Crimes of the Future (2022): Drama/Horror/Sci-fi

In the not-so-distant future, certain humans evolve in unexpected ways, and while some embrace it and see the artistic side of it, others only want to suppress it.

Intricate, interesting, and largely unspecified. It’s been eight years since we last saw a feature film from David Cronenberg – Maps to the Stars (2014) so, brace yourselves. The first act, and the Orchidbed in particular, inevitably leads back to Cronenberg’s early films that gave him his unique identity – The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), etc. Such elements can also be found throughout the rest of the film (the Sark autopsy, the Breakfaster Chair…) but it’s not just the prosthetics or the visual effects. The surrealistic acting, the Kafqu-esque atmosphere, the blurry distinction between art and science, and the dark consideration of what both are, constitute a dystopian, decadent future (not far from present-day) whose reality seems to belong to another Earth similar to ours, with humans identical to us, but with (un)natural elements and behaviours that are barely recognised or understood. The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991), and eXistenZ (1999) add to the films mentioned above and, in their own respect, they have shaped equally different realities.

From a filmmaking point of view, admittedly, I didn’t find it challenging. Douglas Koch’s photography serves the narrative well, but that is pretty much is. The narrative in and of itself though is. Cronenberg has a long history of examining society through the lens of sexuality and technology and Crimes of the Future isn’t an exception. The new ways of experiencing pleasure, the alien-like technology that fulfills specific needs, and the evolution of people who consume… “plastic”, are all allegories of the world we live in. Did you get them? If yes, what did you think of them? How effective were they? If you thought they weren’t, why?

I find it hard to imagine how Cronenberg pitched this script, especially when it came to defining the audience. Shot entirely in Greece with actors from all over the world, the film has, on one hand, a universal taste, and, on the other hand, a small crowd to follow. Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman, Lihi Kornowski, Don McKellar, Nadia Litz, Tanaya Beatty, Welket Bungué, and Yorgos Pirpassopoulos do a great job in front of the camera, but the narrative is such that can leave you undecided in regard to their chemistry.

To every Cronenberg fan: Watch it! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.

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Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

Pontypool (2008): Fantasy/Horror/Thriller

What seems to be just another day in the studio for a radio broadcaster and his team, turns into a living nightmare when disturbing information comes in of brutal killings around town.

Claustrophobic and satirical, with poignant messages hidden under the surface. I love that film! It is the simplicity, the mystery, the restricted narrative, and definitely Stephen McHattie! The lady banging on the window in the first act is the harbinger of doom and the twenty-minute gap between that and the first information coming in from Ken about “the riot” serves as the doom’s delay. The moment the suspicions become confirmation, the audience’s imagination starts riding into the unknown, filling it with grotesque images of horrible death not seen at all. What is that crowd? Why do they do atrocious things to other people? What do these specific words trigger? Why do these specific words trigger it?

In the end, it feels like a satyre of certain known horror films, such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), but it carries a couple of messages that are open for debate. Without spoiling it to you, the mention of the “separatists”, and the use of the English language play a significant role to those subliminal messages’ interpretation.

Based on Tony Burgess’ novel “Pontypool Changes Everything”, who also penned the script, director Bruce McDonald brings to life a humorous horror that is meant to scare, entertain, and make you think at the same time. Lisa Houle, and Georgina Reilly amazingly accompany McHattie It is a must-watch regardless of how you look at it. I hope you enjoy it!

Stay safe!

Crisis (2021): Drama/Thriller

The stories of an undercover cop, a grieving mother, and a professor facing a dangerous dilemma interweave as they find themselves fighting, in their own way, the war against drugs.

Very well-structured and paced thriller from the very beginning. The inciting incident occurs in the opening sequence and from then on, every player is introduced in minutes, making clear of who they are and what they do. The tragedy that hits Claire, every parent’s worst nightmare, is expressed vividly and tearfully by Evangeline Lilly. Respectively, Armie Hammer, Gary Oldman, Michelle Rodriguez, Greg Kinnear and Luke Evans become the characters they represent and shine on screen. Indira Varma, and Mia Kirshner, even though having small roles, add to the film’s great cast.

Crisis unfolds like a bomb waiting to explode. A pharmaceutical corporate thriller, an undercover mission, and a mother hell-bent on finding what happened to her dead son, gradually, through meticulously paced editing, start blending into one story that pins you to your seats. All three stories are equally dramatic and thrilling so when they come together you get the full force the script intended to offer. Nicholas Jarecki, the man behind Arbitrage (2012) pens that script, acts in it, and directs it and manages to attract a plethora of the aforementioned A-list actors.

