Friday, 24 July 2015

THE LOOK OF SILENCE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Powerful, important, deeply moving and utterly chilling companion piece to Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Act of Killing"


The Look of Silence (2014)
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A sure-fire way to avoid insanity after killing someone is to collect a couple of cupfuls of the victim's blood as it gushes from their jugular, then drink it all down: hot, steaming, sweet, salty and savoury.

If, after repeatedly hacking someone with a machete, and they're still alive, cut off their penis.

If you're interested in merely killing someone and not torturing them, feel free to hack off a woman's breast before she's dead in order to examine what it looks like.

These are a few words of wisdom imparted by men who, with smiles on their faces and infused with great pride, contributed to the wholesale slaughter of over one million innocent people during a foul genocide perpetrated some 50-years-ago.

Yup, you guessed it, Joshua Oppenheimer, the documentarian with the art of filmmaking hardwired into his very DNA is back in town and I steadfastly deliver you this following iron-clad guarantee:

You have not seen, nor will you ever see a movie like The Look of Silence. Never. Ever. Unless, of course, you've seen The Act of Killing, to which this film is a companion piece and one in which I made a similar guarantee when I reviewed that earlier work.

The Look of Silence proves to be an equally brave and cinematically brilliant look at the violent 1965 aftermath to the fall of Sukarno in Indonesia when the country shifted to a military dictatorship. Indonesians who opposed the new government were accused of being communists - a crime punishable by death. In less than a year with aid from the west, most of it from America (naturally), over one million "communists" were murdered.

Yes, many of the victims were communists, but so many others were simply labelled as such to justify killing them. Though the killings were sanctioned by the army, they were, in fact, carried out by civilian militias - squads of bloodthirsty garden variety psychopaths eager to taste blood for the "good" of their country.

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
THE ACT OF KILLING
THE LOOK OF SILENCE
The only serious and good dramatic feature film to focus on the beginnings of this tragedy is Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously starring Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hunt in her brilliant Academy Award winning gender bending performance. Not that it's a factual document or anything, but it's a stylish fact-based fictional look at the events leading up to the genocide, placing things in a digestible manner. Given how sickeningly powerful Oppenheimer's documentaries are, the Weir picture isn't at all a bad place to begin before diving headlong into the horrors of both The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence.

Kudos are to be extended to Oppenheimer for creating an equally affecting companion piece that can work just fine as a stand-alone piece, bringing a completely new perspective to the tragedy. His first film on this subject focused the killers. Here, we focus on the victims.

Oppenheimer pulls out all the stops on his filmmaking prowess as an original cinematic storyteller by following Adi, a young 40-something travelling optician whose older brother was butchered during the genocide. Adi's route to offer eye examinations and to sell glasses takes him into the homes of the still-living killers (still feared, all rich and revered by the government as heroes) where he checks their eyesight and probes them about their parts in the genocide. If you want it, metaphor and irony abound in this odd tag-team of eye exams and hardline questioning, but for most, the story and the storytelling here will be the overriding element.

The look of a brother
Oppenheimer bounces between Adi watching interview footage with the various killers in the district (including those men describing gleefully how they murdered Adi's brother) and Adi on the road, confronting the same men he's seen in the videos. In most cases, these confrontations are chilling, the killers dropping unsubtle hints that Adi might be a communist himself and in need of extermination.

His Mother and wife are both terrified for Adi, but also for themselves and Adi's children. Adi's Mother lives everyday with the horror and pain of her son's murder while taking care of her blind, infirm husband whose own memories have been erased by the onset of senility.

The look of a killer
Adi, however, is a man obsessed. He's driven to ask the questions about the brother he never knew. He MUST ask the questions nobody dares to ask. At one point, a killer is so upset with Adi's questions - often relating to morality, culpability and guilt - that the sleaze bucket points out that not even Joshua with his interviewer cap on ever asked such penetrating questions. Oppenheimer, of course, intentionally kept a cool distance in his previous film to allow the killers a chance to "hang" themselves with their bragging, but here, he keeps another form of distance altogether to tell a story - that of Adi's powerful journey to confront the killers of his brother.

This is highly potent and explosive material and once again, Oppenheimer delivers a motion picture that's not only an important document of history, but a magnificent, harrowing and consummate work of art. The fact of the matter is this - most documentary filmmakers are not filmmakers. They're journalists and/or committed activists wanting to present a point of view with respect to information and/or interesting subjects. Oppenheimer transcends those staid notions of documentarians, though. He's a genuine filmmaker, an artist of the highest order. His work is not ephemeral in the least and will survive long, long after he and the rest of us are six feet under.

Though The Look of Silence lives now, it will, most importantly, live forever.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

The Look of Silence begins its theatrical release in Canada at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto via Blue Ice Docs.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

KINGS OF THE SUN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Chakiris/Brynner: Foes Become Friends


Kings of the Sun (1963)
Dir. J. Lee Thompson
Starring: George Chakiris, Yul Brynner,
Richard Basehart, Shirley Anne Field, Leo Gordon

Review By Greg Klymkiw

How do like your cheese? Ripe, runny and mouldy or a nice solid brick of good, old fashioned Wisconsin Cheddar? Well, though there is much to be said for the rich, flavourful qualities of the former, sometimes the latter is just what the doctor ordered. Kings of the Sun is clearly of the Wisconsin variety, though happily, it's an old white cheddar and as such, a mite more savoury than your garden variety slab of straight-up orange-coloured curd.

This delightfully melodramatic action-adventure epic of manly men and exotic women is set of 1000 years-ago when a nation of wooden-sworded Mayans on the Yucatán are besieged by a much powerful rival tribe who use metal swords. The wooden-sworded nation are led by the brave young King Balam (George Chakiris, the handsome Greek-American dancer who copped the 1961 Supporting Actor Oscar in the role of the Puerto Rican leader of the Sharks in West Side Story). Balam decides to flee from the nasty take-no-prisoners-lest-they're-women-to-be-raped metal-swordsman King Hunac Ceel (Leo Gordon, the stalwart veteran of numerous TV westerns and one of director Don Siegel's favourite bad guys).

Balam, betrothed to the comely Ixchel (Shirley Anne Field), leads his people through a secret tunnel in their majestic Mayan Pyramid, loads them into boats and sets sail for the mysterious lands far north (Tex-Mex country) to bolster their resources and create a new kingdom - maybe to even someday reclaim their ancestral lands.

Once Balam and his people land up in Tex-Mex territory, they put their ingenuity to good use and build a powerful fort, new abodes and begin a whole new Pyramid so they can start sacrificing humans to the Gods as soon as possible.

Ah, but hiding in the woods and observing the Mayans is an indigenous Native American tribe led by Chief Black Eagle (Yul Brynner) and he's royally fuming (like only Brynner can, flaring those sexy nostrils). He plans to battle these oddly costumed intruders, but unfortunately he's wounded and captured by the Mayans, then held hostage to keep the Injuns at bay.


The real power amongst the Mayans is their wacky blood-thirsty, blood-sacrifice-endorsing Witch Doctor Ah Min (played, I kid you not, by the whiter-than-white Richard Basehart, star of TV's Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea). Adorned in a ridiculous wig and flowing robes, Ah-Min looks like he should be an emcee at an octogenarian drag performance club in Slovenija, and as such, he's able to convince Balam and all the others that they must nurse Black Eagle to health so he may be their first official sacrifice when the Pyramid is finished.

A love rivalry twixt Ixchel, Black Eagle and Balam begins to brew and as these lovebirds begin smouldering, little do they know that the crazy Hunac Ceel has loaded up his boats with thousands of warriors to wipe out Balam for good and they're just around the corner.


