SHORT: ‘Girls Night’ (2017) Halloween finds three girlfriends at a party gone wrong

SHORT: ‘Girls Night’ (2017) Halloween finds three girlfriends at a party gone wrong

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Filmmaker David Teixeira wrote, directed, shot, and edited this modest short, which is in French but offers English subtitles. Here’s the official synopsis:

Girls Night is a short horror film that takes place in Halloween. Three girlfriends stay home for a slumber party that goes bloody wrong. Literally.”

It’s a variation on the venerable “Bloody Mary” legend. You’d think most folks would know better by now.

Teixeira leaned in to the inherent constraints of a shoestring budget, and came up with a mostly good-looking film that underdelivers in the scares department. There are some lingering shots that could be tightened up a bit. But the score is effective, the three main characters are colorful and engaging, and the central antagonist, in creepy mask and blonde wig, has an eerie menacing quality that makes this short worth a look.

So how can you take such a look at Girls Night? Currently, you can’t – but that will soon change. We touched base with Teixeira on the subject:

“It’s been submitted to 15 film festivals internationally. It will be online soon, still waiting to see how it goes with the film festivals and then I’ll put it online. Maybe in April.”

Stay tuned.


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The Gourmet Horror Review: ‘Don’t Breathe’ (2016) Master class in white-knuckle, claustrophobic terror

TAGLINE: “This house looked like an easy target. Until they found what was inside.”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Director Fede Alvarez reunites with his Evil Dead star Jane Levy for a taut, tense exercise in claustrophobic locked-house terror. The premise couldn’t be simpler: A trio of young thieves (Levy as Rocky, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto) break and enter the house of a blind veteran, seeking a rumored fortune he received as a settlement for a devastating loss. It seems like an easy target, virtually risk free. Of course, they couldn’t be more wrong. The house’s location in a derelict neighborhood in Detroit originally seemed like a plus, but once the tables are turned, its remoteness becomes a terrifying liability.

BLUNDERS/GAFFS (caution – spoilers):

  • Money uses his pistol to shoot a padlock off a door, but man, it sure looked like all he needed was a screwdriver. The lockset was screwed down on the outside of the door.
  • Rocky’s pants are slit open by The Blind Man, yet that tear is mysteriously gone when she gets to the car.
  • It’s a neat trick to get an audience to care about a group of young home invaders, especially when one of their targets is a old blind man bearing scars both real and psychological. Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues mostly succeed, with the notable exception of Zovatto’s character, Money. He’s repellent in every way, to the point where it has to have been intentional. Sometimes characters in a horror film can’t get killed off fast enough. Money is one of them.
  • I had a hard time figuring out where the outside light that backlights the windows was coming from. From the exterior, the house and neighborhood looked very dark.
  • At one point, Rocky talks about the ladybug tattoo she got on her arm the day before, yet there is no redness or swelling. She must be a very fast healer.
  • Why would you break and enter a house while its owner was home? Even if he was a seemingly harmless blind man, that seems an unnecessary risk.
  • Levy’s character Rocky draws a little too deeply from the “Final Girl” well. It’s executed well enough that I didn’t mind, but there it is.
  • Another trope: Characters suffer traumatic injuries that should by all rights kill or incapacitate them. Yet somehow they just keep going, Energizer Bunny-style.

EVALUATIONDon’t Breathe hits the ground running, with an economical setup, and wastes no time getting to the good parts. It clocks in at a lean, taut 88 minutes, and Alvarez makes every second count.

Levy is excellent. Her part calls for a lot of wild-eyed but silent terror, and she does it as well as anyone. But it is Stephen Lang as The Blind Man who elevates Don’t Breathe to something special. He’s well above your cookie-cutter, garden-variety villain. He’s given a compelling backstory, and even though he makes horrible choices and performs despicable acts, he is still recognizably human – and relatable. He’s damaged goods, a wounded warrior (very different from his Colonel Quaritch in Avatar) whose past compels him to evil doings.

You won’t find a horror film that makes better use of the complete absence of sound. Agonizing stretches play out in complete silence. It compels the viewer to watch in silence, as well, and you really do hesitate to even breathe. The jump scares are well-executed and mostly earned, all the more devastating as they emerge from deathly quiet.