I’m afraid, I’ll have to address the elephant in the room. Due to Hammer’s bad reputation and accusations the film did not perform well but let me be clear… thousands of people have worked on this film and they deserve recognition. Don’t let one name prevent you from a very decent cinematic experience. Crisis tackles very successfully, if not the most, one of the most severe plagues to have ever hit this planet. And it’s a realistic depiction of the war I mentioned above. A war that, unfortunately, seems to have no end. I hope you enjoy it.

Stay safe!

Come True (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi

One of the most intriguing and atmospheric opening sequences I’ve seen in a while. The first act’s slow pace, music, and cinematography betray a feel-good 80s horror that promises not to disappoint. And it doesn’t (to a certain extent)!

Writer/director Anthony Scott Burns has done his homework on sleep, dreams, and nightmares and carefully and patiently unfolds a narrative that, if you haven’t read anything about the plot, will most definitely surprise you. Positively or not you are about to figure out for yourselves.

The dream sequences are the most vividly and terrifyingly surrealistic images since Silent Hill (2006) and The Cell (2000) – the only Jennifer Lopez film I have got to enjoy. Jungian psychology, Escher’s portrayal of illusion, and Clive Barker’s horrifying vision of the human psyche’s darkness, all blend into one, bringing to life nightmares that make us question the way our mind, consciously or not, interprets reason and the way we understand and explain our fears.

David Cronenberg has been a tremendous influence on the Canadian cinema and Burns, having specialised in horror, adds his own personality and vision to intrigue you, get and maintain your undivided attention. In the end, I must say that I did get confused and found myself remorselessly scratching my head, and even though I love proper WTF endings, Come True runs out of steam before you start rolling your eyes in disbelief. Shame because for the 2/3’s of the movie, I had nothing negative to say. I guess the denouement is the toughest part of the script.

Stay safe!

P.S. Certainly, I am not the only one feeling like Riff came out of Hogwarts…

Possessor (2020): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

A secret agent, who works for a shadowy organisation that has the technology to control people, is sent on a mission to assassinate a high-profile target, but with unexpected consequences.

As a huge fan of the Canadian film school, I will tell you that Possessor does not disappoint. Films like that need to be highly praised, if anything, for their boldness. Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg is not to be compared with his father (David) as he has his his own distinct voice to narrate a story worth telling. The influences from eXistenZ (1999) and Videodrome (1983) might be visible but even these works are not parthenogeneric, and every generation “steals” from the generation before it, anyway. This has always been the case in art and science and that is the root of evolution (maybe of devolution too). My only “like his father” reference is the theme of “sex”. Brandon has taken over the torch of sexual exploration and mental darkness as projected through the lens, and I believe in future films of his we’ll see a lot more. The hallucination scenes are only the beginning…

Possessor‘s practical visual effects most definitely stand out, giving meaning to to the original purpose of visual effects before they became the means to overshadow a mediocre or bad narrative. Cronenberg’s high-concept, hi-tech, cinematic schizophrenia dictates what effects are needed and to what end, allegorically cautions the audience of the brain’s unknown vastness, and offers the thrill of its exploration by presenting the shock of the characters’ experiences through their own decisions.

Andrea Riseborough has proved time and time again that there is nothing she can’t do in front of the lens and mesmerises with her performance. Christopher Abbott, is a rising star and he’s terrific in everything he’s been in. Watch Sweet Virginia (2017), The Sinner (2017), and It Comes at Night (2017), if you don’t want to take my word for it – and that’s just within a year. As for Jennifer Jason Leigh, no introductions are needed as she’s been constantly offering her versatility to the cinema for over forty years now.

To conclude, Possessor is a must-watch that adds value to the Canadian film school and excites with its uniqueness and unpredictability. Regardless of the film schools though, it distinguishes itself from the traditional Hollywood narrative and blends the horror/sci-fi/thriller genres in a way you have not seen before. Pay attention to the opening sequence’s details. Gabrielle Graham, as a theatrical thespian, captivates with her performance and Cronenberg guides her character, Holly, to commit the poetic crime in a way that only Shakespeare would describe. From then on, it’s all uncharted territory.

Stay safe!

