The Forbidden Four (2012)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
Tim; a writer suffering from block retreats to a dark, isolated cottage in hopes of letting his creative juices flow but gets a lot more than he bargained for when a mysterious lobster get his pincers on his brain! Securing Tim in his grip, the Lobster proceeds to tell him four tales of dream-like horror fantasy that will change Tim’s outlook on life, lobsters and creative writing forever!

Cast:
Jim Heal as Publishing Chief, Bobby Parker as Publishing Chief, Shane Moroney as Donald, Lee Partridge as The Clown, Corina Harper as Antigone / Sleeping Girl / Owl Entity, Matilda Harper as Ismene / Narrator, Louret H. Sametter as Polyneices / Blind Prophet / Death, Tristan Rowley as Creon, Derek Worlock as Manufacturer, James Underwood as Jerome, Luke Coates as Wealthy Man / Middle Aged Man, Kim Moody as Clair, Bryan Rider as Pagan Priest

Special Features:
Short Films, Music Videos

Written and Directed by Thomas Lee Rutter

 

I watch a lot of movies. A lot. Sometimes I get to the end of a movie and I think to myself, “that was weird.” Sometimes I think, “that was really weird.” And occasionally I think, “what the hell did I just do to my brain?” THE FORBIDDEN FOUR was a brain-assaulting entry into this year’s movie log. I like weird flicks – on more than a few occasions I’ve had to explain to others what a masterpiece LOST HIGHWAY is, and this is one of the less weird films that I could think of – but TFF just takes weird to a whole new level. As Jules says so perfectly in PULP FICTION, “ain’t the same fuckin’ ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same fuckin’ sport.” That’s kind of my reaction with TFF and weird flicks: not the same sport.

Obey your lobster overlords!

Obey your lobster overlords!

TFF opens with a writer, Tim, who has been given an ultimatum on finishing his novel, and is seriously stressed about it. A fellow writer offers him an idea: a secluded place to get away from it all and writer without distraction. Unbeknownst to Tim, there’s a weird semi-demonic lobster (yes, lobster) waiting in the darkness of that cabin in the woods to slice open his head and feed him stories. From there, we go into the anthology bits of the film… so there’s that. The stories within TFF are about as odd (insomuch as how they relate to each other) as the wrap-around story that frames them.

Up first is “Antigone and Polyneices,” based on Sophocles’ tragedy. This story is basically told as a silent film, with no dialogue at all, just video then screens of text. This really bugged me. I am a big fan of having as little exposition in your film as is needed to get the audience to follow what’s going on, and in this story it’s all exposition – and even worse, it’s exposition that is written down for you to have to read (and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for most people to get through the paragraphs before they go away). This makes “A&P” a very slow, very boring story indeed. Another big issue I have with this chapter is the fact that making a period piece is incredibly hard to do well on a low (or no-) budget film, and they went back to ancient Greece. This does not work. It’s very cool that it was shot in Greece, so that helps, but the ruins would not have been ruins, the clothes would not have bra straps hanging out of the back, the characters would not have cool little wrist tattoos; there’s just so much that takes this story out of that setting and reminds you that it is NOT ancient Greece.

One of the more interestingly composed shots in TFF

One of the more interestingly composed shots in TFF

Up next is a quick and creepy entry, “A Child’s Toy.” This is a bit better subject matter for the no-budget film, a weird B&W story of a woman’s doll that is apparently some sort of a cenobite and tears forth her fetus (also a doll… not sure if it was supposed to be a real baby or not) for the Manufacturer (only know that because of the credits) to take. There’s not too much to say about this one; it was short, it was creepy, it had good atmosphere, and – like most of the rest of TFF – it was completely confusing.

I'm crazy, you can tell by my hair!

I’m crazy, you can tell by my hair!

The third story, “The Catalyst,” was by far the best one. This story actually had some plot that could be followed (and it was interesting plot at that), it had dialogue, and it had a lot of elements that could actually put together a good little ride. Jerome is a painter, and is popular, but is told that he really doesn’t have the darkness in him to paint such dark images, that they seem false. This statement rattles around in his brain and makes him a bit crazy, and he ends up taking the darkness into his own hands, and paints a masterpiece from it. This story had some definite pros going for it; you’ve got a nice descent-into-madness story, good artwork (I was sad when the owl painting hit the water, I would have hung that up in my house!), and though I saw most everything coming in this film, it worked well. “TC” would be a great story to expand upon and make into a whole movie (probably not a feature, but a longer flick than this) that could stand on its own.

What's going on in Solstice?  I don't know either, and I watched it.

What’s going on in Solstice? I don’t know either, and I watched it.

Finally, there is “Solstice at the Midlife Circus.” This is really less of a story and more of a visual art piece, and as such it really makes little sense to be included in an anthology.

On the production side of things, TFF is a bit of a muddled mess. From the first moments of the movie, the lack of quality of the video is readily apparent. The film seems to be shot on an older video camera, and that’s hard to deal with as a viewer these days. It’s not good enough to appeal to most, and it’s not bad enough to feel retro or throwback. The video needs de-interlacing, and the face that it is letterboxed on 1:33 ends up with the viewer having a big black box around the film. In the days of widescreen TV, this is very apparent. Aggravating the poor image quality is the lighting, which varies from decent to bad to horrible. There is many a scene that is so dark or so bathed in harsh shadow that the viewer cannot tell what is going on at all. Then comes the biggest production issue: the audio. Oh, the audio. I have little to no issue with accents, but I couldn’t understand vast swaths of what was being said in TFF. From either way to quiet with too much background noise (the scene with Tim being offered the cabin – which is an important scene and I couldn’t understand a damn thing that was being said for 85% of it), to way too processed (the Lobster – again important I’d assume but I don’t know because I couldn’t understand the majority of it), to having too loud of a score over the top (much of the rest of the movie), the audio has just been beat to shit. I’ve said it many times on this site: audio is going to make or break your low/no-budget film (it broke mine), and TFF is another example of this.

So there are some shots that are a little dark...

So there are some shots that are a little dark…

Overall, I just could not get into TFF. From the production issues to the production design (bad effects, bad costumes, etc.) to the overall feel of the film, it just pushed me away. It really felt like it was weird just for weird’s sake, and that is no good. There needs to be a motivating factor, a payoff, something for me as the viewer to deal with the oddness I am being presented and there just isn’t any with TFF. I even watched all three of the shorts included on the disc to see if it would help me understand at least the style more, and that did nothing for me. I do have to give Rutter some credit for his editing skills, because that is the aspect of TFF that is the strongest by far. There are some ideas that are good, there are some nice shots here and there, and there are the building blocks for what can be a good movie in TFF, but they are way down deep beneath the surface. I would love for Rutter to take “The Catalyst” and run with that; when he’s not going for super-duper-ultimately-weird, he can obviously make an interesting story come to life, but there was just too little of that in TFF for my tastes.

 

Overall 2.5 / 10

TFF on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2154188/

TFF for sale: http://carniefilms.bigcartel.com/product/the-forbidden-four-dvd

TFF site: http://www.carniefilms.blogspot.com/

I’m Back!

Hello all.  After taking a little time off from the site, I’m back.  I’m still not accepting new movies or music reviews (and won’t be for quite a while), but I am accepting new beer reviews.  I’m going to work my way through this backlog of things I have to review, and then I’ll be looking for new stuff again. 

I decided that since there was some time off, I’d revamp the overall look of the site, as well as posting larger images to go along with the new reviews. So it’s with a new look and a new feeling that I will be doing my future reviews. Overall, the format is going to stay the same though. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy!

Music and Movie Hiatus makes Ryan a Sad Panda :(

Hello everyone.  Today I am a sad panda.  I have come to the realization that without help I just can not keep up with the demand.  I have so many submissions to review, and I want to give each one the time and attention it deserves.  I don’t write short little blurbs, I take the time to watch/listen closely and write an in-depth review.  I don’t want to just gloss over your movie or music, I want to take the time to explain why I felt the way I did, what you did good and bad, why others should take the time or money to check it out for themselves.  With having a family, and a full time job, this has become increasingly difficult.

How I feel today

How I feel today

Right now, the time between when I receive your movie and when I can get a review up is averaging about 18 months.  A year and a half.  That’s craziness, and as a filmmaker I know how much it sucks to wait and wait and wait for a review.  For music it’s somewhere between 10 – 12 months.  Also crazy.  So I have decided that I am going to stop accepting new movies and music to review until I can catch up a bit.  Every time I add a new movie to the list, that time to wait gets a bit longer and a bit longer.  So, I just need to stop adding to the list for a while.

Just don't want to feel run over anymore...

Just don’t want to feel run over anymore…

I will continue to review what is already on the list.  So if you sent me a movie or music, do think it was in vain.  It will just take (as I told you when you emailed me) a very, VERY long time.  And since they take a lot less time, I will continue to do new beer reviews.  But as of today, I am not going to be able to accept new movie or music reviews.  And I am a very sad panda.

Pensacola Bay Brewery (Pensacola, FL): DeSoto, Blackbeard, Black Treasure, Li’l Napoleon, Big Napoleon

I went to visit one of my oldest friends, bartender extraordinaire Justin Roads, in Pensacola. We got together to go geek out at the Pensacon, but I knew that if I was coming in town I needed to find some good local craft beer, so I asked my bartender buddy what’s there. He pointed me to Pensacola Bay Brewery. I contacted them via their website – the day before I would be in town – on the slim chance I would get in touch with someone about doing a review. To my surprise, I got a return email in not long at all from brewmaster/co-owner Mark Robertson telling me he’d be glad to show me around. The day before the con, Justin and I went over to PBB and were met by Mark who was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the brewery and serve me up some beer to try. I love this job.

Pensacola Bay Brewery, Pensacola, FL

Pensacola Bay Brewery, Pensacola, FL

About the Brewery (from pbbrew.com/history/):
Once upon a time, two guys who had never met, had a glass of beer.
Who knew that years later, their love of beer would bring them together.
Elliott Eckland and Mark Robertson started this journey in 2009, and in October 2010 opened the doors of the Pensacola Bay Brewery. Focusing on local Pensacola landmarks and lore, the Pensacola Bay Brewery mixes a little Florida history in each pint.

 

DeSoto

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Refreshing and tart. Made with Bohemian pilsner malt, white wheat, and Mt. Hood hops. Napoleon himself dubbed the Berliner Weisse Ale the Northern Champagne. You will create your own endless summer with a pint of our DeSoto Berliner Weisse Ale brewed with raspberries.

Style: Raspberry Berliner Weisse
ABV: 3.4%
IBU: 62

 

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: I love sours. They are seriously one of my favorite styles of beer (which is kind of a misnomer, because you really can “sour” any “style” of beer) and I don’t get to put them in my face often enough. When I got to PBB and saw they had not only a sour, but a raspberry sour, I did a little happy dance in my mind… and maybe with my feet whilst they hung from the barstool. You don’t know, you weren’t there. Seeing the DESOTO fill that glass with coral deliciousness topped by a tiny white cap that quickly disappeared to only a faint halo, I did another happy dance. It was beautiful, and it was going in my face.

Yes.  Yes it is.

Yes. Yes it is.

Taking a whiff of DESOTO, it was pretty much what I was expecting it to be. Berliner Weisse is one of the least-sour sours, so I wasn’t anticipating a face full of lemons or anything like that. What I got was a slight tartness accentuated by a hint of raspberry that brought it back from smelling truly sour. Taking that first quaff, I was actually a bit surprised, as the bouquet and the flavor did not really go hand in hand. DESOTO actually comes off more sweet than anything else, which was really unexpected. It starts off with a nice fruity floral sweetness, and on the backend of the swallow is where that sour I was expecting pokes its head up. Berliner Weisse is often very mildly sour, but I believe DESOTO to be the mildest sour I’ve had so far. Which makes it a great introduction to the idea of messing up perfectly good beer with random yeasts and bacteria for those people considering getting into this odd offshoot of beer. The flavor on this one is very delicate, and the sweetness is a little strong, but mostly balanced by the slight tartness on the exit, and would be pretty easy to enjoy for most people… this might even be the beer to get your significant other that only drinks wine into drinking beer.

DeSoto Raspberry Berliner Weisse

DeSoto Raspberry Berliner Weisse

At 3.4%, DESOTO is almost the definition of a session beer. Truly, this would be a great beer in a can at the beach, or outside while grilling, or sitting on the porch after mowing the lawn in Florida (or Texas) heat. The flavor is very crisp and clean and would beg your palate to imbibe more. This is the beer version of a Lay’s potato chip, and there’s no way you can just have one. The thin, sprtizy, lightly carbonated body makes this one easily drinkable. Hell, this one would be easily chuggable, and I don’t chug beer. But if I HAD to chug a beer, pass me a DESOTO.

 

Overall 8.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/desoto/

 

 

Blackbeard

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Dark and delicious, made with malted, roasted, and chocolate barley with a soft finish.

Style: Stout
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: 34

I am so glad that as a beer drinking society here in the US, we are no longer defining what a Stout should be based on imported, not fresh, bottled or canned Guinness. Fifteen years ago, if you asked anyone other than the most hardcore of beer nerds, they would be tough-pressed to name three other stouts I think. Now, when I have friends that are just starting to dip their toes into the wonder that is the world of craft beer, I can offer them hundreds of options to that Guinness that they normally drink… and they are all going to be better. Don’t get me wrong; in Ireland, fresh, on tap, I know we are talking about a completely different beer than what we get on this side of the pond, but here there is no reason to settle for a Guinness when there are options like BLACKBEARD at your fingertips.

The bartender.  Well, the bartender's assistant.

The bartender. Well, the bartender’s assistant.

BLACKBEARD slinks into my glass as a deep inky black oil with a relatively think khaki head on top. While there wasn’t a whole lot of whipped cream on top of this sundae, the bubbles that were present stuck around for a good long time, and left very definite mile markers of where my beer had been in my glass. As the volatile bits rise up and pillage my nose, I get what I hope to get from a good stout: a nice deep roastiness that is heavy but not burnt or smoky, some good coffee hints that go with that roast, and even a hint of semi-sweet chocolate hiding in the back. Really, classically, stout.

Blackbeard Stout

Blackbeard Stout

Once that wave of darkness finally assaults my palate, I get what those buccaneers in my nose foretold. BLACKBEARD brings to my mouth a very nicely roasted by not burnt malt base, interwoven with chocolaty goodness (more on the dark chocolate than the semi-sweet spectrum). While this is not a Sweet Stout or a Milk Stout, it does have a nice underlying sweetness from the malt that rounds out the beer and balances that dark roast very nicely. I was also happy to find that BLACKBEARD doesn’t bring much of the bitter, which is how I personally prefer my stouts. This would be amazing with a scoop of ice cream floating in it, preferably a strong vanilla bean flavored dollop. Looking at the beer itself, it comes off as bigger and badder than its body actually is; it seems like it would be a very thick beer, but it is actually somewhat thin with a lightly milky/oily feel to it. As I consume a bit more of it, the heaviness builds on my palate, and the bitterness does a bit as well, but that scoop of ice cream could easily remedy that. So, PBB: beer cream float days?

