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In Fear (Blu-ray / DVD)

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In Fear (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Ian DeCaestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech

Directed by Jeremy Lovering

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment


A movie can have all the jump scares in the world and buckets of blood can be fun, but neither guarantees a good horror movie. What makes great horror is tension and suspense. And if you have tension and suspense, you can get by without the buckets of blood and the jump scares. In Fear is a stripped-down film with really just three cast members, but it’s loaded with tension and suspense and takes viewers on an exciting ride… literally.

The real crazy part about this movie is that it was created without the actors being given a script ahead of time or having any idea what was going to happen to their characters. In Fear could be considered a psychological experiment as to just how actors would respond to truly frightening, unexpected stimuli and if that genuine fear would be successfully conveyed to the audience. It worked.

The film follows a young couple, Tom and Lucy (played well by Ian DeCaestecker and Alice Englert), celebrating their two-week anniversary. They initially plan to spend the evening with friends at a weekend music festival, but plans (as they often do in horror films) changed, leading to a series of unfortunate events. Tom secretly books a room at a remote hotel for the couple, and they blow off plans for the music fest for the night. With a mysterious confrontation that happened between Tom and a group of locals at a pub while Lucy was in the bathroom seemingly in the past, they venture off to find the Hotel Kilaidney.

Things slowly start to go wrong, and it begins with the fact that the hotel is incredibly hard to find. Signs first start by contradicting GPS mapping and then contradicting themselves, seeming to change as the couple find themselves driving in circles. There is no cell service, darkness begins to fall, fuel is running low, and Tom and Lucy begin to realize they are certainly not alone on this seemingly deserted road.

The tension begins to build and the couple start to come apart. Questions arise as to what happened in the pub when Lucy was in the bathroom. Do the locals have something to do with why they can’t find their way to the hotel or even their way back to the main road? In Fear begins to have a Straw Dogs feel to it, and then things get even worse.

Huge kudos need to be given to whoever was able to find the incredible locations used in the film. In addition to an amazing spot where the finale of the film was shot, the majority of the movie takes place on this fantastic roadway that is surrounded by weeds higher than the car in most places that provide a constant looming and trapped feeling. This claustrophobic road nearly becomes a character itself as it is such an important part of the film. Additionally, a ramshackle shed Tom and Lucy repeatedly pass while driving in circles provides a really creepy spot for one of the tensest scenes in the film.

As things are spiraling out of control, our pair come across another traveler on the road, Max (played by Allen Leech). Bloodied with a cut over his eye, Max joins Tom and Lucy, telling tales of wild locals terrorizing the roads. But something seems off about him, or does it? The decisions they make from here on out will decide if any of them will survive the night.

The cast is very effective. In a film as pared down as this one is, the cast is crucial. DeCaestecker will be recognizable to viewers from his work on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as will Englert, who starred in Beautiful Creatures, and Leech for his work on “Rome” and “Downton Abbey.” It’s a nicely experienced cast for director Lovering, who has worked quite a bit but whose In Fear marks his feature film directorial debut.

There are a few moments of F/X, but that is not what sells the film. In fact, the actual violent scenes are not all that impressive except for one toe-curling broken wrist… yikes! There are a few inconsistencies with the blood on the actors, and the one notable jump scare is so perfectly placed that it’s actually predictable. Lovering put it where it should go, but seasoned horror viewers will see it coming almost to the second.

Those two small shortcomings being noted, In Fear is an extremely effective film. Lovering gets more and more out of his cast as things get deeper and deeper in the movie, and they are really impressive. The unique thing about In Fear is that once everything is revealed, you kind of get what you expected but never expect to get it. Things work out almost how they would need to, but you’re still surprised as a viewer. It’s a unique feeling to kinda know how things are going to work out but still be surprised when you pretty much had it figured out. You’ll have an idea how things are going to turn out, but you won’t get it all. Not by a longshot.

As for special features on the disc, they are limited to simply a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette containing interviews with director Lovering and actors Englert and DeCaestecker as well as a couple of producers. It mainly speaks on the uniqueness of the film being made without the actors having a script ahead of time or prior knowledge of how the story would play out.

For a feature debut, Lovering does a great job. As mentioned earlier, the most important thing for a horror film to deliver, step one before anything else, is tension; everything else is gravy. Lovering delivers tension almost from the opening scene and does not let the audience go until the credits roll. The tiny cast should be proud of their performances (especially Englert, who really lets it go as her character begins to unravel) as this little trio all deliver as needed.

In Fear could easily have driven off the road. You have a cast of three characters, one of whom doesn’t even arrive until past the halfway point of the movie. You have the majority of the film shot in a car. Wonderful direction by Lovering and a cast that packs a punch, along with fantastic locations that become integral parts of the movie, help give the audience a suspenseful experience that’s definitely worth a look.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-scenes featurette

    Film:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1 out of 5

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    Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review: A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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    Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

    Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


    “Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

    That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

    Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

    At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

    These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

    Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

    It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

    If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

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    The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint

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    Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones

    Directed by Guillermo del Toro


    “True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.

    The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.

    The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.

    Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.

    The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.

    While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.

    Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.

    The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.

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    Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?

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    Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva

    Directed by Goran Spoljaric


    Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.

    Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.

    It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?

    Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.

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