If the Mayans sacrifice Black Eagle, they'll not be able to count on the necessary allegiance with the Natives to fight Hunac. Hmmmm. Dilemmas-dillemmas. I doubt it's going to come as a surprise to anyone, but get to a rousing final battle sequence, we must submit to a whole water-tower full of roiling melodrama.

I can't actually say that any of this is especially well-acted, but it is exuberantly over-acted and where the picture really succeeds is in its gorgeous cinematography by the legendary Joseph (My Darling Clementine, Viva Zapata, Niagara, Pickup on South Street) McDonald, a rousing orchestral score by Elmer Bernstein, stunning sets and costumes, a cast of thousands and some of the most beautifully directed battle scenes ever committed to film by the stalwart J. Lee Thompson (Taras Bulba, Guns of Navarone, Cape Fear).

So if you're in the mood for some solid cheese, feel free to whack off a few hunks of this Kings of the Sun brand. It'll bind you, bind you real good.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

Kings of the Sun is available on a gorgeous Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

THE DEMOLISHER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Strange Canuck Vigilante Thriller unveiled at 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal


The Demolisher (2015)
Dir. Gabriel Carrer
Starring: Ry Barrett, Tianna Nori, Jessica Vano

Review By Greg Klymkiw

After policewoman Samantha (Tianna Nori) suffers a near-fatal attack (after attempting to rescue a baby in the midst of a devil worship ceremony, no less), she's crippled for life and forced to haul about in a wheelchair. Her angry hubby Bruce (Ry Barrett), a cable repair technician goes completely bunyip. (Where have we heard about el-sicko cable guys before?) Night after night, he dons mega-protective armour, a creepy helmet with a stylish visor and armed with a nice selection of weaponry, he stalks the late-night streets looking for scumbags - any scumbags - that he can take down and send straight to Hell.

Seems reasonable enough, yes?


Eventually, however, it becomes obvious that Bruce is no longer bunyip for mere revenge, he's just plain bunyip and desires to kill, period. After getting a taste of murder pure and simple (an enjoyable murder as it's perfectly justified), he targets Marie (Jessica Vano), an innocent young jogger who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thus begins a terrifying night for her as she's stalked by a madman bent upon snuffing her lights out.


Okay, so The Demolisher is clearly one of the strangest, most perverse vigilante movies I've seen in quite some time, possibly ever to be honest. Audiences looking for carnage will get more than their fair share, but I suspect that the only killing they'll enjoy in any sort of traditional Death Wish or Walking Tall manner is the one horrific murder of someone who is not a criminal (though like I said earlier, the fuckwad clearly deserves it).

Audiences will also be surprised and possibly delighted with the clear thought that's gone into the screenplay in terms of examining a diseased mind under pressure. There are clearly and deliberately paced moments within the oddball domestic set-up which proceed with very little dialogue and mostly some extremely effective looks and silences. This is probably a good thing since some of the dialogue proves a bit clunky in these moments, the lion's share of clunkiness wafting out of poor Samantha's mouth and occasionally affecting Tianna Nori's otherwise good work.

There's also one ludicrous scene where crippled Samantha manages to crawl into the bathtub with her brooding hubby. In theory, I'm all there. In practise, not so much. If you're going to have a babe join her hubby in the tubby, why the fuck would she be wearing her goddamn nightie? I can understand not getting a nice glimpse of dick, though I'd have been most appreciative of the view myself, but seriously, to not have the hot cripple doff her garments for a loll-about in the tub is tantamount to B-Movie heresy. (And frankly, seeing anyone in a bathtub with clothes on is just plain dumb.)


My fetishes aside, Ry Barrett is effectively stalwart and brooding throughout and what can be said about Jessica Vano other than her fine performance? Well, uh, she's, like, a babe, and we get to see her running around in fear for half the movie. Vano's hot running around rivals that of Penelope Ann Miller tear-assing about in The Relic. That takes some doing. Seriously, hot chicks running around in terror is a blessing, not a curse. Ain't nothing sexier than that. But enough of my fetishes.

I loved the look of this movie. It's just plain ugly for much of its running time, but intentionally so. The lighting and compositions expertly capture both the seediness of its locations as well as the cold, impersonal, almost dank qualities of the interiors. The score by Glen Nicholls is especially dynamite, evoking an eerie blend of 80s funk-drone and just plain effective thriller cues.

And there is a definite 80s feel to the picture (for some, this is better, for others, it'll be worse), but I found the entire tone of the movie fascinating. Once again we have a Canadian genre film with its own distinct indigenous style. Yes, it's clearly inspired by an American tradition of such pictures, but its narrative, look and pace are Canadian in all the best ways - proving again that having a diametrically opposed north of the 49th parallel aesthetic allows for a wholly unique take on genre cinema.


Director Gabriel Carrer might have pulled off the near impossible here by creating a film that shares aesthetic DNA twixt the sad ennui of Atom Egoyan's best work and famed 80s schlockmeister James (The Exterminator) Glickenhaus. It's a film that revels in its exploitative roots whilst examining them also, but without being moralistic. Only in Canada, you say? That's a good thing!

That said, if a movie is going to have some devil worship involving a baby as a sacrifice, could it not at least have the good taste to show the little nipper being hacked open? But, enough of my fetishes.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

The Demolisher enjoys its World Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For dates, times and tix, visit the festival website HERE. The Demolisher is represented world wide by the visionary Canadian genre specialists Raven Banner.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Feature Story Interview with Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi Ukrainian director of THE TRIBE (followed by rewrite/repost of the REVIEW) - By Greg Klymkiw


Feature Story
My Conversation
with Ukrainian Director
Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi


By Greg Klymkiw

The acclaimed Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi and I agreed to an interview/conversation via Skype and in my opening minutes with a contemporary director I admire very deeply, I decide to break the ice - not by complimenting him on his film The Tribe, but telling him about my apartment in downtown Kyiv during the early 2000s. In particular I inform him that it was on Mykhailivs'ka Street, just near Паб О'Брайанс (O'Brien's Pub) and a mere hop, skip and a jump from the McDonald's at Independence Square, the Maidan (scene of the Orange Revolution and the more recent site of the magnificent 2013-2014 occupation which eventually ousted the corrupt President and Putin-ite Viktor Yanukovych).

In spite of the tragic events in Maidan, the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, what, pray tell do you think was foremost on my mind?

"Are the Golden Arches okay?" I asked. "Did McDonald's suffer much damage during the Maidan Revolution?"

"It's fine," said Slaboshpytskyi. "The only difference now is the number of dead bodies in front of the McDonald's."

We enjoy the kind of hearty laugh only two Ukrainians can genuinely share. It was similar to our shared patriarchal Ukrainian mirth when I asked him what his wife's name was.

"Elena", he replied.

"What's her surname?" I asked.

"The same as mine," he responded.

"But of course," I replied. "As it should be."


I have to admit it was a real privilege and honour to spend some time with Slaboshpytskyi on Skype. His great film The Tribe finally opened theatrically in Toronto via Films We Like at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and this seemed as good a reason as any to touch base.

Delightfully, we spent most of our time talking about movies. It came as no surprise to me that he is an inveterate film nut and has been so since childhood.

Born in 1974 and raised in Ukraine under the Soviet system, living in both in Kyiv and Lviv, Slaboshpytskyi explains what ultimately sounds like a charmed childhood. His Mom and Dad were both artists. Father Mykhailo is an acclaimed author and literary critic and mother Lyudmila is an editor-in-chief with a huge publishing house. His wife, Elena Slaboshpitskaya (whom he met in St. Petersburg, Russia) is a writer, critic and these days, his chief creative producer.

"As a child," he reminisces, "our home was always full of eccentric writers, talking about literature until late in the night and there were always books, rows and rows of great books to read. Hundreds, no, thousands of books. And every night I'd come home from the movies and always find our home full of those writers. Of course, they were all drunk."

