A Slice of Fright Film Fest 2019 – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 2

Back with part 2 of 3!!

Patina

John’s(Matt Kelly) order has finally arrived and he’s beyond excited. He has bought a robot named Patina(Alan Maxson) and can’t wait to show it to his wife, Alexa(Annabel Barrett). Alexa isn’t amused, however, as Patina is malfunctioning and it’s getting worse as the day goes on.

Sci-fi has always been a good companion to horror and Patina, directed by Alan Maxson, is no different. The genres blend together seamlessly with a dash of dark comedy added to the mix. While we’ve seen rouge artificial intelligence stories before it’s the overall execution that pulls Patina together. The acting is exceptional with all three actors playing off each other nicely whether it be for laughs or for scares. The sound design is also terrific with Patina’s movements sounding both prehistoric and futuristic. Patina is fantastic on all fronts and is highly recommended for any lover of the sci-fi/horror genre.

I give Patina 6 out of 6 reels.

The Soul Collector

The hunter(Michael May) is collecting souls when he happens on the home of his next victims. As the hunter approaches a wife(Tierney Michon) is preparing to shower while her husband(Travis Cox) is watching television with their children. A surprise awaits when he finds this family isn’t as helpless as they seem.

With The Soul Collector director Nick Peterson has made a sci-fi/horror short that is absolutely oozing with style. The art direction stands out and it’s this uniqueness that gives The Soul Collector a memorable quality. The story, which begins as a standard slasher movie, goes places that are certainly unexpected. Some may question the use of the art style for the entire film as it creates some mild confusion, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of the film or the excitement it elicits.

I give The Soul Collector 5 out of 6 reels.

Verso

A deranged man(Nicholas Badamo) is attacking the poor patrons of a bar. No. . . wait, now he is dancing seductively with a woman(Christi Perovski). Watch as an intriguing story unfolds that is unlike anything considered normal.

A film difficult to critique due to how it unfolds, Verso is full of charisma, attitude, and mystery. Directors Ryan Russell Steele and Joseph Victor have created Verso in an interesting way that not only progresses the story, but also uniquely shifts the genre of the film. Morphing the genre not just in the moment, but of the film in its entirety. Verso has interesting art house decisions that may turn off some viewers, but the choices made were for the overall vision and enhancement of the film.

I give Verso 5 out of 6 reels.

The Reapers

Razaphel(Tanner Sells) is having terrible dreams. Nightmares of a group that call themselves the reapers. Razaphel tells his grandmother, Marion(Jami Cullen), about the nightly terrors hoping for an explanation. Marion’s sympathy soon turns to excitement as she knows exactly what Razaphel’s dreams are prophesying.

Directed by Gin Wills, The Reapers is a fantasy horror film that is full of rich lore. On the surface, The Reapers is your standard “I’ve had a bad dream” tale where little info is given about what is going on. In The Reapers, however, you receive an explanation for the nightmares. The audience gets answers for many questions, but also leaves enough mystery for future installments. The overall quality of The Reapers is rough, but the imagination and creativity remain unaffected. This should help in the making of future films should they be made.

I give The Reapers 3 out of 6 reels.

Apollyon

After locking up for the evening a janitor(Jimmy Doom) begins the job of cleaning the local church. After a while he finds that he’s not along when he finds a mysterious woman sitting among the pews. Politely asking her to leave proves dangerous when a devastating chain of events begins.

Apollyon, directed by Bret Miller, is a horror story that delivers a strong message about issues in today’s society. It’s a slow burn, but the tension builds perfectly as Apollyon leads to its last act. The story that Apollyon conveys builds nicely, weaving perfectly with the building tension. It’s societal message comes across unobtrusively, not being thrown in the viewers face. The suffocating tension melding with the intense plot leads to a conclusion that is a deafening crescendo of horror.

I give Apollyon 6 out of 6 reels.

Arcanus

Everything is perfectly normal in the household of a father(Jesus Andres De Dios), mother(Virginia Nolting), and their son(Felix Martin Lobato). Sure strange events are occurring in the neighborhood but nothing to be really worried about, right?

Sometimes people are so fixated on daily activities that they don’t notice the world around them. This is especially true of children and in Arcanus, directed by Fernando Ruiz, we get exactly that. A film that is extremely jarring in it’s scary moments, Arcanus has some very unique jump scares. Through the use of electronic music (think Aphex Twin and Squarepusher) and quick camera cuts to disturbing imagery, Arcanus delivers us these creative scares. Though the story could give us a bit more answers about what’s going on, Arcanus still delivers a slick presentation with plenty of style.

I give Arcanus 4 out of 6 reels.

Long Overdue 

The cabal leader(John Creedon) is finally ready to resurrect the long dead king. All he needs to do is recite some phrases from the sacred texts. Now where did he put those stubborn sacred texts?

A micro comedy/horror directed by Emmet O’Brien Long Overdue takes a moment we’ve all had, realizing we’ve lost something, and turns it into a hilarious short. The amount of lore and world building packed into Long Overdue is impressive, seeing as it’s only a minute long. The film relies solely on one premise, however, and it would have been nice to see a few more quick jokes thrown in. This doesn’t distract from Long Overdue’s quality and by the end of the film any audience will be laughing out loud.

I give Long Overdue 5 out of 6 reels.

Bequeathed 

Michael North(Cliff Beverly) is having a very stressful day. He has just skipped his fathers funeral and the reading of his will. Micheal is soon visited by Phil Carter(Steve Ledyard), a representative of his father’s affairs. It seems that Micheal’s father left him an important item. An item that will change Michael’s perspective on life forever.

In the first minutes of Bequeathed we get what many horror movies are unable to do in an hour by establishing a gripping plot that hooks the audience. Both director Michael McCallum and actors Cliff Beverly and Steve Ledyard are able to create a story that is rich with potential. When the scares begin to take hold not only are they terrifying but they also work to further the lore. In the end a few to many questions are left unanswered, which may cause some confusion. A minor criticism though because Bequeathed still leaves the viewer with an eerie sense of suspense and unease.

I give Bequeathed 5 out of 6 reels.

Midnight Visitor

The past few nights a woman(Janissa Saracino) is plagued by a stranger who is attempting to enter her locked apartment. Her doorknob turns back and forth as she is stricken with fear. Upon seeing that her neighbor(Dre Soule) is experiencing the same phenomenon, she lets the stranger inside. . . 

What begins as a straightforward horror concept of attempted home invasion turns toward the mysterious and weird in Midnight Visitor. Directed by Abby Brenker, Midnight Visitor has one of the more interesting ideas you’re like to see for a horror movie antagonist. The film creates a otherworldly setting that imbues a lingering sense of creepiness in the viewer. Questions about the Midnight Visitor will be with the audience long after the film has ended.

I give Midnight Visitor 4 out of 6 reels.

El Bano 3

A woman(Freespirit_Mace) is out for a walk when she stumbles upon some skeletal remains. Instead of contacting the authorities she gets entranced by a jewel that she finds on the body. A jewel that is both precious and deadly.

A horror short directed by Studi Yo Bless, El Bano 3 plays out like a classic fairy tale. Similar to old horror stories told around the campfire, El Bano 3 will send shivers down your spine. Most people have had the urge to take abandoned items of value and in this way El Bano 3 is a cautionary tale. The film is a modern take on this story, done with a style and grace that makes it more approachable for a newer audience. While the low-budget may turn off some viewers El Bano 3 still has a nostalgic old school charm.

I give El Bano 3 3 out of 6 reels.

Stay tuned for PART 3 of 3 – A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Fest 2019 Mini Reel Reviews!

A Slice of Fright 2019 – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 1

Mark Kelly is BAAAACK with more mini Reel Reviews! This time Mark’s reviewing all of the films showcased at A SLICE OF FRIGHT Film Festival 2019!

Ding. . . You’re Dead

A man(Trevor Larson), who is dog sitting for a friend, decides to enjoy a nice microwave lasagna. It’s after retrieving his delicious dish that he realizes strange things are occurring. 

As scary as it is funny, Ding. . . You’re Dead is an excellent addition to the horror/comedy genre. Jay Salahi does a great job directing by setting up frightening set pieces, while adding bits of humor in just the right places. Also, Trevor Larson’s very expressive performance is priceless and really adds to the laughs. Ding. . . You’re Dead does tend to land on the goofy side of comedy, but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality.

I give Ding. . . You’re Dead 5 out of 6 reels.

The Animator

Little clay men are at the mercy of their creator. . . The Animator!