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/blackbeard/

 

 

Black Treasure

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Made with seven different grains, this beer is smooth with a slight chocolate flavor and the aroma and taste of whiskey. One or two of these and our may think you’re in Tennessee sitting next to Jack Daniels himself.

Style: Imperial Porter aged in Whiskey Barrels
ABV: 8%
IBU: 42

 

I like Imperial Porters (ok, let’s be honest, I like Imperial Anything’s), I like whiskey, I like dark beers; I was really expecting a lot out of BLACK TREASURE. While everyone likes to age their stouts in bourbon barrels, the idea of a porter in a whiskey barrel intrigued me. What’s so different, you may ask; and to you asking I would say: a lot, ya dumb jerk. No, I’m not really like that (unless of course it’s on the end of the tasting day), but truly there are some big distinctions in these related styles. First off, whiskey is a spirit made from distilled grain (could be corn, barley, rye, wheat, etc.) aged in oak. Bourbon is a distilled spirit made from AT LEAST 51% corn, and aged in new, unused, charred oak barrels. It’s that corn that gives you the sweetness that bourbon is famous for, and that charred oak that imparts all of those vanilla/caramel type flavors. Porter vs. Stout is a similar discussion, they are both dark roasty beers, but have their own slight differences as well (that I think I have discussed before so I’m not going to go into them again on this review.) So, Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout would have you expecting sweet, vanilla like notes in your beer. I had never had a Whiskey Aged Porter, so I had an idea of what I thought would be there, but it was just an idea.

The list for my day at PBB

The list for my day at PBB

Looking into the void, BLACK TREASURE is a deep heavy brown with a very thin top that very quickly reduces to a cordon worn on the breast of this noble pirate. But that corona that tops BLACK TREASURE leaves behind very nice lacing, and helps to remind you that you have drank how much of this beer?! After a couple of these, you may need reminding. Taking a sniff, that whiskey scent is prominent and even dominant, which I expected but not really to that intensity. Behind the spirit, I get sweetness that I did not expect from a Porter.

Black Treasure Imperial Porter

Black Treasure Imperial Porter

Once I finally submit to my urge and take a sip, the BLACK TREASURE hits me right in the face with the whiskey. Seriously whiskey. If you like whiskey, this is the beer for you type whiskey. The body of BLACK TREASURE is a nice middle ground between a thick stout and a lighter porter, and balances that body well. As that initial liquor fades, BLACK TREASURE brings a very heavy sweetness that really makes me think more Barleywine than Porter. I know some of this is because we are talking “Imperial” here, but still it is not at all what I was expecting from this beer. Which is not necessarily a bad thing (I love Barleywines, one of my favorite styles), just an odd turn of events. This was followed by another odd turn of events, a flavor I have run into many times in the past and it always turns my palate in weird ways: “band aid.” There is really no other way to describe it, other than band-aid, and it is not a good thing. I have had this in Adroit Theory’s TENEBRIS (here), I have had it in Dogfish Head’s IMMORT ALE, and there have been other offenders along the way. It’s just not a pleasant pungency to find in my beer. There is a saving grace though: this flavor usually diminishes with age… too bad for me I was having this fresh on tap. This beer is most certainly a sipper both from that elevated ABV (and it tastes even stronger than it is with that heavy whiskey essence), and with that unfortunate wallop of the plastic variety in the backend of the palate.

 

Overall 5.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/black-treasure/

 

 

Li’l Napoleon

About the Beer (from pbbrew.com):
Napoleon never set foot on Florida’s shores, but if he did, we’re sure he’d be looking for a way to conquer the land from coast to coast. He’d probably have some supporters – after all, the French helped settle Pensacola. Our Li’l Napoleon ® was christened in the name of all short bastards – the good, the bad and the infamous. Strong and hoppy, Li’l Napoleon ® can sneak up on you if you let it. With a smooth caramel and honey finish, you’ll want to have a second. And probably a third. Take time to savor the good ole days, when the French had power and Florida was a territory waiting to be developed. We reckon Napoleon would be proud of the IPA that bears his name. (Aside from his hatred of all things English, naturally).

Style: IPA
ABV: 6.7%
IBU: 70

 

For anyone that regularly reads these reviews, you are probably painfully aware that I loves me some IPAs. While it might not be my very “favorite” style, it is most certainly my most prolific one. I love that hop aroma, and I don’t mind the bitterness (though I’m much more about the late addition/dry hops than the early addition ones). It’s just an amazing style, and there is good reason that it is continually one of the most popular to many a beer geek. As a matter of fact, I may or may not be drinking one right now as I type these words… you’ll never really know. Ok, I am.

Some of PBB's award winning beers

Some of PBB’s award winning beers

Seeing that PBB had two different plays on the same beer (I assume by nomenclature), I was excited to get in and play. LI’L NAPOLEON is the smaller of the brothers, so let’s start there I thought. In the glass, The Little Corporal is a peachy apricot hue topped by a brilliant white bicorne that is quickly swept away in the wind and leaves behind just a whisper to remind you it was once there. When The Ogre pushes forward into my nasal cavity, I am a bit sad to say that what he brings with him is a regiment of malt, which sorely lacks the hops hit I hope for. It’s a lot of malt sweetness, and very minute amounts of floral goodness on the far, far back end of the sniff.

pbb ln

Li’l Napoleon IPA

When ol’ Boney finally reaches his destination, what he threatened in La Vallée du Nez comes to fruition on the battlefield of La Langue. LN is a very malt-forward, malt heavy IPA with just a touch of hops on the backend, but what those flowers bring is just bitterness and very little aroma to match. The body on the LN is not too thin and not too thick, but the very heavy malt and bitter without the nose to go with it makes this not the easiest IPA for me to put down. Talking to Mark, he said he likes Midwest IPAs… apparently I don’t. But I know that’s not 100% true, because I can easily rattle off a list of Midwest IPAs that I DO like, so I’m not sure where the disconnect comes in here. But I don’t like this. Way too malty, too bitter without the balance of the aroma, and overall just doesn’t read as an IPA to me. What I would call it, I don’t know; but not an IPA from what I have had before (many, many times before). However, as I have said many times, that’s what’s great about beer: what I hate you may love and vice versa.

 

Overall 3.5 / 10

Beer page: http://pbbrew.com/beer/lil_napoleon/

 

 

Big Napoleon

About the Beer (from Mark Robertson):
Big Napoleon s a scaled up version of Lil Napoleon with a slightly different dry hopping due to it’s increased alcohol level.

Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8%
IBU: 80

 

After the LN, I had to step up to his elder statesman, the BIG NAPOLEON. As much as I like a good IPA, I like an Imperial IPA even more. Like I said earlier, Imperial Anything almost always equals happy me. So after being a bit disappointed in the LN, I was hoping the BN would be more my style. In the glass it is obvious that this is a much beefier beer than it’s li’l brother. Instead of the pale orange previously presented, BN pours a deep ruddy brown with a touch of orange on the edges to remind you where it came from. While the bicorn quickly escaped from the LN, the BN has a much bigger noggin to affix that cap to, so the not-so-brilliant white cap sticks around a little bit longer, but not an extended time by any means. The halo left behind when that cap does take off persists throughout my experience, and leaves much more evident lacing than its little brother’s does. Smelling this one, the malt backbone still dominates. Sweet and more sweet (unlike Mr. Bonaparte) dictates, but there is a distinct but not overly pronounced bitterness (like Mr. Bonaparte) that does accompany this bouquet.

Where beer comes from, if you didn't know.

