With “Absentia”, writer and director Mike Flanagan has made a fresh and unique film utilizing a cast of relative unknowns. Starting with Callie (Katie Parker) returning to her pregnant sister’s home, Tricia (Courtney Bell) we find out that Tricia is about to have her husband, missing for 7 years, declared dead ‘In Absentia’. Callie is struggling with drug addiction, and is currently recovering but that hasn’t stopped her from bringing a stash with her. Still living in the same apartment as when her husband left (Morgan Peter Brown), Tricia has an arm’s length relationship with cop and investigator Det. Mallory (David Levine) as she wants to end the marriage (by having her husband declared dead) and move on to the next phase of her life.
Callie goes for a daily run and just on the other side of the freeway is a park with a tunnel connecting the two. Visible from the apartment’s front door, Callie is seen routinely running through it. Encountering what she believes to be a homeless man (Doug Jones), she offers to bring him back some food when asked for help. Thus begins interaction with a supernatural being that lives under the freeway, an interaction that increases in both frequency and intensity as the movie continues.
The characters are well written, with a focus on the emotional trauma felt by a woman whose husband simply disappeared and must carry on with the business of everyday life. The legal and moral complexities of being unable to either dissolve the marriage or have him declared dead are explored with an emphasis placed on why this is necessary at this particular time. Coupled with this are visits by an apparition that looks like her missing husband, which may or may not be all in her head. The events unfold in such a way as to question claims made by both women as well as other characters whom have knowledge of what is occurring in the tunnel. The police can and do create mundane and completely plausible explanations for supernatural events. This is one of the strengths of the film and with the performances of relatively unknown actors, it adds a level of realism to the film more established actors might not bring.
Having a budget of just $70,000, the director wisely chose to minimize the visuals of what turns out to be a monster. Other than an out of focus or quickly panned shots, we never actually see the monster as a whole. Longer shots of tentacles or in some cases, insect-like fingers, are seen letting the viewer fill in the blanks for themselves. The director clues the viewer in early as to what the intent of the creature is by having Callie give a pregnant Tricia a copy of ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’. The relatively little gore via the scant budget does not hamper the intensity of the scary moments when they come. Like ‘Blair Witch‘ and ‘Paranormal Activity‘, the scares come from both the context of how they happen as much as letting the viewer use their imagination.
Shot in a straightforward style, the appearance is rather ordinary. Ordinary apartment on an ordinary street with something wicked just out of sight. The soundtrack serves to emphasize the action onscreen well without overpowering it. This gives a better focus to the story.
In the end it is a well made, if tightly budgeted, horror film.
Some Guy Who Kills People is about Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan), a depressed man working at a lousy job after just having recently been released from a mental hospital. His best friend, co-worker and self proclaimed loser Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick) tries to help Ken out as there is a lot going on in his friend’s life. Someone is killing the people who abused Ken years earlier and Ken’s daughter has just discovered her father is alive and comes to live with Ken and his wisecracking mother (Karen Black).
The movie plays with these three elements quite deftly, handling all three with same light touch and sarcastic humor. It’s precisely this light touch that allows the development of a much brighter story of the father and daughter learning to know one another to shine through. While this may at first seem contradictory, it is this lightness with which the humor elevates even the darkest parts of the film. Kevin Corrigan does a masterful job enlisting sympathy from the viewer without ever resorting to cheap emotionalism. Barry Bostwick plays the sheriff, part bumbling, part sarcastic, all with a gum chewing straight face. Ariel Gade plays Ken’s daughter, Amy Wheeler who nearly steals the show with a great energy to every scene she is in. She pushes him into a relationship with Stephanie (Lucy Davis), whom holds her own against Ken’s angst.
In many ways, the entire killing plot could have been dropped and this released on the strength of the acting by Kevin Corrigan and Ariel Gade, but then it would have lost it’s dark charm which is really what makes Some Guy Who Kills People unique and special. The plot unfolds at a pleasant, leisurely pace giving the characters time to develop before the events in the plot get too complicated. Not that they ever really get very complicated. It’s just that, inevitably all of the elements meet with the overlapping characters. It is truly refreshing to see fully developed characters whom aren’t one step above cartoonish in a horror movie. Even more so refreshing is the overall feeling that watching this element of the movie gives.
The production quality is very professional with a solid soundtrack and camera work that supports the type of scene it is portraying, very well. The murder scenes are shot in a straightforward fashion with the effects matching the same lightness and humor of the rest of the film. Pacing is never an issue, as the film unfolds at a pace that neither bores nor leaves the audience wanting.
Quirky and offbeat are terms that are vastly overused in Hollywood these days, however in the case of this film, those are words you would use to describe it perfectly.
The choice of this particular title should be enough to let you know that something isn’t quite the same about this particular film. Director Jack Perez has done a masterful job of turning out what could be one of the best black comedies of the year. Interweaving the various plot elements, fantastic comedic acting, coupled with…well, some guy killing people, makes this a fun watch.
