Written and directed by David Michael Quiroz, Jr.
As the years have progressed and I have become more and more disappointed with the overall quality of fare being offered at the Hollywood horror buffet, I have begun to state rather loudly that we must look to the underground, and by this I mean the indie scene, for our pleasures. (Now there’s more than one indie scene – the “starring a big name actor at a fraction of his/her pay in a quirky offbeat roll” indie film that I almost don’t consider indie anymore and the real indie scene with movies made from money scratched out of the dirt, which is where some of the best horror movies are coming from.)
I’m not always right about looking to the independent horror movie scene…they have lower budgets and can’t afford the best effects or talents, so many times the product isn’t so great. But usually the people involved put heart, soul, blood, love, and who knows what other body fluids into the making of these films. And it shows. And those are the good times, when you see that despite the limitations of their budget and circumstances, they turn out a damn fine product.
And a damn fine product is exactly what The Lonely Ones is. It starts off cliché … so cliché that I literally groaned out loud … in 1988 with a group of sorority girls (sorostitutes – a super fantabulous word this movie introduced me to) hanging out in a cabin and drinking. They decide to exchange some ghost stories, and one of the girls tells them about The Lonely Ones – a race of creatures who allegedly used to lure people away from civilization and devour them. Of course, several minutes later the Phi Beta Ki sisters are attacked, disappear, and are never seen or are heard from again.
Fast forward to present day and a group of nine friends who are off for a weekend of partying and general debauchery in the woods. Sounds like your typical Halloween/Friday the 13th 80’s slasher flick, right? Well, the setup is that way, and there is a good bit of that. For instance, Cid is a big jerky jock who cheated on his girlfriend Rinoa and wants to use this weekend to make it up to her and win her back. And there are various other stereotypes. But they’re not just stereotypes. Quiroz develops even the most throwaway characters somewhat and spends a great deal of time with the ones who are going to stick around.
In fact, those of you who are used to zipping right into the action will probably balk at the slow burn of the film, and in Hollywood they probably would have cut 20 minutes of the film’s first 36. I’m not saying it couldn’t have used a little trim here and there, but no serious pruning was required. I enjoyed the character development and the building tension, the likes of which you wouldn’t find in most slasher flicks. The acting ranges from tolerable to downright good; surprisingly, on the whole the guys put on a better performance than the girls.
Once things get down to nasty business, it happens fantastically, like a roller coaster … this slow, half-hour build like that initial climb when your car click, click, clicks up the track and then drops into the unknown. And from that moment on, Quiroz really jettisons the clichés (for the most part) and throws you some curve balls. There were quite a few things I didn’t expect to happen at all. But I won’t go into it any more than that because you should buy it and see for yourself. And join the film’s MySpace page while you’re at it!
The downside is this: The Lonely Ones was done on a low budget. There are a lot of things this had little to no affect on. The writing was pretty tight with no really laughable dialogue – except where intended of course. The acting was decent across the board with several actors delivering better than average performances. Ron Berg, who plays Luke, one of The Lonely Ones, was really great. I can’t decide what I liked about him more: his acting or the fact that he reminded me of an old high school boyfriend. And Rinoa (Heather Rae) … she’s my girl. Man, I fucking love her. Even the effects are not that bad. But the sound and lighting kind of suck, which is really unfortunate. There were times when I wasn’t entirely sure what was being said though I think I got the gist. And in nearly every scene that takes place outside, it’s practically impossible to tell what’s going on. Make sure you watch it with all the lights off; that’s your best bet.
Oh, and one more thing I promised I would mention. I watched this film with my fiancé, who is … well, he insists I refer to him as a “gaming enthusiast,” and for those of you out there who also fall into this category, Quiroz is one of your own. Which I probably don’t even need to tell you because if you’re as much of one as he is, you’ve already picked up on the fact throughout the review, just as my fiancé did within minutes of the movie starting; but since I’m not, I didn’t. For those of you not in the know, go ask a gamer.
So, the long and short of it is this: The synopsis sounds cliché as hell, I’ve seen bigger budgets on birthday videos, and the sound and lighting are not the greatest. But it works. Mostly because of the story. It really pulls you in. And if you’re not rooting for at least one of the characters by the end, and I mean really rooting (I was sitting up and literally bouncing in my seat), you might possibly be made of stone. To use a comparison that will probably have some people cringing at my terminology – and an equal or greater number of people intrigued at the prospect – Quiroz’s writing is sort of … Whedon-esque. Anyone who knows me knows that’s a huge compliment. And I can’t really explain why it reminds me of Whedon aside from the title, which brings to mind the episode about the vampire wannabes (which the creatures in the films are not). You’ll just have to watch it and see what I mean.
The Lonely Ones is not perfect, but its flaws are by far overshadowed by its strengths. I’m seriously looking forward to Quiroz’s next project.
4 1/2 out of 5
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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