Film Review : We Are What We Are (2013)

IMDB Score – 5.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Jim Mickle
Starring – Bill Sage, Ambyr Childers, Julie Garner, Jack Gore, Kelly McGillis, Wyatt Russell, and Michael Parks

The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.

This is how you do a horror film everybody.

Unlike the storm in the film, Hollywood has been in a serious Horror drought for at least a decade. Sure, American films like “The Conjuring” and even “Cabin in the Woods” have been successes, but with only a film or two a year coming out from the states in the mainstream horror fans have to reach deep to find the films they crave. Luckily for us, Jim Mickle is the next big thing. I’ve read that his film “Stakeland”, which I’ll be watching tonight probably, is vastly superior than the film I just watch and if that is true then it may end up on my favorite horror films list because I loved We are What We are. Mickle has a film out currently in “Cold in July” which I’m going to try to catch before it leaves theaters. Either way, horror has a new stalwart and his name is Jim Mickle.

This film is very tough to describe without giving away too many key plot points so this review may be a bit short. That being said, this movie is on Netflix so you have no excuse not to watch it. Please do. The story revolves around a family of religious practices that are far from your average family. Think Ned Flanders meets Misery. The father, played masterfully by Bill Sage, is a very stoic and serious man who seems to have his daughters scared shitless. Besides Sage, Childers and Garner are fantastic as the two daughters who are stuck trying to figure out what is right and what is good for the family. Michael Parks rounds it out as the town doctor who starts getting wind of what is going on.

The story, which is flawless in most parts with a few instances of slack, is one of the more unique and compelling stories I’ve seen in horror. The film is actually a remake, but the same screenwriter from the original Spanish film reprises his work here. Couple the story with Mickle’s amazing knack for the camera and you have a slow burn film that glows with intensity at just the right moments. The scares are earned. The shock is true. These are the most important elements for horror in my eyes. The whole point is to be scared no? I have a friend who delivered mail for years. After a while he got so used to dogs jumping on the door when he would walk up and scaring the shit out of him that he lost the ability to be frightened. For me, this is most of horror films. I’ve seen the same tactics used over and over again that the whole reason I’m watching the film in the first place is lost. This film does’t do that. It challenges you to pay attention and then when you’re deep in the feel of the movie, Mickle hits you with the scares. It’s a detailed and methodically timed film. It also packs one of the best endings to a film I’ve seen in a long time. I was slack jawed by the end of it.

Do yourself a favor and watch this film. It’s a diamond in a ruff sea of garbage that is the horror genre.


Suggested Viewing – Red State, The Loved Ones, Stoker

Film Review : Willow Creek (2014)

IMDB Score – 5.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Directed By – Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring – Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson

From celebrated Director Bobcat Goldthwait comes this edge of your seat horror that will make you think twice before going into the woods.

I had the opportunity to take the train down to the IFC Center in NYC to see the opening of my man Bobcat Goldthwait’s new horror film, Willow Creek. To my surprise and excitement, Bob was actually going to be in attendance and introduce the film before the start of the show at midnight. To my further surprise and disappointment, only about 20 people ended up showing up. Bob was professional about it, thanked us for showing up, cracked some jokes, shook my roommates hand (the bastard) and left the theater. I was hoping to catch him after the show, but he had left and honestly I don’t blame him. His film really only had one demographic, horror fans who like Bigfoot. There also wasn’t much advertising on his appearance but it was still nice of him to show up ad thank us. I’ve bee a big fan of his and routinely check out any interviews he does with people. The guy has some great stories. His film ended up being only so so but I still thought “meeting” him was cool.

Did you like “The Blair Witch Project”? If you did, you’ll like this film. If you didn’t, you’ll hate this film. That is’t to say that the films are exact images of each other, but they basically are. Bob put unique touches on it, but in essence it is exactly the same as Blair Witch. The film starts out with a couple who are driving to the site of the famous Patterson Gimmlin footage to try to see Bigfoot. They are making a film to document their journey which explains the use of the camera. I thought the set up was good as they didn’t have to put in the infamous “Look at Mark. He just never puts the camera down” thing that most found footage films. The two leads in the film were kind of annoying, which isn’t a good thing when you want your audience to feel afraid for them. I ended up just kind of wanting the show to get on the road, which it did about forty minutes into the film.

Once we were in the woods, the film finally took a breath of air and came to life. It was the last thirty or so minutes that ended up saving the film for me, but even then I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed his other films. The few good things were a very tense almost fifteen minute long take inside the tent where we hear a bunch of unsettling noises outside the tent, and the ending was fucked up and thought provoking.

