We Summon the Darkness (2019)

I liked Marc Meyers’ film My Friend Dahmer but you know, I was totally prepared, as a metalhead who is sick of movies worshipping the 80’s, to dislike this film. Yet there are enough twists and turns to keep this movie interesting and well above expectations. If you liked Satanic Panic, I’d say this movie would make a good partner feature for a double feature.

Alexis (Alexandra Daddario from the Baywatch remake), Val (Maddie Hasson, God Bless America) and Bev (Amy Forsyth from Channel Zero: No-End House) lure three metal-loving boys back home after a concert and things go to Hell. None of the guys — Mark (Keean Johnson, Alita: Battle Angel), Ivan (Austin Swift, Taylor’s brother) and Kovacs (Logan Miller, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) — know what’s coming.

I really don’t want to give away many of the twists that follow, but I really dug how the movie plays with religion and seems to have a pretty decent knowledge of metal. It was also interesting to see Johnny Knoxville play a very not Knoxville character.

You can get this movie on demand and on blu ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. You can also find it on Netflix.

Well Groomed (2019)

Once, we took our dog Angelo to a dog show and saw several dogs that had been colored every shade of the rainbow as people judged which was the best. It was astounding. I’d never seen anything like it before and as soon as I got home, I did a deep dive into this strange world of dog grooming.

Now, director Rebecca Stern takes the viewer through an entire year in the life of several competitive creative dog groomers, all so that you get the reasons why they do exactly what they do.

From South Carolina to California, New York to Arkansas, this movie follows several contestants to large-scale dog grooming competitions. This movie asks the question, “What is art? And can it be spray painted and cut into the fur of dogs?”

Seriously, if you’ve never seen this kind of thing before, you need to see this movie. It’s really something else.

A shorter 60-minute version of the film debuted on HBO Max last year. Now for the first time since it’s 2019 SXSW premiere, the full-length feature film (88 minutes) will be available to the world on DVD and all major VOD platforms from Passion River Films.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this by its PR agency, which has no impact on our review.

Elodie (2019)

Sabrina thought that she had problems when her play, The Tungsten Dagger, bombs. Then her boyfriend dumps her. And then, someone breaks into her house and it’s Elodie, the main character in the play she just put on that very night. She asks her creator for help, bringing Sabrina into the world that she thought was only in her imagination.

Here’s a cool fact about this movie — the exterior of Sabrina’s apartment is the same one used for the exterior of the hotel in the opening of Psycho.

Daniel Ziegler wrote, directed, produced and edited this movie, which feels incredibly personal. Its definitely something different than the movies that usually get sent to us for review, a mix of black and white film noir with color in the real world, an inverse Oz filled with magical daggers that grant wishes and shady dealings.

It’s closer to an art film than a genre movie — again, I always hold to the rule that what type of movie it is only depends on the theater playing it. Also, unlike so many modern films, the music and sound design truly fits and has a purpose. Well done.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime. Thanks to the filmmakers for sending it our way. Want to know more? Check out Black Box Films’ website and Facebook page.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

We did it! We made it through an entire week of Fast & Furious movies and let me tell you, we saved the best for last. This is a big, dumb, ridicuous and way too overblown action movie and I have to confess, I loved every single minute of it.

It was directed by David Leitch, whose first time directing was John Wick. He’s since made Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Before that, he appeared in some action films of his own, such as Ninja AssassinThe Mechanic remake and as Terry Bogard in the movie version of the video game The King of Fighters.

Vanessa Kirby is the person who brings the action together. She plays Shaw’s sister Hattie, an MI6 agent who has been infected with a Snowflake virus that a terrorist group known as Eteon wants. They are led by an unseen commander and his henchman Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyborg that has a past history with Deckard (Jason Statham). And Deckard, well, he has to learn to work with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).

If you look closely enough, Brixton has a Weyland Corporation symbol on his shoulder. So…will there be xenomorphs in the next film?

That director was supposed to be played by Keanu Reeves. The voice is supposedly Ryan Reynolds, who also appears in this movie as CIA agent Victor Locke. The name in the credits is Champ Nightingale”, which Reynolds has used in a fake Amazon review for his Aviation American Gin.

