Thursday, April 11, 2024

sasquatch sunset

Much of the Zellner Brothers' Sasquatch Sunset was gross and goofy, but I didn't expect to get hit with a brooding, existential buzz: thinking about the movie days after and seeing humankind in a new light.

My Film-Foward review here.

the past

My poem, "The Past," is now up at Same Faces Collective in Issue 14.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

wicked little letters

I feel like Olivia Colman can do no wrong. Even when a movie she's in is a bit middling, she always brings so much personality and gravity to her performances. 

My review of Wicked Little Letters is up at Film-Forward.

Monday, March 25, 2024

late night with the devil & immaculate

There is a lot of creativity and ingenuity on display in Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes's Late Night with the Devil, found footage film of a 1977 midnight talk show turned into a rollicking, unexpectedly horrific live broadcast across America's living rooms. Even the fictional talk show's name and logo, Night Owls, is clever and lovingly designed (it would make for a good coffee mug or T-shirt). The show's elevator pop jazz music (the fitting original score is by Glenn Richards and Roscoe James Irwin) is a quirky, but believable, touch. Even though one, especially those with an inkling of classic horror knowledge, can telegraph some of the plot elements of show host Jack Delroy's (a very credible, solid David Dastmalchian) desperate attempts to beat Carson in the ratings (a lot is inferred from the jump in the film's backstory-packed prelude of well-wrought, vintage-dressed magazines, photos, and media clips). For those looking for creepy Exorcist-inspired horror or a hot, Network-inspired scathing media satire, it's not super satisfying in either regard. Instead, it's more about the charming, cornball production on display, and the intricacies of craft (the sound design is particularly inventive).  As the show's guest flat-out skeptic, Ian Bliss, with his daggered, crisp, Richard Dreyfuss-esque voice and beady eyes, is the film's scene stealer. It plays somewhat flat on a screener, but it's quite good with a game audience, especially in stadium-style seats, as if you are one with the TV audience within--if this was intentional, it feels like a nice, appropriately hokey nod to the grand William Castle. ***

Where Late Night with Devil is imbued with some slippery humor, Michael Mohan's Immaculate is gorily bleak. Young Cecilia (current "it" star Sydney Sweeney) plays a Michigander who joins a convent in rural Italy. The joint is spooky and Cuckoo's Nest-strict (with Novitiate / Doubt-level nunnery monsters at the helm). Catacombs loom underneath (the setting for one of the film's best sequences) as does an icky, mysterious history. Besides a chain-smoking, brazen cohort, fish-out-of-water Cecilia is on her own and mostly at sea. The "immaculate conception" in the film is no surprise, but what Cecilia endures in the remainder is the film's hook and main source of suspense and social commentary. If the film is an allegory, scripted by Andew Lobel, it is a surprisingly grimy, wrenching and virulently anti-Catholic one unlike the run of most religious horror flicks of late that oft come with a gossamer, holy conclusion (studio Neon has cannily used pious complaints against the movie as advertising). It's an attractively made pic, but there is a bit of triteness here and there--the wavering candle flame sound effects are turned up (too high?) as are an unnecessarily piled-on slew of jump scares. There's a lot of howling grief and rage in the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel coda, with visual references to Rosemary's Baby, House of a 1000 Corpses via Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Sometimes it all feels a bit too much, yearning for it to get dished on a slightly more subtle level, but still occasionally effective throughout. One of its highlights--a really gorgeous, melodic score by Will Bates. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg