Saturday, September 30, 2023

I'LL CRUSH Y'ALL (2023) Fantastic Fest

Dark comedy about a paroled felon known as Nuthead who ends up back home. When his brother gets in trouble with the mob, he and his slingshot shooting partner to make things right.

Amusing little film made me smile and never really clicked with me. Part of it is the humor wasn’t to my liking, but also the way the film was shot never made me forget it was film.

It’s not bad, and I’m guessing you may like it, but it never worked for me.

Bark (2023) Fantastic Fest 2023


Love it or loath it film is the story of a man who wakes up shackled to a tree. Why is there isn’t really clear. Things become complicated when some one appears and sets up a camp with the intention of watching him die.

Bleak, black torture porn off shoot feels like an expanded play. This is a two hander truly set in a single location. It’s a well made and well acted film that touches the darkness in our souls.

Does that mean it’s a good film?  For me, probably not. This is just a black film whose point I’m still trying to work out. Is it just about the inhumanity of man? Perhaps but I’m not sure I need 90 minutes of a man tied to a tree to see it. At some point I considered walking out, but I was curious where it was going. While not quite the conclusion I was expecting, the final turn made me gasp.

Yes it’s well made but it’s way too dark (and possibly pointless) for my tastes

Mushrooms (2023) Fantastic Fest

Just over an hour long film has a woman out in the woods encountering a lost couple who want her help to escape. She’s not too sure that’s a good idea.

Essentially the cinematic equivalent of a short story with a sting in the tale, MUSSHROOMS is a film you need to see and then discuss. It’s not that there is anything wrong, rather it’s simply a matter that the construction of the film is such that anything said beyond a bare minimum will ruin how you see the film the first time through. This is another one where the less you know is better.

As good as the film is the first time through, I’m not sure how this will play on repeated viewings. Yes a second one will be fine, but after that this fragile little film may seem less special. Still, as something to see with no expectations this film is a great deal of fun.

STORM (2023)Beyond Fest

A couple wake up to noises in their house- going to investigate they eventually discover an intruder in the house.

And that’s really all I can say about the film. It’s not that I don’t want to, rather it is simply that the film flips and flops and since it only runs 8 minutes it will be spoiled if I say too much.

I will say that it is a tense little film with a wicked sense of humor. It also has a resolution that will make you sit up and go ‘Whoa”.

Recommended where ever you can see it.


This is a look at lawyer and genealogist Randy Schoenberg and his teenage son Joey Schoenberg as they travel through their family history across Europe and time.

The elder Schoenberg got into genealogy as a kid as the result of a school project. Because he is the grandson of a famous composer he had a bit more to work with than other kids and he became hooked on tracing his family history. Even as he was making headlines with big cases (He fought to get a Klimt painting returned to it's rightful owner, a story made into the film WOMAN IN GOLD). His work helped him be able to travel around the world in order to continue pursuing his family history.

This is a very good film. It's a wonderful tale of family and history and how sometimes they collide. It's a film full of good people finding out all sorts of interesting things.

World Premiering at the Woodstock Film Festival it will be playing also at Cincinnati, Zurich and Tel Aviv between now and October 8.

MASTER OF THE HOUSE (2023) Vancouver International Film Festival

Young sommelier​ working at a fancy restaurant has to choose between friendship and advancement when a noted food critic arrives to do a review.

Very good short looks like a million dollars, is beautifully acted and moves like the wind. This is a solid short that would make a killer feature. You can feel the plot threads bleeding off the screen, begging to be explored. It’s one of those films where the fact you can see the bigger world beyond the edges of the frame make it a better film.

This is super filmmaking from top to bottom and director Dylan Maranda, jumps to the top of the list of ones to watch.

Friday, September 29, 2023

SRI ASIH: THE WARRIOR (2023) Fantastic Fest

This is just a quick note to say that you need to see this marvelous comic book film. This is going to be a quick note because the screener I was given did not have subtitles.

The film is the story of a young woman with mystical powers (think Wonder Woman but kind of more bad ass) who takes on  a bunch of bad guys. Full of great fights and spectacular imagery this is a return to comics films being fun. I didn’t have any clue but I enjoyed the hell out it- who needs Marvel or DC when you can have a film as fun as this.

Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967 NYFF 2023

During the 4th NYFF Agnes Varda and Peir Paolo Paolini walked through Times Square. Varda filmed their walk and then later recorded a conversation to put over it. The film was recently found, restored and finished.

This year's NYFF is making a big deal about this four minute short, including it as part of several feature film screenings.  I'm not really sure why. It's not that it's bad, but more because there isn't much here.  The footage is just them walking down the street. The conversation is intriguing but  I wish it was longer that 4 minutes.

Is it bad? No, but it is at best a footnote.  Its kind of like finding a small doodle in the margin of a book by someone famous. It's cool, but nothing special.

If you see it you'll like it, but odds are you'll wonder why they are making a big to do about it.

La Práctica (2023) NYFF 2023

Droll comedy about the owner of a yoga studio who has to deal with running his business and various personal relationships.

Martin Rejtman returns to making movies with his first film in almost a decade. It's a sweet little film that will make you laugh as the characters go through their paces.

I liked La Práctica but I never full loved it despite laughing a great deal. The problem is the mannered telling kept me distant, and reminded me of the director's earlier films. 

Worth a look, especially if you've never seen a Rejtman film.

Human Surge 3(2023) NYFF 2023

People wander through various locations and talk about things.

You are going to either love this film or hate it. Odds are you are going to love the experience of seeing this film if you see this on a big screen where you can get lost in its images.  If you see it, as I did , via a screening link, you are going through the whole film wishing that you had seen the film on a huge cinema screen.

Shot with a 360 degree camera, with the images unfolded the images have  a scope that you don't normally see in a film. There is an overwhelming sense of place and space.  Because of the way the camera records images, there are sequences, such as the walk in the tall grass towards the end, that end up creating hypnotic images.

