Category Archives: Lo-Budget
Lost + Found
I grew up in a Southern evangelical household which means I’m not religious at all as an adult (trust me, if you’d had an attempted exorcism performed on you as a teen, you’d be wary of religion too). I DO love reading & learning about religions though; probably because I’ve always had a fascination with mythology and to me these are just more mythical tales. I’m quite familiar with the story of the angels’ Fall from heaven (am actually studying the Book of Enoch at the moment for something that I’m writing) and all that came after. There are different versions of the tale but John Milton’s Paradise Lost might be one of the more popular ones.
LOST + FOUND, directed by Jeremiah Kipp, is a short shot entirely in black & white that retells Paradise Lost in a modern, elegant way. Jenn Plotzke is a delight as Satan – all holy fire (or unholy as the case may be) and sensuality, ready to destroy God’s favored creatures in revenge. Ari Rossen as Beelzebub makes a good sideman, silent but ready to do whatever his master asks of him (and looking oddly like the angel from SUPERNATURAL…). I felt like Carl Hendrick Louis as Adam wasn’t in this enough at all. There was only a glimpse or two of him; he was an afterthought. (Sorry, Adam. Not your story.) And our Eve, Pia Haddad, seemed less innocent and surer of herself than one might perhaps consider her as and very, very willing to go chill in the garden with a lovely lady. (Sorry again, Adam!)
The costumes were simple (angels as accountants – why is that the universal standard? Who started this thing? I demand to know.) and the dialogue is sparing (the first couple of minutes consist of Satan explaining her whole “let’s corrupt the world’ idea, then the rest is a voice over from Ari – also, excellent job, Ari). The acting and direction are really what made this film; and the use of black & white instead of color. You’d think that with the Garden of Eden, you’d need lots of bright colors to portray the “magicalness” of it all. Instead, Adam & Eve each have a shimmer of glitter over one of their cheekbones – between that and the b&w you get a dream-like quality that draws you in more than any vivid colors or magical realism could. It was an excellent choice to make.
Essentially, this is a cool retelling of Paradise Lost. Dreamy, sensual, and elegant, it’s a sight to behold. 10/10, would recommend. (I don’t really have a rating system. Just go watch it.)
Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories
Holy fuck! Who’s that creepy motherfucker and what is he doing here?? Something tells me he wants to strangle me with my own intestines…which is VERY unhygienic, so EW. Or he could just be that guy from VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES, the sequel to the kickawesome VOLUMES OF BLOOD. Remember that one? An anthology, but a super fun one with lots of gory good times? (Just click the link if you need a refresher!) But we all know that the killer always comes back, no matter what, and we also know how it tends to go with the art of the sequel. So does VOLUMES OF BLOOD II hold up to the first? Hmmm…let’s take a look….
Our story starts with a heist. One that’s set in the middle of nowhere (maybe a farm?), which is the perfect place to die. It starts out well enough with three amigos heisting, shooting the shit, and telling spooky stories about the old place they’re stealing from (because one ALWAYS does that during a heist, duh). At least half of our opening story was filmed in apparent complete dark, however, so you’re going to have to rely on your ears big time here. BUT the kill scenes are nicely lit and so long as you get to see people die, I guess it’s all cool, right? (Huh. That last sentence doesn’t make me sound unbalanced at all. ;))
But WAIT, no, omg, guess what?? That whole time we were watching a movie!! I mean, obviously I was watching a movie but then I was watching people watching a movie! Ah, the old movie within a movie trick. (Thank you, CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) Boy, did you get me. Then we’re off to…watch another movie? But first we need to time jump to the past? And then 20 minutes past the past? Then come back to here to watch the movie? (I think I got that order correct.) There were lots of random images being flashed about, so I wasn’t sure if we were going back to the library and following the immediate aftermath of the first film or if we were jumping into a, um, jumping into movies anthology. It turned out to be neither.