A delightful dark comedy about the claymation process, The Animator is a really fun watch. Think of being a kid and the joy of toppling over a tower of blocks you’ve just constructed. Now think more gruesome, as you’re destroying things you’ve made out of clay. This is The Animator. Also, director Trent Shy deserves a round of applause as any foray into the world of claymation can be very work intensive and tedious.

I give The Animator 6 out of 6 reels

In Good Health

Marshall(Bryan Landon) has just gotten back from vacation with his girlfriend Val(Rachel M. Beck). As usual with seemingly every vacation Marshall has become very ill. Val leaves and wishes him well but all seems hopeless as he calls sick into work. That is until along comes a spider.

Directed by Jerrod Rachow, In Good Health is a little light on the horror but makes up for that by telling a truly bizarre tale. In the beginning we get some nice aerial shots, which sets the proper mood. The acting, while not outstanding, is good enough to set up an investment in the characters. What follows is a story that is strange and unique. While the ending could have used a little more explanation, In Good Health definitely leaves the audience a sense of unease and dread.

I give In Good Health 4 out of 6 reels

Watch Out

A boy(Ayman Boulahrouz) goes to his grandfathers (Fred Van Der Hilst) after school. As he waits for his mother to return home the boy begins to notice that his grandfather is acting strangely. He doesn’t seem himself and the odd behavior is rapidly escalating.

A look into the world of a real fear that we all share, Watch Out is a horror film directed by Shariff Nasr. The fear of finding a loved one isn’t who they say they are is relatable and makes Watch Out all the more horrifying. The pacing in this film is incredible, giving little morsels of scares along the way until the big feast at the end. While we’ve seen most of these scares before Shariff Nasr puts a personal touch to each scenario, making each unique.

I give Watch Out 5 out of 6 reels

Vanishing Point

Abbey(Gwen Marcello) is having a hard time going to sleep after being tucked in for bed. She’s hearing strange noises and both her mother(Andrea Zenovia) and father(Andrew Mitakides) don’t want to believe she’s crazy. Maybe there is some truth to the claims, however, as an evil begins to slowly spread.

In Vanishing Point director Michael R. Shea introduces us to a world that, at first glance, appears small and fairly simple. Quickly it opens up into something that is much more large and terrifying. Relying on scares that are otherworldly rather than practical, Vanishing Point frightens viewers with thoughts of the unknown. Even though the overall production is rough around the edges it’s the unsettling feeling that Vanishing Point leaves us with that matters most.

I give Vanishing Point 4 out of 6 reels.

Grave Sight

Two grave robbers, Tanya(Holly Stevens) and Preston(Craig Gunn), are looking to get rich quick by scoring some precious jewels. It’s soon clear they are not professionals as they begin to flub up every step of the process with hilarious results.

Directed by Angus Swantee and Walter Forsyth, Grave Sight is a dark comedy that is funny while also containing some pretty disturbing gore. The script is well written delivering plenty of laughs with the constant bickering between the two grave robbers, Tanya and Preston. The situation gets even more hilarious and we get some great physical comedic bits in the process. The ending is something to behold when an evil character enters, spectacularly performed by Dale Bellefontaine. Grave Sight is a little light on the scares but it definitely shines in terms of its comedic and entertainment value. 

I give Grave Sight 5 out of 6 reels.

The Scarf

A grandmother(Margaret Elsesser) and her granddaughter(Shannon Grant) are enjoying each other’s company by knitting some scarves. When the conversation turns to problems she is having at school, the granddaughter gets some grandmotherly advice. Remember, grandmothers always know best.

The Scarf, directed by Neil Willoughby, is a unique film in that a full description of the genre would be best left unheard by a first time viewer. However, saying this is a horror tale doesn’t give much away as very early on we get some quality scenes of all out terror. It’s the ending that needs kept under wraps, as it puts a nice bow on the entire short. The acting is a little over the top at times, which makes the story a bit confusing, but it all comes together nicely at the end.

I give The Scarf 4 out of 6 reels.

Hypnosis 

A man(Damien Reynal) is chasing a woman(Flore Vannier-Moreau) down a deserted street in the middle of the night. At least that’s what it seems. We soon find that there is more to this story that what meets the eye.

Directors Gregoire Vaillant and Charles-Edouard Dangelser take a different approach to the “damsel in distress being chased by a male assailant” horror troupe in the thriller Hypnosis. The chase scenes are well done as they build high tension in the action portrayed on the screen. Previous story bits are woven nicely throughout the chase, giving the viewer a back story to what’s going on. The ending is satisfying, wrapping up the immediate questions that need addressing while leaving others unanswered. Hypnosis is a great short to watch multiple times, as you catch little things in each play through that you may have missed before.

I give Hypnosis 6 out of 6 reels.

Siren

A woman(Denise Hill) goes to investigate some music being played in her attic before going to bed. What sounds like a soothing tune quickly becomes something much more sinister.

Directed by Jess Vande Zande, Siren is a micro horror short that answers the question, “What is that weird noise in the attic?”. It delivers an ending that is enjoyable for any fan of old school creature features. What Siren lacks for in budget it makes up in the creative design of all the frightening features found in the creepy attic.

I give Siren 3 out of 6 reels.

Bump in the Night (Jason Interview)

Hosts Da Boogie Man(Johnny Zuko) and The Crypt Keepers Mistress(Ginger Snap) are back with another captivating interview. Today’s guest? The one and only hockey mask wearing terror of Camp Crystal Lake himself, Jason Voorhees!

Bump in the Night, directed by Mizz Moist, is a film that plays out like a dark horror comedy sketch. Something that could have been on Kids in the Hall or The State, we see a premise that is hilarious to watch due to its absurdity. The star of the show, Jason Voorhees, was done exceptionally well and looks like he is ripped straight off the set of one of his cult films. Laughs, horror, and gore we get it all in Bump in the Night.

I give Bump in the Night (Jason Interview) 4 out of 6 reels.

STAY-TUNED FOR PARTS 2-3!

Knoxville Suds &Cinema – Mini Reel Reviews Pt 2

We’re back with Mark Kelly’s mini reel reviews of the remaining SUDS & CINEMA – Knoxville short film selections!

Cheeto

A man(Cody Lovorn) encounters a major dilemma. Should he or should he not eat the delicious snack he has found lying on the floor?

Directed by Cody Lovorn, Cheeto is a comedic micro short. What Cheeto lacks in terms of story it makes up for in quality and entertainment. A hilarious look into a moment that everybody has probably experienced, 

I give Cheeto 3 out of 6 reels.

Don’t Die

After an evening of browsing the internet, doing some research on purchasing a home security system, a man(Cody Lovorn) decides to call it a night. As he heads for bed, however, he soon realizes that his decision to install a security system may have come to late.

A film directed by Cody Lovorn, Don’t Die is a frightening look into the horror sub genre of home invasion. Close attention is payed to the setup of specific shots, which leads to an authentic feeling of fear without resorting to jump scares. Due to the high quality of the filmmaking and the subject being highly relatable, 

I give Don’t Die 6 out of 6 reels.

Foreword

Novelist Jared Draybeck(Michael McCallum) is going through a rough time. He’s got a bad case of writers block and the relationship with his partner Jalynne(Rachel Mender) is crumbling. Jared plans a long session of writing at his friend Davids(Wolf Hogan) house where he reads the most important piece of fan mail he’s ever received.

Foreword is a mind bending tale of jealousy and revenge directed by Michael McCallum. The plot and excellent way in which the director leads us through the story are what makes Foreword intriguing. Some questions were purposely left unanswered which supports a sense of mystery and suspense. The acting is not a strong part of Foreword, but doesn’t distract from the film. 

I give Foreword 5 out of 6 reels.

Voice in the Radio

Kevin(Vince Hobart Smith) is trying to find meaning in his life and of a voice(Haydn Wolfie Koeller) that he hears. A voice that has reassured in the past, but is now asking more of Kevin. A voice that comes out of an old, static filled radio.

Voice in the Radio is a drama directed by JW Cox. It’s a moving look at a mans search for the meaning behind a mysterious voice he hears on an old radio. Effective acting is an essential element to many dramas and Voice in the Radio doesn’t disappoint. Vince Hobart Smith does a terrific job as Kevin and he goes to incredible places with the smartly written script. While the film does walk the line in being overly dramatic in delivering its message, 

I still give Voice in the Radio 4 out of 6 reels.

Papa

A father(Curt Willis) encounters a strange being(Kristin Cochell) in the woods. A strange being that threatens to destroy his wife(Chloe Zeitounian), daughter(Ava Culpepper), and his own sanity.

