Archive for the Movies Category

‘Beyond the Gates’: Go get those keys!

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Jackson Stewart

Studio: Destroy All Entertainment

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

A pair of brothers come together after a long estrangement to take care of their missing fathers effects, and come across an old board game that may very well hold the key to finding their father.

So, it’s not a bad premise to start off with. The very beginning of the movie shows a proud Dad (Henry LeBlanc) with his wife (Caryn Richman) and two younger sons, preparing to open what looks like a hole-in-the-wall comic-book-gaming-store. Then suddenly its some years later and the two older brothers have come back together after some time apart, to close down Dads store and pack everything away, since Dads been missing for some seven months now. The proposed timelines in the film, and the complete disappearance of Mom after that initial first scene, were kind of muddled, but whatever, we go on.

Gordon Hardesty (Graham Skipper) is the far more serious of the brothers, whereas his sibling John (Chase Williamson) is kind of flighty and humbly admits to not having a serious job or girlfriend when they reunite. John sports this drifter friend Hank (Justin Welborn), who seems like your average barfly asshole, and both brothers seem to recall not-so-fondly from their childhoods their acquaintance Derek (Matt Mercer), who’s now become a policeman in their old town. Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) inevitably shows up at some point, because we need a female Protagonist in there somewhere too, and that mostly rounds out the roster of the movie. Which is fine, there doesn’t have to be a slew of actors in a given movie.

So Gordon and John discover this old VCR boardgame Beyond the Gates, and decide to play it for the hell of it, kind of a memorial to their father. And suddenly this ghoulish-looking woman, Evelyn, is on their TV giving commands on how to play the game and potentially free their father from, say it with me, beyond the gates.

Inevitably, the brothers need a series of keys to unlock the gates. And the finding of these keys involves a goodly amount of Voodoo-like bloodshed, but its in these scenes where the movie truly shines. Exploding heads and trailing guts as practical effects are hard to do well, but this movie managed it, I thought. But after keys are procured and more creepy instructions issued by Evelyn, the film kind of falters and seems to lose steam rather than gaining it. Did they run out of money, or ideas? I don’t know, but it was a pretty standard trope to have the girlfriend possessed, have the brothers go to hell (or wherever), fight a pair of demons and then roundaboutly save their father.

It would have been nice to have some more background on a great many things in Beyond the Gates – how Dad got involved in the boardgame in the first place, where the Curio shop fits into all of this, what the hells happened to Mom, etc. – but I guess there’s only so much time to fit in everything. The soundtrack is pretty good, and it’s always nice to see Barbara Crampton in yet another Horror role.

Look into what’s Beyond the Gates on Netflix!

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Train to Busan’: Grab your baseball bat!

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Studio: Next Entertainment World

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A South Korean train ride takes a deadly turn when a zombie apocalypse breaks out!

Yes, it’s Korean and therefore subtitled and, yes, it’s another zombie movie. Those things being said, Train to Busan is a terrific throwback to the original Romero-style zombie movies, where it’s half about the scary zombies and half about the potentially worse stuff we humans do to each-other during the zombie apocalypse. I can never remember the actual character names in many of these Korean flicks, so they get designations and you’ll just have to live with it – onward we go!

So Big Daddy (Gong Yoo) is a businessman, your typical Korean male who has little time and patience for his ex-wife’s shenanigans or his Daughter’s need to be with him, while he negotiates business deals on his cellphone all day long. It’s finally Big Daddy’s chore to take his sad little Daughter on the early-morning train to go see her mother, especially after missing what was meant to be her live singing performance at school and all. And this ill-fated train ride is where it all begins.

On the train itself, Big Daddy is still on his phone and mostly ignoring Daughter (Kim Su-An), while she attempts to familiarize herself with the other passengers. Here we meet Boxer (Ma Dong-Seok), the strapping muscle-bound train-goer with his very-pregnant wife, whom I’ve aptly dubbed MomtoBe (Jung Yu-Mi), and other everyday passengers as we go along – the Elderly Sisters (Ye Soo-Jung and Park Myung-Sin), two aged women taking a train ride together; the Baseball Team and their Cheerleader squad; the older gentleman who is anything but, that I designated NastyMan (Kim Eui-Sung); and of course, the Homeless Guy (Choi Gwi-hwa), who knew about everything going on before anyone else did.