And the movies? What, I wonder led Slaboshpytskyi to a life as a filmmaker?

"I don't think I ever wanted to be anything else," he says. "As a child, everyday after school, instead of going straight home, I went to see movies. It didn't matter what was playing. I went to see them all and often watched movies again and again. I would usually watch three movies each day."

He explains that under Soviet rule, many of the movies were of the Soviet variety, but this mattered not. Movies were movies. And, of course, there were a few "foreign" movies to tantalize the tastebuds. He mentions that Bollywood movies were extremely popular in Ukrainian movie theatres when he was a kid. I query Myroslav about this curious feature since I was always scratching my noggin whilst in Ukraine since so many TV stations played Bollywood pictures in the early 2000s.

I always assumed that it was because the rights to buy the movies was cheap. He agrees this might have been one of the reasons, but he notes that Bollywood movies were the few "action" movies with no politics and could also be viewed by the whole family with little fear of ideologically objectionable material. The only action movies other than those from Bollywood were a lot of the great crime pictures from France and Italy which starred the likes of Alain Delon, Lino Ventura and, among others, Yves Montand. As well, there were many French comedies, many of which starred the legendary Louis de Funès. Not that the young Myroslav had problems with any of these. "Anything was better than boring Soviet films," he admits.

So, were there any American movies at all?

"In 1982 I saw Three Days of the Condor in the movie theatre at least 40 times," he admits. "This movie was such magic for me." Not only did the film feature the dazzling 70s style of dark American existentialism as wrought by the late, great Sydney Pollack, but it was an opportunity for the impressionable young Myroslav to get a real taste of Hollywood superstars like Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. He notes that the movie probably played in the Soviet Union only because it was so overtly anti-American, but I imagine politics were not on the mind of an eight-year-old movie fanatic who was instead dazzled by the sheer electricity of an American thriller.

Of course I'm always obsessed with epiphanies when it comes to my favourite film directors. I like to know if and when they experienced an epiphanic moment which made them decide to become filmmakers. Curiously, Myroslav tells me a story that reminds me somewhat of Martin Scorsese talking about how he sees the world as if through a camera lens and as a series of shots simply by the act of walking down the street.

"I wish I could remember the name of the movie," Myroslav says, "but I do know it was a Bollywood film. I was probably eight-years-old, the same age I saw Three Days of the Condor and this movie ended very late in the evening. It was already dark and I was walking home alone down my usual street, but there were shadows everywhere and it seemed that each way I looked, it seemed very scary. However, I was energized by the movie I saw, but also energized by my fear and without really fully understanding what it meant to be a movie director, I have a very clear memory of deciding there and then that I was going to direct movies."

Not only did this remind me of the Scorsese anecdote, but I had to admit to Myroslav it also reminded me of the story about Leo Tolstoy who discovered cinema at its earliest and most rudimentary point, and that he was excited by the possibilities of cinema, but alternately, he expressed disappointment that he was too old to ever experience the joy of this medium which, he felt, was perhaps the most ideal way to express himself as an artist.

I asked Myroslav if he imagined what it must have been like for artists with the souls of filmmakers who did not have the available technology to adequately express themselves.

As I'm discovering, Slaboshpytskyi's delightful sense of humour always lies puckishly in wait. "Yes," he remarks dryly, "It is the man who no sex and watches pornography."

As is my wont, I accept this.


When I finally get around to asking Myroslav about The Tribe, I remark that his film is gorgeous to look at, but in the way films are which reflect what's referred to as "a terrible beauty" - that it even seems to have a 70s quality of naturalism and existentialism to it.

Firstly he admits that The Tribe is "a compilation of real stories I gathered; stories I knew and stories that were told to me by those kids I spent time interviewing in my old neighbourhood. They aren't necessarily specific to the school in which my movie is set, but they are things that happen in all schools in urban areas like Kyiv."

Astoundingly, Slaboshpytskyi reveals that The Tribe "is shot in same school in which I was a pupil. I shot everything in the area, the very same district as my childhood. Every location in the movie is one I know. I know every building and place I shot in."

This certainly explains the raw realism of his picture, but I find it interesting that the movie was conceived well before and then shot in 2013 on the cusp of the big Maidan Revolution. My first screening of the film brought back so many memories of my time in Ukraine in the pre-Orange and pre-Maidan days, the sheer survival mode of Ukrainians in post-Soviet Ukraine blew me away, but also the realities, the hidden dark secrets of sexual exploitation at every turn.

Myroslav admits his film is a story of humanity first and foremost; that he sought not to make any overt political statements.

"It's about survival," he says. "Survival has been the national trademark of Ukraine since the beginning of time. It's not a metaphor, but a reality. Everybody must survive or just simply, try to survive."

His memories of post-Soviet Ukraine, especially in the early days are mostly positive. "Everyone seemed very happy. After all, we finally got our independence." He admits to the ongoing economic crises, but seems somewhat bemused (as most Ukrainians would be) at how different Ukrainian capitalism was from anyone's notion of capitalism. "Yes, there was sometimes disappointment with the government, but I believe it is no paradise anywhere in the world. If there was a problem it was that everything was still a mix of the old Soviet system with the new realities of capitalism."

He notes that Ukraine was and still is not as bad as it is in Russia. He says this in the same breath as he almost wistfully recalls a time when Ukraine always seemed to be in the midst of "real gang wars".

"Ukraine was like real Chicago-style gangster movies," he says with just a tiny bit of excitement in his voice and with a smile on his face.

Ah, and we're back to the movies again. I mention to Myroslav how much fun it is to talk about movies with him and that I could probably sit there all day doing so. He talks about seeing movies in the post-Soviet period and he describes the 90s and beyond as a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of every conceivable movie. Of course, he loves Taxi Driver, Tarantino and especially the work of Paul Verhoeven. He cites Showgirls and Basic Instinct as being hugely exciting and inspirational. We both commiserate over the ludicrous critical backlash against Showgirls in particular and what a genuinely great movie it is. (I'd like to think it's because we're both Ukrainians, but of course, the film does have its admirers outside of Ukraine and its disapora.)

What's thrilling to hear is how Myroslav sucked up so many movies in a relatively short space of time, and. of course, the sheer variety of works he was seeing for the very first time. "I watched all films, everything," he declares. "It was necessary to devour this new culture as quickly as possible, to see it all. Here I was, watching Rambo and then, Citizen Kane."

And so on, it went. And on. And on. Movie upon movie upon movie.

Plus it wasn't just movies. Myroslav also began to devour all the literature his country missed out on. He cites Bukowski, Miller, Kesey and yes, even Dashiel Hammet. He can clearly go on, but it's here he notes that the "big tragedy of Ukraine's artist generation", in particular those who came before his own generation, was that they could read great works that had been withheld from their purview, but that they were not always able to "understand the context of American culture and how it related to the literature."

Finally, we get back to the movies. Myroslav is especially keen to point out the inherent "bravery of cinema." Of course, I need to rain on the parade by expressing how I enjoyed the proficiency of some current studio pictures, but that they were really about nothing. Myroslav seems more realistic than I. He admits to having a "problem" with "some modern cinema", but his year of attending film festivals with The Tribe has given him a window into the myriad of independent films from all over the world, including America. He waves off the emptiness of some studio efforts as being linked solely to the "risk" factor of "bigger budgets".

"I live for the movies," he says. "For me, the movies are the thing. All my life I wanted to make movies, then all my life I began to make movies and I can forget my previous life, but I will always have the movies."

Amen to that.

And now, here is my review of The Tribe as originally written during its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2014. I've made a few minor changes to the piece, but I've decided to let the piece stand as I first wrote it, especially in light of my opportunity to speak with Myroslav. You see, when I go to movies, I try to view them as unfettered as possible. ALL I knew about The Tribe when I first saw it was that it was from Ukraine. For me, it's the best way to see movies and Slaboshpytskyi's great film especially offers added resonance when seen that way.

