Monday, December 12, 2016

Blood Brothers (2015) - A Review

"Based on a true story."  Countless horror films have taken to flaunting the moniker as badge of honor, after all, what could be more horrifying than real life? The idea that such violent acts could take place in our world is often hard to swallow. No film capitalized on the idea more than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Even The Exorcist, Scream and The Hills Have Eyes (well most of Craven's work, actually) found it's roots in reality, although they did not claim to do so. This is a trend that will always be prevalent in the genre, and we find it in Jose Prendes' film Blood Brothers as well. 

Based on the infamous Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920's, the film follows a pair of wealthy, upper crust brothers who "concoct a deadly game to test their superior intelligence against the dimwitted masses.  This game will eventually lead to murder, but problems arise when they quickly discover that Detective Homer Gaul, a cop with a very special gift, is hot on their trail. (Uncork'd Entertainment)"

As the film opens, we are introduced to Thomas and Charles who are, quite frankly, a pair of privileged assholes who enjoy toying with those who they deem to be below them.  For the most part, Thomas pulls the strings while his shy and submissive brother Charles comes along for the ride. Charles' is a hopeless mama's boy, while Thomas craves power in the form of violence, degradation and, ultimately, murder.  We accompany them in their day-to-day lives, from taunting meth addicts, to fantasizing about murdering waitresses, to movies and late night drives hunting for prostitutes.  Y'know, typical stuff.  In many scenes the viewer is made to feel like a companion, and it adds a bit of voyeuristic feel to the film.  I really enjoyed this aspect; it felt intimate. 

The stylistic choices that Prendes' makes in the film are very beautiful, utilizing lighting and music to paint the scenes in a dream-like quality, not unlike what you would see in "Tales from the Crypt", or more recently Excision.  Not only does it make the film a pleasure to watch, but it helps blur the line between reality and delusion that Thomas and Charles' are constantly straddling.  We don't know if they are insane or if they're completely aware of their actions, and it adds to the chaotic feel of the film.  As a result, what would otherwise be a dull and rather uninteresting film becomes something else entirely.  It becomes more of an art piece, utilizing lighting and set dressing to showcase a more than competent cast and their performances.  We see these stylistic choices evolve throughout the film as well, as we see the brothers viewpoints on humanity and various social classes begin to change. 

To focus on the case, Graham Denman and Joe Kondelik absolutely deliver the goods as the leads of the film.  They not only bring what's needed out of their own characters but they compliment each other as well.  Prendes' script calls for a wide range from these actors and while it's hard to discuss the finer points of their performance without ruining large aspects of the script, I will say that as a result, the film takes on a completely different tone as it begins to comment on issues dealing with the human psyche, personal identity and the effect of traumatic events on one's personality.  Fans of the horror genre will also be excited to see two genre favorites in supporting roles: Barbara Crampton as their mother, and Ken Foree as Detective Gaul. 

Blood Brothers is a smart, well written and well acted film that, in my opinion, does a respectable job of bringing merit to the horror genre.  Prendes' managed to craft a film with a strong sense of direction that is well paced and engaging where it needs to be.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and ended up watching it a second time before submitting this review.  I felt that I missed certain aspects on the first viewing that I wanted to keep in mind while writing. It's not perfect, but it's fun and it has an original feel with an intense and satisfying ending. 

Keep it spooky,
Ryan Wilkins

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Abbey Grace (2016) - A Review

"She was born a bad seed..."

Abbey Grace, from director Stephen Durham (Blood Lines), is a film that in no way struggles with what it wants to be.  The supernatural film finds its home in a narrative style similar to Mama or The Others, but fails to deliver in substance, scares or originality. Durham's second directorial effort stars a small ensemble cast that tells the story of Stacey, a woman who has left her career in the psychiatric field to care for her brother, Ben, after their mother passes from an undisclosed cause.  Ben suffers from a severe case of agoraphobia and OCD, and Stacey is writing a book on what we are led to assume are her brother's conditions, however the topic is only grazed upon once or twice and not touched on again.  

By and large, the film has a 2 person cast: Debbie Sheridan (Stacey) and Jacob Hobbs (Ben), who unfortunately, do little to contribute to the film.  While Jacob Hobbs was not necessarily a bad actor, I feel that most of the issues with his performance probably come from poor direction, his portrayal of someone suffering from severe OCD and Agoraphobia seemed poorly researched and more stereotypical than accurate.  For someone to suffer from these disorders as severely as Ben apparently does, Hobbs made several decisions that surprised me making the ending of the film was wholly unrealistic.  As I mentioned though, I feel that these are issues that are more to blame with the direction or the writing.  Very little emphasis was placed on the strides of progress that Ben was supposedly making, and in that regard, I feel that Hobbs talent was largely wasted in this project.  Sheridan's performance was rather uninspired, giving the film the feel of a high school project, in which she was the director's mom who got a little too excited about starring in the film.  

