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Hank Boyd Is Dead (2015)

HankBoydAccused murdered Hank Boyd has died and his mother wants him remembered with a funeral and gathering at the family home.  Sarah is hired to work this gathering for the local catering company.  As the hours pass, the Boyd family grows stranger and stranger and Sarah must fight for her life.

Written and directed by Sean Melia for whom this is a first full length feature film, the story seems simple at first: A child murderer has died in a small town and his family is trying to keep a minimum of respect for him at his funeral.  However, as more and more is discovered about the Boyd family, the more twisted the story becomes.  It isn’t only about Sarah’s survival among this family but also about how crazy can one family really be.  The story is fairly well written and unfolds at a good pace, never losing the viewer’s attention but also not exactly feeling like it’s doing anything new with the crazy family aspect.

The acting is decent from the leads and supporting cast.  Standouts are Carole Monferdini as the aging and slowly losing it clan matriarch, Beverly Boyd, who alternates between sweet old lady and crazy violent bitch.  Her performance is nuanced with a touch of bat shit insane.  The other standout if Stefanie E. Frame as Sarah Walsh, the outsider who becomes captive and fights for her life.  She shows a range of emotions from boredom to stunned surprise to desperation which adds to the viewers’ care for her character.

Hank Boyd Is Dead is a violent film but there is no gore and very little blood, the horror here is more psychological in nature.  Yes, there is violence, but what is meant to shock is the story, the characters’ backgrounds, and the family dynamics, not the physical damage made to others (except in a couple of scenes).  That being said, it is a violent film with some disturbing aspects, however for a more jaded audience, it’s not quite enough to have much of an effect.

The film has good performances in general, a fairly good story, decent dialogue, but nothing is really shocking or new.  At 76 minutes, it’s a fairly short feature which allows it to not overstay its welcome.  The twists are interesting but will be predictable to some.  Nonetheless, the film is entertaining while not breaking any new ground in the crazy family with major issues horrific drama sub-genre.

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Howl (2015)

howl2015It’s fantastic how effective “Howl” is considering the premise is so barebones and simplistic. If you’re a fan of survival horror like I am, “Howl” should be right up your alley, as it pits victims in an unlikely setting and puts them against impossible odds. Much like “Assault on Precinct 13,” the chances of the characters of “Howl” surviving are slim to nil, but I still rooted for them and eagerly awaited to see how they’d outwit their nemeses waiting in the darkness. Set during the middle of winter, Joe is a ticket taker and train guard who just missed out on a promotion.

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How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town (2016)

howtoplanIt’s pretty remarkable how so many good actors can be in such a sub-par unfunny situation comedy. It’s also pretty surprising how a movie centered around sex and orgies really ends about as blandly and vanilla as pound cake. “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town” is yet another of those slice of life dramas, where a city bound thirty something protagonist goes back to their old town to re-visit the ghosts of their past and discover something about themselves. We saw it in “Garden State,” “Beautiful Girls,” “Junebug,” and about a hundred other dramas since the early nineties.

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Holidays (2016)

holidaysThe folks behind “Holidays” try to cover all the bases of the resurgence of the horror anthology film. They tackle the holiday horror film, try to create original and unique horror segments out of rarely touched upon holidays around the world, and they also organize it with a faux arthouse gloss that became popularized in “ABCs of Death.” While “ABCs of Death” and its sequel were misfires of the anthology horror film at least they were amusing misfires.

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The Hateful Eight (2015) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

hatefuleightDirector Quentin Tarantino has apparently had enough of delivering fans films that are mash ups of genres he loves and instead seems to want to challenge his audience the older he gets. Any artist grows the older they become and Tarantino has grown, exploring cinema that’s gradually more polarizing and alienating as time goes on. Quentin Tarantino hasn’t lost his ability to tell a story and unfold an interesting narrative, as he’s hellbent on exploring a character piece that’s less action and call backs to past genres, and more of an implementation of certain genres to create what has been his most divisive film to date.

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Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986)

HMPL

“Madonna can go to hell as far as I’m concerned! She’s a dick!”

If aliens ever came down to Earth and wanted to know what the eighties were like, they could look no further than the time capsule that is “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.” It is, as many have described it, the viral video before viral videos existed. I’d love to see a documentary about this film some day, or perhaps an actual feature made around the events that occur in the fifteen minute documentary. It’s a hilarious and often absurd look at a certain time period where everyone wore mullets, walked around without shirts, bragged about doing drugs, and women were often very proud to admit they wanted to “fuck” certain band members’ “brains out.”

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Hush (2016)

Hush

A deaf writer lives and works in her secluded home in the woods where she gets few visitors.  Then one night, a masked man shows up and stalks her in an unnerving game of cat and mouse. Director Mike Flannagan and lead actress Kate Siegel co-wrote Hush which all takes place in and around the lead’s, Maddie’s, home.  The limited settings work here as Maddie is trying to escape this mad man without help or access to the outside world.  This is a movie with a total of five characters, two of which support the bulk of the story.  The characters here feel real, not caricatures of real people or stereotypes.

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Howl (2015)

howl-15

A train breaks down in the countryside only a few miles from its departure point.  The few passengers on board are getting restless as the train staff attempts to figure out what is going on when all of a sudden, a beat howls outside.  The train becomes under siege by a beast who wants to snack on its passengers like canned food. The setting and premise here are simple: People in one location, being attacked, needing to escape.  Co-written by Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby, both of whom mostly have children tv show credits, the script works within its limited setting.  They build the characters just enough which is to say, most characters are fairly basic, but they work as beast fodder that the viewer care enough about to have a reaction to their demise.

It also means that the last survivors are easy to spot as they are the most developed characters, which is fairly par for the course with horror movies like this one.

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