Arbor Demon (2017)

Director Patrick Rea’s horror thriller “Arbor Demon” (Originally titled “Enclosure”) is a quite compelling and eerie tale of supernatural interference during what can usually be a tumultuous time. As per the usual with Patrick Rea, “Arbor Demon” is a much more human approach to the typical survival horror movie. His movie is set primarily within the closed in quarters of a tent in the deep woods. But he’s able to derive a lot of terror from the surroundings, and derives some great performances from his cast. In particular there’s Fiona Dourif who impresses once again in a role she dives in to and commands with a lot of pathos and charisma.

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Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)

ernestscaredstupidIt’s really hard to ignore the charm of Ernest and his Halloween adventure. “Ernest Scared Stupid” most definitely has a lot of nostalgic value and sentimental value, but it’s also a very good kids’ horror movie where Ernest battles a bunch of trolls. Ernest and Jim Varney has just always had a good chemistry and here it’s on full display when trolls are unleashed during Halloween. Here, Varney plays Ernest as a garbage collector in a Missouri town. Hundreds of years before a troll that used magic to turn kids in to wooden dolls was locked in a tree and kept dormant. Ernest helps his three friends Kenny Binder, Elizabeth and Joey construct their own tree house which they use as a means of entertainment and warding off the local bullies.

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The Exorcist (1973)

the_exorcistWilliam Friedkin’s treatment of William Peter Blatty’s groundbreaking novel thankfully translated in to a groundbreaking horror film that continues to be the standard for the dismal “possession” movie sub-genre. Friedkin’s take on Blatty’s novel is a masterstroke of horror and dramatic cinema, and is easily one of the most intelligent horror films ever made. Ellen Burstyn plays Chris MacNeil a woman still reeling from a bitter divorce who is tasked with a heavy work schedule filming a movie and attending to her young daughter Regan. Linda Blair is brilliant as Regan, a young girl longing for attention, especially from her estranged father, and begins to make contact with an imaginary friend through a Ouija board she called “Captain Howdy.”

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Egomaniac (2016) [Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival 2016]

egomaniacposterCatherine Sweeney wants to make her first fiction feature film, a zombie romantic comedy, but to do so; she must find people to finance her and help produce the film.  After everyone she meets in the industry is telling her to put a speaking dog in her film as it will sell it like crazy.  After first resisting this idea, she eventually gives in, losing her integrity and possibly her sanity in the process. This film about the plight of the filmmaker, particularly of the female horror filmmaker, is written and directed by Kate Shenton whose first feature film this is.  The lead she creates here feels like a woman some of have met in the industry, possibly a little bit or a lot of Shenton herself as she has to have seen a lot of what Sweeney sees in her own career.

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

et-theextraterrestrial“E.T.” is pretty much the quintessential Steven Spielberg film. It’s very much an autobiographical tale, and speaks waves about the life Spielberg led and the life he almost wished he’d had. “E.T” is about a weird boy from a divorced family who gains a kinship with yet another outcast who happens to be from another world. The way protagonist Elliott is able to bond with the alien that is stranded on Earth is possibly because Elliott is something of an alien in his own world as well. Despite his best intentions to mix in with his family and his class, he’s something of an oddity who gains something of a sense of identity after garnering a bond with someone from a whole other galaxy.

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Enclosure (2016)

EnclosureFiona Dourif is one of the premiere actresses making waves in the horror genre, and she continues delivering powerhouse performances in one of the more creative and complex horror films director Patrick Rea has ever given fans. After her powerhouse performance in “Curse of Chucky,” Dourif stars in “Enclosure,” a film that’s teeming with tension, terror, and mystery and ends as a pretty original twist on the lost campers in the woods trope. I initially assumed “Enclosure” was another big foot or yeti horror tale, but director Patrick Rea strives for so much more, and delivers a film that’s so much more meaningful than a simple monster in the woods tale. “Enclosure” is very much a Patrick Rea film with his usual injection of tension, twists, and subtle humor, along with a premise that transforms in to a whole other beast mid-way.

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The Evil in Us (2015) [FrightFest 2016]

TheEvilinUsA group of students heads to the island cabin one of the girl’s parents just bought.  Once there, they party like they used to, drinking and partaking in recreational drugs.  Meanwhile, in a medical facility that looks more like a prison, tests are bring run on unwilling participants.  Soon it becomes clear that not all is at is seems when the students start attacking each other.

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Embers (2015) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

embersIn the not too distant future, most of the population has been affected by a neurological disease robbing them of their memories.  While a few people try to retain their minds and stay healthy, the rest of the population is trying to remember and reconnect.

Director Claire Carré co-wrote Embers with Charles Spano and they create a dystopian future where the majority of the population, what’s left of it anyways, has no memories but can function as adults.  This leads to some scenes reminiscent of what it’s like to deal with someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  These people still care about others but they simply do not remember each other or who they are themselves.  This could have led to a film where it’s difficult to care about the characters or overly schmaltzy, but that is not the case here.  Carré and Spano’s attention to detail and to creating humans and not simply characters brings forth people that are highly flawed yet trying to connect with each other which lead the audience to connect with them.

As the characters do not remember who they are, the two leads are credited as Guy and Girl.  In these roles are Jason Ritter and Iva Gocheva, both of whom give their characters’ memory loss and loss of self a level of dignity as they search for who they are.  Ritter shines in particular as a man lost while trying to help this girl he feels close to and wakes up near every day, not knowing if they are together or not.  His performance shows care and love while being lost and fighting the despair of losing one’s mind.  His performance steals most of the scenes he is in.  Playing opposite Ritter in most of his scenes is Iva Gocheva who plays well with him, their performances complement each other.  The ensemble of the cast does also quite well, but these two stand out the most.

The production design by Chelsea Oliver and art direction by Matthew Lackit and Wojciech Zogala create a future that is both dystopian and realistic.  The environment in which most of the population lives is counter-productive to them figuring themselves out, in contrast, the rich, unaffected people’s places are filled with technology yet colder than the outside world.  The dichotomy of both worlds is carefully calculated and built.  These set or settings bring a lot to the story and the characters.

All of this is put together to create a film that shows a potential future for Earth, one that is not perfect or even all that good, but the good of people shines through.  The representation of the mystery disease feels like something that could happen if humans do not kill each other first.  The film makes its viewers think and does not take them for idiots.  Some of the mysteries are never explained. It’s simply a slice of life with no explanation how we got there or of what comes after.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.