Where beer comes from, if you didn’t know.

When the Bigger Corporal assaults La Langue, it is a more pleasant experience than what I got from his little friend. Still, BN is much more malty and much less hoppy than I would prefer, it is easier defined as an IPA to my palate. There is a nice spicy hop bite, some citrus notes (as I’d hoped from a Florida IPA), but seriously heavy malt holding all of that up. Hard-pressed, if this was put to a blind taste test, I’d guess it was a light-bodied Barleywine. The body on BN is smooth and silky and a bit thick, as I’d hope from a beer of this gravitas. In the end it is not the easiest IIPA to drink for sure, as what it builds to is very hoppy and very malty, but missing that third element of the aroma hop to balance those dichotic instances.

Big Napoleon Imperial IPA

Big Napoleon Imperial IPA

As a side note, while I was at Pensacon I had a PENSACON IPA which was made by PBB, and I enjoyed it much more than either of these two I reviewed… I wish that had that one at the tasting room so I could have written it up!

 

Overall 5 / 10

Beer page: https://untappd.com/b/pensacola-bay-brewery-big-napoleon/468671

Brewery site: http://pbbrew.com

Scream Park (2012)

Description (from wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html):
The Fright Land amusement park is on the verge of closing its doors forever. But the park’s owner, Hyde (Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley), has one last plan to sell more tickets… murder. Hiring two backwoods maniacs to break into the park and hack and slash all his employees, Hyde thinks these killings will create a media sensation, but he has just unleashed a horror that no one can survive. Also featuring Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre.

Major Cast:
Nicole Beattie as Missi, Kailey Marie Harris as Carlee, Dean Jacobs as Tony, Tyler Kale as Rhodie, Ian Lemmon as Ogre, Alicia Marie Marcucci as Allison, Carrie Lee Martz as Attendant, Kyle Riordan as Roy, Steve Rudzinski as Marty, Wendy Wygant as Jennifer, Nivek Ogre as Iggy, Doug Bradley as Mr. Hyde

Special Features:
None (Screener)
For Sale Version Includes: Director Commentary, Bloopers, Trailers

Written and Directed by Cary Hill

 

SCREAM PARK has so much potential… so, so much potential. Stupid underage kids drinking, partying, and having sex where they shouldn’t be? Check. Run down dilapidated location with lots of danger of its own that happens to be locked up tight with the kids on the inside? Check. Killers in creepy masks out to slaughter? Check. 80’s throwback vibe but with a new story, instead of a remake or reimagining or sequel or prequel? Check. Doug holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-Pinhead-is-in-this Bradley? Great gaping ginormous check. So what happened?

On paper, SP sounds like something that I would love. I am a big fan of the slasher sub-genre of horror, and also its precursor the Italian giallo, because there is just something really fun about the whole premise. It’s kind of like a car accident; most people really don’t want to see people hanging out the windshield misshapen and bloodied, but we all rubberneck anyway. That’s the feeling with the slasher: we don’t really wish a camp / park / sorority / whatever to be slaughtered by one or more maniacs possibly wearing masks, but when it happens on film we’re enthralled. It also comes back to that feeling when you ride a roller coaster… you know your chances of getting hurt are infinitesimally slim, but that chance brings on the adrenaline. You know these masked monster can’t hurt you from the other side of the screen, but what if that were you trapped in that situation? The best slashers make the view take that leap into the film, and then become truly scary because of that what-if.

One of the nicer shots in SP

One of the nicer shots in SP

The problem with slashers is that if the audience doesn’t make that leap, it becomes very unintentionally silly and boring. To suspend that disbelief, to make the audience truly feel for the characters and get that sense of imposing dread, the slasher has to be made really well. Now, I’m not saying there has to be a ton of money involved (as often the slasher film is one of the most effective low-budget genres), but there does have to be talent, time, and effort. SP just did not draw me in. I never felt for the characters, and I never felt the dread, and this resulted in the movie falling way flat.

The illusion of fear begins on the production side. You can make a slasher for not a lot of money without big expensive equipment, but the equipment you do have has to be used correctly to make up for that limitation. SP felt very digital (this may be a fault of the screener copy, as I did not receive a production DVD to review) and very prosaic. The colors were muddy, and the shots were seemingly often done with autofocus on the camera, which left the images looking flat and without any depth or any way to move the eye where you want it to go. The lighting overall was not bad, with just a few exceptions of harsh shadows or weird “where did that light source come from” shots. While the video itself was not the vest quality, there were quite a few well composed shots in the film, where the images on screen were obviously put together with thought and brought something pleasing to the eye, so it wasn’t all bad. To exacerbate the visual issues, the audio was also lackluster. The music and the foley / effects were good overall, but the dialogue was hard to hear. I don’t know for sure, but based on what I saw / heard in a lot of the shots I would not be surprised to find this movie was shot with an on-camera mic… at least, that’s how it seemed.

Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.

Plague Doctor Masks: no matter how silly or exaggerated, always creepy.

In order to grip the audience and get their hearts pumping, the film also has to have characters that we either can relate to, or care about, and the actors create this connection. Again, SP faltered on this front. The acting ranged from awesome (well duh, Doug Bradley, for his 2 minutes of screen time), to good (Wygant’s Jennifer), to mediocre (Ogre’s hillbilly, Riordan’s Roy), to really bad (just about everyone else). A lot of the delivery felt like someone reading a line for the first time, and with others it was so bad to be laughable (in a “laughing at you” not “laughing with you” sort of way). This dichotomy on the acting abilities really made the move come even more out of that suspension of disbelief realm, as Wygant does her best to get the audience to feel for the last girl, while everyone else around her does their best to make you remember this is a really low budget movie that apparently spent all of its money on the two actors whose name you might have heard of before. That may not be true, but that’s how it felt.

Doug MF'in Bradley.  Pinhead all up in here!!!

Doug MF’in Bradley. Pinhead all up in here!!!

Finally, the slasher staples that one would expect in this sort of movie: blood and boobs. If you are a fan of this genre, you know that almost without fail a slasher is going to have some girls getting naked (often for ridiculous reasons) and it’s gonna get gory. SP does have one girl get naked (eww, gross, sex in a toilet that has obviously not been cleaned in a really long time), so that check mark is filled in. There could have been more on that front, as we are talking about drunken horny teenagers here, but they at least got a little cleavage exposed. On the gore, it’s got some, but I was not impressed. The kills in SP are nothing new whatsoever, and when they are shown the gore is amateur hour. If SP was supposed to be a parody, and not an homage, the violent effects might have been more appropriate, but that is not the tone the rest of the movie carries. It’s trying to be straight 80’s styled slasher, and with all of the leaps in makeup techniques in the last 25 years, I really expect more than this.

Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)?  Actually, she wasn't one of the worst...

Hired for her acting abilities (both of them)? Actually, she wasn’t one of the worst…

Please don’t take this as an “all bad” review, because SP is not an all-bad movie. As I mentioned earlier, it gets major props right away for not being a remake or a reimagining or a sequel or some other sort of knock off of something that has come before. While the story is not overly original, at least it does attempt at something new. While the acting was not very good overall, there were a few standouts and come on… DOUG BRADLEY. Seriously. Doug Bradley. He’s not in it enough to save it, but I always love seeing him sans makeup. While the video side of things was not great overall, there were some interesting shots and angles that made the movie fun enough to watch. SP is not a great slasher, it’s not even a very good one, but it does have heart and originality, and that puts it above most of the dreck that is coming out of the Hollywood horror system any day. I think of SP as an introduction to some talent that I think needs more time to develop but may just make a really good movie one day. One day.

