On the campus of Williamsburg University in 2006, a popular fraternity house holds an upscale house party, filled with the most beautiful students dressed in formal wear, liquored with martinis and gin and tonics, and customized to fit the luxurious lifestyle the men of fraternal brotherhood. When the fraternity president Christian Roane conducts a round around to greet guests, he catches glimpse of Sarah Stein, a coed being a good sport by giving into her friends’ urges to party greek. Christian’s unhealthy obsession with Sarah starts innocent enough, but when Sarah doesn’t take that step toward sharing the same affection, Christian’s control goes into self destruction that not only threatens Sarah, but also threatens to unearth the true and ghastly nature of the brotherhood and the brothers aim to lockdown their secret by any means necessary.
“Somebody’s Darling” is the 2016, independent drama horror from the multi-faceted filmmaker, writer-director Sharad Kant Patel, churned out from a story by Sebastian Mathews. In his directorial debut, Patel, known more for his short film work, heedfully courses through detail and treads lightly on the coattails of a sensitive social issue. His film skirts on the subject of rape culture in the American college and university setting while also touching upon sexuality complexities and severe anguish in today’s youth. Basically, “Somebody’s Darling” is a higher education dissertation on the experiences of collegiate life with a horror twist and all the along the way, Patel slowly paints Christian and his brotherhood onto a canvas of ambivalent malevolence by deconstructing Christian to quickly reconstruct him in a ravaging roundabout. Patel throughout leaves a bread crumb trail of clues that don’t make sense at first, that might lead to other conclusions, and that doesn’t explicitly genre “Somebody’s Darling” as a horror.
Christian is the film’s central focus and with a dark and brooding character, a dark and brooding soul must ride parallel and Paul Galvan intently delivers a cryptic persona. Peppered erratic is Christian obsession Sarah Stein, a run-of-the-mill coed playing darlingly enough by Jessa Settle. Then there’s the brotherhood, whom are begrudgingly split on how to action Christian’s off course fixation, consisting of a youthful lineup of white, stuck-up preppy frat boys with an actor list to match including Fred Parker Jr., “Spirit Camp’s” Matt Tramel, and Mike Kiely. Sarah also has an entourage but not as prominent and, to be honest, the brotherhood weren’t just a hair more involved, but Kristen Tucker and Cathy Baron (“The Lights”), who play Madison and Riley, hit the stereotypical college coed right on the head as the two look to score big when scouring their hot boy wardrobe and provide unnatural sexual banter toward their goody-two-shoes friend, Sarah.
“Somebody’s Darling’s” independent genetic makeup doesn’t hide under a flashy production, but presuming an indie dramatic horror that’s more bark than bite isn’t worth wild should is the incorrect assumption as the climatic end will be attention catching. Granted, the dialogue’s overdrawn breathiness can bog down a regular popcorn viewer and turn away heads that have a disdain for immense screenplay scripture, but to comprehend the whole story and to become invested in the characters, being a viewer from start to finish won’t go in vain. Patel personal investemnt extends to much more than spitfire directions and scribing with a hand in producing, composing, editor, and digital effects with the latter being used sparsely to convey the Christian’s internal aspirations and quondam self. When effects do come into the real word, a practical, lifelike approach is taken and that intensifies the horror tenfold.
Distribber released Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” onto various streaming platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu on December 1st. I was provided a screener disc and can’t focus on or comment too much on the details of image or sound quality, but the disc did provide bonus material including the making of the score and behind-the-scenes in creating the dream sequence. Sharad Kant Patel’s “Somebody’s Darling” has an edgy appeal that draws you in like an unsuspecting moth to an alluring light and then zaps a fatal shock right into the nervous system as soon as the undertones are evidently a metaphor for something far more sinister.
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.
Four dark and terrifying tapes tell tales of a petrifying horror through the camera lens of various found footage assets. Whether between the bleak, grim nature of disturbed mankind or the ominous, otherworldliness of menacing creatures, each story’s ultimate objective is to expose what lies behind the scenes, to shine a light upon what lives shrouded in shadows, and to unearth what lurks in the mind’s subconscious. At first glance, the dark tapes might seem uncorrelated, but at closer examination, the tapes share a deep rooted evil that connects every afflicted recorded event and makes one think twice about their perception on reality.
“The Dark Tapes” are a formidable found footage anthology that resembles a familiar “V/H/S” layout under the meticulously constructed eyes of co-directors Michael McQuown and special effects guru Vincent Guastini (Child’s Play 3). Scripted by the anthology creator, Michael McQuown, “The Dark Tapes'” four interlocking episodes will leave inside you a paralyzing case of nyctophobia as the genre-spliced anthology has no shortage of bone-chilling creepiness; in fact, “The Dark Tapes” epitomizes the very term and with an alternate universe mixture of ghastly ghouls, ghosts, and grisliness, the extremely exhausted found footage genre might have discovered some new, and much needed, life before being on the brink of a near death extinction in this quaint independent production from Michael McQuown.
