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Do Not Disturb

by Daniel Baldwin

It’s a tale as old as time. Sweethearts get married to fix their very rocky relationship and – surprise, surprise – it makes things worse! Chloe and Jack are longtime lovers turned newlyweds taking a honeymoon trip to Miami, hoping that it might bring them closer together. When a chance encounter with a strange drug mule leaves them with a stash of designer drugs, they hope that tripping together might help them achieve that.

Spoiler alert: Things get even worse!

Sometimes couples want to tear each other apart. And other times, they want to – as the kids today say – “eat each other up, no crumbs left.” But in the case of Chloe and Jack, it’s both! You see, while the cocaine-by-way-of-peyote high that they’re on might initially make them more open to physical and emotional intimacy, their moments of sobriety between trips drive them further apart. The solution? Do more drugs. Problem there is that in addition to a trippy high, the substance has this bad habit of making one crave human flesh.

Cannibalism CAN be an interesting metaphorical delivery system for a romance. After all, when we’re in love, we want to be a part of one another as much as possible. What is more a part of you than what is inside you? Throw in cannibalism as an additional flavoring and you’ve taken the allegory to its most extreme conclusion. This is illustrated nowhere better than in Luca Guadagnino’s masterful road trip cannibal romcom, Bones and All.

While John Ainslie’s Do Not Disturb does not reach those same heights, there’s a lot to like here. Kimberly Laferriere and Rogan Christopher turn in good work as Chloe and Jack, although they’re more at home during the drug trips and horror elements than they are during the grounded dramatic beats. This is largely the fault of the writing not quite being up to snuff in those sequences, but the highs of the more genre-oriented fare go a long way toward balancing that out.

Do Not Disturb is slow to start, but once it gets going, it earns that build up and is at its best when it’s freaking out, man. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned Bones and All or even the psychedelic ferocity of Joe Begos’ Bliss, you’re bound to find something to like here. Just be sure not to snack on your loved ones while you watch it!

Smells Fishy

The Lure

by Hope Madden

Who’s up for Polish vampire mermaids?

You do not have to ask me twice!

Gold (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek) are not your typical movie mermaids, and director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s feature debut The Lure is not your typical – well, anything.

The musical fable offers a vivid mix of fairy tale, socio-political commentary, whimsy and throat tearing. But it’s not as bizarre a combination as you might think.

The Little Mermaid is actually a heartbreaking story. Not Disney’s crustacean song-stravaganza, but Hans Christian Andersen’s bleak meditation on the catastrophic consequences of sacrificing who you are for someone undeserving. It’s a cautionary tale for young girls, really, and Lure writer Robert Bolesto remains true to that theme.

The biggest differences between Bolesto’s story and Andersen’s: 80s synth pop, striptease and teeth. At its heart, The Lure is a story about Poland – its self-determination and identity in the Eighties. That’s where Andersen’s work is so poignantly fitting.

Not that you’ll spend too much time in the history books. The context serves the purpose of grounding the wildly imaginative mix of seediness, hope and danger on display.

The film opens with a trio of musicians enjoying themselves on a Warsaw waterfront before hearing a siren song. Cut to screaming, and then to a deeply bizarre nightclub where a kind of Eastern European burlesque show welcomes its two newest performers – mermaids.

From there we explore a changing Warsaw from the perspective of a very fringe family. Mystical creatures play nice – and sometimes not-so-nice – among the city’s thrill seekers and the finned sisters need to decide whether they want to belong or whether they are who they are.

But that’s really too tidy a description for a film that wriggles in disorienting directions every few minutes. There are slyly feminist observations made about objectification, but that’s never the point. Expect other lurid side turns, fetishistic explorations, dissonant musical numbers and a host of other vaguely defined sea creatures to color the fable.

In fact, Olszanska’s film is strongest when it veers away from its fairy tale roots and indulges in its own weirdness.

Whatever its faults, The Lure will hook you immediately and change the way you think of mermaids.



by George Wolf

I like to imagine the pitch meeting went something like this:

Picture it: a desperate man, trapped in a remote roadside rest stop with an ancient monster named Ghat.

Who’s playing the monster?

The voice of J.K. Simmons.

Go on.

So our man’s in one stall, with the monster in the other, offering commands from behind a glory hole.

What’s it called?


You’re damn right it is, and Shudder wants it for August.

Well now it’s here, and while the downsized cast and location recalls a host of pandemic-era productions, director Rebekah McKendry makes the most of what she’s given. Glorious proceeds at an intriguing pace that never feels sluggish, showing us just enough of the tentacled bathroom beast to strike an effective balance between bloody Lovecraftian spectacle and doomsday humor.