Any review of Don’t Breathe would be remiss without a word on Pedro Luque‘s cinematography. Most of the film takes place in a blind man’s house, much of the time in partial to total darkness. This presents special challenges. How many films have you squinted at, trying to make out details obscured by shadows and dimness? Nothing of the sort here. It’s gorgeously framed and shot throughout, and everything is clear (when it needs to be). You always have a strong sense of the geography of the set. The layout of the house is honored at all times, across all three floors. That’s no easy feat. And when there is gunfire – and there is plenty of gunfire – the muzzle flash and deafening report hit like fists.

It’s a locked-door thriller that tightens the screws relentlessly. The only one who wants out of that godforsaken house more than the three thieves? Us. The viewers. It’s almost unbearably tense and claustrophobic. In short, this is one for the ages. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly entertaining, and a must-see for any red-blooded genre fan. Catch it in theaters while you still can.


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EFFECTS (1-5): 4
SCORE (1-5): 4
OVERALL (1-5): 4

TITLEDon’t Breathe
YEAR OF RELEASE: 2016
STUDIO: Ghost House Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing (US)
MPAA RATING: R
LENGTH: 88 mins.
DVD? (Y/N): N
BLU-RAY? (Y/N): N
NETFLIX? (Y/N): Not yet
WIDESCREEN? (Y/N) Y
IN THEATERS? (Y/N) Y
STREAMING DIGITAL/VOD? (Y/N) N

The Gourmet Horror Review: ‘Bad Acid’ (Short, 2015) – Be careful what you wish for.

The Gourmet Horror Review: ‘Bad Acid’ (Short, 2015) – Be careful what you wish for.

TAGLINE: “Fancy a trip?”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Many a great horror story begins with a magician – as does Bad Acid. OK, hypnotist, technically:

Bad Acid is the debut short film from writer/director David Chaudoir. The story of a washed-up cabaret hypnotist, it blends hypnotic suggestion, hallucination and demonic apparition in a wry, tragically comedic dark fantasy, exploring the fleeting nature of fame. Marvin gets what he wished for, but not in the way that he wanted.

Bad Acid references the magical number three; three failed performances, three wishes and finally three deaths.

Bad Acid is the writer/director’s love letter to the films of Amicus Productions and Hammer Films from the 1970s.

Tristan Beint stars as Marvin Maskelyn, the hypnotist who drops a tab of acid he found, in lieu of a genie, inside a 17th century Babylonian lamp. In addition to taking Marvin on a revelatory trip – replete with visions of once again climbing to the top of his profession – the acid also awakens something… evil within the lamp. Something far removed from a compliant djinn conferring three wishes upon its owner.

BEST SCENE: After his acid trip, Marvin returns to the stage and launches into the same “genie in the lamp” hypnosis schtick he’s been peddling for years. But this time, his subject (played by Tiffany Haynes) is compelled to see not a genie, but a terrifying presence. Her unhinged reaction freaks out the audience – and rattles Marvin. Part of that rattling comes from recognizing the participant from his hallucinatory visions. It’s a cool scene, and Maddie Chaudoir really sells the absolute horror she’s experiencing.

 

BLUNDERS/GAFFS:

  • Not really a blunder or gaff, just a simple cultural disconnect. In the opening montage showing Marvin in old photos meeting various celebrities (Spice Girls, anyone?) and political heavyweights (including Tony Blair), many of these may be unfamiliar to American audiences.
  • Same goes for the thick English accents. I had to watch with headphones on to decipher certain passages.

EVALUATION: If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path of conventional horror, Bad Acid is highly recommended. Andrew Horner‘s cinematography is gorgeous, and Chaudoir’s direction is clear and focused, especially considering this is his debut short. But best of all, it tells an unexpected and unpredictable story, and tells it well. Special shout out to the sound design of the film. It really does feel like a bad trip – one you’ll be glad you took.

Four Knives


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EFFECTS (1-5): 4
SCORE (1-5): 5
OVERALL (1-5): 4

TITLEBad Acid
YEAR OF RELEASE: 2015
RUNNING TIME: 18:24
STREAMING DIGITAL/VOD? (Y/N) N (not yet)

‘Signal 30’ (1959) – Highway Safety Foundation’s grisly film traumatized teens throughout the 60’s

‘Signal 30’ (1959) – Highway Safety Foundation’s grisly film traumatized teens throughout the 60’s

Imagine a tenderfoot in the mid1960’s. No, a literal Tenderfoot – that would be me, 11 years old, a fledgling Boy Scout and member of Troop 59, Deerfield, NY. We are sponsored by the Deerfield Volunteer Fire Department, and our meetings are held in their cavernous firehouse on Trenton Road. Tonight, instead of learning new knots or working with topographical maps, we’ll be watching a film. The clattery 16mm projector and screen are already set up, and there’s a palpable buzz in the air. Though this is all new to me, the older Scouts in the room are familiar with this. It is, in fact, an annual tradition – a highly anticipated one.

