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Subject Two (2006)

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Subject Two reviewStarring Christian Oliver, Dean Stapleton, Courtney Mace

Directed by Philip Chidel


Subject Two is exactly the kind of horror movie you really want to like. Director Philip Chidel and a crew of nine spent sixteen days in a remote Colorado cabin without electricity or running water filming their intimate and independent post-modern Frankenstein film. Unfortunately, a smarmy characterization backed up by a poor performance from one of the two lead actors greatly compromises film.

Subject Two tells the story of Adam (yawn), a brash young medical student who believes ethics are a barrier to advancement in medicine. He is contacted by the mysterious Dr. Vick and invited to a job interview at the doctor’s remote cabin laboratory resting atop Aspen Mountain. Once there, he is informed by Dr. Vick that cryonics, the science of freezing and reanimating a corpse, is now possible due to advancements in nanotechnology. Unfortunately, nothing is really made of the nanotechnology angle in the story as it serves only as a lazy way to inject some modern science into the proceedings.

Before you can scream “Nanites are repairing my frozen cells!”, Dr. Vick has murdered Adam in order to utilize him as the titular “subject two” of his twisted experiments. Up to this point the film is rather promising, playing out as a humorless, snowbound take on Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. However, as soon as Adam is brought back to life, the film takes a serious downturn into unintentional camp territory.

Subject Two review It turns out that one of primary difficulties involved in re-animating the dead is that the gift of renewed life carries with it the curse of teen angst. Adam’s newly awakened nerve endings are so sensitive that he feels everything far too deeply, which causes him to wax poetic about how he’s “more alive than life itself” and “everything is so beautiful.” It’s an interesting concept, but the over-the-top characterization and acting result in a Frankenstein’s monster that reminds one of a six-year-old mental defective on ecstasy. Initially, Adam can barely string a coherent sentence together, preferring to lovingly stroke windowsills and tabletops as if deriving the utmost sensual pleasure. It’s all very creepy, just in the wrong way.

A good chunk of the film is preoccupied with Dr. Vick’s trying to stifle Adam’s overwrought emotions by re-murdering him and surgically severing more and more of his nerve endings. There’s not a lot of drama to be found here, apart from the audience’s desire to have Adam stop being such a poetry-spouting pansy and finally get angry at Dr. Vick for killing him (repeatedly). This confrontation never comes to pass, however, as Adam is more preoccupied with the idea that he is contagious than he is with exacting revenge on the doctor for his death. I suppose the idea is that Adam believes the cryonics work is so important that his own life is insignificant in comparison, but the whole idea of Adam thanking Dr. Vick for re-animating him over and over again just never rings true.

Subject Two reviewFortunately, the actor playing Dr. Vick (Dean Stapleton) manages to carry the film despite the annoying portrayal of Adam. Stapleton has the look of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest era Jack Nicholson, which helps to convey an understated mania perfect for the role of the “mad doctor.” Additionally, the Aspen location is used to excellent effect with lots of wide shots of the untracked snowy mountains. The sense of remoteness is palpable, which would have contributed greatly to a feeling of inescapability had Adam actually wanted to escape in the first place…

Ultimately, Subject Two is an intriguing modern retelling of Frankenstein that falls short in its depiction of the monster. Adam’s sensitive nature is clearly consistent with Karloff’s childlike characterization but lacks the accompanying sense of uncontrollable anger and tragedy that other depictions of the monster have conveyed. In the end, rather than empathizing with Adam’s plight, viewers are more likely to empathize with Adam’s surgically severed feelings. Subject Two makes for an oddly inert viewing experience.

2 1/2 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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