Month: March 2018

Mom and Dad

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Parents have a natural instinct that makes them willing to do anything to protect their offspring. One day, all that changes. Something is happening to all the parents. Suddenly the parents will stop at nothing to kill their own children. Carly, a teenage girl, must fight to protect her little brother from their own mom and dad, who want nothing more than to murder them.

The premise of this film is very simple. One day, instead of wanting to protect their children, all the parents suddenly want to brutally murder their children. That’s pretty much it. The film never even explains why this sudden change occurs. While not knowing the ‘why’ behind all the carnage is somewhat troublesome, it allows you to focus on the relationships within the main family unit and what it means to be a parent. This aspect is the most interesting part of the film, although some may see it as mean-spirited.

Every parent thinks negative thoughts about their kids, especially when the kids are in their teenage years. Mothers think about how having children ruined their bodies. Fathers think about how they lost their freedom by getting married and having kids. Granted, this isn’t how all parents think, but I’d be willing to bet that a lot of parents occasionally think thoughts along the same lines. While in the real world these are just thoughts, and they don’t take away from how much a parent loves their child, that isn’t the case in this film. A lot of these negative thoughts are the driving force behind the parents killing their kids. Some viewers will likely think this makes the film cruel. I think it adds to the dark, and sometimes overly honest, humor threaded throughout the film.

Another aspect of the film that might make people dislike it is the violence towards children. While for the most part the film focuses on the teenage daughter, the filmmakers do show violence towards younger kids and even infants. Again, this will be off-putting to some viewers. There aren’t many filmmakers willing to show that kind of violence towards kids, but in real life children are not immune to violence. It makes sense that even the youngest children wouldn’t be immune to it in this film, especially since every parent is affected by whatever mysterious force makes them want to kill their children.

While the film is primarily told through the eyes of the teenage daughter, the adults have the standout performances. The role of the father, Brent, seems like it was written for Nicolas Cage (Knowing, Face/Off). Cage is known for his freakout moments in past films, and this film is filled to the brim with classic Cage craziness. Anyone who is a fan of Cage’s over-the-top acting style will want to see him in this. Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions, Hellboy) plays the mother in this psychotic duo, Kendall. Blair typically plays the more shy, awkward characters, but not in this performance. In this film, audiences get to see her go through an interesting transformation. Initially she is the quintessential perfect mom doing anything and everything for her children. Then, as all the other parents become murderous, her change to wanting nothing more than to kill her own kids is even more pronounced. Together they make an insane and often hilarious couple, fitting into various parenting stereotypes.

Mom and Dad is a hyper-violent and darkly funny film that says all the things about parenting that parents aren’t supposed to say. This film takes some risks in how it portrays violence (with children on the receiving end of this violence). As a result, there will be some who undoubtedly will hate this film. In my opinion, the film is an entertaining flick chalked full of mindless violence. Throw in the classic Nic Cage craziness and Selma Blair’s evil charms, and it is easier to overlook the somewhat skimpy plot. This film may be forgotten by the end of the year, but I have a feeling it will develop quite the cult following over the years.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

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IHSFF 2018: An Interview With Festival Director Monte Yazzie

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The International Horror and Sci-fi Film Festival, which shows in conjunction with the Phoenix Film Festival, is entering it’s 14th year. The festival has made a name for itself as the film event of the year for horror fans in Arizona. It gives audiences the chance to be among the first to see great horror film, and see some indie horror flicks they might not see otherwise. The festival director, Monte Yazzie, was nice enough to answer some questions about the festival for us. Here is what he had to say:

How long have you been the director of the IHSFF?

I have been the Festival Director for 4 years.

What is your favorite part of putting together the festival?

I love the puzzle of finding films to program. With more avenues for filmmakers to showcase their work and the access to filmmaking technology becoming so readily available, there are new artists emerging with unique voices and visions to share. Working to find that good balance of horror and science fiction is challenging in a good way.

But what I think I’m most fond about is the inclusion of our filmmakers. Being able to play a small part in bringing their films to an audience is a special thing. Watching the audience connect with their films and seeing the filmmaker experience that feeling is an absolute treasure.

Over the years have you changed the types of films you select, or does it depend on the submissions?

We get so many submissions every year and it continues to grow. Every year the genre experiences change, what is popular one year isn’t popular the next. The programming team understands this and we always strive to pick the best films from the bunch regardless of what topic it wants to cover.

Festivalgoers probably noticed that the PFF/IHSFF has a longer run this year. Why is that? What are some other changes festivalgoers can expect?

We have expanded to 11 days…that’s awesome! The expansion was necessary, we never stop growing and continue to get more excellent films every year. We want to provide as much festival to the film fan as we can.

IHSFF has an entire emphasis during the second weekend with two dedicated screens!!! We have an opportunity to program more movies and allow for festival goers to catch everything that we have on the list. It’s an huge step for us.

What is a piece of advice you can give someone coming to the festival for the first time this year?

Have fun. The Phoenix Film Festival and International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival has a combined 300 films to showcase. Go to our website www.horrorscifi.com and take a look at the festival program, start figuring out the films that you want to watch, and get tickets early. We always sell out of bigger films, it’s important to make sure you get your tickets early so that you get into the theater. Recline back (yes, our theater has reclining seats), get some popcorn and a beverage, and enjoy the sights we have to show you!!!


 

The IHSFF and PFF will be running from April 5th through April 15th at the Harkins Scottsdale 101. Along with the link Monte provided, you can view the entire film schedule for both festivals here. I hope to see you there!

The Rage (Short)

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A man goes to a bar with a friend. The friend leaves, and the man is left alone. He sits at the bar avoiding calls and texts from his significant other. This triggers strange and violent hallucinations. When a woman at the bar bumps into the man, and they hit it off, the hallucinations only seem to get worse.

