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All posts for the day December 3rd, 2014

Ejecta BITS 2014

Published December 3, 2014 by vfdpixie

Ejecta

Ejecta (2014, 1 hr 27 mins)

I would love to get inside writer Tony Burgess’s head.  I am sure it is a place of wonder and intrigue, a place where festival hits Pontypool and Hellmouth were born.  His latest brainchild, BITS Fest selection Ejecta, tackles some pretty mean aliens.

William Cassidy is a tormented man.  After being abducted, or as he put it “meeting” with “an advance life form”, he has been under their watch and control for 39 years.  His reports and theories on his alien captors have made him something of a mysterious legend online under the name Spider Nevi, and when he contacts an eager filmmaker Joe (Adam Seybold) to finally tell his story, things hit the fan as an anticipated solar event serves as a backdrop to an insane alien cat and mouse chase and interrogation by a secret military operation.

This is definitely more mainstream for Burgess, and refreshing.   I could see the Burgess substance as William waxed poetically about his alien experiences, but there was an overall popcorn movie feel that I enjoyed.  Directing team Chad Archibald and Matt Wiele (winners of a Best Director Bloodies award at the fest) created a found footage/real-time combo that didn’t confuse the story.  There was a fair amount of terror in this sci-fi gem, and the aliens were filmed in true found footage style, with glimpses of their angry, saw-toothed faces and low lit alien autopsy-like shots.  Plenty of frantic shaky camera chases kept a frenzied pace, but it was a step above many found footage films with some great performances.

Julian Richings, who is literally everywhere from the Canadian sci-fi classic Cube to the super popular Orphan Black and a Bloodies Best Actor winner, delivered as the tortured William.  His expressive, angular face captivated like no other, and Lisa Houle as the intense Dr. Tobin was equally engaging with her steely and villainous resolve to find the aliens by any means necessary; and Adam Seybold was believable as the eager Joe, who exuded a certain innocence that would be lost as the aliens took charge.  Also look for another cameo by director Bruce McDonald that provides some nutty comic relief with a touch of menace.

Burgess, Wiele, Richings and Houle were all in attendance to give us more insider tidbits that I love to hear about!  Ejecta was shot the same time as Hellmouth and Septic Man 2 years ago.  When the directors saw what they had, they decided it wasn’t what they wanted, with Wiele calling the found footage genre the “bastard child of horror” and basically shot another movie.  The incorporation of the 2 films was actually pretty seamless, making a better overall presentation.  When Burgess was asked if he thought about the genre of film while he wrote, he revealed that he didn’t and the story just comes regardless of the genre.  What is consistent with him is a guaranteed surreal world that has been respected by his directors.

I have seen enough films with the common denominator of Tony Burgess to know that I am rarely disappointed, and Ejecta is no exception.  If you want some mystery and mean, determined aliens, check it out!

(As an aside, I had a cool experience that night.  As you all know, I love Stephen McHattie, Canadian actor extraordinaire.  He showed up to the Ejecta screening to support his friends, and I got a chance to say hello.  There is always a fear that someone you hold in high regard will disappoint you, but he was so nice!  We shook hands, had a laugh and I gave him my card so he could read my “love letter” to him.  One thing off of my bucket list!)

 

Berkshire County BITS 2014

Published December 3, 2014 by vfdpixie

Berkshire County

Berkshire County (2014, 1 hr 23 mins)

I’m back for another helping of Canuck horror at the 3rd annual Blood In The Snow Film Festival, where a select number of Canadian-made horror is showcased over 3 days with many of the directors and actors in attendance.  It’s a smaller, more intimate festival, held at the Carlton Cinemas in Toronto, where fans and film cast and crew can literally rub shoulders at the theatre and after-parties all weekend.

The opening night film was Berkshire County.  In the tradition of classic slasher and intruder films, this flick melds the two for a large helping of suspenseful, action-packed horror.

The victim of a cruel video prank that quickly spreads through her high school, Kylie (Alysa King) is having a rough time of it.  She unable to deal with the shame and ridicule of the aftermath, and feels outcast and hopeless.  Taking on a babysitting gig in a remote country home on Halloween night, she tries to escape the memory of the mean stunt, but when 3 pig-masked intruders darken their doorstep, Kylie is in for a night of terror that will test her will to survive.

Berkshire County‘s director Audrey Cummings’ first feature-length film was an overall success.  The components for a typical horror film-teens, sex, jump scares and knife-wielding bad guys-were elevated to create tension, great plot twists and action that culminated with car-crash velocity, leaving plenty of room for a sequel with an over-the-top ending.

Alysa King’s terror-stricken performance was a great rollercoaster ride that took you from despair to determination, and Madison Ferguson as Phoebe along with Christophe Galland who played her brother Sam, did a stellar job as the scared charges under Kylie’s care.  At the Q & A after the film, King said it was a great honour to play such a strong female role, and beating out 200 other girls for the part, as well as winning a “Bloodie”award for best actress at this festival, she really gave it her all.  Also look out for Samora Smallwood, who played Roberta.  Without giving away any spoilers, she will knock your socks off, and I hope to see both her and King in more films soon!  And the bad guys?  The stuff of legend.  The pig-faced slashers were methodical, creepy and pretty bad ass!  From their pork truck of terror to their underaged minion, they will surely haunt your nightmares for years to come.  Definitely goes into my book of iconic villains.

We also learned some inside info about the shoot and what inspired the film at the Q & A.  Writer Chris Gamble pulled from true life events when he was a babysitter.  Breaking his glasses that basically left him blind one night on the job, he was terrified by some strange knocking on the door, which was later found out to be a prank.  Cummings and Gamble funded the film with their own money, but they had fantastic news of Canadian distribution with A71 Entertainment, International with Ravens Banner, and a soon to be announced U.S. distributor.  The cast and crew all felt the set of the isolated house was super creepy, and I have to agree.  It was particularly hideous, and appeared to have endless rooms similar to the Winchester Mystery House in California.  Cummings had a lot of issues with the use of the location, including foreclosure and some miscommunication with the owner which lead to a couple of script rewrites for the 22 day shoot, but it obviously worked out to bring us a great horror film.

I had to ask about the masks.  When you see them, I think you will agree that they are incredibly horrific.  They were created at The Butcher Shop, a Hamilton, Ontario based makeup effects studio.  All the cast agreed that the shop itself was something out of a horror movie due to its creepy basement location, so it set the scene for what they were about to be a part of!  Carlos Henriques, owner of the studio and special effects artist on the shoot, created the masks to Cummings’ specifications, and even went so far as to use a real severed pig’s head as inspiration for one of the masks.

Berkshire County has won the grand jury prize for Best Feature at Shriekfest in L.A., and has since won awards all over at many festivals.  Do yourself a favour and see why because it really is the whole horror package and one of my top picks for the BITS Fest!

 

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