Starring J. Bloomrosen, Jolan Boockver, Jason Scott Campbell
Directed by Dylan Bank
When one sits down to create, whether it be filming a movie, writing, or painting, we are, in effect, giving life to something. Molding our hands around Promethean clay, we breathe holy fire into these works in the hopes that they will conjure up images, creations, that will endure. Yet, is there a degree of hubris mixed with ignorance that plagues all of this? Is there any amount of responsibility that is owed to these artistic endeavors? Should we be concerned for the troubles and traumas that we put our creations through? Does giving part of one’s soul to something make it in return alive? In the horror genre, ideas of people and actions are set into cerebral motion all the time, and these actions are usually amongst the most base of all human behaviors. Do Horrorsmiths run the risk of losing themselves, or some semblance of their humanity, in this danse macabre with death?
Nightmare is a test of this dangerous idea. A young, promising film student becomes ensnared in a surreal vortex of insanity. Meeting a dark and mysterious woman at a party, he is instantly entranced by her. Their bodies mix and mash in bestial copulation. The embrace is less about emotion than it is pure physical delight. Nightmare keeps the viewer on edge with its use of sex as a marked element of the film. Even though the actors are not engaged in coital acts, explicit nudity is present. This bare skin unnerves the viewer, and recalls the most extreme of all nightmare scenarios.
A night of raw physical lust leads to a morning filled with brash reality. Standing at the foot of the bed is a camera, looking at the two with an unblinking eye. The lens knowingly fixed on them as they lay through the night. Intrigued, they bite at the idea of it, a documentation of the evenings happenings. This is greeted with images channeled from the lower levels of the Inferno itself. Instead of the fluid movements of familiar flesh on flesh, the electronic interloper relays a display of violations, alienation, and of death made by their own hands.
Here is where the questions begin. Who made the tape? How was it done? The two were in bed, sleeping all night long. Unarguably presented is an alternate vision of the evening, with naked bodies clambering over each other not in carnal desire, but in murderous psychosis. Leery of each other, but locked in this most secret of covenants, each is sure of one thing: It is them on the tape. They study it and in the moment, they lose track of the most fleeting of elements; time. He rushes off, abandoning her to dwell on the conundrum of the tape.
He rushes off to film class. Here, mind fettered with the burden of the enigmatic situation, he stumbles his pitch for the student film. Angered, he challenges the class with an alternate version, one that is too clear and too dangerous for him not to consider. He recounts the last few hours of his life to the class, leaving off at the point where he began, standing in front of them in class, having just bungled his aforementioned pitch.
The decision is made to make the film of this event. Unfortunately, there is woefully little material. Not nearly enough is present to make a complete film until a new tape is found. Despite its hideous content, the director only sees more material for the movie. At the same time, even bigger questions form as the people on the tapes begin to look like real missing people. The young director becomes obsessed with the making of the film, which he believes will answer the question crawling out of all of the madness; Who the real director of the film is.
Jason Scott Campbell plays the unnamed director in the film. He has a clean angled face and an ability to tap into an animalistic rage that plays out well in the construct of the film. It is his grappling with the meaning of the tapes, what they say about his life, or even the nature of his reality as a whole, that is the centrepiece of the film. His anguish. His torment. Campbell’s portrayal of the decadent downward spiral proves to be key in Nightmare’s success.
The apple in his eyepiece is the alluring Nicole Roderick. She embraces a difficult and daring role with grace and pure ability. As with Campbell, she is just as responsible for selling a film whose terrors are not concrete, but psychological. She has an uncanny talent with her ability to shift between innocent and deeply knowing looks in a millisecond. She embodies the mysterious nature of the film in her face. Her wide and open eyes catch the light and make us feel safe, but deeper within her gaze is a silent story that peeks out untold. We want to know more about her, but have to be patient to uncover the truth.
The screenplay by director Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme is as challenging as they get. This is not a film for the popcorn crowds who just want to sit back and enjoy splatter while their brain is set on coast. This film is a deeply intellectual involvement of the viewer. One needs to pay the closest of attention to the scenarios being set, and a second viewing is most recommended for those who think they may have a grip on the yarn that the film is spinning.
Mention has to go to the cinematography of Valentia Caniglia. Albeit an independent work, Nightmare is as beautiful as a film should be. Ranging between the grotesque claustrophobic visions of human form made hellscape to the skyline at sunset, the camera is sure to make the most of all of it. At times, Nightmare seems to be experimenting in a new style of Expressionism, using visions that are sure to effect emotional response, but without losing the narrative to the simple evocation of emotion. A tricky road to tread. Nightmare proceeds to dwell firmly between the irrational world of feelings and the intellectual world of thought.
No more so is this prevalent than in the subtle music provided for the film by Kangol. With such instruments as simple piano and strings, the score is unusual and personal. It offsets the scenes of the bizarre, and works to facilitate the viewing of the film to a place that allows us to see past the thin layer of celluloid in front of us. Some films, want to have the music make the film. Their focus seems not to accentuate but to over stimulate. Kangol’s work on Nightmare fits like the right wine for the main course, allowing the film to be digested with no pains at all.
My enthusiasm for a film like this could not be greater. I love the philosophic arguments that bubble to the top of the brain during films like this. Dreams, nightmares, reality, and film all have an internet of their own. They seem to be connected. Just as a nightmare is a variation of a dream, film is a variation of reality. Cronenberg waltzed once with this issue with Videodrome, bringing the world of video made flesh to the forefront of the cinematic world. Nightmare does the same, but asks a from a different perspective. If we film our dreams, and in essence make them real, then what is to stop nightmares from becoming more powerful, farther reaching, and extensively more pervasive than we ever imagined.
Long Live the New flesh.
5 out of 5
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
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.
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.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
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!
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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
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.
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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