Beyond meeting more of Shaw’s family, Hobbs goes back to his homeland and we discover his brothers Jonah (Cliff Curtis, Once Were Warriors) and Mateo (WWE star Roman Reigns, who Johnson considers a cousin). Jason Mamoa was also supposed to be in this, but Johnson has promised that it will happen in the next movie.

Eiza González from Alita: Battle Angel and Baby Driver (as well as Satanico Pandemonium in the TV version of From Dusk to Dawn) is in this, too. She plays Madame M, a former associate of Shaw who helps them break into the terrorist’s base.

You know, for being in a G.I. Joe film, Johnson made a way better version of it with this movie. He loves this role, as you can tell, and even named his French bulldog — who shows up in he beginning — after his character.

The Whispering Man (2019)

Originally known as The Surreal Project, this Hungarian film has been retitled and released here in the U.S. by Wild Eye.

It’s all about a family that inherits a painting that is possessed by the demon known as The Whispering Man. You know what happens next: they get rid of the painting, roll credits.

I’m kidding. We wouldn’t have movies if people did what was logical.

Inspired by the films of M. Night Shyamalan, József Gallai made Hungary’s first found footage movie, Bodom. That’s a genre he has made several films in, including A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex. He has another film that Wild Eye has picked up, Spirits in the Dark, and is working on a movie called The Poltergeist Diaries with Eric Roberts.

While the found footage genre isn’t for me — paging B&S About Movies writer Paul Andolina — there are others who will enjoy this.

The Whispering Man is now available on demand and on DVD.

Two Heads Creek (2019)

A  butcher and his twin sister have gone to Australia to find their birth mother, but what they end up finding is a small town that has a carnivorous — and yes, cannibalistic — secret. Two Heads Creek lets you know that it’s a quality, fun romp right from the beginning with great credits and well-done camerawork. This is no basic straight to streaming time waster.

I’d never heard the Skyhooks song “Horror Movie” before, but this 1975 Australian song is featured throughout the movie and really sets the tone.

The end of this movie has more spraying blood and gore than the last four or five movies I’ve seen put together, as an Australia Day celebration goes the way of Two Thousand Maniacs.

You can grab this release — from the Horror Collective — on all streaming platforms. If you want to learn more, visit the official site.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie to review, but that has no impact on what we think of it.

Mnemophrenia (2019)

I always say that you should learn something new every day. Here’s what I learned today: the title of this film was invented just for the movie. According to its IMDB page, “It’s a portmanteau of the words ‘mneme’ and ‘schizophrenia’. In the film Mnemophrenia the word is defined as: “A condition or a state characterized by the coexistence of real and artificial memories, which affects the subject’s sense of identity.””

This is the debut feature of Eirini Kostantinidou, who said of making it, “For the past several years it has been my ambition to make a feature film around the subject of artificial memories. A humanistic, generation-spanning story asking questions about human identity, virtual reality and the future of cinema. A film that would delve into who we are and where we are going and imagine our species on the brink of its next evolutionary step.”

The way that this movie was made is incredibly intriguing. There was plenty of improvisation and each of the three parts was made seperately, with the cast getting to watch each part before getting to take on the next chapter of the story.

According to the film’s IMDB page, “This technique allows for an organic development of the characters and dialogue, which is a result of the creative collaboration between the actors and herself.”

As our world grows both larger in scope and smaller in the ways that we will get there, the issues that this film raises will become more important. This movie isn’t for everyone, but it is something you can watch and discuss long after it’s over.

You can learn more at the official site.

Want to watch it? It’s on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

The Evil Inside Her (2019)

If you’re a regular reader at our humble, little corner of the web, you know how much we admire journeyman-actor Eric Roberts around this neck of the wilds of Allegheny County. Yes, we will sit through a Lifetime damsel-in-distress movie—their Stalked by My Doctor franchise, now up to part 3—for our Eric Roberts fix. We’ll even watch Hallmark holiday movies (A Husband for Christmas and The Great Halloween Puppy Adventure) for our Eric Roberts blow with a shot of David DeCoteau.

