It Came From Connecticut: The Making of Root of All Evil (2004) - Dread Central
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It Came From Connecticut: The Making of Root of All Evil (2004)



Starring the cast & crew of Trees & The Root of All Evil

Directed by Michael Pleckaitis

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the double feature DVD of a movie I had already seen and enjoyed, and its sequel that I enjoyed even more so. If you listened to the Dinner For Fiends audio roundtable about Christmas-themed horror films that I took part in, then you heard me sing the praises of the Jaws spoof Trees and its more fantastical sequel The Root of All Evil. Both are seriously tongue-in-cheek productions along the lines of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but in this case the objects of unexpected terror are man-eating trees. While Trees was an ultra low budget Jaws spoof about a Great White Pine terrorizing the woods of a small community, The Root of All Evil was more its own creature, an almost completely original film with a few elements of Jaws 2 tossed it, that looked and felt like a far more professional production, even boasting some CGI effects work that probably cost more than the entire budget of the first film. I often get the sense that I’m one of the only people to have actually seen either of these films and that’s a pity considering they are definitely potential cult classics that deserve a better audience than what they’ve gotten.

A few weeks after my Dread Central review of Brain Damage Films’ double DVD release of Trees/The Root of All Evil, I received an email from the films’ director and co-writer, Michael Pleckaitis, asking me if I’d be willing to screen a copy of It Came From Connecticut: The Making of The Root of All Evil, a 33-minute documentary on the making of the movie. I said sure. One thing then led to another and suddenly it’s nearly a year before it finally arrives and a few more weeks before I finally get around to reviewing it.

Now from what Pleckaitis has told me, they’re hoping to submit It Came From Connecticut… to some independent film festivals as a potential documentary short subject. After watching it I’m just not sure how much appeal it will to the uninitiated. It may suffice as a nice infomercial for The Root of All Evil and perhaps even serve as a source of inspiration for other do-it-yourself indie filmmakers, but this “making of…” documentary isn’t nearly independent enough from the movie itself to fully endorse on its own. I mean I was ten minutes in and realized there had yet to be a decent explanation as to what The Root of all Evil was all about. That’s perfectly fine if you’ve already seen the movie but not if you haven’t. It really feels more like an extended DVD extra.

To be honest, given the nature of what it is I’m reviewing, there really isn’t a whole heck of a lot to say about it since, again, it really does help to have actually seen the movie. You mostly have behind-the-scenes footage and the usual suspects for this sort of doc (actors, director, writers, producers, computer & make-up effects people) telling of how they came up with ideas, put the project together, went about making it, the camaraderie and ribs on the set, trial and error, etc. The most interesting aspect of this – something that should tell you what a homemade production the making of Trees was – is just how huge a deal it was for them to hire and have on the set an actual professional lighting guy. Hearing from them and the lighting guy make for the most interesting aspect of this short.

As the title of the documentary suggests, The Root of All Evil was truly a homegrown labor of love, and in this case that home was Connecticut. Freezing temperatures during the location shooting is shown to be the film’s greatest nemesis. I must admit a bit of surprise hearing these hometown boys talk of being almost taken aback by the winter weather, something I’d have thought they’d have been somewhat used to and prepared for.

Now no disrespect to the cast and crew or actor Ron Palillo, but their giddy excitement over having “Horshack” in their movie some twenty-seven odd years removed from the cancellation of “Welcome Back, Kotter” almost seems a bit comical in and of itself. For horror fans too young to remember that sitcom, Palillo also played Tommy Jarvis’ friend who gets killed by Jason at the very beginning of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. Ring a bell? To Palillo’s credit, he does come across in the documentary as a genuinely decent and down-to-earth fellow, shown giving advice to the film’s less experienced actors and even pulling a funny rib on the crew.

The doc ends with footage of the film’s world premiere at a local old fashioned movie palace nicely renovated for their full scale, Hollywood-style premiere. I bet most low budget indie filmmakers would kill to have this sort of world premiere for their films.

I guessing that since Brain Damage Films released Trees and The Root of All Evil as a double feature DVD they just didn’t have room to include It Came From Connecticut: The Making of The Root of All Evil as a bonus feature. A pity.

As I said earlier, I don’t know how much worth this short documentary has one its own, but I do wish Michael Pleckaitis and company good luck on any future filmmaking endeavors, preferably the third installment in the franchise teased at the end of The Root of All Evil.

As for the rest of you, I urge those in the mood for some light-hearted horror comedy to seek out a DVD of Trees/The Root of All Evil. They won’t light the world on fire but they definitely provide some good natured entertainment for a few hours.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product



DesolationStarring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols

Directed by Sam Patton

I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.

The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.

So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”

As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.

  • Film


Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.

User Rating 0 (0 votes)
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Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political



Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

Directed by Eitan Gafny

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017

Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

  • Children of the Fall


While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

User Rating 3.16 (19 votes)
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Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama



Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017

One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

  • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club


Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

User Rating 3.67 (18 votes)
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