The sound design was sloppy, often taking me out of the film, and was frustrating at times. It was very difficult to understand the dialogue for the final 20 minutes of the film, and I was often left wondering how a dog's rope toy was making squeaky noises. When additional characters are finally introduced into the film in the second act, I was hoping that it would inject fresh air into the film, however it merely reinforced the ideas that were already forming in my mind: that every supernatural, haunted house trope was tacked to a wall and Durham used a spool of twine to tie them all together. As a result, any attempt to tie a deeper mythology into the film just ended up falling on it's face as there wasn't enough time to fully explore the backstory that Durham was attempting to get across.  

While I feel as if I'm tearing this film apart (and I honestly never want to do that), it's hard to find things to praise. The film was most likely slapped together and rushed into distribution, and I feel that it shows a little too well. From the subpar performances, to the poor production quality (even the marketing materials spells the main character's name incorrectly several times), I cannot recommend this film to friends, family or even strangers. But hey, at least Roach, the dog actor, delivered a solid performance!

Ryan Wilkins

Sunday, November 13, 2016

NIGHTMARISH CONJURINGS - An Interview with Amanda Wyss

When I started writing about horror, reviewing and ranting and raving, I never thought that it would actually lead to a place where I would be interacting and working with the very people that I used to watch late at night, illuminated on the television screen in my parents' living room. Working on the Nightmarish Conjurings team has been an absolute pleasure, and I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Ms. Amanda Wyss after reviewing her new film The Id. You can find the interview over at NC's site, but I've taken the liberty of pasting it below as well. 

In preparation for the release of Thommy Hutson's acclaimed thriller, THE ID, Ryan spoke with genre favorite and star of the film, Amanda Wyss.  The film centers around Meridith Lane (Wyss) who for decades has felt trapped in her home.  Surviving on memories of youth, she watches the years slip by while caring for her abusive father...until a figure from her past makes a surprising return.  In order to live the life she desires, Meridith must confront her father's monstrous cruelty and attempt to escape his tyrannical grip.  But the man who controls her every move won't let go without a fight, leading father and daughter into a series of desperate and irreversible acts.  As Meridith's psyche is slowly pushed to the breaking point, the line between fantasy and reality is hopelessly blurred.  With strangers prying at the door and the walls of her childhood home closing in.  Meridith spirals into a frightening world of paranoia, madness... and violence. 

Ryan Wilkins: First and foremost, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day for us. I loved THE ID, it's absolutely one of the better thrillers that I've seen in recent years.  What initially drew you to this project? 

Amanda Wyss: It's nice to chat with you, so glad you liked our movie!  Thommy Hutson approached me and asked me to read the script with the role of Meridith in mind.  I was drawn to the rawness of the story and the challenge of playing such a complex character. 

RW: In my review I talked about how I believe that your performance carried the film.  It was raw, real and seemed like it was coming from a place that was very close to home for you. What was it like playing a role like Meridith, and where did you draw inspiration?  Did you have any exercises to help get you into the right frame of mind to play Meridith? 

AW: Sometimes I put on my headphones and listen to music for inspiration.  My intention with Meridith was to keep her grounded and truthful.  

RW: I've read in various articles that you actually knew Thommy Hutson before this project. I'm sure that it's always a relief getting to work with someone that you are already acquainted with, but please tell us what it was like working with him.

AW: Working with Thommy was fantastic.  I've known him for years, Heather Langenkamp introduced us.  We had a mind meld while making this movie.  

RW: Is it difficult working on a film that is not only filmed in a single location, but is primarily made up of a two person cast?  Throughout most of the film, almost every scene relies on Meridith's interactions with her father, played by Patrick Peduto.  How was it working with Patrick? 

AW: The house felt claustrophobic, it was hot and cramped.  It worked well for the mood and tone of the film.  Patrick is a hard worker and a really nice man.  He and I dove into our roles of father and daughter.  It was intense!

RW: You've certainly made your home in the horror genre, coming from one of the most iconic horror films of all time.  You've had the opportunity to see the genre grow and change over the past couple decades, what has it been like working in the industry throughout those changes?

AW: I love making movies and I'm lucky to be a part of the experiment!

RW: How does working with this generation of horror film makers compare with those 20 years ago? 

AW: A talented filmmaker transcends time.  A well written script, a great role for me to sink my teeth into, and a good director are ageless. 

