Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 9.Aug.15
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Dude Bro Party Massacre III
dir Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, Jon Salmon
scr Alec Owen
prd Michael E Peter, Sarah Farrand, Ben Gigli, Dave Gare, Jon Worley
with Alec Owen, Paul Prado, Ben Gigli, Joey Scoma, Kelsey Gunn, Jon Salmon, Michael Rousselet, Mike James, Patton Oswalt, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Brian Firenzi, Maria Del Carmen
the dude bros release US 7.Jul.15
15/US 1h43
Dude Bro Party Massacre III With an impressive commitment to their gimmick, directing trio Jacobsen, Rousselet and Salmon create a 1980s-style nasty slasher thriller that we can almost imagine we watched all those years ago. It's set up as a lost film that was banned by President Reagan (even though his photo is on the wall of every room in the movie), only preserved because it was recorded from late-night TV by a teen with a VCR.

After the gruesome murders committed by an angry mother and daughter, Brent (Owen) wants to avenge the death of his twin brother. So he joins his brother's fraternity, Delta Bi, and befriends the dude bros, including hothead Turbeaux (Prado), meathead Samzy (Gigli) and brainy Todd (Scoma), whose lusty girlfriend Samantha (Gunn) is always nearby. In trouble for a fatal prank, the bros are sent to a lakeside party house for the weekend. But this is actually a plot by the police chief (Oswalt) to revive the murderous Motherface (Dudley) and crush Delta Bi for good.

The film is shot with a remarkably accurate VHS aesthetic, complete with fiendishly realistic snippets of midnight-movie TV adverts that are only barely edited out. Meanwhile, each scene is packed with heightened 1980s touches, including outrageously blood-splattering grisliness, cheesy melodrama and appalling special effects. The writing, directing and acting overflow with innuendo, with even the most horrific scenes offering hilarious levels of sexual suggestion.

And what makes this spoof even more engaging is the way interconnects its vast array of surprisingly strong characters, each with a backstory and his or her own comedy, drama and romance. Some actors play this dead-straight, while others are required to go way over the top. Owen's Brent and perhaps two dorky cops (Firenzi and Del Carmen) are the only ones we want to survive the carnage. Because everyone has a reason to massacre these dudes, who amusingly lose their shirts every few minutes as they engage in their manly group bromance.

There's a steady stream of random gags, from some naked tai chi to foreign-language subtitles that are translated by a low-paid immigrant locked in a basement. There's also a cleverly ridiculous "work hard" montage that segues into "party hard" with the mere flip of the mixtape. And while the filmmakers push their jokey premise far beyond reason, they sustain the humour and parody right to the very end.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The Gallows
dir-scr Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing
prd Jason Blum, Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing, Benjamin Forkner, Dean Schnider
with Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Travis Cluff, Price T Morgan, Melissa Bratton, Theo Burkhardt, David Herrera, Gannon Del Fierro, John Hales, Jesse Cross
mishler release US 10.Jul.15,
UK 17.Jul.15
15/US New Line 1h21
The Gallows A found-footage horror movie without a single new gimmick, it's difficult to understand why filmmakers Cluff and Lofing bothered. It's shot and edited adeptly enough, but the story simply refuses to go anywhere, merely recycling not particularly scary elements from both 1980s slasher movies and found-footage horror hits like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity.

Twenty years after Charlie (Cross) died during a high school production of The Gallows, the drama teacher (Cluff) decides to stage the play again starring drama queen Pfeifer (Brown) and popular jock Reese (Mishler), who secretly has a crush on his costar. Reese's best pal Ryan (Shoos) films everything on his camera, assisted by his flirty girlfriend Cassidy (Gifford). The night before the show opens, Ryan convinces Reese to sabotage the stage set so he doesn't embarrass himself. Then after Pfeifer turns up at the theatre, someone locks them inside and things turn deadly.

Since the bright young cast is essentially playing themselves (and using their own names), they never quite create properly dramatic characters. So the themes are never explored, and nothing about them resonates. They're just four typically self-absorbed teens doing something stupid without thinking when they are suddenly trapped and terrorised by a barely seen villain. Filmmakers Cluff and Lofing manage to create a couple of creepy moments, but they more often rely on cheap jolts that are startling instead of frightening.

This also creates problems with the format, since the footage, which is apparently from a police file, includes shots that would be impossible (or at least improbable), augmented by movie-style sound effects to make the audience jump. As the fateful night progresses, nothing quite makes organic sense, as events are contrived to leap from a bit of manic chaos to the next dark corridor. As usual, there's no phone reception, and the camera is somehow able to keep rolling even after the battery runs out of juice.

Fortunately, the cast is fresh and watchable, even if they remain mere hints of characters. And there is one strongly staged sequence involving Gifford that builds some actual suspense. Otherwise, this is even thinner than most of these movies, with a bare-boned plot and nothing beyond the usual hackneyed bag of horror tricks. Genre fans might enjoy it for what it is, but the filmmakers need to up their game. And perhaps the found-footage genre ought to be put to bed right about now.

