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Driftwood (2007)

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Driftwood reviewStarring Dallas Page, Ricky Ullman, Talan Torriero, Jeremy Lelliott, Lin Shaye

Directed by Tim Sullivan


The world is an infinite jumble of information and circumstances crossing over into our lives, often via a TV or computer screen. When an event of significance is picked up by the world press, we can’t help but live out the moment alongside our neighbors even though we might live half a world away from where the event is taking place. Of course this only lasts as long as our attention spans will hold us, and when the press ends its coverage, we disconnect, not noticing the ripples the event has caused long after. These manifest as changes in the way we react to things people do and how we interpret simple things people say offhand. Tiny details become signs of events to come. As fear builds, even the way laws are made are affected.

The Columbine massacre was one such event that had America watching with horror and sadness. As bodies were buried and families began to heal, the press moved on to other things, but a fear had been conjured and began to fester. Something had to be done to stop another Columbine before it happened again. This is the world we live in — and the very real world of Driftwood.

Driftwood is the name of a home for boys who, however inadvertently, are crying out to the world that they need to be “fixed”. This plea for order can be something as direct as thievery and drug abuse to a blog stating you sometimes wish for death to an admission of preferring men to women. Whatever the problem, ex-marine Captain Kennedy (Page) is the cure. What does an ex-Marine know about turning a boy’s life around? Well, next to nothing, but the Captain is willing to lend a swift backhand or a boot to the head to change their way of thinking.

Driftwood reviewWhen David Forester (Ullman) comes to Driftwood, a different kind of ripple is caused. Death surrounds David, putting him in touch with otherworldly forces walking the halls of the compound. These forces cry out, and as David attempts to uncover what keeps them tied to this place, he asks questions some people would not like answered. This is the story of boys given up by their families, left in a cold world where their strength determines their survival and nothing can be trusted.

Driftwood is probably the first indie horror movie for teens! The pacing of the film, coupled with the rock music found in each scene, will remind you of a theatrical release with a 12- to 18-year-old target market in mind. That would stick if there weren’t a whole lot of cursing. Does that make it PG-13? When we discussed the film with director Tim Sullivan, he did drop the title The Outsiders from time to time, comparing his crew of boys to the now classic film cast. The comparison is definitely fair as the Driftwood crew deliver stellar performances that kept me in the moment by raising the level of reality every time they uttered a word. It’s challenging enough to come up with a group of characters who are different enough to be individuals yet bond, however slightly, over a common situation. That is just step one. Next you have to cast people that can act for it to all be believable.

Ricky Ullman makes a big departure from Disney’s “Phil of the Future” as David Forester, a boy who loses his brother and begins a spiral of depression that leads him to Driftwood. David is a product of our time with parents, played flawlessly by Lin Shaye and Marc McClure, who are so desperate to “save” their son that they throw him to the wolves. Ullman creates a character that is at once funny, introspective, and the kind of little asshole you might run into at the mall as they plow into you without a word of apology.

The story throws David into a number of situations that take him in and out of favor with Captain Kennedy and his team from moment to moment. To convey this, Ullman moves from scene to scene in a sort of haze with an expression of disbelief that he even wound up in this place. It works perfectly.

Driftwood reviewActing as a counter weight to the hapless strength of David is Page’s turn as The Captain, dripping with arrogance and no shortage of puffed up, frat boy-like false bravado. The Captain is the testosterone drunk high school football coach driven mad with power. He believes his own hype 100 percent, and he’ll make the kids buy into it to, even if he has to make them bleed to get them there. You can practically feel the man spitting in your face as he gets up close and personal to hammer a point home. Dallas Page treads the line between a menacing prison warden and over-the-top, straight-up bad guy with the precision of a tightrope walker. Seriously, having gone 2% further in a number of scenes would have made the character comedic and dismissible. Page delivers.

Other memorable performances include David Eigenberg as compound guard Norris, providing some comic relief in the heat of tense moments. Jeremy Lelliot’s Noah delivers a timid but quietly seething character among a room full of wanna-be bad asses. Finally, David Skyler as KC, the former jock brought in for drug abuse, never fails to cause a laugh in almost all of his scenes. This is not to discount the rest of the cast who work so well together, then help draw you into the story even further.

Seeing as you are here to read about horror and not some touchy-feely coming of age tale, I have to admit there isn’t much here. The creeps of Driftwood come in the form of a ghostly figure walking the halls of the compound and haunting the dreams of David. If he is effective with a teen crowd, only time will tell, but the older people in attendance at my screening (at the Pioneer Theater in NY) never seemed to jump once. Is the apparition effective? Well, I’ve seen worse in Sci-Fi Channel original movies so while that isn’t saying much, it’s still not bad work.

Driftwood reviewTim Sullivan doesn’t shove his spirit down your throat, instead keeping him to the shadows and popping up in flashes of visions. Very good call there. The location itself lends to a ghost story with its claustrophobic rooms, long empty hallways, and large metal doors as far as the eye can see. There is even, inexplicably, a room full of bikes piled so high they almost touch the ceiling. That visual alone is creepy as fuck, although what it’s saying about the compound is beyond me. Was the former tenant the old “Get off my freaking lawn!” guy who steels big wheels? Never you mind. The visual works, and Sullivan swears it was already there when they showed up. Freaky, huh?

In stark contrast the days at Driftwood are bright and clear as the boys do yard work and are teased by Myra (Baylyn Neff), The Captain’s steamy daughter who slides seductively from scene to scene. This enhances your apprehension for what is sure to happen after the sun goes down or even when the boys re-enter the compound where sunlight only finds entrance through mere slices of window just out of reach.

Driftwood is one part Holes, one part Cool Hand Luke, with a little dash of Stir of Echoes thrown in. While the story is somewhat predictable, the characters are engaging enough to make the time fly by. Tim Sullivan presents a story of desperation wrapped around a study in fear, whether that fear is of a physically imposing authority figure or a supernatural being. The walls of Driftwood hold more than one dark secret, but revealing them could mean the death to all who know. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Be sure to watch out for Driftwood when it comes to your town during its limited release and support well written, well executed independent movies! We need a lot more like them.

4 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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