Papa, a folk horror film directed by Brain Peery, is a terrifying look at a mans mind slowly disintegrating and the destructive relationship with his family. In nuanced fashion we see how a variety of relationships, whether it be man/nature, wife/husband, or daughter/father, can begin to crumble. The acting, the writing and the cinematography were all done with great care in furthering the disturbing story. 

I give Papa 6 out of 6 reels.

Self Checkout

At the grocery store a customer(Tyler Broadway) walks to the self checkout, ready to ring up his items. As we all know, sometimes these machines do some pretty weird things. It’s almost as if they have a life of their own.

A hilarious comedy directed by Hanson Devil, Self Checkout is a slightly off kilter look at the self checkout process, in which most of us know the problems. Self Checkout is an absurdist take on one of these scenarios. The jokes are well written and come at a brisk pace. Tyler Broadway’s over the top delivery also contrasts well with Megan Jones’s dry humor as the self check automated voice. 

I give Self Checkout 5 out of 6 reels.

Suds & Cinema Knoxville – Mini Reel Reviews – Pt 1

CinemaSlice is proud to have showcased so many awesome short films at SUDS & CINEMA – Knoxville! Join Mark Kelly as he writes a mini Reel Review on each of the official film selections for this event.

Hunted

A young woman, who is walking through the woods, suddenly notices that someone is following her. Who is following her and will she be able to escape?

A micro horror film directed by Seth Young, Hunted is an effectively scary thriller. Based on being chased by an ominous danger, it plays on our real fears. Hunted feels lacking in story due to the length but in doing so it leaves the viewer haunted by the questions it leaves unanswered.

I give Hunted 3 out of 6 reels.

Tennis

A game of tennis turns into an epic battle for the ages as Jordan(Chance McDuffy) faces of against his overly eager buddy Nick(Greg Collins).

A comedy directed by Logan Solana, Tennis is a hilarious look at two buddies in a “friendly” competition. Jordan and Nick are instantly likable characters that play well off each other due to their contradicting personalities. The writing is fine, but what really shines here is the physical comedy and timing. The joke delivery is spot on and the level of absurdity is appropriate.

I give Tennis 4 out of 6 reels.

Drop Frame

While working on a nature program a producer(Forrest Ferguson) and an editor(Jamie Hickman) encounter something strange. Is it a glitch in the equipment or is something more otherworldly occurring.

Drop Frame is a suspense/mystery film directed by Philip Tatler IV. Although some might classify this as horror, Drop Frame is different. Instead of bombarding the viewer with jump scares and gore, it leaves the viewer with a sense of unease and dread. You’re never quite sure exactly what is going on and just when you think you do Drop Frame gets even weirder. Playing out like a classic episode of Twilight Zone, Drop Frame doesn’t disappoint.

I give Drop Frame 6 out of 6 reels.

Back to the Drawing Board

Using their newly acquired ability of travel time a group of friends, Hannah(Hannah Riddle), Nicholas(Nicholas Mariano), Justin(Justin Simerly), and James(James Maines) try to change past events for a better future. What actually ends up happening is something more hilarious than heroic.

A sci-fi comedy directed by John Queener & Gabe Hobbs, Back to the Drawing Board is a hilarious look into the world of time travel gone wrong. The comedic writing in Back to the Drawing Board is great with the jokes coming at a fast pace. Even with the unrealistic elements of time travel, the script remains grounded and relatable. Although the delivery and timing could have used some work and we’ve seen time travel done in this way before, Back to the Drawing Board is entertaining nonetheless.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 4-reel.png

I give Back to the Drawing Board 4 out of 6 reels.

I Will Not Disappear

Alan(Merrit Brakebill, Paul Smith) is reminiscing of past experiences with his wife Victoria(Heather Arnwine, Sarah Smith). In their golden years, Victoria’s memories are slowly disappearing as she struggles to remember the past.

I Will Not Disappear is a heartfelt and emotional drama directed by Jared Sutton. A relatable film for those with loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, I Will Not Disappear will tug on the heartstrings. The cinematography and direction are on a top-tier level and the acting is phenomenal. While many films of the past have covered this same topic, I Will Not Disappear is certainly among the greats.

I give I Will Not Disappear 5 out of 6 reels.

The Workout

During a rigorous Zumba session at the local YMCA tragedy strikes when a man goes into cardiac arrest. Never fear as there is somebody magical in the class to save the day. 

