Bitter Taste of Magic, A (Short, 2011) - Dread Central
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Bitter Taste of Magic, A (Short, 2011)

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A Bitter Taste of MagicStarring Ken Zirkman, Elizabeth Tavares, Keith Seymour

Written and directed by Jay Carver


If we learned anything from Masters of Horror, it’s that horror vignettes are hard to pull off. Genre giants like John Carpenter, Joe Dante and Dario Argento struggled with the format and, with a few exceptions, were simply not able to make the platform work; and they had real budgets and a cadre of talent at their disposal.

While the show had promise and did well initially, after the elation of a new horror anthology wore off, the primary complaint from viewers was that the stories were bland, predictable, and really didn’t bring anything new to the table, disappointing considering the body of work from the participants.

The short form is under greater pressure to impress because the condensed format does not allow one time for elaborate set-ups and pay-offs. While a 110-minute film has the luxury of keeping the viewer intrigued with multiple plots and storylines (A Story, B Story and C Story), a short film has one plot and one story on which the entire film lives or dies by, and if it’s average, you’re dead in the water.

Unfortunately, A Bitter Taste of Magic falls into that category. Written and directed by Jay Carver, the story focuses on down and out magician Nick Palmer, whose career has not only hit a dead end, but his money-hungry wife, Jasmine, has started having an affair with a far more successful illusionist named Johnny Dice. While Nick plays to near empty school auditoriums, Johnny Dice has network television specials and appears on the cover of magazines.

While drowning his sorrows at a bar, Nick meets a man who tells him about a woman who may be able to help him get his revenge. Her methods worked for him and Nick should give it a shot. Alleviate some of that pain. He tells Nick how to find her, but before he can tell him the one rule he cannot break if he chooses this path, Nick has to leave.

When Nick goes to see the woman, it turns out she’s a gypsy offering a mystical method of revenge. Nick is familiar with the charlatans and posers who fleece the all too willing and is skeptical of a potion she is offering him. But still, there’s something about her that seems … genuine. He finally gives in to his despair, drinks the potion, and before you can say Freaky Friday, Nick wakes up inside Johnny Dice’s body. A situation that will not only give him his wife back but Dice’s successful career to boot!

Of course, best laid plans go awry when his wife begins to say mean, hurtful things about him (not realizing he now occupies Dice’s body, of course), and when Nick’s heard more than his heart can handle, he strangles her in a jealous rage. But, not to worry, as far as anyone knows, Johnny Dice killed her, not Nick. All he has to do is go back to his own body and it’s all good! Or is it?

Don’t worry; I’m not giving too much away here because you can see the “twist” coming a mile away. It’s a trope we’re overly familiar with, and that’s the problem with A Bitter Taste of Magic. Though well made, it’s pedestrian and predictable. Carver’s script never once attempts to surprise us or make us think there is another possible outcome other than what we’ve already determined. The story simply feels rote and dated.

On the plus side A Bitter Taste of Magic is well made, Jay Carver is clearly a competent filmmaker, and the performances are pretty good for an independent short film. The problem is the story here is simply not interesting.

It’s okay to tell a familiar tale, as long as you’re telling it to us in a way we’ve never seen it told before. Otherwise it’s just like three-day-old bread: stale and lacking flavor.

1 out of 5

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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

Directed by Kimble Rendall


If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic

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Starring Father Gabriele Amorth

Directed by William Friedkin


Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.

It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.

The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?

In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.

Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.

Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.

Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!

As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.

  • The Devil and Father Amorth
2.0

Summary

See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.

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