The images that create a head space that is magical.

The problem with the film is that outside the images I'm not certain the film works. The reason for this is that film has no plot. It is simply the camera following various people walking and talking. The dialog is improvised so as a result is  you end up with exchanges that go nowhere or are odd ("I see a crow vomiting on a beach") or are intentionally meaningful. The exchanges might have worked if most of them weren't from a distance with the speakers walking with their backs to us.  We can't really see them enough to connect with them. And while I'm sure there is a better connection on a bigger screen, I still suspect that it isn't as strong as the filmmaker thinks it is.

For me this is film made with a really cool conceit that has nothing beyond the conceit.  If that's enough for you, great, but  if not this is a tough slog.

Worth seeing if you can see it on a truly big screen for the images, otherwise I'd take a pass.


Documentary/essay on moths morphs into a pondering of life on a larger scale. This is a gorgeous looking film that not only shows us the beauty of moths but also forces us to think about biodiversity and life in general. If you want an atypical mind blower this is for you.

Portrait of the abandoned community of Allensworth, California. Now little more than a group of empty buildings it was once a thriving African American town. This is a thought provoking essay about communities, race and the ebb and flow of society.  While the nature of the presentation may not work for everyone, the film raises a number of issues that will make the receptive audience think about the film for hours afterward.

Miko Revereza’s essay/documentary pondering his family’s status as undocumented Filipinos in America is a film of quiet power. Contemplative in nature owing to the film diary like approach, the film puts us in to the head space of the director and makes us walk the proverbial mile in his shoes.  Worth a look for anyone who is interested in the state of being undocumented.

Lee Grant’s 1976 short film is a huge scale intimate drama about the meeting of a man’s wife and lover at a ritzy restaurant. Based on  a Strindberg play it’s a chamber piece in a grand setting. Susan Strasberg and Dolores Dorn shine in their roles.  It feels like it’s part of a much larger film we never got to see, but should have. It’s playing with Grant’s excellent TELL ME A RIDDLE so make the effort and go see them.

(I should write up TELL ME A RIDDLE but it’s been too long since I’ve seen it so my review would have been just go. Truthfully it’s so good it will make you realize how good Grant is as a director and curse Hollywood for not letting her direct more.)

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Thoughts on THE BOY AND THE HERON (2023) NYFF 2023

When THE BOY AND THE HERON was opening in Japan no images other than a single one of the heron was release and there was no effort to explain the plot. Everyone thought it was a brilliant marketing move, but having seen the film I completely understand why it was done- the plot is ever changing and the fantastical images from the second half  are misleading as to what the film is. Ultimately you have to just see the film to really know what the film is.

That is not hyperbole, that is the truth. Nothing I can tell you is going to prepare you for what you see and until you see it it’s kind of pointless to discuss the plot.

If you what to know what the film is, it’s the story of a young boy, who moves with his father to the country after his mother is killed when the hospital she is in is bombed. However the film is so much more than that.

It is not hyperbole to say this is the greatest film that Hayao Miyazaki has ever made. It is the work of a master animator operating at the highest level, making a film about life and death and kicking the ass of the audience.

And when I say the film will kick your ass I wasn’t kidding. It’s a heady and emotional roller-coaster that starts in one place and ends somewhere else. It’s a film that is full of wonder that over whelms you with ideas and images that leave you emotional moved at the end. Indeed, about a minute into the end credits I suddenly began to sob uncontrollably. I can not tell you what did it or why, I just know that I suddenly needed a box of tissues I did not have with me.

When you see the film you have to go with it. The construction is something special. It begins as a conventional narrative, slips into dream logic, then abandons that for pure emotional ramblings. I can’t discuss what happens because until you pass through it you won’t understand it.

Visually it is largely unlike anything Miyazaki has done. Yes, we have his images, but he goes outside of that into the realm of the surreal. He is operating in the realm of his friend and partner Isao Takahata who created images to match his story, hence POM POKO  doesn’t look like GRAVE OF FIREFLIES nor like the TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA. Indeed this film seems to be the next film Takahata would have made if he were alive. It is in a way it’s a huge tribute to the late master.

I really need to see this film again to truly discuss it. I knew that twenty minutes in. There is so much to contemplate from the place herons hold in Japanese culture, to seeming riffs on things like the work of Kenji Miyazawa and NIGHT ON THE GALACTIC RAILWAY, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Hero, to the films notions of life and life after death, of what makes a family and several dozen other things. I need to see the film again because the denseness of the narrative has me certain things that I missed things. What I mean by this is that events early in the film that you would think should lead to something, don’t seem to for a good while, until an hour or more of screen time passes and a line or an action that we thought was a lost thread back snaps into sharp context., 

Yes, I’m being vague- but I have to because for any points I want to make require a context you can only get from seeing the film so I need to wait until everyone sees the film when it releases to fully discuss my thoughts. I will be writing more after by second pass through, but for now this should get you going. Until then know that this is one of the best and most thought provoking films of the year and quite possibly the best film that Studio Ghibli has ever made.

This film will rock your world.

And try to see it knowing as little as possible.

GAMMA RAYS (2023) San Sebastian 2023

This is the story of several young adults on the fringes of their groups and what happens to them.

I’m sorry if that doesn’t tell you a great deal but it’s kind of hard to really discuss what this film is. One part narrative and one part documentary the film is hybrid mix that is kind of like watching life as live except that we know some of this was created for the film. I have not explored how much that is, rather I just let wash over me like watching people on a summer day.

This is nice little film that moves you and touches your heart because you quickly realize the people on screen are real people. 

It's also a hard film to really discuss in a vacuum because in viewing the film you want to relate what you've seen to your own life, and you want to relate to it in a conversation with someone because you will have thoughts and ideas that you want to discuss not pontificate about. My feeling when the film was done was to discuss it not review it.