An absurdist comedy directed by Chris Rodgers, The Workout is an enjoyable film that relies heavily on its core premise. The writing and acting, while not outstanding, are woven expertly to serve this premise. Though not really relatable in any way to everyday life, The Workout is still a fun and entertaining watch.

I give The Workout 3 out of 6 reels.

Stay Tuned for PART 2!!

The Rise of Valhalla – Reel Review

It’s the last months of WWII and Germany is in shambles as the allied forces are closing in on the country. The Nazi party is desperate and willing to do anything to turn the tide of the war. German soldiers are ransacking the entire country and after a few alterations with the locals that end in tragedy, a group of German resistance fighters is born. They begin to track a group of Nazi soldiers lead by General Wolff. General Wolff, however, has been busy with much more than looting German homes and killing Jews. The resistance soon discover General Wolff has attempted to raise the dead by opening the gates of Valhalla.

Directed by Daniel Konze, The Rise of Valhalla is a feature-length horror/war drama. Due to the subject and genre that it encapsulates, The Rise of Valhalla isn’t exactly a comfortable film to view. It, however, is definitely a well executed one. In terms of cinematography and setting the mood, The Rise of Valhalla is a masterclass. Careful attention is shown to the location, costuming, and sound design. It feels as though you are actually experiencing the horrors of war. The resistance fighters form a fantastic ensemble. Hermann (Thomas Binder), Wilhelm (Mario Kaspras), Ludwig (Fabio Sorgini), Paul (Marc Bluhm), Leopold (Armin Barwich) and Gustav (Javier Wolf) all do excellent jobs in the tough setting given and the challenging emotions they portray. Without any spoilers, the last act of the film has some top-notch practical gore effects that are stunning to behold.

Some criticisms I have with The Rise of Valhalla have to do with issues in the pacing of the film and its script. There are many scenes in the middle part of the film where we are traveling with the resistance. It’s during these scenes were the film slows down to an uncomfortably slow pace. To help reduce this slower pace, more dialogue for the characters could have helped. The resistance don’t seem to connect much during their journey, and it’s during these slow moments that more bonding could have occurred.

The Rise of Valhalla tells a great alternate history tale that mixes in moments of suspense and horror. At times the pacing felt slow, and with more dialogue the resistance could have developed more emotional bonds. Despite this the cinematography, costuming and sound design work together nicely bringing a convincing portrait of WWII. The finale is a riveting and harrowing portrayal of all out madness.

I give The Rise of Valhalla 4 out of 6 Reels.

Bella – Reel Review

Bella by Charlene Jeter

On the surface, Mary Ellen appears to have a normal life. A mother to beautiful twin babies and doting wife to husband Josh, Mary Ellen couldn’t ask for anything more. Appearances are deceiving, however, as Josh is an extremely violent abuser. When all hope seems lost Mary Ellen meets Bella. Bella is a strong, confident woman who has survived her own abusive relationship. Is Mary Ellen ready to take Bella’s advice to the bloody end? Or have things already spiraled past the point of no control?

Bella is a short dramatic thriller written and directed by Charlene Jeter. Charlene also stars in the film as Bella, along with Heather Fairbanks as Mary Ellen and Jeremy Evitts as Josh. Bella is a film that has some great elements, but also many questionable ones. First we’ll start with the positive. 

When it comes to setting the mood, Bella truly shines. In the beginning, we visit the back story for Bella’s character. The cinematography, costuming, and acting were so on point that I actually thought I was in 1980’s Detroit. Charlene Jeter does an absolutely spectacular job portraying Bella and is in a class all her own. The drama in this first half was captivating and I wanted to see what was next.

In the second half we return to Mary Ellen’s story after getting a glimpse of Bella’s early years. This is where the story begins to break down. Without giving spoilers some plot twists occur that were confusing and didn’t seem to fit with the motivations of the characters. Despite the confusion, I was continuously entertained and never bored.

Bella is a tale of two movies for me. The first being the enjoyable beginning that highlighted Bella’s backstory. This section had incredible drama that was tense and gripping to watch. The second half, while still interesting to watch, had some questionable plot twists and confusing motivations. Despite these moments, I recommend giving Bella a watch. It is now available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

I give Bella 3 out of 6 Reels.