This movie could have been a disaster. However, first time writer and director William Eubank has turned out a masterful and ambitious film while being saddled with a rather (by Hollywood standards) small budget.
It starts on the eve of a US Civil War battle, one where the commanding officer is convinced the battle will be lost for his side. He calls forth one solider to go and be witness to, well, he doesn’t say exactly. The soldier, following orders, does as is instructed and just as we are to discover what it is he is to bear witness to, we are shifted to the future just before the reveal.
That future is a lone astronaut (Gunner Wright) on the International Space Station. That he is alone causes little concern as we watch him go through his daily routine, waking, shaving, exercising, working, and all of the elements that make up his day. No concern at all until a strange message proceeds the night side of the Earth going dark. Slowly it dawns on him that no one is going to respond, no one is going to get him back to the earth. He also begins to slowly create a new reality around himself, descending into a mild insanity of sorts.
And then finally, something indescribable occurs.
The point of the film is also its title. It is an exploration of the human condition and what contact with other human means. How long can one go without love, without those very bonds that bind us as families, friends, cities, and societies? The filmmaker isn’t as bold as to pretend to have the answers to these questions. Rather, he presents the questions in such a way as to make the viewer consider get there for themselves.
Taking on the task of carrying the film almost entirely alone, Gunner Wright does a fantastic job of conveying a wide range of emotions with only the simplest of props with which to play off of. No doubt many will feel the urge to compare this film to Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001 – A Space Odyssey as it too asked much of the viewer in the same manner. Personally, I think that is where the comparisons end as Love takes a much different approach giving a clearer understanding to the viewer what is being asked of them.
Visually this is a stunning, beautiful movie, very much reminiscent of the style used in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain“. Crisp lines, rich colors, soft lighting envelop the story itself providing a texture that enhances the narrative. Coupled with a sparse, but poignant soundtrack, the overall effect matches perfectly with the action.
It is truly an audio and video delight.
This is the type of film that begs to be seen by both a large audience and on a large screen.
Science Fiction fans will at once be drawn to the story, the visuals, the concepts and the vision. However, in the end, I think the general public will want to see this film for themselves.
Love will delight, question and encourage viewers to think and it should definitely be seen by a much larger audience than it has to this point.
Out of a window a woman, (Virginia Newcomb) sees a theatre. One she watches, draws, and has become obsessed with. The dilapidated theatre lights come on, the door opens and she enters “The Theatre Bizarre”. Udo Kier (Melancholia) acts as host and the puppet master to transition between the movie’s six segments. Each segment is shot by a different director with the same budget. Richard Stanley (Hardware), Karim Hussain (La Belle Bete), Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock), Tom Savini (1990′s Version of Night of the Living Dead), Douglas Buck (Cutting Moments), and David Gregory (Plague Town) all directed one segment each.
Each segment varies in style and content, matching the unique vision of each director. The transition segments are done in an harsh style. The use of pot lighting and deep shadows, harsh sounds bring forth a general feeling of uneasiness. As the host explains what we are about to see, another doll moves to show a sample of what the next segment brings, acting as a great way to transition segments to the other segments. While the idea is very well done, it very much underutilizes the talents of Udo Kier,
Segment one is Richard Stanley’s ‘The Mother of Toads’. Set in France, we find a young couple traveling bewitched by a local woman. Segment two is Douglas Buck’s ‘The Accident’, a quiet contemplation of the nature of life and death. Segment three is Buddy Giovinazzo’s ‘I Love You’, which examines the extremes one will go to when obsessed, both with your lover and with leaving him. Segment four is Tom Savini’s ‘Wet Dreams’ about a housewife, her cheating husband, and his therapist. Segment five is Karim Hussain’s ‘Vision Stains’ about a woman whom collects stories from abused women, in a most unusual way. The final segment is David Gregory’s ‘Sweets’, a Burtonesque gorefest of failing romance and bad eating habits.
The movie is structured similar to “Creepshow”, but with a sensibility closer to HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt”. Long time horror fans will find this a fiendishly fun movie to watch, as gore, chills and black humor are all present. The directors had the freedom to write and direct anything the chose with the only constraint being budget.
Each segment is a different flavor of horror, allowing for all tastes to find something their palate enjoys.
Takeshi Koike already has an impressive resume of work which includes directing the “World Record” segment of “The Animatrix” and being the lead animator on “Ninja Scroll“. His full length directorial debut is nothing short of a high paced, adrenaline fueled foray into a universe where a deadly race is held every five years. Working at Madhouse ( Ninja Scroll, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), he has taken the lessons learned there and applied them well with this feature.
“Redline” starts fast and furious with a race – The Yellowline. The winners of this race determines who will be the new contestants in the infamous Redline race. It only serves to be a taste of what is to come. We meet “Sweet” JP, a racer known for his sense of fashion and spectacular and frequent crashes at the end of each of his races – Yellowline being no exception. We discover that it may be due to race fixing as his partner is actively working with a mob boss altering the odds as the race plays out. Disqualified from Redline for his loss, he later discovers the planet where the race is to be held is going to actively try to kill anyone willing to race there. After two racers drop out, “Sweet” JP is given his chance to race Redline and eagerly takes it. While the plot is minimalist and anime fans will see clichéd characters, it only really serves as a backdrop to the real point of the film – racing.
Redline took seven years to develop and production included 100,000 hand-made drawings. It shows, as the movie is a visual representation of high octane racing at its best. With bright, bold colors in every shot, you are never left guessing what you saw or confused about what is happening. The subtitles can be a little distracting during the action, as you have to either watch or read, but this is only for some brief periods during the race itself. It paces itself with a visual style inherent to Japanese animation, but this very different from anything else. It’s Speed Racer on Meth. Visually stunning and unique.
The techno soundtrack meshes perfectly with what unfolds onscreen – thumping, fast paced, driving as hard and as quick as the cars themselves while also being light and unobtrusive when it needs to be. There is nothing subtle about the movie though. While minor plot elements hint at politics, crime, war and corrupt governments, at no point do these become either explained or distracting. There is something in every scene, every frame that moves brightly with a kinetic energy that only serves to build in intensity to the final checkered flag.
And when you get there…yeah, it is a fantastic payoff.
I recommend this to anyone who likes anime, or racing, or spaceships, or explosions. Well, you get the idea. If at all possible, see it in a theater on a big screen as loud as you can, as that is what the movie itself is, big, loud, and demanding to be seen.
I like how the Toronto International Film Festival rolls. Not only are they showcasing the most extensive collection of Princess Grace of Monaco memorabilia (who was the stunningly talented Grace Kelly before she was married), they have just announced that members of the Monegasque Princely family will be attending the grand opening festivities.
OK, that is pretty damn cool.
Oh Look! A Press Release:
GRACE KELLY EXHIBITION
Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène of Monaco scheduled to attend grand opening event on November 2
Toronto – Piers Handling, Director and CEO, TIFF, and Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox, announced today that members of the Monegasque Princely family will join in the grand opening festivities for Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess. On November 2, 2011, Their Serene Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Monaco will visit TIFF Bell Lightbox to officially open the exhibition and attend a private reception. The exhibition opens to the public on November 4, 2011.
“It is an honour to welcome members of The Monegasque Princely family to TIFF Bell Lightbox. Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess is a tribute to the life and style of one of the world’s most beloved stars and to have Prince Albert and Princess Charlène open the exhibition is a great privilege,” said Handling.
Additional information on the event will be available in the coming weeks.
Exhibition Information Running to January 22, 2012, Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess features rarely-displayed items and artifacts ranging from Grace Kelly’s days as a leading lady in Hollywood to a princess of one of Europe’s oldest royal families. The exhibition features many of her original dresses, a special exhibit around an exact replica of her iconic wedding gown, her signature “Kelly bag” and tiara, along with photos from her childhood scrapbooks and high school yearbooks, letters signed “Affectionately, Hitch,” telegrams from Prince Rainier and her Academy Award® statuette for The Country Girl. Kelly’s personal home movies—shot on Super 8, and featuring her famous friends and family—provide visitors with an extremely rare glimpse into her personal life. Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess is based on the Grimaldi Forum’s “The Grace Kelly Years” exhibition in Monaco, and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “Grace Kelly: Style Icon” exhibition in London. TIFF Bell Lightbox is the only venue in North America to host elements from these landmark shows and to complement the exhibition with dedicated film programmes.
Launching in conjunction with the exhibition on November 4, TIFF Cinematheques’s film series Icy Fire: The Hitchcock Blonde is a fascinating exploration of the great director’s obsession with the cool, regal blonde goddesses that Kelly played for him in Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief and Rear Window, and December brings a Grace on Screen programme which surveys Kelly’s brief but spectacularly successful screen career from her first small appearances to her most famous starring roles.
Tickets for the exhibition and film programmes are on sale now. TIFF Members get free access to Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess and can purchase additional tickets at non-member prices in person, by phone and online. Non-member tickets are $15 plus tax (child/student/senior discounts available). Combo exhibition / film discounts are offered on the phone and in person only. Tickets for the exhibition are timed-entry. Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Wednesday – 10 am to 6 pm, Thursday to Saturday – 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday – 12 pm to 6 pm, Monday – closed.
Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess, Icy Fire: The Hitchcock Blonde and Grace on Screen are made possible by Presenting Partner, the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
TIFF is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Bell, Major Sponsors RBC and BlackBerry, and Major Supporters the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto.