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HORROR

As a Film, ‘Head Count’ is a Step Above Most of its Contemporaries

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Genre : Horror-Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Elle Callahan

Cast:
Issac Jay
Ashleigh Morghan
Bevin Bru

 

 

With summer break just beginning a reluctant Evan (Isaac Jay) heads to Joshua Tree to spend the weekend with his estranged brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe). Meeting a group of other twenty-somthings he captures the eye of photographer Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan). With sparks beginning to fly between the two Evan accepts an invitation to party with Zoe and her friends, leaving Peyton behind. As the night wears on and the drinks continue to flow they all settle around a fire and tell scary stories around a campfire. Without a story of his own Evan goes online and finds a poem entitled Hisji. As he reads it to his new friends he accidentally unleashes a deadly being unlike anything he could ever dream of.

The latest in the quickly growing Creepypasta-based movie subgenre writer-director Elle Callahan deviates from the norm by creating her own urban legend. A mix of The Babadook and The Thing, the Hisji is a humanoid that can shape shift and look like other people. Slowly infiltrating groups of five it ritualistically stalks them before forcing them to commit suicide. Callahan and co-writer Michael Nader give audiences just enough of the Hisji’s lore to keep audiences hooked. A similar level of care can be seen behind the camera.

Stylishly capturing the desolate California desert in her feature debut Elle Callahan shows a technical skill that belies her time behind the camera. Despite Head Count‘s limited budget Callahan is able to deliver some blockbuster scares with things as simple as camera tricks or gradually building tension to its breaking point. She possesses the kind of skills that lull audiences into a false sense of security from a drunken game of Never Have I Ever and turn it into one of the best jump scares of the year. It’s a talent doesn’t necessarily extend to other aspects of the film.

As interesting as Head Count can be on a technical level it stumbles as an actual story. Although performed well by Isaac Jay, Evan can feel unbearable at times. Either afraid or angst-ridden for the majority of Head Count the only time Evan shows any real life is when he is with Zoe. Portrayed by Ashleigh Morghan (Snowfall, The Land) she is able to bring a cheeriness out of Evan that is sorely missing most of the movie. The second-too-long stares, the awkwardness around your significant other’s friends, Jay and Morghan do a marvelous job capturing the awkward yet magical feeling you get when you fall for someone. The same can’t be said of the rest of the supporting cast. For the most part Zoe’s posse, while well performed, come off as beyond cliché. Whether it’s the alpha male Max or the constantly stoned Nico they feel more like Degrassi extras than actual characters.

The other thing holding Head Count back is the film’s lack of budget. Not to say you necessarily need Avengers money to make a good film but Head Count clearly had some pretty big ambitions for its third act. After meticulously crafting a creeping, subtle terror it rushes as fast as it can to the finish line leaving as much chaos in its wake as it can muster. Culminating with a less than impressive CG Hisji it feels out of place in a movie that felt so deliberate in its choices before. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the film but it makes for a jarring change of pace.

As a film, Head Count is a step above most of its contemporaries. With an intriguing lore for the Hisji and a skillful hand behind the scenes, Elle Callahan’s first feature shows that the director has a lot of potential. So does that make Head Count a good movie? Not quite. Despite being good on a technical level an indie level budget, paper thin characters and a too predictable sequel hook hurt the film to outright recommend. But if it’s any indication of Callahan’s future then her next film Witch Hunt, now in pre-production, should be one to look out for. Just don’t go in a group of five.

 

 

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

Head Count is now on VOD and in select theaters

 

Action

The New Mutants | First Two Minutes Clip -HD

Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.

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Genre:

Action, Horror, Sci-fi

Release Date:

April 3, 2020

Director:

Josh Boone

Cast:

Anya Taylor- Joy, Maisie Williams, Antonio Banderas, Alice Braga, Charlie Heaton, ably Hunt, Happy Anderson, Henry Zaga, Sarah Bennani

Plot Summary:

Five young mutants, just discovering their abilities while held in a secret facility against their will, fight to escape their past sins and save themselves.

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Comedy

Come to Daddy: A Quirky, Somewhat Strange Thriller With Very Aggressive Scenes

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I once accidentally kicked a guy’s ear off.
I didn’t mean to, but the fucker flew off.
I could see right into his skull.

Elijah Wood always makes for pleasant surprises. In terms of his choice of films, you cannot say that he plays it safe. His choices are always fairly quirky. I kind of compare him to Daniel Radcliffe. Another actor who doesn’t thrive on the worldwide success he achieved by playing one well-known character for most of his life. So too Elijah Wood who will be associated with Frodo forever and ever. Apparently they also have a common interest, namely that of deceased persons. Where Radcliffe played the role of a corpse in “Swiss Army Man“, Wood is stuck in this film with an embalmed corpse. Anyway, “Come to Daddy” is a macabre, dark, and slightly humorous film.

 

Come to Daddy

 

Trendy, fashionable DJ meets foul-mouthed dad.

When I looked at the movie poster, I immediately thought of “Happy birthday to Me”. Not that “Come to Daddy” looks like a purebred slasher. But the fork Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) is holding on the cover, will be used in an ingenious, yet painful way. Norval is an eccentric, trendy DJ with Elton John in his circle of acquaintances. Stylish, contemporary dressed with artistically and strategically placed tattoos. A trimmed Freddie Mercury mustache. And a hairstyle as if it was styled using a soup tureen. Everything indicates that Norval is used to a high-society life and that the journey through the forest with a thumping wheeled suitcase behind him doesn’t really belong in that life. When he finally arrives at the beach house (which, according to Norval, resembles that of a flying saucer from the 1960s) and meets his father Brian, whom he hasn’t seen for years, it turns out that the latter is completely the opposite. Foul-mouthed, fairly brutal, untidy appearance and persistently topping a glass with liquor or wine. No picnic for Norval who recently renounced alcohol. Before he knows it, his smartphone (a limited edition in gold, designed by Lorde) sinks down to the bottom of the ocean, while his dad tried to take a selfie. The tone has been set.

 

Come to Daddy

 

Comedy-Horror. Not my fav combination.

Come to Daddy” is a difficult movie to place. On the one hand, they tried to add a humorous note here and there. Although subtle black humor that won’t be enjoyed by everyone. On the other hand, there’s indeed a horror vibe that gets quite gory. Again, I’m not really such an avid fan of the combination of horror and comedy, because usually both genres feel incomplete. And to be honest in this movie as well. The humorous part wasn’t really funny (with only a rare chuckle). And I also found the horror part rather light-hearted. There’s no doubt that it has a high thriller content. And it’s certainly not a straightforward story. You could even say that they were a bit too lavish with the number of plot twists. But the absurdity in the story (such as a motel that is fully booked with visitors to a swingers convention. Who comes up with such an idea?) knows no boundaries. The insane and intimidating behavior that slowly evolves into a kind of “Cape Fear” aggression. The officer on duty and his belching. The coroner and the fact that Norval suddenly has a dead man in the house due to lack of space at the morgue. The nightly terrifying sounds. Norval’s discovery and the unveiling of the entire mystery. The motel-happening. It just keeps going on. Fortunately, I love an absurd story now and then.

 

Come to Daddy

 

It surprised me.

Elijah Wood is simply magnificent as the extroverted and fairly arrogant Norval. Someone who doesn’t realize what a dire situation he’s going to find himself in. And also doesn’t know that his entire life story will be shaken thoroughly. That’s how the viewer will feel as well. Shaken up. During the first part of the movie, you wonder which direction the story will go. But once the plot reveals and the story accelerates, both in terms of tempo and frantic action, hold on tight because it’s going to be a wild rollercoaster ride. And it’s worth it. “Come to Daddy” is a quirky, somewhat strange thriller with very aggressive scenes and full of insanity. Revealing too much isn’t recommended. Best to start watching this movie without knowing too much, such that the experience will be decidedly surprising. Recommended.

 

 

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

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HORROR

‘Penance Lane’ Brings The Rob Zombie influence

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I’m gonna get us out of this.
We’re gonna be okay.

 

Penance Lane” is something for the fans of cheaply produced B-horror movies that don’t exactly excel when it comes to the storyline. I was actually very curious about this movie after reading the synopsis on IMDb. And the movie poster also looked interesting. So let me say that I started watching the film with a dose of healthy enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm collapsed halfway through the film like a soufflé that has just come out of the oven. It’s a pity though, because the first half was of a decent level.

 

Penance Lane

 

A dilapidated house.

The prologue in itself made me curious enough and confirmed what I expected. A dilapidated house where some gang members hid after committing a robbery. Such a gang of “badasses” with impressive guns and an attitude as if they can handle the whole world. Unfortunately, they are no match for what is harassing them from dark corners and dark places in this creepy house. Why this was actually the most compelling part of the movie, I don’t really have an explanation for. Maybe because you don’t really know which direction it will go. Is it something demonic or will it be a “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” kind of film?

 

Penance Lane

 

Let’s bring in the handyman.

Time to introduce the protagonist. Crimson Matthews (Tyler Mane) strolls around the town streets. An ex-convict with a rugged appearance. He gets into a fight with the son of the local Police Captain, when it turns out that this son uses his girlfriend (Scout Taylor-Compton) as a punching bag, and then meets the owner (mother of the girl in question) of the local diner. Crimson doesn’t waste any time and almost immediately seeks a job as a handyman. And he ends up at the abandoned house, apparently owned by the local priest (John Schneider) who hires him without further ado. From the start, it’s clear that our tough hero doesn’t intend to demonstrate ingenious handyman-techniques. It’s also evident that it’s no coincidence he ended up in this house. And that his night’s rest would be disturbed by something that wanders through the house like a shadow, was also to be expected. Despite the fact that there’s sometimes a bit of too exaggerated acting and toe-curling, clumsy dialogues are being used, the film remained fascinating. Till this point anyway. Because somewhere in the middle of the film, the plot twist presents itself and the tone of the film changes drastically.

 

Penance Lane

 

Do I sense a Rob Zombie influence?

If you look at “Penance Lane” in its entirety in terms of storyline and overall look and feel, you could say that it belongs to Rob Zombie’s oeuvre (albeit among the less successful creations). Coincidentally, there are a number of actors who also appeared in a Rob Zombie movies before. Like Tyler Mane who played Michael Myers in “Halloween II“. Scout Taylor-Compton also played an important role in that film. And then there’s Daniel Roebuck (the Police Captain) who got a role in almost every Rob Zombie movie. It may not have affected the creators of this film, but the least you can say is that it’s extremely coincidental. I’m not a real Rob Zombie adept but I could appreciate his flick “31”.

 

Penance Lane

 

Ultimately, it was a disappointment.

In the end, “Penance Lane” was a disappointment for me. If the gradation of my enthusiasm were graphed, I’m sure it would resemble any COVID-19 graph. Except that there’s no sign of a “flatten the curve” effect. After its peak, the curve goes very fast to a zero point. Maybe my expectations weren’t met because the concept changed drastically. In the end, it became a kind of thriller without supernatural apparitions. Rather a crime story in which an insane individual has set up a lucrative business activity. The story made no sense and at some point became downright ridiculous. I have learned the following lesson from this. No matter how good a summary sounds or what a movie poster looks like, it’s never a guarantee the movie will be any good. And yet there was, somewhere deeply hidden, an excellent film. Unfortunately, they failed to conjure it.

 

 

My rating 3/10
Links: IMDB

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