Saturday, 30 November 2013

AKA DOC POMUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Save Your Last Dance, But Make Your First Movie Choice The Doc.

A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, struck down by polio at the age of six, turns to a radio for companionship and spends hours alone in his room, meticulously turning the dial until he discovers all the cool radio stations that "decent" kids weren't supposed to listen to.

This formerly athletic lad forgoes any dreams he harboured to follow such physical inclinations, but instead, connecting with glorious R&B tunes, he becomes a musically gifted Greenwich Village blues performer and eventually, is reinvented as the beloved go-to songwriter who almost single-handedly influenced each and every subsequent generation of popular American music makers. He was none other than Doc Pomus, the real King of rock n' roll! - G.K.

AKA DOC POMUS (2013) ****
Dir. Peter Miller, Will Hechter
Starring: Doc Pomus, Lou Reed,
Ben E. King, Joan Osborne,
Dion, B.B. King, Dr. John
Review By Greg Klymkiw

In 1973, songwriter Doc Pomus decided to attend the BMI Music Awards. He wasn't especially keen on attending as he found such affairs deathly dull, but he'd been out of the music industry spotlight for awhile and thought it would be a good idea to just get out there to be seen plus reacquaint himself with old pals and colleagues. The joint was hopping. With wall-to-wall people, Doc decided to just sit down at his table and wait for the awards to begin. One of the honourees of that evening's awards also considered skipping the event until he learned Doc Pomus was attending and agreed to show up. Moreover, he insisted he be seated next to Doc.

So Doc continued sitting at his table. By this point in his life, he was more morbidly obese than usual and needed to get around on his crutches or in a wheel chair because of the polio he'd contracted as a child. The last thing he needed to do was to try hobbling about in mingle-mode in a sardine-packed awards hall until a young man, the aforementioned honouree sat next to him, extended his hand and formally introduced himself as if Doc wouldn't know who he was. They had a great time together that evening. The young man, a living legend, told Doc what a huge influence his music had been upon him and as he was moving close to Doc's place, he gave his personal contact information to the remarkable old man who was, in his own right, a genuine living legend.

Doc Pomus and the young man in question, John Lennon, became friends, hanging out together in a nearby book store. Lennon would always be in disguise for these meetings so he could walk about freely without being mobbed by his adoring fans. And he and Doc, would sit together in that dusty old store and talk until the cows came home.

Sharyn Felder, Doc's daughter, was always spotting Lennon in places around the neighbourhood; in disguise, of course. Never wanting to intrude upon Lennon's privacy, she became increasingly anxious to meet him. She finally worked up enough nerve introduce herself as Doc Pomus's daughter in a local grocery store. Lennon's immediate response in this shop - crowded with customers - was to yell out Doc's name and then, sing, aloud, and a cappella, one of Doc's greatest songwriting achievements, the immortal "Save The Last Dance For Me".

These are but two of many extraordinary moments in AKA Doc Pomus that are so powerful and moving that I was compelled, for the umpteenth time whilst watching it to shudder like a sissy pants and release a deluge of tears.

For those who know a little, a lot, or nothing about the late, great music legend Doc Pomus, this is an extraordinarily uplifting tale about the human spirit and its link to the height of pure artistry in the form of a big, beautiful bear of a man who changed the face of rock and roll and touched everyone whose lives intersected directly (or from afar) with his genius and generosity. Directors Peter Miller and Will Hechter, editor Amy Linton and Sharyn Felder (not only Doc's daughter and a key interview subject, but the film's co-producer and originator of the entire project) get a cornucopia of enthusiastic doffs of the hat for bringing this great story to the screen.

It's a lovely, straightforward and beautifully crafted documentary portrait that charts the Great Man's life from childhood through to his tragic death from lung cancer - and beyond. Including wonderful interviews (new and archival), unprecedented access to film and photo footage, private archives and music - OH! THE MUSIC!!! - anyone who cares about or loves music will revel in the joy and occasional sadness of this great, great story so lovingly and skilfully told.

Actually, anyone who cares about the creative spirit will find great pleasure in the film.

No, better yet, anyone with any sense of humanity, will revel in the life of this great man.

Doc Pomus wrote over 1000 songs. He generated huge hits for the likes of Elvis Presley, Ben. E. King, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Dion and the Belmonts, Lou Reed, Andy Williams, Bob Dylan and . . . the list goes on. And on. And ever-on. Not only was he a major influence upon JOHN-LENNON-FOR-CHRIST'S-SAKE (!!!), but for a few generations of songwriters, performers and promoters of the best and brightest modern music has had to offer.

One of the most deeply moving sections of the film charts Doc's selfless generosity with his time and knowledge - mentoring young music artists, OLD music artists and giving FREE music lessons to anyone who needed them.

Though the movie doesn't go out of its way to do so, its superb rendering of Doc's life pretty much canonizes this sweet, brilliant little Jewish boy from Brooklyn who didn't let the pain of polio stop him from giving the world one of its greatest gifts - a wealth of music genius.


. . . and on and on and on.

I reiterate: OVER 1000 SONGS.

Ladies and gentlemen: Give the MAN a hand (and the film of his life, too)!!!

Oh, and have I mentioned yet that the personal journals of Doc Pomus are exquisitely read aloud by none other than the late LOU REED? I haven't? Well, now I have. This alone is worth the price of admission.

"AKA DOC POMUS" is playing theatrically all across Canada.
It's a film and a story that DEMANDS you try to give it all the support you can -

Canadian Playdates include:

Toronto Openings

Friday November 29 |
Cineplex (Yonge & Dundas)

Friday December 6 |
Varsity VIP

Friday December 6 |
Empress Walk

Winnipeg Opening

Friday January 10 |
Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque

Vancouver Opening

Monday January 20 |
VanCity Theater

More Canadian cities to follow.

Friday, 29 November 2013

THE CANYONS **** Blu-Ray/DVD review by Greg Klymkiw - Now available from Mongrel Media, the Triple Threat of Director Paul Schrader, Writer Bret Easton Ellis and Star Lindsay Lohan results in terrific noir-tinged tale of sex, drugs and deception in Hollywood and a film that holds up magnificently to repeated viewings and, in fact, yields ever-deepening layers of complexity amidst its world of utter emptiness.

I still can't bother reading the reviews of The Canyons which I know are mostly all negative, but I'm delighted to report that the picture is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Mongrel Media and I sincerely hope it finds its way to more appreciative, discriminating and deserving audiences. The movie not only held up well for me on subsequent viewings, but became an even richer experience. The film opens with a title credit sequence that includes several gorgeously composed shots of movie theatres - all closed down and rotting. This seems like a fitting way to enter a world where a non-actor gets a role in an awful movie directed by his talentless, but earnest girlfriend which, is only being made so the "producer's" filthy-rich family doesn't stop dispensing an endless flow of dough into his worthless pockets. Indeed, everything revolves around the dregs of a film industry that are utterly bereft of anything resembling passion. There is, however sex, drugs, more sex, deception, even more sex and, eventually, violence. Oh, and there's also sex. The Canyons is a terrific picture. Read on.

