Film Review: THE DARKNESS KEEPER, (Spain, Thriller/Suspense)

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

Review by Kierston Drier

 

A suspense thriller with a more family-friendly theme, THE DARKNESS KEEPER is a brilliant tale of a young girl who manages to trap the spirit of Darkness that haunts and frightens her. After the disappearance of her father, our young heroine is determined to keep the Darkness she traps from coming for anyone else she loves, like her mother. But her capture of the Darkness brings even more darkness to find her.

 

Wonderfully cast and performed and hosting wonderful special effects, what makes THE DARKNESS KEEPER really stand out is the depth of its many layers. It is at once, a family piece, a suspense thriller and the charming story of a child’s’ coming of age and coming to terms with the complex world around her. Shockingly bright and beautifully composed, THE DARKNESS KEEPER is a complex, delicate portrayal of childhood, fear, and acceptance that the world is never divided so clearly into black and white. A suspense thriller story with the twist of a surprisingly happy ending. A piece to please the heart.

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Film Review: STUDDED NIGHTMARE, (Canada, Horror)

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

Review by Kierston Drier

 

A true horror film which delivers in every classic sense, STUDDED NIGHTMARE recounts the tale of a couple who rehome a chair that belonged to a man who used it to hang himself. The chair seems innocent enough, but when used by the new owners it plagues them with horrific images and terrifying thoughts. Despite their attempts to get rid of their new item, it mysterious draws them back to it. But with each use of the chair, their visions get more extreme and their behaviors more deadly.

 

Terrifying and dramatic, this is a true horror- it delivers on shock, suspense and gore. Sharp, intense and undeniably creepy, it’s a stomach-churning story to thrill any horror-loving fan.

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Film Review: LIZ DRIVES, (Australia, Horror)

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

Review by Kierston Drier

An eight-minute gut-punch of a horror-thriller, LIZ DRIVES, is an Australian film by director Mia’Kate Russel. Liz drives with her sister (and a nurse) to a tense reunion with their mother when they pull over to get gum in a near-deserted road. But Liz’s sister is stopped by a distressed looking man who ushers her quickly into his car. Horrified as she watched the action play out from a distance, Liz sees a bloodied and screaming woman in the backseat of the man’s car- before he gets her sister in the vehicle and speeds off. Horrified Liz follows, but the car chase turns deadly when the other car veers off to avoid her and crashes.

When Liz rushes to the crashed vehicle, she finds the driver dead- along with her sister and the other woman in the back seat. The scene also reveals the other woman holding a screaming newborn. What Liz believed to be an abduction from afar, may very well have been her sister offering to help a terrified man trying to find assistance for his partner in labor.

 

This piece is a thriller on the surface- the fear and terror of the basic set up are palpable and tense. The gore associated with horror films is also present. But what is really terrifying isn’t the surface level plot- it is the implication. Real horror comes from the realization that our main characters assumptions of the situation may have lead to the untimely death of the young family.

Horror is born out of the gut-wrenching knowledge that the small infant screaming at the end of the film is now without parents- and Liz herself has a tense relationship with her own mother. Horror is created not by what has happened- but what will happen now. Liz has lost her sister, but she is also responsible for it. More subtly, there is a social message behind this piece. The main male character is a minority actor, and all other performers appear to be caucasian. All performances are excellent.  This specific choice in casting is notable as it cannot be divided from the ultimate message of the film. What appeared to Liz to be the abduction of a caucasian woman by a minority man, was, in reality, a young family. There are multiple levels of horror to LIZ DRIVES, which make is highly sophisticated for a film so short and so simple.

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Film Review: ANTICA, (Canada, Horror/Thriller)

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

Review by Kierston Drier

A slow burn of a horror film that takes its time to build suspense and heart-racing panic. ANTICA follows the journey of one, solitary man working a night shift where everything is slowly going wrong. Minor workplace injuries and misfortunes build tension as our hero gradually realises something isn’t right. As he continues his shift in an otherwise empty warehouse he begins to realize he might not be alone. What ensues is a creeping, tantalizing and utterly uncomfortably series of events that bring our hero to the terrifying realization that he may not be the only one skulking around on the job.