Technically this first train Big Daddy and Daughter are on isn’t going to Busan, they just kind of end up getting thrust in that direction. The first train is where the outbreak begins, at least as far as train rides go, and these are virus-class zombies – get bit, you turn in just a few minutes; black veins on the face and white-blue death eyes are the main indicators; running and shrieking and attacking anything that moves, as the survivors eventually figure out, is the SOP here. Homeless Guy hopped onto this first train and as he sits muttering to himself about how they’re all dead, one thing leads to another and suddenly, everywhere, zombies!

Big Daddy thinks he can just call in favors to get himself and Daughter rescued, even as they try to switch trains in a station after several near-misses, and it just doesn’t work out in the end, so they have to board yet another train, this one being the one officially (eventually) heading for Busan. Here we meet NastyMan, the asshole who will not be denied, who incites everyone panicking into barricading themselves against the rescue attempt Big Daddy and Boxer have to go and make. Daughter and MomtoBe mistakenly end up stuffed in a bathroom and to get to them, Boxer and Big Daddy and the one remaining Baseball Boy (Choi Woo-shik) who wasn’t turned have to guard their arms and arm themselves with baseball bats and go through like 4 cars full of zombies, twice. (As in, go through 4 cars to get there, rescue everyone, and come all the way back.) Even after watching one of the Elderly Sisters sacrifice herself, NastyMan is doing everything he can to insist people not let the rescuers back in this one uninfected car, and that means he doesn’t see the other Elderly Sister go to open the other door to the zombies until its almost too late!

We’re whittling down the survivors on the way to Busan, and even the Conductor is starting to have his doubts about safety once there. A blocked train at a pull-in station forces our survivors to try and switch trains, but the trains are still running and crashing into each-other without Conductors and hordes of mad zombies are exploding out of broken windows to come get you! Will any of our survivors make it to Busan?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, it is heart-wrenching. Enough story snippets have been tossed in among the zombie carnage to make Train To Busan much more than just a brain-eating fest of a movie, and I thought it was excellent. Right down to NastyMan finally getting a well-deserved comeuppance, damn it.

Grab your baseball bat to watch Train To Busan right now on Netflix!

‘Cosplay Melee’ Premiere: Swing for the Fences!

Posted in Action, Anime, Cartoon, comedy, Comics, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Historical, horror, Movies, Musical, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So the SyFy channel is taking another stab at the fandom with the mostest, the cosplayers! You know, those insane peoples who like to make their own, often movable, skit-able, even stage and screen-ready costumes, to bring their favorite fandoms to life! One can’t even say it’s a kids or younglings game anymore, in the premiere episode one of the contestants was over 40. This is a fandom that people of all ages, genders, colors and backgrounds love, and is generally acknowledged by true cosplayers as all-inclusive, meaning no-one should ever be excluded or discouraged from cosplaying, for really any reason. (The so-called Ambassadress of Cosplay, Yaya Han, got herself some disapproval after she claimed on the short-lived SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay that cosplaying isn’t necessarily for people with larger body types. And that was the nice way of re-wording what she said.)

Cosplay is officially a full-fledged fandom these days, rather than any kind of hobby. And it would have to be, considering cosplay can now cost you would not believe how much money, often to make a single costume replication absolutely spot-on perfect, and yet still be able to wander around conventions wearing it the entire time, of course posing for multiple pictures too. Cosplayers rarely get paid (I wanted to say never but times are changing and cosplayers are being hired to advertise video games and such now), and the making of these fan-atical costumes require a ton of work, time, and energy. I think everyone should try it, but honestly not everyone can do a good Cosplay. If we’re gonna have a game show based around the ability to Cosplay, it had better be good, better, best, a passion, an obsession, a love that is almost scary. And that’s actually what this new show seems to be presenting, thank goodness.

We have a host who is also a judge, Yvette Nicole Brown, of Community fame and apparently a huge fangirl of all things geeky; LeeAnna Vamp, named as one of the “Best Comic-Con Cosplayers of All Time” and nerdy fashion model, fan-atic, and all-around jane of all things geekery; and Christian Beckman, builder, costume designer, creator, President of Quantum Creation FX, Inc., his creations have adorned movies like Tron: Legacy, Men In Black 3, and Ender’s Game, just to name a few. Basically, we have the “everyman, I love everything” Judge (Brown), the “make it pretty” Judge (Vamp), and the “make it work” Judge (Beckman); that totally works for me.

