Prey (Prooi) (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

As a lion wreaks havoc on the city of Amsterdam, a zoo veterinarian gets involved in its chase along with her boyfriend and ex.

Written and directed by Dick Maas, Prey is a horror comedy film with its comedy very dark and its horror a bit light.  The film takes the wild animal on the loose premise and moves it to the city of Amsterdam where the idea of a killer lion on the loose is particularly ludicrous.  The way the film develops this and adds hunters, both experienced and not so much, who once paired with the local police becomes a bit of a mess in terms of lion-chasing but a fun watch in terms of horror-comedy.  The film shows an ability to pit characters against each other in a way that is entertaining while they all face the lion threat.  The comedy is often situational and takes advantage of the characters’ flaws in a way that works well here.  The direction is rather on point for the comedy and fairly good on the horror.  However, as a horror film, it has just about no scare factor.

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Tragedy Girls (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Did you see “Scream 4”? Do you remember the finale and surprise reveal, as well as the reasoning for the murderer’s devious deeds? Well, then you’ve seen “Tragedy Girls.” It feels a lot like Tyler MacIntyre loved the finale to “Scream 4” so much that he took that one twenty minute explanation, and transformed it in to a ninety minute movie that presents glimmers of brilliance, but stumbles quite often. While many will liken “Tragedy Girls” to “Heathers,” it’s actually about as smug and annoyingly self-satisfied as films like “Detention” and “Easy A.”

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Better Watch Out (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

Chris Peckover’s “Better Watch Out” is absolutely nothing like I thought it’d be. That might be a criticism by some when the movie makes its way to VOD this year, but walking in to it blind, I was stunned to find something different but still rather entertaining. “Better Watch Out” just might end up being a Christmas classic somewhere down the road, as it’s a pitch black comedy, and unusual horror thriller that derives great pleasure in its sheer sadism. I’m not usually a fan of horror movies filled with such a mean streak, but “Better Watch Out” is shockingly clever, and very slick in how it builds up its villain slowly and makes the menace in the movie more and more terrifying.

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Fist Fight (2017) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

Richie Keen’s “Fist Fight” is pretty much just a remake of “Three O’Clock High,” this time around it’s amped up to a lighter tone and steeped in hazy intentions. “Fist Fight” could have an important message to tell, but the commentary about public education, class overcrowding, and the under appreciation of teachers is lost in a flurry of empty sub-plots, pointless gags, and under developed characters. “Fist Fight” could have worked since the film itself does garner some laughs every now and then, but it never can figure out if it wants to make a social statement, or if it merely just wants to show Charlie Day and Ice Cube engage in a huge fist fight by the climax. For all intents and purposes, “Fist Fight” works in some areas, setting itself up as a teacher’s nightmare fueled by anxiety of unemployment and poor work conditions.

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House: Two Stories [Blu-ray] (2-Disc Limited Edition)

Arrow Video is easily one of the best movie distributors around, and if you ask certain movie buffs collectors, they’d argue that they’re the best, period. I can’t decide as Arrow Video has been on a mission for the last few years to deliver fans some of the most unique movie titles on blu-ray and DVD, and offer them in deluxe collector’s packages that would make most cineastes hyperventilate out of sheer excitement. Arrow Video has taken it upon themselves to offer fans the two tales of “House,” two films that were big movie rental fodder in their heydays and are now brought together for what is a heavily suggested anthology. Arrow Video combines two of the true “House” movies that are—ironically—about as different from each other as the last two “House” movies.

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Serial Mom (1994): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

John Waters has always been great about featuring the anti-culture of America and showing how charming the anti-nuclear family can be. “Serial Mom” is one of the more mainstream cinematic efforts that feature one of the finest performances from Kathleen Turner. It’s just a shame that “Serial Mom” never knows what kind of movie it wants to be. At times it’s a satire on the phony façade of white bread suburban life, sometimes it’s a satire on the spectacle American can build out of murderers, and other times it’s reminiscent of a classic slasher movie. All we know is that Waters depicts main character Beverly Sutphin as a John Waters character stuck in “Leave it to Beaver.” Sutphin is a happy homemaker who takes pride in her family and preparing good meals and recycling.

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Life Outside the Frame, Episode 1: Star Wars

Julian Palmer’s “Life Outside the Frame” has a lot of potential to be a darkly satirical web series about some of the more insignificant characters affected during some of the more major movie and TV series of all time. Touching on one of the more entertaining minutiae of “Star Wars,” Palmer decides to focus on one of the last remaining storm troopers. After the Empire fell, and the rebels won, a lot of the characters began leading normal lives.

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Dear White People (2014)

It’s daunting how predictable we’ve become when it comes to discourse about race relations and politics. In response to 2014’s “Dear White People” becoming a series, an angry user on Twitter asked “Why is there no “Dear Black People”?” In the very first scenes of the movie, while Samantha White is recording her college radio show “Dear White People,” character Kurt calls in asking “Where is there no “Dear Black People”?” Justin Simien’s “Dear White People” plays with perceptions of events, and ideas of chaos, by toying with our frustration with the normality of racial incidents, and stages a racial war that unfolds within the seemingly monotonous underbelly of Winchester College.

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