The three internal tapes, directed by McQuown, are entitled, and in this order, “The Hunters and The Hunted,” “Cam Girls,” and “Amanda’s Revenge” with Vincent Guastini’s external wrap around segment, “How to Catch a Demon,” being broken into four parts between each tape and each tape should be viewed in complete and utter darkness to achieve maximum level of pants-pissing fright. Your overworked heart will skip with long deadly pauses in between, your lungs that keep you breathing will cease to provide breath, and your mind will warp to unfavorably play tricks on your eyes from an unrivaled nightmare witnessed on “The Dark Tapes.” The full body-stopping, comatose-inducing effect can’t be accomplished without the collaborating cast that includes Brittany Underwood, Tess Munro, Stephen Zimpel, Meredith Thomas, David Roundtree, “Sushia Girl’s” Cortney Palm, Anna Rose Moore, Shawn Lockie, Jo Galloway, and Michael Cotter to just name a few.
Much is right about Michael McQuown’s “The Dark Tapes.” Always welcoming practical effects are better than most indie ran features, especially in the anthology category, and the effects can best some lower-end Hollywood productions inside eye-glueing, on the edge of your seat narrative designs that are smart, gripping, and definitely heart-stopping scary, but to be somewhat of a devil’s advocate, the acting was overall a bit stiff across the plane with an awkward uneasiness in the vary of lackluster performances and overzealous deliveries that petered scenes from reaching full potentials. Production wise, “The Dark Tapes” impress inside the sets of bland reoccurring locations, but coincide them with a vast amount of timely, well placed special effects that quickly mutate the stark locations and the uninteresting backdrops turn into vivid portraits of hell.
The Thunder Road Incorporated produced, “The Dark Tapes,” has been slated for a worldwide video on demand distribution release come this mid-April after a theatrical stint this past March courtesy of the Epic Pictures Group. VOD platforms include Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo. Unfortunately, I was provided with an online screener of the festival favorite and can’t necessarily comment on the video or audio qualities nor any bonus features that might be available on a home entertainment release, but I can firmly state that, visually, “The Dark Tapes” is the Haribo of horror eye-candy with the different flavors of thrilling genres in a pint-sized package and while a little tame with the cherry red graphic content, director Michael McQuown seizes the opportunity to instill an open faucet of fear rather than tease with gore and sleaze with sex. If I had to recommend a horror anthology for 2017, “The Dark Tapes” would be on the very short list.
Friday night, A stranger breaks into the home of Tom and Alison. After tying up and torturing Tom, leaving him in the bathtub, he reveals a weekend long scheme that involves convincing Alison to genuinely want him by Monday morning. The stranger’s psychological game slowly breaks down Alison’s perception of her relationship with her husband through consequential threats toward a battered Tom, survival obedience, relationship morals, and untapped desires while Alison desperately attempts to squeeze away her captor’s maniacal grasp any way possible. With Alison’s husband undergoing continuous abuse throughout the weekend, the stranger persistently exhibits various versions of being the perfect husband to appease Alison’s preference in a partner, a striking contrast that begins the spiraling doubts about Tom and the life to which she’s submitting to with him.
The director who gave audiences a reason to believe in their zany childhood imaginary friend in “Drop Dead Fred” and who drove viewers through the depths of Satan’s domain on the epic retrieval of love journey that was “Highway to Hell” has resurfaced. Director Ate de Jong’s 2014 film has found a home for his British exploitation thriller eloquently entitled “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey.” at the Philadelphian based home entertainment distributor Artsploitation Films. An intense eye-opening experience that makes couples’ therapy a cut rate rekindling process, the “Deadly Virtues” story comes from the talented, yet relatively unknown, drafter Mark Rogers whose characters contribute a fierce and engaging potency.
Characters can be written from head to toe with gargantuan electricity, but it takes the actors and actress portraying the characters to actually flip their switches on, vividly toggling their characters to shine. Edward Akrout’s puts forth a dangerously sophisticated Stranger excellently defining the term acting. Every unique touch of the binding rope used on Tom and Alison, every calculated sinister action taken against Tom, and every apt expression emits just enough information to state the Stranger’s purpose without spoiling the character’s mysterious motivations. Akrout is joined by American actress Megan Maczko with a selfless performance that pits her character Alison in a cat-and-game mouse against the Akrout’s Stranger. There are bits of unwanted sexual activity and nudity and role playing BDSM that might mistakenly place Jong’s film in the incorrect genre; instead, Akrout, Maczko, and, even Matt Barber as Tom, acutely pivots the subject matter, even with the provocative nude and bound woman graced film poster.
Not all is copacetic with “Deadly Virtues.” Some of the pacing slows down a bit where the motivation feels arguably aimless as Alison quickly becomes content and comfortable with a man who just softly raided their home and violently turned their lives upside down. Also, as a matter of character, Tom needed fine sprucing from being painfully forceful with how the character critically needed to know, to ultimately compute, trivial information at the most inappropriate moments. The story itself might have forced Tom’s inadequacies and insecurity issues to completely tell the story within the total 97 minute runtime, but in the end, the finale loses that little something something to put the final nail into an already furbished piece of work by director Ate de Jong.
