Short Film Saturday: Bedfellows

Introduction

No, Short Film Saturday is not over. When scheduling in advance I had horror films slated for the 61 Days of Halloween slot, and wasn’t watching many other shorts so there was a hiatus. When I watch some more I’ll keep the schedule filled. Enjoy. 

Bedfellows

At this point it’s likely you’ve discovered this film. However, one of the issues that the Internet presents is that “If it’s not new, it’s not worth it” seems to be the mantra. This is a highly effective, creepy short worth your few minutes.

61 Days of Halloween 2015 & In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Today is a big day on this blog.

Vampyr (1932)

First, as you may have noticed I already posted my 6th and final contribution to the Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge.

The Movie Rat

Secondly, it’s the first of the month, therefore, it means it’s time to compile another list of BAM Awards considerations. Those can be viewed here.

My Soul to Take (2010, Rogue)

Thirdly, September 1st marks the first day of my most gargantuan of annual themes known as 61 Days of Halloween.

As the name indicates, I will be focused on horror films for the next two months. However, thanks to the backlog of films I’ve written on and can repurpose, the site will not stay myopic.

Furthermore, I would be remiss in starting a horror film theme without a few words about Wes Craven.

In Memoriam: Wes Craven

Wes Craven (2015, Wes Craven)

There is a nearly invariable amount of adoration that comes to the fore when a beloved filmmaker or actor dies. With Craven it is genuine, and speaking only for myself, these glowing praises for many of his works have not been formed posthumously.

Writing in the zeitgeist about My Soul to Take I was higher on it than most giving it not only this review, but placing it in my top 10 of 2010.

Prior 61 Days of Halloweens got me more up-to-date on his most iconic series. As a child, like many youngsters in the ‘80s; Freddy did scare me, and I caught pieces of the films but didn’t sit down to see all of them until recently. New Nightmare’s inclusion on this list is a testament to the brilliance of its reinventing the series.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, New Line Cinema)

Some Craven films I had not gotten a chance to see yet for one reason or another will be a focus this year. In my Lifetime Achievement Awards I try in a maverick spirit to buck the Oscar trend and not award people “too late,” but you can’t get them all (I have gotten horror represented though). However, as Edgar Wright brilliantly stated: “It’s never too late to see a movie.” So I will become more a completist with him this year.

Happy Horrors all, may you find those films that sate your need for catharsis and may you find the works of Craven if you have not yet.

Rest in peace, Wes.

Wes Craven (All Rights Reserved)

Blu-ray Review: Cub

If you’ve followed this blog closely you may have noticed that many films from the Benelux region have been featured here. There is a good reason for this, many of these films have been finding distribution, and a large number are of extremely high quality. Cub is no exception.

The film tells the tale of a Belgian scout troop heads out on a camping trip and slowly discover a campfire tale their counselors are telling them has a lot of truth to it.

It’s a simple, stripped down narrative that lacks obsession with backstory and remains strongly situation-based. It opens up cans of worms and allows you to think on certain implications and meanings without force-feeding you information. Things get going right away and never really stop moving until the final fade to black.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Cub simultaneously moves briskly with a tight edit and sparse running time without hitting the gas too soon on the most horrific elements. There is a steady crescendo that really gets heightened consistently from the midpoint through the harrowing conclusion.

The film effectively deals with the problem of disbelief throughout. In linking the nearly mandatory disbelief element in any horror film with its protagonist, Sam (Maurice Luijten), and having him be not only ostracized but suspected; it really does well to increase identification and build character.

Eeriness pervades the proceedings throughout and is heightened by the score by Steve Moore, which is brilliantly catchy and an excellent throwback; the camp song, which plays brilliantly and ominously, and there is the occasional homage to Argento which is greatly appreciated.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis is effectively moody and at times seamlessly artful. Some of the imagery in this film like Kai’s (the purported werewolf of the woods) silhouette and a few of the kills could prove iconic over time.

Also assisting in the creation of imagery is the art direction. With a tale set in the woods you may think there isn’t a chance for the art direction to shine, but there are some environs in the film that needed to not only be created but communicate tonally, and this is something exceedingly well done here.

Horror films are notorious for not requiring exceptional performances from their players, but this film does need them and gets them throughout. Kris (Titus de Voogdt) and Baloo (Stef Aerts) are foils, the former a little more understanding, and seeking to aid the children; the latter is impatient, immature and combative. Each executes his role perfectly, and the characters are rivals for Jasmijn (Evelien Bosmans), in an unobtrusive triangle. Bosmans inhabits a character given a bit of dimension despite sparse screentime, and she imbues it with genuine star power. Luijten has the hefty task of shouldering much screentime, seeming stoic and clench-jawed, and not talking a great deal and still emote and travel an arduous character arc. It’s quite a feat for an actor so young in his feature film debut. The ensemble of kids around him, and mostly against his character, also has moments in the spotlight and add to the texture of the film.

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

The above, as well as the overall success is of course also a tribute to debutante director Jonas Govaerts. Cub is a bloody, creepy film, that has some depth and can still satisfy a seasoned viewer. It’s not one that’s for the faint of heart because it “goes there” often. Horror must be unafraid to go into deep, dark places and this is a trip to the woods the worth taking for those fans of the genre with a strong constitution.

