BLACK AS NIGHT (2021)
Vampire flick premiered on Amazon Prime this past weekend as part of the new Welcome to the Blumhouse series. It takes place in New Orleans in the rundown housing project of Ombreux, where folks are suddenly disappearing. When teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper) is attacked and bitten and her mother is turned, Shawna realizes vampires are preying on the locals. Determined to save the Ombreux and those who live there, Shawna and best bud Pedro (Fabrizio Guido) set out to hunt down and destroy the master vampire (Keith David).
Flick is directed by Maritte Lee Go from a script by Sherman Payne. It has it’s heart in the right place, covering some socially relevant topics such as gentrification of urban neighborhoods and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on people of color, fifteen years later. The film makes good use of the New Orleans locations, and has some fun moments and entertaining action sequences as Shawna and friends turn vampire killers. Where the film falters, is as a vampire movie it’s very routine and could have been more energetic. The similar Vampires vs, The Bronx handled similar socially relevant themes, but was much more fun and effective as a vampire flick, too. Sure it’s great to see Keith David as a master vampire and his purpose fits in with the film’s themes, but it’s all very 90s Buffy—not that there’s anything wrong with that—but without the pop culture wit. Bronx’s gentrifying vampires were more fun, as were it’s spunky vampire fighting kids. Cooper and the cast all perform well, but well-intended social messages aside, we just wish Black as Night was simply more bloody fun.
ROYAL JELLY (2021)
Film tells the story of outcast high schooler and avid bee keeper Aster (Elizabeth McCoy). Aster is not happy living with her stepmother (Fiona McQuinn) and half-sister Drew (Raylen Ladner) and the feeling is mutual. Things start to pick up when new teacher Tresa (Sherry Lattanz) shows interest in Aster and shares her love of bee keeping. When Drew and her friends destroy Aster’s hives, she runs away and Tresa takes her in. But Tresa is not who she seems and she may have sinister plans for Aster.
Written and directed by Sean Riley, this low budget film does get credit for trying to do something different, even if the flick misses the mark. Royal Jelly is a slow burn and has a few creepy moments, but drops the ball when it makes it’s big reveal and it’s attempt to turn into a body horror in the last minutes become downright laughable, with some awful make-up FX. The plot that Tresa is trying to make humans become bee-like is bee-wildering and silly anyway, with Aster, naturally. to be transformed into the hive queen. Still, it does pay homage to it’s influences and at least had the originality to not include zombies or an exorcism. Available to rent now on VOD.
IT CAME FROM BELOW (2021)
Film opens with a man (Stuart Packer) barely escaping a cave system with his life, claiming that he encountered a horrifying creature within. Now his daughter Jessie (Megan Purvis) enters the cave system with some of her friends to prove her father was telling the truth. Be careful what you wish for spelunkers!
Routine low budget monster movie owes a lot to The Descent with it’s story of a strange and possibly extraterrestrial creature stalking young cave explorers deep below the surface. Flick is directed in a fairly by-the-numbers fashion by Dan Allen from his script with Sam Ashurst. There isn’t all that much to recommend here, as we’ve seen much of it all before and it really doesn’t add anything new to the monster movie sub-genre. The creature is a sufficient enough critter and there is some bloodshed, but there are also a lot of scenes of crying, screaming and melodrama, too. Allen really doesn’t infuse it with anything all that special to set it apart from the dozens of other direct to VOD monster flicks that arrive constantly during the year. If you are a monster movie completest or just like seeing dumb twenty-somethings in peril, flick is available to screen today on Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms.
THE LAST MATINEE (2020)
South American horror finds young student Ana (Luciana Grasso) working the night shift at a rundown movie theater, where she and her father are the projectionists. While a sub-par horror flick plays to a small, disinterested audience, Ana studies in the projection booth, unaware a killer (Ricardo Islas) is stalking the theater and has started to kill it’s patrons. Will Ana, or any of them, make it to the end credits?
As directed by Maximiliano Contenti, from his script with Manuel Facal, this is a stylish and colorful tribute to the Italian Giallo flicks, especially those by Dario Argento. With its leather-gloved killer and colorful cinematography, The Last Matinee hits the mark paying tribute to those films, while also giving a few nods to the classic slasher films of the 80s, with it’s very slasher-like plot. Our rain-coated killer, is known in the credits only as Asesino Comeojos, which translates to “Eye-eating Killer.” He is very effective and let’s just say he’s appropriately named. This mysterious stalker dispatches his victims in very gory ways and the FX portraying those deaths would make Lucio Fulci proud. There are some fun chases, once Ana realizes what’s going on and is pursued, along with the few survivors, throughout the theater. The film is very moderately paced, like the movies it pays homage to, but balances that out by not overstaying it’s welcome at only 88 minutes long. There is a nostalgic and atmospheric electronic score by Hernán González and some very Giallo-esque neon cinematography by Benjamín Silva. A loving tribute that does a good job capturing the tone, visual style and feel of the films it pays homage to. Maximiliano Contenti definitely shows promise. Now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Why did I wait so long to buy this book!? It’s filled with behind the scenes photos, storyboards, production sketches and designs from one of my favorite movies, ! A film masterpiece! It’s a gorgeous book and a must have for fans of this brilliant film!
