Film Review: SPEECHLESS, (USA, Horror/Thriller)

Played at the HORROR FEEDBACK Film Festival in October 2017 to rave reviews.

Review by Kierston Drier

 

We have all feared monsters in our closets as children. But what if the monster does not live in your closet- but outside your door, forever waiting to get in. SPEECHLESS tells the story of a young boy writing notes and passing them under the doorway from his room to the hallway- and getting answered back my a monster clawing to get in. Yet when the door finally opens, it is his mother who opens the door and refuses to believe his tales. Not only that but she chides him for his inability to grow up and stop being afraid of fairytales. Monsters, it seems, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

 

SPEECHLESS has two areas of interest- one is its effective use of sound. From the scratching of the crayon on the paper, our hero uses to communicate- to the lack of noise he makes when he finally confronts the monster- the sound is a spine-tingling presence in the work. The other area of note is the subversion of the classic trope of the monster being in the child’s’ closet. Instead, this monster roams free outside the child’s’ bedroom- conceivably in the hall. Instead of the monster being trapped in the closet- the child is trapped in their bedroom. The inversion of the classic trope creates a new sense of panic for our hero, who has literally no way to escape his fate.

 

SPEECHLESS is a simple but incredibly effective horror film- for it generates fear on multiple levels- fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of not being believed- fear of sound and fear of silence. A chilling and thrilling short indeed.

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Film Review: GIRL #2 (USA, Horror/Comedy)

Played at the HORROR FEEDBACK Film Festival in October 2017 to rave reviews.

Review by Kierston Drier

One of the hardest areas of genre blending is terror and delight. Unlike romance and comedy or science-fiction and mystery, comedic-horror has an incredibly tight margin for error. Slightly too much in one direction and you have an awkward or unbalanced film. GIRL #2, directed by David Jeffery, is an example of a perfectly orchestrated success of these two styles. GIRL #2 follows two girls trapped in their sorority house while a crazed murderer follows them. Several of their friends fall victim to him and when the girls barricade themselves in a room for safety, the debate who will be able to get away. The tables turn in the debate when the girls get into a fight over who will have time to escape the villain- because based on horror cliche, the most attractive girl will likely get killed first.

 

Hilarious in its absurdity, GIRL #2 hits a tone similar to known horror-satire CABIN IN THE WOODS, because it delivers the classic horror tropes while also making fun of its own genre. A rollercoaster blood-and-thrill start to the short makes the comic turn all the most delightful as the subversion of expectations is take to a raucous extreme. GIRL #2 will surely please comedy lovers and thrill seekers alike.

 

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HIGHLIGHTS & VIDEOS: October 2017 HORROR FEEDBACK Film Festival

Festival for HORROR

AUDIENCE FESTIVAL AWARDS

Best Film: MILK MAN

Best Performances: LIZ DRIVES

Best Cinematography: MY BODY

Best Music: SPEECHLESS

WATCH the Audience FEEDBACK Videos of the Short Films:


festival posterGIRL #2, 9min, USA, Horror/Comedy
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festival posterSPEECHLESS, 7min, Horror/Thriller
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festival posterANTICA, 11min., Canada, Horror/Thriller
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festival posterLIZ DRIVES, 8min, Australia, Horror
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festival posterMILK MAN, 10min., UK, Horror/Comedy
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festival posterMY BODY, 6min, Germany, Horror
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festival posterSTUDDED NIGHTMARE, 9min., Canada, Horror
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festival posterTHE DARKNESS KEEPER, 18min, Spain, Thriller/Suspense
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The HORROR OCTOBER 2017 FEEDBACK Film Festival was truly a great success.

The theme of the festival was “DOORS”.

Every film showcased had a “DOOR” part of the plot of the film!

NOTE: This was a showcase of the best HORROR films from around the world. Our 2nd HORROR Film Festival for the 2017 season.

There is a lady who attends…

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THELMA (Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark 2017) ****

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Thelma Poster
Trailer
A woman begins to fall in love, only to discover that she has fantastic powers.

Director:

Joachim Trier

Writers:

Joachim Trier (co-writer), Eskil Vogt (co-writer)

 

 

Director Joachim Trier’s (OSLO, AUGUST 31st and LOUDER THAN BOMBS) latest film combines the austerity of his previous films with a spin-off of the CARRIE the Stephen King story/Brian de Palma film where Sissy Spacek moves objects to avenge herself from the people who have wronged her.

THELMA inevitably draws comparisons from CARRIE but these are two very different films despite the similar subject matter.