 

What is truly fascinating about this horror-thriller work, is that creates fear, unease and anxiety with no words, and only one performer. The editing, sound, lighting, and setting create the uncanniness that drives the terror for the audience just as much as the excellent performance by our hero. Another fantastic element of this film is the inversion of the classic horror tropes. So often our horror film sets up a scenario with beautiful but naive youngster heading off on a misguided adventure with ill-thought-out plans and a failure to read the warning signs. ANTICA doesn’t take this route at all- our hero is a middle-aged everyman, in a familiar setting and going about a well-known routine. It is more horrifying when one is endangered in the place they know than when they wander into the unknown and discover danger there.

 

ANTICA takes its time to terrify you, but it is well worth the wait.

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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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Movie Review: FOOTPRINTS (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERFOOTPRINTS, 13min, Canada, Horror/Family
Directed by Kevin Saycharuen

Deep in the forest, Cahng, an injured hunter searches for his family who are being haunted by a supernatural force.

Seen at the August 2016 HORROR/THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Footprints, a Canadian film by Kevin Saycharuen, will surprise an audience at first with its’ exceptional attention to cinematic details and a level of luminous colour and brightness that is not characteristic of a traditional Horror. Cahng, an injured hunter lost in the forest, seems compelled to track down the monstrous beast that has ruthlessly murdered his wife and child. He is tortured by their absence, plagued by visions and nightmares of them, and appears to be constantly falling in and out of delusions including them.

One tradition that is held onto with stunning effectiveness is that the audience never sees the monster. It can be heard, and often palpably felt- but we are only once ever shown anything remotely supernatural, in the form of a sort of demon ghost who briefly appears in lieu of Cahng’s missing son.

There are cinematic moments in this piece that are no less than stunning. There are breath-taking moments of utter natural beauty that capture of the setting of the forest that truly make us feel that monster in this film lurks somewhere within the disconnect humans have put between themselves and nature. However the demon that is responsible for Cahng’s tragedy is not within the forest- it is within himself.

Footprints is not a clear film. It is debatable if the plot is linear. The pay-off, while impressive, does not answer all the questions the audience is bound to have by the end of the film. Yet, Saycharuen’s work has a poignancy to it that stirs deep, primal emotions in those who watch. It is a true piece of cinema, a true piece of art, in the sense that is leave us with more questions than answers.

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Movie Review: DRAWN TO FEAR (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERDRAWN TO FEAR, 7min, USA, Horror
Directed by Daniel Robinette

A single woman named Hope has procured a rare book under strange circumstances. Little does she know that the book has a life of it’s own – drawing out the fears of those who possess it. Hope struggles to figure out the meaning of the book before it’s too late.

Seen at the August 2016 HORROR/THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Drawn to Fear directed by Daniel Robinette, must be applauded at its excellent execution of story in the confines of the horror genre. Without being overtly cliche it manages to hit every cultural touchstone of the genre while still creating a story that is compelling, functional and utterly terrifying.

A young woman finds herself alone in her home and comes upon a mysterious book, whose terrifying pages predict her next few moments. Our hero, in a stroke of brilliance unbecoming of most young women trapped in horror films, calls the police only to have her phone call get dropped (no shocker).

A harsher critic of this film may point out that the plot could be considered aimless- we know nothing of what the book is, how it got there or why it has picked this unfortunate woman.

She appears to be, almost systematically, haunted by creatures, visions, and horrors of ever-escalating terror as the film progresses- with no real goal as to what they want from her.

This can easily be seen as a plot fault, as the audience is unsatisfied, since they do not know what the hero has done to instigate this supernatural attack.

