Image result for a 'pitch-dark' diorama

The world of film has been an evolving place recently.  As the distribution and method of viewing changes, so does the limitation of choices.  A few years back I never would have been able to see an independent film from Bangalore with just a couple of clicks.  Santosh MP’s ultra-meta thriller (“A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama”) is a unique film that asks some dark questions and never offers any easy answers.  Santosh blends many genres, adding to the mystery and confusion. The film’s primary question is; can you believe in your characters so much (in a story) that they actually die in an alternate reality?

Image result for a 'pitch-dark' dioramaThe story begins with a horror writer who is scouring for the right twist to complete his latest novel, ‘Pitch-Dark’. In alternate realities, the story’s characters (inside of the novel) are living out their own lives and trying to meet their ends.  These separate worlds include an ambitious detective, a controlling director and a “past his prime” author.  We interweave their lives and try to find the truth and explore the concept of fate.

Image result for a 'pitch-dark' dioramaAs convoluted as my description sounds, the film deals with its themes masterfully.  You do spend the first half hour confused, but the confusion only adds to the mystery and payoff.  I watched the film on YouTube and it was broken down into episodes and this may have helped with the transitions from reality to reality.  Towards the end, the film really dives deeper and deeper into its existential quarries and this is where the film shines the most.  We are lead down separate routes and given hints, but when we finally come face-to-face with the “Author” the film explodes into an experimental masterpiece of storytelling.  I know that I am speaking in very vague terms and I do that very intentionally.  Giving away any details or clues would do the film injustice and I suggest watching this movie as blindly as possible.  All in all, if you are looking for something highly original and don’t mind getting more questions than answers, then I suggest checking this movie out right away.  “A ‘Pitch-Dark’ Diorama” is currently available on YouTube and Vimeo in a “pay what you want” format.

American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Being a Southerner, I am always excited to see a “killer hillbilly”/”psychos in the woods” film that does not take place in the American South.  Every region has its “rednecks” and I always enjoy seeing what other areas have to offer in this genre.  If this film is any indication, I would be weary to go into the woods of New Hampshire.  It appears to be full of murderers, monsters and rapists.  A terrifying combination that plays out pretty well in American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire.

Director, Flood Reed, has assembled a very sadistic and playful adventure that can be simultaneously exciting and frustrating.  The acting is incredible, the direction is imaginative, but there are a few things that really hold the American Backwoods from being one of the best low budget horror flicks of the year.  But, before going into the details lets talk about the story.

The movie takes place in 1994 New Hampshire and follows a group of close friends that are on a road trip to find a local rite of passage.  By “rite of passage”, I mean a legendary strip club.  The trip turns out to be an incredibly deadly one.  These guys are going to have to survive multiple groups of murderous humans, as well as something else that lurks in the woods

American Backwoods offers more than just blood and guts, Mr. Reed knows how to develop likeable/despicable characters that you cannot help rooting for.  The actors all nail their parts and feel like real people, rather than just filling an archetype that is ultimately just fodder for gore.  For as much praise that I have for this film, there are still a few things that did not work for me.  Most notably, the choice of a soundtrack over a score.  The music can be incredibly distracting at times and would yank me out of the movie, especially the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.  Also, Flood Reed makes some creative flourishes that work well at times, but can also muddle the story and pace.  These moments of flashbacks and distortion sometime offer insight, but (more times than not) just distract you from what is happening in the scene.  Overall I really enjoyed this movie and will go out of my way to see more films from this director.  He is ambitious and I praise him for the chances that he is willing to take, even when they don’t work, I cannot help but admire him for trying.  American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is currently available on DVD and VOD.

3.5/5 STARS