Bonus Features

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

It’s always nice, especially in the current state of affairs in home entertainment, when you are incentivized to get a physical edition of a film. Often there are no bonuses anymore such that you won’t get a physical copy unless you really like the artwork or are that adamant about having physical media.

Short Film

Of Cats and Women (2007, Potemkino)

On this disc there is a short film by Jonas Govaerts which is a little over ten-minutes long called Of Cats and Women. It’s an original piece, as opposed to a short version of the feature, but you can definitely see a director’s style emerging, also be on the lookout for an homage here as well.

Music Video

One Hour (2013, The Dead Sets)

Also included is a Govaerts-directed music video which is a text-book example of juxtaposing imagery and music.

FX Reel

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

Also nice to see, when so often visual effects are not as overt as they once were, to see a demonstration of what the effects artists contributed to the film, which also added to the feel of the film.

Deleted Scenes

Cub (2014, Artsploitation Films)

These are interesting because they show a bit more character development, and even new characters, and add some information. They are free of commentary but fairly self-explanatory.

Movie: 9/10
Features: 8/10

Cub will be released on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on August 18th.

Mini-Review: The Hidden Face

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The Hidden Face

What is most interesting about The Hidden Face is what it does structurally. There’s an inventiveness to a surprising revelation made that allows for it to play with perspective and narrative point-of-view in very creative ways. There is a bit of steam it loses in trying to amplify every single odd moment that needs clarifying after the break, but it remains a very haunting, odd and twisted horror tale. It’s one that is definitely worth seeking out.

7/10

Mini-Review: The ABCs of Death

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

The ABCs of Death

Most of the things that are interesting to consider about this film, sadly, have little to do with the film itself. For one, due to the fact that it is an extreme example, it forever defeated to notion of averaging out scores in an anthology. Math is no way to quantify such an experience, and I may highlight that in a separate post at some point.

Another thing that is interesting to consider, though it does not make it better or worse, is that filmmakers were assigned their letter and given a $5,000 budget. The only way either of these traits makes itself apparent is with the two shorts that decided to go the “we don’t have a decent idea for this letter” route, which is fairly lazy and uninspired. Many of them do well at least in terms of production value.

However, what it more often than not reaffirms is that telling a story in approximately five minutes is very hard. Sadly, in most of the cases neither a style or a decent narrative was firmly established. Overall it becomes a very unnerving viewing experience because of the wide array of voices and variegated quality of the shorts.

If I had to put a number on it I’d say about five work very well. Two of those on a style over substance basis. It ends nearly as badly as possible and the convention established of revealing title, letter indicated and director after the short is over rendered many predictable, a few insipid and most frustrating.

It’s not for the feint of heart or weak of stomach, that in and of itself does not make the film an excruciating experience, but the envelope being torn apart to tell mostly inane and inept tales does.

1/10

Mini-Review: Jacob

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Jacob

There are a few things that are bit odd that are going on in Jacob. They are all easily explicable, however, that doesn’t stop them from being odd. The main thing I noticed is that the film, while never on easy footing, is far more comfortable and closer to offering escapism in its hyper-reality flashback sequence, which dominates the film. In the few present sections the film is far more stilted an awkward in its cinematography, performances and make-up.

The structure of the film is curious because it’s not as involved as the armature of the film would have you believe. It’s your standard flashback to the birth of a legend. However, what’s incumbent on a film when it flashes back not once but twice is some upping of the stakes. The conclusion of the film is fairly predictable and anticlimactic because we get a glimpse of the future beforehand.

The pace is never right and much of what holds the piece back is that it feels like it gets its tongue stuck in its cheek rather than just planted firmly. The inspiration appears to be the works of Rob Zombie based on some of the aesthetic, tonal, character and story choices, but no one involved can even bring the film up to that level. On occasion there is a wrinkle, a look, shot or set piece that stands out but overall the center is never found, so one can’t expect it to hold.

3/10

Mini-Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

This is one of the few true horror/comedy films because of the very simple and ingenious use of perception and knowledge. We know everything that’s going on therefore we can laugh despite how horrific it is that Tucker and Dale and the college kids never understand one another. It also works like horror film with a classic and funny backstory. It’s truly a treat that ought to be seen by fans of both genres.

This was also one of my top horror movies of 2011. Among my comments on it there were:

What separates Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is that it is always both horror and comedy and a smart one at that. It hinges on perceptions, misunderstanding and xenophobic mistrust.

10/10

Mini-Review: Dream Home

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Dream Home

A woman will do anything to get her dream home.

This is almost like two different movies entirely. I get how they connect but while I appreciate the bit of time traveling done by the narrative in the beginning, and the subtext at the end in the nice simple button, but I really just could not get into this one. The film goes out of its way to explain why this means so much to her and thus we identify but it all seems so superficial. It is rather suspenseful, the kills are great but it ends up feeling a bit vacuous. It almost would’ve been better if the film tried its hand at subtext more and didn’t get so cutesy with the whodunit. Instead, we eventually get all the pieces, put them in place and say “So what?” Sometimes I’d rather be confused and intrigued at times than lucid and unimpressed.

5/10