Starring Lina Sunden, Patrik Karlson, Martin Jirhamn
Directed by Henrik Möller
Distributed by Severin Films
Numerous attempts have been made at adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft for film, though few have been much of a success. Lovecraft’s material is ripe for lavish productions; the issue is typically that his writing is also too obtuse and esoteric for mainstream consumption. This is a big part of why Guillermo del Toro’s “At the Mountains of Madness” fell apart. On the complete opposite end of the budgetary spectrum, however, viewers can find director Henrik Möller’s micro-budget Feed the Light (2014). Inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 short story, “The Colour out of Space”, Möller’s film is a tight exercise in restraint, ambition, and tension that ultimately plays more like an expertly made subtle student film than what viewers would typically expect from something Lovecraftian.
Sara (Lina Sunden) is an abused wife who is battling her soon-to-be ex, John (Patrik Karlson), for custody of their daughter, Jenny (Ingrid Torstennson). After John vanishes within an enigmatic industrial building with Jenny, Sara attempts to infiltrate the premises by taking a janitorial job amongst the hostile workers at the site. There, she is instructed to sweep up sparkling particles of dust that are falling from the rafters and lighting fixtures, being told the dust attracts “pests” that like to feed on it. During her cleaning she wanders off into another zone and meets a strong, militant employee who seems hostile at first, but later reveals himself to be helpful and knowledgeable. Sara is told to meet up with someone called “VHS-Man” because he may be able to assist in tracking down her daughter.
Sara follows his guidance and meets the VHS-Man, only to be horrified to learn it is her ex-husband, impossibly aged and not in a good state. He warns her of the light and explains how it can change a person, sometimes aging them years in the span of hours. With his instructions, Sara is able to see shadow-beings within the light, entities capable of killing, and she is also warned the light will play tricks on her, including pretending to be their daughter. Entering Floor 2 and being led by a mysterious coil of string (it’ll make sense once you see the film) Sara must not only avoid the shadow demons but also Chefen (Jenny Lampa), the on-site boss who keeps a masked male as a sort of dog in her office. The journey is difficult and fraught with confusion, but Sara soldiers on for the sake of her child.
What this film lacks in budget it manages to make up for in acting talent and desire. Lina Sunden delivers a powerful performance as a rough-around-the-edges mother who so desperately wants to get her daughter back in her arms. She becomes singular in thought and action once she learns her ex has absconded with their kid to some shady high rise, making it her undying mission to bring her daughter back home. Every step of the way brings with it strife, from the stern boss who hires her to work alongside gruff janitors, to the realization light is a more powerful and deadly force than she ever knew – and it has the power to do unexplainable things. Even as those around her die or are crippled, be it physically or by fear, she is undaunted in her action. Sunden is the film’s anchor and her performance, aided by a strong supporting cast, maintains viewer interest in this no-budget, Spartan affair.
Viewers may conjure up specific thoughts upon hearing this is an “H.P. Lovecraft inspired” tale – disregard those notions because this is a no frills take on arcane mysteria. Möller’s film has drawn comparisons to David Lynch, specifically Eraserhead (1977), and although I would be hesitant to apply the term “Lynchian” to describe this feature there are some parallels in terms of ambiance and sound design and, of course, the lo-fi black-and-white photography. Möller keeps his film taut, driving up any suspense he can through earned moments of tension and dramatic performance, because clearly the budget was not going to allow for much more outside of creativity and ability. Feed the Light may be atypical for a Lovecraft picture but it manages to exceed expectations by maintaining a shroud of secrecy and curiosity throughout, leaving viewers guessing while the classic tale of a mother protecting her child unfolds within an austere, otherworldly environment.
The photography of the film is largely black-and-white, although sepia and other tones creep in at times to illuminate specific parts of the image. The 1.78:1 1080p picture is stable and clean, although it is evident plenty of post-production work has been done to “dirty up” the image and grade it appropriately. As such, do not expect a squeaky clean digital picture but, rather, something rougher and lacking in cinematic polish. I am confident this is a faithful reproduction of the intended look and so in that respect this is a strong transfer.
A Swedish (not English, as the back cover suggests) LPCM 2.0 stereo track carries the droning and dissonant sound cues with ease. The sound design is definitely Lynch-inspired, filling the void of the building with low humming, clanging, repetitive noise, and only the most minimal of scoring. Some synth-y keyboard cues pop in occasionally but more often than not the sound is a disjointed landscape of various tones. Subtitles are available in English.
“Making of Feed the Light” covers the standard bases, touching upon how the project came to be, production, etc.
“The Lovecraft Influence” is an interview with co-writer/director Henrik Möller.
A trailer is also included.
- Making of Feed the Light
- The Lovecraft Influence – Interview with co-writer/director Henrik Möller
The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
The Good Friend Book Review – A Slasher Story for the Facebook Generation
Written by Marcus Sabom
I’m not usually a big fan of murder mysteries, but Marcus Sabom’s novel The Good Friend has certainly done a lot to make me reconsider my stance on the genre. Sabom, who is currently turning the book into a film, appears to have a real gift when it comes to keeping the reader on the edge of their seat
Usually, if you were told that a book contains an ensemble cast of four central characters instead of one main protagonist, you’d probably lose interest right away because we tend to connect with singular point of view characters more than we do with ensembles. However, Sabom proved me wrong in this regard, because each of the four leading women in The Good Friend were such engaging people with such real problems that I never felt like there were too many characters and plot threads to keep track of.
To give a brief overview of our four principal players, we have Sarah, who wants to be in a meaningful relationship after her asshole boyfriend dumps her, Alana, a slightly older woman stuck in a loveless marriage with a manipulative husband who tries to turn her kids against her, Megan, who has to deal with crazy stalkers, and Rita, who is traumatized by a vengeful psycho named Caleb after he attempts to belittle and humiliate her.
With this being a book set in modern times, they naturally use social media to broadcast their problems to the world. Now, we all know about the dangers of chronicling every step of our lives on social media, but Sabom takes things to a whole other level. Because after the aforementioned women post about their troubles on Faceplace (which is basically Facebook, but with a name Mark Zuckerberg can’t take legal action against), a masked killer begins to permanently put an end to their man problems. Whoever the knife-wielding psycho is, he’s clearly a mutual friend of all the women, because he obviously looks at their posts.
One of the only male characters in The Good Friend who wasn’t a complete asshole was Detective Jack Miller, a cop investigating the case of the misandrous serial killer. Miller is described as occasional leaning towards antinatalism, the belief that people should stop reproducing because the human race should not continue to exist. I’ve also always believed that human beings should stop reproducing because we are beyond saving, so I’m glad that Sabom was able to tap into an area that deserves far more open discussion rather than being a social taboo.
The book itself is just under three-hundred pages in length and uses relatively large text, so most readers will probably get through the whole thing in about three days. Whilst the prose was certainly easy to digest, there were a number of errors and typos that would be painfully obstructive to most of us, the most obvious being that it confuses the phrase ‘couldn’t care less’ with ‘could care less’, which, as you know, means the exact opposite.
However, if you’re looking for a easy to digest murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Good Friend is certainly an ideal recommendation. At the very least, the book should teach you not to make negative posts about people on Facebook or other social media sties, because a knife-wielding killer might be looking at your status.
An easy to digest slasher story that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Good Friend serves as a perfect reminder of the darker side of social media.
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