The Crooked Man (2016)

the-crooked-manIt’s shocking how well Jesse Holland’s horror film “The Crooked Man” plays, because Syfy original movies are rarely ever as entertaining as this. “The Crooked Man” is part “Lights Out,” and part “It Follows” with a dash of Creepypasta. When she was twelve, Olivia was at a slumber party and was encouraged by her friends to visit a creepy website where if a nursery rhyme about the dreaded crooked man was read aloud, he’d be invoked. Despite their initial disbelief, Olivia witnesses her friend be viciously murdered by the horrific crooked man and is blamed for her death. Six years later when Olivia comes back in to her home town, she realizes that she’s not entirely welcomed there. What’s worse is that the people that were there that night are being viciously murdered by the horrific Crooked Man, who has a bone to pick with the witnesses that night.

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Cycle (2016)

cycleDirector Alexis Ramirez’s short film “Cycle” is a little rough around the edges, but I really enjoy what kind of idea is presented in such a short time. The concept of competition and the thirst for success in a career driving a person mad is a good one that’s been tackled many times. It is thankfully done pretty well here focusing on Heather, a young woman who is at home one afternoon seemingly practicing on choking someone to death.

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Captain America Civil War (2016) [Blu-Ray/Digital]

capamcwIt’s amazing what kind of feat the Russo Brothers have pulled off. Not only do they offer up a pseudo-sequel to the continuing saga of “The Avengers” but they also manage to squeeze in a superhero epic, and revenge saga that stretches out over the Marvel Cinematic Universe without ever missing a single beat. “Captain America: Civil War” finally brings the Marvel Universe full circle creating something of a wider scope now that Marvel has been able to acquire and introduce superheroes and characters that were long thought to be incapable of appearing. In just a two and a half hour movie, we’re able to watch a full fledged tale of friendship unfold in the face of a revenge plot, while being given marvelous and overdue introductions to iconic Avenger The Black Panther, and Marvel’s long awaited iteration of their iconic superhero Spider-Man.

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CarousHELL (2016)

caroushell-posterI never would have believed it if I didn’t see it for myself. Director Steve Rudzinski is a man who is not satisfied with creating your typical indie fare, and while his films may be a bit rough around the edges, you’re almost always assured an original film that has a keen sense of what kind of entertainment it wants to be. “CarousHELL” is a movie I, for some reason, assumed was some kind of horror anthology, and boy was I way off. Not prone to just delivering a slasher movie you’ve seen a thousand times, Steve Rudzinski offers up a slasher movie you’ve never seen before. Duke is a sentient carousel unicorn who has spent years and years being ridden on by nasty, smelly, and ungrateful children.

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Crow (2016) [FrightFest 2016]

CrowA rich land developer buys a big piece of land on which stands a protected forest and wants to clear most of it to build a mansion for his wife and himself.  Standing in his way are a group of travelers squatting the land and its farmhouse.  As he forces them out and starts clearing the land, forces show their discontent.

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The Creature Below (2016) [FrightFest 2016]

thecreaturebelowAfter a diving accident that almost cost her life, Olive finds an odd egg in her damaged oxygen tank.  Sneaking it off of the boat after being fired, she brings it homes to study it and see what kind of beast might emerge from it in this Lovecraftian tale from the UK. The Creature Below is directed by Stewart Sparke who wrote the story Paul Butler based his script on.  They create an interesting lead who loses her job and returns home to her boyfriend after 5 months at sea.  Tensions are clear and expected between them and they get stronger as she works with the creature in her home office and as her sister visits.

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Clown (2016) [Blu-Ray/Digital]

ClownBluRayFor such a unique premise and concept, it’s surprising how unremarkable “Clown” ends up being, in the end. Despite its best efforts, “Clown” feels like a short film that perhaps should have stayed a short film, as most of its narrative feels spread out to fit a hundred minutes. And I don’t know how they’ll pull off a sequel, if the final scene is any indication. “Clown” probably watches a lot better as a short film, but it breezes through the premise in the first thirty minutes and stops being interesting by the end of the first hour. Kent is an average dad who finds out the clown he had booked for his son’s birthday has cancelled. Anxious to keep his promise of a clown, Kent goes rummaging through his basement and finds a clown suit locked in a mysterious chest.

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Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

creturedesignersFilm buffs will be elated to see “Creature Designers,” a very technical cogs and gears documentary that spotlights the grueling process of creating creatures for movies. Directors Gilles Penso, and Alexandre Poncet mold a love letter to the classic master creature creators, as well as a very down to business film that shows the technology behind some of the most iconic creatures and monsters of all time. It’s a thrill to see how the directors have such a reverence for these artists, as we get to visit with a ton of unique artists and concept designers that are enthusiastic about their work. Since the beginning of film, special effects and creature have found a wonderful marriage with filmmaking.

That’s thanks in part to Lon Chaney who was able to use his make up kit to build some amazing monsters out of his face and own features. From there it’s been a rising tide of artists and creators that have added to the cinematic experienced and helped advance storytelling as a whole. Both filmmakers visit with iconic masterminds like Rick Baker, Joe Dante, and Guillermo Del Toro, all of whom explore their love for special effects, and convey the process of building creatures for some of their films. What becomes apparent within “Creature Designers” is that the advancement of special effects would lead in to less and less necessity for suits and machines, and more need for computer technology.

This darker period is chronicled in “Creature Designers” where we’re able to view a more vulnerable side of these individuals, all of whom had to adapt to the shift in technology or risk losing their livelihoods. Thankfully, the documentary doesn’t depict the introduction of CGI and motion capture as the bane of the special effects industry. Directors Gilles Penso, and Alexandre Poncet explore some of the amazing advancements made in computer technology, from motion capture, facial recognition, and how they’ve used this kind of programming to bring to life amazing characters like Golum from “Lord of the Rings” and the T-1000 from “Terminator 2.” No stone is left unturned, as every interview is informative, exciting, and filled with amazing anecdotes.

For folks that are seeking a career in the special effects industry, or for films buffs very invested in the special effects element of filmmaking, “Creature Designers” is a wonderful documentary that brings us up close and personal from the fan viewpoint and a technical viewpoint.