We are about to watch Signal 30.

For the next 28 minutes, this small group of impressionable boys witnesses actual decapitation, bodies burned beyond recognition and crumbling apart, as well as footage of real victims of the most gruesome, explicitly gory violence.

No, our Scoutmaster hadn’t lost his mind – but he may have displayed questionable judgement. Signal 30 is, believe it or not, an educational film, created in 1959 by the Highway Safety Foundation. It was widely shown to high school students across the country throughout the 1960s, usually during school assemblies and in Drivers Ed classes. It was produced by Richard Wayman and narrated by Wayne Byers, and takes its moniker from the radio code used by troopers and dispatchers in the Ohio State Highway Patrol: “Signal 30” meant a fatal traffic accident.

Watching Signal 30 was usually a traumatic, “scared straight” experience for high-school age kids. The reaction among pre-teen boys was something different entirely. We loved it. It became an annual highlight of Troop 59’s year. We couldn’t wait for the next showing to roll around. Are any of you old enough to recall watching Signal 30 in school? Did your Scout troop ever show it to its members?

Signal 30 caused its share of controversy, but managed to garner critical praise, as well. It even went on to win a National Safety Council Award, and spurred a rash of copycat films, including two sequels, with names like Red Asphalt, Mechanized Death, and Wheels of Tragedy. It effectively birthed a genre that culminated in the grotesque Faces of Death series in the late 1970’s.

The vintage stills and 8mm footage seen in Signal 30 predate the era of mandatory seat belts. Cars were built huge and heavy, with plenty of sharp-edged Detroit iron and no notion of crumple zones, safety glass, or shock-absorbing bumpers. Hell, even glove boxes flipped down in those days, presenting a handy cup holder that doubled as a lacerating metal blade in a crash. (My own father lost his spleen to such a glove box door.) Consequently, if you got in a wreck in a car back then, the situation could become dire – even fatal – very quickly.

Today, anyone can watch Signal 30 on YouTube, but it’s not quite the same experience. That queasy sensation you’d get while watching it with a group, the noise of the projector, the cruel joy veterans would get from watching others see the film for the first time – none of that can be duplicated today. If you’d like to see what all the controversy is about, we present, in all its grainy, blood-drenched glory, the original Signal 30. [WARNING: NSFW. Graphic, real-life images and footage.]

The Gourmet Horror Review: ‘The Green Inferno’ (2013 – Blu-ray “Director’s Cut”)

The Gourmet Horror Review: ‘The Green Inferno’ (2013 – Blu-ray “Director’s Cut”)

Eli Roth attempts a journey into the heart of darkness, but ‘The Green Inferno’ never gets up to speed.

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: One of last year’s most polarizing releases, The Green Inferno is Eli Roth‘s homage to the notorious Italian cannibal flicks of the late 70’s and early 80’s. In fact, “The Green Inferno” was the original working title for what is perhaps the best known of these films, 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust. Here’s the official synopsis:

New York college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) meets student activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy) when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. Smitten, she agrees to help Alejandro undertake his next project: rescuing an Amazon village from destruction by a greedy multinational corporation.  But Justine soon comes to regret her decision when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and the students realize they are not alone. No good deed goes unpunished as the well-meaning students are captured by the cannibalistic tribe they came to save.

The Green Inferno is the first feature film to be directed by Roth since Hostel: Part II In addition to Izzo and Levy, it also stars Aaron Burns (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends), Daryl Sabara (John Carter, Spy Kids), and Kirby Bliss Blanton (Project X, Candy From Strangers). The screenplay is by Roth and Guillermo Amoedo (Knock Knock, Aftershock).