And it is, truly and genuinely great!

Russia's continued oppression of Ukraine batters
the most vulnerable members of society.
The Tribe (2014)
(aka Plemya/плем'я)
Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Starring: Yana Novikova, Grigoriy Fesenko, Rosa Babiy,
Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Sidelnikov


Review By Greg Klymkiw

One of the most appalling legacies of Russian colonization/dictatorship over the country of Ukraine has, in recent years, been the sexual exploitation of women (often children and teenagers). Add all the poverty and violence coursing through the nation's soul, much of it attributable to Mother Russia's tentacles of corruption, organized crime and twisted notions of law, order and government, that it's clearly not rocket science to realize how threatening the Russian regime is, not only to Ukraine, but the rest of Eastern Europe and possibly, beyond.

Being a Ukrainian-Canadian who has spent a lot of time in Ukraine, especially in the beleaguered Eastern regions, I've witnessed first-hand the horrible corruption and exploitation. (Ask me sometime about the Russian pimps who wait outside Ukrainian orphanages for days when teenage girls are released penniless into the world, only to be coerced into rust-bucket vans and dispatched to God knows where.)

The Tribe is a homespun indigenous Ukrainian film that is a sad, shocking and undeniably harrowing dramatic reflection of Ukraine with the searingly truthful lens of a stylistic documentary treatment (at times similar to that of Austrian auteur Ulrich Seidl and dappled occasionally with a 70s American existentialist cinematic sensibility).

Focusing upon children, the most vulnerable victims of Russia's aforementioned oppression, this is a film that you'll simply never forget.

Set in a special boarding school, writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, paints an evocative portrait of students living within a tribal societal structure (literally as per the title) where adult supervision is minimal at best and even culpable in the desecration of youth. Living in an insular world, carved out by years of developing survival skills in this institutional environment, the kids have a long-established criminal gang culture and they engage in all manner of nefarious activities including, but not limited to thieving, black marketeering and pimping.

Slaboshpytskiy's mise-en-scène includes long, superbly composed shots and a stately, but never dull pace. This allows the film's audience to contemplate - in tandem with the narrative's forward movement - both the almost matter-of-fact horrors its young protagonists accept, live with and even excel at while also getting a profound sense of the ebbs and flows of life in this drab, dingy institutional setting. In a sense, the movie evokes life as it actually unfolds (or, at least, seems to).

The violence is often brutal and the film never shies away from explicit sexual frankness. We watch the beautiful teenage girls being pimped out at overnight truck stops, engaging in degrading acts of wham-bam without protection, perpetrated against their various orifices by truckers who shell out cash for the privilege of doing so. As well, we experience how the same girls are cum-receptacles for their fellow male students, delivering blow-jobs or intercourse when it's required.

On occasion, we witness consensual, pleasurable lovemaking, but it always seems tempered by the fact that it's the only physical and emotional contact these children, of both sexes, have ever, ow will ever experience. Even more harrowing is when we follow the literal results of this constant sexual activity and witness a necessary, protracted, pain-wracked scene wherein one young lady seeks out and receives an unsanitary and painful abortion.

While there are occasional moments of tenderness, especially in a romance that blossoms between one young boy and girl, there's virtually no sense of hope that any of these children will ever escape the cycles of abuse, aberrant behaviour and debasement that rules their lives. The performances elicited by Slaboshpytskiy are so astonishing, you're constantly in amazement over how naturalistic and reflective of life these young actors are, conveying no false notes with the kind of skill and honesty one expects from far more seasoned players.

The special circumstances these children are afflicted with also allows Slaboshpytskiy to bravely and brilliantly tell his story completely though the purest of cinematic approaches. Visuals and actions are what drive the film and ultimately prove to be far more powerful than words ever could be. Chances are very good that you'll realize what you're seeing is so wholly original that you'll ultimately sit there, mouth agape at the notion that what you're seeing on-screen is unlike anything you will have ever seen before.

Try, if you can, to see the film without seeing or reading anything about it. Your experience will be all the richer should you choose to go in and see it this way. Even if you don't adhere to this, the movie is overflowing with touches and incidents in which you'll feel you're seeing something just as original.

The Tribe evokes a world of silence and suffering that is also perversely borderline romantic, a world where connections and communication are key elements to add some variation to a youth culture that is as entrenched as it is ultimately constant and, frankly, inescapable.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars, highest rating.

The Tribe is being distributed in Canada via Films We Like. It's enjoying a theatrical run at the majestic TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto with other cities to follow. For tix, dates and times at Lightbox, visit the TIFF website by clicking HERE.

Monday, 20 July 2015

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Classic 70s Heist/Buddy Picture


Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
Dir. Michael Cimino
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy,
Geoffrey Lewis, Catherine Bach, Gary Busey, Bill McKinney, Dub Taylor

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"I don't think of us as criminals, you know? I feel we accomplished something. A good job. I feel proud of myself, man. I feel like a hero."
- Jeff Bridges as "Lightfoot" in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
The big sky of Montana has never looked quite as beautiful as it does in Michael (The Deer Hunter) Cimino's directorial debut, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, but every so often an object, seemingly innocent on the surface, enters the frame and its mere presence takes on a strange kind of malevolence - as if that big sky is bearing witness to potential chaos amidst the natural, peaceful order of the dazzling sun beaming down upon the flat, limitless ocean of prairies.


The opening wide shots of a church should feel at home here, but the structure just doesn't feel right, its spire jutting up aberrantly from the Earth. Hymns of worship waft gently in the wind across the fields; innocent enough until a lone vehicle enters the frame and moves slowly amidst the empty, parked cars of the parishioners within. Whatever natural order exists, we're sure something's seriously amiss.

That big old American sky, the brilliant white church and the rolling fields are little more than a piping hot apple pie cooling in the summer breeze, but its insides are harbouring a pulpy sweet mash laced with arsenic. It's America, don't you know. The preacher seems amiable enough, his parishioners all eyes and ears, but when the front doors burst open and two gents adorned in shades and tacky dark sport coats brandish firearms, America the Beautiful gets just a little less so.


It's a big, old American film, too, so in short order we realize the Preacher is Clint Eastwood, no genuine Man of the Cloth, but a Man in Hiding and the mysterious gents, the bulky, malevolent carrot-topped George Kennedy and his sidekick, none other than Geoffrey Lewis, the short, wiry little man with the bug-eyes are hell-bent on blasting the fake preacher to Kingdom Come.

It's one hell of an opening and it doesn't get less intense as guns blaze and Eastwood hightails across an open prairie with the slavering madmen in pursuit until, as Good Old Fashioned American Luck will have it, a genial car thief, played no less than by the blondy-locked pretty boy Jeff Bridges, barrels along a country road and provides rescue and flight for our preacher, who by now we know, is no preacher.

Bridges assumes as much also as he quips, "You ain't no country preacher, Preacher."

If this were a classic romantic comedy, which it kind of is, since Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is very much in the tradition of 70s American bro-mances like Scarecrow, Midnight Cowboy, California Split and Your Three Minutes Are Up, one might refer to this mad, action-packed first meeting twixt eventual best buddies Eastwood and Bridges as a "meet-cute" (albeit with guns blazing and big American cars roaring across open roads).

And though on the surface, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a crime picture with a major bank heist as its central set piece, make no mistake - this is a road movie romantic comedy, a kind of It Happened One Night with lots of snappy one-liners and big, really big, guns.

And lest we forget, all those big, glorious American cars our heroes keep stealing as they make their way across Montana State, are the vehicles of choice as opposed to the Dirty 30s buses and trains of Capra's great classic.