It was a fun night. The film could have been better but it had its moments of fright even though we have seen this film a thousand times already.


Suggested Viewing – Blair Witch Project, REC, Trollhunter, Lake Mungo

Film Review : Big Bad Wolves (2013)

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IMDB Score – 6.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 78%
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
Starring – Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, and Guy Adler

A series of brutal murders puts the lives of three men on a collision course: The father of the latest victim now out for revenge, a vigilante police detective operating outside the boundaries of law, and the main suspect in the killings – a religious studies teacher arrested and released due to a police blunder.

First off let me say that even though I love his films, Quentin Tarantino is starting to piss me off. He’s a pretentious douchebag who happens to make some of the best films of the past thirty years. I’ll give him credit for that. I hope he continues making films for a long, long time. I do however wish that he stop talking, like forever. His claim that this was the best film of last year is just ludicrous and seems like he’s just trying to sniff his own butthole due to the fact that the entire film was a dragged out version of the scene from “Reservoir Dogs” when Micheal Madsen cuts that cops ear off. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the film because I enjoyed it, but it was nothing new whatsoever and for Mr. Tarantino to claim that this film was the best from last year just strikes me wrong. It just screams “Hey! I make movies like this! I didn’t make a movie this year so THIS is the best of the whole year.” Give me a break.

Now, apologies to the cast and crew of this film because even though it seems like I just took a huge dump on your film, I did find some enjoyment in the film. Besides a little set up, the entirety of the film pretty much takes place in the basement of a secluded cabin in which a father who just lost his daughter to a brutal rapist/murderer thinks he has found the killer. He thinks he has found the killer because the cop who is with him thinks it was him even though there is no evidence to suggest he’s right. There really isn’t much more meat to this film besides being a good old fashioned torture movie. Films like this come along a lot because it’s an easy script to write and you can get creative in the ways to torture people. This film didn’t get that creative. Hell, it wasn’t even that bloody. There were a few cringe worthy scenes but for the most part I was left wanting something a little more original. I was at least hoping for a shocker of an ending but instead I got an unearned twist that was suppose to hit hard but since the script decided to invest nothing in the characters themselves, I didn’t give a shit. The only thing I actually enjoyed about this film was the cast and the dialogue, which is what ultimately saved the film for me.

Tzahi Grad is a menace. He’s a huge presence with a deep frightening voice that was perfect in this role. His line of “Maniacs are afraid of other maniacs” couldn’t have rang more true. The guy was a pleasure to watch every single time he was on screen. His terrifying presence was helped greatly by some fantastic dialogue written for the characters. The writers decided to take a black comedy approach by taking a very serious script about torture, rape, and murder and gad the characters in this film be as polite as possible. In one instance, a character apologizes to the alleged serial killer for not offering him a piece of cake. This is before he is planning on burning him with a torch. I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. I wish the movie lived up to how funny it ended up being.

So while Mr. Tarantino was completely wrong about this film in my opinion, it was still a decent watch and is now streaming on Netflix. If you’re into horror movies and would like to see a black comedy dressed up as a horror film, then I’d suggest checking it out.


Suggested Viewing – The Loved Ones, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I Saw the Devil

Film Review : Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Jim Jarmusch
Starring – Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, and John Hurt

A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.

This is not a vampire film. This is a Jim Jarmusch film. These are the words spoken by one of the theater employees at the Landmark Sunshine. He was absolutely correct. It took me a couple weeks to finally get to see this, not because of a distaste of Jarmusch films, but rather a reluctance to see anything vampire related. Once again, I was wrong. The film ended up being about vampires, but only in the way that the two characters just so happened to be vampires. The rest of the film was a slow burning lesson in how to make and immersing hang out film. I loved it.

The film centers around the aptly named Adam and Eve, two vampires who have lived on the earth longer than most countries have around. The adhere to typical vampire myth/lore in which they can’t go out during the day, they are immortal, and they need blood to survive. The problem they face is getting the blood. This is not the same world that they used to live in. There is facebook, youtube, cameras, and police forces that can and will catch them in the act if they used their old way. They have to find their blood in more creative ways and this usually involves a lot of money, money acquired through means I’m not aware of. This seems like a very urgent conflict that would drive the film but it was really only a secondary plot line. The film ended up being a two how Jim Jarmusch dance of style, music, conversation, and light. It’s a complete atmosphere film that relies heavily on the soundtrack to help the painted scenery come alive. The film take place solely at night so every single shot is backed by dark and faded light sources. It perfectly fit the setting of an abandoned and desolate Detroit. I can’t explain enough how much I loved the aesthetic of this film. Jarmusch has always been a talent behind the camera but this may be his finest work yet.

