Thursday, June 29, 2017

S & M: Les Sadiques (2016)

It should come as no surprise to anyone, but Alex Bakshaev has done it again!

I was first introduced to Alex and his work by way of his still stunning 2015 film, The Devil of Kreuzberg.

Also, much to my complete delight, he played Inspektor Lang in the very definition of if a moving painting was a short horror film, Tlmea (2016) - a short that happens to be directed by Kevin Kopacka. The same Kevin Kopacka who stars in Alex's latest film: S & M: Les SadiquesMy heart is made happy by the coordination of such talents.


This Lynchian art house thriller is not a friendly one. From the brilliant backdrop of the cold, wintery, nearly almost always night setting in bustling Berlin, to the standoffish (nearly heartless) interactions of all the characters, viewers may need a hug afterwards.

My first thought on the film was that it felt like a coming of age nightmare. The dreamy atmosphere felt as if someone was recalling a really traumatic period in their life when just starting out in the world. A period in almost everyone's life that is already uncertain, sometimes frightening, and - based on some life choices or equally unfortunate luck - is fraught with peril.

The story opens with a young woman who has run away and is looking for a safe place to spend the night and from there our young Marie unexpectedly finds herself under the wing of the lovely Sandra (from The Devil of Kreuzberg fame), who offers support and shelter. The women become close, very close, and then life happens and their worlds spiral into a hell neither saw coming.

There are several tales interwoven throughout the film. Tales of suspicion, jealously, intimidation, power, and deception. All these whispering stories build up together to form a massive tower that points directly at This Is Not Going To End Well.

As I said earlier, this is a dreamy film - not dissimilar from someone recalling a life they wish to forget or told by someone who is trying to recall an intense dream they had the night before. Supporting this dream world is a brilliant, misty and intense score, as well as a striking cinematographic land where realities intermingle with the dangerous mysteries of the heart.

This film creeps, crawls (sometimes on top of you), and then - particularly in the last few minutes - slaps you in the face and walks away. This is not a film for everyone, but if you are fan of art house horror (particularly anything David Lynchian) then I have no doubt you'll find yourself as fully absorbed as I did.

Please take a moment to check out the teaser!


Once again, a round of applause to all who helped make this film possible, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to see it! Best of luck to everyone on their future endeavors!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House (2016)

I have been wanting to talk about I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House for several months but I could not seem to find the words - but I'm going to try to give it shot now.


I've seen this film a couple times already. In the first viewing I was struck by the ambiance (confusing, relatable, cold, warm, uninviting, snug, sad, thrilling) and the characters (confusing, relatable, cold, warm, uninviting, snug, sad, thrilling). I loved it.

However, it took me some time to warm up to the film ... my conducting odd jobs in the background during the show didn't help... but when I did fully tune in, the entire watching experience changed. I wanted more, I wanted answers, I wanted to hug everyone.

In the second viewing I was completely absorbed, so much so that I wanted to touch the story, eat it.

I wanted to eat this film. Caress it. Devour it.

This is a super tactile, sexy film. Every little move is delicate and perfect. The voices and sounds are low, soft, and ghostly. Clothing, lighting, hair, the paint job in entry hallway, the books in the shelf - all shown through the screen canvas as if done by a master painter. Beautiful, simply beautiful. 

Going back quickly to the first viewing, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the clothes. The woman depicted in the poster image, for example, plays a significant role in the film (no surprise there), however her role in the film suggests her time and place is in the early 1800's. Fans of history, such as myself, will quickly note that the clothing style is more appropriate for the mid 1800's. 

This bugged me for a moment. Thinking to myself: how could such an expertly done film make such a mistake? By the second viewing, I realized my blunder. This was no mistake. I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House has no mistakes. 

By the second viewing I realized that I was transported to a world were time and being is intermingled, lost, without a home (outside the house itself). Memories, identity, truth, and linear steps in existence are left to the viewer to decide. This story calls into question what we know about ourselves and how we respond to "The Other Side".  

I found the film as a whole, beautifully heavy despite it's light and airy initial feel. I loved it. I want to eat this angel food cake of a movie.