RW: Well again, thank you so much for speaking with me today and for those of you interested in checking out Amanda Wyss' latest film, THE ID, it is now available on Blu-ray. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Id (2016) - A Review

The most important man in a woman's life is her father...

I would imagine that there are few things in life harder than watching your parents fall ill.  To watch their minds and bodies slowly begin to betray them, and morph them into something else, must be one of life's greatest tragedies, however, being granted sole guardianship for an abusive and cruel man surely tops the list of ways that life can shit on you.  Directed by Thommy Hutson and written by Sean H. Stewart, The Id is a dark and intelligently written film that tells the story of Meredith Lane, a lonely woman who has been placed in that very scenario.  She has nothing but herself, dirty linens and a depressing house filled with the demands and profanities from a man who could care less that she has essentially given up her entire life to care for him.  Eesh.

This film is not your typical horror film.  I hesitate at even calling it that.  It's a thriller that relies on more than gore and shock (there's little to none of that either) in lieu of toying with some of the most innate emotional ties and responsibilities that one can feel.  Those of family.  Blood is, after all, thicker than water.  Meredith, played by Amanda Wyss, is an otherwise obedient and kind woman.  As the film opens, we see her day to day life in which she cooks, cleans and cares for her father, a boarish man who insults her, makes lewd comments about her body and barks various commands at her in attempts to keep her under his thumb.  It is a very stark look at what is, very likely, the lives of many people around the world.  Her father is ill, so ill in fact that he cannot stand on his own.  She cannot simply walk away or cast him out onto the streets, after all, he is her father.  He uses this to his advantage, as it is his greatest strength considering he is wheelchair bound.  Guilt is a pretty powerful manipulative tool, more so than muscles and grit. 

This is Meredith's life.  Day in and day out.  She does not leave the house, groceries and medications are delivered, she simply caters to the will of her father.  When an unexpected phone call from a ghost of Meredith's past shatters her father's trance over her, things take a very unexpected turn in this film, and we then see one of the most emotional power sturggles I've seen on film in recent years, and I must say, it was a treat to watch.  What starts as a very stark film, quickly takes on a very quirky tone, in all the right ways.  As the events unfold, it's akin to watching a car wreck that you simply can't tear your eyes away from.  Wyss's performance is amazing, giving this film the genuineness that it so needs to avoid becoming campy, while Patrick Peduto's take on the father almost causes you, at moments, to sympathize with his character's plights (just as Meredith does).  This is very much a film that relied on these two performances and both carried them very well.  I ultimately walked away from this film having felt like we have been robbed of 20+ years of killer lead performances from Amanda Wyss as she more than carries this film to the finish line, she fucking runs it there.

While the soundtrack screamed of "Lifetime" movies, The Id delivered on every front.  A solid screenplay that keeps you guessing (and I really mean that) was backed by solid performances resulting in a film that deserved it's Best Thriller win as the 2016 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.  You can catch it on VOD, or over at Amazon, today.

Keep it spooky,
Ryan Wilkins

Friday, October 14, 2016

Padorica (2016) - A Review

The Future Reset

Set in a post-apocalyptic world following an event known as "The Great Reset", Pandorica tells the story of three young tribe members that are led into the woods to endure the "trial": an overnight event that will decide the new leader of the Varosha Tribe. The Varosha are a group of survivors of The Great Reset, some unknown element that wiped out civilization sparing only the most isolated of communities.  We are introduced to Eiren, Ares and Thade, our three hopefuls and their current leader, Nus.  None of them, not even Nus, knows what their trial will be.  All that is known is that only one them will return from the forest to hail as the new leader of the tribe. When a mysterious woman stumbles onto their campsite carrying a mysterious box, their trial is revealed to them.  They soon discover that a trio of deadly assassins are in search of this box, and it's up to them to destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands. 

Pandorica, directed by newcomer Tom Paton, is an interesting film.  Not quite horror, not quite sci-fi, it's an impressive freshman effort from Paton who has nothing else on his IMDB, other than a new feature that is currently filming entitled Redwood.  Boasting beautiful cinematography and a solid original score, the film is set up nicely as we are introduced to our small ensemble cast. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the shots that introduce us to this post-apocalyptic world and commented on what a beautiful film this would be to watch on the big screen.  Paton absolutely capitalized on his small budget, and the world that he created with it should be commended. 