True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten is perfect as a sad, pantsless bathroom sack named Wes. Screenwriters Joshua Hull, Todd Rigney and David Ian McKendry give Wes a wisecrack-fueled arc that shifts from wallowing in the pain of losing Brenda (Sylvia Grace Crim) to bargaining with Ghat for the fate of humanity (and Simmons, of course, is priceless). While the character is never quite compelling, Kwanten settles in a notch of two below Ryan Reynolds on smartass scale, making it easy have an interest in where Wes’s trippy toilet trip ends up.

And you may catch on early to that destination, but the real test of how Glorious will hit you is how much love you have for Lovecraft. Even if it’s minimal, this is a bathroom break full of squalid, forgettable fun.

Oh, Hell


by Hope Madden

Short films rarely get their due, and getting an audience is rarer still. Any opportunity to sit down with a set of shorts that made a splash in the festival circuit is an opportunity worth taking. If arterial spray and laughter are your thing, Hellarious is a chance worth taking.

The compilation contains seven short films, each a horror comedy. There’s no framing device or theme, simply a collection of sometimes bawdy, once in a long while sweet, mostly viscous horror. There are a lot of fluids here.

Like an automatic door to hell, James Feeney’s Killer Kart opens things. His creeping camera sets a fun tone for an absurd “ordinary item” monster movie (a la Rubber). An inspired score by Daniel Hildreth, Christine Rodriguez and Ray Bouchard matches the mayhem nicely.

Robert Boocheck’s charming Horrific—a tale of mutant varmints, hula hoop porn and besotted tidy whities—lands laughs thanks to Mike Nelson’s semi-heroic central performance. Likewise the Deathgasm-esque Death Metal offers a highly enjoyable and sometimes morally questionable bloodbath with the most delightful practical effects.

A sweet authenticity drives Bitten, Sarah K. Reimers’s romantic, dog-loving upending of the werewolf tale. (Who’s a good boy? Iggy is! Iggy’s a good boy!) If you can take your eyes off that adorable dog, you’ll notice two tenderly funny performances by Francine Torres and Michael Curran.

Director Jason Tostevin, who also compiled the films, helms two of the shorts in the program, both co-written with Randall Greenland. ‘Til Death offers a post-mortem comeuppance tale boasting several strong performances. Born Again, though, is one of the compilation’s two highest points.

Six and a half minutes with the worst Satanists ever exposes you to a really beautifully filmed subversion of expectations. Slyly comical performances top to bottom entertain, but Greenland is a laugh riot in a starring role.

The collection’s second high peak comes thanks to Clarissa Jacobson and J.M. Logan’s sloppy concoction, Lunch Ladies. This is a delirious fantasy about underdogs rising to the challenge and making their dreams come true—becoming personal chefs to “the Depper,” Johnny Depp. Donna Pieroni and Mary Manofsky deliver consistent laughs in a film that almost makes a person want to love Johnny Depp again.

Variety, laughs, mayhem, blood spatter, romance, cheerleader pot pie—Hellarious is a tasty treat of bite sized horror.

To All Who Enter


by Hope Madden

What is it that haunts us, really?

Horror has a blossoming subgenre that’s particularly spooked by that inescapable curse of heredity. The metaphorical horror of facing what your family has to hand down to you whether you want it or not fueled Relic, Hereditary, The Dark and the Wicked, and now, Matthew Goodhue’s family horror, Woe.

It’s been a year since his father died, but Charlie (Adam Halferty) still hasn’t seemed to put it behind him. He toils on his dad’s old house but doesn’t ever make any real progress. Same with the backyard. Same with everything. He barely evens speaks to his family anymore, even though his sister Betty (Jessie Rabideau) is about to get married.

Charlie’s not just grieving. There’s something really weird happening to him in that house, and it colors his perceptions of everyone and everything else. Mysterious phone calls and a sketchy meeting out in the woods might set things straight.

Wait a minute, when has that ever helped anything?

Goodhue’s script avoids easy answers or simple metaphors. He evokes an eerie atmosphere, one that seems to envelop Charlie and threatens to take in Betty, but something that everyone else appears to be immune to. That’s especially true of Betty’s well-meaning doofus of a fiancé, Benjamin (Ryan Kattner, as an endearing as any could possibly be).

The three performances sell the story, the Twilight Zone weirdness, and the human pathos that underly everything. Woe is a slow burn, rushing nothing but punctuating its fog of depression and sorrow with bursts of action and brief, welcome splashes of humor.

Video Nasty


by Hope Madden

Catch catch a horror taxi

I fell in love with my video nasty

            –The Damned

Damned, indeed.

Stern, driven Enid (Niamh Algar) takes her responsibilities seriously. Unfortunately for her, they come at a high price. Enid is a film censor in the most punishing time and place for such an endeavor: Thatcher’s England. It’s 1985, an era when controversial films hoping to make their way to screens big and small found themselves more butchered than their characters.