 

Overall 4.5 / 10

SP on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2336104/

SP for sale (as of April 22nd): http://www.wildeyereleasing.com/scream/scream.html

SP site: http://www.screamparkmovie.com/

Scream Park (2014) DVD Cover

Scream Park (2014)
DVD Cover

Scream Park (2012) Theatrical Poster

Scream Park (2012)
Theatrical Poster

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)

Bio (from cdbaby.com/cd/markadamssonofbill):
Blending downs and acoustic guitar sounds with ups and big muff overdrive, this debut album is fueled by strong song writing without pretense, and does well to appeal to fans of the early 90’s sound.

Musicians:
Mark Adams (Vocals, Guitars, Bass), Spencer Powers (Drums), James Tristan Redding (Bass on 3, 8, 10, Drums on 2, Piano on 5), Christian Hansen (Drums on 3)

 

If you were old enough to appreciate music in the early 90’s, NOREPINEPHRINE will sound very familiar. I received this album to review from a friend, Don Adams (editor of many a Full Moon feature and some higher class fare, and director in his own right), who is also Mark Adams’ uncle. He described it as “very grunge,” and Mark himself lists Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana as influences… well, for anyone who has heard grunge before, I would have to say “duh.” This album is so 1991 it’s amazing. And that’s a good thing.

Nirvana was one of my first “favorite” bands, and NEVERMIND was the first CD I ever bought when I was upgrading from cassettes. Upon first listen to NOREPINEPHRINE, it struck me as an album that Nirvana could have made somewhere in-between BLEACH and NEVERMIND; even Mark’s voice has a bit of Cobain to it. The more I listened to it, I started to realize that it’s not as Nirvana as I first thought, especially with the acoustic/electric juxtapositions that Mr. Adams likes to do quite often throughout this album. Then Dinosaur Jr. came to mind. Funny thing was, I had not seen Mark’s CDBaby page yet (which is where he lists these influences), so to see these two band there in black and white made perfect sense.

Mark, under a bridge...

Mark, under a bridge…

NOREPINEPHRINE is most certainly a lo-fi album. It’s not quite the tapes that Cobain made in his house lo-fi, but there is not a ton of sheen or polish on this album for sure. It sounds like a garage band got a little extra money and recorded an album, and while to some that might sound like a bad thing, for this style the grunginess of the recording only accentuates the music. It’s not badly recorded at all, it’s just garage band lo-fi (think earlier White Stripes), and that’s just fine by me. Adams has a tendency to do the quiet-loud-quiet song structure, often starting with an acoustic riff that builds to a heavily overdriven chorus on electric, and then back to acoustic. This dynamic made me think a bit more of early Smashing Pumpkins, who were really more of a shoegaze band but were lumped in with the grunge guys as well. It’s familiar, it comforting, and the music makes me think of high school in a good way.

Lyrically Adams seems to also be taking a page out of Cobain’s book. A lot of his lyrics are dark; some are just plain dark and some dark in a playful way. In “Cutting-Edge Independent Rock Band” (a title that reminds me instantly of “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”), Adams sings “let’s form with an ad on Craigslist… / must have grown up in the suburbs / to know all the struggles I’ve had / and my influence is: lots of bullshit / pretend that you’ve heard of Black Flag / make sure that you love karaoke / and whining a lot.” Adams’ lyrics are not quite as nuanced as what Cobain was writing back in Nirvana’s heyday, but then again who’s were? There is a reason that he was as influential on a generation as he was. However, Adams’ lyrics are a lot heavier than a majority of what’s on the radio today, easily.

All flannel and hair.  So 1993.

All flannel and hair. So 1993.

Overall, I really enjoyed NOREPINEPHRINE. It brought back fond memories of a time when I was really getting heavily into music for the first time in my life (I liked music before that, but this is when I grew to LOVE music), and that automatically gave me some warm and fuzzies even though this is a pretty dark album overall. NOREPINEPHRINE would have fit very comfortably on Sub Pop or Geffen in the early 90’s, and for anyone that is listening to those bands this would be a good addition to your collection. “You got old, you feel like me” Adams sings on “Paramedicare,” and yes I got old too, but I do feel like you.

 

Overall 7.5 / 10

NOREPINEPHRINE for sale: http://markadamssonofbill.bandcamp.com/

NOREPINEPHRINE site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Adams-son-of-Bill/195991403762493
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/markadamssonofbill
http://www.reverbnation.com/markadamssonofbill

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)

Mark Adams Son Of Bill: Norepinephrine (2013)

Guadalupe Brewing Company (New Braunfels, TX): Americano, Dat Wit, Rye IPA, Blueberry Funk

Guadalupe Brewing Company is easily one of my favorite local breweries. It’s owned by good people, staffed by good people, and makes good beer. Really, what more could you ask for? I guess then it’s a bonus that they are more than content to be a “local” brewery, and focus on small business. I got the owner of my favorite little beer store, Doc’s Liquors, in touch with them to carry their beer, and co-owner Anna grilled Doc’s on just how non-corporate they are! When Danny, the owner, said “we’re a mom and pop, one location, family owned store,” she responded “Perfect!” That’s awesome. I always love making it up to New Braunfels to get out to their events, and this open house was no exception.

Guadalupe Brewing Company, New Braunfels, TX

Guadalupe Brewing Company, New Braunfels, TX

Americano

About the Beer (from guadalupebrew.com/home.html):
Golden medium bodied beer with a white thick long lasting head. American Citra Hops are used in this crisp beer along with Texas wheat!

Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 6.12%

At the first Guadalupe open house that I reviewed last year, head brewer Ryan Bishop really wanted me to try this beer, because he felt it was a very true to form German Hefeweizen, and in talking he found out I went to high school in Germany. While I did try it that time, I had other beers that I was more interested in reviewing, so it just did not happen. This time I asked Ryan specifically what beers he wanted me to review, and he requested this one, so here we go! With the name AMERICANO, it makes more sense to me that the version I tried was with American hops instead of the classic German varieties, and this takes the standard hefe flavors to someplace less expected.

Americano Pale Hefeweizen

Americano Pale Hefeweizen

Looking at AMERICANO, I get close to what I would expect; a bright golden yellow with a mild to medium bodied head that fades somewhat quickly into a halo that leaves behind a little lacing. The German hefes I grew up on were usually a bit darker in color, and bit thicker in body, with a little bit more resilient head, so AMERICANO comes off almost as a hefe-lite. It actually reminds me, to look at it, more of the standard German Kristalweizen than Hefeweizen, though I can tell from looking at AMERICANO that it is not a Kristalweizen (which is a filtered hefe). It’s more of a pale hefe. Taking some of its aroma in, I get the banana and clove that is so immediately authentic, as well as a lightly lemony backend that comes from the American hops. The hops are not heavy handed, but more of a perfume than a flavor.

People milling about with good beer.

People milling about with good beer.

Once it hits my tongue, it is very much like home, with the exception of the hop bill. This is a very authentic, true to Deutschland hefe, with that nice Texas twist of the different hops to take it from ordinary to something more. It is a clean, smooth hefe that is more hoppy then the normal German version, but not in any way bitter. This is not a wheat IPA or some weird IPA hybrid like everyone seems to be making lately. The mouthfeel on AMERICANO is a bit thinner than the average hefe, but with it’s bright and clean profile, this just makes it easier to drink. This would be a good session beer, if it were not for the fact that it is above 6%, with that much fuel in it you probably couldn’t drink them all day. But it would be a nice, hot day refreshing type brew any day of the week.

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://www.guadalupebrew.com/home.html

 

Dat Wit

About the Beer (from the label):
Our Belgian white is a crisp and clean wheat beer balanced perfectly with additions of coriander and citrus.

