first light review

As this generation’s filmmakers attempt to create their own superhero origin stories without going through Marvel or DC, Jason Stone’s First Light succeeds by blending Chronicle with YA romance. Hard sci-fi elements that limit themselves to rural country suburbs before breaking out like a conspiracy containment gone wrong. As illuminations flicker and cosmic mysteries unravel, a relationship between boy and girl remains thematically intrinsic – powers exist, but effects needn’t overshadow story. Not to suggest a boring watch by any means – it’s just nice to see the unknown be mixed with tender crafts.

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Ghost Stories Review

Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s remarkably ambiguous Ghost Stories is unconventional, structurally bonkers and bloody-freakin’-brilliant. As an adaptation of their widely-popular West End theater fixture, both men translate stage cues to fainthearted filmmaking in ways that never feel stuffy or overproduced (something like Miss Julie). Tear-away backgrounds that connect wholly different locations are just as astounding cinematic tricks as they’d be in person if only to ensure this daring blend of dread and inquisition be that much more an unsolvable puzzle. How do you get away with crafting a successfully sublime “Whothunkit” about the unknown? I don’t know – ask Ghost Stories. Read More »

Upgrade Review

Leigh Whannell’s latest film Upgrade is one of the most strikingly invigorated sci-fi watches I’ve been awestruck by in quite some time. I’m talking *hard* sci-fi, with callbacks to anything from eXistenZ to The Matrix to Minority Report. Whannell customizes an “efficient” future not so far from our own, where self-driving Loop Dash vehicles chauffeur around bioengineered super-beings and pizzas aren’t ordered, they’re printed. It’s the kind of SmartHouse, techno-takeover world that Apple users dream of, blackened and revenge-ified by Whannell’s oddly apt Her meets Weekend At Bernie’s scramble – with way more splattered blood and guts. Read More »

love in horror movies

Given my thematic body of work here on /Film thus far, I’m sure you’re expecting a February essay that analyzes Valentine’s rosiness through a horror lens. Have I already become that predictable? Yeah. Let’s absolutely talk about why love and horror create the most exquisite, developmentally rich bond(age)s in all the genre world. Why? Simple: there’s no scarier plot device in horror than “love.”

Love is often described as many things – a battlefield (Pat Benatar), the answer (John Lennon), a motherf*#@er (Old School) – but cinema audiences largely attribute love’s on-screen representation to Gerard Butler rom-coms or Hallmark tear-jerkers. Guy meets girl unexpectedly, they fall in love, happily ever afters all around. If it’s December, said man is probably also Santa in disguise. Picture perfect, just as in reality. Right?

For all its butterflies and “You complete me” sentiments, love can also be a savage monstrosity that tears at our gushy insides. This is where, amidst a sea of overtly-saccharine lifestyle pornography pics, the horror genre keeps us in check – unafraid of love’s flip-side intimidation. Call me a cynic, emotionless, or unsalvageable if you must, but to me, we rob ourselves of crucial understanding by not facing our fears and exploring the shadows light doth create.

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like me

Whoever still generalizes January as a cinematic wasteland has clearly not watched Robert Mockler’s Like Me. This is an introspective timebomb that bursts with ambition, execution and payoff, all the while told through a lens that burns with the vibrant fluorescence of this first timer’s splash-making debut. Mockler has a vision that’s never sacrificed; boundaries are tested by setting the screen ablaze with neon tragedies. January is for phoned-in franchise five-quels – what’s this cautionary social media takedown think it‘s doing around these parts?

The film’s star, Addison Timlin, manipulates her way through a gonzo road trip fueled by “likes” and “shares” on internet posts. The crazier her stunts – from robberies to kidnappings – the more people discuss her abstract artistry. She craves attention like a drug, caught up in a sea of endorphins that spike whenever content goes viral. Unfortunately for her latest muse, a schlubby motel owner played by indie horror legend Larry Fessenden (who also produced the film), this means there’s no telling when her antics will stop.

I had the pleasure of moderating a post-screening Q&A of Like Me alongside Mockler and Fessenden in New York City this past week, which we primed with an interview at a local diner beforehand. The three of us sat and chatted about our views on social media, tried not to gag while recalling some thematic food usage, and grappled with the business ins-and-outs of indie filmmaking. Here are two honest creators talking about how Like Me came to form – and how nothing was going to stop them.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

5 Terrifying Social Media Horror Movies

Social Media Horror Movies

Robert Mockler’s Like Me is a surreal “loner with a web page” meltdown starring Addison Timlin as the filmmaker’s millennial muse. It is, with title wordplay intended, very much a commentary on finding comfort in today’s technofied age and how civilization now measures happiness in status “likes” or hot-take “retweets.” As you might expect, some find this to be an unhealthy trend. Thus the Molotov cocktail that is Like Me was hurled with incendiary intent – quite a daring and flashy debut feature, I might add.

