MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: House of the Living Dead (1974)

Also known as Shadows over Bridge Farm, Curse of the DeadDoctor Maniac and even Kill, Baby, Kill, this is a South African/British coproduction that mixes science fiction and horror. Yes, it did just straight up take that Bava title.

It’s also kind of House of Usher, as Lady Brattling wants her family to end, what with her son Michael running the house while his brother Breck (both roles are played by Mark Burns) hides in his room and tries to finish an experiment that creates a physical version of the soul outside the human body. Michael’s fiancée Mary then shows up and wants to start making heirs, all while the help engages in voodoo and a murderer is so close by, starting with animals and soon killing humans.

Director Ray Austin mainly worked in television and also directed Virgin Witch. The script is by Marc Marais (Crash!) from a story by John Brason. They made a movie in which a man operates on monkeys and traps souls in liquid, but put a title on it that promises zombies and does not deliver them. It’s kind of too mannered and needs the kind of director that allows everyone to go insane in the heat of the plantation and scream and wail and collapse into terror, but it never gets there.

 

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Scooter (2022)

Abandoned by her boyfriend in the middle of the night, Adrienne (Anita Abdinezhad, Eradication) picks up a scooter and rides — Pushes? Shuffles? Kick, kick pushes? — off to her destiny: a rescue mission with a tied-up woman trapped in the back of a van.

Director and writer Chelsea Lupkin has created an intriguing film that starts off quick, as Adrienne jumps from a convertible driven by a boyfriend who is all over her, yelling at the way she’s acted, telling her, “You were meant to behave” and “You wouldn’t stop talking and we all had to be polite to you.”

Before she knows it, she’s going beyond “it’s none of my business” to get involved in freeing said tied-up woman and dealing with her fast food eating captors — who appear to be very Mormon missionaries in formal dress — who claim to have found and captured an actual demon, one that Adrienne has freed.

This movie is gorgeous. It uses its short running time to deliver more character and scares than most of the bloated Hollywood films that I’ll see this year. Seriously, this really got me, a near-perfect mix of sight, sound and story. It’s really and truly something else.

I watched this at North Bend Fim Festival. When this has a wider release, I will update this post. You can learn more about Scooter at the official web site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: The Civil Dead (2022)

Clay (Clay Tatum, the director and co-writer of this movie) is an unemployed photographer and scam artist who decides to hang out with an old friend named Whit (Whitmer Thomas, who co-wrote the script) when his wife Whitney (Whitney Witt) is out of town. He soon learns that the acquaintance whom he lost track of is actually dead and now plans on haunting him.

Whit is excited to have a friend that can see him, yet Clay hates everyone and only barely likes his wife, who is due back at any time and he certainly can’t be haunted when she gets home.

This is cringe-inducing humor meets horror, which is an intriguing mix, and Tatum and Thomas really play well off of one another. It’s also quite black in its humor, reveling in the ways that human beings can treat each other horribly and their selves even worse.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival and will update this review with information on where to watch this when it is more widely released.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Please Baby Please (2022)

Amanda Kramer’s (Ladyworld) new film takes place in 1950s Manhattan — maybe not our version of that time and place, but a neon world of music and dance — where Arthur (Harry Melling) and Suze (Andrea Riseborough) — he’s a clarinetist, she’s a housewife — witness a murder committed by a gang of rough trade greasers in leather known as the Young Gents. That act of violence sparks previously unknown emotions and feelings of sexuality in both of them.

“Everyone wants to be Stanley Kowalski,” Suze says at one point. This movie lives up to that promise, creating a world where the gang movies of the 1950s are real-life, complete with more fashion and queer content than any movie of that era would dare (well, sometimes in subtext).

A film festival referred to this movie as “A Streetcar Named Desire by way of John Waters.”

That’s a high mark to rise to but this movie goes for it.

Kenneth Anger might be pleased to see that his influence continues, while certainly jealous of the budget. And oh wow — Demi Moore in a pantsuit, animal print coat and silver high heels, living in a blue fantasy world apartment as a kept woman?

Watch this and prepare to swoon.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival. This review will be updated when release information is available about this movie.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Black Dragon (2018)

Starring Matthew Del Negro (Scandal, The Sopranos) and with make-up/VFX from the teams behind Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron Legacy and Super 8, Black Dragon looks and feels way stronger than you’d expect from a festival short.