Style: Wit
ABV: 5.1%

When I first saw that Guadalupe’s Ryan Bishop had brewed a Wit, I wasn’t sure what to think. Wit is far from my favorite style; in general I just find it to be a bit bland and not too exciting. Sure, there’s worse styles out there, and I would drink a Wit over an AAL any second of any day ever, ever, but it’s never been a style I really gravitate to. I heard that DAT WIT was one of Ryan’s own recipes, so I was excited to see what he was bringing to Guadalupe, and gave it a try. I’m sure glad I did. DAT WIT pours a bright golden lemon yellow with a mild fuzz on top. The head is bright white, and doesn’t stick around for too long, quickly becoming just a ring riding the top of this elixir and leaving behind a little bit of lacing in its wake. It is cloudy as it should be, and is much like sunlight in a glass to look at it.

Dat Wit Belgian Style White

Dat Wit Belgian Style White

As DAT WIT makes its way into my nose, the lemon color is actually represented in the aroma as well. The bouquet is almost a combination of lemonade and Belgian esters, and it is warm and inviting. It calls out “drink me!” to my nostrils, and my brain say “don’t worry, we’re gonna.” When DAT WIT touches my tongue, the citrus romp in color and aroma continues. There is a nice citrusy bite to the beer, but its incredibly smooth. The Belgian aspect is very obvious in the flavor profile as well, and there is no doubting that this is a Wit. On the backend DAT WIT carries just a slight hop bitterness, but nothing extreme; it is a slightly hoppier version of your average Wit. This combination of the citrus flavor, the Belgian esters, and the hops makes this a much more interesting representation of the style than I’m used to.

Tap handles of some of their regulars.

Tap handles of some of their regulars.

The body on DAT WIT is quite smooth and a bit thin. This makes the beer really easy to put down. Unlike AMERICANO, DAT WIT would truly be a sessionable beer. Talking with Keith Kilker (one of the owners of Guadalupe), his idea was to can DAT WIT so that it could be “something to drink while you’re floating down the river on a tube,” and I think that would be amazing. Sign me up. I don’t have a tube, but I’ll get one. This was the easiest drinking beer I had all day; it’s thirst quenching and light, and would be the perfect beer for after mowing the lawn on a hot Texas day. Guadalupe, why do you have to keep making my opinions of beers come up wrong? DAT WIT is a Wit I’d love to have canned and in my fridge all summer long. Get on that, please.

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/guadalupe-brewing-wit-ness-e/589780 (the name has changed)

 

Rye IPA

About the Beer (from guadalupebrew.com/home.html):
Copper colored with a white head and loaded with rich flavor. This IPA is not overly bitter it instead puts the fusion between the rye and spicy hops forward.

Style: Rye IPA
ABV: 6.03%
IBU: 45

 

The RYE IPA is a beer that Guadalupe has had around for quite a while. I think it actually was the very first beer I ever tried from them, in Corpus Christi on tap long ago. I love IPAs, and I gravitate to them. While there are other styles that I like more (Barleywine, Sour), there aren’t any that I drink on a more frequent or regular basis. There is just such a multitude of IPA options, it makes this style one that I can drink every day and not have to be limited on my choices. And now breweries are making all these IPA hybrids (White IPA, Wheat IPA, Black IPA, etc.) so even if you run out of regular IPAs, there are another million choices. Rye IPA has been one of my favorite of the hybrid IPA styles, so that’s probably why I tried this first.

Guadalupe Rye IPA

Guadalupe Rye IPA

RYE IPA fills my glass with a bright copper and a bright snowcap that hangs out for a while. When it does dissipate, you can see exactly where it has been, which I love in an IPA. The rye addition brings that nice warm brown to the palette and a nice spiciness to the palate. The essence that fills my nose and infects my brain is hops in the forefront. This is followed up by the malt, which has that distinct spice that the rye brings with it. The malt on this beer is not so sweet like many others, because of that addition to the regular malt bill. Then, as the malt gets out of the way, the hops come back up for round two. Taking a sip, RYE IPA is almost exactly what I thought it would be. The rye brings a touch of spiciness that swirls within the malt, and the hops are very much present, but not quite as bitter as my nose told me they would be. This is a hoppy beer for sure, and if you don’t like hops you won’t like this (but then again, if you don’t like hops why are you drinking an IPA?), but it is not a hop-dominated beer. The hop bitterness builds with each sip, and as you get to the bottom of the glass it is more and more hoppy, but never to the point of overload. The point of this beer is not MORE IBUS like some IPAs are, it is a good balance of the rye spice and the hops bitterness, and is something much more balanced than a lot of entries in this style.

One of the fermenters, and a thumbs-up.

One of the fermenters, and a thumbs-up.

RYE IPA is smooth and thin, not overly heavy like some maltier IPAs can be. The rye addition brings a zestiness that tickles the tongue as you drink it, which makes this a fun beer to enjoy. It’s not a beer that I would probably drink more than two in a row of, as the hops do build up and I could see it eventually becoming overly bitter, but that would take a while. This would be a nice beer to enjoy with some spicy food, as hop bitterness enhances culinary heat, and I like heat. For hopheads, this will be an easy drinker, for those not so much into the lupulin it might not be.

 

Overall 7 / 10

Beer page: http://www.guadalupebrew.com/home.html

 

Blueberry Funk

About the Beer (from the brewer):
This blue-tinted barrel aged sour ale is built to walk the line between funky and sweet. A pilot batch to experiment with the use of blueberries into an approachable fruity and original sour ale.

Style: Fruit Sour
ABV: 6%

 

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Guadalupe for this. Thank you. Seriously. This is a beer I’ve been waiting for. Sour fruit ales are a lot of fun in general, and when the fruit introduced is one of my favorites, we’re just upping the ante. Sours are one of my favorite styles, so when I heard that Guadalupe made a blueberry Sour, I probably let out a girly squeal at the open house. Hopefully no one heard it… but if someone did, that’s ok. It was worth it for this. Talking with Ryan it came to my attention that once their expansion is complete, they will have a 10bbl fermenter just for sour beers. That cannot come quick enough for me. I need Guadalupe sours in my life on more than the rare open house occasion.

Blueberry Funk Sour

Blueberry Funk Sour

BLUEBERRY FUNK is, to the eyes, Boo Berry in a glass. Seriously, the color is like someone took a bowl full of Boo Berry and milk and tossed it in a blender; it’s a deep bluish purple body topped with a light puce head, and it was calling my name. The color is so unique, so different from just about any other beer I’ve ever had… and with as many beers as I’ve had, that’s hard to do. When you inhale the aroma, it is a beguiling combination of sweet and sour, and not in a Chinese food kinda way. The blueberry sweetness hits you first, and it’s amazing just how sweet it really comes off, then behind that comes the tang that lets your brain understand that this is a Sour for sure. There is a heavy malt base to the beer as well, and it makes me wonder what this looked like before the fruit was added in the second fermentation. I love the flavor of this. The blueberries are very much present on the tongue not just on the eyes, and the sour is manageable. I personally can enjoy a Sour that’s just a little sour, all the way to puckeringly sour, and this one is on the milder end of that spectrum. It really makes me wish I had a couple of bottles to throw in my cellar and see how they develop over the next few years. This is almost like a blueberry lemon sorbet; it’s got the sweetness backed with a little sour that does not overwhelm the fruit. It’s so good.

Bathroom reading material at Guadalupe.

Bathroom reading material at Guadalupe.