Though Cimino handles the action with the skill he honed and brought to bear years later with The Deer Hunter and Year of the Dragon (as well as the sheer visual majesty of Heaven's Gate), this is first and foremost an ambling, episodic buddy road movie; character-driven and full of all manner of oddball narrative touches.

At the heart of the film are our two title characters - mismatched from the start, but gradually finding the common ground that makes for deep love and friendship. Eastwood's "Thunderbolt" is older, wiser and more cynically realistic than his nutty wisecracking little buddy Lightfoot. He's clearly from the post-Korea-post-Vietnam generation who served loyally and got bupkis for it in the real world. Lightfoot is the "hippie" - all youthful ideals and a sense of humour that keeps cracking the shell of his "old man" best buddy.

Like lovers, they're made for each other, the same way opposites attract. Perhaps overriding it all, though is a combination of big-brother-little-brother and perhaps even father and son. One of the more moving and sadly prophetic moments in the film is when the eager Lightfoot happily and boastfully feels like the two men could be legendary.

"Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," Bridges beams. "You know, that really sounds like something." Then he adds, with jokey pride in Thunderbolt's direction, "Hey, you stick with me kid. You do and you're gonna live forever."

It's a moment that strangely parallels a later scene when Eastwood looks at Bridges and says "You don't look so good, kid." Bridges replies, probably with the line that nabbed him his first Oscar nomination, "I believe you're right."


Eastwood's Thunderbolt has been around Hell's block a few times and back again. He's been to war and he knows enough to realize that "back home" is just another battleground - nobody, lives forever, anywhere, anytime. This is especially true given that are buddies eventually hook up with the crazy-ass criminal cranks from the film's opening. George Kennedy's Red Leary has meanness hard-wired into his DNA and he takes an immediate dislike to Lightfoot - so much so that he reminds the lad that Thunderbolt and he "go back a long way. But you don't mean nothin' to me, understand? Nothin'!" Lightfoot asks him why he tried to kill Thunderbolt if they were so close.

"Because," Red Leary snarls (in George Kennedy's trademark rancourous tone), "Because we were friends."

Nothing in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot ever feels quite right and it's what makes the film so special. Like the natural beauty dappled with occasional intrusions of malevolence, Cimino's screenplay takes numerous strange turns as it moves towards the inevitable big heist and eventual series of bad-guy fallouts. Even then, Cimino's story shocks and surprises and we're eventually left with a big old American movie - as grand and elegiac as the big old skies of Montana.

It's kind of like when Eastwood furrows his brow upon first hearing Bridges' name "Lightfoot" and asks him if it's an "Indian" name.

"Nope," Bridges replies. "Just American."

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is available on Kino-Lorber DVD.
In Canada ORDER HERE
In USA ORDER HERE

Sunday, 19 July 2015

WE ARE STILL HERE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepily Effective Old-Fashioned Haunted House Thriller at the 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal


We Are Still Here (2015)
Dir. Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton,
Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, Lisa Marie, Monte Markham

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There's always room for a solid "things that go bump in the night" haunted house picture, so long as the proceedings are handled with proficiency and a minimum degree of stupidity. Ted Geoghan's first feature film We Are Still Here succeeds on both counts.

Yes, we've been down this road before. The Sacchettis are an attractive, well-to-do couple still grieving from the accidental death of their only son. They've chosen flight from familiar surroundings to heal and move into a gorgeous, old house in the wide open spaces of Inbred-ville, New England. Situated on a gorgeous estate, isolated, but not too far away from a nearby village (full of inbreds), the couple appear to have nailed the real estate find of the century.

Uh-oh.

We all know that when an old, long-unoccupied house in the middle of nowhere goes for a steal, there's bound to be some ectoplasmic shenanigans going on. Luckily, we are not the Sacchettis. We are the audience. We know better, which is always a good deal for us, yes?

Anne (played by the always-delectable Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame) feels her son's spirit is still with them and that he's followed them to their new digs. Paul (Andrew Sensenig), being the lowly male of the equation is far more practical about such matters, but he sensitively humours her and agrees to a visit from their longtime spiritualist friends. May (played by the gorgeous Lisa Marie of Vampira fame in Ed Wood and unceremoniously booted by director Tim Burton in favour of the ratty-mopped Helena Bonham Carter) is psychic. Her hubby Jacob (the always wonderful character actor and Habit director Larry Fessenden, looking more like Jack Nicholson in The Shining with every picture) is a dope-smoking old hippie with new-agey powers in crystals and seances.

It's always convenient when bereaved couples know spiritualist couples. It makes horror movies so much more lively, yes?

Of course, what would a New England community of inbreds be without a couple of real whoppers of inbreds? Creepy old neighbour Dave McCabe (Monte Markham) and his nutty wife Maddie (Susan Gibney) pop by for a friendly visit wherein we get all the dope on the Sacchettis' new home.

It's an old funeral parlour, situated on unhallowed ground and formerly run by a family who pilfered bodies and sold them to a nearby medical college. Or so we're told.

Yes, it's always convenient when bereaved couples move into old funeral parlours on unhallowed ground formerly run by inbreds who sold bodies to be sliced and diced by med students. It's even more convenient that the inbreds might actually have been innocent of this crime and murdered by the inbred townspeople.

Are you with me? Good. This is what our impish filmmaker has laid out for the mega-scares to follow. Though screenwriter Geoghegan doesn't really go beyond the stock tropes of most ghostly melodramas, Geoghegan the director does go through some mighty impressive gymnastics of helmsmanship to knock us on our collective butts all the way through this effective chiller.

Babe-O-Licious Barbara Crampton as HOT now
as she was in 1985's RE-ANIMATOR. Hubba-Hubba!

The real star of the film is Canadian cinematographer Karim Hussain who superbly handles Geoghegan's morbidly creepy mise-en-scene with considerable aplomb. The camera feels like a character unto itself - its gorgeous compositions and lighting make us feel like something genuinely unholy is actively observing the proceedings whilst occasionally making us feel like we're seeing stuff that may or may not be there. Hussain moves the camera so deftly and subtly that we're often chilled to the bone - not just by the gorgeously captured winter climes surrounding the house, but by the manner in which it glides and/or settles upon the dank details of the house and especially, the basement. The chilling musical score and alternately shivery, heart-attack-inducing sound design are also brilliantly rendered, giving us ample creeps and shocks.

Especially in the basement.

Oh yes! 'Tis always convenient for a haunted house to have a clammy basement with a boiler on the fritz causing temperatures to rise and a strange wall that supposedly has nothing behind it.

Then, there are the ghastly apparitions and, the blood.

They are plenty ghastly.

And yes, there is plenty of blood. (And thanks to a lovely Straw Dogs-inspired climax, the picture racks up a very impressive body count.)

All that said, if you're looking for a bit more meat on the bones of the bereaved couple horror scenario, you're not going to find it here. There's potential to have steered the film into the complex, layered territory of Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, but Geoghegan seems content to keep us in the shock-o-rama territory of his more clear influence, the grand Italian shock-meister Lucio (The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery) Fulci.

I accept this.

The movie forced me to soil myself on numerous occasions. Luckily, I've learned long ago to always wear adult diapers for my sojourns into the cinematic territory of haunted house thrillers. Thankfully, this one is up there with those pictures keen on skilfully delivering all the visceral thrills and chills which, ultimately, are the hallmark for all fine horror pictures.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

We Are Still Here from Dark Sky and Raven Banner enjoyed its Canadian Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For further info, visit the fest's website HERE.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

BITE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Zesty Cinematic Steam Table Buffet o' Babes & Viscous Discharge Premieres @ the 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal.


Bite (2014)
Dir. Chad Archibald
Scr. Jayme Laforest
Starring: Elma Begovic,
Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray, Lawrene Denkers

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Director Chad Archibald finally delivers the picture I suspected he had in him to serve up. After his competently-directed The Drownsman, which mostly suffered from a dreadful script and ludicrous premise, he moved on to co-direct the brilliant science fiction thriller Ejecta. Now he's back behind the camera all on his lonesome, with a terrific cast, stunning special effects and most importantly, a cool premise from his original story which has made for a solid screenplay written by Jayme Laforest.

It's safe to say that Bite claims its rightful (and deserved) position amongst the thrilling explosion of original Canadian horror films taking the world by storm. This enchantingly vile, sick and grotesque B-movie melange, resides in a magical place twixt the hot-babe-going-bunyip antics of Roman Polanski's Repulsion and David Cronenberg's body-decimation gymnastics from The Fly.

Almost needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, Bite is gloriously replete with truck-loads of pus, vomit, gooey sores, icky vaginal discharge and plenty o' viscous ooze (much of it resembling caviar and glass eyes swimming oh-so succulently in deliquescent pools of upchuck) - all of which has been designed to tantalize genre geeks the world over.

Oh, and of course, the movie has plenty of babes in it. Alas, they're never nekkid, but at least we see 'em in bikinis and underwear. (These are tender mercies, but we'll take what we can get.) Nudity or no nudity, this is one solid horror picture.

It's ultimately rooted in good writing which Bite is nicely blessed with. Good movies will almost always have a nice simple narrative to allow for all manner of layering and shading to adorn it and I'm delighted to report that much of what leaps from the page allows Archibald as a director to gussy things up as much as he likes with all manner of perverse touches.

The film opens by telling its twisted tale via home movie footage. This briefly gave me a sinking feeling, but as the subjects were babes who also delivered good performances and uttered some decent dialogue in a relatively realistic setting, I perked myself up and decided to settle in despite my feelings of, "Oh Christ, not another found footage horror film." Cleverly, this stuff doesn't last too long and is, in fact, a stylish manner in which to begin the story which eventually slams into full-on classical visual storytelling mode. (The footage is used later to only move the story forward in realistic contexts to which I was also grateful for.)

Casey (Elma Begovic, a striking exotic beauty with talent to burn) is about to get married. She and her girlfriends Jill (Denise Wozniak) and Kirsten (Denise Yuen) head to a vacation resort paradise carved out of the jungles of an otherwise foul Central American Third World Hell-Hole. It is here where two nasty things happen to our heroine.

Firstly, she gets herself juiced-up and Rohip-nolled by a handsome scumbag who takes her out onto the beach, delivers a solid ploughing to her limp body, steals all her stuff (including her engagement ring) and leaves our lithe lassie lying alone on the sand, dazed and confused.

Secondly, she and her lady friends veer off the beaten track for some fun and frolic. Uh, gals, this is a loathsome Third World jungle; shouldn't you hang back at the resort? Well, if they did, there might not be a movie (or any horror movie for that matter). When our comely damsels take a dip in a jungle watering hole, our already-beleagured heroine gets a painful bite by some unseen bug (or pond creature) in the murky slough they go splashing about in.


Upon returning to Canada, Casey begins to suffer some mighty perplexing and disturbing symptoms. In addition to developing a very heightened sense of hearing, a nasty rash and almost perpetual nausea, the bite on her thigh starts to fester into weird mini-cauliflowered-skin-tag-like globules full of pus.

Adding insult to injury, she discovers she's pregnant.

At this point, the likelihood of her spawning something truly horrific is pretty much going to be a given and slowly, but surely (and disgustingly) she begins to . . . shall we say, transform.

As a creepily painful biological decimation roils within her, she ironically begins to see clearly how so many things in her life are not as peachy-keen as they once seemed. Her friends appear well-meaning to a fault, almost callous. One of them even has designs upon her fiancé.

(Now, if you want, I can get a tad egg-headed here and say there's plenty of noggin-stimulating thematic stuff to chew on - you know, a woman experiences painful physical transformation to yield terrible truths about herself and the world around her, but I'll leave this to all the Women's Studies PhD candidates in the audience to flesh out.)

Speaking of terrible truths, Jared (Jordan Grey), Casey's hubby-to-be, is a self-absorbed knob and Mama's Boy who complains that his night of nookie is coming to an abrupt end after they've attempted to boink and he grabs a fistful of pus from the festering bite on her thigh and she runs to the can in order to woof her guts out.

As for Jared's Mama (Lawrene Denkers in an especially creepy performance), this is one foul, nasty, over-protective harridan. Not only does she question Casey's suitability as a wife to her precious sonny-boy, but does so with all manner of grotesquely over-the-top viciousness that gives Piper Laurie in Carrie a nice run for her money.

Folks, this movie's not about to get pleasant - ever!

Will things take a turn for the worst?

Will murder be on the menu?

Uh, ya think?

And whatever you do, try not eat anything before seeing this movie. Oh, and as a courtesy to the cinema management, consider bringing a receptacle along in case you need to join Casey's vomit party and eject your own manner of bilious globs of puke.

Because you know, it's that kind of movie.

Bon appétit!!!

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three=and=a=half=-Stars

Bite enjoys its World Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For tix, times and venues, visit the Fest's website HERE.

Friday, 17 July 2015

CATCH ME DADDY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Gritty British thriller set against the backdrop of Pakistani "Honour" Killings perpetrated against "rebellious" women @ 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal

Once again, the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal proves that it is not only on the cutting edge of cinema in Canada, but that more "establishment" festivals in the country risk losing a genuine leading edge if they keep pandering to mainstream sensibilities. Catch Me Daddy had its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2014, then followed by important berths at Karlovy Vary, London and Rotterdam among others, but nothing in Canada, until now.

That the film is finally having its Canadian Premiere this summer in Montreal suggests to me that the film's movers and shakers (whomever they might have been), held out for a more "prestigious" Canadian fall showcase, skipping the 2014 Fantasia spring/summer period and then got fucked over by not landing a spot in one of Canada's more "establishment" festivals, some of which, no doubt, had far too many straight to VOD films from the major studios and ho-hum mainstream Oscar bait to litter their otherwise stellar programmes with.

The winner here, is clearly Fantasia and their audiences (both domestic and international). They benefit from a first Canadian look at this powerful MUST-SEE debut from director Daniel Wolfe.

Catch Me Daddy (2014)
Sir. Daniel Wolfe
Scr. Matthew & Daniel Wolfe
Cin. Robbie Ryan
Starring: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron,
Ali Ahmad, Wasim Zakir, Barry Nunney, Gary Lewis,
Anwar Hussain, Adnan Hussain, Shoby Kaman, Nichola Burley

Review By Greg Klymkiw
A great bird landed here.
Its song drew men out of rock,
Living men out of bog and heather
Its song put a light in the valley
And harness on the long moors.
Its song brought a crystal from space
And set it in men’s heads.
Then the bird died.
Its giant bones
Blackened and became a mystery.
The crystal in men’s heads
Blackened and fell to pieces.
The valleys went out
The moorlands broke loose.


- Ted Hughes, “Heptonstall Old Church
When a film opens with a recitation of the great Ted Hughes poem "Heponstall Old Church" over images of the terrible beauty of the West Yorkshire moors, you know you're either going to be watching one of the more pretentious wank-fests of the year or a genuinely terrific picture. Happily it's the latter. Music video director Daniel Wolfe and his co-writing brother Matthew made their feature debut with Catch Me Daddy and have indeed delivered one of the best UK films in years.

Blending the grim, gritty kitchen sink realism of such British New Wavers as Tony Richardson (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), Linday Anderson (This Sporting Life) and Jack Clayton (Room at the Top) with healthy dollops of 70s existential crime dramas by the likes of James Toback (Fingers) and Karel Reizs (The Gambler), a clear and healthy respect for classical filmmakers a la John Ford as well as their own youthful contemporary sensibilities born out of making music videos for some of the coolest bands in the world (Shoes and Plan B), Catch Me Daddy not only deserves a rightful place amongst the best Britain has to offer, but bodes well for future endeavours from the Wolfe Brothers.


