plastic surgery

Goodnight Mommy

In a secluded home in the Austrian countryside nine-year-old twin boys wait for their mother to come home. When she does finally arrive her face is covered with bandages from plastic surgery. The twins notice that their mother’s behavior has been different since she came home. Soon they begin to wonder if this woman is even really their mother.

One of my favorite aspects of this film was the acting. Lukas and Elias (also their names in the film) Schwarz were excellent. When you consider the fact that this film was the twins first acting role, their performance is even more impressive. I know I’ve said this before in past reviews, but it is always risky with child actors in horror movies. They can often seem more annoying than anything else. The Schwarz twins avoided that by appearing to be relatively innocent and self sufficient in their environment. Susanne Wuest as their mother did an excellent job as well. Having most of your face covered can often make it harder to show different emotions when acting, but she shined through the bandages.

This film had many visual elements that made it stand out. I loved that they had this beautiful, modern house pushed up against a forest with nearby corn fields. It almost didn’t make sense, but when the mother came home and closed all the blinds it was like there were two separate worlds: the nature outside and the house of mystery on the inside. The cinematography throughout the film only added to these beautiful sets. There was also quite a bit of interesting play with light and dark. The light from outside versus the dark inside the house was the main way this can be seen. There is even light and dark used with the twins. Pay attention to what the twins are wearing. Elias is always wearing a lighter colored shirt than Lukas is.

Now that I have gone over what I liked about the film, I unfortunately must turn to what I didn’t like. This may be something that happened to a smaller percentage of viewers (which I’m guessing since this film got an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I figured out the big twist less than 10 minutes into the film. It was so obvious to me from the moment their mother came home. Because of this, the rest of the film moved rather slowly for me. I kept waiting for the film to reveal what I already knew. It was really disappointing because the twist is actually a fairly interesting one, it just wasn’t executed very well. The filmmakers made it stand out from the very beginning so it took the surprise and suspense away. The last thirty minutes of the film did a bit a redeeming. It was very intense and there were multiple scenes that made me cringe.

It’s unfortunate that I don’t have more things to say about this film. The acting was great, it had a lot of visual interest, but they gave away the twist too early. Knowing the twist at the beginning of an hour and a half long film makes it feel incredibly dull. While the ending made up for this a bit, it wasn’t enough for me to truly fall in love with the film. I may have been able to write more about the film if I divulge the way it ends, but everyone knows I hate spoilers. The acting and visual effects make this film at least somewhat worth watching, but I would probably only really recommend it to people who tend to be oblivious to the clues leading up to the big twist.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

Killer Rack

Betty (Jessica Zowlak) has low self esteem. She gets treated poorly at her job and by her boyfriend. The common theme Betty notices in all this is that she gets overlooked because she doesn’t have big boobs. She decides to get breast implants, hoping they make her life better. Little does she know that the plastic surgeon worships H.P. Lovecraft’s elder gods, and this surgeon plans to implant more than silicone into Betty’s breasts.

This film really took my by surprise. I won’t lie, when I first saw the trailer I was not expecting much. What I got was a hilarious satirical film that not only knew how to make fun of itself, but also knew how to make fun of the entire horror genre in the best way possible. There are even several scenes where the filmmakers purposely introduce stereotypes you would commonly find in horror movies. For example, when you first meet the detectives investigating a mysterious string of murders they are introduced as the older cop who is a week away from retirement and the rookie who just got married and is trying to have a baby with his wife. If that isn’t a stereotype setting them up for disaster, I don’t know what is. There is even a “reviewer” that talks about how the events at the climax are a metaphor for a woman taking control of her body and becoming empowered, and he plans on posting their review online. The writing was probably my favorite aspect of this film. The dialogue was witty, humorous, sarcastic, and downright ridiculous all at the same time.

The writing was greatly helped by the acting. Much of the acting was over the top, which is to be expected in this kind of horror comedy. One of the best over-the-top performances came from Debbie Rochon (Axe to Grind) as Dr. Thulu. She pulled off the evil scientist persona so well, and she had me laughing in every scene she was in. Dr. Thulu’s interaction with her nurse, played by the hilarious Robert Bozek (Hope), are some of my favorite scenes that made me laugh the hardest. I was also pleasantly surprised by Jessica Zwolak (Dry Bones). She did a great job portraying poor, self-conscious Betty. What I loved most about her performance is that she managed to appear to be self-conscious and rather mousy, but she did it in a way that wasn’t pathetic or annoying.

Most of the effects in this film were practical effects, which I always love. Without giving too much away, the big reveal for the “killer rack” at the climax of the film will have you laughing out loud, even with all the carnage and bloodshed that ensues. Just when you think things can’t get more ridiculous, they do! I’m really not surprised that the killer rack tied for best monster at the 2015 Fright Night Theatre Film Festival. The only part of the killer rack creature(s) that I didn’t like was when CGI was used**. It is really only used in one scene during the climax, and I understand that logistically what they did with CGI could not be done with practical effects, but the CGI ruined the look a bit for me. Other than that, the only other visual aspect I didn’t enjoy was the set for the office where Betty worked. The other sets were perfectly fine, but the office seemed like it was almost thrown together as an afterthought.

One of the aspect of this film that stood out for me was the music. This film has an original song called “Fun Bags” that plays during a dream sequence. This song is probably one of the funniest songs I have ever heard, and it is incredibly catchy. Since watching the film, I have got in stuck in my head on more than one occasion. The song also earned this film the Best Song award at the 2015 Fright Night Theatre Film Festival.

The entire concept reminded me a bit of “vagina dentata.” It’s the idea that something straight men desire can bring about their ultimate demise. I agree with the “reviewer” from the film that this had a lot to do with female empowerment as well, but not necessarily in the sense he describes. It’s more about Betty learning to be okay with her body and realizing there will always be someone out there who will love you for you. At the same time, this film is also simply about a pair of man-eating boobs that want to take over the world. The beauty of this film is that it can be both, and that is part of why it is so hysterical.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: this film really was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it is only on the film festival circuit right now and not available to rent or buy. Per director Greg Lamberson, the film should be available on DVD in August or September of 2016. So you can either try to catch the film at a festival near you, or wait until the DVD comes out. I will be sure to keep everyone posted on social media when there is a more precise DVD release date. You all should watch it when you get the chance. Killer Rack is a titillating tale about a pair of outrageous monsters that will have you laughing from start to finish.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

** I have been informed since writing this review that the tentacles that I thought were CGI are actually stop-motion. While that makes me appreciate the effort more, I still think the creatures would have more impact without them.