COVID era slasher finds selfish party girl Parker Mason (Gideon Adlon) taking her friend Miri (Bethlehem Million) to a lake house to quarantine in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Her quasi-boyfriend DJ (Dylan Sprayberry) follows them up there to confront Parker about a social media broadcasted dalliance with another guy. That is the least of their worries as Parker is getting cryptic texts and calls, and soon it is obvious the trio is not alone.
Slasher is well directed by John Hyams (the son of director Peter Hyams) from a script by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson and Katelyn Crabb. It is a routine slasher, but gets the job done well enough. It is basically Scream meets any recent quarantine film, and as such it can get a bit preachy at times when touching on the subject of those who carelessly spread the virus due to negligence or selfishness. There are some vicious kills, though the body count is small and there are also some brutal fight sequences. The reveal in the last act is borderline silly, but it does lead to a welcome shift from slasher to survival thriller and it is a vicious and bloody one, with Parker and Miri proving themselves tough and resilient against their opponents. The cast are good, and overall, it is an effective horror despite being somewhat derivative. Sick is currently streaming on Peacock and is worth a watch if you like a solid slasher that doesn’t overstay its welcome at under 90 minutes.
Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa) lives deep in the wilderness as a fur trapper with his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan) and tween daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell). They are down on their luck at the moment and Anne wants to leave the harsh wilderness life for less rural surroundings. The coming of winter is the least of their problems, though, as they begin to believe a wolf is raiding their traps and might soon set it’s sights on them. Determined not to be driven from his home and way of life, Joe sets out to hunt the canine predator down. While he is away, Anne and Renee encounter a predator of a different kind.
Survival thriller is written and directed by Shawn Linden. It has a smoldering intensity and is a slow burn leading to an explosion of violence. Linden gives the film atmosphere and the wilderness locations a very bleak and desolate look. it suits the overall mood of the film, as this is a dark and unapologetic thriller and will be most talked about for it’s savage and violent finale. The last minutes of the film dips into horror movie territory as characters are driven to brutal acts. It segues from survival thriller to revenge thriller in it’s last moments and it’s unpleasant and will stick with you. Once all is said and done and the credits roll, one might ask what the point of it all was, but skilled direction makes this a fairly effective piece, even if such questions arise as you uncomfortably ponder what you just saw. There is some brutal violence and some very effectively done horror flick level gore to accentuate the gruesome finale.
The small cast perform well. Devon Sawa is good as Joseph. He’s a simple man wanting to protect his family and his way of life. Camille Sullivan is very good as his wife Anne, who dreams of maybe moving on from this hard life and must become a fighter and protector when predators, both four legged and two legged, come knocking at their cabin door. Summer H. Howell is also likable as their twelve year-old daughter, who is learning her dad’s trade and Nick Stahl is also effective as a stranger who they find injured in the woods. Supporting cast includes Gabriel Daniels and Lauren Cochrane as local law enforcement officials. A good cast!
This is a bleak movie with a very grim and vicious finale. Writer/director Shawn Linden crafts an intense slow burn that has a mean punch of a pay-off. It also pulls no punches, and doesn’t sacrifice impact to wrap things up with a happy little bow. It’s not a pleasant movie and there is no Hollywood ending. One may wonder what the point of it all was, but it could just be to tell a story of folks driven to desperate acts and that the worst and most dangerous predators on the planet walk on two legs. Currently streaming from IFC Midnight.
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Becky Hooper (Lulu Wilson) is a troubled teen who is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father Jeff (Joel McHale) takes her up to the family cabin, but, unfortunately, surprises her with having his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) join them, along with her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Add to that, Jeff announces he and Kayla are to be married. If that’s not bad enough, escaped convict Dominick (Kevin James) and his three accomplices Apex (Jonathan Milott), Cole (Ryan McDonald) and Hammond (James McDougall) invade the rural home in search of something hidden there. Becky’s inner rage now comes to a boil and Dominick may get more than he bargained for.
On the surface, that may sound like the plot of a Disney Channel movie, but in the hands of co-director’s Cary Murnion (Cooties) and star Jonathan Milott, this is an intense and sometimes vicious survival thriller. What helps suspend disbelief that a thirteen year-old girl could successfully take on four hardened criminals is the skillful establishing of Becky as a young teen with a lot of rage. The film takes just enough time to give us a good glimpse back at her last days with her mom and the subsequent anger at her death, followed by the anger at her father for wanting to move on. Thus we understand her pain when the story kicks into gear. When these white supremacist convicts burst in and start to hurt the only people and things…like her dad and their dogs…that she still loves, you can believe her anger gets a chance to be vented on the four invaders. The script by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye uses the McGuffin of a key hidden in the house, which Becky has long since discovered, to keep the thugs at the cabin and needing Becky to be found. The traditional Die Hard elements are here, with Becky and Dominick trading barbs over walkie talkies and the criminals threatening/tormenting the people in the house to try to bring her out…big mistake. What really makes this work is the vicious and extremely violent ways young Becky goes at her adversaries and the impact it has on her as well. It all leads to a really blood-spattered and suspenseful last act and a bit of a WTF ending. It’s not WTF because you don’t understand what’s happened, it’s because you do! The skillful direction and the film effectively portraying what Becky has gone through, make the changes in her not unexpected, though no less startling. A Disney Channel movie this is not.
We have a good cast. Fifteen year-old Lulu Wilson (The Haunting of Hill House) is a powerhouse as Becky. She expertly conveys a young woman already bubbling over with rage and frustration and then is pushed over the edge. She’s very convincing in the action sequences and believable that she has been driven to the point of really wanting to hurt these guys…bad! Big surprise is comedian Kevin James really making a solid bad guy as gang leader Dominick. He’s nasty, violent, but by no means stupid. He’s vicious and we believe he will do anything…and to anyone…to get that key. The two actors make very convincing adversaries. Joel McHale (Community) is good as Becky’s dad. He portrays a man who cares about his daughter and is a little frustrated with her current state of behavior. He just wants what’s best and the actor conveys that. Amanda Brugel and Isaiah Rockcliffe are good as Kayla and her son Ty. Brugel gets to show some strength, when left alone with the convicts and she plays it convincingly. As the remaining criminals, co-director Jonathan Milott (formerly WWE Superstar Kurgan) has the biggest role as a giant of a man who may still have a bit of a conscience. There are some developments with his character that at first seem to lead to an easy way out for his eventual confrontation with the petite Becky, but it only leads to something more shocking later on. Rounding out is solid work by McDonald and McDougall, whose characters are a bit less intense, but not comic relief by any means.
This is a very surprising and entertaining movie despite some familiar plot elements and a base story that sounds like it could have been something geared more for teens or kids. It’s intense and sometimes extremely vicious in it’s violence, especially effective as some of the worst of it is authored by a thirteen year-old girl. The filmmakers make it work, by successfully convincing us that this little girl is filled with a lot of frustration and rage and these four are the perfect opportunity to let it explode out. They also don’t let us forget that there is a price to pay for crossing lines, even in self defense, and leaves us a bit startled and unsettled when we see the results of it. A really good survival thriller that takes a familiar premise and a dynamite young actress and just runs with them. Another example of talented filmmakers taking routine elements and making them feel fresh and putting them to good use. Also worth mentioning is a cool electronic score by Nima Fakhrara and some nice cinematography from Greta Zozula.
Though marketed as a horror film, especially with a title that implies some sort of supernatural threat, flick is more of a survival thriller focusing on a small group of people during what appears to be some kind of pandemic. As the film opens, we find Paul (Joel Edgerton), living in his father-in-law Bud’s house in the middle of the woods, along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). As the story opens, Bud (David Pendleton) is infected, Paul euthanizes him and sets his body on fire. While still suffering from their loss, a man (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house one night. Captured, he says his name is Will and is only looking for supplies for his family. Paul and Sarah invite Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to come live with them, seeing strength in numbers. But, when it is believed that little Andrew might be infected, paranoia and fear take over and threatens to destroy this safe haven in the woods.
Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults this is an intense and sometimes violent little movie about fear, paranoia and what lengths folks will go to survive. Going in without the horror movie expectations, one can enjoy this flick for what it is. There are some horror elements, as the sickness isn’t pretty, there is some brutal violence and Travis has some very unsettling nightmares with some spooky imagery. The characters appear to be normal people in a frightening situation and none are bad guys or unlikable, just some do extreme things to, in their minds, ensure their survival. It’s no secret these folks will turn on each other and Shults keeps the film tense until they do. He keeps the audience on edge with a sense that death is always lurking outside the house, whether it be this ominous disease or other humans with bad intent. He also never let’s you completely trust Will and Kim, as Paul and Sarah never quite do. Yes, we’ve seen it before, but the writer/director makes it work by focusing on the effects of the situation on a small isolated group instead of what might be going on in more populated areas. It works well and can be unsettling at times, even with the subject of pandemics and infections being common ground right now. There are a few questions and unresolved plot points as the credits roll. After Bud’s death it seems hard to believe that Paul and family would so quickly agree to bring strangers into their home, despite the good intentions. There is a violent encounter with two armed men that at first seems like it might have further impact, but it never does. There is also the implication that coming-of-age Travis might have an attraction to the pretty Kim and vice-versa, but it goes nowhere after the initial scene that introduces the notion. Aside from these small matters Trey Edward Shults delivers a taunt thriller which keeps one unnerved even if you know certain things are coming. Aiding him is some nice cinematography by Drew Daniels, which takes advantage of the large shadow filled house and a fitting score from Brian McOmber.
There is a good cast here, too. Edgerton is a strong lead as the cautious, though somewhat kind-hearted Paul. He makes some tough decisions to protect his family, but is far from a bad man and hasn’t lost his humanity. Christopher Abbott is good as Will. He gives the character just enough uncertainty, so we never quite trust him to makes us as uneasy as Paul. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines as Travis. Travis is sometimes the moral center of the story, though his ominous nightmares make us unsettled as to what the future holds and the actor conveys that this is also the same with Travis, himself, a youth growing up isolated in a dangerous world. In support Carmen Ejogo is solid as Paul’s loving and strong willed wife, Sarah. Riley Keough is also good as Will’s wife Kim, as is Griffin Robert Faulkner as their young son Andrew.
Once you get past the notion that this is a horror film, you can still enjoy an intense thriller about people trying to survive in a deadly environment. They’re trying to keep their humanity when their fellow humans are just as dangerous as the disease they are trying to avoid. It’s intense, atmospheric and brutally violent at times. It may not be the most original flick in terms of story and comes with a title that raises horror film expectations, but does used the pandemic fear scenario very well and is an effective little thriller on it’s own.
Killing Ground is an Australian thriller that finds couple Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer) going on a camping trip in a rural part of the country. They find another vehicle and tent at the campground, yet no occupants seem to be around. Soon Ian and Sam encounter two local “hunters” (Aaron Pedersen and Aaron Glennane) who, unknown to the couple, know exactly what happened to the abandoned tent’s former occupants.
Written and directed by Damien Power, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. His story is basically in the Wolf Creek ballpark with innocent travelers happening upon deranged locals in a rural setting. What we see is brutal and effective and while certain cruel acts are off-camera, just knowing what is going on induces chills. Power tells his story in a split narrative where we inter-cut scenes of Sam and Ian in the present with scenes from earlier on with the ill-fated family that resided in the now empty tent. It works well enough and once the stories meet it continues to it’s finish within the present timeline. It makes for a grim yet fairly involving 90 minutes, though there are some questions. What drove these two to get homicidal with this family, as it seems they are too sloppy to have done it before and not gotten caught. Also, they are well known to local police, so they would logically be prime suspects if something went askew in that jurisdiction…though the police portrayed here are done so as stereo-typically daft local cops. Still, the film does work well enough and the cast are effective in their roles.
Harriet Dyer is a fine heroine in Sam. She isn’t a damsel and is a fighter when she has something worth protecting. Ian Meadows’ Ian starts out as a likable character, though as the story progresses and it becomes a battle for survival, he shows some unfortunate true colors. As for our bad guys, Pedersen and Glennane make fine deranged locals and even if the characters are well-worn stereotypes, they play them effectively. Again, the problem with them aside from familiarity, is they seem too sloppy in their activities and if this isn’t the first time they’ve done this…previous jail time is mentioned but not why…it’s hard to believe they haven’t already been caught. If this is their first crime of this magnitude, what was it about this family that triggered the violence and cruelty? We never get to know them enough to gives us a clue.
In conclusion, this is an effective but familiar survival thriller. Damien Power directs well enough to make it work better than it should and we are chilled by some of what we see. The film is overall, though, nothing new and there are some questions we are asking once it’s over. Also stars Maya Stange, Julian Garner, Tiarnie Coupland and Liam and Riley Parkes as the ill-fated family whose grim tale unfolds during the film.
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Flick takes place in 1978 with country girl Vivian Fontaine (Ashley Bell) not having a good day. Her home is being sold out from under her and while at the bank getting turned down for a loan to save it, she’s taken hostage by two ex-cons (James Landry Hebert and Michael Villar) who rob the bank. That’s the least of her problems, as the three find themselves in a stretch of remote wilderness stalked by psychotic ex-soldier Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy), who slaughters anyone that enters his domain. Soon Vivian finds herself alone and in a battle for survival against the well-armed and quite deranged maniac.
Flick is written and directed by Mickey Keating who is proving himself quite diverse in his influences with films like the David Lynch-esque Darling and the X-Files-ish Podunder his belt. Here he delivers a brutal and twisted little movie that seems to have a bit of a Rob Zombie influence, as it did evoke some of the imagery, brutality and a bit of the deranged humor that was on display in Zombie’s first two flicks. But this is very much Keating’s own movie and he starts us out with the story in progress, with robber Lenny (Villar) wounded and Scorpion Joe (Hebert) pulling hostage Vivian out of the trunk to help him. We then get some brief flashbacks to fill us in on some character and plot details as the crazed Wyatt discovers the intruders on his land and the hunt/action begins. The film is stylish and off-beat and very entertaining as our girl-next-door Vivian tries to overcome a superior enemy and escape with her life. The film is intense, strange and very violent at times and does entertain as it intends with the oddball Wyatt tracking/tormenting the dazed and desperate, yet not totally defenseless, Vivian. It’s a twisted little flick, that tells it’s story in a Tarantino meets Rob Zombie kind of way. It’s not perfect, as Keating’s influences are a bit too obviously borrowed from at times and one character just disappears, which makes one question why they were included at all. But when all is said and done, Keating accomplishes what he set out to with splattered brains and all.
The cast go a long way in making this work and work well. Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism) delivers a strong heroine in her Vivian. She is a simple country girl who starts out trying to save her home and ends up trying to save her life. Bell gives her a dazed look of a woman who just got dumped into the frying pan and then the fire and is trying to just stay alive and somehow get home. She gives Vivian a simple tenacity and a strong will to survive with a touch of frustration and confusion. She is endearing and likable. Pat Healy (Innkeepers, Tales Of Halloween) portrays a true psychotic, but yet not one who doesn’t deliriously enjoy what he is doing. He is arrogant and self-righteous and while his motives are not completely explained, the religious symbolism around his lair and in what he says and does, implies he is doing God’s work in some form. Healy is threatening and dangerous and a touch humorously demented and it is a good role for an underrated and versatile actor who can play both hero and villain. Ex-con and thieves James Landry Hebert (Skateland) and Michael Villar have smaller parts, but Hebert succeeds in making an impression as Scorpion Joe. He’s another underrated character actor who does good work when on screen. There is also an appearance by Alan Ruck as Wyatt’s sheriff brother who keeps cleaning up his sibling’s messes, despite the emotional drain of the conflict of interest and indie icon Larry Fessenden as one of Wyatt’s prey.
So, not a perfect thriller, but one that is successful in being 80+ minutes of twisted entertainment. Mickey Keating’s films seem to illustrate a variety of influences with him channeling a bit of Rob Zombie in this, his latest film. It’s off the wall and sometimes brutally violent and has a good cast to make it work very well. A fun and demented little movie, that while not completely original, amuses with a healthy dose of bullets, blood and weirdness.