Shot on real 35mm film by one of the UK's greatest living cinematographers Robbie Ryan (Fishtank, Ginger & Rosa, Red Road, Philomena and Jimmy's Hall), Catch Me Daddy is about Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a young British-Pakistani woman who lives out a peaceful existence with Aaron (Connor McCarron) her happy-go-lucky (and decidedly not of colour) boyfriend. They live in a supremely depressing bit of UK anal leakage on the moors, an icky trailer park overlooking a series of ugly, traffic-congested highways. By day, Aaron boils down the drug content of what appear to be non-prescription codeine pills and takes nice long walks, whilst Laila happily works as a hairdresser's assistant in a local beauty salon. By night (and days off), the couple have a loving, carefree existence.

This is all about to end, though.

Laila, a "disobedient" young lady with pink hair, has run away from her abusive father Tariq (Wasim Zakir) and brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad). In so doing, she has brought deep shame to her traditionally patriarchal Pakistani immigrant family. She must pay and pay dearly for her disrespectful disregard of the family's honour. Tariq, a successful restaurant owner has hired two sets of thugs, working in tandem to hunt her down and bring her back for "punishment".

"Punishment", in a worst-case scenario could mean death by way of an "Honour Killing". Quite popular in Pakistan amongst extremely devout Muslim families, this incredibly backwards tradition has found its way into the fabric of Western society. (Canada is still reeling from the murder of four teenage girls in 2009, detailed in Rob Tripp's book "Without Honour, the True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders").

What follows in Catch Me Daddy is a terrifying, living nightmare as the couple try to flee two sets of violent thugs, one group comprised of caucasians, the others Pakistani. The Wolfe Brothers have cannily framed the story in an almost neo-realist fashion (with a mixture of professional and non-professional actors and actual living, breathing locations), parcelling out information on a need-to-know basis as the film bounces between the couple and the thugs.

Placing a high degree of emphasis upon the happiness experienced by Laila and Aaron might seem overtly manipulative to some, but they would be wrong about that. The carefree existence works in marked contrast to the final hour of the film, which is set amidst the darkness of night. The bottom line is that, as a thriller, the film is genuinely scary because it's impossible to erase the clear, fresh, genuinely happy air of Laila's freedom (her friendship with the ladies in the beauty parlour, her daily ritual of ordering a custom-designed milkshake and the couple's sheer joy in each other's company).

One of the most moving sequences set to celluloid in recent years involves Laila and Aaron in their trailer as it's transformed from the outer shell of its shabbiness into a glistening palace of joy, a kind of Heaven on Earth as the young lovers share some weed and listen to Patti Smith's "Horses", to which Laila performs a dance of such abandon, it's impossible not to be soaring with her. Where director Wolfe brings his music video experience to the fore so that it works dramatically is when the song remains mixed over the soundtrack at the same pitch in the trailer where it is clearly source music and then continues when the scene shifts to the thugs tracking the couple down and the music becomes score. This is a simple and pure use of music and picture which memorably and brilliantly accentuates our emotional response to the couple's happiness in clear juxtaposition with the mean-spirited, repressed evil that stalks them and gets ever-closer.

Throughout the film Wolfe, as a director, joyously blends the naturalistic with good, old fashioned classical filmmaking which yields a thoroughly compelling drama wherein his stylistic "excess" is indeed an organic part of the whole.

This is great, exciting moviemaking - pure and simple.

Finally, though, we are left with the grim reality of how any number of immigrants (from all ethnicities) choose to bring all their baggage and sick shit with them to the supposedly "New World" in marked contrast to the "freedoms" they're supposed to enjoy. Some might suggest this is a racist attitude, but in fact, it's a hard reality that we must continue to face. (God knows my "own" people, Eastern Europeans, continued to bring their sick patriarchal shit with them, which most recently resulted in the horrendous sexual slavery of women during the 90s and early 2000s - not just in their "old" worlds, but the "new" also).

Catch Me Daddy mounts with horror upon horror and when the film reaches its ultimate confrontation between father and daughter, one can't help but be reminded of the harrowing moments in John Ford's The Searchers between Ethan (John Wayne) and his "gone-Injun'" niece (Natalie Wood). Wolfe, like Ford, takes us into a melange of conflicting emotions here, but whereas Ford is lyrically, sadly elegiac, Wolfe gives us something altogether his own.

We are left, in the end, with a plea for love and tolerance, but it is grimly infused with sheer horror.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Catch Me Daddy enjoys its Canadian Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For dates, times and tix, visit the festival's website HERE.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD - BLU-RAY review by Greg Klymkiw - Why Horror Fans Must Own This Terrific Blu-Ray from Raven Banner/Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada

GREG KLYMKIW PROVIDES
5 GREAT REASONS WHY YOU MUST OWN THE
RAVEN BANNER/ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT CANADA
BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK OF
WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD

1. The deleted scenes include - NOT JUST SNIPPETS, BUT WHOLE SCENES - as good as anything in the movie and a delightful supplement to an amazing picture. (All that's missing is every single out, blooper and alternate take involving mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey.) 

2. The storyboard photo gallery is not only fascinating viewing, but proof positive as to why REAL filmmakers with MEAGRE DOLLARS at their disposal absolutely MUST storyboard their films in order to create the kind of visually stunning action sequences which put overrated tin-eyed assholes like Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes and J.J. Abrams to utter shame. (All that's missing is a separate photo gallery of the film's mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey.)

3. THE AUDIO COMMENTARY by Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner is not ONLY entertaining, but JAM-PACKED with ALL the PRACTICAL INFO on why these guys were able to get this movie in the can for $150K and make it LOOK GREAT!!! (All that's missing is a separate audio track from the film's mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey.)

4. It's a FUCKING TERRIFIC MOVIE! (Klymkiw's Review To Follow)

5. The most important reason is embedded in the graphic below.


Wyrmwood (2014)
Dir. Kiah Roache-Turner
Starring: Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The new Australian living dead chiller-thriller Wyrmwood might, at first glance, look and feel like a derivative post-apocalyptic zombie picture, but there's nothing run-of-the-mill about it. Constructed with solid craft, spewing globs of gallows humour, walloping your senses, and, uh, walloping you senseless with bowel-loosening jolts, all adds up to a rollicking good time.

Have I mentioned all the inspiring cold-cocking scares that slide you to the edge of your seat and onto the floor?

Have I mentioned that the picture offers up a kick-ass babe (mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey) of the highest order?

No? Well, consider it mentioned, you happy Geek mo-fos!


With plenty of loving homages to George Miller's Mad Max pictures and George Romero's Dead extravaganzas, helmer Kiah Roache-Turner and his co-scribe Tristan Roache-Turner, serve up a white-knuckle roller coaster ride through the unyielding Australian bushland as a family man (who's had to slaughter his family when they "turn" into zombies) and a ragtag group of tough guys, equip themselves with heavy-duty armour, armament and steely resolve to survive.

Blasting through hordes of flesh-eating slabs of viscous decay, they careen on a collision course with a group of Nazi-like government soldiers who are kidnapping both zombies and humans so a wing-nut scientist can perform brutal experiments upon them. The family man's insanely well-built, athletic and gorgeous sister (played by mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey) is nabbed by the fascist egghead which allows for a harrowing rescue attempt and a bevy of scenes involving our babe (played by mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey) in lethal fighting mode.

The movie has two very cool variations on zombie lore - one, a way for humans to telepathically communicate and subsequently control the zombies and two, the handy discovery that zombie blood can be used as petrol for the heroes' souped-up fighting truck.


Roache-Turner proves himself a formidable directorial talent. He employs very little herky-jerky action and keeps things in nice clean shots which allow the action and violence to play out stunningly (including a few harrowing chases on foot and IN MOVING VEHICLES). He manages, on what feels like a meagre budget, to put numerous blockbusting studio films of a similar ilk to shame. Production design, cinematography, makeup, effects and editing are all first-rate.

This movie delivers the goods and then some.

You'll feel a bit like you've seen Wyrmwood before, but as it progresses, the picture gets increasingly more intense and original. It's also great seeing aboriginal characters playing heroes and zombies, adding a unique flavour to the proceedings. (Have I yet mentioned the astonishing performance from mega-babe starlet Bianca Bradey?)

So hold on tight to your fur-lined Aussie Akubra hats, mother-fuckers, and prepare for the blood-splashing ride of your life.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Wyrmwood is available via Raven Banner and Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada in a wonderful extras-packed Blu-Ray/DVD Combination pack. You can buy it from Amazon directly from this site by clicking HEREand in so doing, support the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

CASH ONLY / SLUMLORD - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - Landlord Movies X 2 invade FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2015 in Montreal

I love the fact that there are not one, but two movies enjoying their World Premieres at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal which have landlords as the main characters. We all know landlords and mostly, we hate them, so to have a couple of familiar entities for us to relate to and/or fear, goes a long way in rooting genre cinema in the best territory imaginable - worlds we're all too familiar with, at least from our end of the spectrum.

Each film in its own fashion, seeks to present unique perspectives of their respective landlords to fill in blanks which, our common experiences might not be all that familiar with. Alas, to steal the title of an Agnes Varda film in order to present a sweeping critical summation of both pictures, one sings, the other doesn't.


SODOMY - Albanian style (above)
MASTURBATION - Surveillance Cam style (below)
Cash Only (2015)
Dir. Malik Bader
Scr. Nickola Shreli
Starring: Nickola Shreli, Stivi Paskoski, Danijela Stajnfeld

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Cash Only is one of the best low budget independent indigenously-produced regional films of the new millennium. It's also a damn fine crime thriller rooted in worlds we've seldom experienced.

It's a story ripped from the contemporary hell-hole of Detroit, Michigan. This once great burgh (America's genuine "Motor City" and the birthplace of the Motown sound) has continued to crumble into an inner-city nightmare that brings us closer to the notion of the Third-World existence that's been increasingly plaguing much of the United States, one of the world's richest, most powerful nations. (If you haven't seen the great documentary Detropia, feel free to read my review HERE, and of course, see the movie to fill you in more on this sorry state of affairs.)

Cash Only begins with a ticking time clock for landlord Elvis Martini (Nickola Shreli, also the film's screenwriter), one which seems challenging, but not insurmountable. As the film progresses, however, that clock starts ticking triple-time. Not only does he need to stave off the bank from foreclosing, but he's in deep with a variety of friends and loan sharks.

However, once he's plunged into a fathomless pit of debt with a vicious Balkan pimp, all bets are off. Additionally beleaguered with haunting memories of accidentally (and drunkenly) causing the death of the woman he loved, as well as trying to fulfill his myriad of duties as a landlord, he's soon in the maddest dash of his life to both attain redemption and rescue his little girl who's been kidnapped and held for ransom so that he'll cough up the usurious demands of the villain.

Cash Only is a character-driven descent into a milieu with its own rules and levels of brutality that many of us can't even begin to fathom. Writer Shreli and director Malik Bader plunge us into a grungy and brutal world in ways that only indigenous, regional filmmakers seem capable of doing in these otherwise dark days of American cinema. The neighbourhood and its denizens all have the foul whiff of reality. Joining forces with last year's astounding British crime drama Hyena, Cash Only immerses us in an ethnic crime world that gives both Italian and Russian mobs a run for their money. (Gotta love the Albanian Mob! These guys leave the rest behind as so much dust in the wind!)

The movie is replete with solid performances right across the board, though Stivi Paskoski as Dino the dogfight-promoter/pimp is especially brilliant - one look at the guy scares the shit out of you, but once he opens his mouth, you know our hero (and we, the audience) are in for some major, harrowing carnage.

Malik Bader's taut direction delivers increasing levels of edge-of-the-seat suspense and the searing savagery that's inherent in Shreli's grungy, realism-infused script. The picture is expertly shot and cut, all of which contributes to a film that expertly uses the crime genre's tropes to hit a few familiar satisfying beats whilst maintaining a tone of freshness and originality from beginning to end.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Slumlord (2015)
Dir. Victor Zarcoff
Starring: Neville Archambault, Sean Carrigan, Brianne Moncrief, Sarah Baldwin

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Slumlord begins promisingly enough with banks of surveillance monitors and the chilling statistics of just how many people are being illegally spied upon without their knowledge. We then meet creepy Gerald (Neville Archambault) in a "spy" store where a sleazy salesman is detailing all the joys of owning surveillance equipment to which Gerald responds most favourably. In short order, Gerald is outfitting a lovely suburban home with an elaborate series of cameras in every conceivable nook and cranny which can yield as many good views as possible.

So far, so good, though one is wondering when he'll be installing the equipment in the sleazy properties that a slumlord would actually be presiding over.

Well, it doesn't take long to realize Gerald is not a slumlord (other than the fact that he lives in a dank, dark dwelling himself). He shows a young married couple the suburban home and they happily take it. Our focus, often mediated via Gerald's surveillance equipment, shifts to the couple. Wifey is preggers and hubby seems like a cold, distant prick. Eventually he ends up having a torrid affair with one of his employees, a babe-o-licious creature who keeps pressuring him to leave his wife.

The lovely suburban dwelling, however, is meant to be a second chance for the couple's on-the-rocks marriage and hubby soon comes to his senses and decides to break the affair off. Alas, his lover starts turning into Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction.

Adding insult to injury, Gerald keeps secretly entering the house; he knows when the couple is going to be gone and for how long since he appears to not do much of anything save for spying on them and masturbating. In the house, he snoops around, puts a toothbrush in his foul mouth to soil it, then installs even more surveillance equipment (include a poopy-cam in the toilet bowl). He also constructs a secret prison/dungeon deep in the bowels of the basement.

Eventually this all leads to a variety of carnage and middling suspense until the picture delivers a "surprise" ending one can see coming pretty early in the proceedings. The performances are decent (Archambault especially delivering the sicko goods with considerable aplomb), but much of the film's promise, which we're set up with by both the title and the evocative opening, pretty much goes the way of the Dodo and we're left with little more than a typical low-budget thriller set mostly in one location, but sans the truly demented layering of a Polanski or Hitchcock.

Poor Archambault is clearly a terrific actor, but he needs to work overtime here to create some semblance of a character. Not that we'd even need that much: Norman Bates in Psycho had Mother, Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom had his childhood of psychological torture at the hands of his Dad and even the three brothers and Grandpa in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had the evocative backdrop of shifting slaughter-methods at the nearby abattoir.

Here though, we have a lonely guy (who's not even a slumlord as the title suggests) whose fetishistic desires allow him to show a tiny bit of compassion to the woman who's being abused by her husband's neglect and infidelity. This could have been interesting, but it's simply used as an excuse for eventual carnage and by the end, we still have no sense who this person really is.

And, of course, there's the hackneyed, all-too-forseeable "surprise" ending which the movie leads up to.

Non-discriminating fans will get some decent gore for their money and a genuinely grotesque killer, but beyond that, they're not going to be getting much more. Even the ambitions of the character-driven elements of a marriage in crisis has little appeal since most of the juxtapositional suspense elements hit their marks so predictably.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** 2-Stars

Cash Only and Slumlord are both enjoying their World Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For Tix, times and playdates, visit the festival website HERE.