Not a film for everyone, but certainly a film for fans of slow, slow, slow thrillers. Or as a tour guide at a winery once told me about a part of the brewing process, "...slowly exploding...", which I found absolutely hilarious at the time because it didn't make sense to me, but it applies well (and makes sense to me now) in relation to this film.

The last few minutes are downright terrifying, for many reasons but mostly because the 'big reveal' is so completely opposite of the entire movie experience up until then. It shocked me, it actually frightened me. I ended up rewatching the last few scenes several time because I couldn't believe/understand what had just happened. I loved it.

In short, this is a stellar film and I think it's required viewing for story tellers in all medias. Pairs well with strong coffee or cold, cold water. Angle food cake. Watch with those who know how to appreciate extremely expensive scotch, or watch alone on a dark, late night. 

I saw this movie on Netflix, or use the links under Find It. Watch It. on Horror Habit's side bar to locate where else you can find this original, heart-wrenching, masterful thriller.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Drain (Short Horror Film)

Writer and director, Collin Blair, brought this delectable little morsel of a horror film to my attention recently, much to my delight.


The Drain is a nine minute clip about a lonely man and his talking tub. Folks, I simply love these types of stories. Horror in the elements of the absurd and madness, clever in all shapes and forms, while still packed in a very limited amount of time.  Everyone wins (except for the man talking to his tub...perhaps).

In any case, I wanted to bring this particular short horror film to everyone's attention because it's brilliant AND I thought (if you're looking for more of the same) some might like to make it a dangerous objects short horror film double feature with: Attack of the Killer Sock!

Both dark humor shorts deal with somewhat similar subjects, but I personally found them remarkable in their use of space, actors, cinematography, topic - particularly with the focus on solitude - and narrative twists.

So do yourself a favor and checkout The Drain, and if you're in the mood for more, Attack of the Killer Sock.

Thanks again, Collin and team!



Monday, May 1, 2017

Adieu, Rain City Video

Last week I said goodbye to a beloved local haunt.

Rain City Video has been a video rental store staple in Seattle, WA for nearly 30 years, and I have had the great joy of having their flagship store located just down the street from me.

For 10 years I enjoyed the sometimes hot and humid and sometimes brisk and bright walks down the quiet neighborhood street, then rounding the corner to be faced with Never A Cloudy Day.

I've thoroughly enjoyed visits to a local independent video store ever since Dad brought home our first VHS player in 1986 - and we all gathered around, gazing and gawking at it like it was a rare diamond. The youngest brother figured out how it worked first.


From then on Friday family night visits to the video store in our small South Dakota town became a highlight of the week, for all of us. Naturally, nearly all of us gathered in the Horror section.

Adulthood and a move to the city didn't change my opinion of video stores or my love of visiting one on a weekend night. I could spend an embarrassingly long time in one - even in Blockbuster. Family-owned shops will always be my favorite, however.

Even as technology made it possible for me to stream nearly any film I desired directly from my TV and without the burden of moving a muscle, there is still nothing quiet like walking down the street to the local video store. Being greeted by the quirky film aficionado staff, hearing a random film play in the background, slowly working my way down the isle - shelf by shelf...

I visited Rain City Video for the last time last week. I wandered around it's nearly bare shelves, recalling so many fond memories ...and sighing.

For the last four years I visited this shop every week in October to select Horror Habit's October Challenge random movie picks. I loved everything about this experience. Loved everything. The walk through the falling leaves, and taking a different route as much as possible so I could see all the latest Halloween decorations. The wonderful greetings from the staff when they saw me, "Oh, hello again! Back for more for Horror Habit?"

Of course.

I loved hearing the giggling kids trying to pick out the "scariest film, ever!" No doubt having a sleep over party and wanting to be sure to pick out the best one to keep them up all night.

I loved going over the Staff Pick shelf during October and seeing that all their favorite horror films were also my favorite horror films.

I loved this store. I loved how much nostalgia it conjured in me. I loved just closing my eyes and selecting a film for the October Challenge. I loved how close I got to seeing every horror movie in their selection. I loved my impromptu visits throughout the year and then joining my husband for a drink at the tiny fancy bar across the street, where we would talk about our day and get excited to see the latest movie pick.


I loved absolutely everything about this store and I will miss it terribly.


Not all is lost, however. Rain City is looking to transition:

"Although our store front is going away, with a bit of luck the bulk of our inventory will live on. As you may already know, Rain City Video has over 4 times the number of movies available online at Netflix and Amazon Prime combined! We are working on a plan to move the inventory of Rain City Video to an online website where movies can be viewed on your TV, Tablet, Smartphone or Computer. The name of the venture is Cinefile.tv. Please sign up to at the store to receive information on our Kickstarter campaign when it is complete. If we can’t serve you through our Brick & Mortar store, it would be our pleasure to be your on-line video store. It is a big undertaking for a small company but we think it is worth a shot for many reasons and we hope you will support our efforts!"


Additionally and in the mean time, Seattle is not without its video rental store. There's still Scarecrow Video. Thank god.




Adieu, old friend. I'm very thankful to have had the opportunities I did to visit you as often I could.

Onward, upward.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Red Man (2016)

I was contacted recently to see if I'd be interested in taking a look at Jimmie Gonzalez's full length debut The Red Man, a psychological horror show that intertwines madness with celebrity mayhem.

As the film's website elaborates:

"A celebrity DJ and recovering drug addict, Evan Gough has had enough — the fame, fortune and transparent friends; he is done. Increasingly recurring nightmares from a tragic past are stirring skepticism and suspicion about his life and neighbors at his trendy apartment tower.

Especially unsure about his psychiatrist’s prescribed medication regimen, Evan turns within and embarks on a soul-searching journey through psycho-self-analysis and his own intuition.

Suspecting that his psychiatrist, along with his new apartment neighbor, are possibly involved in a secret society conspiracy and are drugging and killing his fellow celebrity tenants, Evan teams up with Dr. Verde’s intern to find the truth."


I'll be honest with you folks, I had some skepticism about this - mostly because I couldn't quite wrap my head around a secret society that is drugging and killing celebrity tenants. But surprises awaited me ...

I also really really really love this poster. I mean - just look at it. Look at this brilliant work of art. Horror Habit Genius Award to whoever designed this because I seriously can't stop staring at it.


Genius.

This is an ambitious feature. Ambitious in that the story revolves around drugs, madness, nightmares, conspiracy theory's, secret societies, murder, sexual violence - all under the influence of an intense musical score. That's a lot to put together in one film (and for the audience to experience)! Still, I think the ambition paid off.

Cringy, claustrophobic, bizarre, and surreal - this is a film that will make you uncomfortable. You know, like a good horror story should. It's taken me some time to write up a review for this film because it encompasses so many different aspects of horror and in so many ways. For a while there I wasn't even sure where to begin with a review, but I found a portion of the Director's statement that I felt helped express the film and the film watching experience nicely:

"After going through my own “DJ career” meltdown in 2004 I found redemption in an old friend, Cinema, most significantly, horror cinema. Like an addict, I searched for the safest near death experience in the confines of my own home theater. In that, I not only found myself, but the pure beauty and art in filmmaking from the likes of auteur’s Dario Argento, Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick and Alejandro Jodorowsky to name a few. Originally I intended to write, direct and score a modest entry level “slasher film” but the deeper I dove into researching the themes of my story; psychoanalysis, spirituality and pop culture, I couldn’t deny my drive to not only crack a personal code, but the fictional psychological horror mystery that is THE RED MAN....The Red Man is not only a personal film, but I feel a universal story. The awakening of a searching soul striving to know the answers to life’s most mysterious questions. Why am I here? What is my destiny? What’s on the other side of that rainbow? Although personally an optimist, the film sticks to its horror-mystery path, leading our protagonist to his own nefarious fate."

This film questions much of sanity, security, and success - while also exposing the audience to some of our darkest sides to self evolution.

I am not certain this is a film for every horror fan, but if you're a fan of the work of Dario Argento, Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick and Alejandro Jodorowsky then I think you might want to add this film to your To Watch list.

This film is now available world wide for all to watch. Go here to learn more.

A huge thanks again to the team for providing me this opportunity, and best of luck to the success of this film and to everyone's future endeavors.