While the writing was a little spotty at times (next to nothing is explained about The Great Reset, in fact it's never even mentioned by the characters) the film is well paced.  There are moments when I wish we received some more background information about aspects of this new world, but perhaps most of that was left on the cutting room floor.  I can't fault Paton too much for that one.  Moments of seeing these characters discover artifacts from the "old world", as they like to call it, were fun and added a nice element to the film that is not often seen in horror films released now a days.  And on that note, I have to applaud Paton's effort to create his own world in this film, it felt like Alien meets Battle Royale

Unfortunately, I feel that the film ultimately suffered greatly from poor on-screen talent.  In all honesty, I did not feel that there was a solid performance out of anyone in the ensemble. Jade Hobday, who plays our lead heroine Eiren, delivered a mild and forced performance giving me the feeling that she was cast based on aesthetic purposes, and Marc Zammit (Ares) was extremely one dimensional in his attempts to bring a villainous tone to his character.  As much as I hate to say it, the performances gave it the feel of a high budget home movie, or high school project.  While they each had their believable moments, more often than not I was left wondering if some of the budget that went into equipment and costume design should have been allotted to their casting department.  I'm used to seeing a spotty performance from one or two cast members, but I ended up feeling like it was taking me out of the film, which is unfortunate because I was so set-up to enjoy this experience. 
Pandorica  was a film that I wanted to enjoy, it captivated me from the get-go, however I was lost along the way and it was unable to recapture my attention as the film went on.  I do feel that Tom Paton is a promising new director, and I will be interested to see his next feature, I just don't think that I'll be recommending this one to friends and family any time soon.

Keep it spooky,
Ryan Wilkins 

Pandorica is now available in select theaters, On Demand, and DVD. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lace Crater (2016) - A Review

Some one night stands last forever.

As human beings, we have all felt the painful sting of isolation and loneliness. Whether you like it or not, we're social creatures and we crave the love and attention of our peers. It's hard-wired into our being, and for many of us, the thought of spending the rest of our lives alone is one of the most terrifying prospects out there.

Harrison Atkins tackles this exact subject in his first full length feature film, Lace Crater, starring Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Jennifer Kim and genre favorite, Joe Swanberg (VHS, You're Next). In what is presented as a dark comedy, the film follows the life of Ruth (Burdge) following a late night tryst with a ghost that causes her body to undergo strange and unidentifiable changes. Atkins take a long look at loneliness as a human condition, and what it can drive us to do in order to feel some level of love, acceptance and affection.

As the film opens, we are introduced to our core group of players: a group of friends traveling to a vacation house in the Hamptons for a night of drug fueled, drunken debauchery, or in their case: to do ecstasy and cuddle all night long. From the get go we are shown that these people are all expressing their desire and need for companionship in different ways. Andrew (played by Andrew Ryder) describes the details of a painful breakup that he is embroiled in, while still expressing the idea that he would like to maintain a friendship with her (whoever she may be). The entire group takes a drug that is specifically designed to enhance human interactions, and we see the characters start reaching out to each other for varying degrees of affection. In an audio-visual montage, we see each of them discussing the painful areas of their lives in what appears to be an attempt to simply be heard, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually listening. We also see that Ruth is interested in Andrew, while she battles her own past-relationship demons, fearing the idea of a long existence much in the same way that Andrew is fearing his.

All of this exposition takes place within the first 25 minutes of the film. By the time our ghost shows up, Atkins has managed to pain Ruth's emotional state on a multi-colored canvas for us to observe and to make this meeting between Ruth and this sad, little spirit that much more special. Through prolonged silences and lingering shots, he captures the awkwardness of their meeting in a meaningful and touching way; he brings to life a feeling that we have all felt with the use of little to no exposition - butterflies in your stomach. You can feel how excited they are to be with each other. To feel something with each other, and in this regard Atkins wastes little time on subtlety. While I won't dwell on our ghost too much (half the fun of this film is meeting him and getting to know him yourself), we see two people who are profoundly lonely, who have managed to find each other at the right time, and who find solace in their shared feelings. It says a lot about our need for companionship, in that Ruth is so starved for affection that she literally sleeps with a dead person to feel alive. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this film, I have to say that I got a little lost
somewhere between the second and third act. While Atkins seemed to work so hard at injecting symbolism and imagery into the first half, the second half seemed disjointed and poorly executed. While the first half had some touching and genuinely funny moments, the second lacked all of that and went a very dark route that I normally would not protest, but that just felt out of place in a film like this. I understand that Atkins was attempting to give our ghost some depth; however, he ended up taking the film in a direction that was a little disconcerting and confusing. Dynamics between certain characters made little sense and I had trouble understanding why certain events took place when the first act seemed so well thought out. Maybe I'm overthinking the film as a whole, but I don't think I am, I just think that the film lost a few screws as the run-time wore on. It's hard to get into specifics without spoiling anything, but I would love to have a deeper conversation with someone regarding this film and the events throughout the final act.

That being said, I did find Lace Crater to be a very entertaining look at the effects that loneliness can have on our psyche, and the things that it can drive one to do. Although, I stand by my statement that things got a little wonky at the end there, I do believe that Atkins kept the heart of his story throughout, and while I had questions, they were not enough to turn me off to the film as a whole. While 

Lace Crater was far from a comedy (as it was described on the internet), it was still a very interesting look at a fear that so many of us are all too familiar with and I love that aspect of it. If you are interested in catching a viewing yourself, Lace Crater premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September but will be receiving a limited theatrical roll-out in the US, or you can catch it on a VOD platform in a living room near you, this Friday, July 29th.

Until next time, keep it spooky,
Ryan Wilkins

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Blackout Experiments (2016) - A Documentary Review

I am ready to accept my failures.

Haunted houses sure have come a long way. What you may remember as dimly lit hallways of an elementary school, complete with bowls of skinless grape eyeballs and spaghetti noodle brains have transformed into full on nightmare farms where your deepest psychological fears slap you across the face and call you their bitch. BLACKOUT, in specific, is at the forefront of this movement.  

Now, I first heard about BLACKOUT when it was brought to Los Angeles back in 2012 (I believe it was, details on BLACKOUT are insanely hard to come by) when a friend suggested it to me. All that you could really find out about it was a set of very specific rules: you had to be 18 or older to enter, you had to walk through alone and you had to sign a waiver releasing BLACKOUT from any liability should you be hurt, killed, maimed or worse. Oh yes, you're also given a safety word, should you not be able to handle the visceral onslaught you're about to be thrust into. Now, of course I was immediately drawn to it, I had to do it. But I didn't, because I was poor and I couldn't afford the ticket. C'est la vie. Lucky for me though, I was able to catch a screening of the brand new documentary which chronicles the experiences of four people who are BLACKOUT junkies, The Blackout Experiments, so I was able to see first hand what it truly entails for those willing to submit themselves entirely to the experience.

The documentary was directed by Rich Fox who works primarily as an editor and has a scant two directing credits to his name, one of which being The Blackout Experiments and the other a documentary released in 2001 based on tribute bands, aptly titled: TRIBUTE. While I initially expected this documentary to focus on the technical aspects of BLACKOUT, it went another route and focused entirely on the experiences of a group of people who have turned to the haunt in search of something more. These are not people who are fear junkies, they genuinely find BLACKOUT to be something of a spiritual experience. The way that they speak about it is not completely dissimilar to the way I've heard people speak about psychedelic use in that they believe that the experience is there teach them about themselves and to help them grow to be stronger and more able individuals. In that regard, I loved this documentary. To hear of something that is regarded as mindless shock value described as an enlightening and life changing experience was endlessly interesting. I was drawn to these people's stories with a morbid fascination; in many ways, I felt like I was getting an inside glimpse of a cult. The interviews are shot in pitch black rooms, intermingled with a cerebral editing style, not too dissimilar to what the haunt appears to present to its participants, and this intermixed with the chilling soundtrack help place the audience in the headspace necessary to dive into what BLACKOUT is all about.

At one point we are introduced to an elite core group of enthusiasts who are hand chosen by the creators of BLACKOUT called "Survivors". These are people who have walked the haunt numerous times and who have all gleamed positive experiences that they've integrated into their daily lives. They have regular meetings together, they eat and drink together, and if they are lucky enough they can receive special invitations to off-season events that are tailor made specifically for each of them; amplifying their own deepest fears that the team behind BLACKOUT has kept a detailed account of over the course of their relationship with the haunt. This shit is insane, and it's all thanks to creators: Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor. As the documentary goes on to show, they wanted to build an experience that would challenge people's fears, their minds and their psyche. They discuss how they want these participants to tackle their fears head on, and to ultimately come out of it viewing it as a positive experience. Obviously most people would think the idea of BLACKOUT being a positive experience to be an insane one, but this is what make this documentary so interesting.

Over the 80 minute run-time, we see our core group endure an onslaught of emotional trials that causes them to reassess their feelings about BLACKOUT, for better or worse. While one young man reaches a point of anger, claiming that the experience is merely a form of abuse that only a masochist would willingly submit themselves to, the others seem to reach a point of religious fanaticism in which they cannot find happiness in any other place. The limits of their fears are tested in various ways, be it the fear of failure and lack of acceptance, or for another it's lack of control (OCD). We, as the audience, get to see their journey through BLACKOUT as they go from their first experience to their very last, in which they are offered an ultimatum that is life changing. In this, lies the true genius of what Randall and Thor are attempting to accomplish with this endeavor. You see them in a state of dismay as they attempt to understand what they are supposed to learn from this startling revelation. Through this we see how they have grown as people through something that so many others view as simple shock value and that is damn impressive in today's day and age.

As I mentioned earlier, there is virtually no information on the internet about BLACKOUT. A quick Google search will not deliver much, it will bring up a few videos and a slew of reviews which tell of negative experiences dwelling on the disgusting and vile things that one is subjected to within the haunt's black, tarped walls. Aside from the few videos on the official website and various reviews from people who have experienced it themselves, we know nothing about it's background, why, where or when it was started, there aren't even prices listed. This documentary does so much more than just attempt to explore the inner workings of BLACKOUT because in doing so, it would essentially taint what makes it so special in the first place. The fear and appeal of this is that so little is known about it, because it is not about presenting you with new things to fear, it's about fearing what's already inside of you when you walk through those doors. What The Blackout Experiments really show is how a group of people were given what was needed to fight some of the biggest demons in their lives and come out the other side as better people. I think that this makes what Randall and Thor are doing one of the greatest contributions to the horror world that we've seen in years and years, and I applaud it.

It's almost difficult to refer to this as a "haunt" as it is just so much more than that. To call it a haunt almost seems demeaning to what they've so painstakingly created. This is more than a simple haunt, it is quite literally an experience. So, in closing (as I know I've been rambling), I'll say this to Rich Fox himself: your documentary has opened a new door to me and I've spent more time contemplating the things that you've presented in your documentary than I have with any other film in recent years. You've taken me from the role of a passive observer, too cheap to buy a ticket myself, to someone who is unsure if they are willing to look into that darkness and see what might be peeking back. As a lifelong fan of the horror genre, thanks for giving me something to fear again.

Keep it spooky,
Ryan Wilkins

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Purge: Anarchy (2014) - A Review

After having finally sat down to a viewing of The Purge, I was excited to tear into it’s wildly successful sequel, The Purge: Anarchy. If everyone was saying that the sequel was infinitely better than the inadequate first chapter, then surely I was going to LOVE it considering that I actually quite enjoyed the The Purge. Right?

Released on July 18, 2014, James DeMonaco returned to his futuristic world in which the American public is plunged into chaos for 12 hours to cleanse their souls and purge themselves of all anger, hatred, jealousy, etc., etc. Seen on a much bigger scale this time around, DeMonaco shows the events of Purge Night on a city wide level. He takes the cameras into the city to give the audience what they were left clamoring for after the credits began to roll on the first film: blood filled streets and all the chaos they could possibly handle. After all, Purge Night comes but once a year, right?  

Celebate THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR Early with Crypt TV's New Short: PURGE NIGHT

Blessed be the new founding fathers indeed, Crypt TV released a tasty new short in anticipation of The Purge: Election Year which is out in a theater near you tomorrow! The short teases another glimpse at the terrors of Purge Night, and not to sound biased, but I loved it. It's short, fun and it's a great take on a story we all know and love: "The Night Before Christmas". The short was directed by a dear friend, Miss Ama Lea, who's an amazing photographer in addition to her directorial skills. It also stars someone very near and dear to my heart, my lovely girlfriend, causing raucous in the streets, sparkler in hand and masked to boot.

Take a peek, enjoy it and I hope you all get out to a theater this weekend and catch The Purge: Election Year to celebrate the most American of all holidays, The 4th of July! If you like it, check out Ama Lea's online store here to see her artwork and purchase some of her prints, she's shot some of the most prolific names in the horror biz and her work is killer (no pun intended). Also, keep an eye out here on Nocturnal Visions, my thoughts on The Purge: Anarchy will be up shortly!

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Purge (2013) - A Review

Survive the night.

We are 5 days away from The Purge: Election Year which, gauging from the trailers, looks pretty damn good. Over the past few days, I finally sat down and watched not only The Purge, but The Purge: Anarchy as well; I figured that there’s no better time than now to check them out and review them before we descend into madness yet again next Friday.

I’m not sure why I waited so long to watch these, it’s not like I was actively avoiding them. At the same time, most of the things I had heard about the films were pretty mixed. I didn’t hear any terrible things, but at the same time, I never exactly heard great things either. What I did hear a lot of people say was that the second film was better, in that it managed to capture what the first film failed to: Purge Night in the city and on the streets. The first film takes place entirely in one unfortunate family’s home in the wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles. It’s a home invasion flick, and for those of you who have read my piece on home invasion horror, you will know that I just so happen to love the subgenre. And big surprise: I liked The Purge a lot more than I thought I would.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

DYS- (2015) - A Review

"Home is where the hurt is..."

This review has already been published on Nightmarish Conjurings, run by Shannon McGrew. It's an amazing site full of great reviews and kept up to date on all kinds of horror news. Make sure you head over and check it out! I am a contributing writer over there as well. 

Nothing warms my heart more than to see a beautiful story of two people who love eachother, weather life's storms with their chins up and come out the other side stronger because of it. DYS- is not that kind of story at all. But that's alright! In the world of horror, it's more than okay to revel in one's torment and pain. Some call it schadenfreude, I call it any other day of the year.

DYS-, the directorial debut from Maude Michaud, is a Canadian horror film that tells the story of an estranged couple who are barricaded in their apartment after a deadly virus breaks out in Montreal. What starts as a seemingly typical zombie(esque) flick quickly becomes a harrowing look into their psyches as their sanity begins to unravel with their marriage. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Thank You to Horror - My Journey to Nocturnal Visions

I wanted my first piece on here to be something special, something from the heart, as opposed to a review or news. On my last site, I had a "Top 10 List" proudly displayed as it's own page and I thought that I should kick Nocturnal Visions off with a personal touch as well. However, a “top 10” is a daunting task to undertake. To attempt to narrow the love of an entire genre down to a list of only ten films requires a ton of thought, a pros and cons list and few rounds of “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe”. Even after all the rigamarole, I would still look back on it in a day or two and want to change it up or be upset that I managed to forget a certain film.

In all reality though, it’s almost impossible for me to pick a list of my all time favorite horror flicks. Today I like and love things that I never would have liked 10 years ago. When I was 18, I lived and breathed what many fans affectionally refer to as "gore porn". Just like my fascination with heavy metal at the time, my movies had to brutal or it was “pansy ass shit that wasn’t worth my time”. My, how times (thankfully) change. While I still enjoy a good splatter fest today, my tastes have grown and broadened quite a bit since then. For instance, I wouldn't have been caught dead talking about Killer Klowns from Outer Space or something like The Conjuring, it was High Tension or bust. That’s the great thing about life though, your tastes are allowed to change and grow as you learn who you are as a person.

So, in lieu of everything I’ve just said, I will not be doing a list of my Top 10 Horror Films, however, I will be compiling a list of the 7 horror films that made me who I am today. These are the films that had the biggest impact, be it drawing me into the genre initially or changing the way I view the horror landscape in general because, let’s be honest here, my favorite films could potentially change on pretty much a monthly basis. In many ways, this is my journey that led to this site, and a little bit on why horror is such an important factor in my life.

Scream (1996) – Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson

Unfortunately I was born 20 years too late to experience the true heyday of the slasher film. I never got to experience Michael stalking Laurie, or Freddie turning Glen into a human puree on the majesty of the silver screen. One thing I will never forget though is when Scream was released in 1997. Scream was more than just another average slasher movie, it challenged the conventions of the horror film not through subtle symbolism but by bringing the overused cliché’s, that seemed to be the genre’s downfall, to the front and center of the plot. It was aware, it knew what it was doing and more importantly it knew what it was trying to accomplish. It was visceral, it was wonderful, it was Wes fucking Craven at the top of his game.

The entire Scream franchise is in fact on my top 10 list, I love these films. It is the only franchise that I love top to bottom, and the first entry is the reason that I love slasher films in general. I may not have been lucky enough to live through the glory days of the original baddies, but my generation has Ghostface and that’s just fine with me.

Event Horizon (1997) – Paul W.S. Anderson/Philip Eisner & Andrew Kevin Walker

Most people have their “first memory” of something pleasant, like a Christmas morning, or their birthday. Maybe it’s getting their first puppy; something along those lines. One of the very first memories that I have, if not the first, would be my father taking me to see Event Horizon when it was released in theaters. I remember screaming and crying, begging to be taken out of the theater where I sat in the hallway until the movie ended. I even remember going back into the theater, and the sound design alone was enough to send me back into a fit of teary-eyed convulsions ultimately leading back to the safety of the popcorn scented hallway.

It seems like most people who grow up to be life long fans of the genre have one thing in common. There was that one film that they came across when they were little that petrified them on a subconscious level. I think that this kind of thing is ultimately what led me to be such a massive fan of the genre. I now own Event Horizon, and it is one of my favorite flicks to toss on when there’s nothing else to watch. I may have a very severe case of “nostalgia goggles” with this film, but I love the mythology behind it and I think it’s a pretty underrated flick in the grand scheme of things. You can read my review here.