That my friends is a rave because it is a sign of a film that demand we interact with it.

Go see GAMMA RAYS, if not at the San Sebastian Film Festival where it just premiered then at one of the festivals that will follow soon.

AIMEE: The Visitor (2023)

AIMEE is a compact little thriller cashing in on the fact that AI is in the news. The film has a hacker downloading the newest AI program, the Aimee of the title, and learning very quickly that the program was designed as malicious software, aiming to learn everything about you and then use it against you.

Set in a couple of rooms the film moves like the wind. Running a breezy 70 minutes the film does what it has to do and then gets off. It is another of the recent spate Full Moon  films that are nicely compact and run as long as they have to, not worrying that they have to meet a certain length to get a theatrical booking (theaters really want  a film at least 80 minutes long lest audiences complain). Like the other Full Moon films I’ve seen recently it’s a lean mean thriller machine.

What the film feels like is a kind of back door pilot. I could see the film acting as a pilot for a TV series where Aimee is battled by a group of hackers. I’m not sure how far the series could go, but if handled right it could make a good series.

As it stands now AIMEE is a solid short thriller that’s worth your time.

There is Something in the Barn (2023) Fantastic Fest

Destined to be another Christmas classic THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE BARN is a wickedly funny holiday horror film in the RARE EXPORTS territory.

The plot has an American family moving to Norway when they inherit their uncles home. They don't know about the thing in the barn that killed him.  It quickly transpires that a elf is living in the barn. He makes friends with the son of the family. However he is not the only one of his kind and the others are not friendly, they are actually homicidal.

While much of the first half is a kind of culture clash comedy with foreshadowing of the darkness that follows, the second half is where the film amps everything up and it becomes a balls to the wall battle between the family and the elves. It's a blood and gory affair full of humor. As the the film goes on we are laughing as we are groaning at what happens.

This film is an absolute holiday delight. Its so good I expect that there will be sequels.

Go see this- and have a grand time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Limbo (2023) hits theaters and VOD Friday

Two cops in Hong Kong chase down a serial killer killing women and collecting left hands.

This is a great film. Bleak, black and dripping with mood, it’s a film that echoes the darkest moments of films like SEVEN, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and ZODIAC, but without any hint of levity. Watching LIMBO you have descended into the lowest depth of hell and you can’t escape.

The first thing you notice with the cinematography. The monochromatic images of light and shadow pop. They aren’t really Black and white, but black and muted silver. It’s so stark and arresting it influences everything in the film. It is as big a character as the ones portrayed by the actors. It’s so key to the film that if this had been shot in color LIMBO would not have been even half as good. (Honestly this film should be put into the Oscar mix because I don’t think any film I’ve seen this year not only looks this good or had images that are this important to the success of the film.)

This film will depress you in the best sort of a way. It’s a film where you can feel the goodness sucked from the souls of the people on screen. We are in the realm of broken people and it hurts. The classic film noir films have nothing on this film.

I absolutely loved this film. I really wish I had seen it on a truly huge screen where I could get lost in the images. As it is this is one of the best crime thrillers of seen in the last few years.

A must see.

Before The Sunset (2023)

BEFORE THE SUNSET is a small gem of a film. It doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen before but it does it extremely well and keeps us connected for its entire running time.

The film concerns Kazunori a once mighty man of business now living in a nursing home. While out on a walk he tells Asuka, his caregiver about his life and how he never had time for a family.  She wishes that he could get what his heart desires. He wishes to be 20 again, and he is suddenly 20, back in college and with a desire to help Asuka get over a broken heart.

Sweet little film about seizing life and enjoying what it gives you. It’s a lovely film filled with great characters that you fall in love with. Normally I would have passed on this film but it arrived when I was hip deep in very serious fall festival films and it acted as the perfect palette cleanse. It was a lovely reconnect to the world of real people and not highbrow cinema artists.

Is this the greatest film ever? No but it never was supposed to be. It was supposed to just be a sweet little tale that makes you feel and reconnect with life and as that this film is gangbusters.


A Silence (2023) San Sebastian 2023

A family implodes in the wake of a scandal.

Beautifully shot and achingly acted film should have been one of the best films of the year but an obtuse and telling and a refusal to be clear on details until the second half of the film makes this largely a time waster.

The write up simply says it"revolves around Astrid , the wife of an acclaimed lawyer. Silenced for 25 years, her family balance suddenly collapses when her children initiate their own search for justice." adding it was based on a true story. The film is really about the father being a child abuser and one of his children looking for justice in the wake of a criminal case. 

Not that you really know that for a chunk of the film. No one says a hell of a lot and when they do (especially in the first half of the film), it's not really referencing what exactly is going on. We know something happened, hence the media attention, but what it is we aren't told.

I don't mind being spoon fed or having to work things out for myself, but things aren't really clear, more so since there is a fractured narrative, which isn't  clear out of the box. I really wasn't sure what is going on. Frankly I am still not certain of a lot of it.

Whose idea was it not to give us any bread crumbs?

By the half hour point I had so disconnected from the film that by the time we started to get details and things (kind of) started to go together I really didn't care.

This is a well made art house film that is much too clever for its own good.

Pass on this one

SUBURBAN TALE (2023) ( aka Tamso) Fantastic Fest 2023

Prodigal daughter returns home for a family wedding only to discover they are hiding the fact that one of their members is possessed by a demon, and unless he is kept fed he spews a gas that causes one to hallucinate. As things begin to take a turn for the worse people find their thoughts trapped in the bad old days.

Low key and creepy horror film will keep you on the edge of your seat. Brilliantly blending full on horror with the unpleasantness of dealing with your family  SUBURBAN TALE hits us in the gut with a double whammy. What do you do when you have to work with people you don’t really like? By the time the film explodes into violence we’ve been put through the wringer.