Four contestant cosplayers come in to the lab, very similar to the one they have for Face Off, they get given the theme for this contest, and then they go by rounds to get to this weeks winner. The pilot episode theme is Space Opera, and the opening challenge is to begin from the head down, with a helmet or headgear for your original character from whatever fandom you’ve chosen. On to our contestants!

Fred, the eldest at some 40+, loves him some SciFi, and of course the gateway drug to that world was inevitably Star Trek, so guess which space opera he picked for his character. Xavier is the tall and very quiet black guy, the huge Star Wars fan who’s already made a fan-film from the ‘verse and making that armor was what got him into cosplaying in the first place, so his characters theme is chosen too. Grace is a cop in real life, somehow even with that incomprehensibly long red hair, so she chooses a bounty hunter character in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, where badass women abound, as it should be. And finally, Alicia of the mermaid hair is mildly uncomfortable in this genre, so she chooses the world of Chronicles of Riddick for her character, with their Necromonger armor as inspiration.

The first round concludes and while I didn’t agree with the judges’ elimination choice (as often happens on these kinds of SyFy shows), I stuck around to see what the remaining contestants would come up with and who would win the $10,000 prize. Round two consisted of mechanical parts being presented to the players, that they had to make some sort of flying jet-pack doohickey with as part of their characters’ costume. Hot glue, flying craft foam and mayhem ensue.

In the end, the quiet Star Wars fan who was bullied as a child took home the win, as his costume was the most cohesive and easily read as being from the Star Wars universe. The judges were all kind and helpful and reluctant to choose one over another and thereby eliminate anyone, but I felt that’s simply because they wanted to encourage the players to continue doing what they love, cosplay, and not play up any lack on their part that caused the loss of the contest.

So far it’s a fairly standard SyFy contest show, in the vein of Face Off and the like, that you could actually learn cosplay techniques from if you pay attention. Not everyone has access to giant portable heaters and hot glue guns and craft foam with designations like they came from an aircraft carrier, but the show is making sure to name at least some of the things they’re using, and sometimes suggesting cheaper alternatives. It’s a fun little show and worth giving a try at least once.

Celebrate all the fandoms and fan-atics with Cosplay Melee on the SyFy channel, Tuesdays @ 10/9c!

‘Get Out’: Run boy run!

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, suspense, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Jordan Peele

Studio: Blumhouse Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

We know director Jordan Peele, famous for the Key and Peele comedy duo among other things, has successfully directed other movies, but those were Comedies. So when word came out he was doing a Horror film, plenty of us fans of the genre were nervous about what it could mean. Turns out, we had absolutely nothing to worry about – Peele’s vision of a relevant to black folks Horror movie has all the self-aware snark and clever storytelling of Tales from the Hood, and I personally adored that movie. Yes, we know race will certainly be a large part of the story here, the trailer made that quite clear. But racial motivations are only half the story, while the other half is creepy as hell, and that’s what makes it a Horror movie.

Spoilers are never just black and white!

We meet Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a stoic young black man who happens to be a fairly good photographer, with prints of his work all over his nicely furnished if tiny apartment, and his bubbly white girl girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Chris has a friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery), who works for the airport TSA and is the standard co-pilot type friend in any buddy-cop movie, and their conversations over the phone are the few bright spots in a dark suspenseful movie. Chris lost his mother at a very young age and is also attempting to quit smoking, all things we learn at a rapid clip once the decision has been made to grudgingly attend Rose’s families gathering at the Armitage estate out in the middle of nowheresville.

On the way there, a mighty strange encounter with a deer that I swear was thrown at their car rather than being simply struck down by it, has Chris and Rose on edge. Meeting the self-proclaimed most non-racist Dad (Bradley Whitford) around, who would’ve by his own admission gotten Obama on a third term if he could’ve, doesn’t much help. Nor does being unnerved by psychiatrist Moms (Catherine Keener) unsettling talk of hypnosis, quitting smoking, and the sound of that damned spoon hitting the china, over and over and over. Add in the psychotic ginger of a brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) and we’ve already got a full cracker jack house.

A nighttime visit with Mom after an unsettling dream and an aborted attempt at a snuck cigarette doesn’t help Chris one bit, unless we consider his ability to be tossed down the rabbit hole by an elderly white woman fairly easily to be a good thing.