The music, as I said, plays a huge role. Adam is an other worldly musician who has collected priceless items over the years of advancing his craft. He does so however by way of remaining completely recluse in his house so that nobody will catch on to the fact that he’s been alive so long. Anton Yelchin plays Adam’s close friend Ian and person whom he pays to fetch these instruments and whatever else he desires. He doesn’t know who Adam is but admires his genius. Tom Hiddleston was the first of two absolutely perfect casting choices for the leads. He may come off a bit like a hipsters dream of “fuck the system” cynicism but he also is wise beyond any human counterpart and just leaks the kind of coolness only a depressed vampire can give. Usually I frown upon seeing these kind of characters but the way Hiddleston portrayed Adam hooked me in line and sinker just like Adam did with Ian. Tilda Swinton plays Eve, the wife of Adam who travels from her home in Tangier to see her lover. I don’t quite remember why they were apart. They may not have explained it. It may just be the fact that they were lovers for thousands of years and needed some time apart, just like human relationships. Swinton may just be the perfect female vampire. She has that accent to go along with the white face and long hair. I was just amazed by her performance as the older and wiser vampire that understands what her man is going through. John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska also play vampires although their roles are less prominent. Both played their roles beautifully even though I couldn’t stand Wasikowska’s character of Eva, the little sister to Eve.

I’m trying not to go into too many plot details but honestly, there aren’t many details to talk about. It’s a total slow burn that is both captivating in terms of writing and mesmerizing in terms of aesthetics. It’s a film that may be boring to some but for people who love Jim Jarmusch’s films, it’s a pleasure film all the way. I can’t recommend it enough and while I’m not giving it a perfect rating, mostly due to my dislike of one of the characters, it’s probably Jarmusch’s best film to date and probably my favorite film of the year so far. Try to see it in theaters if you can.


Related – Anything Jim Jarmusch…anything

Film Review : Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

IMDB Score – 5.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 56%

Directed By – Randy Moore
Starring – Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Jack Dalton, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, and Alison Lees-Taylor

In a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father’s sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.

Oh man. I didn’t see this coming whatsoever. I remember I posted the trailer for this last year and was excited as all hell to see it. Like what usually happens with me, I couldn’t make it out to the cinema to see it. I would have had to make the trip into NYC, but contemplated it a couple times before ultimately deciding I’d wait to see it on DVD. I’m so glad I did. I hated this movie.

Here’s the gimmick, and it is really only a gimmick. Director Randy Moore and his crew filmed most of this film in Disney World and Disneyland without the permission from either parks. I was the first to admit that is pretty awesome. That excitement faded five minutes into the film. I never really got the feeling that what I was watching was actually shot guerrilla style. It may have been, but the result was less than spectacular. I’ve never been to either parks as my parents decided they didn’t like wonder and fantasy so maybe the film would have affected me more if I had actually recognized the areas that they were filming in. It wasn’t the case. The gimmick that is the only thing holding this film up for me fell flat on its face. If the fact that this was filmed without Disney’s permission didn’t exist, nobody would have seen this movie, because nobody would have distributed it. It is a perfect example of a film school project that got wide audience due to unique circumstances.

Let’s try to break down this plot that doesn’t actually exist in the film. A family of four, highlighted by two of the most annoying parents you’ll ever see, spend a couple days at Disney World. The father gets a phone call saying he’s been fired from his job and then tries to have some fun at the park before he probably kills himself. During the fun time he is having, he is badgered by his horrid wife, hallucinates in “It’s a Small World”, and chases two 14 year old french girls like he’s trying to rape them eventually. None of that is a joke. That is the bulk of the film. There was no character development unless we were supposed to develop anger towards the actors playing these horrible people. There was no identifiable plot and if there was one I missed it because the film was all over the place. I appreciated that they decided to film the movie in black and white but I felt like I was watching the midterm film of student throughout most of the film. It was badly filmed, badly acted, and badly written. It was bad.

Is it a one of a kind film? Yes, it is. They really did film this at Disney without their permission. They really did have a hard time getting their shots due to the fact that they weren’t supposed to be doing what they were doing. All of that showed though. It was a rushed piece of garbage held up by one unique gimmick. Hopefully they made some money with this film for the work they put into it but the finished product was just crap. This film comes out on Netflix at the end of the month so you’ll have a chance to see for yourself but don’t expect anything other than a B-Film without any heart or creativity.


Suggested Viewing – I really don’t have any for this one…

^That is a child Jim. A CHILD!