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Inexchange (2005)

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Psychological thrillers often involve split personalities and/or twist endings. There was a time when I loved them, but lately we seem to have been inundated by cheap imitations of the classics. Hitchcock was definitely the master of the genre (Psycho comes to mind), but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a contemporary director who has it down as well. Or maybe I’m just jaded after sitting through the many missed opportunities and cinematic clichés we horror fans have been subjected to in recent years. Now along comes indie director Zack Parker’s first feature, Inexchange, and while it’s obvious Parker’s no Hitchcock yet, I believe he could have a bright future . . . if he finds himself a good editor.

Inexchange tells the story of college student Maury, a bookish loner (a.k.a. loser) type. His roommate Jay uses and abuses him. Maury has a crush on Lara, part of Jay’s circle of friends, so one night he decides to take Jay up on his invitation to meet up with him at a party Lara will also be attending. Things start off well enough, but it isn’t long before Jay and his buddies are yet again pissing (literally!) all over Maury and his good time. However, Maury has an ace in the hole – a blindfolded friend in a long wooly coat that only he sees, who has offered to provide his “services” to Maury in his quest to even the score with Jay and his cronies and win the love of Lara. The lone catch is an undisclosed price that Maury must pay when the job is done.

It’s a story we’ve all seen before, but Parker, who both wrote the script and directed, does have a flair for creating believable characters. Maury was sympathetic enough to make me wonder what was going to happen to him, and Jay was such a perfect asshole that I’m sure I’m not the only one who cheered when it was his turn to say hello to Mr. Blindfolded Stranger. And the banter among Jay and his friends was straight off any typical college campus. However, it takes more to make a good movie than just characters you can relate to.

Most important to me are pacing, sound design, and editing – areas where Inexchange misses the mark completely. Scenes drag on interminably. The dialogue is, for the most part, fine; but the actors’ delivery is so misdirected that I was rocking in my seat and tapping my feet to keep things moving along. Telling your actors to deliver their lines as line . . . beat, beat, beat . . . line . . . pause, pause, pause is not the way to build suspense. It’s the way to put your audience to sleep. Many times, particularly when Lara was speaking, I could barely hear what was being said. The score, what there was of it, was a terrible fit for the film. The end credits list at least ten songs, none of which do I have any recollection of hearing at all. The only things I remember are a horrendous static sound when the menu came on that made me dive for the remote to turn it off, a droning Moonlight Sonata during the unnecessarily drawn-out opening credits (that should have been my first clue Parker still has a thing or two to learn about setting a mood and tone), and another overly melodramatic classical piece during the “collage of death” finale that somehow turns into something so peppy and out of context with the rest of the movie that I thought my boy friend had taken the DVD out and put in something else altogether.

Another disappointment in Inexchange is its big sex scene. It was very interestingly intercut with the best gore in the film, but the actress’ obvious no nudity clause detracted from the emotions we should have been feeling. It could have easily been shot to show her only from the back and side, but at least then we’d have the satisfaction of knowing her partner had the enjoyment of her naked body pressed against his. Having her wear her bra in that and the next scene seemed out of place with the overall edginess the filmmakers were trying to achieve.

Even with all those negatives, there are some things in Inexchange that warrant a look. The acting is quite good, even more so when one considers that all the leads are unknowns. Sean Blodgett (Maury), who also served as Associate Producer, and Todd Richard Lewis (Jay) share a natural onscreen rapport. Tiffany Wilson (Lara) reminds me a bit of a young Uma Thurman, and I think she has a decent career ahead of her. The remaining cast members were fine too, especially Jennifer Lynn Fisher as Jenny, Lara’s long-lost childhood friend with whom Lara reconnects after having an epiphany about what a bitch she’s been lately.

There are also a handful of better-than-average shots mixed in with the more mundane nature of the rest of the cinematography – notably the scene of Maury and Lara on her couch, some hallway views, and especially the parting shot of Maury.

Best of all for splatter fans, though, are the effects. Although few in number, they were quite effective, and I commend the FX makeup artists Erica Haws and Matt Jenkins and fabricator Tony Thompson for doing a lot with very little. I can only imagine what they’d come up with if they had a bigger budget to work with and look forward to seeing their names in the credits of more films.

Brain Damage Films is supposed to be releasing Inexchange this spring (although it’s not yet listed on their website), and according to ReelChicago.com Parker already has a second film lined up: The projected $2 million Quench, a “gothic drama.” He will be taking his mostly Chicago crew to his native Richmond, Indiana, this September for a five-week shoot. Hopefully he’ll take a better sound designer and editor along this time as well.

Inexchange (2005)
(Brain Damage Films)
Directed by Zack Parker
Starring Sean Blodgett, Tiffany Wilson, Todd Richard Lewis, Adam Lash, Samantha Eileen Deturk 
 

2 out of 5
 

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

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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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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