Colonel Palmer (Del Negro) is simultaneously suffering from the fact that his platoon has just wiped out a village of probably innocent people, as well as the loss of his son. When a girl named Chau (Celia Au) is brought before him, he soon learns that she can do more than raise the dead. She can conjure visions and show him the angel that has been watching over him, even if it’s the last thing that he wants to see.

I really wish this was a full-length film because there are so many ideas within the short time that director and co-writer (with Nathaniel Hendricks) Alex Thompson can get into the movie. The scene of the dead man rising off the operating table is harrowing and has more composition and built-up terror than so many movies I’ve seen lately. Well done.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Kafkas (2021)

Fran (Patsy Ferran, a force of nature in this) has the idea that if she looks through the phone book and cold calls men all across the country with the last name Kafka that she can find her soul mate. She has no job, a Ph.D. and a $700 phone bill from all those calls in the middle of the night.

Director Robin Blake (who also wrote the script with Nick Blake and Marianne Wiggins) somehow take the idea of one woman on the phone with a thick Boston accent trying to find the Kafka man who will take her all away from this doesn’t seem like it would be the movie that would get in my head and stay there, but here we are. This is so darn well made and mesmerizing and man, Patsy Ferran is absolutely incredible at this dialogue that sounds like she really said it and no one wrote it and that is the best dialogue of all.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Break Any Spell (2021)

Break Any Spell impacted me more than nearly any other short that I’ve seen in some time, as it made me think about the deteriorating mental condition of my father and how lost we become thanks to dementia and Alzheimer’s and just plain age.

Directed by Anton Jøsef, who co-wrote the film with Lisi Purr, some will watch this and laugh at the Live Action Role Playing (LARP) that the heroine falls in love with, but it seems like that’s her tether to keep her going in the world, as her mother begins to disappear and become someone else due to early stage Alzheimer’s.

The moment when the magic spell she’s been saving and all the work of her team means nothing in the face of a big man from out of nowhere with a sword? That’s life. That’s exactly how this life feels.

This movie feels like it needs more, that it could be part of a longer tale, but for what it is now, it is supremely powerful.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Wild Card (2022)

Daniel (Billy Flynn) and Toni (Tipper Newton, who directed and wrote this short) have been matched by a video dating service that feels inspired by the Found Footage Festival Videomate videos. The date is awkward, as every time Daniel seems to impress Toni or gain ground, she tears him down, builds him up and then cuts him down all again, sometimes in the same moment.

So how does he make it back to her place? And if he’s the first date from the service she’s been on, why are there so many videotapes everywhere? And who is that threatening her on the answering machine?

Wild Card gets exciting right when it ends, right at the moment that it has been teasing and it demands that you watch more. I loved it and it got me — so please, give us that second date.

Seeing this again after watching it at the Chattanooga Film Festival, I was struck by just how much it gets right from the neo-giallo erotic thriller look of the 90s and how much I want even more of this.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Rachels Don’t Run (2021)

While monitoring late-night calls at an AI companionship service, a lonely customer support agent named Leah (Sera Barbieri, Potato Dreams of America) acts as one of the artificial dream girls — Rachel — to chat with Isaac (Anthony Shipway), a customer that she’s in love with.

As we grow more disconnected and alone in our private bubbles, the idea of callable companionship and GFE (Girl Friend Experience) doesn’t seem so alien any longer. It’s to the credit of the direction by Joanny Causse (who co-wrote the script with Steph Kwiatkowski) that this seems so daring and original, as well as the great acting by Barbieri.

This movie totally deserves the awards that it’s been earning, such as the Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film at the  Seattle International Film Festival 2022 and the Jury Award for Best Screenplay at Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site. You can also read more about Rachels Don’t Run at its official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: While Mortals Sleep (2022)

Susan’s (Carie Kawa) has had her career as a cold case writer fall apart, so she’s hiding out at a friend’s remote vacation house. When she gets there, she meets Eddy (Will Brill) and Abby (Grace Morrison). He’s digging sludge out of the backyard; she makes a spot of tea a strange and not altogether pleasant affair. They’re the caretakers of the home, or so they say, but then Susan hears a baby cry a room away.

Trust me, that’s no normal baby.

Director and writer Alex Fofonoff may only have two other sorts on his resume, but this tense and well-acted piece points to him as a person of interest. If this was longer — it totally could be — it would be a movie plenty of people were talking about.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site. You can also read more about While Mortals Sleep at its official site.