The Clovehitch Killer Review

The question of how well we ever really know our parents is one that surely hangs heavy on any slightly-curious child. We never know what we were like before we were born; we only see the personalities they present to us, which of course are tailored specifically for us. So it must come as a surprise when a parent turns out to be, say, a serial killer.

This is the premise of Duncan Skiles’ The Clovehitch Killer. Charlie Plummer stars as Tyler, a high school kid in a town whose history is marked by the murders of the Clovehitch Killer. When a rumour about Tyler spreads based on S&M photos found in his dad’s truck, he befriends outcast weirdo Kassi (Madisen Beaty), a Clovehitch obsessive, bonding over their shared pariah status as “perv” and “slut” respectively. Together, they piece together a somewhat inevitable theory that Tyler’s dad Don (Dylan McDermott) might just be using his scout-master skills for more than just outdoorsmanship.

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Truly a neighbourhood film festival, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival takes place at independent cinemas, bars, and venues all over Brooklyn. The majority of films screen at the Nitehawk Cinema, one of many cinema businesses going all-out with in-theatre food and beverage service; other screenings take place at the IFP Made In NY Media Centre, the Wythe Hotel’s underground screening room, or the popular Videology bar, among others. And that doesn’t even include the numerous sites selected for after-parties and the like.

This means that a visiting guest, such as myself, gets to visit a wider sample of the area than if it were in a single location. The variety of venues – and venue types – paints a flattering picture of Brooklyn’s cinema scene, full of people overcoming limited resources with sheer passion.

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Winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival is, in artier circles, more prestigious than the Academy Award. It represents the winning film out of an official selection that’s notoriously difficult to get into in the first place. Some Palme d’Or winners are grand, sweeping works of high cinema; some are politically searing; and others still are tiny, well-observed character dramas. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters is one of the humbler winners in recent memory – and that begins with its protagonists.

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the house that jack built trailer

Lars von Trier has never exactly been subtle. His characters often talk nakedly about their films’ themes, serving as mouthpieces for von Trier’s ruminations on various subjects. His metaphors are incredibly on the nose; this is a man who made a film about depression by having a literal planet loom overhead, ready to crush all in its way. Though his ideas are almost always interesting, his execution varies between rapturously artful and thuddingly obvious.

The House That Jack Built is all of those things and more – and also von Trier’s most self-indulgent movie to date.

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Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear

In popular cinematic discourse, few phrases are as poorly-applied as “so bad it’s good.” That phrase suggests a continuum of quality, with a sweet spot in which a movie can entertain despite – or because of – its ineptitude.

That’s nonsense. Any continuum of quality would have to exist three-dimensionally to account for the vastness of cinema, and four-dimensionally to account for “that” kind of film. The best kind of “bad” movies are made with extreme passion, from unusual worldviews, and with little skill or taste – and as The Room proves, budget is no restriction on any of that. Often, the results feel like the raw outpourings of staggeringly strange minds. RE/Search Publications assembled many such films into a book entitled “Incredibly Strange Films,” back in 1986, and that’s a term I prefer to use.

Enter Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear, a film certainly made with intense passion, and thoroughly a modern Incredibly Strange Film. Short version: it’s amazing, but to get into why, we’ve got to dig a little. Read More »

TIFF Midnight Madness

The Toronto International Film Festival is best-known these days as a Big Daddy of the awards season. Major films that premiere at TIFF – of which there are many – tend to do so with glamorous red-carpet events, stars congregating outside any one of the gorgeous theatres in the closed-to-traffic festival zone. Many are slick, prestigious studio dramas from celebrated filmmakers – think First Man, A Star Is Born, or If Beale Street Could Talk – and they’re rightly festooned with attention.

I did not attend TIFF this year for those films. I attended for Midnight Madness. Read More »

Searching Aneesh Chaganty interview

Everything happens on the internet now, and that poses problems for filmmakers.

For decades, movies and TV have struggled with how to depict the decidedly un-cinematic act of using computers. In the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, the typical approaches were to hype up the user interface with animation and 3D graphics, put the user in virtual reality, or make the computer talk. None of these were particularly realistic, and as the internet became more familiar to everyday people through the 2000s, movies had to change. We saw work that used floating, abstract graphics to depict phone or computer use. But these still suffered from the same inherent problem: how do you visually tell a story that takes place on a computer?

Surprisingly, the answer seems to lie in the least expected place. What if audiences didn’t need conventional filmmaking to be drawn into the story? What if the computer screen itself was enough? Enter a burgeoning new wave of cinema, consisting solely of recorded video from computer desktops.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout has been hailed as an instant all-time action classic. Its story moves forwards with relentless determination, while Christopher McQuarrie’s direction and Tom Cruise’s apparent death wish provide jaw-dropping stunt spectacle. It’s edited to near-perfection, constantly escalating the stakes until it hits a climax that’s nail-biting even despite concluding with a hackneyed cliché.

That climax is a perfect microcosm of the film as a whole. In around 15 minutes of screentime – time-kept by a nuclear countdown – it tells its own self-contained story within a story. Fallout’s Kashmir setpiece is masterful parallel-action storytelling, worthy of placement up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Strap yourselves in, because we’re going to dive deep into what makes this incredible sequence tick.

Major spoilers, obviously, follow.

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The Meg Book Differences

It seems almost unthinkable that The Meg is based on a book. After slews upon slews of terrible mutant-shark movies from the likes of SyFy and The Asylum, the notion of such a film being adapted from a written text – with a high budget! – is quite something. But Meg: A Novel Of Deep Terror indeed exists, published in 1997 and written by author Steve Alten. It has spawned six sequels about its giant prehistoric shark so far. And now, after decades of development hell, a movie.

I’ve been a shark enthusiast since an early age, and a shark movie enthusiast ever since seeing Jaws at a slightly later age. I’m such a shark movie enthusiast that I even made one myself. Naturally, I read Meg when it came out; just as naturally, I went to see The Meg in its opening week. But though the movie was as real and the shark as big as I wanted them to be, a few things were missing. Namely, it lacked the two sequences that push Meg into the crazed realm of superpulp – and would have done the equivalent for the movie, had they been retained.

Spoilers ahead for both The Meg and its source novel(s).

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James Gordon in The Dark Knight

(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

For all The Dark Knight‘s talk of the heroes we deserve as the ones we need right now, not enough credit gets given to the film’s true hero. Batman and Harvey Dent can go to Hero Hell: Lieutenant (and later Commissioner) Jim Gordon is the only one of the film’s three hero figures deserving of the title. Read More »