Then of course after some very weak protestations of Rose’s part, it turns out this is the weekend of the entire Armitage clan get-together, some of them rather removed, but somehow all connected in some secret way. The older white folks show up and wittingly or not, manage to repeatedly insult Chris as being the only black person there that isn’t a servant. The maidservant and the gardener, they’re both black, but they act very oddly towards Chris, especially when he starts asking questions.

Chris wanders the grounds and dutifully talks with the guests, always stoic and at least polite, as the crazy white folk continue to demean his person and Rose is of little help. We met the blind art curator, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), who claims to know of and love Chris’ picture work, and the two of them seem to have the only really-real conversation out of anyone visiting from the Armitage clan. Chris declines to talk to really anyone else, and continually being unnerved by it all, disappears to go be with Rose. Which is good, because Dad has declared its time for the Armitage family games, beginning with bingo!

That’s no version of bingo I’ve ever played, at any rate. A mostly-silent auction is being held, and as we’ve already gathered from the trailer, Chris is the most likely prize. But why? The big grand assumption here is that these crazy elderly white folks with far too much money and time on their hands are going to participate in the greatest game, the cleverest hunt there is – that of man. But how on earth are these so-much-older white peoples planning on doing that? How is a blind man supposed to hunt anything? Turns out, the Armitage clan actually has something much worse in mind for Chris.

I won’t give the ending away, or even the real reason for the Armitage clan auctioning off Chris, but I will leave it with an interesting thought exercise to ponder. The fact that all these people, Chris and those chosen before him, were black, seems to be clear racism, yes, but in a kind of dastardly complimentary way. Like thoroughbred horses, these fine chosen black peoples have the right physical and occasionally psychological properties, that the Armitage clan is willing to pay a handsome sum of money for.

While yes, the movie is mildly predictable to me, admittedly I watch a lot of Horror movies, so that’s kind of to be expected. Peele has somehow mastered the fine tightrope line between racial tension and everybody-fears-something humanity, and manages to keep that creepy vibe throughout the film. Kaluuya delivers a masterful performance as Chris, and those acting around him, black or white or whatever else, give their roles that extra pinch of believability that makes it convincing that it all could actually happen, even tomorrow.

Run along with Chris to see Get Out, in theaters now!

Spotlight on Latino Horror presents Ataud Blanco El Juego Diabolico (White Coffin)

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Daniel de la Vega

Studio: Del Toro Films

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

In the simplest of terms, it is another “save my child at any cost” movie, with a mysterious ritual of sacrifice and some ghostly vengeance tossed in for good measure. The premise, of a mother desperate to save her daughter from some kind of ritual sacrifice, is a good start, but is itself sacrificed for action and driving scenes. The explanatory paragraph for the movie gives very little away, so sadly I’m going to have to spoil a good deal of the plot as we plow ahead.

Spoilers come from all kinds of coffins!

So Virginia (Julieta Cardinali) appears to have up and absconded with her daughter Rebecca, without the consent of her apparently-ex-husband, and the two of them are driving along out in the middle of nowheresville when they inevitably experience a flat tire. This is where we meet the creepy stranger who was never named in the film (but whose name according to IMDB is Mason) for the first time, he comes striding out of the desert landscape like a mirage to help with the flat tire, I dubbed him the Goad for how he has a tendency to further the plot. After the tire is fixed, Virginia and her daughter take lunch at some roadside diner and there, inevitably, Rebecca (Fiorela Duranda) goes missing.

Another woman in the same roadside diner, who appears to be a schoolteacher with a bunch of elementary school kids on a field trip, she has a student go missing and so she’s running around near Virginia, calling for her wayward child too. Here things begin to get weird and ill-defined, a tilted journey through darkness that seems to indicate a confusing death and rebirth of sorts for poor Virginia. And indeed, when she comes back to the light Mr. Goad (Rafael Ferro) has shown back up and is breathlessly explaining that yes, Virginia is now dead but, being given a temporary reprieve back to the land of the living, she has one chance to go save her daughter: find the white coffin.

But nothing is ever that simple, and Virginia has to go through several hoops in order to find that damnable coffin and stop the ritual sacrifice of her daughter. First is the barn where the actual white coffin is located, but of course the place is guarded by a hammerhead wannabe, and yet another desperate woman, Angela (Elenora Wexler), wanting to claim the coffin to rescue her own child. After the tussle with the weaponized carpenter and the subsequent fight with Angela herself, Angela lets slip that she was apparently the one who killed Virginia, so she might get the white coffin first. And at least in this first round, Angela is in the lead, with Virginia attempting to keep up with her for the net task.

