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Matrimony, The (2007)

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Click here for all the Fantasia news & reviews!The Matrimony reviewReviewed by Johnny Butane

Starring Bingbing Fan, Leon Lai, Rene Liu

Directed by Hua-Tao Teng


I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of Asian films about ghosts. Though lately they’ve been getting more and more mature with directors actually trying new methods now and then, it all usually comes back to the same old thing: creepy female ghost wants revenge for some kind of injustice thrust upon her when she was among the living. and only one person is able to figure out what’s going on to try and stop her.

The Matrimony is a bit different from the rest of the crap that’s out there, though whether or not it’s enough to bring in new fans is up for debate.

For one, the setting is unique; Bejing, China in the 1930’s (which looked an awful lot like San Francisco in the same time frame, apparently). The story involves a film editor named Shen (Lai) who is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Manli (Fan). While traveling to meet him on her bicycle one busy day, she attempts to cross the street and is run down by a motorist, killing her instantly.

Shen is ruined by her death, moving all her belongings into one room of his large estate and locking it from the outside world. His mother is concerned for his well being, believing he is sick and needs someone to take care of him, so she convinces him to marry a girl named Sansan (Liu), who of course falls in love with him. How or why is never really explained as he comes off as a moody, temperamental asshole for the first third of the film, but love is a strange thing, isn’t it?

The Matrimony reviewSansan’s curiosity gets the best of her and she manages to get into the room full of Manli’s belongings, which brings Manli’s ghost out into the open. Rather than just relying on cheap scares and freaky imagery, her ghost seems more grounded and down to earth, striking up a deal with Sansan to let her possess her body so she can be physically close to Shen again and so he can love again. While it sounds like a win/win situation, things take a turn for the vengeful when Shen starts noticing Sansan on his own and is willing to start a new life, free of the torment he’s been living in since Manli died so suddenly.

It’s interesting because for the longest time you feel like maybe this ghost isn’t upset or angry like most and legitimately wants her former lover to be happy once again, but as “exposition lady” explains shortly before the third act kicks in, a spirit is a spirit and all they are at their core is selfish beings who only want to be alive again. From there the story starts following the same general pattern of all other J/K-horror films (this one’s unique simply because it’s Chinese), and when the film finally does come to an end, viewers will likely be more frustrated than anything else.

The Matrimony reviewOverall The Matrimony is a very beautiful film; the time frame lends itself being more visually striking than a modern-day horror movie. It features some of the most prominent use of color to be seen in a film for a long time; indeed most of the setting of The Matrimony is greys and browns, but when Manli’s ghost appears, she’s clad in a very blatant red, the same red she was wearing the day she was killed. Chinese legends dictate to never trust a woman in red, a theme that’s carried throughout the movie through both women in various degrees.

At its heart, though, The Matrimony is very serious love story, so viewers will really have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it to its fullest potential. As is usually the case with Asian stories of love lost, they lay it on very thick to make sure that the tragedy of the situation is driven home to even the thickest-shelled romantics, which unfortunately does detract from the oppressive feel and scares The Matrimony attempts to build from the start.

I appreciate that someone else is taking a different approach to ghost stories than we’re used to here in the US, but ultimately The Matrimony still manages to fall into the same quasi-supernatural trappings in its final act (including the aforementioned frustrating ending), but it sure is a touching date movie if nothing else.

3 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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