Reviewed by Plagiarize
Starring Henry Thomas, Kelli Garner, Lateef Crowder, Eric Jungmann
Directed by Bruce Dickson
When a film has a name like Red Velvet, it gives you certain impressions right away. The poster appears to portray a scantily clad woman beneath a sheet of red velvet. Thoughts like “David Lynch rip-off” start to dance around your head. When the producer grabs your wife to get her picture taken with a guy dressed up in a strange bunny suit because she’s wearing a Suspiria T-shirt, then you start thinking that maybe it’s a Suspiria and David Lynch rip-off. Maybe with some shades of Donnie Darko. Well, not that any of that is going to happen to you, of course, unless you’re walking with your similarly dressed wife past the Red Velvet booth at a horror convention.
Look, usually I can’t stand the AICN approach to movie reviews where you preface them with all the stuff you did leading up to the film, but sometimes it’s worth conveying the frame of mind you were in when you watched a film.
I was distracted. Disinterested. Concerned that it would be too derogatory. But there we were in a hotel room around midnight, most of the Dread Central crew about to watch the film with producer Sean Fernald, who seemed like such a nice guy. And damn if he ever loved the project. I don’t think I can remember seeing anyone so enthusiastic about a film they’d been involved in before. So I was pretty sure that I’d have to sit through this film and then pretend to like it behind his back until we could get out of there.
Don’t get me wrong … I love the same things he obviously does. Every film he name checked as we walked to the hotel room (after bumping into each other in the lift on the way up there) were all things I liked, but what I didn’t know is that he was trying to sell me on his film and that he didn’t know the kind of things that make me want to watch something.
So finally to the movie. I liked Red Velvet. I liked it a lot. I can’t wait to be able to own a copy for myself or, even better, see it on the big screen (which if there’s any justice I’ll get to do).
The film has a pretty simple concept. Aaron (Henry Thomas), who doesn’t much like the other people who live in the same apartment building as him, bumps into his neighbor Linda (Kelli Garner) in a launderette. She starts trying to talk to him but doesn’t get that he’s not interested in talking to her. He’s a little aggressive… a little abusive… but she takes his misogynistic demands as genuine invites, and before you know it, Aaron is telling Linda a story.
It’s a story of the weekend up at the cabin that she’s told him she can’t get to and a killer (Lateef Crowder) bumping the people that did make it there off one by one. They decide together what the killer should look like, and the film cuts back and forth between Aaron’s cabin story and Aaron and Linda’s conversations.
This structure gives everybody a lot of freedom to cut loose. The extreme comic book violence comes in the story segments, which are shot in a style that I’d call a note perfect homage to Suspiria and Creepshow … but it’s not just homage for the sake of homage. An Eighties feel is layered into the story parts, not just in the direction and cinematography, but in the writing, music, and acting as well. While Red Velvet is telling a serious story, half of it is filtered through a cracked mind obsessed with Eighties horror.
It’s not straight homage either. The kills are anything but clichéd, with at least two that I’m sure will make anyone reading this laugh as much as we all did. There’s a deranged brilliance to the story’s killer from his pink toolbelt to his instant camera and rabbit ear speakers. It’s macabre, yes, but in such a ridiculously way as to feel inspired. The playful nature of the shifting story as Aaron has to go back and correct things as Linda tells him more about her friends also lends itself to some of the film’s best moments.
I feel that some of the people we saw the film with would have preferred it to be purely a spoof, and I’m sure that a lot of people who see the film will feel the same way… but if you have any love for films that don’t hand you all the answers and take their time saying what they need to, I’m sure you’d agree with me that the pacing of the film is just perfect.
The conversation scenes are fairly long and, in contrast to the over-the-top, colour drenched story sections, may be boring in comparison to some. However, take them out, and the film wouldn’t be as smart, it wouldn’t be nearly as unique, and the payoffs wouldn’t be so satisfying.
You see Red Velvet is a puzzle. One I’m sure has an answer … and one I’m sure has all the pieces there if they can only be fit together properly. The big part of that puzzle is working out who Aaron is and whether or not there’s any truth buried in his ever changing story. The substance of the film is in those scenes between Aaron and Linda. The depth and the drama is in those scenes, and there’s a lot more going on than is initially apparent. At first you’ll probably just want Linda to shut up, but it’s a bit more cleverly crafted than first glances may suggest. Writers Anthony Burns and Joe Moe aren’t just filling out the film with these moments, and while they may make some people a little impatient, watching Aaron carefully manipulating the situation is as much a credit to them as Henry Thomas’ performance.
