Shudder

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See Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl Exclusively on Shudder

Published May 4, 2017 by rmpixie

Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl (2016, 1 hr, 16 mins)

With all the generic horrors out there, I’m always thrilled to see what terrors Shudder Canada has to offer. This time, they’ve brought us director and writer A.D. Calvo who takes us back in time to combine a lonely teenage girl, unrequited love, creepy gothic horror and a retro vibe for his latest film Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl.

Adele (Erin Wilhelmi) is sent by her unfeeling mother to look after her agoraphobic aunt Dora (Susan Kellerman) in the hopes that they will inherit her fortune. In a large, rambling house, Adele must follow neatly written instructions left by her aunt who never emerges from her bedroom. Her duties include:  preparing very specific meals of sardines, crackers and tea, keeping quiet in the house, and she is banned from having any visitors to the house whatsoever. A tall order for a young woman almost out of her teenage years, but Adele seems to be a bit of a misfit and introvert with no friends. When she meets the beautiful and mysterious Beth (Quinn Shephard) in town, they strike up a friendship and become very close. As Adele loses herself in the glow of Beth’s friendship, her attention shifts from her aunt’s well-being to romantic feelings towards her newfound friend and she makes choices that will lead her down a dangerous path.

Not being familiar with the several horror/fantasy movies Calvo has under his belt, I was pleasantly surprised with Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl as my introduction to his work. This Sitges and Fantastic Fest 2016 selection brings a gothic, romantic feel that made me think of classic horror writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed the quiet suspense of this film and felt for Adele and her predicament, but also raised an eyebrow at her childish self-centeredness. Her adoration of Beth and attempts to mimic her cool sophistication and careless attitude shows her desperation to find a connection since she’s mistreated by her aunt and mother. It’s a gothic horror romance and coming of age story all in one.

He also throws in some good old-fashioned morals that no gothic horror would be complete without.  We see this when Adele finds an underlined passage in Aunt Dora’s bible, namely Matthew 6:19-20:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”

I’m no biblical expert, but it’s clear that greed and what motivates us to be self-serving is central and justifies Aunt Dora’s paranoia. In Adele’s case, it’s not only her poor upbringing, neglect and the prospect of having some money and nice things, but also falling in love and wanting to impress Beth. Both blind her from the realities of her surroundings.  It’s a nice touch without having to spell out the storyline.

I thought the same-sex love story was refreshing and even though it came from a male director, it didn’t feel exploitative and the young but seasoned actors made the most of the tentative affair.  Shephard certainly smouldered like a teenage beauty queen as Beth and Wilhelmi played Adele with an awkward, wide-eyed innocence that drew a certain amount of sympathy. Even when Adele’s actions become morally questionable, there is a sense that she isn’t really bad, just inexperienced.

The set design and wardrobe captured the early 80’s vibe for a believable period horror, and I really enjoyed the old school hits Adele listens to, the eerie scoring, and sound design. And if you’re looking for a weird retro horror finale, you’ll definitely find it here, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable. This climax stayed true to old school horrors and had a myriad of influences from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and Black Sabbath (The Drop of Water segment) that Calvo has mentioned, to the more modern I Am the Pretty Thing in the House and House of the Devil. None of these films are perfect, but like Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, they tell a compelling and interesting story.

I recommend checking out Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, but you’ll need to stick with this slow burn story. It has a lot of meat on its bones for a low budget, and there is plenty to speculate well after the film is over. Watch this bit of nostalgic horror fun with a really creepy ending on Shudder now!

Prepare Yourself for the Brutal We Are The Flesh: A Shudder Exclusive

Published April 21, 2017 by rmpixie

 

We Are The Flesh (2016, 1 hr, 19 mins)

 

Extreme cinema has its purpose, usually to tell a story in the most shocking manner in order to get a visceral response as we watch. While some directors use it for pure shock value, others use it as a rejection of the formulaic films cranked out of the incessant Hollywood machine, and some feel that extreme representation of brutality, sexuality and gore is the only way they can express themselves and their subject matter artistically.  In We Are The Flesh (Tenemos la carne), a film that played many festivals including Cannes in 2016 and is now a Shudder Exclusive, Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter gives us all of the above and more in order to tell a meandering story about death, rebirth and god complexes.

Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (Maria Evoli) stumble upon an abandoned building and its sole inhabitant, an elf-like man named Marciano (Noé Hernández). He is strange and extremely volatile, spouting cryptic words about his way of life. Fauna bargains for her and her brother to stay with him in exchange for any sort of arrangement since they seek refuge from a harsh environment on the outside. That arrangement turns out to be labour in order to create a womb-like labyrinth of a cave with bits of wood, cardboard, broken furniture and endless rolls of tape. As he gets to know his two young captives locked in the building with him, he is taken with Fauna and takes to bullying her brother. In a series of extremely strange and increasingly cruel events, he forces them do his darkly incestuous bidding, and once they cross the line, they enter an infernal world of raw emotion and mysticism.

We Are The Flesh wins hands down for the title of extreme cinema. Viewers beware as this film is chockfull of writhing nudity, incest, rape, cannibalism, orgies, and even a dash of menstrual blood; letting it all hang out to tell a strange story with creationist undertones in an absurdist and grotesque manner. Adam and Eve, the devil, a God/Jesus/resurrection theme, and Mexico’s nationalistic unrest are explored but goes off the rails just as you think you can make sense of the startling action. Hernández gave a truly arresting performance as the demonic Marciano and Evoli reached deep for her portrayal of Fauna.  From his interviews, Minter sounded very supportive of his cast, but I’m not sure how he got these performances out of his actors.  If the process was anything like Isabelle Adjani’s motivation in Possession, I hope they had a therapist on set.

Only in his mid-twenties, Minter, lauded and backed by Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, has been compared to French director Gaspar Noé. While films like Noé’s Love also used extreme sexuality to tell a story, once you get past the sex, it reveals itself to be a sensitive film about a vulnerable young man searching for lost love. I actually found We Are The Flesh had more in common with Michael Rowe’s 2010 film Leap Year (Año bisiesto). This too was filled with stark and graphic sex, but like Minter Rowe uses sex, sadism and isolation as a way to convey a connection, in this instance humanity and heartache as a lonely young woman finds solace in a sadistic relationship. Leap Year is also similar to We Are The Flesh in that there is a brother and sister relationship and an overbearing older male that dictates to, or has the potential to lord over, a young woman, but that’s where the similarities end.

Where Rowe creates a quiet intensity, Minter juxtaposes poetic dialogue with brutally animalistic actions that come at you full force. The characters are unfettered and wild; giving into impulse after impulse in a womb-like setting, punctuated with a barrage of sound. Actions like breathing, stirring, and sporadic and aggressive drumming pulls the viewer’s focus, making each scene that much more uncomfortable as you wince from both the visual and aural assault. There were also nods to Samuel Beckett along with colourful psychedelic and supernatural elements. Those connections still didn’t make it more accessible to me, perhaps only helping in categorizing familiar scenes.

I appreciate some extreme cinema for what it attempts to overcome in this age of banal cookie cutter genre films (as long as living creatures-human and animal- remain unharmed in real life) but ultimately I can’t say I liked We Are The Flesh. Perhaps I’m not intellectual enough to grasp the abundance of allegorical notions presented here, but there are some things that become too much of a stretch for me to consider them above their shock value.

One viewer’s interpretation of art is another viewer’s headache. Are Lucio and Fauna a new hope in a barren land? Is Marciano their god or a demon? Does an abducted soldier represent a violently dying motherland or an attempt to rid the country of political overseers? Is this an ultimately extreme art film instead of a horror?  Who’s to say, but those questions and more will come to mind as you watch Emiliano Rocha Minter’s chaotic, poetic and ultimately confusing first feature film We Are The Flesh. After this experience, he’s certainly on my radar, and I’m curious to see what he does next. Make up your own mind and see it exclusively on Shudder Canada.

Pixie’s Christmas Binge Fest!