Yes, that love goes even deeper into the celluloid thickets when Eric teams with our favorite directors, such as David DeCoteau (Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper, A Talking Cat), along with Mark Polonia (Amityville Death House) and Mark L. Lester (Hitman’s Run, Groupie, and Public Enemies). We even streamed Fred Olen Ray’s Boggy Creek: The Series on series on Amazon Prime just to listen to Eric’s voiceover narration. And Eric worked with Kent Wakeford (Power 98), the cinematographer on Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and the Blaxploitation classic Black Belt Jones.

But how is it that across Eric’s 523 credits — with 60 more films in various stages of filming and pre-and-post production — Fred Olen Ray hasn’t done a live-action film with Eric? Eric’s not only done a Christmas movie with David DeCoteau (again, A Husband For Christmas), he’s made 14 movies with David DeCoteau*. How is it that Eric hasn’t appeared in at least one of Fred’s 11 X-Mas flicks?

Eric Roberts in a Fred Olen Ray movie . . . that would be the best X-Mas for Sam and I — ever. Even that Christmas when I got the Aurora Xcelerator race track. Even that Christmas when Becca gave Sam a Mayhem t-shirt.

However, until that dream Olen Ray-Roberts project comes to fruition, there’s more than enough Eric Roberts flicks to enjoy. These days, Eric’s a journeyman actor who truly enjoys traveling around the country helping helping both established filmmakers (but a bit down-and-out these days) and budding storytellers market their films. Some of the films from those undiscovered filmmakers that we’ve reviewed include The Arrangement, Angels Fallen, Clinton Road, and Lone Star Deception.

I know. I know. Off-the-rails with Eric Roberts love. Get back to the movie.

And to that end: Eric ended up in Asheville, North Carolina, to lend a thespian hand to screenwriter James Blankenfeld and director James Suttles. Blankenfeld is an established production assistant and cameraman (The Apprentice, Project Runway) making his feature film debut as a screenwriter with The Evil Inside Her. James Blankenfeld brings a more established career to the set as a cinematographer with his twenty-credits deep resume on a variety of indie shorts and features, as well as a half-dozen directing credits — with The Evil Inside Her as his third feature film.

Hopefully, based on that production pedigree, ye streamers of the digital divide will be inspired to watch, knowing that you’re getting production values above the usual norms for low-budget streaming movies and Roberts “starring” flicks, in general.

As with most of the films in his mindboggling oeuvre, we go into The Evil Inside Her with the knowledge that Eric’s role will be a small one (and sometimes, a pivotal one; it is, here), while the “lead actors” are unknown, mostly amateurs from the local theatre community who, while they give it their all, offer up the occasional awkward, strained moments.

As you can tell from the theatrical one-sheet, this is another in a long line of “cabin in the woods” thrillers about a group of 20-somethings’ vacation stay gone wrong, ala Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. And James Blankenfeld knows we’ve been in these foreboding woods before, with its wide array of home invasion sieges-by sexual deviants (Dead by Dawn and Cry for the Bad Man), flat-out demon possession (Reawakened), disturbed J or K-Horror onryōs, shiryō, or yūreis (0.0 Mhz), or their Euroized, yulyeong (hair ghost) counterparts (Evil River). Blankenfeld intelligently bypasses the “from the beyond” hocus pocus or supernatural deus ex machina tomfoolery. There’s no Paul Naschy out-of-left field zombie seige (Horror Rises from the Tomb). There’s no centuries-dead malevolent witch connected to trinkets. No basement-hidden reel-to-reel tape players. No bogus necronomicons. And, most importantly, there’s no “lone survivor” doped up in a hospital bed flashing us back with tortured dreams.

What Blankenfeld gives us, in a refreshing twist-of-the-keyboard, is an ominous, dapper chap that calls himself Clayton: but I like to refer to him as “The Chemist.” Yep, you guessed it: Eric Roberts, in a role that, for me, plays as a sequel, prequel, or sidequel to his ambiguous role as the foreboding “The Pitchman” in The Arrangement (released this month to streaming platforms).

When The Evil Inside Her opens, “it” has already been released: we see a daughter slaughter her elderly father over breakfast, which leads us to the opening titles montage of news clippings about a rash of unexplained domestic violence murders: suddenly for no reason, people snap and murder their friends and family.

The “reason” is The Chemist . . . and he’s using society as his personal lab. His newest lab rat is Vikki (Melissa Kunnap; good here in a spiraling, slow burn), doped-up at the local coffee shop on the way to the cabin: she begins a campaign of self-mutilation that progresses to murder in quick succession. As with The Pitchman in The Arrangement: The Chemist is Hell’s Geppetto, a bizarro Alfred Lord Tennyson pushing a little wonder drug that “helps” man see in the world what he carries in his heart: repressed immorality, anger and rage toward his fellow man. The Chemist removes one’s inhibitions to be their true selves: cold blooded killers.

Why?

Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.

On a release rollout since the spring of 2019 on DVD, VOD, and PPV in the worldwide marketplace, The Evil Inside Her is now available as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can learn more about the film with this interview from director James Suttles at Scared Stiff Reviews. You can also visit the film’s official website and SuttleFilm.

Disclaimer: We weren’t provided an advanced screener or a review request by the film’s PR company, distributor, or director. We discovered this film all on our own as we went down an Eric Roberts-IMDb rabbit hole looking for online streams of his films. We genuinely enjoyed the movie.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

* For the Roberts-DeCoteau-Roberts completists, the rest of their resume:

Bonnie & Clyde: Justified
Doc Holliday’s Revenge
Evil Exhumed
Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft
Snow White: A Deadly Summer
Sorority Slaughterhouse
Wolves of Wall Street
The Wrong Mommy
The Wrong Roommate
The Wrong Teacher

REPOST: Animal Among Us (2019) NOW ON TUBI

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally shared this movie on November 20, 2019. It’s been released on Tubi, so we thought we’d share it in case anyone is interested in watching MMA legend Don Frye battle a Bigfoot. Thanks to Uncork’d Entertainment for the heads up that this is now streaming.

Fifteen years ago, two teenage girls were murdered at Merrymaker Campgrounds. Everyone thought it was just an animal attack, the case was closed, the camp was condemned and the killer never found. But whatever or whoever it was, it still waits in the woods, ready to kill again. This film from director John Woodruff — his first full-length movie — was written by Jonathan Murphy. They had previously worked together on the project The Stalker Experiment. 

Larisa Oleynik plays Anita Bishop and you may remember her from 10 Things I Hate About YouMad MenThe Secret World of Alex Mack and The Baby-Sitters Club. That’s not the only person you’ll recognize in this movie. Heather Tom from The Bold and the Beautiful shows up, as does Christian Oliver (Snake Oiler from the Speed Racer movie) and Don Frye. That’s right — former UFC fighter and New Japan Pro Wrestling monster heel and the man who turned Yoshihiro Takayama’s face into pudding, Don Frye!

Seriously, this film is worth watching just for seeing Frye. He should be in The Expendables. He’s a legit tough guy, after all.

Oliver plays Roland Baumgarner, a writer who wrote a famous book all about the murders. He’s been invited to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new Merrymaker Camp. That seems like a bad idea. Guess what? It is. The horror that Roland wrote about has now come back to potentially end his life.

This is an interesting mashup of creature feature and slasher, with some decent twists and turns. As always, I’m more about the monster action than the human drama, but this does a fine job of giving you the beast and gore action you crave.

You can get this from on DVD or via on demand from Uncork’d Entertainment, and as mentioned, you can also stream this for free on Tubi.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this movie by its PR company. That has no bearing on our review.

High Resolution (2019)

“You’re just multitasking me like another device.”
— Erin to Paul

Our affectionate tribute week to the resumé of Mark L. Lester brings us to this exquisite techno-noir: the feature film debut of Jason Lester, the son of director Mark L. Lester and producer Dana Dubovsky.

Now, before you think producing their son’s film is a case of film-family nepotism: Jason is a prolific music video director in his own right (Ryan Beatty, Fall Out Boy, Jess McCartney) who earned his bones courtesy of a BFA with Honors in Film Production from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. You’ve seen lots of movies by Tisch grads — more than you realize. But in the B&S About Movies universe: Tisch blessed us with the likes of David Dobkin (Jackie Chan’s Shanghai Knights, Peter M. Lenkov’s hit underground comic book, R.I.P.D . . . but we always bow to David for giving us Clint Howard in Ice Cream Man), Matty Rich (Straight Out of Brooklyn; who infamously dropped out of the prestigious school), and Spike Lee (who graduated and wowed us with his debut, Do the Right Thing), Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers), and Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation).