Henry Thomas yet again proves to be one of those hidden gems. Most child actors don’t grow up to be anything special, but as in Dead Birds, Henry Thomas shows that he’s really got what it takes if people would just pay attention to him. The strength of his performance is almost to the detriment of the film, highlighting as it does weaknesses in Kelli Garner’s performance. Overall Kelli does an adequate job with the type of thankless annoying straight character her role necessitates, but there are a couple of moments where she comes across as overly wooden, and next to Henry Thomas it just looks even worse. Everyone else gets to have much more fun as characters in Henry’s stories, free to cut loose and be as over-the-top as they want. Deserving special plaudits is Lateef Crowder as our rabbit-eared masked psycho, who is surprisingly good, adding comedy with surprising body language and movements.
There are one or two moments where the film’s creative camera work seems to be being flashy just for the sake of being flashy (not in the story sequences… it fits perfectly in those), but director Bruce Dickson has done really well considering Red Velvet is his directorial debut and could well be one to watch going forward.
Red Velvet is deranged and inspired in equal measures, sometimes both at the same time, and Sean Fernald is right to be proud of the film he’s produced. Sure, it may not be for everyone, and there will always be those that wish it was more of a straight spoof than an open-ended puzzle. But I know there’s a wider audience just waiting to appreciate Red Velvet, and I hope they get the chance to check it out.
4 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Red Velvet in our Dread Central forums!
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 Yafit Shalev 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.
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.
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.
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.
Beyond the Seventh Door DVD Review – No-Budget S.O.V. Canuxploitation At Its Finest!
Starring Lazar Rockwood, Bonnie Beck, Gary Freedman
Directed by B.D. Benedikt
Distributed by Severin Films/Intervision
Two people trapped within a labyrinthine complex. Booby traps. Rigged doors. Death lurking around every corner. And a mysterious voice communicating clues every step of the way via recorded tapes. No, this isn’t the latest Saw film but a Canuxploitation entry from the shot-on-video market, 1987’s Beyond the Seventh Door. Oozing ambition and bolstered by a truly bravado performance from newcomer Lazar Rockwood – a man who looks like the love child of Tommy Wiseau and Billy Drago – this no-budget Canadian shocker delivers just as many twists and turns as Lionsgate’s dead-horse franchise. The main difference being that instead of having to mutilate yours or someone else’s body, the protagonists here are forced to solve obtuse riddles in order to move on to the next room; failure means death. Intervision has been crushing it throughout 2017 – and this release may be the best yet.
Boris (Lazar Rockwood) is a career thief and recent ex-con who is trying to turn his life around when Wendy (Bonnie Beck), a former flame, comes back into his life. She now works for a rich paraplegic, Lord Breston (Gary Freedman), who lives in an actual castle just outside of town. Desperate for “one more job” and a big payday, Boris begs for a gig and Wendy delivers; the plan is for the two of them to break into the basement of Breston’s castle and steal whatever treasures he has socked away, all while her boss is busy entertaining guests at his costume party. The next night, the plan is enacted and the duo clandestinely slip into the castle’s lower level, when suddenly the door locks behind them and a tape recorder begins to play. Breston’s voice is heard, welcoming the thieves into his home and offering up a challenge: use scant clues (or sometimes, none at all) and uncover a way out of each of the six rooms linked together down here. Succeed and a briefcase of money awaits; fail and you die. Truly motivating.
Going into this film blind is my best recommendation, and so for that reason no other plot points will be revealed here. Besides, the real motivation for watching this movie is to witness the raw acting prowess of Lazar Rockwood. Glad in a denim jacket and rocking the ubiquitous ‘80s bandana headband, Rockwood has the delivery of a porno actor stammering lines between sex scenes. His accent is impenetrably thick and the range of his acting could fit within a matchbox, but dammit the man is weirdly magnetic on screen. He’s clearly throwing everything in his arsenal onto the screen with tremendous bravado. Modesty must be a scarce commodity when you have a name that would go perfectly alongside Dirk Diggler on an adult theater marquee in the ‘70s. My favorite line in the entire film is when Wendy is trying to solve the first clue, which has something to do with rings. When she’s rifling through possibilities and says, “Lord of the Rings?” Boris replies with, “Lord of the ring… who the hell is that guy?” said with equal parts confusion and annoyance. The kicker is viewers will believe that query could have come from either Boris or Lazar.
