Reviewed by Victor Francis
Starring Rob Stewart
Directed by Rob Stewart
Distributed by Warner Home Video
Quick, what do you think of when I say the word shark? Odds are that the first thing that would spring to your mind is Steven Spielberg’s iconic 1975 killer shark movie Jaws. Whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, we all carry the mental image of sharks as mindless killers, black eyed monsters of the deep, who exist for no other reason than to eat us alive if we ever have the temerity to venture into their domain. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, as Rob Stewart’s excellent documentary Sharkwater proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. I had considered myself fairly educated on the subject of sharks, being a rabid viewer of Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” series; but after viewing Sharkwater, I discovered just how ignorant I was of the perils facing these majestic creatures.
Sharkwater follows Stewart, a lifelong ocean lover and shark enthusiast (not to mention a marine biologist) as he attempts to bring the plight of the shark ( whose numbers have decreased by a STAGGERING 90% worldwide!) to light. One of the biggest obstacles he faces is society’s unwillingness to protect and defend a creature we have been conditioned by films like Jaws to hate and fear. As he, and some of the other oceanic experts in the film point out, it’s easy for most people to get on board with saving a cute little baby seal; but asking them to feel the same way about the Great White shark is crossing the line. Sharks are bloodthirsty monsters, after all, right? Who wants, or needs, to save a beast like that?
Setting out to combat the image of the shark as Holy Terror of the High Seas by making a beautiful, serene shark documentary, Stewart ends up being so moved after encountering numerous dead sharks on an illegal long line fishing net that he traverses 15 countries over a four year span, and damn near loses his life( due to staph infection, not shark incident) in order to raise awareness of shark endangerment. Over the course of this amazing journey, Stewart will meet and team up with Greenpeace’s Sea Shepherd Society, hitching a ride on the infamous Oceanic Warrior (whose Captain is an entertaining, and frankly, balls out crazy chap) and have run ins with Asia’s infamous shark fin industry, all in the name of protecting sharks from the savage treatment that they receive.
I wont lie … Sharkwater is emotional dynamite, and you don’t have to necessarily be an animal lover, or Eco-terrorist like Greenpeace to become enraged at the senseless, violent and inhumane treatment of animals, shark or otherwise, that is depicted in this film. Stewart never shies away from showing the wrongs done on both sides of the issue though, such as when the Greenpeace vessel attempts to ram a fishing boat, and fires it’s water-cannon on the fishermen aboard the trawler. That being said, it is quite hard to feel sorry for the fisherman after you’ve just seen them slice the fins off a hammerhead shark, and throw the still thrashing fish back into the ocean to drown. Sharkwater is rated PG, but I would venture to say that it probably should have been at LEAST a PG-13 due to the hideous animal cruelty on display. There were instances during Sharkwater‘s 90 minute run time where I felt so helpless and angry as I watched sharks being killed that I felt tears welling up in my eyes, and other times that I felt tightness in my arms and looked down to find my hands clenched into fists, I was that upset and angry. Bottom line is, this film is an important wake up call, right up there with An Inconvenient Truth and 11th Hour as required viewing for anyone interested in not only saving an animal older than the dinosaurs, but saving the very planet itself. Do yourselves a favor and watch Sharkwater, and you might also conclude I have come to: the most dangerous animal in the oceans is no longer the shark. It is mankind, and we, not the Great White, Hammerhead, Tiger, or Bull shark, are the ones who have made the oceans run red with blood.
Special features include Sharkwater: Beneath the Surface, a fascinating making-of documentary that further fleshes out the feature film and includes even more beautiful oceanic footage; theatrical trailers and TV spots, and a HILARIOUSLY inept US Air Force “training film” on how to deal with a shark. I kid you not, the US Air Force used to tell it’s pilots and Airmen to scream at the shark underwater, and the shark would go away. The footage of an Airman doing just that is beyond priceless, and had me giggling like mad. Of course, maybe that’s due to the fact that I’m ex-Navy, and anything that makes the Air Force look stupid amuses the hell out of me. So yeah, obviously the selling point of the disc is not going to be the Special Features, but the film itself.
5 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
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.
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.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
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!
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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
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.
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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