Beautifully made on every level, with a cast who sells the darkness this is the best type of horror film, one where everyone is invested in scaring the proverbial crap out of you.

This is the sort of film that makes me want to go to film festivals, namely under the radar gems that are you would never find otherwise.  

Track this film down and just go with it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Falling Stars (2023) Fantastic Fest


This is a small gem of a film. Wonderfully not what you expect, this is a film you really need to see.

The plot as stated by the press material is that several friends go to see the body of the witch one of the group had shot out of the sky and then buried in the desert. In the process of digging her up they desecrate the body. Weird things begin to happen and the group now have to burn her body before sunrise.

While nominally a horror film, there is so much more going on. This is a film of relationships, friends and life as lived. The relationships feel real and while the film is about things that go bump in the night the film feels real. If not for the subject this could almost be a documentary since the conversations don't feel written but created in the moment. The words are spoken as if they are being done by real people and not characters.  We fall into the the film as a result.

A minimalist film, FALLING STARS has almost no effects, Yes there is a body and some falling stars but the truth is there is nothing flashy. As with the dialog, the look of the film is realistic. There is no big effects scenes, it's all real world and we are better for it.

This is a beautifully made film. As a film fan I love what directors Gabriel Bienczycki and Richard Karpala  have done. They have made a deeply effecting and magical film simply by having an excellent cast interact on screen. Its the opposite of almost any other horror film you've ever seen. It's a film where they let the story work it's magic and they don't fancy it up because it doesn't need it. Why be flashy when the film doesn't need it.

What an absolute delight.

FALLING STARS is a truly special horror film.

MAMI WATA (2023) opens Friday

MAMI WATA is a beautiful black and white fable that needs to be seen on a big screen.

Telling the story of a village that is watched over by the goddess Mama Wata. Her wishes are determined by two women in the village. When a boy dies and a stranger appears the village begins to question the ways of the past.

Formally staged with deliberateness that you see in some of the world’s great art, MAMI WATA transcends its seeming theatrical construction and moves instead into the realm of cinematic myth. This is a fairy tale brought to life on the big screen. It goes from something seemingly simply and stagey into something breathing and alive. It is an arresting work of cinema.

All hail director CJ “Fiery” Obasi. Using high contrast black and white photography he has created a living painting. His sense of light and dark reminds me a great deal of the work of artist Frank Miller whose graphic work  like Sin City made us rethink about how light and dark can change the world. Here Obasi uses the lack of color to create a waking dream that becomes more real and more enveloping as it goes along.

I was floored, at first by the images I was seeing and later by how deeply I was moved by them.

This film is a cinematic treat

Highly recommended

A SHINING EXAMPLE (2023) Fantastic Fest

Just as a put upon woman realizes that she has worked out the whole series she is writing in her head and begins to write it, is instead forced to contend with a needy child and her ass of a husband.

What should have been a great film is just okay thanks to an unbelievable central relationship.  Why our heroine is married to her husband makes zero sense. He is such an absolute ass that she never would have gone out with him at any point.  Seriously they just don't work as a couple at all so what follows makes emotional sense. Yes we know why things happen and understand it, expect that it never would have happened except in the mind of a writer.

Take a pass.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Abel Gance's LA ROUE At NYFF 2023

This is the post I published at IMDB in 2008

Abel Gance's monstrously long tale of a train engineer. his son and the girl he takes in and raises as his own. Clocking in at four and a half hours this is still only a fraction of the the three part close to eight hour version that Gance originally created. I won't go into the story of the three years of filming and the tragedies that struck during the filming of the movie, which would make a wonderful film unto itself.

The story begins when Sisif returns to work one day just as a train wrecks in the yard. He pulls a young girl, Norma, from the wreckage and adopts her as his own, bringing her home to live with him and his son. The children are small enough that they simply assume that they are brother and sister. Later as time goes on the children grow, but the family remains in poverty thanks in part to Sisif's drinking and gambling. He is secretly in love with his "daughter" as his his son who makes a living making violins. Also in love with Norma is a well placed engineer who is helping to keep Sisif safe and out of trouble so that he might wed her. As the wheel of life turns and crushes those in its way the lives of everyone take unexpected and not very happy turns.

I'm at sixes and sevens about the film. Certainly its dated badly in some regards. the actor playing Sisif often looks into the camera and plays directly to the audience in a style thats at best over done. Some sequences are clearly unreal. Many interiors were filmed outside since you can see the shifting sun lighting them. And the film is simply put way way way too long at four and a half hours (I can not imagine what the full cut was like).

And yet the film has power at times that is undeniable. The film has a sense of place that can not be matched. Its clear that this was filmed in and around the train yards where it all takes place. The sense of reality is probably is almost unmatched in any film. The photography and montage is among the finest I've ever seen. There are shots of trains running on the rails that need to be hung on walls. Additionally the way the film is cut together is unlike any other film. No one manages to cut like this, I can't imagine what this was like in 1923. The images in images (The scenes of Norma in the train smoke for example) are haunting- more so when you think of how Gance had to put together pretty much in camera. From a technical stand point the quote about the film that's in the publicity for the DVD restoration about how the movie changed after this film is probably dead on. Technically this is like watching lightning. The story is, while melodramatic and potboiler like, affecting and had the film not dragged on as long as it did I would have probably loved the film instead of liked it.

Is it worth seeing? If you're a cinema nut absolutely. Its amazing at times. If you're not a fan of film and really don't like silent film stay away from it because it will probably overwhelm you in the wrong way.

Between 6 and 7 out of 10- with moments that are off the scale.

VISITORS (COMPLETE EDITION) (2023) Fantastic Fest 2023

Kenichi Ugana’s kick ass VISITORS (COMPLETE EDITION) is the expansion of his kick ass short film which played around the world last year. The film was such a jaw dropping experience that I said almost nothing about it other than to call it a delight. My lack of words was not because it was bad but because Ugana’s plotting in the few minutes it ran was such I didn’t want to spoil anything. I was left simply calling it a delight.

