Thursday, May 16, 2013

DVD Review: Mold!

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2013
Images from the Internet
Directed by Neil Meschino            
Wild Eye Releasing                        
86 minutes, 2012 / 2013

With the exception of some opening and closing visuals in an Arizona desert shot on grainy 16mm, this was filmed in HD at a factory out in Ronkonkoma, Long Island. That’s one point in Mold!’s favor , already.

Taking place in 1984, during the Little Ronnie Reagan “Say No to Drugs” push, and most likely inspired by the U.S. Government’s failed use of the herbicide poison paraquat on pot plants south of the border, the flick’s action takes place in a secret lab sponsored by the War Department. Four scientists are giving a demonstration to their sponsors, namely a General and his soldier aide, and an obnoxious Senator and his scardy-pants aide on the possibility of using their mold to take out the South American coca fields, and possibly be used as a biological weapon of war.

Of course, to no surprise or there would be no film, the highly fast-growing spores soon take over the joint, and it’s a matter of how to escape, if that’s possible of all. This leads me to my first question. If the mold (or mould to you Canadians who suck up to the Brits…I kid because I love...) is that highly dangerous to both plants and to humans, whether inhaled or simply dabbed, how could it possibly be used in the field (both figuratively and literally) without causing worldwide devastation. This is especially true in this case because when it comes to the antidote…well, I won’t give it away.

Ardis Campbell
What we are presented with is essentially a pissing contest between, well, nearly everyone. Well, the men, anyway. There is a single female among the group, Dr. Julia Young, and of course she is the closest to a voice of reason, or liberal thinking at least. She’s upset that her research is being coopted by the military, but is powerless to do anything about it. She is also the only likeable character of the bunch, which makes it so much easier as one by one they fall victim to the rapacious spores. Played by unconventional beauty Ardis Campbell, she is justifiably intense and incensed by all the masculinist stupidity around her (though it’s never verbally phrased that way).
All the men are macho idiots, and while I have no idea if that’s what director Neil Meschino had in mind, it’s blatant that it is the result. Even the male lead, Dr. Bolton (Lawrence George) is an arrogant prick, though I think they may have been going more for the Alan Alda / Hawkeye Pierce snarky than the self-righteous (and jealous) guy you really wanna punch in the nose. But at least I think his moustache is real.

Unlike Borat look-alike Chris Gentile (playing Dr. David Hardy), who is Boston’s foil, and whose moustache looks like horse hair stuck on with a glue gun (my apologies if it is real [the director has informed that two of the moustaches in the film were real, and two fake, with this being one of the latter]). Hardy is the Dr. Zachary Smith (Lost in Space) in the picture, always trying to look good to others when he’s not, mixed with a bit of buffoonery. I supposed he’s intended as the comic relief, but everyone in the cast shines in that way at one time or another.

When describing this film, one constant theme is that it is a throwback to the ‘80s style of direct-to-video films that we all enjoyed, all while pointing a finger and laughing at it. Well, that is quite accurate. It certainly is one of the high points (and there are actually many). This is enhanced by the over-emoting of the characters (which definitely helps in the humor department), in what I call the Anne Rice syndrome (every sentence sounds like it should have multiple exclamation points after it, no matter what the action level at the moment). Part of what gives this the VHS feel is the lack of CGI. Rather they rely on appliances and make-up, which I’ve always preferred anyway. Sure, sometimes it means a character grasping at a rubber mask (such as when one character’s insides are sucked dry), for example. Hey, I say this is one of the wonders of low budget horror (or sci-fi, depending upon who you talk to about it), and part of what attracts me to it.

That and the gooey gore that picks up steam as we delve into the story, until it’s solid green (mold!) and red (blood…duh). Sure, some of the liquefied mold looks like it was left over from some Nickelodeon game show, but so what. The gore certainly makes up for the lack of gratuitously exposed female body parts (though you do see a real part of a green peen).  

All in all, there are moments that are clich├ęd, such as the [*rec] / The Crazies don’t-let-anyone-out motif, and the overarching white-haired comic bookish supervillain Edison Carter (David Pringle) – named after the Max Headroom character – who feels like he could have been out of the X Files, but there is a lot to also recommend here. For example, there are many different ways the mold effects people, and that not all the exposed guts have to do with the titular, microscopic nasties.

Other than some wonderful Wild Eye Trailers, the two extras are a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary by the director and set designer. Both have interesting moments mixed in with mundanity, but if you’re like me, you’ll learn stuff in the good bits.

This is obviously a labor of love, and everyone in the cast really seems to be having fun (mostly, when not getting green shit pouring into their faces), which comes out in the tone of the film. More camp than serious, as a ‘80s-style film should be, it is mostly a joy ride that is worth taking.   


