Luciferina (2018) [Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival 2018]

A trainee nun, Natalia, goes home after an accident kills her mother and leaves her father dying. Once home, she discovers family secrets and goes on a self-discovery trip with friends. There she learns even more and puts her own soul at stake.

Writer/director Gonzalo Calzada takes the concepts of good versus bad, god versus evil, Catholic versus pagan, family, legacy, and destiny and plays with them in a dark realm tinged by demonic forces and curiosity. The story here is done in a way that works for its characters, letting them get exposed and built before throwing in the evil/demonic elements. Most of everything here works and goes towards creating a cohesive story and world. Some of the timeline and exposure may feel a bit off as it foes, but it all makes sense by the end. Calzada has a story here that he knows how to tell and he gets it out here on the screen in a way the viewer can easily watch, connect with, and be entertained by.

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Mara (2018)

As criminal psychologist Kate helps with a murder investigation that the police seems to consider an open and shut case, she discovers that other forces may be at play, putting herself in harm’s way as she investigates.

Based on a story by Jonathan Frank and Clive Tonge, Mara is written by Jonathan Frank and directed by Clive Tonge. Together they create a story that feels familiar with a few fresh elements added to it all interesting. The story does make fairly good use of the unknown factor, but it doesn’t build on the tension and suspense enough, rendering a potentially scary story only entertaining. The titular character is interesting and is given a fully fleshed out background as the film advances but something feels like it’s missing which will lead some to feel like what is missing is a sense of the unknown, leaving the film with very little dread or fear from this unknown or Mara. The story may be scary to casual horror fans, but will most likely not be all that scary to genre fans who have seen a lot of this story’s type.

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The Predator (2018)

Somehow in the age of studios reviving remnants of the eighties and destroying them with convoluted mythology and narratives, “Predator” has been somewhat spared. Sure, it was involved with the “Alien” series for a bit, but it’s primarily stayed simplistic and true to the original film–unlike the “Terminator” and “Alien” movie series. “The Predator” is a movie that will likely divide fans of the original film and series as a whole; it’s filled with a ton of plot, an array of characters and is somewhat the antithesis of the original film’s more straight forward machismo based narrative. It also dares to expand on the mythos, should Shane Black be given another shot with a sequel.

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Female Filmmaker Friday: La Quinceañera (2017) [Horrible Imaginings Film Festival 2018]

On the evening of her quinceañera, Alejandra witnesses the slaughter of her family. With the few surviving members, they set out of make things right.

Created and written by Shane McKenzie and Gigi Saul Guerrero with the latter directing, La Quinceañera started off as a series of webisodes and then became a feature with all the episodes gathered together in one feature. The film version is easy to watch with separate chapters that lead the story from a sweet start to a very bloody ending. The characters built here are strong and work together in a way that is natural and very much like a family.

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Mandy (2018)

In the early 1980s, a man’s goes on a rampage to find his loved one’s killers after dealing with loss, grief and its many stages most definitely including anger. His love for her was all encompassing and nothing will come in the way of his revenge, not even demons.

Based on a story by Panos Cosmatos who co-wrote with Aaron Stewart-Ahn and directed, Mandy is a mayhem-y film that starts mellow and filled with love. It takes its time setting up the relationship and care between Red and Mandy before Mandy gets dispatched, making her someone the viewer can care about and can be attached to before she gets killed. This does also mean that it feels a bit long in the first part before Red gets through his grief and to his revenge. That being said, when the revenge begins, it goes full force, balls to the wall, insane. The film’s last third or so is blood-soaked violent goodness where every and all tools can become a murder weapon that makes a ton of damage.

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The Bad Seed (2018)

When Rob Lowe was originally approached about his remake of “The Bad Seed,” he commented that his film version is a drama more than a horror movie. While the original 1956 movie starring Patty McCormack was a horror movie with a dramatic tinge, by God Rob Lowe makes sure that his version of “The Bad Seed” is a drama. Even the unraveling of a parent realizing their child is a psychopath with only the goal of self preservation is painfully bent for the sake of drama, and less horror. Lowe fails, especially because the realization that their child is a psychopath with zero emotion should be a living nightmare. Not some kind of twist in a melodrama.

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Mandy (2018)

Panos Cosmatos’ “Mandy” will be a film that not everyone will click in to. What could be a typical revenge thriller about a man avenging his wife is transformed in to a brilliant and mesmerizing trip in to insanity and literal hell. We know so little about Nicolas Cage’s character, but once he’s lost everything in his life, he descends in to a madness and hellfire that’s both horrifying and awe inspiring. Every single frame of “Mandy” is a mind blowing moving painting, one filled with vast colors and shades. The world Red and Mandy share is so vast, but is set just for them and them alone.

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