My feelings toward this feature version is that it’s even more of a delight.  Seriously, Ugana’s expansion of his story is just even more good stuff, and like the earlier film he takes his tale of a “zombies” into all sorts of unexpected places.

The plot of the film has a bunch of friends traveling to see what is going on with one of their number. It seems their friend has fallen off the face of the earth.  When they arrive they find their friend isn’t quite…normal and it only gets worse.

I remember when I saw the original short I was wondering where this was going to go if it was expanded… and now I found out, and it is delightfully not what I expected. Mixing blood, gore, horror and humor Ugana has fashioned a pretty little monster machine. This is a film that will have you staring at the screen in disbelief as  the slowly building insanity over takes the people on screen and the people in the audience. I was locked and loaded and when the end credits began I just stared at the screen wanting to know where it was going next. I want things to keep going because I was enjoying the thrill ride so much.

This is one of the few expansions of a short that not only is good, but better than the original.

What an absolute blood soaked joy.

If you are a horror fan you need to see this.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Fishmonger (2023) Fantastic Fest

FISHMONGER Trailer (2023) - Dir. Neil Ferron from Neil Ferron on Vimeo.

 Neil Ferron's FISHMONGER is a diseased film in the best possible way. The story of a young man whose mother is dying and who must get married before she does lest a curse takes hold is a black and white comedic nightmare that is going to have you laughing as you squirm in your seats.

I'm not going to say too much about the film, not because there is nothing to say but because I want you to get a full front shotgun barrel to to face when Ferron's characters start explaining things and your stomach starts turning. Even knowing that is not going to prepare you for a film that is going to have you mumbling to yourself for most of it's 25 minutes. 

Trust me when I say if a film is suppose to provoke a reaction and make you engage with it, the FISHMONGER does that in spades. This is quite simply one of the few films that you will see this year that is going to force you to react in the same way someone grabbing your throat and crushing your wind pipe does. I sat there wide eyed and slack jawed as this just spun wildly out .

While not for the squeamish, the strong of heart and stomached are going to have a ball.


The 61st New York Film Festival Starts Friday

Just a quick reminder that the New York Film Festival is starting Friday and for a brief instant the film world refocuses on New York as the epicenter of the film world. As we’ve done since we started Unseen Films will be hip deep in the festival bringing you word on the goodies they are showing.

If you’ve been reading Unseen Films for any amount of time you realize that NYFF holds a special place in our hearts. It was the first festival to give us press credential. It was also the first of the really big festivals in the world that I attended. Most importantly it’s been the festival where magic things happen, from getting to meet Hiyao Miyazaki long enough to get an autograph, watching Debbie Reynolds call in to speak to the audience at a screening of a doc on her life, Kibitzing with Martin Short, to seeing audiences argue with filmmakers. This year I’m taking my niece to her first festival when the new Miyazaki film screens.

I can’t wait.

As this posts I haven’t really seen much. Press screenings just started and since I was in Pittsburgh for the two days of screenings I haven’t seen much . I begin wading in tomorrow and I will be going all the way to the end.

Reviews will start tomorrow.

The must see  films are  

MAMBAR PIERRETTE is a stunning film concerning a seamstress trying to survive. It a film that all come together in the final moments to be something special

YOUTH (SPRING) is a four hour look at the workers in a Chinese factory. It’s a film filled with hope and life and is much more engaging than you can imagine.

LA ROUE  is Abel Gance’s seven hour film about the life of a railroad man and his family.  Wildly uneven- as all Gance’s epics are- it has some of the most amazing things ever put on screen. If you can catch it I recommend it- though understand one screening next weekend is the whole film in one go and the screening that follows the following week is in two parts over two days.

And of course I will be reporting from the road so do yourself a favor and get  tickets and go.

For tickets and more information go here.

The Giant Gila Monster (and Killer Shrews) hits home video in a loaded Blu Ray DVD release 9/26

I don’t buy or get physical media much anymore. Don’t get me wrong I have thousands of titles in my collection but the fact that I am getting so much sent to me to review that I don’t go back and watch things until they’ve been on cable/streaming rotation for months or years.  That said I still pick up the odd special edition disc because I love the film and want a special edition.

When I was recently informed that -Film Master's was releasing a two disc special edition of THE GIANT GILA MONSTER that included a special edition of THE KILLER SHREWS I jumped at the chance to get my hands on the set and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have had the pairing of these two films in my head for decades. Ever since Sinister Cinema began turning out Drive in Double feature VHS tapes, the first of which was a pairing of the films. In the 40 or so years since they did that I invariably end up watching the two films together in one way or another, short of a single film airing on Svengoolie.  Such was the case  when I watched these two film I watched them together.

If you’ve never seen the films before  I should probably give you a quick over view of each.

THE GIANT GILA MONSTER is the story of a giant Gila monster that wanders across a small town causing all sorts of havoc. It all comes to head when some smart ass kids come up with a means of taking the beast out.  The monster is an actual lizard roaming around miniature sets. It’s not the best giant monster film ever made, there really isn’t any effort to integrate the beast with actual people so the effects sequences seem from a different movie. That said the film is still a lot of fun. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t have watched it the two or three hundred times I’ve seen it.

THE KILLER SHREWS is one of my favorite films of the drive-in era. It’s the story of a group of people where people go to a remote island where scientists have lost control of the giant shrews (collies in fright masks)  they have bred.  The shrews are destroying everything and killing anything alive with their poisonous bite.  Trapped in a compound the group has to figure out how to get to the boat and off the island before the shrews break in and eat them. It’s a blast and a half that is both funny for all the wrong reasons (the masks) and scary (the masks).