In the glass and in the belly, BLUEBERRY FUNK is smooth and velvety, thick like a stout but without being quite that heavy on the gut. I found it to be very easily drinkable (so much so that I got back in the BLUEBERRY FUNK line at least 2 or 3 times after my first glass). This would be a Sour I’d love to use to show someone that thinks they don’t like Sours how wrong they are. It’s delicate and complex, sweet and sour balanced, and just overall a pleasure. Please Guadalupe, make this beer. Make it now. Make it and send me bottles. Send me ALL THE BOTTLES.

 

Overall 9 / 10

Beer page: http://untappd.com/b/guadalupe-brewing-blueberry-funk/590007

Brewery site: http://www.guadalupebrew.com

In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)

Description (from the DVD sleeve):
IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER chronicles the Los Angeles “Kiss or Kill” music scene (2002-2007). Fed up with the wretched Sunset Strip pay-for-play policies, “too cool for school” trendiness of the Silverlake scene and apathetic crowds, the bands that made up Kiss or Kill forged their own scene based on great music, cheap booze, low cover and a mid-western sense of community and friendship.

At its peak, Kiss or Kill had more than 100 bands on its roster and over 1,000 local L.A. fans. But as Kiss or Kill grew and became more popular, it eventually became the very thing it was fighting against.

Major Cast:
Sugar Bang Bang, The Dollyrots, Midway, Silver Needle, The Letter Openers, Zeitgeist Auto Parts, The Oaots, King Cheetah, The Randies

Special Features:
Over 30 minutes of Bonus Material, 4 Deleted Scenes, Trailers & Promos, 4 Full Length Live Performances, Photo Gallery with Director’s Commentary, Director’s Notes

Directed by Dave Palamaro

 

Music documentaries can be very hit or miss. Sometimes you get something that is really entertaining, engrossing, and just all around fun, and sometimes you get something that is very academic, bland, and boring. I am glad to say that IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER is the former, not the latter. The film documents a music scene that popped up in Los Angeles in the mid 2000’s, and it is something I’ve never heard of before, so right away it got my attention. The music itself is a mix, but overall has a bit of pop-punk influence running through most of the bands, so it was a style that I can get into as well. I had never heard of Kiss or Kill before this film, but if I lived in L.A. in the mid-2000’s, I could easily have seen myself enjoying a lot of these shows.

The core Kiss or Kill lineup (from their first comp CD)

The core Kiss or Kill lineup (from their first comp CD)

The film is a document to the rise and eventual fall of a very specific scene, and is mostly told through the voice of members of the bands that were involved. The granddaddy of Kiss or Kill was Bang Sugar Bang, and they make up a lot of the documentation, but there are literally dozens of other band’s members interviewed, as well as a smattering of dedicated scenesters as well. Through their stories, and a ton of live footage, the story of the coming and going of this scene is told with great aplomb and reverence. It is an interesting story that unfolds in IHTINB; a scene that is really built on love and compassion for the other scene members eventually unfolds when it gets too big for that love to function correctly anymore, and then the music vultures swoop in and begin picking out members of the scene for greater acceptance. It really makes me think of what I would expect Seattle’s scene was like in the late 80’s/early 90’s before Sub Pop and Geffen blew up, and our radios all started spouting the Seattle Heroin Howl. With this comes great drama, and makes the plot of the film move at a good clip, never boring the viewer.

Rob Z, Kiss or Kill's emcee extraordinaire.

Rob Z, Kiss or Kill’s emcee extraordinaire.

On the production side, this was a movie that was mostly shot on crappy digital video in the mid-2000’s. So, don’t expect beautiful HD imagery or wonderful pre-programmed camera movements and composition. Mostly, it is a bunch of fan-shot stuff, intercut with very standard interviews, so if you can’t deal with the video quality get out of the kitchen… or living room… or wherever the T.V. is. With a film like this – a music film about bands that most of us have never heard of – you have to expect and embrace the fact that it’s not going to be pretty to watch. None of these bands had publicists, documentarians, etc.; very few of them even ever had a record deal. So it’s not going to be your latest Metallica or Pink Floyd doc in any way, shape, or form. But if you are prepared and accepting of the fact that this is NOT going to be the prettiest video you’ve ever seen, IHTINB works just fine on the production side. Thankfully the audio is overall above average, even for video that was shot in a club the size of someone’s basement. The real gem on the production front is the editing; the edit is really well formed, and moves the story along perfectly.

"Front Row" Joe, a fan who went on to form a band that became a part of the scene.

“Front Row” Joe, a fan who went on to form a band that became a part of the scene.

Overall, IHTINB is a really fun documentary. It delves into a scene that not a whole lot of people probably have ever heard of or otherwise might care about, and it does so with tenderness to the people involved in what was obviously a life-changing time for many. The music is really good if you like that sort of thing, and most of the people interviewed are characters in their own right. They make it fun to watch, and easy to get into. The only real downfalls of the movie are the video quality, which unfortunately will turn off some people. However, I think most folks that enjoy documentaries are not going to get hung up on the full-screen, mid-2000’s imagery that is used to tell this compelling story. And it is that: compelling, as well as a really fun ride.

 

Overall 8 / 10

IHTINB on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2015412/

IHTINB for sale (as of March 25th): http://mvdb2b.com/s/InHeavenThereIsNoBeer/MVD5932D
https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/in-heaven-there-is-no-beer/id828745554

IHTINB site: http://www.facebook.com/InHeavenThereIsNoBeerMovie

In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)

In Heaven There Is No Beer (2012)

Left For Dead (2014)

Description (from megaultrastudios.wix.com/leftfordead):
They killed their little sister. Now, these hell kittens are coming after the hitmen and they will show no mercy. They’ll all be Left for Dead.

Major Cast:
Intoxi Kate as Bella Meurta, General Blackery as Fageeda, Joy Coy as Silky Gunn, Holly Rebelle as Harley Hellcat, Paul Cochrell as Red, Luis Soto as Pinky, Chris Quintana as Mick, Ben Reyes as Rob, Brian Botkiller as Slave

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written by John Michael Poling and Mikel-Jon West
Directed by Mikel-Jon West

 

LEFT FOR DEAD is another film from my old stomping ground, the Albuquerque indie film scene, coming from one Mr. Mikel-Jon West and his wife, Michel West. Mike was another of the guys that I never had too much chance to work with directly while I was in Albuquerque, but we all knew who each other were, so I was familiar with him and some of the stuff he had worked on for other people in the scene. L4D was my first time seeing something he directed himself, but as a little Ryan’s Reviews connection Mike was the co-writer and cinematographer for CROSS, which was the first movie I wrote a review for here back in September of 2005!  Oh, and full disclosure here: some of my own music that I composed appears on the soundtrack for L4D, so I am in just a teensy way involved with the production of this movie… in so much that I emailed Mike some of my music.

Mike’s own movie is described on its site as a “throwback to exploitation and revenge film genres,” and he made the movie (according to an interview he did with the Albuquerque Film Examiner) because he’s “an 80’s kid, so [he] grew up on drive-in theater and direct-to-video kind of horror and exploitation films.” No complaints here! I’m actually pretty happy with the current resurgence of not just independent “throwback” films of genres that are underrepresented, but also the current trend of Shot-On-Video movies (see Warlock Home Video for some fun examples), which reminds me of those days growing up that you could go to your LOCAL, INDEPENDENT video store and grab a movie no one had ever heard of, which might not be good but would be fun. That is the aesthetic Mike is going for with L4D, so more power to him! Unfortunately, I don’t think L4D quite achieved what it set out to do.

Be afraid.  Or aroused.  Or afraoused.

Be afraid. Or aroused. Or afraoused.