The rooms aren’t likely to impress viewers with their intricacy or set design, but each has a clever solution that is often a stretch to imagine our leads managing to solve within the allotted time. The clues provided by Lord Breston are esoteric and Boris isn’t exactly the erudite type, but working together with Wendy they are able to move ahead, often with mere seconds to spare. Evidence of past would-be thieves’ unlucky attempts are glimpsed, including one room where a body remains. NON-SPOILER: I completely expected the body to in actuality be Lord Breston, “checking up” on his unwanted guests much like John Kramer in Saw (2004), especially since you can clearly see the actor breathing, but this is not the case. Instead, the he’s-clearly-not-dead guy is played by a local eccentric, whose life is briefly chronicled in the bonus features.
Viewers will already be hooked on Beyond the Seventh Door by the time the climax arrives, but the final twists are what drive this S.O.V. thriller over the edge and into the cult territory it so richly deserves. It’s crazy to think this film went virtually unseen for years, being impossible to acquire on VHS and never receiving the proper home video release until now. Director B.D. Benedikt offers up further proof that strong ideas can be realized on any budget, and fans of films like Saw or Cube (1997) will enjoy this “store brand” version of those bigger budgeted hits.
The video quality review for every Intervision title could probably be a copy/paste job since each one is shot on video, always with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The quality here is comparable to a remastered VHS tape. There is a slight jerkiness to the opening but that passes quickly. Colors appear accurate and contrast is about as strong as can be. The picture is often soft which, again, is just something inherent to shooting on video. Film grain is minimized as much as possible; don’t expect a noisy mess just because this isn’t shot on film.
The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track plays with no obvious issues. Dialogue is clean and free from hissing and pops. The score is another awesomely cheesy ‘80s keyboard love-fest, with the three (!) composers – Michael Clive, Brock Fricker, and Philip Strong – getting plenty of mileage out of the main theme, which sounds like it would be the in-store demo default keyboard setting. No subtitles are included.
There is an audio commentary with writer/director B.D. Benedikt & actor Lazar Rockwood, moderated by Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com.
“Beyond Beyond the 7th Door features new interviews with Benedikt, Rockwood, and Corupe.
“The King of Cayenne” – Focusing on “legendary Toronto eccentric Ben Kerr”, a street performer who played the role of “dead guy in that one room”.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director BD Benedikt and Actor Lazar Rockwood, moderated by Paul Corupe (Canuxploitation.com)
- Beyond Beyond the 7th Door: Interviews with Writer/Director BD Benedikt, Actor Lazar Rockwood, and Canuxploitation.com’s Paul Corupe
- The King of Cayenne: An Appreciation of Legendary Toronto Eccentric Ben Kerr
Virtually lost for nearly three decades, Beyond the Seventh Door deserves a wider audience and Intervision’s DVD should bring it. The then-novel plot and sheer ambition should be enough to get most viewers hooked, but if not the Yugoslavian wonder Lazar Rockwood will handily have them glued to the screen.
Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political
Netflix to Tell The Frankenstein Chronicles in the States
Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn Returning to the Horror Genre
Blade Runner 2049 Blu-ray Release Date and Special Features Announced
Exclusive: Director Jeremy Wechter and Exec Producer P.J. Starks Talk The Viral Demon
Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date
Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember
#Brainwaves Episode 67: Actor and Filmmaker William Butler LISTEN NOW!
Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving
Exclusive: Dark Horse Announces Three New Hellboy Collections and We Have the Covers
Check Out this Bright New Trailer from Netflix
Beyond Skyline Clip Is Blinded by the Light
A Demon Within Is Coming Next Year; Exclusive Trailer Premiere
An Exclusive Clip Rises for The Rizen
Short Film Larry Looking to Scare Up Modernized Suspense
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
News6 days ago
2017 – The Year of Horror Short Films by Floria Sigismondi
News5 days ago
David Harbour Says Neil Marshall’s Hellboy Reboot Is a Dark and Scary Monster Movie
News4 days ago
Deep Blue Sea 2 Rated R for Creature Violence/Gore and Language
News2 days ago
Exclusive: Scream 2’s Jerry O’Connell and Kevin Williamson Talk Leaked Scripts and Different Killers!
News4 days ago
Jim Carrey and The Grinch Go Beyond Whoville
News6 days ago
Devil May Cry HD Collection Coming to PS4 and Xbox One
News3 days ago
Terrifier – Dread Central Presents Poster Premiere! Release Date Announced!
News6 days ago
Sneak Peek and New Images Give Us the First Look at AMC’s The Terror