What happened next was an anthology wrapped around a house and the holidays – different holidays and a single house as the centerpiece. We get to experience Father’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, and so on and so forth. (We also get to experience the joys of house browsing!) As with most anthologies, certain pieces were better than others. My favorite story featured the girl above, a salesman, and Thanksgiving. It was incredibly atmospheric which helped lift it from the “oh yeah, I have a pretty good idea of how this ends” doldrums. The Christmas piece ended up being fairly good as well with its fun ending and an actress who was able to carry ~10 minutes of screentime alone (and mostly in silence). The downside was that this piece was much too long. I understand the time needed to build tension, to make the audience realize that something isn’t quite right, but it can be done in less time than this. (Also, my god, the freaking carols and Christmas music!!! BLEHCK. I hate this holiday so much.)
Overall though? First and foremost, VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES reminded me WAY too much of THE PERFECT HOUSE, which is also an anthology tied around a house in which a real estate agent is showing a young couple around. Secondly, it was much less cohesive than the first. This story didn’t flow as smoothly as the first did; didn’t tie together as well; didn’t make as much sense. Especially the ending. I still don’t know who the killer is or where he’s from or why he suddenly popped up and decided to kill every citizen of Owensboro. I also am unsure why there are now unseen forces (or people) seemingly commanding him to kill (not like voices in his head but legit “hey that’s an order!” commanding way). Maybe it’s all just meant to entice in case there’s a third film? I dunno, but I was not impressed. Thirdly, this sequel just wasn’t as much FUN as the first was. This film was really lacking the joy of the first (I know that sounds weird – joy in a horror flick? – but hear me out). The first film was clearly such a product of love and devotion and people were so obviously having a blast that it made the energy of the film into that too (despite the blood and gore ;)).
VOLUMES OF BLOOD II was definitely better LOOKING than the first – it looks like they had a larger budget this time around – but it was lacking. It was missing that joie de vivre and indie spirit, for whatever reason. It also didn’t stick together as well as the original – this one very much showed us that it had been stirred with several hands in the mixing bowl and it made for some lumpy spots.
Is it ultimately worth a watch? Yes. There are the couple of stories that are really enjoyable; there’s a nod to TRICK’R’TREAT (my favoritest anthology series EVER); and there are lots of gooey messes and intestinal effects that are all practical and not CGI. (Big props for the makeup team and fx guys! You guys are wicked awesome!) And, of course, if you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you may totally dig on this. Check out the trailer on the Facebook page and let me know what you think!
Counseling: Episode 2 – Creativity
After last week’s spot of “teamwork”, can the boys handle a bit of creativity?
Counseling – The Webseries
What’s this? The webseries I co-wrote is FINALLY here? It premiered TODAY?? Indeed it is and indeed it did!
COUNSELING tells the tale of Matt and Tom, who seek the assistance of counselor, Dr. Robbins, in order to become more upstanding members of society. Does it go well? Does it go poorly? Do they become the most upstanding of upstandingest people ever? Well…as I say in my interview:
I really wanted to write two really awful people and make people really like them.
Take that as you will. 😉
So head on over and check out my interview, then watch the premiere episode of COUNSELING below! (RATED R for language and crass humor – aka E., I think you will like)
The Second Coming: Brought To You In Low Definition
So the cool thing about The Second Coming: Brought To You In Low Definition is that it was filmed on VHS, resulting in an interesting vintage look and feel to the film (like do you remember the quality of VHS?? So spotty!). Unfortunately, that’s really the only good thing I can say about this one. I have absolutely no idea what the point of this film was.
I mean, the tagline reads: “Two 20 some-things, Halibar & Peggy, meet and bond trying to find the owner of a lost cat.”, and this is true…I guess…They DO meet when Halibar finds a lost stuffed animal in the shape of the kitten that he spends some time talking with and whom Peggy helps him return to it’s owner. Whether this stuffed animal is supposed to be a “live actual cat”, I don’t know. They certainly treat it as such. After returning the stuffed animal to it’s owner though, nothing happens except a whole lot of boredom and really uncomfortably strange bits that go on too long. You know what, let’s go back to the beginning…
When a film opens with two people pissing on each other in a non-erotic way whilst taking a bath together, it’s probably a good sign that the film you’re about to watch is not going to be up there in the best of the best category. When the same film continues on so that one of your main characters gets constipated, decides his “poos are like his babies” and then talks to them while on the toilet, it’s definitely a sign that you’re in iffy territory. When said film has no plot and is absolutely non-linear, just random moments, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s on the “not so wonderful” end of the spectrum…except in this case where it does. Random moments are awesome. Random moments where a grown man hugs a child he doesn’t know for 5 minutes straight in silence; decides he’s Jesus and dances in his underwear to remixed gospel music for 5+ minutes (including pole dancing whilst wearing socks and sandals); decides he’s the next Hitler and pens a second Mein Kampf; and is obsessed with his bowels? Really, really not so awesome.