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Short Film Review: 15-05-08

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2013
Images from the Internet

Directed by Nikki Chatwin
16:51 minutes, 2013
Sick Bunny Pictures

Using a found-footage framework, this spankin’ new British short is shot entirely in night-vision mode, as we watch a couple of couples hanging out and looking out the window at a house across the street that is supposed to be empty, but apparently lights occasionally turn on and off. They’re half-jokingly hoping it’s something mysterious, perhaps a serial killer.

As with most found footage films, the first section is expository, as we follow the four around an upstairs room, and they muse while filming each other and the shadowy house of question. They muse on the happenings, giving more of an impression that we’re watching a Paranormal homage.

This part is necessary, but the action start to really pick up a bit after a while, as one of them goes down the stairs to investigate a noise. The night vision is particularly effective here, because you can only see part of what is in front of the camera. With the creaking floors and the technical shorting in and out of the image, it is effectively tense and unnerving. I definitely jumped a couple of times.

Where the story is going to end up after 10 minutes in is not any major surprise, but getting there is what keeps your attention.  My only real complaint is that the film is dark, making it hard to see on the computer screen. Sure, found footage has been done, and then done, and then done again, but because this is such a short film, it keeps it from getting tiresome, and works well. I’m not sure why they don’t just turn the lights on in their own house, but pfffft, whatever, since this is a nice rollercoaster ride.

Plus, the film is free on YouTube, and linked below:  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

DVD Review: The Holy Sound

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2013
Images from the Internet                            

The Holy Sound
Directed and written by Nicholas Wagner (plus Producer, Editor, Composer, Production Manager, Location Manager, and Script Supervisor)                                  
50 minutes, 2013

As this relatively short 50-minute film starts we meet three… friends? These high school students – and, thankfully, they look to be close to that – are loners and outcasts, whose orbits circle around each other as they are self-absorbed in their own troubled lives, rather than connecting with each other, as are nearly all the roles.

A very different looking Ian Carmona

The central character is Rory, played by the tall and lanky, bedroom-eyed Ian Carmona, with the right touch of snark and hurt, as he uses his distance and verbal claws to protect himself from the fact that his dad died substance dependent. He tries to both find someone to care about him, while at the same time fearing that very intimacy.

His best friend is the shy and nerdy Sam, who is kind of pathetic, while trying to fight his own loneliness through religion. He is the most likeable of the characters, touching a nerve of the viewer. The ironically named Christian Adams tends to play him appropriately looking a bit like a deer in the headlights, as he both tries to stand up for himself, and fighting the desire to close himself off to his own thoughts and Jesus. He also has a crush on Rory’s ex-girlfriend (and sometimes sex buddy), Parker.

Elyse Dufour
Parker, played by the lovely (Maxim mag apparently agrees) redheaded Elyse Dufour, is also a contradiction. She uses sex as both a weapon and a way to temporarily achieve moments of intimacy. Living with her overprotective (via fear) dad and a having a mom who ran away, she apparently cannot think beyond the moment without feeling overwhelmed.

Additional characters include Rory’s foil /arch-enemy and Parker’s sometimes love interest is Liam (Jack McGale, who seems very comfortable in his role; he does a great job for that character), a terrible wannabe rocker; Rory’s school newspaper advisor and somewhat mentor, Art (Bart Debicki), who would be fired in real life if he was caught talking as he does to a student; and a veeeeery cringe-worthy pastor (Tom Myers, a stand-up comic who seems to be making a career out of pastors and part of a group of G-Men).

The plotline is simple at its complex personality core: Rory stumbles upon a cave (that he found through a dream, apparently). Inside is an obelisk that omits a strange and terrible wailing noise (perhaps it’s playing Metal Machine Music…no, I kid) that seems to have an effect on those who hear it, similar to an exultant drug. But as with many mind-altering substances, even sound apparently, the need increases and in this case there is, well, chasing the dragon’s roar, figuratively speaking.

As Rory and Parker slowly succumb to the enrapturing wail, it starts to quiet down; much as with Rory’s dream, they seem to know what the next step is to keep it going, and they are willingly advocates. In fact, Parker can be seen as an Eve figure in the story. One may be able to interpret this as patriarchally masculinist (not sure if this is redundant) envisioning, but I understand it to the story, as part of Parker’s personality crisis (“If frustration and heartache is what you got,” as the New York Dolls may have said in this context).

Much of the acting is on the subdued side without being wooden, as opposed to most indies where the performances are too huge for the story. Considering many of the actors have this listed as their only credit, it is remarkable.

The story is strong, and while there isn’t a whole lot of character development other than expository comments, the motivation for actions is understandable, so kudos. My two minor notes is that some of the image are a bit dark (well, the obelisk is in a cave, after all), and there is a bit too many close-ups, making it hard to tell what is happening at the moment. These are common rookie mistakes, but as a whole, it’s easy to see that director Wagner has a lot of potential, and I look forward to seeing more of his output.

Meanwhile, this film will probably be showing up at film festivals, so I recommend checking it out. I get the feeling that it may win a few awards, and you can say you saw Wagner’s work back-when.

The film can seen for free at Enjoy!