Artsploitation Films’ latest release, “Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey,” surfaces deep rooted marital issues in an extreme, hostile manner, bringing to the forefront the versus struggle of adapting or fighting back, and also touches upon the beauty of the overlooked. The film’s poster, which I already remarked upon having some minor nudity, accentuates a woman’s other pleasant bodily features including the small of her back, her long neck, and her protruding deltas which Akourt’s portrayal of the Stranger similarly remarks briefly upon when more pigheaded men not noticing, or appreciating, other, less obvious, parts of women. I’m sure for most viewers, gazing at Megan Maczko strung up and suspended in an inviting position can stimulate a lot of interest. “Deadly Virtues” is currently only exclusively available in United States via VOD formats, such as Amazon, Vimeo, and GooglePlay, courtesy of Artsploitation Films.
Newly hired UCLA astronomy professor James Pond becomes mixed up with peculiar behaving individuals when his car breaks down in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Held hostage in a small house, James reluctantly follows orders from an automaton man named Gilligan involved with a unusual plan for James to reproduce with the lovely Mary Ann. James’ ensnarement feel like a gag at first until he awakes bound to a bed and strapped with a shock collar; the once thought innocent fling with Mary Ann has taken a turn for the worse when he the realization that the whole human race could be in jeopardy. James becomes captivated by Mary Ann’s innocence, naivety, and beauty making his attempts to escape more difficult without her, but if he decides to stay, a ominous question mark will determine his fate.
“Flytrap” is a micro sci-fi thriller production written-directed by 1995’s “The Mangler” screenwriter Stephen David Brooks and stars television series “Salem” Jeremy Crutchley as Jimmy Pond, Austrian born Ina-Alice Kopp as Mary Ann in ambivalence, and Jonah Blechman as the emotionless Gilligan. From the get-go, “Flytrap” slowly builds a momentum, but never really gains the full steam while revolving around Jimmy Pond’s detainee state. Ambiguity plagues the story with many unanswered questions, leaving more for the audiences’ imagination rather than to the exposition and that begs the question whether everything that did happen to the astronomer happened in reality or in just in his mind? For example, the voice in the air condition duct stays anonymous until, maybe or maybe not, the end and, perhaps instead, that was all just Jimmy’s subconscious informing him of his rational side opposed to what his heart desires such as, for instance, Mary Ann is not who she seems. Is Jimmy that much wrapped up in his paranoia?
If you didn’t notice from the film’s synopsis, references from “Gilligan’s Island” are abundantly staged throughout, especially with the character names. Jason Duplissea has a minor role as the Skipper for only a brief moment and we never see Duplissea grace the screen with his presence again. Besides, Duplissea didn’t resemble his television show namesake as the others. Other pop culture references, such as Alfred Hitchcock, MTV’s Punk’d, and various others, are mentioned but the conveying of these felt as if the film didn’t have a single original thought starting with their characters, especially with the hip English astronomer and his vast knowledge of American and British pop culture. Yes, Jimmy Pond was struggling to humanize his captors, who supposedly hail from the planet Venus, with bad dancing, some romance, and an unquenchable yearning to be free, but the intention comes across technically clunky, delivered with no substantial soul. Other technicalities fair far better with great lighting to create an inauspicious atmosphere. Combine that with some solid performances from Jeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, and a frightening mechanical Jonah Blechman and the situation turns hopelessly weird.
Aside from Jason Duplissea making little less than a cameo, other characters quickly pop in and pop out of the story. Billy “Sly” Williams involvement lacked girth when his character Rondell sits rather very patiently through the weekend, waiting for Jimmy to call or pickup his cell. There’s no motivation other than sit and wait and call the police where the inept police department uses a machine instructs to leave a message of a crime being committed. When Rondell finally has the opportunity to do big things in order to assist Jimmy, another moment is zapped away without a trace. Like Williams, Jonathan Erickson Eisley’s Azarias had a brief scene shunted even more quickly away once introduced chained tightly bound in the house’s basement and at that precise moment, a window of opportunity cracks open to help clear up the baffling enigmas giving much puzzlement to Venus’s plan to take over or destroy mankind. Given his incarceration, we can assume Azarias is Jimmy’s equal, a previous captive with a failed outcome. Omit Williams and Eisley roles and the Brooks’s film prospers into comprehension that much more.
“Flytrap” is a festival winner – “Best Non-European Indie Feature at the European Independent Film Festival in France, Best Low Budget Feature at Worldfest Houston, Special Jury Prize at the Chelsea Film Festival as well as Best Feature, Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Blechman) and Best Ensemble at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival” – but falls to captivate and entertain even if chocked full of shadowy undertones of paranoia and loneliness. Pond, Jimmy Pond – a Bond reference “Flytrap” also made – needed more development to sauté an emotionally motley character until he’s well burnt to an cracked crisp. There will be no critiques on the audio and video as the disc provided was a screener. Check this psychological sci-fi thriller on digital HD through Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, and iTunes.