The film follows a timid young woman, THELMA (Eili Harboe) who leaves her rural home to study in Oslo.  There, she finds love for the first time.  This love happens to be for a classmate of the same sex, which makes her extremely guilty because of her religion.  But her relationship is complicated by her family’s oppressive meddling, their seemingly fundamentalist religious beliefs, and, possibly, her unique ability to shape and affect her environment.  When Thelma is upset or agitated, strange things seem to happen.  She also goes into epileptic fits which cannot be explained by the hospital doctors.

Trier’s film works for two reasons.  Trier keeps the story one step ahead of his audience, making it always interesting.  The other, related to this reason, is that he is thus able to use the tool of audience anticipation.  The first time Thelma is shown in the film exhibiting her powers is in the school library.  Birds crash onto the library window while she goes into convulsions.  Then nothing till later in the film.  Trier uses the first third of the film to introduce Thelma, her family and surroundings to the audience without much happening.  And what will Thelma do next? What is she really capable of?  How will the film end?  One at least knows from the history of movies in this genre that the bad guys will get what is coming to them.  In THELMA, Trier keeps the ambiguity on who is bad or who is good.

The most intriguing fact in THELMA which is never explained is Thelma’s mother’s accident.   Unni (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) is seen in the latter part of the film in a wheelchair.  Is this a result of Thelma’s doing or an accident or due to her father Trond’s (Henrik Rafaelsen) meddling.

Trier also ups the mystery element by introducing the character of Thelma’s grandmother.  She is bedridden in a home.  Thelma thinks her grandmother is dead and visits her, unbeknown to her parents, thinking that her grandmother possesses the same power she has and that her father had given her medication to cause her to be in that sorry state of affairs.  When Trond gives her daughter pills to calm her down, Thelma grows suspicious that he might be poisoning her. 

Trier never explains the origin or cause of Thelma’s powers.  But neither did the film CARRIE.  It does not matter the reason, but what Trier wants to do with the power that matters.

THELMA succeeds as a psychological horror drama that keep the audience intrigued from start to end.  THELMA is shot in Norwegian.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF36DsRFnXU

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WONDER (USA 2017) ***1/2

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Wonder Poster
Trailer

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.

Director:

Stephen Chbosky

Writers:

Stephen Chbosky (screenplay by), Steve Conrad (screenplay by)

WONDER is a family friendly film with just the correct mix of comedy and drama about a boy with a facial deformity, Auggie ( Jacob Tremblay).  The film follows his adjustment to public school, Beecham Preparatory School after being home schooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts).  His father, Nate (Owen Wilson) is supportive as well as his sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic) though she resents not being given as much attention by her parents.  WONDER is written by Steve Conrad based on the book of the same name by R.J. Palacio.

Despite the obvious message as announced via voiceover at the end of the movie: “Be Kind: You just have to look at people to see…”, there is another more important message found in the movie, as uttered by Via, Auggie’s sister when she angrily quips at her brother: “It’s not always about you.” This message is also echoed in the way the film’s story is brilliantly told – in 4 parts from 3 other points of view besides Auggie’s, showing that other people count.  The other views are from Auggie’s sister, Via, and from two of his friends, Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).  The other three are revealed in the script as individuals, just as important as individuals as being a character in Auggie’s world.

The film’s contains one mixed message in the way Auggie finds his first friend, Jack Will – by allowing him to cheat, copying from him, during a test.  He could have helped him or offered to help him study instead.

The big minus in WONDER is the filmmakers insistence on going for sentiment.  They should be more confident on the material and stop tugging at the heartstrings.  So be forewarned!  Bring plenty of Kleenex as director Chbosky chooses to milk every opportunity he can for tears.  This can be observed by the choice of music; Julia Robert’s perpetual sad look; the script’s dialogue (You cannot blend in if you are meant to stand out in the world); the fondness of close-ups of the actors’ faces.

The script could be trimmed to do away with the teen budding romance between Via and her new theatre boyfriend, Justin that does not do much with the main story.

The performances from the young kids are to be praised.  The best of these belong to Noah Jupe as Jack Will, Auggie’s best friend.  Jupe is a natural, the camera loving his every facial expression – a possible future star in the making.  Two screen veterans Mandy Patinkin and Sonia Braga lend their hands playing Mr. Tushman and Via’s grandmother respectively.

Chbosky’s film tries at making every set-up perfect.  It is therefore not surprising that the film’s best moment is a quiet and simple one – a close-up of Jack Will’s face at being happy once again at being Auggie’s friend.

The film ends with Auggie’s mom saying to Auggie: “You are really a WONDER, Auggie”.  Perhaps the film itself could have turned out a wonder if everyone did not try so hard.

But for all its flaws, WONDER is a film made about a subject that matters.  It is also good to see stars like Julia Roberts  and Owen Wilson putting their efforts in a earnest little movie for a change.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFxsRbqN8jA

 

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