Come to Daddy (2019): Comedy / Horror / Mystery

A letter from his estranged father requesting a visit will make a young man go to his remote cabin in an attempt to reconnect with him.

I always find it intriguing how does one pitch films like this. Right off the bat, Come to Daddy gets you acquainted with two profound quotes:

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children” – William Shakespeare

“There is no one else like my daddy” – Beyoncé

Go figure… Then, you get to experience Norval (Elijah Wood) with an atrocious haircut, sporting a pedo-tash, paying a visit to his… eccentric, and profoundly disturbed dad, Gordon (Stephen Mchattie). I’ll tell you this, both of them are awkward, their dialogues are awkward, their father/son relationship is awkward, the sheriff is awkward, the coroner is awkward, everyone is awkward, and the whole film is awkward… until the twist. Then it gets even more awkward.

Throughout the film, I didn’t know whether be ready to get scared or laugh or… And while thinking about it, Dandy shows up pooing, getting off the crapper, and picking up a brutal fight with goofy Norval, unrolling the toilet paper stuck in his bumhole while at it – admittedly, the most enjoyable scene. Eventually, I didn’t get scared but I did laugh out loud with the occasional, inventive, and anything but inspirational, surrealistic tragicomedy.

Inspired by Ant Timpson’s dad’s passing, the story is a mixed bag that, in the end, you’ll just either turn it off and go to bed, say “that was fun!”, or facepalm sighing and wondering why you did that to yourselves. Personally, I like unpredictability, absurdity, and mixed genres. I just prefer it when there is something in the end to take away.

The reason I decided to watch it was the leading duo. Mchattie and Wood are very versatile actors and I have enjoyed them in most films they’ve been in. Wood, having been in numerous Hollywood films in the past, has left most of it behind him and has started focusing on roles like Norman. Wilfred (2011-2014) and I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017) are two previous examples of the kind of people he portrays with great success.

Anyway, Come to Daddy is highly recommended if you are really confused with your life, feeling lost, or having daddy issues.

Stay safe!

A Christmas Horror Story (2015): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

It’s Christmas Eve, and five interwoven stories reveal the dark side of Christmas.

A Viking-looking Santa who is about to face something evil, a radio host who wants to lift your spirits, a student film crew that investigates a violent ritual school crime, a family who just wants a Christmas tree, and an Anti-Christmas spirit that is released, chasing wicked people.

Very promising and original opening sequence that will most definitely get your undivided attention. Every story unfolding is a treat and, despite their flaws, they are still dark, eerie, and enjoyable for, admittedly, mostly millennial horror fans but not exclusively. Surely not for the whole family, each and every one of them, twists the meaning of Christmas and explores the darkness within us in days that our light is meant to shine. The ending is a real twist that, unfortunately, is no fantasy and our world has seen similar in numerous variations. For the avoidance of spoilers, I cannot elaborate further and, personally, I feel like I shouldn’t do it anyway.

The stories unfold in the fictional town of Bailey Downs. The same town where the Ginger Snaps franchise takes place but also, partially, Orphan Black (2013-2017). Filmmakers behind both projects collaborated for this one.

Last Christmas film review for this year! Stay safe and Merry Christmas!

Fatman (2020): Action / Comedy / Fantasy

When a rich boy is let down by Santa, he hires an eccentric hitman to kill him.

Well, isn’t that a Christmas film… A pistolero Santa who has a dodgy contract with the government of the United States of America ends up in a gunfight with an assassin.

How can I put it… it’s like a Christmas western shot in the North and Santa is the wanted man on the bullet hole poster. While the hitman tries to track down Santa, here’s what you get: the military outsourcing elves to produce more weaponry and the logistics behind Santa’s operation on Christmas Eve. You know what you get when the hitman actually tracks down the Republican, training-like-Rocky-Balmoa Santa? That’s something you need no commentary on. Writers/directors Eshom and Ian Nelms know exactly the kind of film they want to make and the final cut’s tone and pace give justice to their cause. Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste understand their vision and offer nothing but pure entertainment.

Feeling stuck in your own house on Christmas day? Fatman is your unconventional Christmas movie that will keep you company for an hour and a half. Can you take it seriously? No. Is it meant to be taken seriously? No. So, sit back, relax, and digest the turkey.

Stay safe!

One Magic Christmas (1985): Family / Fantasy

A mother who lacks the Christmas spirit gets a visit from an angel who shows her what the meaning of this season is.

