Starring Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ian Whyte
Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause
Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment
Dallas: “Eddie, you got power on that thing?”
Eddie: “Yeah, I just need some light.”
So went an exchange between two of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem‘s main characters, and the irony is dumbfounding!
In this second go-around there wasn’t much else you could do to fans of this series to depress them further. Paul W(riting) S(ucks) Anderson’s lame attempt at a live action Aliens Vs. Predator film left many a black hole in thousands of hearts. There was only one way to go for first-time directors the Strause brothers, and that was up! Surely no one could craft a film as abysmal as Anderson’s, right? Once the red band trailer hit and fans saw some actual gore being tossed around, memories of the first PG-13 crap-fest started fading fast. Dare I say it, Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem looked like it was going to be good. The Strauses talked a good game, too. They promised a hard R rating. They promised to use physical effects for the creatures with minimal CGI. They promised the movie would be everything the first one wasn’t. While they did at least deliver for the most part on all that, what they didn’t promise was that they’d actually light the film so we could see what the hell was going on. Before I get into the dark dreary details, let’s take a look at the storyline.
Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem begins right after the events of the first film (couldn’t we just have made believe that didn’t happen?) with the PredAlien bursting through the chest of the Leno-chinned Predator whom we all came to hate. This gnarly little beast runs rampant on every Pred onboard the ship, thus causing it to crash to Earth in Colorado. From there facehuggers escape into the populace, aliens are hatched, and the shit hits the fan. Good thing another Predator is on its way to clean up this mess. Armed with Blue Shit™ that makes everything disappear and some cool weaponry, our hero creature quickly dispatches every Xenomorph he sees until its final showdown with the PredAlien. Throw some humans into the mix for gore value, and wham-mo instant sequel. For more on the story and the film, check out our AVPissed edition of Dinner for Fiends!
All I wanted was this … Aliens fighting Predators and gore. At this point I didn’t even care about a good storyline. That would have been great, but it seemed liked wishful thinking. Just give me some carnage, man! The red band trailer had me pumped until I realized it was also one of the film’s undoings. Here’s a hint to some industry folks: You may not want to show ninety percent of the good stuff in your movie in the trailer. Whose idea was this? What should have been a tease was more or less the whole enchilada! Things couldn’t get worse. Could they?
I have sat through Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem at least five times (this last time with every light in my house out); yet, I feel like I haven’t seen it once. Why, you ask? Because for whatever reason the film is so dark you can barely make out what’s going on. The great Daniel Pearl worked on this flick! How this happened is beyond me. Words alone can’t accurately describe what I’m talking about. You have to see it for yourself. Or, in this case, not see it for yourself. I’ve included nine screencaps for you that are prime examples of what I mean. These images were not tampered with in any way. It’s not even like I went out of my way to find the darkest ones that I could. These stills are from main shots from the film. Scenes in which the camera held on these moments for more than a few seconds. Even parts that take place in the daytime look murkier than a Florida swamp. Given that the Strause brothers come from a visual effects background, why they chose to do this is anyone’s guess. It’s just plain inexcusable. Click on the teaser images and prepare to stare in disbelief.
Being that this is the unrated edition, I’m sure you’re wondering what was added. Here’s what you get — a lot of cool stuff that you can barely see. Some more violence that you can barely make out. And a bit of exposition that fleshes out the story a fraction. The one saving grace here is that there is an added footage marker option that will appear on-screen when there’s new stuff to “see”. I wish more DVD’s would do this. It really is a nifty little extra.
To add insult to injury, the DVD’s special features are sure to infuriate you because in the wealth of supplemental stuff you can actually see all the cool things these guys had to work with. Everything you could imagine is here and covered extensively. Several still galleries, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, several “On the Set” type glimpses, and two commentaries. There’s certainly enough material to warrant this two-disc set, and Fox in no way skimped on the goodies. Seeing how the creatures were made, the sets fashioned, and the F/X pulled off is both interesting and ultimately heartbreaking. The Hive set? Badass! The look of the creatures? Spot on! Undeniably cool! If only someone would have brought a few bulbs to the set. Maybe a glow stick? Some matches? We could have actually have had something.
In the end Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is without question a better film than its predecessor. Anderson’s movie had me leaving the theatre wanting to toss my leftover popcorn into the usher’s face for allowing me in. I was physically angry. This one? This one reminded me what a good movie it could have been. During the Strause brothers’ commentary track they talk about what they thought the fans would be grilling them for. You know, little inconsistencies here and there. Maybe that’s why they kept things so stupidly dark, hoping that if we couldn’t see it, then we couldn’t complain. Guess you can’t win, huh guys? There’s no question Colin and Greg had their hearts in the right places. It’s just too bad they kept their directing skills floating somewhere in deep space along with the debris of the Nostromo.
- Audio commentary with the Strause brothers and producer John Davis
- Audio commentary with Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis
- Added footage marker
- Digital copy feature
- Prepare for War: The Making of AVP-R featurette
- Fight to the Finish: The Making of AVP-R featurette
- AVP-R: The Nightmare Returns – Creating the Aliens featurette
- Crossbreed: The PredAlien featurette
- Building the Predator Homeworld featurette
- Designing the Predator featurette
- Designing the Alien featurette
- Designing the PredAlien featurette
- On Set: The Rooftop featurette
- On Set: The Sewer featurette
- On Set: The Hive featurette
- On Set: Cast & Crew featurette
- Still Design Galleries
- Theatrical trailers (including Restricted Audience trailer
Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
Starring 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.
Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
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.
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.
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