Next to be retrieved according to Mr. Goad is the map, very much on the mind of the priest in the Trinity church. And since Mr. Goad has rather forcibly reminded Virginia that she’s already dead and her time is running out and to be absolutely ruthless to get what she wants, well, nothing so small as a priests refusal is going to stop her now.

Some fighting and confrontation and driving later, the last task is to discover the place where the ritual itself is going to be held, and to get the white coffin there by means fair or foul, whatever it takes. The teachers been dealt with, the rival mom is down and now its up to Virginia to do this last, unthinkable, act, to save her child.

Except Virginia doesn’t actually manage to save her child, nor is she really able to save herself, when all is said and done. The background characters that we’ve been noticing around Virginia as she makes her way from place to place, they’ve come to participate in the ritual of child sacrifice and the ascension of the new Chosen, that poor apparently brainwashed and tattooed little girl, Rebecca. As the occupied white coffin burns the backgrounders chant these odd ritual phrases, and the magic that animated Virginia slips away, leaving us to wonder, did the cycle begin anew?

The trouble is simply that there isn’t enough of anything. Had there been more of a supernatural feel to the ritual plot, or more explanation of what the ritual was meant to accomplish, where the necromancy that animated Virginia came from, or how Mr. Goad or any of the backgrounders made their choices in the first place, or what the hell was up with that white coffin, the film could have been more enjoyable. The washed-out look of the film is fine, intending to impart a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel I’m guessing. For unknown reasons the film is only an hour and a half long; I’d really like to see an extended version or a full background story script to read at least.

Dig up Ataud Blanco (White Coffin) on Netflix!

San Diego Film Week presents ‘A Life Lived’: For Love or Money?

Posted in comedy, drama, Movies, Romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Riley Wood

Studio: Not A Camel Productions

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

The journey of a single dollar bill and the lives it affects, inadvertently and directly, along the way.

We as collective humans have more in common with each-other than most of us ever realize, or are willing to admit in some nasty cases. We all covet and desire, love and hate and all kinds of emotions betwixt and between, torn between responsibility and the need to just say, “Screw it all!” Our actions, and occasionally the very lack of acting, ripple-affects those in our lives, and sometimes even outside or our sphere of awareness, in ways we can’t possibly begin to fathom, but are endlessly fascinating to ruminate upon. And it is this circular unknowing that A Life Lived dives into, presenting the journey of a dollar bill with a heart on it for our perusal.

One wouldn’t think that a man who had dumped his wife and gotten a brand-new upgraded girlfriend who need to pay for his sex elsewhere, but there you have it. Our first protagonist went to get change for a $20 from the grocery store and the adorkable eternally smiling cashier was not only super-duper extra-nice to him, she drew a heart on one of the dollar bills. This is of course how we know that it’s that particular dollar bill we’re following, but hey, that works for me. And not too much later, when he decides to go get his rocks off with a motel Dominatrix, that’s where the hearted dollar bill ends up.

We follow the heart to a botched robbery of a convenience store; Tom’s wife is dying, his insurance has run out, and he’s been nerving himself to rob in full view of the store for hours. In trying to be nice and let Tom off with a minor infraction, the store clerk actually made it worse for him, but there are still some avenging angels in the police force, and a certain Mr. Jackson pockets the hearted bill in an actual theft for a genuinely good cause.

We follow the heart unerringly through a thievery sleepover, a cocaine slide from whacked-out performer Dixx, the revenge of Dixx’s assistant and her attempt to break the 4th wall inside the movie, the plight of homeless George, a disgusting attempt at sexual coercion when the bill goes “missing” from a diner till, and finally Delby Madison gets a lawyerly consultation fee from Peter, Tom’s brother, for, you guessed it, a single dollar bill with a heart on it.

We’ve come round to the end, at least the end of this bill’s particular journey, and as many journeys do, this one ends in death. The death of Tom’s beloved wife Martha, yes, but he was sprung from jail in enough time to say goodbye to her, in tears and lamentations and perhaps even a little relief that her pain had finally come to an end. Tom will have to do some time in jail, but it’s likely to be very little, and he’s allowed some extra time off for the funeral and a night of mourning after. As Tom sits and ruminates over a life he lived, with Martha, and now the life he may have to live without her, he needs some way to light the very fine Cuban cigar his brother gifted him. Wooden matches aren’t doing it. And then, finally, Tom’s eyes fall on the dollar bill with a heart drawn on it that made its way back to him – a fitting end for the life lived of that one single solitary dollar bill.

Of course there is a wonderful little easter egg after that, we see the morning routine of the kooky cat lady grocery store clerk, as she prepares to be eternally cheerful and smiling no matter what comes her way, and always and forever drawing random hearts on peoples single dollar bills. What lives will these bills lead, how will they cross us in unsuspecting ways and bring us together, or apart, depending on the choices made with these little green pieces of paper that can move the world?

After the showing of the film, which I greatly enjoyed, there was a Q&A session with filmmaker and director Riley Wood, who delightedly told me about more easter eggs and tidbits to be found in A Life Lived. Such as the number 13 myth, referencing the original 13 colonies and said to be found hiding all over in our currency, connecting to all sorts of mysticism and ancient secret socities; director Wood subtly inserted the number 13 in many places in the film. Wood confirmed that the cocaine legend was indeed inserted into the film, for it is after all part of the dollars own legend, and that every named character in the film was named from a person somewhere on U.S. currency (Jackson, Jefferson, etc.). And lastly, Wood talked about giving each of the main characters a few moments alone in their vehicle as a spotlight into their heads, because every one of us is at least a slightly different person when we’re alone in our car.

The film is still working on distribution rights, but believe me when I say it is a delightfully heart-strung romp and should be viewed whenever possible.

A Life Lived Trailer from Riley Wood on Vimeo.

‘Trash Fire’: All in the Family fault

Posted in drama, horror, Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Richard Bates Jr.

Studio: Circle of Confusion

MPAA Rating: R

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

So Owen (Adrien Grenier) just seems like a flat-out asshole. I mean, yes, he’s bulimic and apparently clinically depressed, but his strained relationship with girlfriend Isabel (Angela Trimbur) doesn’t appear to be helping either one of them become a better person. Attempts at couples therapy don’t do squat, and I swear the first thirty minutes of the movie is just Owen being an asshat to everyone he interacts with, but primarily Isabel. Then Isabel tells him she’s pregnant, and things change rather abruptly.

Far as I can tell, every single last one of Owen’s issues seem to stem from the troubles of his past, wherein a horrendous house fire killed both his parents and caused burn scars on eighty percent of his sister Pearl’s (AnnaLynne McCord) body. She now lives with Owen’s crazy religious fundamentalist grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan), and the two of them seem content to hide from the world and snipe at each-other for the rest of their existence. But then Owen and Isabel make the momentous decision to, despite their misgivings about each-other, keep the baby and attempt to raise it together, so Owen decides he needs to reconnect with what’s left of his family and maybe get some answers as to why he’s so screwed up.

Grandma Violet seems like a fairly standard racist religious nut, most of us have at least one in our own families, and she sure doesn’t welcome Isabel with open arms, especially after hearing of the pregnancy. As far as Grandma believed, Owen couldn’t have children, and taking Pearl entirely out of the equation, that meant this cursed family line would die with him. It isn’t until she primly puts on blacks like she’s going to a funeral and has her own confession in the office of her priest, that we realize the depths of how fucked up Grandma really is. I personally would’ve liked to have seen more flashbacks of the rather threatening confession Grandma gives, more the of the killing fire that led to and from all this madness, but somehow this perfectly-real setting and entirely possible story makes it all that more quietly creepy. And yes, there is a Grandma masturbation scene too, you were warned.

Owen does seem to genuinely care for Pearl, and wants desperately to talk with her and gain her forgiveness before he and Isabel depart Grandma’s house. Forgiveness for what, you might ask? It’s not terribly hard to convince a child that he did something horribly terribly wrong and then blame him for it forever afterward, but that also means Pearl blames him for her face and body aftermath too. Isabel tries to make friends with Pearl and about halfway succeeds, I guess, given that the sister has her own psychosis to deal with.

So where does all this quiet menace and murder attempts and buried secrets leave us? With a dark night of confrontation, shotgun blasts from a pair of surprising hands, and far too many blood splashes on the walls. Being an asshat does not qualify Owen for the killing list, but I guess it’s true his family really is cursed – at least on the women’s side.

Guard your sleeves from the Trash Fire on Netflix!