A big part of the problem here was that each of these bits went on for WAY too long – like that dying sketch on SNL that just won’t end. You think you’re “sexy Jesus”? Fabulous. I don’t need to watch you dance in your underwear for more than 5+ minutes though especially when there’s no point to it. Which is the main problem I have with this film – there’s no point. Nothing happens. No one evolves. Two people get together but it’s not an actual relationship, more of someone taking care of a child. Nothing moves forward (or sideways or anyways). It’s just two people (but mainly one guy) acting like a very annoying, whiny man-child with delusions of grandeur. It’s not experimental. It’s not avant-garde. It’s not artsy. It’s not ANYTHING. And therein lies the problem.
While very cool with the filming on the VHS, there were still issues with the cinematography – long shots that didn’t match with close-ups, too many uncreative camera angles – it was stagnant. I wish I could say more about this film, better things about this film, but I really can’t. I love that someone had the passion to create a film in the first place; it’s hard work, I know. I think the writer/director here would benefit greatly from a bit more mentoring and learning, and I think it would be interesting to see what he brings in the future.
Welcome to Devil Week! with I’m Not Jesus Mommy
It’s Devil Week over at the IPCs because everyone needs more devil in their lives, right? Starting yesterday, there’ll be five days worth of movies with the word devil in the title that may or may not have to do with the devil at all! (Or in this case, not necessarily in the title but ya know…E said it was totes cool!) And so I present our He Said/She Said of I’M NOT JESUS MOMMY:
I’ve never been a real big fan of “The Omen” style Antichrist movies, probably because I was bred into a religious environment growing up, and, as a Sagittarius, I can’t really take it when people tell me what to do and how to think and what’s trendy and what to watch and what to do and everything else. The “Sag” is a free spirit who makes his (her) own decisions by trying it out himself (herself) before making the decision of like or dislike or hang on to or get rid of. So, here we have an Apocalypse movie, via “The Rapture” that’s really (thankfully) not too preachy but, honestly, suffers from WAY too much slowness, boredom and, I do hate it, but not too much budget. With “Amber Lake“, those folks showed us how to make a really GOOD movie with no money. Here, the acting is pretty bad from everyone, but it’s not like I just hired my neighbor from across the street to do the co-star role for 200 bucks, I think it’s just a lack of experience. I am always appreciative that a movie gets made (who knows if I’ll ever even finish my screenplay and try), much less gets picked up and distributed, but this was just kind of too slow. I mean, I think they really tried, but, for real, I played 20 rounds of Words With Friends during the loooooong musical interludes because I was not interested, I thought about how I might review this because I think they had a good idea which could have been much better with some more funding, I thought about how (in no way ever) I could give some money for a better remake and, for those of you who look at this, I thought about how I had the shot in my back today and I could finally sit comfortably, and I thought about how I have to go to work tomorrow. Anyway, this is boring and slow and has several record-playing pauses that dim any excitement that might be brewing, BUT – it’s a good story, if you don’t mind a Christian style End-of-Days Rapture thing.
So – a very large chested woman named Bridget McGrath plays a very successful fertility doctor named Kimberly Gabriel who can’t have kids of her own. She is opted in to a U.S. Army experiment where an actor named Charles Hubbell (Dr. Gibson) has finally figured out how to clone a human embryo. Despite her initial reservations, she decides to go along with the experiments on illegal Mexican aliens as hosts and goes ahead and self-inseminates herself with one of the clone-embryos. Sure enough, it takes (but none of the others do) and eventually she Cesarean-style has a baby she names David (complete with an upside down cross indention on his baby-head). Shortly after that, we cut to seven years later, the Earth is in famine, war and death (Revelations), everyone seems to have “the mark of the beast”, the U.S. is in some sort of Ice Age and (I think) the Mexican government is controlling everything from food to water and bread and there is no gas or electricity. Kim and her son David are living alone in a cold, cold apartment and he Doctor (Hubbell) has gone bat-shit religious, preaching (and praying) constantly to his live-in sister and her daughter.
I’ll stop here, because this is a decent (but very slow) movie and I shouldn’t spoil it, but this could be much better. Let’s ax the record playing, the CGI cold breath, the way, WAY too many close-up shots, the irritating preaching by Hubbell, the clothes-with-no-bodies-Rapture business and make this into something exciting that’s not “Vanishing on 7th Street“. To me it’s “to each their own” and I have long read into the dogma of Christianity (and many other religions) and I get it, but how about someone funds something that is actually scary about the Apocalypse, which is a fearful thought, whichever “ism” you believe in. It’s been a LONGtime since I saw it with my friend Dave M, but I think my favorite of these types of things is “The Prophecy” with none other than my main man, Christopher Walken.
No, no you are NOT Jesus because I’m fairly certain Jesus would’ve had the common courtesy to put a comma in that freaking title. Seriously. That’s the first thing that’s wrong with I’m Not Jesus Mommy but never fear, that’s not the only thing that’s wrong here, trust me. There’s lots more to come!
The story starts out with a woman. She’s a cancer survivor but unfortunately the cancer left her unable to conceive. She has a husband who seems pretty sweet and loving – I mean they spend the first 20 minutes of the movie dancing around the kitchen and drinking wine and snuggling. In between the lovey-dovey, there are shots of the woman (Kimberly, btw) being interviewed because she is also a fertility doctor (irony!), then going to a top super secret meeting with military personnel, then getting all furious because at this top super secret meeting she learns that these people are cloning, then after that she decides to take a job with them. Hey, minds can be changed in the blink of an eye.
Roger is the lead doctor of this top super secret cloning project which seems to mostly consist of catching illegal immigrants and offering them the chance to become a permanent resident if they agree to be implanted and carry a baby to term. The embryos that aren’t implanted are destroyed which agonizes Kimberly. So what does she do? She grabs the first one she sees and impregnates herself, of course! No learning anything about the embryo or where it came from or any characteristics of it, nope, just point and shoot with the turkey baster. She’s totes excited about this and runs home to tell her husband who becomes furious. Why? Because she didn’t ask him and this wasn’t just her decision. This was an odd turn of events to me because it’s made pretty apparent before hand that Kimberly really really wants a baby and if you didn’t want a baby, Mr. Husband, pretty sure you should’ve said something like, AGES ago. *shakes head, rolls eyes* Mr. Husband runs off in a rage and immediately gets into a car wreck where his car is flipped over. Then another car comes along a minute later and smashes into him. Oh well.
Baby is born (which is pretty epic because all the other embryos implanted were still-born), baby is baptized. And suddenly, it’s 7 years later and the world has gone crazy. Mexico has closed off its borders and built a wall to discourage US and Canadian citizens from crossing into their land. People are being fed government rations and starving. There’s barely any electricity or heat and all that’s on the telly are the government rules (curfews, punishment for not obeying the rules). Life pretty much sucks.
Now, remember Roger, the cloning guru? Well, he’s gone extremely religious. He’s somewhere between fanatic and extremist. I mean, he’s smothering people in the name of love and all that (just a note – one of the people he smothers is an adorable little child so if that sort of thing bothers you, for sure never watch this one). And baby? Well, his name’s David and he has an imaginary friend named Kuddles and his mommy is dying and he wants to go to Mexico. There’s a lot of “yada, yada, government is bad, yada, yada, mommy is dying, yada, yada” exposition and then suddenly we’re at the end of this thing without anything really having happened. I will tell you this much about the end. The whole “I’m not Jesus” thing comes about from David having been cloned from blood found on the Shroud of Turin. Yep, he’s supposed to be a Jesus clone.
So what are my issues here? How about a handy little list?
1. The acting is bad. Kimberly is completely monotone. “My baby!” carries as much weight here as “I took out the garbage.” It’s entirely distracting.
2. This movie has no idea what it wants to be about. It starts off being about the dangers of cloning, then suddenly it turns into a statement about immigration, THEN it goes all religious and finally at the very end, it’s about cloning again. Now if they had picked just one of these (hell, even two) it would’ve made for a much more linear narrative but instead we get a jumble that doesn’t know what it wants to be preaching about.
3. The description I read about the movie before I watched states that “odd things happen when David is around”. NOTHING odd happens when David is around except that he’s a weird kid that wants to bring his mom back to life when she dies. And there’s one instance where Kuddles seems to “come to life”, so to speak.
4. We see people getting killed and then a minute later, all that’s left of them is their clothing. So we seem to have the Rapture going on but why do they need to die first for this to happen? Admittedly, I haven’t gone to church in awhile but my understanding is that you can just be raptured without being killed first.
5. Why did the world suddenly go all Big Brother crazy? There is NO indication of this happening prior to the title card “7 Years Later”. Did cloning make this happen, is that what we’re supposed to surmise? This plot point seemed to come totally out of left field.
So much wrong when this could’ve been so much of a right. *sighs*
Citizen ‘Caine comes to us courtesy of John Ervin, who also brought us The Tiki War (which you might remember me reviewing in Rogue Cinema a couple of issues back). While I enjoyed The Tiki War, unfortunately I did not enjoy Citizen ‘Caine. The film didn’t serve so much as a look at the grittier side of life as it did to a somewhat boring slice of life. While I don’t think the point of the film was to be grittily morose, one would think that diving into an exploration of the adult film industry and cocaine addiction would be dirtier and more interesting. Mostly though, I just kept wondering what point the film was trying to make exactly and that’s usually not a good sign…
Synopsis: Lou Phillips, a cocaine-addicted insurance salesman from Minnesota, confronts the seedy underbelly of Hollywood in search of his missing teenaged daughter. During his search he interrupts a shoot at LA’s Deep Horizons Studios, which specializes in home-maintenance videos that also serve as adult-entertainment films. In the process of confronting director Sir John Blunstone, his crew, and his biggest star Martha Sunset, Lou also confronts his addiction to cocaine.
See, that sounds kinda neat, right? And I liked Scott Carson as “Lou” A LOT…except for when he was in Hollywood. Those scenes he wasn’t as good in but it had more to do with the dialogue than him. Because there was simply too much extraneous dialogue floating about here. I’m guessing 7-10 minutes could’ve been cut from this 30 minute film and it would have still worked (possibly even better?). Simply removing the word “Ratan” from appearing so many times would have been an improvement.
What the film DID have going for it were the rare jokes sprinkled throughout. I did find the mixture of sex and appliances strangely amusing, as well as the several references to Nicolas Cage being the BEST ACTOR EVER. But as a whole? The acting made me wince…the dialogue went on and on…and the film just left me empty. It was a nice effort but one that didn’t really pay off. (And let’s face it, if you’re making a movie about people having sex with blenders, it should be fabulous, even if it’s just so BAD that it’s hilarious. But this was just BAD).
But you might love it – especially if sex with appliances is your thing. So go check out the website and like them on Facebook, yeah?
Capital I, by director Amartya Bhattacharyya, is an intriguing mix of philosophy, psychology, physics, sexuality, reality, imagination…this film is an abstract work of art. Amartya is a 27 year old Indian filmmaker and this was a debut film shot on a shoestring budget – I gotta say I’m wicked impressed. Capital I involved a lot of artistic shots and a lot of beauty; a lot of creation. Pulling that off on their budget, I find amazing.
Synopsis – ‘Capital I’ is a surreal fiction film dealing with an artist’s works where the artist himself doesn’t exist in reality. It is also an existential psychodrama revolving around said mysterious and unknown artist and depicts the transformation of mind of a young girl whereby she finds herself trapped in between realistic relationships and attractions and a strange relationship with her hallucinatory lesbian partner.’ If you’re like me, you just read that and went “What the hell?” But if you go and watch Capital I and come back and read this, it will not only make sense; it will make so much sense that you’ll see metaphorical layers.
Because that’s what watching this film is – seeing the metaphorical layers of life peeled back one by one. It’s having everything in life being simultaneously set right while being crushingly wrong. I don’t know whether to reference Alanis Morisette’s ouevre here or The Matrix…Piyali is a young grad student of psychology who becomes obsessed with a local happening wherein a house was found locked from within but with the occupant having vanished. All that was left behind were some drawings and poetry style scribblings. She and an old friend, who is also a physics professor, team up to solve the mystery but as they go deeper, Piyali discovers more about existence and reality than planned. Oh, and she’s the one with the hallucinatory lesbian lover (as one has).
Capital I is one of those films where every sentence spoken has meaning but since there’s so much dialogue and so much to catch, only a couple of things will be lines that you, yourself, hold onto. One of mine was when it was mentioned that “the air here is pure.”…”it’s because it’s not weighted down by dreams and memories.” (Insert heart emoticon because I swooned). It’s not just the words you’ll fall in love with though (side note: the dialogue switches between English and Odia, sometimes in the same sentence. I’m not sure if there was a deeper meaning to that as well?), but the cinematography and the scenery. There are close-ups of some amazing small creatures…blurred ambiances when it comes to sensitive material…symbolism galore…amazing use of color…Ugh, have I gushed enough yet??
Seriously, this is a Must Watch, particularly if surrealism is your thing. I think this may be my first Indian film (Bollywood has never quite appealed)(also look at that – first Turkish film AND first Indian film posted about this week!) but if this is what’s coming out of India right now, I am SO there. Check out the Capital I website and go follow them on Facebook (then share their Facebook page with your friends and make yourself look uber cool and all sexy intelli!) You won’t be sorry!
Volumes of Blood
Are we all getting a little tired of anthologies by now? ABC’s of Death and V/H/S’s all over the place? Yeah? Well, screw them, watch this and have your faith in the anthology genre restored. Volumes of Blood doesn’t just wipe the floor with those two, it wipes the floor with blood (and brains…and guts…and stuff…) and remains wickedly funny throughout.
Volumes of Blood is a super indie collaborative effort out of Kentucky that involved almost 150 people (I believe – correct me if I’m wrong, P.j.!), which is pretty amazing in and of itself. MY last indie project, I was acting, co-directing, holding a boom AND getting coffee, lol. Ah….movie making….I can’t remember the last time I saw an indie look this good though, particularly a lo-budget one. “Misty! Stop talking about behind the scene crap and tell us what happens ON screen!” Yeah, yeah, I hear you…
Urban legends is what we have here, guys and gals. But not those silly old boring urban legends we’ve all heard a MILLION times before (no Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary here!). No, we get new urban legends, entirely made up as the film progresses. I have to admit to being a sucker for urban legends because really they’re nothing more than modern fairy tales and my fascination & study of fairy tales is a lifelong thing (that I’m going to refrain from babbling on about – see I can be good). And the legends here have some unique modern spins indeed. From demonic energy drinks to learning lessons about playing pranks to satanic encyclopedias (c’mon, this NEVER ends well!) to ghostly visitors who like to tease…you’ll have a blast from beginning to end.
What’s more is that all the effects are PRACTICAL effects which absolutely makes me shiver with delight. It’s that absolutely brilliant old-school style with just a hint of a lovely Troma-esque influence….*sighs*…..Especially the end….oh the end…There should have been more blood and gore. Yeah. Maybe that’s my one complaint. MORE of this, please!! So those of you who are into that too will def get a kick out of this one.
There’s also some really good acting going on here. Not gonna lie – sometimes grabbing your friends up to make a movie means not so wonderful acting. Just the truth. But here? Nah. These guys are GOOD. There were a couple of people who only had a line here or there that were a little stiff but all the characters that were essential held my attention and sold it. TOTES. This is even better when you know that a good portion of things were improv.
And ya know what? If I STILL haven’t managed to convince you, I’ll just let my favorite line of the movie do it.
“Learn how to die or start making Christian films!”
P.S. Check ’em out on Facebook!
April Rogue is Here!
The latest issue of Rogue Cinema is here and you KNOW you’re dying to read it…so what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?? Sorry, I don’t have any of those. I can give you a preview of the issue though! Inside this month, you’ll find great articles on awesome films like these (and TONS more)!