Monday, November 28, 2016

"Model Hunger" (2016) Review

            I've often said that, with her unparalleled body of genre work, horror legend Debbie Rochon has been in more than a few bad movies, but she's never been bad in a movie. Long a champion of indie/micro budget horror films, it seemed only a matter of time before the talented Ms. Rochon spent some time behind the camera. Well, fright fans, the wait is over with "Model Hunger".

            Featuring a "body image" subtext that's about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the temple, the film follows former model Ginny (fan favorite Lynn Lowery) as she adjusts to "retirement" so to speak. She takes her revenge on the beautiful people of the world by dispatching them in increasingly gruesome ways, and disposing of the bodies in a most practical manner. The always amazing Tiffany Shepis and Carmine Capobianco play Ginny's neighbors who observe to proceedings with a growing suspicion ala "Rear Window".

            Fast paced, and very self aware, "Model Hunger", while at times teetering on the brink of being a little paint-by-numbers (the script gets a little threadbare), nonetheless, it delivers the gory goods at the precise moments it needs to. Lowery is over-the-top batshit crazy as Ginny and seems to relish the sadistic ways she carries out her various atrocities. Suzi Lorraine pops up in some unnerving commercials sprinkled throughout the film that really can't be described in print. In fact, keep your eyes open for all kinds of genre regulars in cameos and small roles, there's plenty of 'em.

            Bottom line, "Model Hunger" is nothing new, it's a little generic and worn, but it's also a lot of fun. Seeing some of your favorite indie horror players chewing up the gory scenery and having a blast working with each other is infectious and makes for a film that, while is wears it's flaws on it's sleeve, is also pretty damned entertaining. Bravo Debbie.

--Scream King Tom

"Dark Cove" (2016) Review

            Any film that opens with some friends burying a tarp wrapped body in the woods and swearing to keep a secret is bound to pique my interest. When "Dark Cove" rewinds to give you the back story, an interesting twist on a familiar sub-genre crawls out of it's shallow grave.

            Canadian lensed (and featuring a lot of BC's natural beauty) "Dark Cove" opens with the old standby--a group of twenty-somethings heading out for a weekend on the beach with plenty of: booze, drugs, and nubile flesh. But once our merry band of youngsters meet a trio of Aussie surfers to party with, things get a teensy bit complicated.

            Some psycho-active drugs, a thwarted assault, and a brutal beating later, and people are soon burying corpses, swinging axes, destroying evidence, and embracing their inner maniac in this taut feature.

            Boasting a gorgeous cast of newcomers (save for writer/director/editor and male lead Rob Willey), "Dark Cove" is a really impressive, beautifully shot and scripted feature. Everything comes off as very authentic, the interplay between the characters, and the dialogue is actually how people talk (at one point they even make fun of American accents)! Something that is often sorely lacking in films at this price point. Montana McNalley and Eliot Bayne particularly stand out as Jen and Ian respectively, and the whole ensemble cast delivers impressive performances.

            Technically, the film is top notch. Great lighting, even sound, crisp edits, and a effective sound design are all present and make for a great viewing experience. The script moves along at a nice pace, never lagging or allowing the viewer's interest to wander while setting up the ultra violent third act.

            There's a few knocks, sure, mostly the nonchalant way everyone agrees to cover up a murder, but other than that, "Dark Cove" is pretty error free.

            "Dark Cove", ultimately, is a violent, gory, original film that, with a great cast and some expert direction, ratchets up a Hitchcock-ian tension before blowing up into an orgy of axe-wielding mayhem. Watch it. Watch it with the lights off.

--Scream King Tom

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Harvest Lake" Review

"Harvest Lake"

Four twentysomethings head to a cabin on a secluded lake to drink, smoke weed, and fuck. You've heard this basic set-up about a million different times in a million different horror films before, right? Well, friends, this is where the similarities from all of those generic slasher films of days past end. "Harvest Lake" is an entirely different animal.
Director Scott Schirmer ("Found"), brings together most of the talent from last year's "The Legend of Wasco" into what amounts to a creative masterpiece of indie cinema. A ferociously original script coupled with stunning cinematography, truly surreal set-pieces, a brilliant tension building sound design, and a cast delivering career defining performances elevate "Harvest Lake" head and shoulders above 99% of the current crop of modestly budgeted features.
After a disturbing opening sequence, the four friends in question, Ellie Church ("Time To Kill"), Tristan Risk ("Innsmouth"), Jason Crowe ("Easter Casket"), and Dan Nye ("The Legend of Wasco") arrive at the lake house to celebrate Josh's (Nye) birthday, and after a quick dip in the lake, things start to get weird. Like, really weird. The arrival of random camper Mark (Kevin Roach) adds another piece of the puzzle as the hallucinations, paranoia, amped up sexuality, and psychic ramblings begin to eat away at the party atmosphere.
"Harvest Lake" draws from some very lofty influences in that it combines equal parts of Cronenberg's "body horror" phase (think "Shivers" in the woods), Kubrick-esque tension, several Lovecraft elements (fear of the unknown, ancient aquatic beings, madness, and, yes...tentacles.), and lush dreamscapes reminiscent of Harvey's "Carnival of Souls". Heady stuff indeed, yet, Schirmer's script keeps the "cheese factor" at bay by not allowing the nudity and sexuality to creep into "exploitation" territory (and there's TONS of potential for gratuitous nudity here kids), and, when not keeping the entities involved in the ambiguous shadows, utilizing some truly exceptionally well done creature effects (old school bladder effects FTW!) to get the point across. That's not to say that some of the plot points aren't left enough in the dark to challenge the viewer into "filling in the blanks" so to speak, that is definitely the case here, but this is "thinking man's horror", and thank fuck for that, we need more films like this!
All of the above is meaningless, however, without talent on both sides of the camera. Brian Williams' camera work immerses the viewer into the world of "Harvest Lake" making the titular body of water and the woods surrounding it (as well as the denizens contained therein) vital characters in this twisted tale. Jason Crowe, already known as a capable actor, delivers an amazing, fearless performance here, Tristan Risk (one of the most attractive humans on the planet, as I often point out) chews up every scene she's in with a subtle vulnerability that evolves into raw sexuality as the story progresses, Ellie Church is completely fucking chilling in the last half of the film, and both Nye and Roach seem to revel in the miasma of terrifying situations their characters are thrown into. A nearly perfect ensemble performance.
"Harvest Lake" is one of those rare films that will find an audience if enough people "get it", and here's hoping it tears it up on the festival circuit, because everyone involved in this film deserves a pile of awards, trophies, certificates, free drinks, sexual favors, tee shirts, hand shakes and back pats that the indie horror scene can muster. This, friends, is the type of film and talent that deserves your support.
10/10--Scream King Tom