Remembering Mary Steenburgen in Christmas films, and more particularly in Elf (2003): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/12/24/elf-2003-adventure-comedy-family/ I remembered One Magic Christmas. You see, I may not fan of Elf that much but this is a different kettle of fish. Director Philip Borsos invests in both story and character development and, if you are watching it for the first time, you won’t really know what to expect, or, at least, when to expect it. It takes forty five minutes for the inciting incident to happen but, until then, poverty, especially during the festive days comes to the foreground and that can be a film on it’s own. Countless of families were struggling then as much as they do now. They have been ripped apart while the vast minority is having a laugh. Destitution sucks the joy out everything and replaces it with misery and downright cynicism. Working from paycheck to paycheck, not being able to afford a decent meal – much less to dream… Can love be enough?

Well, that’s what the film is about. We all have the right to laugh and we all need hope. And Steenburgen, even though her reactions are watered down due to the nature of the film is absolutely thrilling. You might be watching a Disney film but don’t underestimate the harsh realities it dares to show. Do you know when you are watching a good film? When is full of plotholes, makes little sense, but still sucks you into it and evokes the emotions it was meant to.

Hey, it’s Christmas season so, turn the blind eye to the horrible reality out there and remember how you used to feel this time of the year as a kid. It will make a lot more sense then…

Stay safe!

P.S. Film debut of the amazing Sarah Polley.

P.P.S. Despite his ongoing battle with leukemia, Philip Borsos kept directing till his last breath, at the age of 41.

The Corridor (2010): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

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A group of friends gathers to spend a typical “cabin the woods” weekend in a remote area but they discover a phenomenon that will make them descend to paranoia.

Film Industry: One of the most rewarding yet inconsistent industries out there. See director Evan Kelly, for example. After directing The Corridor, his feature debut, he vanished. And the film did actually well. So, why? Shame, whatever the reason may be.

About the film now… A just over an hour and a half Canadian, indie, low-budget, slow-burn thriller which takes half of that time to kick in. Something that begs the question, how much patience do you have? If you do have it, and you watch past the pleasantries at the bonding part, it becomes realistically suspenseful. Everyone reacts to “the corridor” the way you and I, potentially, would have. Until paranoia takes over!

You will not encounter any Hollywood conventions here, something that increases the unpredictability and, consequently, the suspense. The acting though is not favouring the film and, in the end, it looks like the script is losing track of how it started or where it wanted to go. Unfortunately, the photography doesn’t help much either whereas the editing is doing its best to stitch it together.

I know… I started by praising it and then my review went down the hill. I really did like the story but the script’s and the film’s development in the Production stage came out a lot poorer than it was probably intended in Preproduction. So, does it worth your time? I’m not saying you will definitely like it but if you are up for a different cinematic rhythm, cliche-free, then this might be the one you are looking for. Or not. I for one, I’m glad I gave it a chance despite its flaws.

Stay safe!

The Lighthouse (2019): Drama / Fantasy / Horror

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Two lighthouse keepers are left stranded in a small island of New England in the late 19th century where, every day that goes by, they sink into paranoia.

Willem Dafoe vs Robert Pattinson in an amazing psychological horror that ends up not being one(?) First things first… The story is loosely based on an actual event where two Welsh lighthouse keepers, Thomas and Thomas, were left stranded on a lighthouse during a severe storm and they went berzerk – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smalls_Lighthouse#Smalls_Lighthouse_Tragedy

The extreme and adverse weather conditions seen in the film are real! Cast, crew, and equipment suffered big time from the freezing temperatures and the strong winds and, only for finishing it, they deserve a big round of applause. For, ultimately, creating a masterpiece they deserve an even bigger one. Especially, the Egger Brothers who researched and studied everything you see on screen: From how to make a lighthouse, to the 19th century New England sailors’ dialect, to how the mermaid genitals would probably look like (and the sound department which… naturally and practically created Dafoe’s farts). The film cost approximately $4M, it made just over $17M, and a tiny part of that budget was given to create fake seagulls. So, no seagull (nor human) got killed while filming.

26 wins, 96 nominations, and 1 Oscar nomination for the photography which gave the film an astonishing early photography look. Dafoe and Pattinson go against each other’s throats and deliver performances you wouldn’t believe. We all know that Dafoe is an incredible actor. Here, (after a series of brilliant performances), Pattinson establishes himself as one of the best actors of his age, and we all try to simply erase The Twilight Saga franchise from our minds. I take my hat off to both of them. Robert Eggers, in an interview, stated that: “Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus”. Their performances prove him wrong (wink).

