilts the demonic character wastefully down with backdropped uncertainly, powerlessness, and puzzlement that’s forlornly misfired. There’s no deal with the devil, no selling of the soul, no medieval rite that gives the demon-hog it’s power; it just turns into an evil spirit out of greed.
Andrew Wiest’s production company, Good Outlaw Studios, presents “The Forlorned” that found a distribution home in Midnight Releasing, the fine folks who released “Blood Punch” and “WTF!” “The Forlorned” is available on DVD and multiple VOD formats such as iTunes, Vimeo, Vudu, Xbox Video, and Google Play. Since a screener was used for this critique, a full review rundown of the technical specs will not be provided and no bonus materials were featured on the disc. Director Andrew Wiest and his cast and crew entourage are able bodied participants in assembling a good, entertaining, and sufficient indie mystery-thriller brought to fruition out of Angela Townsend’s story with the author’s pen ship assistance. With a little tweak here and there on the antagonistic demon-hog, “The Forlorned” might have necessarily escalated into a richly dark territory of a more volatile, blood thirsty spirit that’s scribed to have racked up body after body, century after century; however, the fleeting chronicle of how the demon-hog came to be a malevolent being leaves a bittersweet aftertaste on a premise that started out spooky and strong.
Maisy and her socially reclusive brother, Bo, venture on a mountain getaway trip with Maisy’s former college friends. With Bo documenting with a handheld video camera as part of his way in comforting his anxiety, he captures the dynamic of how each of Maisy’s friends have changed over years, especially with Asher and his recently High School graduated girlfriend, Pam. After breaking down on the side of the road, falling behind the rest of the caravan, they encounter a strange man with an axe, harshly warning them to not continue up the mountain pass. Shrugging of the warning and returning to their now working vehicle, the group resumes their drive, but makes a wrong turn and becomes lost in the mountains’ thicket of the Sierra Nevada. They decide to setup camp for the night and continue their way back the next morning, but the discovery an ominous, skull-riddled altar in the woods unleashes a frightening presence that won’t allow them to leave. As tensions rise and night falls, Bo keeps his camera running as a soul inhabiting evil has fallen upon them that seeks to destroy them one-by-one.
“Altar” is the 2016 found footage horror from writer-director Matthew Sconce. Sconce is actually able to harness a fraction of the mysticism and presence that made the found footage genre a thing back in 1999 with the ground breaking flick “The Blair Witch Project” and does a well enough job implementing it into his very own version of an allusive satanic cult ghoul, but with more specials effects and screen time. Despite being titled “Altar,” the story barely wraps itself around the titular object with only a handful of brief scenes, one of the scenes being the thinly-connected introduction that intensely catches the attention, while mostly focusing on the friends’ road trip chatter, breathtaking scenic gasps, and becoming lost on the mountain without much peril in-between. Even the creature, whom makes the scene approximately the last 10 minutes, has more of a presence than the altar itself.
The plot follows around Maisy Marks and her Aspergers labeled brother, Bo Marks, played by Stefanie Estes and Jesse Parr who pull off the socially awkward brother and the cutesy overprotective sister well enough to pass muster. Maisy’s other “beau” is Ravi, played by Deep Rai, and along for the ride as well is muscle head Asher, Tim Parrish, and his ditzy, teenage girlfriend, Pam, played by Jessica Strand. Rounding off the group is Chelsea, a communications graduate who could only find work as a bartender who seems to be stuck in life, and she’s catered to by Brittany Falardeau. Michael Wainwright, Tina Johnson, Master Dave Johnson, and Catherine Wilcox make up the rest of the cast. As a whole, the acting wasn’t terrible even if the script was conventionally kitschy and with a group of young actors, I’m fairly encouraged to see more of their work.
However, acting is only a third of the battle when critiquing a film and “Altar” has falters more in it’s own story and script that’s peppered with cliche after cliche. The scenes leading up to the mayhem constantly hyped that something bad is going to happen; Bo finds an online article of two newlyweds missing for six months (part of the introduction), characters kept comparing their scenarios like horror films, or a daunting man, named Ripper, sternly warns them with a very large axe in his hand. Moments like these try to build tension, but when overtly and grossly laid out for views, sustaining the substance behind them is lost and waters down the effect toward campy foreshadowing. Special effects weren’t overly cinematic nor where they similar to video nasties and kept simple, much like “The Blair Witch Project, with a little more padding to them. The Evil Spirit, as it’s credited in the film and portrayed by Nicole Osborne, is a black and white nightmare that’s effective on camera; slightly cheesy with a hint of gooeyness, but edited in nice and sporadically for those eye-clenching jump scares.
Production company Movie Hero Studios partners with Distribber for a VOD nationwide release of Matthew Sconce’s “Altar,” including platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, PlayStation Network, and on Hulu. A DVD-R screener was provided and so commenting on video and audio quality will not be critiqued and there were no extras on the reviewed disc. “Altar” is, disappointingly, just another found footage casualty with hasty slivers of hope of not falling into the muck that has become an over-tapped genre. What Sconce has done with “Altar” makes the film enjoyable enough for a single viewing with little-to-no repeat value as everything lays out in the open and the only subtly in the entire film is the altar itself.