First thing I need  say is that Film Master‘s release presents both films in both 1:85 (theatrical) and 1:33(TV). Both films have been restored and  are look frighteningly good. Watching the film with my brother we both were shocked that these  two warhorse films were given more love than most recent films. They look great.

Having seen the films way too many times I skipped watching the films straight and instead simply focused on the extras, which meant that I watched the films with the commentary tracks. GILA has a track featuring by Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold from The Monster Party podcast and SHREWS has Jason A. Ney​. I liked both of the commentary tracks. I’m a sucker for a good commentary track because I love to learn more about the films I love.  Having been reading on these films for years I didn’t think there were any tidbits left to learn, but the truth is there were a few mixed in with some of the stories about how the films came together and made it to the drive-in screens across America. More importantly the tracks here were just fun to listen to. I love to listen to people with a passion for film talks about smaller films and these two films have that. Listening to the commentary tracks here is like listening to a friend talk over lunch.

The other extras include a short doc called Ray Kellogg: An Unsung Master; an archival interview with star, Don Sullivan, conducted by author Bryan Senn in 2009, radio commercials and book with excellent essays on the films

This collection is an absolute delight and if you like old school drive in films this double disc set (in both Blu Ray and DVD ) is for you

The Wait (2023) Fantastic Fest

Director F. Javier Gutierrez's THE WAIT is a genre bending film  that never quite nails down what it wants to be. 

The film is the story of a man who is hired to take care of a vast hunting estate. He is suppose to keep the property divided into a certain number of sections so that the various hunting parties don't end up shooting each other. Bribed to increase the number of runs, tragedy strikes in rapid order as his son is killed and his wife commits suicide. Left to his own devices weird things begin to happen.

An odd mix of genres, western, horror, drama, THE WAIT never fully finds it's footing. Is it a look at grief? Is it a balls to the wall horror film? It doesn't seem to know. More damaging is that the film has an uneven pace. The early section setting everything up is incredibly slow and if you don't click the film can be hard to warm to. Worse our protagonist is a man of few words and limited expressions and we really don't know what is going on inside him.

Mind you the film isn't bad, it has some great horror sequences, but you can't help but wonder if this could have been better.

despite my reservation fans of Euro-horror should give it a shot.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Spooktacular (2023) Fantastic Fest

SPOOKTACULAR is a look at the legendary horror theme park Spooky World which in its heyday operated  the entire month of October in Merlin Massachusetts and drew millions of people from across the  globe to a place where they could relive their favorite horror films. The park was inspired by haunted hay rides in New Jersey in the 1990's  but was taken to the next level and included appearances by horror stars. 

Good overview of the park and what it inspired, this is going to be a shot of nostalgia for anyone who ever went to experience its haunted goodies. Full of (too) loving remembrances by fans and stars the film is going to make many wish that there would be a return of the park- despite the fact that it inspired other places across the country.

For me the film was just okay. Much too in love with it's subject the film suffers from the affliction most films like this have which is that despite being full of clips and stories, the film never fully gives us a sense of what this place was really like. Yes we have the stories, but after a while you get the feeling this would have meant more if we had gone. I never went and my interest waned. This would have been better for me as a more focused 40 minute film.

The film is also so in love with it's subject that it is full of crazy hyperbole and fudging of the facts.  Beginning with a writer's bold statement that "golden age of horror" started with Halloween and Friday the 13th because it ushered in the Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy and other over hyped creations (all of which played a part in Spooky World), the film kind of fudges the history of horror attractions by saying there was nothing really before Spooky World. While there may not have been anything on the scale of the park, there were attractions that ran across the country for decades before it opened.

While SPOOKTACULAR is never really bad, it comes off as as the cinematic equivalent of an insistent friend who says you are going to love this thing  way too much that you end up not liking it much.

Jackdaw (2023) Fantastic Fest

Jamie Childs' JACKDAW is one of my favorite films of 2023. A BIG screen movie that looks awesome on a small one it is a thriller  that goes from frame one and doesn’t stop until the end.

The plot of the film has an recently returned vet doing a quick pick up in the North Sea. He is to make a pick up and bring it back for some quick cash he needs to take care of his brother who has Down’s Syndrome. However things go instantly wrong and before you know it he’s not only trying to get away from the bad guys but trying to find his brother who has gone missing.

This film does everything right. From the look to the music, to the acting to the script, this film is top of the line. It’s a film that looks deceptively simple, but it’s a perfectly constructed film so as to have better characters  and more suspense than pretty much any other thriller that I’ve seen this year. All hail director Childs who has made a film that is going to become a favorite of many people.

Watching the film after watching another thriller playing at Fantastic Fest that was a balls to the wall thriller that impressed with its technical virtuosity I truly understood how great JACKDAW is. Stripped down to the basics JACKDAW builds suspense via some carefully chosen shots, a moving camera, sound design and beautifully realized characters. With seemingly minimal amount of effort we are brought into the story, given people we want to fight for and put on the edge of our seats.  

And about those characters JACKDAW shows how easy it is to create ones that grab us. A line or two in context of an interaction of the characters is all we need. It doesn’t take much just the right line and great actors and suddenly we have been told volumes with out actually being told as much in so many words.

Most importantly this is just a great film that I can’t wait to revisit.

JACKDAW is a must at Fantastic fest or where ever you can see it.

Strange Darling (2023) Fantastic Fest 2023


There are very few things that are a certainty, death, taxes and JT Mollner‘s STRANGE DARLING is going to be a film with a huge following. The story of a serial killer chasing after his latest victim who is trying fleeing is murderous intentions. It is told with enough style that Mollner is going to be dining out on it for decades to come.

Shot on 35mm this film is a technical marvel. A flash back to the driving films of the late 70’s and early 80’s, this is a film that recalls the technical virtuosity of films like VANISHING POINT, the first two MAD MAX films, RACE WITH THE DEVIL and drive in horror. MOLLNER knows his film history and he mines it for ore to use here. What he’s doing is not lifting bits or sequences, but instead using the past a template for his work. His film was built on those earlier films but not a copy of them. He is using film history the way it should be used – raising up the art form by standing on the past, not making an exact copy.

As a physical film this is one of the best films of the year and probably of the last five years. The skill with which this film has been assembled is absolutely beyond compare. If Mollner can make more films with this sort “oh wow” factor he will be hailed as one of the greatest ever.

However as much as I absolutely love the craft of the film I’m not really a fan of the storytelling. Told in six out of order chapters the story doesn’t really work. It’s a standard issue bad guy stalks a woman tale with a few twists.  The characters are not really real people, but are constructs that exist because the cast is so good. Additionally if the story wasn’t told out of order there wouldn’t be suspense. While allegedly based on a true story some late in the game turns feel added on just to keep the story going. Mollner may be a wizard in making the film, his scripting could use a little help.

But the script is not what you are going to remember when you come out of the film. What you are going to remember is the driving nature of this thrill ride of the film. It’s such a cinematic blast that you are going to want to go again not long after you get to the end credits- I know I did.



With UYRA THE RISING FOREST playing  on PBS's POV on the 25th here is a brief  repost of the review I ran when it played Human Rights Watch San Diego Film Festival

Portrait of indigenous trans artist Uyra as she travels through the amazon.

This is a one of a kind film, one part travelogue, one part bio and one part work of art, about a one of a kind person. Highlighting the state of LGBT individuals in Brazil the film also amplifies the experiences of the indigenous population.

Dreamy trippy film, this film worked best for me visually. I loved the strange images the Uyra conjured up for the camera. 

Last Stop In Yuma County (2023) Fantastic Fest

Knife salesman on the road pulls into a gas station to fill up and find the tanks are dry. They are expecting a delivery at any moment. If he wants to wait at the adjoining diner he can get out of the heat.  As he and the other stranded folk  wait thing take a dark and violent turn as bank robbers show up.

Solid thriller will keep you watching as you wait to see how the story plays out. Yes, we've been here before but there is enough panache here to keep us interested. It also helps that we have some great characters and a few unexpected turns to keep things moving. 

Forgive me if I don't say too much but the truth is the set up of the film is one that's been used for decades so there is nothing new there.  You can and will probably guess how much of this is going to go, however there are a few turns, of the sort that will have you talking to the screen, that I don't want to spoil anything.  I say that as warning to myself who wants to talk about them in detail because they are what make the film something that you will want to see.

In all seriousness don't take anything I'm saying as a reason not to see LAST STOP, rather take it in the way it was intended, namely to state that writer-director Francis Gallupp has take a well known plot line and gussied it up so that it shines in the sunlight and purrs like a fine tuned race car.  This film is a blast and the reason that we go to the movies.

Get some popcorn and go see this.

Friday, September 22, 2023

26.2 to Life (2022) opens today

This is my review of the film from when it premeired at DOC NYC 

A look at the San Quentin 1000 Mile runners club. The club trains inmates to run in a marathon. The race is held in the yard of the prison and involves over a hundred circles. Through the discipline required to run  the men find there lives have been changed as they realize that ultimately they can do anything they set their minds to.

I know this film film hits all of the expected marks, but at the same time the film is deeply moving. Say what you will I got misty at the end. I fell in with the men in the film and I was cheering them by the end. Actually I was enjoying the film so much I was seriously considering  going to the public DOC NYC screening just so I could meet them in person.

What a wonderful story of hope.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

it lives inside (2023) opens friday

 IT LIVES INSIDE is a scary film.

The story of a young woman who ends up with a jar with a demon inside it will scare the crap out of you. It’s one of the few recent horror films where I enjoyed the hell out of it, but seriously had to question if I really wanted to go back to that dark place again. (That’s a rave)

The film follows Samidha  a teen aged girl who is trying to survive high school. Growing up in a traditional Indian home her parents have certain expectations which make her trying to make time with a cute guy difficult.  One day she meets her  friend Tamira who seems off. She is carrying a sealed jar. Inside the jar is demon and it keeps talking to Tamira, telling her it wants to feed on blood. Of course the demon gets loose and you can guess what happens.

This is a waking nightmare of a film. Its film that hooks us with great characters and then slowly begins to ratchet up the suspense and terror  as the demon makes its presence felt early and often.  Blame director Boshal Dutta for creating one hell of  a thrill ride. While the fact that the story is rooted in Indian mythology, something most of us haven’t had any experience with, the truth is the power is Dutta’s filmmaking.  Creating images and sonic  spaces filled with oppression we are disoriented. He moves objects and people in ways that both look natural and horrifying impossible. People are not supposed to bend like that. What we see on screen is the work of a cinematic master who understands how to get under your skin. If this is his first time out of the gate what are we going to experience down the line?

The images haunted my dreams the night after I saw the film.

This film is going to disturb the hell out of you.

IT LIVES INSIDE is Dutal’s feature debut and a notice to the horror community that a new dark lord is scratching at the door.

Shaky Shivers (2023)

Playing at this years NYAFF in a side screening at the Look Cinemas on 57th Street SHAKY SHIVERS is a horror tinged comedy. Actually it's a straight comedy with werewolves, zombies, bigfoot, a deadly cult and other horror tropes, but no scares.

The plot of the film has two friends going to an abandoned camp to find out out if one of them is going to turn into a werewolf, she she was bitten by a "dog" and cursed by weird woman who wanted food from their ice cream shop. While at camp weird things begin to happen.

How you react to this film will be determined by how you react to the sense of humor and the tone of the film. The film has knowing attitude, but the actors play it very straight with the result you have a film that seems to be an odd straight forward horror film with jokes...except that it isn't supposed to be scary.  If you go in thinking there are going to be scares you will be disappointed.