The story is pretty classic revenge trash: four vaguely criminal-esque bad girls get drawn into misery when one of them, an escort, refuses to do what her “powerful” client wants, and goes a little overboard on the retaliation. Well, a lot overboard. So mama pimp is not happy, and decides to take revenge for the slight on not just her employee, but her employee’s friends and ultimately kills one of them. Now your bad girls become bad grrls, all fired up and ready to kick some shit, and go on the warpath to revenge the murder. So, pretty classic 80’s sounding SOV revenge flick, with some of the most important factors that sold videos back then: boobs and blood. The plot is solid and there. It’s the execution that falls flat.

Hence, the title...

Hence, the title…

On the production side of L4D, there were a lot of things I took issue with. The film was shot, I think, on a digital SLR camera, so it is likely HD. This can be a blessing or a curse, and for L4D I don’t think it was taken advantage of correctly. The movie ends up looking very “digital” and quite flat in a lot of shots, like the autofocus was on instead of using the manual focus to draw the eye in to what the filmmakers want you to look at. This is exacerbated by the lighting which is some scenes is decent, but in some is quite harsh and not tuned for the camera that is being used. Then there is the bane of “grindhouse” movies: fake film grain. Fake film grain! Why??? First off, fake film grain always looks, well… fake, which cheapens the film. But secondly, if this is an 80’s throwback, I would have loved to see some fake VHS artifacts instead! How about some tracking errors, a little wobbly screen, some color bleed, like someone left the tape on the dash of their car before they returned it to the store, or a messed up section where a VCR ate the tape? That would have been cool and different and would have served this film much better than the fake film grain did. Now please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to think that L4D is horrible to watch, because it’s not. There is a lot of good stuff going on in the composition of the shots, and some nice transitions that make the imagery more appealing to the eye. The issues that the video brings in the first place though are not overcome by the nice physical use of the camera itself.

We could use some lights here.  Seriously.

We could use some lights here. Seriously.

On the acting side, I was also mostly underwhelmed. I know from a little research that the majority of the main characters are burlesque dancers in Albuquerque, so they are performers. But that is a medium that requires you to emote through totally physical sources, and not so much with the dialogue that L4D is filled with (which, by the way, seems often to be overly crass just to be overly crass, which is a true-to-form throwback of the genre, but did get a bit annoyingly over the top for me). As a whole, the lead ladies and the villains all felt like they were very much in that “your friends and neighbors” level of acting. The standout for me on the acting front was Joy Coy, as she was the one of the lead ladies that I truly felt had a handle on the dialogue and the delivery with emotion, where many of the others were more reading lines. Now, is this a bad thing? Depends on your outlook. When you would go to that local video store in 1987 and rent some random revenge thriller, was that filled with Oscar worthy performances? Most assuredly not. As a matter of fact, that was often what made that “bad” movie “fun,” was the ridiculousness of the performances. With L4D, I actually wish that they were a little worse; this way it would feel more like a parody or homage to these bad performances that we grew up on, right now they are kind of in a middle ground where they are not good, but not eccentrically bad enough to feel like a real throwback.

Look!  A strip club in an indie flick with ACTUAL PATRONS!

Look! A strip club in an indie flick with ACTUAL PATRONS!

Overall, L4D is an enjoyable film. It’s got the boobs and the blood and the way out there plot and characters that make an 80’s exploitation revenge film, and 80’s exploitation revenge film. There are a lot of things that could be tweaked to make it a better film – it is in no way perfect – but I think it will find an audience that enjoys it. And I most certainly have to give it credit for having one of the most “populated” strip club scenes I have watched in an indie movie; you’d think that would be an easy sell to your friends, to come out and be an extra and watch some girls pretend to be strippers, but it is really hard to actually get a club to look like it is a working club! It’s rough around the edges in ways it shouldn’t be and polished in ways it shouldn’t be, and it could use to either go a little worse on the acting or a lot better, but overall L4D was a fun romp through the bloody underbelly of Albuquerque.

 

Overall 6 / 10

L4D on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3530402

L4D is not for sale yet.

L4D site: http://megaultrastudios.wix.com/leftfordead
http://www.facebook.com/leftdeadmovie

Left For Dead (2014)

Left For Dead (2014)

Nothing (2012)

Description (from vimeo.com):
A man wakes up to a world disappearing around him.

Major Cast:
None

Special Features:
None (Online Screener)

Written and Directed by Demeter Lorant

 

There’s a whole lot going on in these five minutes that I’m not going to claim to get. I know that NOTHING is more than just an exercise in digital rotoscoping, and that there are some heavy philosophical and possibly personal demons on display. I get some of it, but I’m sure there’s some that is going on that goes over my head, which may be a cultural thing or may be just that I’m not digging deep enough into it.

NOTHING is the story of a man whose world is fading away. The man is non-descript, nearly faceless, and pretty much your everyman, and his colorless, featureless interior world is vanishing. Looking outward to the world around, he sees that the generic cookie-cutter masses are still marching, the rat races are still being run, but in his world, things have gone away. The only bit of color comes from within him, and to attempt to show the world he still exists, he lets it out, only to be shown that he too is gone.

The world begins to fade... starting with the alarm clock, which wouldn't be so bad for me!

The world begins to fade… starting with the alarm clock, which wouldn’t be so bad for me!

The film plays like a large metaphor on depression, and while that might not be what Lorant was going for, that was the definite impression it left me with. A man who is pretty much nothing to begin with (no color, no definition, in both himself and his surroundings), watches what little he has fade away (including his door to get out of that world). This seems to be in tune with a depressed person watching their world spiral away from them, including any way for them to get out of that depression. The colorless man finds that the only hue is red, from within, so to get the colorful world outside to notice him, he spills this red outward; very much a suicide both literally in the film as the man cuts his wrist, and figuratively since many suicide attempts are really more about getting attention than actually intending to end one’s life. That spilling of blood gets the attention of the one non-generic inhabitant of the outside world, who comes to his aid, only to find that he has already faded away; this again seems to go back to that trope showing that it is the story of a depressed person looking for the attention of that one special other, and punishing them for not noticing quickly enough.

Nameless, faceless

Nameless, faceless

The animation is interesting, as it’s been a long time since I had seen something rotoscoped. If you are not familiar, rotoscoping is the process of filming, then animation on top of those images. Parts of NOTHING come off like your average flash animation (the shots outside the building, the camera pan through the apartment), and then there is the movement of the man rotoscoped that gives it a more organic feel. It’s compellingly different. The art itself in NOTHING I was not a huge fan of, the style of everything besides the man (and even the man himself when we get into some medium shots on his face) was very cartoony, and with this subject matter that took away from the potential emotional impact of the film. The palette Lorant selected is filled with oranges and yellows, and I wonder if this is supposed to signify jealousy of the character to the outside world… or if he just likes those colors. Not a big fan here, and also not so much on the treatment on the edges of the image to make it look “dirty.”

It's always about a girl.

It’s always about a girl.

Overall, NOTHING is more good than bad for sure. It has very interesting animation bits going on over a very deep and up for discussion story, and that’s tough to pack into less than five minutes. Some of the aesthetics of the film did not work, but those are also up for discussion because what I hate you might love, and vice versa. Deep, dark, brooding stuff with a bright and almost happy palette and animation style make for a juxtaposition that doesn’t quite work, but it’s close.

Overall 6.5 / 10

 

NOTHING is not on the IMDb.

NOTHING is not for sale.

NOTHING site: http://www.youtube.com/user/matando125

Nothing (2012)

Nothing (2012)

Embedded here:

Nothing (2012) Animated short by Demeter Lorant from Demeter Lorant on Vimeo.