Investigation:Death – Reel Review

Gary Cowden (Mike Neider), AKA: The Bicuspid Killer, is the next subject examined in the hit crime series Investigation: Death. In this episode, titled I Dated a Serial Killer, they look into Gary’s techniques as a murderer. He enjoys luring women on dating websites in order to meet with them. Meetings in which Gary has murderous intent. On one date he meets Karen Davies (Dawn Marie Hughes), a woman whom Gary plans to take home. He has noticed that Karen has beautiful teeth. Gary soon finds out, however, that Karen Davies isn’t like his other victims. In fact Karen may be much more disturbed than even Gary himself.

Written and directed by Jeremy Allen, Investigation: Death is a short horror/dark comedy. Leaning into both genres, Investigation: Death will have the viewer grimacing one minute and chuckling with laughter the next. Switching genres is also Investigation: Deaths strongest element. It subverts the audiences expectations of what they are watching, moving from genre to genre with an exceptional directorial hand. The writing is well done with the comedic bits being a highlight. The acting is also noteworthy and the entire cast does an exceptional job. Mike Neider is outstanding as Gary Cowden, a creepy villain that will stick with the viewer long after watching.

Not many criticisms come to mind as I had an entertaining time with this film. With such a creative team it would be interesting, however, to see this idea revisited with a larger budget. This may not be possible, but it would be neat to see Investigation: Death with an overall polish that a larger budget could bring.

Overall Investigation: Death was an awesome watch. Both deeply disturbing and funny it hit all the notes of a good short. Although a little rough around the edges, it was fantastic in terms of direction, writing, and acting. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys serial killer horror and hilarious dark comedy.

I give Investigation: Death 5 out of 6 reels.

https://youtu.be/hZu5c6GRLcA

Tales of Frankenstein – Reel Review

A portrait handed down through the generations. A portrait of a doctor who is widely known across the globe. A doctor obsessed with giving life to his own creation. His name was Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his family tree has grown large. His legacy has spidered along the branches of this tree with certain family members continuing his vile experiments. Each believes they have perfected the techniques of the past. However, can the perfect solution be found to a question that was never intended to be asked?

Directed by Donald F. Glut, Tales of Frankenstein is a collection of four short horror tales. Done in the style of great anthologies such as Creepshow and V.H.S., Tales of Frankenstein connects each tale with a through line. All of the stories were interesting, because each was done in a unique style that represented the location and time period where the short takes place. The through line is the weakest element of Tales of Frankenstein, but I’ll get to that later. First we’ll visit each story and I’ll give my reaction to each.

First is My Creation, My Beloved which tells how Dr. Gregore Frankenstein (Buddy Daniels Friedman) attempts to bring back his former love, Irma. With Irma’s brain and the additional help of local morgue worker Herr Hussman (Tad Atkinson) and prostitute Helga (Lilian Lev), Gregore hopes to carry out this task. I felt like this was the weakest story of the four tales. It wasn’t as unique as the others and seemed to stick to a more traditional storytelling approach. It was well done technically, however, with good direction and great gore effects. Also I felt this had the strongest acting ensemble, with a very creepy performance by Tad Atkinson as Herr Hussman.

Second is Crawler from the Grave where Vincent (John Blyth Barrymore) becomes obsessed with his neighbors, Lenore Frankenstein (Tatiana DeKhtyar) and Helmut Frankenstein (Len Wein). Vincent’s obsession stems from his love of precious and rare gems. A recently deceased Helmut owned such a gem, which he wore on his finger. Vincent then proceeds with a grave robbing plot that may give him problems due to Helmut’s experiments. Experiments intended to give himself everlasting life. With a strong story, awesome special effects, and very creepy visuals this was my favorite of the anthology. No criticism for Crawler from the Grave as it was solid from start to finish.

Next up is Madhouse of Death. Private Detective Jack Anvil (Jamisin Matthews) takes shelter at an old house when his car breaks down right before an approaching storm. It’s there that he meets Dr. Mortality (Mel Novak) and his butler, Mogambo (T.J. Storm). Dr. Mortality has a plan for Jack, a plan that may involve Jack losing his mind. The most funny and absurd of the four shorts. It was a delight watching as the characters came out, each more odd and eccentric than the last. The serious noire style really worked and was a great juxtaposition to the craziness. The mixing of crazy characters and different genres won’t be for everyone, but was very effective nonetheless.

Lastly is Dr. Karnstein’s Creation in which Dr. Heinrich Karnstein (Jim Tavare) recruits local bar fly Carl (Justin Hoffmeister). Carl needs money and will do anything for Dr. Heinrich. Even if that involves creating a bloodthirsty unstoppable super soldier. Like the last three tales Dr. Karnstein’s Creation is a quality short in all departments. What makes this one stand out, however, is the ending. For all the creature lovers out there this short is for you. The abomination at the end is a sight to behold.