On the other hand if you are a horror fan who loves comedy you will enjoy the hell out of this film. It's a knowing send up of films made with love. Its full of horror references that will tickle fans. The more horror films you've seen the more that will tickle you.  What I love is that the references are just there, they aren't pushy, they just flow, the result is a film that will delight you in the best possible way.

What a joy.



I am very annoyed that I did not see THE STORMS OF JEREMY THOMAS on a big screen. A huge fan of many of the films he produced (LAST EMPEROR, THE HIT, MERRY CHRISTMAS MR LAWRENCE, BAD TIMNG, SEXY BEAST - all of which are playing at the Quad Cinema in NYC as part of a retrospective) I wanted to get a chance to revisit all of the great films he made bigger than life.  As it is, it was nice get to know the  man who has helped bring so many classics to the big screen.

This is a loving, and lovely, portrait of a man who helped give us the best of today's cinema. Told via interviews with the man and the people he’s worked with, STORMS is the story of man who quietly altered what we see.  I say quietly because odds are unless you are a crazy film fan odds are you probably never heard his name.  While I had a vague familiarity with his name I didn’t realize everything he was connected to. Honestly it blew my mind (and made me curse the fact that I was missing the Quad’s killer retrospective-details here)

I loved this film. I loved it’s mad passion for it’s subject and the films he made. It’s a crazy infectious film that will make you want to revisit everything.

I can’t recommend this enough.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Saturn Bowling (2023) opens Friday 9/22

A police detective and his estranged homeless half brother collide in the wake of their father’s death. Wanting to give his brother a place to stay and a job the detective lets his brother take over the titled bowling alley. However things become complicated when bodies begin to appear.

Bleak, black crime thriller is not for the faint of heart. A neon soaked trip to hell this is the sort of neon noir film that French filmmakers have been making their own over the last few years.  It’s a violent film that had me gasping at the brutality of the scenes.

While the film doesn’t do anything new, the film is still going to have you sitting bolt up right in your chair and not looking away as bad things happen.

What a kick.

An absolute must see.


This film ends with several minutes of how various rich, famous and powerful people and organizations didn’t return the filmmakers requests for comments or interviews. Considering the subject of the film,  Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, is currently on the run after stealing at least $4.5 billion and bankrupting  all sorts of people, institutions and countries in what became known as the 1MDB Scandal, it isn't surprising.

This is a crazy story but even as it shocks us, it really isn’t that surprising since we are seeing time and time again people taking money and diverting it for their own use and using it to finance bigger and bigger scams. Jho Low took the money from the coffers of Malaysia lived large, made people think he was rich and parlayed that into personal piggy bank. It’s a tale that I can’t explain simply it’s too complicated and even more WTF for that. It’s a story that had Leonardo DiCaprio, who was paid a fortune by Low to show up at his parties, pondering if the money he was getting was clean or dirty. Sadly it was very very dirty.

I know there are a lot of stories of high level greed but this is absolutely insane. After about fifteen minutes I stopped taking notes and just stared at the screen, shaking my head and muttering, “it’s nice to have money”. This is just crazy as things built and built until they cracked and collapsed. I kept wondering why no one seemed to mind.

This film is a blast. It’s a totally crazy tale that we don’t find surprising in some ways and in others completely blindsides us with some crazy turns. I was captivated from start to finish so much that when it was over I considered watching it a second time.

This one is worth your time.

Nightsiren(2022) hits theaters September 22

A woman returns home after many years after the death of her mother. The towns folk don’t know what to make of her and are wary of her after she takes up residence in the abandoned home of the local witch.

Nominally this is supposed to be a film about witches and things that go bump in the night. The reality is that this is less horror film than a look at superstition and how our pasts affect us and the choices we made.  This is more a drama with a supernatural tinge and we are so much better for it.

NIGHTSIRENS is one of the great surprises of the 2022 film year. It’s a “genre” film that really isn’t, even if it hits all the marks. It’s a wonderful character study of a young woman haunted by her past. It is also a killer thriller from literally the first minute when something happens that makes you sit up and go “hello”. It was at that moment I had to see where the film was going because it was clear that nothing was off the table.

I love this film.

What I love about this film is that it has a great deal going on. Its film that has a great deal on its mind. It’s a look at life in a backwoods town, a look at a the male female dynamic, a look at motherhood (and the loss of it), at superstition, and how we view all of that.  Several weeks on and numerous discussions I’m still turning the film over in my mind and still trying to sell the film to anyone who is willing to  listen to me talk about its wonders.

This film is a must.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023


Director Klaus Härö's MY SAILOR MY LOVE is an emotional powerhouse. This is a film where the most perfect cast you can imagine takes a good script and turns it into a film that will leave you spent and weeping at the end. 

The film concerns Grace. A nurse with a strained relationship with her father, she is unhappy with the way he is letting things go. Figuring he could use a woman's touch to clean things up, Grace hires a widow named Annie to come in to cook and clean. Despite initial friction Annie and her charge hit it off. They hit it off probably much to well for Grace's liking, with Annie and Grace's dad falling in love.

I am not going to lie and say that this is perfect film. It's not. Honestly the plotting is very soapy at times. I mean the twists and turns are often predictable.  On the other hand the road maybe familiar however the film lifts itself up by having a cast that makes every scene seem real and emotionally charged.

All hail James Cosmo, Bríd Brennan, and Catherine Walker. Giving three of the best performances you'll see all year they make you wish that Oscar gave awards for Best Ensemble. I love this trio with all my heart. The manage to take every scene, every word, every gesture and give them weight the vast majority of films never can muster. Words hurt. Gestures reveal pain. Truths are exposed.  While I have had some of the discussions here and could relate, so much more I had no experience with, but as each scene played out I found myself delighting in the feeling that the leads were revealing some great hidden secret.

My mind was blown...and by the end my heart was broken and I was fighting to keep the tears from overwhelming me.

You really need to see this, if for no other reason that you will witness three performances for the ages.