It was only a matter of time until studios would come along and start trying to duplicate the formula that “A Quiet Place” perfected. Hoping to strike lightning twice after the shocking pop culture success of “The Birdbox,” Netflix adapts yet another novel in to an apocalyptic thriller featuring monsters working on human senses, and a family trying to stick together, doggone it. And it stinks. Director John R. Leonetti’s horror drama has a good idea somewhere buried beneath this hacky often mean spirited mess, but damned if I could find out how to salvage it.
Netflix’s horror drama “Bird Box” has been unfairly dismissed and ignored as a blatant rip off of acclaimed horror film “A Quiet Place.” That’s disappointing (especially considering “Bird Box” is an adaptation of a book from 2013) since, while “Bird Box” and “A Quiet Place” share similar tones and framing devices, they’re more companion pieces than copies. “A Quiet Place” examined a family trying to stay together during impossible odds as well as the extremes parents go for their children, while “Bird Box” is ultimately about learning to let go, and the paralyzing fear of losing our children to an outside world that we can’t understand or ever fully trust.
“Cell” was troubled from the moment it was optioned in to a movie. Rather than become a success tale like “It,” it instead was left to tread water as a limited release that was quietly tucked away on the VOD market, and is now a two dollar purchase on streaming services. It’s not surprising since “Cell” is a film that could have used a much better script, a lot more development, and about twenty more minutes in its run time. In its state it feels utterly incomplete, half baked and rushed, along with pairing two stars that, at their best, are magnificent and at their worst, make a good living phoning in (shut up) performances. Tod Williams had the chance to jump on the ball and really provide us with a frantic and scary commentary about our over reliance on technology, and he fails.
I’ll admit again and again that post apocalypse movies are my sweet spot in regards to genre cinema. I eat movies about survival after the end of the world with a spoon and am hardly ever let down. “What Still Remains” as far as its concerned is fairly standard post apocalyptic fare. It by no means re-invents the wheel with its narrative and characters, but at times it doesn’t seem like director and writer Josh Mendoza is trying to. In the end I was more impressed by what Mendoza does with his lead heroine more than anything, and I’d love to see Ana return once again in another movie of this ilk.
Trey Edward Shults’ “It Comes At Night” is a great movie, it’s also a poorly marketed movie by a studio that had no idea what to make of it. It’s a masterful dramatic thriller less in the realm of “The Walking Dead” and much more in the realm of “On the Road.” Shults definitely creates a film that focuses on the apocalypse and a family surviving through the apocalypse. But what Shults does is create an enemy that assures an inevitable and unstoppable death at the hands of a miserable disease that is inexplicable and remorseless. When we meet Paul, his wife and son Travis, they’re beginning to set their grandfather free in the woods where they plan to execute and bury him.
The staff at Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival makes a great effort to bring all kinds of horrific, kooky, and fun shorts to their fest. The films chosen are of a wide array and all different from each other. Here are a few shorts reviews for a few of these short films:
Shane Ryan’s “Guerilla” watches more like a proof of concept film more than a short film, but for what it offers I think there’s a ton of potential for a great feature film down the road. With no dialogue and a sweet eighties synth score, “Guerilla” is a mix of “The Goonies” and “Night of the Comet” centering on the apocalypse and an airborne disease that transforms people in to blood soaked maniacs.
Once called “Stake Lander,” the follow up to the fantastic 2011 apocalyptic vampire film may be just a TV movie, but it’s thankfully a pretty excellent follow up to the original vampire thriller. “Stake Land 2” reunites just about everyone from the original film to extend the mythology of the original film and continue the epic journey of the enigmatic Mister and his young sidekick Martin. Except now, Martin is an experienced apocalyptic hunter who has managed to settle in to a life he loves, even in the midst of the end of the world. Despite Mister venturing out on his own, Martin has established a farm as well as married and had a son.