Published December 20, 2016 by rmpixie

This Christmas, I could put out another Pixie’s picks for holiday viewing, but with the exception of Krampus or A Christmas Horror Story, it’s pretty much the same. See that list here, my review of Krampus here and A Christmas Horror Story here. Instead, I’d like to list a bunch of series that I’ve fallen in love with, and a couple that I’ve had no time to view. What better time to watch them then when you’re enjoying (or avoiding) family this holiday season? So here’s a list of binge-worthy shows to help you unwind with (or hide from) your favourite horror cousins, aunties and uncles this Christmas:

 

Channel Zero:  Candle Cove (Syfy)

Take 2 parts It, 1 part Twin Peaks, 3 parts The Children and give it a swirl. Strain the aforementioned inspirations and you’ll get a delectable and unique mixture of one of the most unsettling, genuinely creepy shows out there. Inspired by a Creepypasta called “Candle Cove”, writer Kris Straub has created a tense world where child psychologist Mike Painter (Paul Schneider), plagued by disturbing dreams and personal demons, returns to his hometown to revisit his twin brother’s disappearance.  When he arrives, there’s a whole lotta weirdness going on with the kids in town, and it harkens back to a local tragedy, along with a dreaded TV show that only children can see. Throw in some creepy puppets, truly intense scenes that will make your skin crawl, and fantastic, understated performances, and you have an instant horror hit.  The subsequent seasons will be based on other Creepypasta stories, so stay tuned for more uber-weirdness.

 

 

 

 

Stranger Things (Netflix)

If you are the last person on the planet that hasn’t seen this great throw back to 80’s sci-fi horror, I suggest you get a subscription to Netflix and hunker down to watch a really cool show.  The Duffer Brothers wrote and directed this story of three boys Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) desperately searching for their missing friend Will (Noah Schnapp). When they meet a mysterious and mostly silent waif of a girl they nickname “Eleven” (Millie Bobby Brown), their world changes forever. There is also a sinister government organization, an alternate reality and the missing boy’s determined mother played by Winona Ryder to provide us with plenty of chills and spills.  Season 2 is in the works, so you’d better catch up if you haven’t seen it yet!

 

 

 

 

The Exorcist: The Series (Fox or CTV)

Here is my review of this brilliant adaptation of a classic horror film to the small screen. You must see this!

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Walls: Au-Dela des Murs (Shudder)

This French mini-series is on my list to watch.  After inheriting a house from a man she doesn’t know, Lisa (Veerle Baetens) moves into the sprawling and somewhat derelict abode.  When she starts to hear noises in the house, she smashes through a wall to find a creepy and ominous world.  She’s taken on a psychological journey to deal with her past and bizarre present. The trailer alone had me.  With such beautiful and artistic scenes, I’m excited to see what director Hervé Hadmar has to offer.

 

 

 

 

Black Mirror (Netflix)

This was a show I got wind of last year, and was so enthralled with it that I had to watch it in one sitting. Here is my post on Season 1 and 2.   Season 3 is now available on Netflix. I’ve only watched 2 episodes, but it’s pretty much the same great writing and sly observations on society at large. Definitely a cup of very dark humor not to be missed.

 

 

 

 

Sense8-Christmas Special (Netflix)

For those of you who have been champing at the bit like I have to see more of this mind-blowing, multicultural, gender-bending, identity positive and incredibly produced show, champ no more!  The continuation of the trials experienced by a group of psychically connected individuals and the nefarious plot to control their powers will air on Netflix December 23rd.   This 2 hour Christmas special offered up by the prolific Wachowski sisters will be watched with glee by myself and the horror boyfriend!

 

 

 

 

Westworld (HBO)

Yet another classic film adapted for TV, but this one I haven’t had a chance to catch. I loved the 1973 movie, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the HBO series. With a stellar cast and what seems to be a stellar production, it seems I’m in for a treat!

 

 

 

 

The Fall (Netflix/BBC2)

This gorgeous contribution to the serial killer genre is a slow-burn creeper that really gets into your head.  Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), is an unassuming father of 2, a grief counselor and serial killer.  Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) is the detective brought in to find him and soon becomes consumed with his horrific crimes.  The two circle each other as each makes progress with their obsessions, but only one can ultimately win.  Written and directed by Alan Cubitt who also penned episodes for Prime Suspect 2, Season 3 has just been released on Netflix, and not only is it a visual treat to watch, but the writing and performances are top notch.

 

 

I hope you enjoy your binge watching whatever your tastes may be, and have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

Merry Christmas!

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