However, this reviewer prefers to see Robinettes’ piece as a short that pays homage to the classic conventions of the genre. The piece creates a short, powerful, nail biting account of a standard the-bad-guys-are-coming-for-you tale. It also works in more than a few nods to the tropes and archetypes of horror and suspense. The Ingenue, the empty house, the unknown force, the hopelessness of unfounded escape- are the conventions that root horror films. It is the meat and potatoes, the traditional comfort food of what is “scary”. In this way, Drawn to Fear is a perfect appetizer of what supernatural horror brings to the cinematic table.

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Movie Review: DON’T LET THEM IN (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERDON’T LET THEM IN, 13min, US, Horror/Thriller
Directed by David Lawrence

Dan Metzger, a struggling author, consumed with the urban legend of the Black Eyed Kids, fears his obsession has led their evil to his door.

Seen at the August 2016 HORROR/THRILLER FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Don’t Let Them In is a classic supernatural horror that delivers exactly what it promises – thrills, chills and CGI skills- all bundled together in 10-15 minute pocket of entertainment.

After a somewhat confusing opening scene which sets the stage for creepiness, the story opens on a glamorous well-to-do couple in a loving, but possibly stale marriage.

Our hero is writer working on his next big break and, while showering upstairs in their home, his wife is befallen by terrifying evil of some hideous sort.

The film harkens back to a standard set of classic tropes for horror films- the unknown power, the unseen enemy, the danger in the knock at the door you aren’t expecting. Don’t Let Them In may not offer anything new and unheard of to the genre of horror, but it is nevertheless tense, thrilling and suitable scary.

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Movie Review of the short film “The Blood Of Love”

“The Blood of Love” is a multiple award winning horror/romance short film. It won BEST FILM at the WILDsound October FEEDBACK Film Festival, part of their best of Horror Short Film event. 

THE BLOOD OF LOVE, 19min, USA, Horror/Thriller
Directed by Jeff Meyers

Unwilling to accept the death of her husband, a young widow, acquires a machine that can bring him back to her. But the machine exacts a terrible price: she must provide the blood it needs to revive her beloved. And it starts demanding more and more blood for less and less time.

Read movie review of THE BLOOD OF LOVE by Amanda Lomonaco

There are so many ways in which I loved this film, I’m afraid I won’t even be able to fit it in this review, or that I’ll even be able to describe them properly. So many elements of this film were equal parts clever, funny, creepy, & ironic. What’s best, Jeff Meyers seems to have found the all too elusive balance between telling too much or too little.

You can’t say much about The Blood of Love without revealing the whole plot line. It’s a pretty unique story in itself, but I can start by saying the best part is the end. Not the “official” end, but the end after the credits, when you think the story has finished, and then Meyers steps in with one final jab to wrap the story up a little better. In fact, both endings are funny, and I would have felt satisfied regardless of which one I had viewed, which is a rarity in and of itself.

The one pitfall of the film that I would have to point out is the lack of chemistry between the two characters. While their acting was great, and the scripting was all very natural, everytime I saw things get a little more sexually charged between them I wanted to cringe just a little. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful, I might just be nitpicky with this one, but I definitely got the sense that, despite their talent, those two people did NOT want to be kissing each other.

Somehow none of that ruined the film for me. I’m not sure if I should thank the editor for minimizing the instances of intimacy between the two main characters, or if that was simply a directorial choice from the get-go. Nevertheless I never felt at any point like the story was lacking. It was always fun, it was always entertaining, it kept me wanting to see more, and yet when it was over, I was sufficiently satisfied. I always say a good short film leaves you wanting more, but this is one of the few cases where I will say, at 20 minutes, The Blood of Love was about the perfect length.

Don’t expect too much from this one if you’re all about guts and glory, but if you’re a fan of clever plotlines with a healthy dose of irony, give this one a go. Even if you don’t enjoy your average, everyday horror film, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of this one. Meyers definitely seems to have found a little bit of something to please all audiences.

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