The Canyons (2013) *****
Dir. Paul Schrader

Lindsay Lohan, James Deen,
Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks,
Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A movie bubbling over with scumbags is almost, on that basis alone, reason enough to see it. "Almost" is the operative word here, however, for when said movie is also obsessive and mightily endowed with a sharp eye for both the dregs of humanity and the utter emptiness of its milieu, I'm compelled to assert we're getting somewhere.

Finally and furthermore, when the decomposing world such a film focuses its beady eyes on is imbued with a tone of despair that's equalled only by the degrees of decay wafting from within its mucilaginous vessel, then I'm delighted to recognize we're in the much-needed presence of a real filmmaker.

At the very least, we're accosted by a snake-oil purveyor (director Paul Schrader) and his spuriously, though convincingly ailing beard (screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis) who both oblige us with something - ANYTHING - to fill the void normally compelling us to otherwise view the constant barrage of machine-tooled work outside their ambitious purview; an entire year of product that's essentially been cobbled together by committees of business school dunces aimed squarely at masses of unwashed and taste-bereft miscreants, so battered with crap, it's all they expect - nay, demand.

Oh, I know what you're thinking here: "The lady, methinks, doth protest too much."

Methinks you'd be wrong.

The Canyons is, if anything, not full of fake angst from costumed avengers, driving upsized comic books of super-heroic attempts at saving the world. Even better, it's not engorged with the fake indie tropes of feel-goodery. It is, without question, populated with fakes (and fakery) of the most realistically reprehensible kind and as such, we can be secure in the realization that there really isn't anything worth saving - especially in a world wherein every second movie protagonist is imbued with superhuman powers (and feels bad about it) or worse, movies wherein budding geeks find loser mentors they can really relate to (way, way back in the boonies, 'natch) or even more horrendously, bloated, dully directed history lessons about butlers, freedom-bereft slaves and brave old men taking long walks home. Movies are becoming so boring, it's a thrill to experience one that celebrates the emptiness surrounding the very thing that creates so many dreadful motion pictures. The Canyons is the depiction of a "world of shit", as phrased so pointedly in Full Metal Jacket and director Paul Schrader seems only too eager (in cahoots with Ellis, the American Psycho/Less Than Zero scribe himself) to force-feed us even more faecal matter than we'd ever have imagined ingesting. This is a film that is pure, unexpurgated desolation - so much so that it's even book-ended with no mere ennui of perversion in the singular, but two - count 'em - TWO items reflecting equal levels of hollowness to support the chasm in between.

The first assails us with the aforementioned sad images of abandoned movie theatres and the second involves scenes of chi-chi dinner dates in trendily overpriced and vapidly upscale L.A. bistros. For me, these both seem - especially in their role as bookends to nothingness, more-than-adequate indicators of Western Civilization's collapse and in so doing, represent more-than-valid backdrops for drama (and in particular, this drama).

Tara (Lindsay Lohan) and Christian (James Deen) are a handsome young couple living the high life in Lotus Land. HE is a typical little rich boy who placates his family by being a movie producer so they actually think he does something more than, well, uh, nothing - save for endlessly schwance-dipping, ingesting booze and drugs, partying, clubbing, dining and holding swingers' mini-orgies in his mansion. SHE is his compliant partner in all things hedonistic - ready and willing to spread 'em when the delightfully-named Christian brings a variety of attractive Backpage Ad singles and couples to dive into the sack with them (whilst recording the trysts on his smart phone).

Ah, the banality of the rich and aimless.

Gina (Amanda Brooks) is an insufferably earnest filmmaker receiving financing for her pathetic straight-to-VOD movie from producer Christian. She's even bamboozled her sex-obsessed money-bags into agreeing that her marginally talented would-be actor boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Funk) can take the forgettable lead role in her forgettable movie.

Here's the rub (and tug): Tara used to boink Ryan - they were young and in love, but they were also poor. Tara dumped Ryan and promised her undying subservience to Christian. Ryan, a loser, did what losers do best. He hooked up with the marginally successful filmmaker Gina.

Christian is generally satisfied with Tara's acquiescence to his every banal sexual demand, but he does keep a bit on the side, a normally compliant vixen by the name of Cynthia (Tenille Houston) who is, unfortunately, getting a bit too demanding. I mean, Jesus! When she lets Christian bone her (and let's not forget that actor James Deen is an extremely well-endowed cocksman of the highest order - a genuine porn star stud), she gets all uppity and downright high and mighty that Christian will hide his salami in her vagina, but refuse to kiss her.

It doesn't take long for all the above to be dinking and getting dinked by each other, the dink-happy daisy chain being unbeknownst to each other. The spanner in the works - as we find out during Christian's analysis sessions with psychiatrist Gus Van Sant - is that he's not only power-hungry, jealous and banal, but a bonafide psychopath. He is also the real puppet master. Christian knows all too well what's going on sexually amongst those around him. Shit, as it were, is definitely going to hit the fan and believe you me, it's gonna stink to High Heaven.

What I enjoyed most about this movie is that the screenplay is chockfull of melodramatic elements that are brazenly lifted from other periods of film history (50s noir and 70s existential angst grindhouse fare the clear inspirations), but none of it is played in an annoyingly cloying post-modernist fashion with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The picture is played straight-up in a contemporary setting.

If anything creeps in of a vaguely post-modern nature, The Canyons comes closest in its look to a kind of grimy throwback to Schrader's own American Gigolo (basically an extended 80s music video with lots of sex as if directed by Robert Bresson on lithium).

Lindsay Lohan is, at her core, a very fine actress. Her child star days betrayed a talent and screen presence that not only delighted millions of little girls (including my own daughter), but seemed to suggest that her best work was yet to come. Sadly, this did not happen. Hers became the typical child star life of one error in bad judgement after another - including being mismanaged into one awful movie (Labor Pains, anyone?) after another, an occasional terrific performance in movies well below her gifts (I Know Who Killed Me being a perfect example) as well as a real-life judicial witch hunt which kept landing her in hot water with the law. She shone in A Prairie Home Companion in ways that suggested things would work out for her, but was mostly and sadly relegated to small and big screen supporting roles exploiting her "freak value". (I do love Machete, but it's a coin toss as to whether she's genuinely playing a real character or exploited into playing a shadow of herself).

Recently, I actually kind of enjoyed her performance as Elizabeth Taylor in the inexplicably reviled TV movie Liz and Dick. I stress inexplicable since what few TV movies I bother to watch are, more often than not, pretty godawful anyway. This one was kind of fun in that cheesy Hollywood biopic fashion that reminded me of the equally reviled 70s Gable and Lombard (which, yeah, was a piece of crap, but a supremely entertaining one).