As a huge Lovecraftian fan, I was happily shocked when the psychological horror started taking a turn towards… Sorry, no spoilers! See for yourselves and try to piece together the one-eye crow, the mermaid, the… something else keep vaguely appearing and last but not least, how does the light connect everything and what it might hide…

Code 8 (2019): Crime / Drama / Sci-Fi

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A power enabled construction worker teams up with the wrong people in an effort to save his dying mother.

Canada strikes back! Only three months after Freaks (2019) https://kgpfilmreviews.com/2019/11/30/freaks-2019-drama-mystery-sci-fi/, Code 8 makes an appearance and leaves a lasting impression. Take the superpowers out and you are left with a strong existential drama about working-class people who try to survive one day at a time and a son who would do anything wrong under the Sun for his dying mom. Great performances from the cousins Stephen and Robbie Amell but also Kari Matchett, Laysla De Oliveira, Greg Bryk, Kyla Kane, and Vlad Alexis. Directing, editing (great opening sequence montage), photography, production design, visual and sound effects are of Hollywood standards, proving that the studios don’t need hundreds of millions to make a decent sci-fi. Also, the music nails it and it is not used as a means to tell you how to feel at all times. It is minimal as it is emotional. Through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, the producers managed to gather over two million dollars from 28,400 backers. Both Freaks and Code 8 come from the Canadian film school and leave a different flavour to the one left to us by the X-men franchise. A round of applause for all cast and crew!!!

Code 8 spinoff series has already been announced by the film’s director Jeff Chan and writer Chris Paré. Really looking forward to it as there is still so much to unfold in terms of both story and character development.

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2steelj / https://amzn.to/2skNgfO

US: https://amzn.to/2ry5ObM

 

Freaks (2019): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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With the excuse that people will want to hurt her, a girl, locked insider the house since birth by her insanely overprotective father, manages to escape only to realise that he was right all along.

Push (2009) meets Stephanie (2017) made in Canada. A great narrative accompanied by great cinematography. The compelling atmosphere and the very persuasive acting – a standing ovation for the young actress Lexy Kolker – examine thoroughly, even create a case study, on the philosophy of the masses in regard to what it’s like to be different, to stand out, to be able to perform miracles, to feel like a freak and alone…

Turn the lights off, get your other half, your friends, or just a nice drink and enjoy it!  I was thinking of writing that films like Freaks need our support so we can have a lot more of them but, truth to be told, we need eye-opening films like Freaks so we can reevaluate, the norms of the societies we live in but also, as André Bazin would ask, ‘What is Cinema?’.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Q1Tav7

Hollow in the Land (2017): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

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While their father is facing time for his notorious crime, two siblings, just for having his name, have to face society.

Dark, existential, real, and made in Canada! Low budget, indie film that went under the radar due to, mostly, negative reviews. The depiction of a small society can be negative for numerous reasons but it can also be, unfortunately, painfully realistic. Every character plays a role that moves the story forward, towards a path that human perception of love, bigotry, reputation, and family values counts and shapes society as we know it.

Feature debut of the very promising writer/director Scooter Corkie with Dianna Agron, Shawn Ashmore, and Jared Abrahamson leading strong. Daring and thought-provoking, “Hollow in the Land”, deserves your attention as it opens the door to the kind of cinema that impresses with its simplicity while portraying something so intricate… Us!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2QtU9mG

Prospect (2018): Drama / Sci-fi / Thriller

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Father and daughter land on a planet’s remote, exotic moon to harvest precious gems and get rich but between merciless people and dangerous forest dwellers, escaping becomes the ultimate goal.

Directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl shoot the feature version of their homonymous short, on a $3.9m budget. And the result pays off. Well-directed, well-paced and well-acted, Prospect invests in a claustrophobic opening sequence and amazing shots from space. While on the ground, intentionally or unintentionally, the film can be pitched or could have been pitched or maybe it was pitched as “Mad Max in an alien moon”.

Films like Prospect make me more optimistic. It is an indie, low budget sci-fi that pays respect to the genre and the art of cinema with cast and crew fully supporting and believing in it. And so did the fans who applauded its minimalism at the festivals and didn’t care if props and costumes were handmade by, among others, cosplayers!

Inspirational! Well done!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39j0DO6