As I watched High Resolution, I was once again reminded of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962), his trilogy-statement regarding the alienation of man in the modern world; each dealt with the failure of the self and their relationships. Jason Lester’s feature film debut — as with Elisa Fuksas’s The App — is a not-for-everyone, i.e., mainstream, philosophical statement on the existential condition regarding the dangers of man’s prolonged technological exposure that leads to negative cognitive, psychosocial, and psychological effects on one’s psyche.

Unlike in the Antonioni-verse, our coming-of-age young writers, Paul (the fantastic Justin Chon of ABC-TV’s Deception) and Erin (the amazing Ellie Bamber of the BBC’s The Trail of Christine Keeler), don’t eschew physical contact in their on-and-off-again Eros-confused relationship — but they do love their drugs and their spiritually-empty exoticism fueled by an endless stream of parties attended by like-minded materialists; all narcissists who quantify their personal identities via technology. In this world, Paul Chen (a loose, semi-autobiographical Tao Lin, the author of the film’s source material) and Erin are selfish 21st century technonauts who think their personal lives are larger than the lives of others. And to that point: they decide to chronicle their new romance and create a laptop-filmed documentary. For in today’s Kardashian-driven digital epoch: one’s identity is based not on quantitative-quality accomplishments, but in one’s cybercloud virality.

High Resolution is a novel-to-screen adaptation that (in this reviewer’s opinion) was born out of Jason’s father, Mark, eschewing mainstream Hollywood after the failure of his should-have-been box office blockbuster Showdown in Little Tokyo, a 1991 actioner starring the can’t-missing-casting of Dolph Lungren and Brandon Lee. After that film’s dust-up over editorial control, Mark L. Lester began to self-finance and distribute his own movies to retain creative controls. Without the prolific, self-producing vision of Jason’s parents, this whirlwind adaptation of Taipei — the critically-acclaimed and award-winning sixth book/third novel by American novelist Tao Lin that serves as the basis for the film — would have never, ever, been greenlighted by a major studio.

Why?

Well, regardless of thread comments who name-drop the analogous novel addiction-journeys (in the case of Lin: the addiction is not only chemical, but digital) of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero (1985), Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984), and and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting (1993), Jason Lester’s novel-to-screen adapation of Tao Lin’s Taipei is highly-stylized, i.e, “arty,” courtesy of his parents’ hands-off producing approach. When you hit that big red streaming button, do not expect a Tinseltown-commercialized adaptation of Taipei that reminds of the respective 1987, 1988, and 1996 films born from those youth-disillusioned novels: High Resolution is a (very welcomed) limited-release, Miramax-styled reminder of the art house cinema ’90s. (Comment-reviews failed to mention Hurbet Selby, Jr.’s 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream turned into a same-titled Darren Aronofsky film (2000) — but that was an “arty” film distributed by mini-major Artisan Entertainment that suffered a low-box office turnout.)

Jason Lester is a filmmaker who realizes a director’s vision is only as sharp as the production team he recruits. To that end: the crack production design by April Lasky, the cinematography by Daniel Katz, and sound by the team of Robert Dehn and Caroline Anderson beautifully complements Jason Lester’s interpretative read of Tao Lin’s novel: a film not only of story (or one of “non-story,” as some commenters have stated; but those threaders are not considering the emptiness of Lester’s protagonists who act as their own antagonists and create their own faux-filled lives) but of sight, color, and sound. Lester is a writer and director who expertly understands that film, at its core, is a visual medium. It’s an art form based in “showing” and not “telling”; for film is 90% visual and 10% dialog (and the stage is the reverse). Images tell the story though props, an actor’s body language and, most importantly: that your actors are not skilled in the craft of acting—but “being.”

And High Resolution is a story of “being.” And the question we are left asking: Who do you want to be?

High Resolution currently airs as a Showtime exclusive and streams on Amazon Prime.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.