15 themes, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Shooting the Warwicks
dir-scr Adam Rifkin
prd Jared Hoffman, Chris Pollack, Adam Rifkin, Lati Grobman, Christa Campbell
with Adam Rifkin, Scott Anderson, Kelley Menighan Hensley, Monika Tilling, Shane McAvoy, Valerie Breiman, Margaret Savinar, Kelsey Rey, Lindsey Grubbs, Brian Borello, Barrett James, Ron Jeremy
release US 7.Aug.15
15/US 1h35
Shooting the Warwicks Cleverly shot like a fly-on-the-wall documentary of a reality TV crew, this fast, pacey film is packed with terrific moments that add both tension and pitch-black humour. It's a fully committed satire that goes way over the line, never hedging itself as it gets very, very dark. Perhaps too dark.

TV producer Mickey (Rifkin) wants to make the first authentic reality series, picking a family at random and following them without either their knowledge or the usual scripted drama. So Dennis and Katherine Warwick (Anderson and Hensley) and their cheerleader daughter Amy (Tilling) are sent on a free vacation while secret cameras are installed in their home. But when they get back, nothing interesting is happening, so Mickey decides to kidnap the family dog Harry. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as further audience-baiting interference creates havoc in the Warwicks' lives.

Yes, once the crew breaks the barrier, their intrusions accelerate dramatically, from life-threatening product placement to jeopardising relationships, jobs and a bright teen's future. And the network won't let them stop there. This film travels into genuinely horrific territory as it goes along, while Mickey and his crew trample on their moral principles in search of something spicy. They even send in actors (played by Savinar, Rey and James) who push things rather a lot further than they'd imagined.

The cast is so natural that no one seems to be acting at all. Even the goofier characters (like McAvoy's hapless production assistant) are eerily believable. And as the story gets increasingly grim and nasty, the actors push their characters in directions that are unnervingly convincing. This makes the film almost terrifyingly intense, emotionally wrenching and, most disturbingly, hugely entertaining as everything is taken to a staggering, exaggerated extreme. Which of course helps actor-filmmaker Rifkin explore some enormous issues.

"People don't act natural when they know they're on camera," the increasingly god-like Mickey insists, even though all of the drama is sparked by the crew's meddling. One network executive thinks "it doesn't make for good television when a guy refuses to cheat on his wife with a bunch of gorgeous supermodels", while another demands a happy, satisfying ending, even though they've already destroyed this family. In other words, this movie might be a raucous, over-the-top pastiche, but it's also recognisably truthful about the bloodthirsty tastes of audiences and the willingness of networks, websites and magazines to give it to them.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Philippe Audi-Dor
prd Philippe Audi-Dor, Merlin Merton
with Simon Haycock, Hugo Bolton, Elly Condron
condron and bolton
release US 3.Aug.15,
UK 28.Sep.15
14/UK 1h12
Wasp Showing considerable skill on a very small budget, this ambitious British feature is an auspicious first feature for Swiss-born filmmaker Audi-Dor. It may be a contained, theatre-style drama with just three characters and a lot of talky dialog, but it touches on big issues in ways that provoke the audience to get involved and take sides.

After two years together, Olivier (Haycock) takes his boyfriend James (Bolton) to his parents' holiday home in the South of France. But just as they set off, James' lovelorn friend Caroline (Condron) joins them, in need of an emotional boost. Olivier is annoyed that their planned romantic getaway is now rather crowded, but between bickering he notices that there's clearly a spark of attraction between him and Caroline. And she notices it too, kicking into temptress mode to restore her self-confidence at the expense of James' friendship. And James can't help but see what's happening.

The easy-going conversations between these three characters swirl around all kinds of telling topics, most pointedly the issue of sexuality and whether it's set in stone. If Caroline needs a man, Olivier will do rather nicely. And he has a straight past: he was older than James when he came out as gay. All three of these young people do stupid things and make inexplicable decisions that will change the dynamic between them, which makes them eerily easy to identify with.

Haycock, Bolton and Condron generate strong chemistry between each other, as things heat up from scene to scene. As a director, Audi-Dor keeps the most telling passions out of sight, just as the characters refuse to express how they really feel. This means that the one sex scene is oddly clunky. But the awkward silences that fill the scenes are potent, nicely played by all three actors. And each one is refreshingly unafraid to come across as needy, selfish and impulsive, which is what makes them so likeable.

It helps that Pablo Rojo's sharp cinematography beautifully captures their young physicality as they lounge in the sunshine in various stages of undress. There's never a problem understanding why they're attracted to each other, although it seems a bit unlikely that all three of them would be so inexpressive. When each one bursts with a moment of passion, the scenes feel scripted rather than organic. But it's in the silent moments that the film exerts its hold, reminding the audience that without open communication you have no relationship at all.

12 themes, language, sexuality, brief violence
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall