Drifter (2016)

Two brothers on the run come afoul of one group after the other until they reach a seemingly abandoned desert village.  There they meet a young woman who helps them and meet with a family of crazy cannibals. Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory, based on a story by von Hoffman who also directed, Drifter is a film about survival in the desert post apocalypse that shows every character but one as bad people.  The “bad guys”, the cannibalistic family unit, are truly bad, while the brothers come off as being bad people out of necessity and desperation.  Only one character seems mostly good but also a victim of some weird form of Standahl Syndrome.  She’s the one who attempts to help the brothers before things really go to shit for them.

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Art as a Weapon (2012) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

Made in 2012, Art as a Weapon is a documentary about using street art to publicly send a message, may it be of peace, hope, a political one, or any other messages sent to the mass public by way of graffiti, paintings, etc.  The film follows an art class in Burma learning to use art with the most effectiveness and contrasts this with American street artist Shepard Fairey.  Directed by San Diego documentarian Jeffrey Durkin, the film mixes the Burmese school students’ scenes with scenes shot in San Diego while artist Shepard Fairey was in town painting a Buddhist monk on the side of a building.

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Bullets, Fangs and Dinner at 8 (2015) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

Following a massacre in a church, a priest who really is a vampire attempts to get funding and new followers as a vampire hunter works to take out as many of his followers as he can. In this ambitious ultra-low budget horror-comedy by writer/director/star Matthew Rocca, a typical story of good versus evil becomes less typical when the bad guys and good guys are not clear-cut with each of them having qualities that make them more complex and thus harder to pigeonhole.  The story has interesting elements and some definitely good ideas.  The dialogue balances between funny and just ok.  The film’s issues in the story are where it seemingly gets lazy.  Rape as a character establisher or changer or even as a shocking method is cliché, overdone, and a lazy plot tool when used the way it is here.  The rest of the film uses a few other overdone plot devices but they are not as annoying and can be forgiven more easily.

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Deserted (2016)

After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother.  As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert.  After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert.  The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements.  Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert.  The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring.  It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends.  The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such.  The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.

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VooDoo (2017)

Dani arrives in California to visit her cousin for a month and have some fun away from her worries and her past.  The two girls do fun tourist things and prank each other, until something goes wrong, very, very wrong.   As things go from bad to worse, the film explores voodoo, the supernatural, and hell, all through a found footage lens.  The story created by writer/director Tom Costabile has a lot of good ideas and some truly unnerving imagery and moments.  The opening with the voodoo curse being put into place goes from interesting to freaky fairly fast.  The film itself then takes a little bit to establish the two cousins and the other players around them (including an unnecessary but not annoying cameo by Ron Jeremy) until one pranks leads to all hell breaking loose.

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South of 8 (2016) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

In the near future, during the second great depression, an ex-con joins a duo of burgeoning bank thieves as there are no jobs and he needs to survive.  At the same time, a resistance movement grows fast and a group of female criminals is causing mayhem.  As things take a more serious and more violent turn for all involved, the authorities are closing in on them. In writer/director Tony Olmos’ first feature film a few years ago, the story may be a bit exaggerated but it will feel close to what may become reality to some.  The story is set in the San Diego area amid racial and class issues, political problems, and an upswing in crime during the second great depression.

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Skeleton Key 3 Part 2 (2016)

A sequel to the 2011 video release Skeleton Key 3, this new film is in no way shape or form related to the Kate Hudson starring film from 2005.  This film follows a man dealing with the (blue) zombie apocalypse while saddled with a demon sidekick/bully and a ragtag team of helpers. John Johnson, the man credited as the brain behind this film and the star of the film looks to be specialized in the anything goes/what the fuck type of horror films by the looks of his IMDB page.  As this particular film is not listed and this reviewer will not be watching it again to pull the credits, the little bits of credits available on Midnight Releasing’s website are all that will be used to identify the players here.

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