CUB (2014)

Over the past year I have been reading incredible reviews about a little Danish film called Cub.  Does it live up to the hype? Yes…well, kind of.  Everything about the film is pretty great, especially on a technical level.  Unfortunately there are a few things holding it back.  Most of the film’s problems come from its unfocused plot that seems to be following a “we can make it up as we go” motto.  What ultimately saves the movie is its simplicity.  The story follows a young, akward boy who is going on a camping trip with his fellow cub scouts.  As you may have already guessed, there is a local legend about a feral child named Kai that is known to stalk the woods.  Once the group gets there they slowly learn that the legends may be true.  Pretty typical, right?  But i left out a huge twist.  These kids arent teens or even played by teens, all of the actors are young kids who really hold their own in the film.  The director (Jonas Govaerts) does not shy away in the violence department and offers some pretty shocking set pieces that leave you on edge throughout its brisk run time.  Overall, I suggest watching this film and enjoying it for what it is.  It wont hold up to much scrutiny, but does offer a new take on the slasher genre we all know and love.

3.5/5 STARS

HARD TO BE A GOD (2015)

An epic, otherworldly experience that is more of a ride than a film.  The 3 hour account of an alternate and seemingly medieval culture that begs the question; What would life be if the Renaissance never happened.  The camera is an ever-present and god like view that serves its only purpose of observance.  The filthy dregs of this planet mire in filth and shit, while mugging for the camera.  This Russian blend of Gummo and Monty Python offers much more humor than one would expect but has a looming feeling of nihilism that is unique, to say the least.

5/5 STARS

CREEP (2014)

Jason Blumhouse has had a very mixed track record with me lately.  From the good (Unfriended) to the unwatchable (The Gallows), So when I heard that he was teaming up with Mark Duplass again (See mini review for the atrocious Lazarus Effect) I was pretty hesitant.  Its release went straight to streaming and embodies the phrase “pretty good for Netflix”.  The movie follows an average joe named Aaron who is a down and out videographer who answers a Craigslist ad.  Things get strange right away and Josef (Duplass) explains that he is dying and wants to make a video for his unborn child.  Situations escalate quickly and then unravel into the well-worn territory of found footage tropes.

Where this film excels is acting and I think that the improvisational style works well in found footage. Mark Duplass is really good and seems natural in his role. There is just something about his charisma that makes his performance believable.  Dont get me wrong, this is just your average found footage movie that comes out every week.  But, the two leads are good and I am interested to see where the sequels go.

2/5 STARS

THE TRIBE (2014)

“Don’t tell me, show me!”  That is my battle cry when watching movies and this film couldn’t tell you…even if it wanted to.  If you did not already know, this movie is told entirely through Ukrainian sign language with no subtitles or voiceover.  Each scene is told only in tone and body language, excluding traditional language is a bold move but works.  The only downside is context.  There are times that I wish I knew a little bit more, but I guess that is the point.  I do warn that this film goes much further than your average arthouse fare.  Offering brutal violence and heartbreaking scenes of coming-of-age gone awry.  Personally, the star of the show is its camerawork.  Long takes of handheld camera that reminds me of earlier works from Gaspar Noe, especially Irreversible.  All in all, if you are open minded and crave originality then The Tribe is your movie.  If story and context is your bag, then run for the hills.

5/5 STARS

OPEN WINDOWS (2014)

This movie is a giant mess that has a really cool premise but just has way too much going on. On top of it all, everything besides the premise is really tedious and boring. It would have worked great as a 20 minute short and would fit in an anthology film like VHS.

1.5/5 STARS

DEEP SLEEP (2013)

The Strange Color of Your Body Tears took the standard Giallo format and transformed it into a full blown assault on the senses. While that film tried to redefine (and successfully did) the genre, this one attempts to recreate it with painful accuracy. The filmmakers succeed and if I were to rate the movie on intention it would be a 5 but that attention to nuance also hinders it’s enjoyability. For the first 15 minutes it is impressive. The music, the grainy film look and slick POV shots. But after those fifteen minutes have passed it never offers anything else. Did I mention the credits? It pads its 75 minute runtime with 2 sets of opening and 2 sets of finishing credits. I felt like most of my time was spent guessing what the Italian actually read. Overall, it feels incomplete but I will look forward to seeing what this director does next.

2.5 STARS

COYOTE (2014)

In the past week I have seen 2 great films starring Bill Oberst Jr.  I have always written him off as one of those actors that will be in anything, but never really gave him an honest chance to notice his abilities.  Well that is over and I am sold.  Coyote is wonderfully strange and defies any logical ideas about filmmaking.  It is seldom that you see a film take so many chances and care so little about what the viewer expects or wants.  The cinematography changes from scene to scene and can transition from “fishbowl” angles to bizarrely lit handheld shots with little effort.  This schizophrenic approach allows the story to play out in surreal ways that are more nightmare logic than straight forward narrative.  The fx work is spotty but works well enough to give a sense of dread to the film.  I cannot stress how well acted this film is and how excited I am to see what is next from this director.  Eventually you will see this film wedged between Danny Trejo and generic zombie flicks, but don’t write it off just yet.  This is thoughtful and surreal horror that will exceed any expectations you may have and delivers something unique.

4/5 STARS

WYRMWOOD (2014)

Man! This was disappointing.  I loved the trailers and one-sheets that were used to promote the film, but the finished project was a mess.  IFC seems to buy anything lately and this film is a great example of this recent track record.  The premise is pretty cool, a low-budget crossover of Mad Max and every zombie film you have ever seen, but there is so much plot.  Seriously you could make 8 movies with all of the plot jammed into its 108 minute running time.  Wyrmwood is not worth the $8 VOD price, but I would suggest watching it when it inevitably goes to Netflix streaming.

2/5 STARS

TUSK (2014)

It’s not great but it is fun. The writing is distinctively Kevin Smith and I love that , but if you think he’s annoying. Then you will hate this. it’s pretty awesome for the first two acts and then really unravels in the third. A pretty famous actor pops in and overstays his welcome, this slows the movie down to a crawl. Overall, it is worth seeing and should be taken as what it is:a movie based a Craigslist ad, then developed on a podcast. Which after reading that back to myself I instantly like it more.

3/5 STARS