Here, Lohan has a decent role and is working with a fine director. Her performance is replete with femme-fatale-gone-ass-backwards qualities (intentionally so) and she expresses the kind of pain and vulnerabilities the character would in both life and within the context of this film and Ellis's writing. It is, in fact, a very moving performance. Many of us - especially in the entertainment industry - know sad figures like Tara. Most will dismiss these exploited, messed-up boy toys as being unworthy of even empathy, but those who do are - well, they're assholes.

Lohan invests the role with genuine emotion - it might not always jive with the emotions of blankness that audiences and, of course, pseuds (mostly the raft of know-nothings who are accepted as genuine film critics) are unused to giving credit to when its due, but she's very brave here and my heart went out - not to the Lohan who might well know or feel elements of Tara within herself and/or those she's encountered in the industry's assembly line of hangers-on, but in fact, to the character.

I also loved the rest of the cast. James Deen is perfect as someone so bereft of humanity that he is, indeed, all too human. He's kind of a Schraderian Ulrich Seidl figure. Funk, Brooks and Houston all acquit themselves perfectly within the milieu Ellis writes and that Schrader renders with his almost trademark stylish and stylized rigidity. The only cast member who feels like a bad in-joke gone worse is the weirdly phoned-in thesping of director Gus Vsn Sant. This approach might well have been intentional, but kind of sticks out like a sore thumb - swollen, so to speak as it's jammed up the proverbial bum. Of course, I've yet to read any reviews (as is my wont before actually seeing movies and writing about them). I do know that most film "critics" hated The Canyons. I know enough about this because of what is, in this day an age, the misplaced lazy barrage of movie marketing that foists out far too much magic-sucking information. Even more egregious, at least for my money, is knowing that a number of typically pretentious cultural gatekeepers of cinema on the film festival film programming circuit chose to reject it from inclusion within their pristine events - due, purportedly, to creative issues.

Knowing what pieces of crap many of them chose to play instead of The Canyons, allows me to sit high atop my perch of disdain for these tasteless, talentless boneheads who sickeningly see themselves as - ahem - curators.

Without even reading the notices, I can already predict the dull whiners kvetching about how the movie has no characters they like or can, in some fashion, relate to. When they do that, it just betrays what pathetically insular lives they've led and how dull and unimaginative and lacking in anything resembling the critical acumen necessary to look beyond the surface of "unpleasant" characters to discover, as the film does, the humanity pulsating beneath that which appears to be empty. Not that she was a critic, but I still bristle when I recall the words of a cultural bureaucrat who moronically asserted that the central character of EVERY film had to be someone she wanted to have dinner with. All I could think of when I heard this is that I'd certainly enjoy having dinner with HER, but only if I could belch, regurgitate and fart all the way through our pleasant time together (and, for good measure, offer her a bowl of my regurgitate with a spoon).

I doubt many WOULD want to dine with the characters in The Canyons, but frankly, it would be their loss.

The Canyons is a picture that will obviously not be to the taste of many, but I suspect it will attract its deserved fair share of admiration from an exclusive club of those who aren't full of shit and actually know a good picture when they see it. We're the lucky ones. All the rest are the desperate, sad-eyed craps rollers who lose bigtime as they endlessly toss their dice upon a street corner sidewalk, not unlike an inebriate who might toss the bile-filled cookies emanating from an empty gullet as they hug the scum encrusted toilet bowl of a water closet situated in the sleaziest dive imaginable.

It is, I believe, called the dry heaves. They can keep 'em, thanks. I prefer my vomit to be full-bodied.

"The Canyons" is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Mongrel Media. Its superb compositions and odd mix of sun-dappled-through-L.A.-smog-exteriors and garishly lit interiors look especially good on Blu-Ray. Sadly, the extras are utterly pathetic - a dreadful montage of behind-the-scenes footage set to score and not even cutting it as a glorified EPK. I'd have died and gone to Heaven if the package included separate commentary tracks from Schrader, Ellis and Lohan. Alas, I can only harbour this as some kind of movie geek's wet dream.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

EVANGELINE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Opening Night Gala (Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival 2013)

A young woman is victimized and exists in a supernatural state of purgatory wherein vengeance and atonement hang before her as heavily as the mists of the leafy Pacific Northwest forest she's been left for dead in. Angels and Demons cascade through her in equal measure as only one thing awaits those who dare harm the innocent. - G.K.

Evangeline (2013) Dir. Karen Lam ***
Starring: Kat De Lieva, Richard Harmon
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Canadian independent filmmaker Karen Lam doesn't offer easy answers to the actions detailed in her chilling, original horror fantasia Evangeline.

Though the low budget, but well-crafted picture serves up its fair share of push-button tropes of the genre, these exist as mere surface details that force you to face the real horror in the film - the victimization of women that continues to permeate every fabric of society - especially in places one might least expect the kind of attitudes and behaviour displayed.

In spite of narrative elements involving a shy young college student who is duped and abused by a rich frat boy, the overall effect of the film borders on the surreal as we morph from the real world into a purgatorial dream world. Victims blend with other victims - abusers blend into other abusers and the bucolic backdrop of college town dorms and rain-forest-like woods amidst the landscape of British Columbia eventually yield a kind of nightmare that never ends.

Vengeance seems to fuel the genuinely insane world of the film, but Lam juxtaposes figures of angels and demons with incantations of Judeo-Christian scripture as forms of punctuation and the victims seem to be seeking some form of redemption. Granted, the victims have suffered violence at the hands of their male aggressors simply for being women and yet, they too become otherworldly aggressors - committing acts of horrific violence upon their abusers.

The supernatural purgatory our lead character finds herself in seems to almost mirror the purgatory of the natural world where equality exists in name only and where the Status Quo still seems to expect a division between sexes wherein one is expected to be the aggressor and the other a victim.

Is there empowerment, though? It's there, alright, but it seems to be of the most nightmarish kind - one in which women can only find the strength to avenge. There is no peace by which they can live reasonably within and even in the afterlife, there's no peace. I found the use of religious imagery and scripture extremely disturbing since both are rife with the trappings of patriarchy - all designed to keep women down, in their place and, in a sense, to allow for a kind of open season upon them of abuse and subjugation. Even more sinister and downright ghoulish is the notion that both revenge and redemption must somehow be overtaken by forces far from Holy, but downright demonic.

This is not an easy film to stomach. The violence is extreme and certainly shocking, but most of all, the atmosphere is always ultra-creepy-crawly. Lam's mise-en-scene is consistent in creating feelings of being on-edge. Nothing in the film - no matter how normal, bucolic or perverse the backdrops - ever really feels safe. It's unique and original.

And yes, there are a few scares that will have you jumping out of your seat, so feel free to wear a pair of Depends to the screening.