At first glance, The Rage appears to be a rather disturbing short film showing violence towards women. Upon closer inspection, the short is more than that. The violence takes place between the main character, Oscar, and his significant other, Kate. Both characters exhibit violence towards each other, so it isn’t one-sided, and all of the violence takes place in Oscar’s head. Initially the film gives the impression that Oscar is a budding psychopath or serial killer, imagining the things he wanted to do to the woman who hurt him. As the plot continues it becomes more clear that the hallucinations are not things Oscar wants to happen. Instead they are a visual representation of his emotions following an unfortunate discovery. While this is a very interesting way to convey the inner thoughts and feelings of Oscar, I almost wish they had been expanded upon a bit. Would these images in Oscar’s head lead to actual physical violence? Does his one night stand, Sylvi, have similar thoughts in her head when she is stood up? Going just a bit deeper would have made the plot that much more compelling.

Director Alrik Bursell made some interesting choices in his storytelling for this film. The most obvious is the use of hallucinations to convey intense emotions. A less obvious one is his choice to have almost no dialogue in the film. Even the bit of dialogue that is in the short is more in the background. This forces the viewer to focus on the visuals of the film, both with the hallucinations and the body language of the actors. It gives the short a more visceral, even primal feel, because the words are not as important as the physical expressions taking place.

The leads in the film do a surprisingly good job considering they don’t have much dialogue to lean on. L. Jeffrey Moore (Toxin) plays the jilted Oscar, while Sophia LaPaglia (Shout it Out!) plays the equally lonely Sylvi. Both actors excel at using their body language to tell the story, from how they feel when hurt by their significant others to how they feel when they first meet. This is vital considering the only speaking either character does is when they first bump into each other at the bar. Without the ability to speak through non-verbal means, the plot would not have flowed quite as well.

The Rage gives a look into the mind of an emotionally tortured man. The performances are strong and focus on the body language between characters. The short film has an interesting premise which relies heavily on visual storytelling more than it does dialogue. While that is one of the most successful aspect of the short, I also can’t help but wish the hallucinations and their implications had been expanded upon. The short is still an entertaining and interesting 6 minutes that will give viewers a unique view of what goes on inside a person’s head.

OVERALL RATING: 3/5

Inoperable

inoperable

Amy awakens in a seemingly abandoned hospital during a hurricane. As she explores the halls of the hospital she discovers the remaining doctors and nurses are doing horrible things to the few patients left. What’s even worse is that Amy’s time in the hospital keeps resetting, making her wake up in the hospital bed over and over. Amy must find a way to escape the hospital before she ends up stuck in her loop forever.

Inoperable is the kind of film that reveals more and more layers as you watch it. At first, nothing seems to entirely make sense. We watch as Amy repeatedly wakes up in a hospital bed, transported from her car stuck in traffic, while she attempts to find out what is happening. Many viewers will likely compare this time loop to films like Groundhog Day and the more recent Happy Death Day. When she’s in the hospital it quickly becomes clear something isn’t right with the staff. The doctors and nurses all seem to want to perform horrific, unnecessary, and painful procedures to torture the few remaining patients, including Amy. The beginning feels a bit slow as Amy wakes up multiple times in the hospital and simply explores the landscape, getting her bearings for this strange place. From there we learn more about what Amy has to do to survive, and possibly escape, right along with her. Once the plot picks up a bit it gets much more interesting, but then the end has quite a significant twist. While the twist made me think more highly of the film, it is still problematic. Throughout the film there are several references to a military base doing experiments, which is a possible explanation for the time loop. Even before the twist this felt like an afterthought to the rest of the plot, but after the twist it makes even less sense. With the twist, you get a better understanding for much of the prior events, but I feel like the mention of the military base ends up being pointless and muddies the plot.

One of the highlights of this film are some of the visual aspects. The most interesting visual is how the filmmakers chose to show the transitions as Amy goes from being in her car during the day to stuck in the hospital during a hurricane. As they begin to show it happen more and more the transitions become much more interesting and clever. Another interesting visual aspect of the film is the practical effects. The surgical procedures performed by the hospital staff are gruesome, gory, and surprisingly well done for a lower budget film. It is clear in many of these scenes that the point is to shock and disturb viewers, and the filmmakers do a decent job of just that.

Many horror fans will likely see this film for one reason, Danielle Harris (Halloween 4, Hatchet II). Harris is horror film royalty at this point, and her sizable fan base will bring quite a few viewers to this film to watch her as the lead, Amy. In the beginning of the film Harris seems a bit off. It isn’t until she has other people to interact with that Harris gets her stride and really brings an attention-grabbing performance. Amy is a survivor, which is a role Harris is very familiar with, and as the film progresses Harris is able to show more of the characters strength and determination. When the twist comes into play Harris truly shines, delivering a memorable performance. Unfortunately, some of the smaller rolls detract from the film. For example, with some of the actors portraying the hospital staff, much of the delivery comes across as someone simply reading lines from the script. Luckily there aren’t many scenes focusing on those characters, instead focusing on Amy and a couple other key characters, who also deliver enjoyable performances.

While Inoperable was interesting enough to hold my attention, it isn’t a film I will likely watch again. The plot has its highs and lows. While the twist is definitely entertaining and unexpected, it only adds to the muddled feeling of the plot. The highlights of the film are the visuals and and Danielle Harris as the lead, but some of the other performances take away from the quality of the acting overall. Harris will definitely be a draw for fans. Looking at the rest of her filmography, it is clear that this isn’t one of her best films, although through no fault of her own. The film is one that many viewers will quickly forget, especially with the similarity to other recent horror films.

OVERALL RATING: 4/10