BLUNDERS/GAFFS: Some stupendously heavy-handed foreshadowing (on first boarding the plane, one character gobbles a sedative and actually says “Small planes make me nervous. I feel like we’re gonna crash.” A street vendor hacks at a tropical melon, glowering menacingly. Nearly everyone tells Izzo’s character Justine to be safe, that Peru is a “dangerous country,” that the jungle is treacherous, that she’s crazy to go on such a risky trip with a group of people she just met. SUBTLE.) Roth and Amoedo’s screenplay takes some equally hamfisted swipes at well-meaning but hopelessly naive social justice warriors. Even the lead character’s name, Justine – just one character removed from “justice” – is clumsily on-the-nose.

And there are some howling non sequiturs. After a well-staged, terrifying crash that decimates their party and leaves the remaining survivors battered and bleeding, Alejandro shouts “Is everyone OK?” Um, no dude. Not even close.

EVALUATION: It makes an attempt, at least, to build sympathy for the main character, Justine. In fact, we don’t even arrive at the jungle until a good 40 minutes into the film, by which time we’ve learned a great deal – maybe too much – about the group. But the characters are stereotypes, and the performances are uneven, at best. Sky Ferrera is simply awful as Izzo’s annoying roommate. There is some fine aerial photography, not only of the titular jungle but also of Peruvian cityscapes and roadways. In fact, the cinematography is good to very good throughout, and thank the horror gods Roth and Amoedo didn’t opt for a “found footage” approach. Most genre fans will be able to pick out the many call-outs and influences, but in the end they serve chiefly to make you long for those other, better films.

One puzzling thing about this Blu-ray release (out today) is its claim to be a “director’s cut.” In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit a few months back, Eli Roth denied the existence of any cut other than the theatrical version. Unsurprisingly, he also had some lengthy negotiations with the MPAA to secure an R rating:

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to work with the MPAA. Nobody sees it from where I’m sitting but all around the world they hack horror movies to pieces, only in the US do they really try to protect the integrity of the film and work with you. We had many long discussions about The Green Inferno but ultimately I was very happy with where we wound up. There’s no director’s cut, this is it. Everywhere else in the world it’s a government censorship board and they never protect violent movies because they want to be re-elected. In the US we have the MPAA which is a self-policing body and they’re all movie lovers and understand what my audience wants to see. Their job is to help make a movie acceptable for theaters but also to warn parents about what’s in it. We may disagree at times but we always have a reasonable discussion about it, not even an appeal. We just get on the phone and talk it out – no one else in the world does that. Everywhere else they just cut it and say take it or don’t release it.

 

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Take the feast home. Gourmet Horror, in conjunction with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, has cooked up a scheme to give away the just-released Blu-ray of Eli Roth's The Green Inferno. No purchase necessary. See Official Rules for complete details. Title has been available on Digital HD since December 22, 2015, and as of January 5th, 2016 is also out on Blu-ray and DVD.
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Contest Rules & Disclaimer

Must 18 years of age and a US citizen to enter. Please enter only once - multiple entries will be disqualified. Contest ends at midnight January 10, 2016.

Gourmet Horror Inc. is not liable for any heart palpitations or nausea caused by viewing this film, and may not be held responsible for any lingering effects thereof.

CONGRATULATIONS to our winner, Caitlyn W. of Roxboro, NC. Stay scary, my friend!

The Blu-ray release has some pretty skimpy special features, mainly comprised of a feature commentary track with Roth, producer Nicolás López, and Izzo, Burns, Blanton, and Sabara.

The Green Inferno does not skimp on the gore, and spares little in its examination of such squirm-inducing topics as female genital mutilation, insect torture, and (of course) the specifics of cannibalism. But each shocking moment is undercut by Roth’s penchant for “bro humor” (“jokes” about diarrhea, jerking off, smoking weed, and the like) clearly aimed at a demographic I’m just not a part of. But this is a sub-genre of horror that is seldom served these days. Any self-respecting fan will want to check it out.


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You can also check out our interview with two of the stars of The Green Inferno, Daryl Sabara and Kirby Bliss Blanton.