Got it here on Amazon!…
Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale: del Toro, Guillermo, Nunziata, Nick, Vaz, Mark Cotta: 9780062433893: Amazon.com: Books
THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)
Action flick has people from the future arriving in 2022 to reveal that a war is being waged in 2051 against a very aggressive alien species referred to as “Whitespikes”. Earth is losing that war and they’ve come back in time to recruit people to fight. One of those drafted, is former military man and current biology teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Dan is whisked thirty years into the future, where he teams with a squad of reluctant soldiers from his timeline and his own grown-up daughter, Muri (Yvonne Strahovski) to battle the invaders. As the war rages in the future, Dan may find the solution back in the past where his wife (Betty Gilpin) and family awaits.
Flick is energetically directed by Chris McKay from a script by Zach Dean. Story-wise it’s Terminator, Aliens, Starship Troopers, a dash of John Carpenter’s The Thing and a ton of clichés all thrown in a blender that’s cranked up to 11. It’s derivative as heck, but it’s also a lot of fun and the big action does come quickly and explosively with moments of schmaltzy melodrama in-between, so we can catch our breaths. It’s comparable tone-wise to a Fast and Furious movie for sci-fi geeks and that’s not a bad thing on a simple entertainment level. The cast are fine with Pratt making a solid hero, Strahovski a noble scientist, Gilpin is wasted as the wife left back in the past, though J.K. Simmons is fun as Dan’s warrior dad, James. Supporting cast are efficient, too. Overall, it’s silly, a bit overlong and incredibly derivative, but it’s reported $200 million budget is onscreen with lots of FX and spectacular action and even if you’ve seen it all before, it is a popcorn fun mash-up.
SUMMER ’03 (2018)
Summer ’03 is an indie coming of age movie that finds teen Jamie Winkle (Joey King) trying to deal with the backlash when her grandmother Dotty (June Squibb) bares her soul on her death bed, throwing the family into chaos. Her mother Shira (Andrea Savage) finds out what she knew all along, Dotty hated her because she is Jewish. Her father Ned (Paul Scheer) finds out the man he thought was his father…wasn’t…and Dotty’s advice to Jamie might seem a little inappropriate. Being a teen is hard enough, but with a family in chaos and a dysfunctional funeral looming, Jamie tries to find herself in the mess.
Delightfully honest and sometimes biting and raunchy comedy/drama is written and directed by Becca Gleason. It presents a more realistic view of families, especially when secrets are revealed and real feelings come out, surrounding the death of a family member. It is also a nicely un-PC view of a teenager’s angst, not only in moments of upheaval, but in everyday teen life. The flick is not afraid to “go there” especially in it’s portrayal of Jamie following grandma’s last words of advice and of a young girl at the point of becoming a young woman. It has a bit of a devious and sarcastic sense of humor that produces some laugh out loud moments, for those who appreciate such, yet has some nice poignant moments, too, as Jamie struggles to find herself amidst her family falling apart around her. It does follow the coming of age movie formula, but does so at the beat of it’s own drum. Add to all that, a firecracker performance by Joey King, who is surrounded by a very good supporting cast and you have a movie that more people should have been talking about when released in 2018. Highly recommend and a very impressive feature film debut from Becca Gleason. Also stars Jack Kilmer as a young priest in training and Stephen Ruffin as a classmate, two young men whose attentions Jamie seeks as she tries to deal with what’s going on around her.
Flick can be found streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi.
Flick opens with Laura (Halloween 2018’s Andi Matichak) pregnant and escaping from a cult run by her father. She gives birth in a car while hiding from pursuit. Eight years later, she is a single mother of a boy David (Luke David Blumm) and a teacher. One night she sees a group of people, resembling cult members, in David’s room, but by the time the police arrive, there is no evidence anyone was there. David soon falls ill and the doctors have no explanation. The police detective on the case (Emile Hirsch) can find no evidence of a cult, as he digs into Laura’s disturbing past. As Laura fears something sinister is after them, she takes David and flees. Even worse, she discovers David’s illness can only be sated by something out of a nightmare. Is something demonic influencing her son, or is it all in Laura’s head?
RLJE Films production is directed by Ivan Kavanagh from his own script. This is a continually creepy and unsettling film, as the story unfolds and we question whether this is real, or all a product of Laura’s imagination, as a result of her troubled past. Is she responsible for some of the horrible things going on?…or is there something truly demonic coming to claim her son? The film has a consistent atmosphere of dread and some very gory sequences, as David’s illness is sated in a very disturbing and violent manner. The pace is more moderate, but that serves the slowly unfolding story. The cast are all good with Matichak being very strong as the emotionally troubled but loving mother, Laura. The flick comes to a chilling climax, that may not be totally unexpected, but will stay with you for a while, all the same. Son is available on streaming networks including Amazon Prime and is an unsettling film along the lines of The Dark and the Wicked.