"Evangeline" has it's North American premiere during the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival 2013 on November 29. For further information, check out the festival's website HERE.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

THE ATTACK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Harrowing Tale of Love & DashedHopes During Arab-Israeli Conflict

Amin (Ali Suliman) has it all. He's a highly respected Arab doctor in Tel Aviv and he's married to the passionate, loving and beautiful Siham (Reymonde Amsellem). An unexpected tragedy involving a terrorist bombing flings him into a state of shock and sadness that's compounded further when he's interrogated by a relentlessly cruel agent of the Israeli Secret Police. Long assimilated into Israel, Amin obsessively embarks upon an odyssey into the West Bank Palestinian territory of Nablus to face family and discover the truth, no matter how painful it will be.

The Attack Dir. Ziad Doueiri (2013) *****
Starring: Ali Suliman, Reymonde Amsellem, Karim Saleh,
Evgenia Dodina, Uri Gaviel

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"Even if a husband lives 200 fucking years, he'll never discover his wife's true nature. I may be able to understand the secrets of the universe, but... I'll never understand the truth about you. Never."
- Marlon Brando as Paul in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris

The aforementioned lines of dialogue that Marlon Brando's Paul utters in reference to his recently deceased wife in Bertolucci's masterpiece, kept crossing my mind while watching Ziad Doueiri's superb new film The Attack.

For much of the picture's running time we experience a love story so romantic, so intense, so moving, that the questions nagging at its lead character Amin (Ali Suliman) are, for a good chunk of the proceedings, the same questions that keep plaguing us as we follow his story. As he needs answers, so do we and director Doueiri creates a mise-en-scene that plunges us into Amin's world so deeply that we miss all the clues that he misses and when he begins to finally see them, recall them and understand them, he does so with a clarity that asks even more questions.

This movie is an extraordinary piece of work. The very canny use of questions being answered with more questions is indicative of how superb Doueiri's direction is and why his fine screenplay, co-authored with Joelle Touma and based on the novel by Yasmina Khadra, has served as an exquisite template for a picture that haunts us long after the lights have come up.

What we know for sure is that Amin loves his gorgeous wife Siham (Amsellem) so passionately that he accepts, albeit a bit grudgingly, her decision to deal with a family matter out of town even though she won't be present when he receives the most prestigious honour of his life. Disappointment gives way to deference to her free spirit. It is, after all, one of the many things he loves her for and so it will be that Amin moves on. He attends the swanky testimonial to his vast achievements with his colleague and best friend Kim (Evgenia Dodina), a Jewish doctor who not only respects him as one of Tel Aviv's leaders in the field of medicine, but clearly carries a torch she knows Amin will never accept. His devotion to Siham is unmatched - except, perhaps, by his love for healing.

This is a man who has been welcomed with open arms into the very fabric of Israeli society. This Arab's assimilation is so complete that he not only (and genuinely) feels like a proud citizen of Israel, but indeed holds Israeli citizenship. Amin is an Arab in a world where Arabs exist separately, or at least peripherally from Jews.

Not so for Amin. He is an outsider no more.

At least not for the present. It doesn't, however, take too long for him to go from being a man who feels he is no longer a stranger in a strange land to becoming a stranger in his own land; a land he mistakenly thought he had the inalienable right to call his own.

When Amin and his colleagues are in the hospital cafeteria having lunch, the residual effects of euphoria from the awards ceremony continue to permeate the world of the film until it's shattered by the horrendous sound of a nearby explosion. This is a sound that will change Amin's life forever.

He and his colleagues rush to the windows overlooking downtown Tel-Aviv, and we, like the film's characters, know full well what has happened. The doctors leap into action. Victims of the blast will be rushed to their very hospital. It's a truly horrific moment. As viewers, we are irrevocably thrown into the horrendous reality of life in Israel, one in which every moment of every person's life is a moment wherein a terrorist could strike and take down the innocent.

This will not be the only shocker in the film.

After several tense hours in the emergency room tending to victims of a suicide bombing, a weary, sleep-bereft Amin is summoned to the morgue. In what feels like a chilly, surreal nightmare, a metal slab is pulled from the cooler and he sees a body covered with a sheet that is clearly that of a head and its upper trunk. The cover is removed. In shock, he does what he's been summoned to do. He identifies the body of his beloved wife Siham who has died in the suicide bombing.

The nightmare doesn't end here. In his state of grief, he's dragged into a holding tank and subjected to the most horrendous "enhanced" interrogation (most of us call it torture) at the hands of a merciless, terse, poker-faced, bullet-headed Israeli secret service agent (Uri Gaviel) who insanely suspects Amin has had something to do with the bombing or can divulge pertinent information about it. From this point forward, we're gripped by the journey Amin is forced to undertake and as an audience, we are plunged headlong into his need to discover the truth.

The Attack is finally as much about getting to the bottom of a mystery as it is about a man going back to his roots and being forced to reexamine who he is, what he left behind, what he ultimately rejected and most tellingly how he is viewed by those who once accepted him with open arms. What finally trumps the thriller elements, though, yielding a drama of the most harrowing kind is his life with and love for his wife which, the filmmakers present in a series of flashbacks.

These memories of bygone days act as tent posts to the sequences in which Amin visits the Palestinian territory to try and contact the terrorists, question his own family and ignore the fact that he's placing himself in harm's way. As Amin wends through the shadowy, serpentine maze of Nablus territory on the West Bank, his shock and incredulity is tempered by memories of the woman he loved and the rich, passionate life they had together. Sadly, if not tragically, the memories do not fade into a wash of sentimentality, but instead present elements of clarity that are as deeply romantic as they are heartbreaking.

There is a precise, almost detached coldness to everything in the film other than the flashbacks, but it is this powerful directorial approach which gives way to both Amin and the audience being able to discover truths about the love of his life that do not inspire anger, but rather, release the feelings of frustration he (and in fact, so many in the audience) must face about how much in life is mediated by overlooking clues that would otherwise expose the terrible, awful truth.

There isn't a single element out of place here. The writing and direction are at the highest levels of skill and artistry and the film overflows with superb performances and first-rate production value (most notably the stunning cinematography of Tommaso Fiorilli, the breathtaking cutting of editor Dominique Marcombe and last, but not least, an astonishingly moving and evocative score by composer Éric Neveux).

This is not a film, finally, about placing blame. It exposes the futility of war, the joy and heartbreak of love and the very notion of nationhood and its link to personal identity within the context of rejecting roots, seeking to assimilate and how desperately we all seek acceptance in a world that pays only lip service to the notion of who we really are and instead expects us to be what it wants us to be. I hesitate to use the word "ambiguity" to describe this rich and powerful film. It leaves us with a myriad of questions by the end - questions that might not yield easy answers, if any at all.

It's not unlike the narrative of life. We experience an affecting story about how important it is to always ask questions - to avoid keeping our heads in the sand, to avoid allowing prejudices to blind us and finally, to never accept surface truths as to what, in actuality, lurks deep with the psyches of our individual and collective souls. This is our world. It belongs to all of us. The borders of prejudice residing within our hearts and minds hold us back, but indeed, the imaginary borders of nationhood make it so difficult for so many to embrace diversity instead and allow these differences to be the ties that bind.

"The Attack" is available on a gorgeously transferred Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack available via D-Films. The extra features are too light for fans of added value items - a trailer and a somewhat disappointingly conducted interview by Richard Pena with director Doueiri are all she wrote on that front, but ultimately, it's the movie that really counts, and this is a movie that serious cinema aficionados will want to own. It's a movie that demands and holds up magnificently on repeated viewings.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I MARRIED A WITCH - Review By Greg Klymkiw - René Clair Classic with Veronica Lake on Criterion Blu-Ray

Burned at the stake, a witch casts a curse upon the family responsible that all the males will suffer horrendous marriages. Hundreds of years later, the witch returns to wreak some personal havoc, but instead falls in love with the man she's sworn to destroy.

I Married a Witch (1942) *****
Dir. René Clair
Starring: Veronica Lake, Cecil Kellaway,
Fredric March, Robert Benchley, Susan Hayward, Robert Warwick

Review By Greg Klymkiw

There is no stronger aphrodisiac than the tresses of Veronica Lake spilling from her shapely cranium, cascading naturally like a waterfall of the sweetest dew over one eye, her other ocular orb working overtime to so intensely draw every man, woman and yes, even child, into her inescapable aura of libidinous magnetism, to be entrapped like a fly upon the golden honey caressing her supple flesh, to weave and bobble like a grape surrounded by gelatine and devoured by her insatiable need to ingest all who are tantalized by her almost supernatural charm.

Like a witch, Veronica Lake had powers that exceeded every movie star before, during or after her reign and there are none - NONE, I TELL YOU!!! - who can even approach from several country miles the magnificence of her womanhood, the utter perfection of her screen persona. Miss Lake truly defined the MGM notion of stars in Heaven, though she was no Louis B. Mayer gal, but a concubine of Zukor's domain at Paramount where she dazzled the likes of Joel McCrea in the great Preston Sturges comedy Sullivan's Travels and was so perfectly paired over four pictures with Alan Ladd.

There might, however, have only been two directors in Hollywood who knew precisely how to make the most of her ample gift of allure.

Sturges played up her gamine, waif-like powers - so tremblingly vulnerable on her milky skin, whilst resting just beneath the protective cover of inspiring manly protection was the rip-roaring, madly funny and unquestionably brilliant modern woman who understood the ways of the world with far more insight that the rigid pretend-dominance of the men around her. Ah, and while we will always have a special place for Lake alongside Sullivan in Sturges' Travels, it was the magical René Clair, the Frenchman who excelled in blending comedy and fantasy before conquering the world with his groundbreaking use of sound in À nous la liberté, Le Million and Under the Roofs of Paris who understood her real appeal.

Clair knew that Lake was a witch: at once alluring with hints of malevolence that could lead to only naughtiness of the most utter sexual abandon. As the vengeance-seeking witch who sinks her hooks into the society magnate rendered by Fredric March, Lake beguiles every mortal character with the magic that is, well, Veronica Lake. So pouty, so naughty, so sexy, so unrepentantly ribald and gee-whillikers-knee-slappingly hilarious AND demanding of love, attention, worship, kisses and caresses. And as we await the havoc we know she can wreak, we are equally delighted when she is madly smitten, due at first to magic gone wrong, with the man she means to destroy.

There are few rivals to the joy Clair yields from the material and this is a romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies. Though not a musical, it might as well have been. Clair uses his camera and actors as if they were alternately sprightly notes on sheet music and dancers of unparalleled deftness and lightness. With a supporting cast of perfection and generous injections of love, romance, trickery, sex appeal and laughs galore, Clair delivers a movie that's always funny and never lets us down. The picture holds up on one viewing after another, always yielding ever-new moments to send us into fits of laughter and to allow us the pleasure of experiencing lines and gags that never pale, and indeed, keeps us laughing and smiling every time we see them.

It's a great picture and, I daresay, quite perfect in every respect. I can also guarantee that for the rest of your life, you'll never hear "I Love You Truly" again without thinking and laughing to the song's perfect use during one of the funniest wedding sequences in motion picture history.

"I Married a Witch" is stunningly transferred onto beautiful Blu-Ray in this all-new gorgeous Criterion Collection release. It comes with a lovely audio interview with Clair, a deliciously uncompressed monaural soundtrack and the added value of a most delightful essay by the inimitable Guy Maddin. This one's a keeper, folks.

Monday, 25 November 2013

WHITEOUT - Review By Greg Klymkiw - I'm tempted to call this WASHOUT, but I'll not succumb to a cheap shot.

Whiteout (2009) *

dir. Dominic Sena
Starring: Kate Beckinsdale,
Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Antarctica was made for the movies. In spite of this, very few pictures have actually been set against it as a backdrop, so a murder mystery set on the McMurdo Station, sets the bar of anticipation rather high - at least for this fella'. Based on a popular limited series of comics and starring Kate (she-of-the-painted-on-wardrobe) Beckinsdale, this thriller in the frozen world down, down, down under, had "potential hit" written all over it. Potential, however, is one thing. Delivering the goods is quite another and Whiteout pretty much stinks.

From the earliest film footage of Antarctic expeditions (Amundsen, Byrd, etc.) through to such popular contemporary works as the BBC Life in the Freezer series and the annoyingly popular cutesy-pie-fest March of the Penguins, the land itself - eerily majestic, filled with wonder and foreboding - has been captured impeccably by so many documentarians. Most recently and powerfully, Werner Herzog delivered the extraordinary Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World which focused on those edgy individuals who are drawn to living and working in an environment that is an inhospitable to man as it is a magnet for those who are drawn to its terrible beauty. Surely within the context of a murder mystery like Whiteout, character would have been a fine anchor to root the story in, but the picture is strictly by-the-numbers in this regard - so much so, that any episode of Perry Mason or Columbo would have far more interesting character flourishes in one or two minutes of screen time than this dog's breakfast has throughout its entire and overlong 101 minutes.

In terms of providing a visual treat to dazzle the eyes, Antarctica is, without question, the Earth's most barren, mysterious, and yet, strangely beautiful continent. A series of islands surrounding a mountainous primary landmass, the Antarctic is topographically not unlike that of the Andes Mountain range in South America, but with one vital difference - Antarctica, unlike the Andes, is buried under an average of one mile of ice. As such, and to coin part of a phrase from W.C. Fields in The Fatal Glass of Beer, Antarctica is fit for neither man, nor beast - and in spite of its similarities to the Andes, it's definitely no indigenous home to happy, hopping, peak-gambolling mountain-goats and llamas. Its environment (darkness for six months of the year and temperatures that can get as low as those on the moons of Jupiter) is not unlike that of Van Helsing brandishing a crucifix to all those who seek to suck whatever lifeblood it has to offer. I'm one of them, but only in spirit. I've never had the guts to take the Antarctic plunge. Visiting Churchill, Manitoba to see polar bears and to be in the sub-zero northern town where Powell/Pressburger imagined how Nazis might infiltrate North America in their terrific WWII propaganda film The 49th Parallel is as inhospitable a world as I've ever brought myself to experience (unless you count the horrifying and decidedly inhospitable night I once spent in Tuscaloosa, Alabama - but that, I'm afraid, is another story.).

This, of course, is what makes Antarctica a superb setting for dramatic motion pictures. It's desolate and beautiful and draws very unique individuals to live and work there. Sadly, much of the dramatic work has been of the horrendously twee Happy Feet ilk with the insufferable dancing penguins or, God help us, the surfing penguins in the execrable Surf's Up. Whiteout errs even more egregiously in that it chooses some of the more uninteresting stand-in locations - they all look cold, but have no real distinctively dichotomous terror and beauty.

The best dramatic rendering of the bitterness of Antarctica is unquestionably the profoundly moving 1948 Ealing Studios picture, Scott of the Antarctic which features John Mills and a stalwart supporting cast recreating the first ill-fated real-life search for the South Pole. Shot in technicolor and filmed on location in Norway, it's a classic example of British cinema at its finest and during a period of rebirth in the U.K.'s national cinema following World War II. Most importantly, it blends excellent location selection in Norway mixed with effective studio work. Whiteout feels like it could have been shot just outside any major northern city. It wasn't, of course, but its filmmakers clearly had no eye for the real cinematic joys inherent in recreating Antarctica.

Then, there is John Carpenter's The Thing, a true horror classic (and maybe one of the best films of the latter half of the 20th century) - nasty, relentless, grim and endowed with a 70s sensibility amidst the early 80s explosions of stunning makeup effects which, all contribute to making it the finest picture - NOT based on fact - to ever be set in Antarctica. Based on the story "Who Goes There?" and filmed once before by Christian Nyby in the 50s (and under the watchful eye of producer Howard Hawks), Carpenter's The Thing centres on the high levels of testosterone on the all-male crew who live on a tiny Antarctic research base as they are plagued, not just by the land itself, but by an utterly grotesque alien monster that could ONLY have survived undetected for in a place like Antarctica. And THIS is something truly cool to imagine - assuming our world HAS been visited by extraterrestrials, Antarctica makes a lot of sense for either a crash landing or even a place of repose for such visitors since it is not only isolated, but bears an ungodly temperature that resembles other worlds in our own solar system.

Even the stupid, but watchable AVP: Alien vs. Predator began with the cool idea of an archeological dig at the bottom of the earth that yielded the fruit of the title monsters before amiably, but rather one-notedly descending into Toho-styled monster battles. It might not have had the depth of character inherent in Carpenter's work, but at least it had a fun, pulpy sense of spectacle and not the dour, humourless, plodding approach of Whiteout. The fact that AVP: Alien vs. Predator is actually better than Whiteout should give you an idea how pathetic Whiteout actually is.

First and foremost, Whiteout fails on a level of narrative. As a murder mystery, it is so bone-headedly obvious who-actually-dunnit. The recipe begins with such ingredients as a police officer with a past she's trying to escape (Beckinsdale) who seems to be surrounded by one asshole after another - save, of course, for the friendly medical officer (Tom Skerrit). So, within fifteen minutes of the picture beginning, you do the math. Murders + every character is an asshole + kindly doctor = Who dunnit? Who else, indeed? It's entirely obvious. And since we know, almost from the beginning who the killer is (not intentional, just the product of bad writing and direction), we at least need a rollercoaster ride to make it all worth the predictable slog. Whiteout has nothing going for it in this respect. Purportedly directed by Dominic Sena, the hack whose claim to fame is the dreadful Swordfish wherein Halle Berry exposed her magnificent breasts, the movie limps and stutters along in a ho-hum by-the-numbers fashion until the I-saw-that-coming-90-minutes-ago climax.

Beckinsdale is, as always, magnificent scenery (rivalling the dull northern Canadian locations the filmmakers have chosen to use) and all one can really do is admire the wardrobe glued onto her. She wears a nice selection of designer sweaters, parkas, boots and snowsuits that her character would never be able to afford and most delightfully, she has a shower scene and we get to see her lovely undies and a few flashes of flesh. Her character, however, is so stern and humourless it's hard to appreciate the movie's only real attributes.

It's not all Beckinsdale's fault. Someone had to write this dull character in addition to all the other dull characters in the movie. The by-rote approach of suggesting that everyone who comes to Antarctica is trying to escape something and/or is just plain crazy is so dull, unimaginative and the result of writing that's rooted, not in any sense of reality, but in cliche. Far more interesting is to see people who fit Antarctica like a glove. Then again, for that to work, one needs a director with some visual flourish to tie in just the right physical exterior locations into the narrative - locations that represent a state of mind as much as a sense of place.

And, by the way, northern Canada has great locations to stand-in for Antarctica, but it doesn't seem like anyone bothered to try and find which ones they were and furthermore, to match them to the psychological complexity of the characters and narrative.

Oops, I forgot - there is NO psychological complexity. There's no surprise, no drama and no sense of pace.

There is, however, an opportunity to just skip seeing this movie and instead, see some of the other pictures mentioned above - they're good, if not great pictures, but they also manage to capture the physical beauty and horror of Antarctica in ways Whiteout doesn't even bother trying to imagine.

"Whiteout" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Home Video.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The 80s was a miserable Dead Zone of John Hughes, The Goonies and Overblown Action Pictures with a few exceptions like this movie. Hilarious Dialogue, Genuine Scares, Delicious gross-outs, Perfectly Pitched Performances, Stylish direction from the unsung Fred Dekker and Gratuitous Nudity. What's NOT to like?

"Girls, I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is, your dates are here.
The bad news is, they're dead."
Night of the Creeps (1986) ***
dir. Fred Dekker
Starring: Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Fred Dekker is a genre director who, with his first two features, The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps, displayed so much promise, that even the toilet-bowl-plunge of his third feature, the lamentable abomination that is/was Robocop 3, should have led to a continuing canon of first-rate genre pictures. It didn’t.

Instead, he has, for almost 20 years, slogged about the wasteland that is television drama – working occasionally as a writer, director and consulting producer on material that ranged from mind-numbingly mediocre (Star Trek: Enterprise) to tolerably mediocre (HBO’s Tales From The Crypt).

One cannot believe this was his chosen path. That would be very depressing. Instead I prefer to think that Dekker’s idiot box purgatory had more to do with the fact that his third feature, Robocop 3, was such a total washout, that nobody in their right mind wanted to take a chance on him anymore. A man needs to fill his belly and there is no more consistent trough than that of television. Well, that’s MY fantasy, anyway.

And let’s make no mistake about it, no apologies – Robocop 3 stinks! Why Dekker and those who green-lit the picture thought a kid-friendly Robocop was a good idea is beyond me. Not only was it dull, toothless and stupid in all the wrong ways, but it had the dubious distinction of being one of the last releases of the once-mighty mini-studio Orion – and this after sitting on the proverbial shelf a couple of years and suffering the indignity of starring a no-name in the title role when Peter Weller didn’t bother to reprise the role that made him a star.

Dekker’s sophomore feature, The Monster Squad was a deliciously entertaining homage to the Forrest J. Ackerman-inspired fan boy appreciation of monster movies. The picture was an absolute joy – especially to anyone who loved the sensibilities of the Universal Horror programmers of the 30s and 40s. This, alas, might have been exactly why it didn’t click at the box-office. Late boomers and early Gen-X-ers would have keyed into Dekker’s headspace perfectly, but sadly, too many kids during the 80s were either into the kinder, gentler Loserville of John Hughes, or if they were into genre at all, they were brought up on the likes of Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger, Jason Voorhees and any number of anonymous slasher epics or worse – much worse – The Goonies.

At the end of the day, the monsters in Dekker’s film must have been so “uncool” and/or beyond anyone growing up in that cultural dead zone of the 80s.

And of course, let us now turn to the reason we're all here - Dekker’s fine first feature, Night of the Creeps. This funny, clever and terrifying horror picture should have been a hit. It wasn’t. The picture had a miserable theatrical run and found its way quickly onto home video, but with little fanfare.

It’s too bad. In fact, with both of these features, Dekker was probably, depending on how you look at it, just behind or just ahead of his time.

Night of the Creeps is a horror geek’s wet dream. It begins in a small college town during the 50s where an alien parasite infects a studly college-aged jock. After committing a grisly murder, he is subdued and – get this – is cryogenically frozen. Uh, like…why? Well, because it makes it more convenient to flash forward to the 80s when a horny young geek is assisted by his wisecracking, handicapped and even geekier pal to perform a fraternity house pledge initiation.

The goal is to steal a body from the campus med-school anatomy morgue. Of course, they happen upon the conveniently and cryogenically frozen stud and idiotically nab his body and dump it in front of a sorority house. A night of horror begins when Mr. Cryogenic Stud wakes up and begins vomiting parasites into the mouths of his victims, turning them into psychopathic zombies hell bent on vomiting their own parasites into unsuspecting open mouths.

Okay, did I say, at any juncture, that this was Bresson?

Phew! For a minute, you had me worried.

Nope! Night of the Creeps is pure, unbridled trash. And it is exquisite – which, I suppose, IS a word one might use to ALSO describe Bresson. Full of in-jokes, references to other great horror movies, but still working on its own steam and merit, this is an extremely well-crafted, good-humoured and effective fright fest.

One of the delightful aspects of the picture is the central performance from stalwart genre tough guy Tom Atkins as the local police chief who delivers one hilarious line of dialogue after another. The most famous line Dekker wrote for Atkins was also used as the picture’s tagline. How this movie could have bombed with a line like this is beyond me, but here goes. Barricaded in a sorority house with a bevy of vixens, Atkins looks out the window at one point and says, “Well, girls. I have good news and bad news. The good news is your dates are here.” One of the bubbleheads asks what the bad news is and Atkins retorts with a straight face, “The bad news is, they’re dead.”

Mayhem ensues.

This is a fun, stylish and scary picture. Fred Dekker is a terrific genre director. He needs to make more pictures. It’s not too late. His time might actually be NOW!

Oh, yeah – in addition to all the hilarious dialogue, genuine scares, delicious gross-outs, perfectly pitched performances and stylish direction; did I mention that Night of the Creeps also features gratuitous nudity?

So, uh, what's not to like?

"Night of the Creeps" is available on DVD and BluRay from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

THE WARD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - John Carpenter directs great script by Wunderkind Rasmussen Bros. In the wake of DARK FEED, the directorial debut of the Rasmussens, let us visit this legendary scream-fest unleashed by Colin Geddes in the Midnight Madness series at the Toronto International Film Festival 2010

Always time to shower in Asylums
The super-hot Amber Heard commits arson in her underwear and gets thrown into an asylum full of other hot babes. There is plenty of manhandling and killing to follow and, of course, there's a ghost.

What's not to like?

The Ward (2010) ***
dir. John Carpenter
Starring: Amber Heard, Jared Harris, Susanna Burney
and an exquisite supply of HOT BABES I've never heard of.

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Here is a cinematic math equation to demonstrate genre supremacy and achievement of a very high order:



Babes in asylums need not fear as they will
be treated for their mental illness with the
humane healing instruments shown above.
Veteran genre-meister John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween) directs a horror film from a great script by Boston's wunderkind duo the Rasmussen Brothers that's set during the 1960s where none of the BABES in the movie have hairstyles that even remotely resemble 60s dos. + One mouth-wateringly hot Amber Heard (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), incarcerated in a creepy old asylum after committing arson in her SEXY under garments. + As luck would have it, the mental-case ward Amber gets thrown into is replete with BABES. + One by one, the BABES are BUTCHERED.

If you are a BABE in a nut-house, please do not be petulant.
If you are lippy and defiant, you'll be given electro-shock therapy.

+ Amber keeps seeing a weird chick wandering the halls, but is told it’s just her imagination and when she insists and persists, Amber gets MANHANDLED by burly male nurses who zap her with electro-shock therapy and truss her LITHE body into a straightjacket. + In one of the more disgusting moments in horror movie history, one of the BABES in the female nut-case ward is electro-shocked until… well, I won’t ruin it for you, but trust me – it’s pretty fucking GROSS! + The ghost is one super-GNARLY monster: mucho-drippings of the VISCOUS kind. + A CREEPY psychiatrist appears to be engaging in (what else?) unorthodox experiments upon the BABES in the ward. + An ultra-BUTCH ward nurse manages to give Louise Fletcher a run for her money in the NURSE RATCHED Mental Health Caregiver Sweepstakes.

BABES who commit ARSON
are advised to do so in sexy undies

+ Tons of cheap scares that make you jump out of your seat and, if you have difficulties with INCONTINENCE, you are advised to bring along an extra pair of DEPENDS. + A thoroughly kick-ass CLIMAX leads up to the delivery of a Carrie-like shocker ending.


= One FREE BLOWJOB for the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes for selecting the film and especially for getting me into the sold-out midnight screening after I fucked up getting my ticket from the right place at the right time. Said BLOWJOB shall occur once someone carves GLORY HOLES into the public washroom stalls of the new TIFF Bell Lightbox complex where the festival and its year-round Cinematheque are housed. One FREE BLOWJOB and RIM JOB shall be bestowed upon John Carpenter for making this film and a FREE BLOWJOB and RIM JOB shall be bestowed upon the Rasmussen Brothers for writing the terrific screenplay crammed with all the right elements for a roller coaster ride through the snake pit of a mental home. Brothers Michael and Shawn will, of course, have to fight over who gets what in the delectable ORAL action on offer.

And that, genre freaks, is your Mathematical equation for the day. It all adds up. Real good.

To read Greg Klymkiw's review of "DARK FEED", the Rasmussen's directorial debut, click HERE. "The Ward" is available on Blu-Ray and DVD. You can buy it (and "Dark Feed") here:

Friday, 22 November 2013

DARK FEED - Review By Greg Klymkiw - My fetish for movies set in snake pits (asylums) knows no bounds.

Yes, insanity can indeed be contagious - especially
when a pair of talented sick puppies make a movie to
order for other sick puppies - overflowing with
sickness of the highest order!
A horror film is being shot in an ancient, dank and rotting Boston Lunatic Asylum that's been shuttered for years. The joint's full of gooey, black, viscous ectoplasm; built up from years of abusive weird-ass experiments upon the inmates by its psychotic head-doctor. The mere presence of a young (mostly nubile and/or buff) cast and crew, unleashes some mighty unholy fumes into the already-foul air. In no time, thespians and filmmakers alike become possessed with the criminal madness of decades gone by. The impressive body-count is matched only by the sickness that ratchets up to deliver a saturnalia of delectable barbarity. - G.K.

Dark Feed (2013) ***
Dir. Michael and Shawn Rasmussen
Starring: Andy Rudick, Victoria Nugent, Rebecca Whitehurst, Dayna Cousins, Evalena Marie, Bree Elrod, Jessica Lauren Napier, Elise Couture

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who in their right mind doesn't love asylums? These snake pits of madness and despair are perfect settings for thrillers and horror movies. The Rasmussen Brothers clearly understand this. Not only did they write the script for John Carpenter's supremely entertaining Looney Bin Scream-Fest The Ward (wherein Amber Heard and a whole mess of other babes got terrorized in an asylum), but they have chosen a veritable Nutbar Palace as the setting for Dark Feed, their feature film directorial debut.

When the Bros. discovered this actual Boston location, they must have simultaneously spewed a few bucket-loads of anticipatory man-juice and immediately set themselves to grinding out a new screenplay of madness they could shoot with relative modesty. Better yet, they wouldn't have to resort to the usual nonsense so many low budget fledgling features pathetically resort to; namely, setting a movie in one room or in a wilderness cabin. The visual possibilities inherent in a genuine asylum (or at least, a super-creepy and expansive location that feels like it could have been one horrific mo-fo of a madhouse) are limitless and the Bros. exploit as many nooks and crannies and caverns of filth as humanly possible.

The other important thing they do is write a whole mess of characters into the film. Again, too many of the aforementioned no-to-low budget genre shockers limit their location to one or two dull backdrops, then make the mentally deficient mistake of giving us too few characters. Too few characters means one thing and one thing only: a low body count.

Babes of EVERY shape are important
The Rasmussens then do the most important thing of all - they make sure there are PLENTY OF BABES.

Horror movies in claustrophobic locations can be bad enough, but if they are bereft of babes, what use are they?

The Rasmussens already cut their teeth writing for John Carpenter. He's no slouch. He always makes sure his movies are jam-packed with babes and if they're not, like his brilliant remake of The Thing, he makes sure his men are manly to the hilt and that the monster is unparalleled.

Hitchcock understood this. Psycho had Janet Leigh and Vera Miles (and Tony Perkins in old-lady drag). It also had the Bates Motel. Polanski understood this. We got to look at Catherine Deneuve in her nightie in an ultra-cool Parisian apartment and brandishing a big knife. Richard Stanley understood this. Hardware keeps us in one room, but it's a very cool room and we get to watch a mega-babe fending off one scary-ass monster.

Showers are GOOD!!!
The bottom line is this. If you're going to make a low budget horror film - the location has to be cool and you need babes. Body-count potential is, however, the cherry on the ice-cream sundae. With Dark Feed, the Rasmussens give us everything we need on the babe, body count and cool location front. So really, how could this picture go wrong? Well, this is a first feature and as such, it's not without flaws. The biggest is probably the first third of the film where we learn a bit too much about characters we mostly want to see dead. Cleverly here, though, the Bros. give us ample opportunity to tour the location. I had no problem with that. This is one creepy-ass location and it has a shower. A shower is very important.

As for the casting, the only male character we kind of like is the dweeby screenwriter who pays a set visit and Andy Rudick acquits himself most agreeably in the role. All the other male characters I had no use for other than as fodder for murder. The babes, however, are another story. The Bros. deliver a myriad of feminine eye candy and for this, they are to he truly lauded.

I've suffered through way too many no-budget horror movies in claustrophobic locations that have no babes at all. Can you believe it? I mean, seriously! Forgive my seeming philistinism here, but who in their right mind wants to watch three or four smelly guys in a haunted cottage for 90 minutes? Besides, they're usually pock-marked 20-somethings - at least in way too many Canadian no-budget horror movies of this ilk.

Feminism in Horror
Always a bonus!
The Bros. know the score. They know damn well we don't want to watch smelly guys unless they are decapitated and/or terrorizing the babes. They also make sure the babes are a nice mix of looks and body types, but also, they make sure the babes aren't all victims. A couple of them are damn resourceful and kick-ass. This is a good thing. It proves the Rasmussens are feminists. As, it seems, am I.

The bottom line is that Dark Feed delivers. Ignore the meanderings of the first 30-or-so minutes. Use them to imagine how some of the characters will die, because once they do, hell hath know fury like two brothers named Rasmussen. The movie is initially a slow burn, but the tension mounts steadily, giving us more than enough jolts and finally, the last half hour of the movie is so sick and scary it borders on the surreal.

In fact, the Bros. deliver climactic frissons that are utterly and completely chilling. Best of all the pace mounts and the feeling of the last third is pure electricity. As grateful as I am to the Rasmussens for delivering first-rate horror, I am equally grateful to the fine product known as "Depends". "Depends" come in mighty handy during the last half hour of Dark Feed, so before settling in to watch it, load up on beer, soda pop and Cheetos, but for Christ's sake, DO NOT forget the "Depends". Your wardrobe and comfy couch will, uh, depend upon it.

"Dark Feed" is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lions Gate. It's also available on a variety of streaming formats, but I personally hate streaming and/or digital downloads. I need to own the real thing. But hey, that's me. The home video version comes with a handful of extras if you're into that sort of thing. I'm less enamoured with them unless they're at Criterion Collection levels, but don't mind me. I can be a snob that way. To read my review of the Rasmussen Brothers' first screenplay "THE WARD", CLICK HERE