As mentioned earlier, my biggest criticism with this anthology is the lack of a more substantial through line. Essentially the Frankenstein family lineage and the handed down portrait are all we get. While this is in no way a deal breaker it was a bit of a letdown. Each short was really good though, with a great mixture of different genres and film styles. I love a good anthology and I believe this one stands right along with all the classics.

I give Tales of Frankenstein 5 out of 6 reels.

Big and Tall – Reel Review

Molly has a very curious hobby. She obsesses over everything Bigfoot. News clippings, video sightings and first hand accounts swirl around her brain. When she hears that Blue Ridge Adventures is sponsoring a contest in her area, she jumps at the opportunity. Ten thousand dollars to anyone who can find proof that Bigfoot exists. So Molly grabs her somewhat skeptical friend, Devon, and they begin their journey. A journey that will show Molly to always follow her dreams, despite the pitfalls that may occur.

Big and Tall is a heartwarming comedy/adventure short directed by Clint TillEmi Otsuki plays the smart and spunky Molly. Emi does an outstanding job in playing Molly as an instantly likable character. Emis portrayal would make any girl watching Big and Tall be drawn to Molly’s adventurous spirit. Devin McCracklin also does a fantastic job in a supporting role as Molly’s friend Devon. A good script and a nice comedic performance by Devin develops Devon’s character nicely. He has his own unique personality while also not overshadowing Molly.

The directing is another standout in Big and TallClint Till gets performances from Emi and Devin that, in my opinion, rival other famous films with child actors. IT: Chapter 1 and Stand by Me come to mind. Every shot is purposeful and every scene helped to forward the story in a meaningful way. My only criticism is that it was too short. I realize it’s a short film, but I feel this could be made into a full length feature.

I thought Big and Tall was a great film. A fantastic script delivered by amazing child actors shot by a director that respects his audiences time. It’s comedy and adventure mixed together with a little suspense added in. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys feel good, well made movies.

I give Big and Tall 6 out of 6 reels.

From Mania to Obsession – Reel Review

Zach Evans is attending a panel at the 2019 Festival of Play. The topic of discussion is Ziggo Mania 5, a video game that Zach adores. One of the panelists is Jesse Blackwell, who is the lead programmer on the project. Once Zach gets a chance to ask some questions he finds out from Jesse some unfortunate news about Ziggo Mania. News that will light a spark within Zach and lead to a series of sinister events. Jesse is now in danger and will have to use all his unique skills to save himself.

From Mania to Obsession is a short suspense/thriller directed by Andrew Brantley and Kevin Shirka. It stars Kevin Shirka as Zach Evans and Randall Williams as Jesse Blackwell. From Mania to Obsession is a very enjoyable film on multiple levels. One thing that stood out for me was the overall concept of the movie. Another was this concepts execution in terms of the escalating suspense. Similar to Stephen Kings Misery, this film tells of one individuals demented fixation on an individual. In this case, Zach Evans compulsion for Jesse Blackwell. Unique to From Mania to Obsession is the use of modern technologies, which makes the story more relatable. Kevin Shirka does a great job in taking this concept and applying it to the actions and mannerisms of Zach. It’s very entertaining watching Zach steadily descend into madness throughout the film.

A criticism I have with From Mania to Obsession is with using Ziggo Mania 5 throughout the short. Although it was creative using a video game that appears exclusively made for the film, Ziggo Mania 5s quality didn’t fit with the story. Ziggo Mania 5 looks like a mobile game, something that would appeal to younger children. As a gamer I have to admit this threw me off a bit. A non-gamer, however, probably wouldn’t notice. I feel this could have been fixed by providing a more realistic motivation for Zach’s anger. One suggestion could be that Ziggo Mania 5 is now introducing micro transactions. Another could be that the game has taken a dramatically deep dip in quality.

From Mania to Obsession is full of great suspenseful moments. The modern take on the concept is excellent and Kevin’s portrayal of Zach is frightening. The quality of Ziggo Mania 5 is a little confusing, however, which is distracting. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys thrillers that don’t resort to jump scares or excessive violence.

I give From Mania to Obsession 3 out of 6 reels.