EFFECTS (1-5): 4
SCORE (1-5): 3
OVERALL (1-5): 2

TITLEThe Green Inferno
YEAR OF RELEASE: 2015 (the film was completed in 2013, but spent two years in legal limbo)
STUDIO: Worldview Entertainment/Dragonfly Entertainment/Sobras International Pictures/BH Tilt
MPAA RATING: R
LENGTH: 100 mins.
DVD? (Y/N): Y
BLU-RAY? (Y/N): Y
NETFLIX? (Y/N): Y (DVD and Blu-ray only, as of April 28, 2017)
WIDESCREEN? (Y/N) Y
IN THEATERS? (Y/N) N
STREAMING DIGITAL/VOD? (Y/N) Y Amazon Instant Video | iTunes

The Gourmet Horror review: ‘The Last Survivors’ (2014) is set in a climate-induced, post-apocalyptic wasteland

The Gourmet Horror review: ‘The Last Survivors’ (2014) is set in a climate-induced, post-apocalyptic wasteland

Haley Lu Richardson in 'The Last Survivors' (2014)TAGLINE: “The end is here.”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: At the edge of an expansive, barren valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth are a few hollowed-out husks of old buildings. It has been a decade since the last rainfall, and society has dried up and blown away, along with most living things. Seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) and the few other people remaining can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush. Kendal dreams of escaping with her brother and a young boy she watches over. When a greedy, violent water baron lays claim to the precious few water resources that remain, a heroic Kendal stands up to him and bravely fights for the few cherished people she has left.

BEST SCENE: Without spoiling anything, there’s a scene in the film’s last act where Kendal must infiltrate the water baron’s heavily-guarded base. The manner in which she gets inside is pretty… slick.

BLUNDERS/GAFFS: I have one small quibble: Richardson, best known for her work in ABC Family’s short-lived supernatural drama Ravenswood, is covered, throughout the film’s entirety, with dust and grime. With no water to spare for luxuries like bathing, everyone in the film is filthy. So her gleaming-white, visible-from-space teeth kind of took me out of this world a few times. How is she able to sustain that level of dental hygiene? In the end, it’s not a deal breaker, as her fantastic performance overrides all.

TLS_4-640x427EVALUATION: I saw this film last April at the Ashland (Oregon) Independent Film Festival, under its original title, The Well. (I can’t say I like the new title better – it’s pretty generic – but it does do a better job of conveying what the film is about.) It was my favorite film at AIFF. Taking on a subject as vast and global as climate change is challenging, but director and co-writer Thomas S. Hammock wisely chooses to scale things down and focus on the struggles of a small group in a remote valley. The setting, look, and feel of the film evoke a classic Western – it even has a climactic showdown – but the circumstances could not be more relevant to today.

The filming location – the Lucerne Valley in California’s merciless Mojave Desert – is suitably bleak, and the cinematography captures it with an almost painterly hand. Like Mad Max: Fury Road, you’ll soon find yourself craving something, anything to drink. Any structures still standing are convincingly decayed and vandalized, adding to the immersive world-building. Craig DeLeon‘s score is both haunting and effective. The performances are very good, even featuring a small but memorable turn from genre stalwart Barbara Crampton. But it is Haley Lu Richardson’s Kendal who stands out. When we first meet her, she’s merely tough and resilient. But with her back to the wall she is forced to become something more:

badass.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful, beautifully shot film that melds such usually disparate genres as Western, sci-fi, action, and thriller, The Last Survivors delivers.

Three Knives horror film rating

 

Masked man from 'The Last Survivors' (2014)EFFECTS (1-5): 3
SCORE (1-5): 3
OVERALL (1-5): 3

TITLEThe Last Survivors (original title The Well)
YEAR OF RELEASE: 2014
STUDIO: Dark Sky Films
MPAA RATING: NR (probably R, for strong language, violence, profanity)
LENGTH: 95 mins.
DVD? (Y/N): Y
BLU-RAY? (Y/N): Y
NETFLIX? (Y/N): Not yet
WIDESCREEN? (Y/N) Y
IN THEATERS? (Y/N) N
STREAMING DIGITAL/VOD? (Y/N) Y Amazon Instant Video | iTunes | Sony Entertainment Network | vimeo | VUDU | Xbox | Google play

The-Last-Survivors-shotgun-on-ground-720x297.jpgCAST:
Haley Lu Richardson – Kendal
Booboo Stewart – Dean
Max Charles – Alby
Nicole Arianna Fox – Brooke
Michael Welch – Gabriel
Jon Gries – Carson
Michael Massee – Walker
Rena Owen – Claire
Leo Lee – Judas
Barbara Crampton – Grace
Michael McCartney – Cadiz

Haley Lu Richardson as Kendal in 'The Last Survivors' (2014)DIRECTORThomas S. Hammock
SCREENPLAY: Thomas S. Hammock, Jacob Forman
CINEMATOGRAPHYSeamus Tierney
SCORECraig Deleon

Full cast and crew at IMDB.com.

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