Starring Owen Campbell, Charlie Tahan, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Amy Hargreaves
Directed by Kevin Phillips
There may be no faster rising commodity in the digital age than nostalgia. As our access to information makes the future increasingly uncertain and frightening, more and more people are finding comfort hiding under the blanket of the past. From political campaigns to hit television shows and movies, trading in happy memories of the “good old days” is now a tried and true method of engaging an audience. By reviving old favorites and creating new shows like “Stranger Things” that play like “greatest hits” montages, “What Once Was” is becoming a popular destination for audiences to visit.
In this rush to feel safe in the warm embrace of the familiar, however, it can be easy to forget that the past wasn’t always such a romantic place.
Super Dark Times trades in a more truthful kind of nostalgia. It eschews the saccharine safe filter so often placed on the past and opts to show things how they truly were, warts and all. Its world is one of latch-key kids and absentee fathers, of broken homes with unsupervised children where pain could fester unnoticed by harried parents stretched beyond their limits. Where the taste of spoiled promises had just started to turn our collective stomachs and the warbled cries of disaffected youth rang hollow amid our seeming opulence. Super Dark Times takes place in the 90’s.
This tale of two friends trapped in the consequence of accidental tragedy might not take place in the 90’s most people remember, but for some of us it will ring all too true. As we watch these poor children make terrible choice after terrible choice, some of us will remember just how persuasive the keen edge of loneliness was when it brushed against our throats. How it distorted our perceptions and caused us to distrust the loved ones that stood in our periphery. How the spectre of what we were supposed to be haunted the reality of who we were so effectively that, in order to gain some measure of control, we resorted to drastic acts to prove we could solve all our problems alone.
Freshman director, and former cinematographer, Kevin Phillips captures this specific time and feeling perfectly. His use of a muted color palette as well as the fall setting infuses the film with a pervading malaise that creeps into your brain, leaving you as unsettled as the main characters. As the stakes are raised and the paranoia deepens, he never allows the viewer to feel like they have a handle on what is going on. He obscures important details so that with each twist of the plot you feel the ground beneath you slowly give way until you are eventually free falling, hoping for safe purchase. There is a brutal authenticity to this film that stays with you long after it’s over, and Philips displays an almost Hitchcockian ability to subvert your expectations, leading to an ending that will shock you at its inevitability.
For their part, screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski fully subscribe to the “show don’t tell” mentality. This is a film that will reward repeat viewings as pivotal parts of the plot are hidden in the characters’ surroundings and not explicitly expressed to the viewer. In this way the film demands that you look closely to fully understand why each character makes the choices he or she does. It all will make perfect sense to the astute, but for anyone not paying close enough attention, it might be easy to get lost. Some will walk away from this film feeling as if they missed something, and they’ll probably be right… not because it wasn’t there to find, but because they weren’t looking hard enough.
Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan as main characters Zach and Josh give riveting performances. The two are equally important to the story, but, as Zach is the de facto main character, when the plot divulges and Zach and Josh are forced apart by the terrible secret they share, we are left to agonize with Zach alone as he loses his best friend and is driven further into desperate isolation. Campbell juggles paranoia, fear, anger, loneliness, and frustration so well that we can understand every choice he makes, even while wishing frantically for him not to make them.
While Campbell is given the bulk of the heavy lifting, Charlie Tahan squeezes the most out of every ounce of screen time he gets and makes you believe in the eventual transformation of his character. In a lesser film with a lesser performer, Josh could have easily have been cast in a villainous light but nuance is the name of the game here and by the end Tahan bursts from his mysterious cocoon covered in shades of bloody grey.
Super Dark Times is a challenging, but rewarding film that asks a lot of its audience. It asks that we take a hard look at a time that most of us would prefer to remember fondly and see it for what it was. To remove our rose-colored glasses and examine our past in a frank and honest manner. For those of us who lived in similar circumstances and came through the other side, there can be a certain nostalgia even for times as harrowing as these. Remembrance of pain can be as cathartic as remembrance of happiness, after all, if only to bring clarity to both.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
George A. Romero’s Daughter, Tina, Wrote a Script For Queens of the Dead
Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Local 58 Contingency Emergency Broadcast
The Housemaid Haunts a New Trailer
The Executioners Knock on the Wrong Door! Get Axed!
Ichi the Killer Carves a Path of Destruction on Blu-ray!
Jonathan Barkan’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Gender Bashing: The Exorcist Series and the Male Body in Possession Horror
Zak Bagans’ Paranormal-Themed Documentary Demon House Acquired: Aiming For March Release
Julie, Sweet Julie: Why Return of the Living Dead 3 Is One of the Most Inventive Sequels Ever
Top 10 Lists5 days ago
13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Just Might Restore Your Faith in the Genre.
Editorials4 days ago
Why Brad Anderson’s Session 9 Scared the Hell Out of Me
News3 days ago
An Early Draft of Halloween 6 Has Been Released And It’s… Interesting
News6 days ago
AMC Reveals Return Date for Fear the Walking Dead and New Trailer for The Terror
News5 days ago
Exclusive Delirium Clip Goes Running Through the ‘Net!
News3 days ago
Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein Reboot Back on Track With Gal Gadot?
Dread Central Presents5 days ago
Dread Central Presents’ Villmark Asylum Now on Amazon Prime!
News5 days ago
Blumhouse Wants to Reboot Friday the 13th Next