Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during the 2014 Fantastic Fest. We’re rerunning it now that It Follows is in limited release.
David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover is a movie about the resigning of innocence; the last gasp of youth that is gracefully exhaled before inevitably breathing in the fumes of the adult world. Like American Graffiti before it, there’s an overwhelming sense of melancholia that hangs over the movie’s single night setting, as if the writer/director is mourning the cycle of childhood as it moves into the dawn the responsibility. With his follow-up feature, Mitchell has crafted a natural progression in terms of thematics, only he adds a dash of perverse Cronenbergian genre play, resulting in what may be the defining horror film of this generation. It Follows is a dynamite piece of supernatural storytelling, equal parts touching and thrilling. Though fundamentally the film is more of the same from Mitchell, who is emerging as the premiere cinematic observer of youth in the modern auteurist pantheon. (more…)
The doorbell rings, startling Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelley) out of a silent grievous moment. She rises and opens the door to find a handsome young man (Dan Stevens) waiting for her on the front porch. He has striking blue eyes; piercing crystal spheres that soften with kindness upon taking in her form. He says his name is David. He says that he knew her son and served with him in the war. He says that he was with him when he died. He says that he promised to ‘check on’ her family, and that pledge is what led him to this encounter. Laura asks David if he’d like to come inside and opens the door a little wider, letting him know that he is welcome in her home.
Thus begins The Guest, the latest from Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard, the writing/directing team behind You’re Next and A Horrible Way to Die. Outside of being a sparse set up for the mess of mayhem which follows, this opening scene acts as a kind of manifesto for the rest of the movie. This time out, Wingard and Barrett are playing with the unassuming; subverting the trust we put in those who have earned it. What results from the basic conceit is an evolutionary leap forward in craft for both the writer and director, as they combine the sure-handed simplicity of early Cameron with the meticulous, widescreen framing of Carpenter. Not only the best film both artists have put their name on, The Guest is easily one of the most economically entertaining action films since the original Terminator. (more…)
There are certain works in the history of cinema that are just insane; pictures that probably shouldn’t exist except for the fact that their creators birthed them through sheer will alone. Duke Mitchell’s Gone With the Pope comes to mind — a hodgepodge of ‘holy fucking shit’ that could’ve only come from the singular vision of one whacked out individual (and delivered to us via the hard work of one Academy Award winning editor). These are movies whose viewers are part of an elite club once they’ve sought them out, as the works never formally made their way to home video. It’s a rarity in the age of all-access digital media that any picture is relegated solely to celluloid, but they certainly still exist; “cult films” in the truest sense. Now another movie can be added to this exclusive list: Craig Denney’s 1975 work of wanton megalomania, The Astrologer. As Nicolas Winding Refn put it in his introduction to the film at this year’s Fantastic Fest: “it’s a movie that pushes ‘auteurism’ to a whole other level.” (more…)
Sometimes escape is necessary.
Whether it be from the doldrums of the everyday or a deliberate dodging of the authorities which dog us in the aftermath of a mistake, the natural instinct to retreat and regroup is not only imperative but also innate. For it is in these acts of retirement that human beings can re-discover and re-affirm what truly drives them. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s second feature, Spring, revolves around such a retreat, as their seemingly unremarkable protagonist, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), jets off to Italy in order leave behind what may be the worst turn of events his young life has even seen. Though through this withdrawal, Evan finds not only the girl who may be the love of his life, but also a newfound respect for the world around him. Arguably the greatest quarter-life crisis story conceived since Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Benson & Moorehead’s second motion picture is a stirring, life-affirming work of idiosyncratic art.
Oh yeah…it’s also a horror film. (more…)
Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams chronicles the trials and tribulations Werner Herzog faced when attempting to mold his masterpiece, Fitzcarraldo, without once wavering from his daunting personal vision. Outside of the filmmaking process, what Blank’s documentary captures best is the way that dreams can consume us if we’re not careful. Herzog was an artist driven by his own unique brand of madness and, in the end, triumphed over adversity (not to mention a deranged Klaus Kinski) to deliver what might be the defining narrative picture of his career. With Kung Fu Elliot, “non-fiction” filmmakers Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau explore a similar consumption by artistic fascination. Only instead of resulting in a masterwork of idiosyncratic expression, their profile of “Canadian action star”, Elliot “White Lightning” Scott is nothing less than a cataloguing of pathological lies, culminating in a deeply disturbing portrait of partner abuse. (more…)
Don’t let Electric Boogaloo fool you: Roger Corman started it.