Mockler’s isn’t the first social media thriller to rock glazed-over audiences (and based on cinematic adaptations of appropriate social trends, it certainly won’t be the last). This inspired me to compile an accompanying list of movies so you can see how other filmmakers interpret the same thematic fears. From slashers to found footage to educational indies, there’s plenty worth an introspective wince as you witness how our new(ish) handheld habits exploit age-old insecurities. Let’s just try to make sure life doesn’t imitate this particular brand of art? Like, more than it already does.

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21 Horror Movies You Should Be Excited to See in 2018

Horror 2018

Curse you, Father Time. Why couldn’t 2018’s commencement be postponed in the name of cinematic achievement? “2017 Is Officially The Best Year Ever For Horror Films,” one headline read. “2017: The Biggest Year In Horror History,” another claimed. Why end a year riding such a terrifyingly momentous wave in favor of an abyss of unknown, unproven future releases?

Well, quite simply, because all those articles forgot to include the words “So Far” in their takes. Is history not allowed to repeat…nay, outperform itself?

Instead of declaring a moratorium on genre content like a stake through the heart of 2018, why don’t we instead explore which films dare to challenge greatness. Save hyperbole for end-of-year fluffing. If undistributed festival titles and listed release dates are any indication, 2018 has every chance to repeat such successes (with Insidious: The Last Key already scaring up early profits). There’s plenty of weird, wild and wicked content just waiting to be unleashed, which, lucky enough for you, is creeping closer than you think.

Below are 23 highly-anticipated genre titles intended to open publicly throughout 2018. I’ve left off flicks like Summer of ‘84, Piercing and Mandy that will premiere at this month’s Sundance film festival because there’s a chance they might become 2019 releases thanks to distribution fights. For now, let’s just focus on what we know 2018 is good for (or assume with confidence in select cases).

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The Most “WTF” Movie Moments of 2017

WTF 2017

When “end-of-year recap season” rocks the film journalism world each year, I find myself drawn to recalling those weird and obscure moments that exemplify the glorious unpredictability of cinema. These are the “WTF” moments. You know, those particular scenes that make you want to spring from your seat and scream “What the f––k!” at neighboring theatergoers. So, in order to qualify for a list of most WTF movie moments of 2017, there must be a true shock and awe value – sometimes for the best, other times quite the opposite.

Just to clarify, we’re not talking about entries that’d notch on a “Most Disturbing” list (I already wrote that one). This article is all about being flabbergasted, awestruck and stupefied, either positively or negatively. Happy little surprises or doggone illustrations of ill-fitting logic.

Naturally, spoilers for many 2017 movies follow.

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The 16 Most Disturbing Movie Moments of 2017

most disturbing movie moments

Those following my work here on /Film know that I watch a lot of horror movies, from psychological puzzlers to bone-snapping slashers. It’s not all gore, guts and viscera, but one can guesstimate the ceaseless quantity of “disturbing” moments these eyes witness year after year. It could be a scene that triggers an immediate gag reflex, or recharges my nightmare fuel, or hits upon existential devastation with unearthly intent. I wasn’t always prone to stomaching such content – as I once opened up about while discussing my personal connection to the Child’s Play franchise – but now? Well, I’m choosing to relive the year’s most vile challenges on my own accord. Doesn’t that say enough?

What you’re about to read is a list of on-screen sequences that could break a number of viewers. My picks don’t necessarily have to be genre specific, although horror does end up harvesting the largest, freshest crop to choose from year after year. These are the clips that had me clenching down tightly on theater armrests or blocking my eyes with folded hands, as if directors were competing to see who could push me past the brink of no return. Looks like they’ll have to try harder in 2018 (please for the love of sanity, don’t).

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Krampus (3)

Here’s an insider tip for any aspiring entertainment journalists who might be reading this beastly feature: when pitching an idea to your editor, always know the workload before presenting your case. Like, for example, if you agree to rank every Christmas horror movie (possible), don’t cockily scoff a “I’ve seen a bunch already, how many can there actually be?” Because there’s probably eighty-flippin-eight, at most thirty of which you’ve digested fully. That’s not even counting on-the-cusp arguables like Babes In Toyland (1934) and Santa Claus (1959).

Good thing you’re reading the words of a fighter. When adversity throws a peppermint punch, we’ve no choice but to strike right back – and that’s what I did.

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