Friday the 13th (1980) – Sean S. Cunningham/Victor Miller

Come to think of it, a lot of these entries are in here due to my father. I don’t know what that says about him, but he showed me a shit ton of horror films. I think that, partially, he liked to laugh at my fear but I also like to think that he wanted to find some way to bond with me. Regardless, when mom went out of town, dad showed me horror films and Friday the 13th was at the top of his list. For many people when asked what comes to mind when they think of a horror film they will rattle off one of three names, if not all three. I don’t think I need to name them, but up until I was about 10 years old Friday the 13th or Child’s Play summed up the entire genre for me.  While Friday helped give birth to the modern slasher genre as we know it (in league with Halloween of course), the first film played more as a whodunit than a traditional slasher film, leading to one of the greatest twists the genre has to offer. To this day, when I think of classic American horror, Friday the 13th is the first film to pop into mind. 

The Omen (1976) – Richard Donner/David Seltzer

What’s more terrifying than any serial killer, vampire, werewolf, monster or zombie? How about Satan himself? And what’s even scarier than that? Satan in a handbasket, in the form of an adorable British child in the cutest little hat you’ve ever seen.

Yet another film that I credit the first viewing of to good ‘ol pops, The Omen sparked a massive change in the way that I viewed the horror genre as a whole. Going from morbid curiosity, and viewings spent glimpsing through meshed fingers, I began to grow curious about these films. I began to realize that they didn’t terrify me quite as much and after I first watched The Omen, I found that I wanted to watch it again. I wanted to learn everything I could about it. I purchased the film, I watched the special features repeatedly, and that was when the roots of a life long fascination (and obsession) began. The Omen is one of the most important films in the history of the genre, and I will definitely be writing an entire piece revolving around the impact that the film had on the world, as well as the genre itself.

The Exorcist (1973) – William Friedkin/William Peter Blatty

Shortly after my first viewing of The Omen, I had an insatiable urge to watch as many films as I could. Next up on dad’s list was the most infamous of them all, The Exorcist, which mom had strictly forbidden me from watching (and him from showing me). Of course, the next time she went out of town he came home from Blockbuster with a copy in tow and we settled in for a viewing. The excitement was palpable, I can still remember thinking that I was about to watch something that was going to change my life and in many ways it did.

Those of us who were born long after the release of the film have all grown up hearing about The Exorcist; the legends and tales of people passing out in theaters and vomiting in the aisles. I vividly remember when The Version You’ve Never Seen was released into theaters. The lines of people waiting to see it and quiet whispers made me all that much more curious about the film. In all reality The Exorcist was a spectacle, it was and is so much more than a film. While I can ramble on and on about this, I’ve already written a review (that pretty much turned into an appreciation piece) that you can read here. It goes further into depth as to what this film means to me as well.

Se7en (1995) – David Fincher/Andrew Kevin Walker

As the years progressed I watched more and I read more. I continued to fall in love with the genre, and when I was in high school a friend recommended that I rent David Fincher’s 1995 flick, Se7en. At the time, I had a deep fascination with serial killers, which my father also helped foster. As a man from the FBI, he kept me stocked with books on the topic; it was another way that we could bond. I don’t know what I expected when I sat down to watch the film, but it certainly wasn’t what I got and I was instantly hooked. Se7en was when I went from viewing horror as films strictly about ghosts and demons to realizing that horror could showcase perhaps the most terrifying thing of all, the human psyche. From there I began to dive into a whole new world of horror, which quickly became my favorite subgenre. To this day Se7en remains one of my favorite horror films and even my horror-obsessed girlfriend finds it strange that I ask if we can fall asleep to it.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) – Tobe Hooper/Kim Henkle

As I just mentioned with Se7en, there came a time when my tastes began to shift a little bit. While Se7en put the shift into place, there was one flick that carried me to the next level, and that was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I don’t think that I will ever have an experience like I did when viewing this film for the first time. Raw, visceral and borderline voyeuristic, it’s akin to watching a gang of killers film their evil deeds and shove the footage in your face, whether you want it or not. I distinctly remember watching the credits begin their crawl, unsure of how to feel. The only thing that I knew is that I needed to clean my bedroom and everything else I owned. To put it lightly, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a film that stays with you.

Texas Chain Saw is one of my godfather films, along with The Exorcist and The Shining, that are untouchable in my eyes. No matter what films come and go, these three will never be topped. TCM has resonated with me in a way that I find hard to describe, and to this day I still get a chill down my spine every time I watch it. It’s one of the few horror films that I would call a perfect film, from beginning to end and as a proud native of Texas I love it all the more.

While I could continue to ramble about horror movies that I love and the various ways that they’ve made an impact on me, I believe that this list sums it up the best. Also, I’m bordering on novella-length and I know that nobody has the time to read that long of an article. Again, I can’t describe how excited I am to be back, writing about one of the biggest loves in my life, and I want to thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more updates!

Keep It Spooky,

Ryan Wilkins