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus simply improved upon the cheapo tyrant formula that came to dominate drive-in style cinema in the 60s and 70s. Technically, The Weinstein Brothers perfected the mold, taking the schlock-factory model and somehow managing to add genuine quality into the mix (a shocker, I know). But none did it quite like Golan & Globus, whose somewhat unbelievable rags to riches story was fueled by pure, maniacal love for cinema. And much like he captured the Outback mayhem that was Australian genre cinema in the 70s with Not Quite Hollywood, Mark Hartley has returned to give us The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Only by narrowing the focus of the film and making it much more about Golan & Globus as people (though the constant talking head impersonations of the brothers threaten to turn the cousins into cartoons), it gives Electric Boogaloo an intimate edge that the director’s previous cinema documentaries lacked. Frankly speaking, Mark Hartley’s third picture devoted to the niche racks at your local video store (or, more accurately in 2014: Netflix Queue) might be the best movie about movies since Ted Demme’s A Decade Under the Influence. (more…)
When I was young, my dad used to constantly relay an old maxim. “Son,” he’d say, “the loudest guy in the bar is always going to be the least tough.” Outside of providing me with an essential bit of sage wisdom when it came to assessing the chances of getting my ass kicked, this brief aphorism doubled as one of my first lessons in the art of storytelling. Essentially, what my father was relaying was a tutorial in how to determine intent — to pick through a story’s delivery and try to understand just why it was being told. Keeping this truism in mind, I’m having a tough time deciding just why in the hell Kevin Smith decided to make Tusk, his latest foray into the world of horror filmmaking. While the New Jersey writer/director is certainly stretching outside of his comfort zone with this demented slice of body horror, it ultimately is nothing more than another juvenile descent into nonsense. To borrow from another tried and true expression (whose zoological roots seem fit for a movie about a loon transforming another man into a walrus): “a leopard cannot change its spots.” (more…)
When approaching the early works of David Cronenberg, many modern viewers are initially put off by the ruddy, low-rent stylings of films like Shivers, Rabid and The Brood, citing the director’s choice of low-budget genre trappings as rendering his cerebral central postualtions inaccessible. Much like the Canadian horror auteur (who has since moved on to greener pastures of prestige with pictures like Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch and A History of Violence), American independent filmmaker Billy Senese has crafted his sophomore feature, Closer to God, with one foot in the horror film grave. Borrowing liberally from the clinical director’s filmography (The Brood being the most obvious point of reference), Senese strains to balance the “dark thriller” portions of the narrative with the set of proverbial “big ideas” he presents. Once Closer to God descends into out-and-out monster movie territory, it becomes readily apparent that any kind of heady aspirations were simply the jumping off point for a somewhat pedestrian riff on modern Frankenstein mythos. (more…)
This is the best week of the year.
Seriously. If you’ve never been to Fantastic Fest before, start saving now to book your flight to Austin, Texas in 2015. Even if you have no idea what Fantastic Fest is as you’re reading this article, just start monitoring your bank account and scanning Southwest Airlines’ website for cheap flights. Because no other film fest in the world is like this one — a non-stop cortège of badass genre movies, video games, boxing matches, trivia challenges, drunken debauchery and the biggest food fight Texas has ever seen. Where at most other fests you have to parse through a sea of party-hopping star fuckers to find the real film fans, at Fantastic Fest you’re rubbing elbows with the most hardcore sect of cinephiles from the world over every single day. Simply put: if you love movies, this is Nirvana.
In 2014, Fantastic Fest is celebrating its tenth year of existence. To ring in such a grand occasion, the programmers and Alamo Drafthouse Founder/CEO Tim League are sparing no expense. Want to see League verbally spar with Ti West about whether or not found footage is a legitimate sub-genre (before they both don gloves and wail on each other in the ring)? Fantastic Fest X has got you covered. Wondering if the new Kevin Smith horror picture is worth its weight in snoogins? Fantastic Fest X has got you covered. How about a detailed Q&A with longtime film critic Leonard Maltin, moderated by former Drafthouse programmer extraordinaire Zack Carlson and suave Vulcan Video head Bryan Connolly? Fantastic Fest X has got you covered.
Welcome to Fantastic Fest X. To get you started, here are the eleven films we here at Nerd Bastards are most excited for. Not gonna lie, it’s going to be a rough and tumble seven days, but just remember what the fox once said:
“Chaos Reigns” (more…)
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
Robin Williams has died.
The hows and whys are still being sussed out, but when losing one of the world’s true geniuses, it’s debatable whether the hows and whys even matter in the least. Robin Williams — husband, father of three, comedian, activist, writer and Academy Award-winning actor — is no longer amongst the living. To dwell on the morbid details seems like a complete and utter waste of time and good energy. Our Captain is gone. Fare thee well, Mr. Keating, your fearful trip is done. (more…)