Co-writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond takes inspiration from this notion in her feature debut, Censor—an immersive era-specific horror. It is especially immersive for Enid.

She spends long hours deliberating on exactly where the line is between danger and acceptability: rewinding, examining frame by frame, if necessary, regardless of the nonchalance and casual derision of her co-workers. Enid is convinced it is her duty to protect people from these images.

As she herself drowns in repeated viewings of the most violent and depraved material, you have to wonder whether she might be better off protecting herself.

Bailey-Bond has other questions in mind, like why is it that Enid is so preoccupied with this job, how might it feed her own darkness, and what happens when her worlds blend together?

Censor is a descent into madness film—nothing new in the genre. And moments of Censor can’t help but call to mind fellow Brit Peter Stickland’s 2012 treasure Berberian Sound Studio. But Bailey-Bond and co-writer Anthony Fletcher evoke such a timestamp with this film, not just in the look and style, but with the social preoccupation.

As coincidences pile up – a definitive family decision, a horror movie-style murder spree, a film that hits too close to home — Enid seems to suspect that her real motive has been to censor her own thinking.

When she stops doing that, look out.

Algar’s prim and sympathetic, deliberate and brittle. It’s clear from the opening frame that Enid will break. But between Algar’s skill and Bailey-Bond’s cinematic vision, the journey toward that break is a wild ride.

Unchained Melody


by Hope Madden

The room is dark, decrepit. A wild-eyed woman with a bloody nose holds a toy out in front of her like a demon slayer holds a crucifix. The toy – what is it, a rabbit? A jackalope? – beats a creepy little drum. Faster. Slower. Hotter. Colder.

This is how writer/director Damian Mc Carthy opens Caveat and I am in.

The woman is Olga (Leila Sykes), and we’ll get back to her in a bit, but first, we’re part of a conversation between the hush-voiced Barrett (Ben Caplan) and the foggy Isaac (Jonathan French). What can we tell from the conversation? They seem to know each other, Isaac’s had some kind of an accident, Barrett needs a favor.

The favor involves Olga, that house, and a long stretch of tightly fastened, heavyweight chain.

Dude, how good is Mc Carthy at this?

An expertly woven tapestry of ambiguity, lies and misunderstanding sink the story into a fog of mystery that never lets up. Isaac’s memory can’t be trusted, but he seems like a good guy. He looks like a good guy. Surely, he is a good guy! He’s just not making good decisions right now.

French shoulders the tale, and you hate to compare anything to Guy Pearce in Memento because who can stand up to that? No one, but still, Mc Carthy and French draw on that same type of damaged innocence and unreliable narration to stretch out the mystery.

Meanwhile, the filmmaker unveils a real knack for nightmarish visuals, images that effortlessly conjure primal fears and subconscious revulsion.

Caveat is not without flaws. Once or twice (when possibly channeling Mario Bava) Mc Carthy dips into camp unintentionally. OK, twice. These moments feel out of place in the unnerving atmosphere he’s created, which makes them stand out all the more. But it’s hardly enough to sink the film.

Mc Carthy does a lot with very little, as there are very few locations and a total of three cast members—all stellar. You won’t miss the budget. Mc Carthy casts a spook house spell, rattling chains and all, and tells a pithy little survival story while he’s at it.  

Or Did the Case Solve Us?


by Hope Madden

It’s been five years since we’ve had a new episode in the Saw series.

I know! You thought it was longer, right? That’s because the last iteration, 2017’s Jigsaw, was so lackluster and forgettable that you forgot it.

Well, what if they go in a new direction? (Not really, but at least there are name actors.)

What if they bring in filmmakers from the series heyday? Not James Wan and Leigh Whannell. I mean, they have bigger fish to fry. But Darren Lynn Bousman, the guy who directed Saws 2, 3 & 4, is on board. Along with the scribes who penned Jigsaw, Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger.

To summarize, the guys who wrote the worst episode in the Saw franchise have returned with a middling director to take a borderline novel direction for the 9th chapter.

But Chris Rock!

He’s not enough. Neither is Samuel L. Jackson.

We open, as we must, on the first victim. We wander with him into what he doesn’t realize—although we surely do, unless you are very new to this franchise—is a trap, and one that will not end well.

So far so good, to be honest. If this is the kind of horror you enjoy and you aren’t sick beyond words of it just yet, the opening gag is serviceable.

Then we cut to Det. Zeke Banks (Rock), undercover and getting off a couple funny lines concerning the Forrest Gump universe. Nice. But don’t get comfortable because within minutes we’re dropped into Zeke’s precinct, where the coppiest of all the cops vie for most obviously borrowed cop cliché.

Undercover without backup?! You’re off the rails!

Do not team me with a rookie. You know I work alone!

You’re too close!

And so many more sentences articulated with need of an exclamation point. Zeke is, indeed, teamed with a rookie (Max Minghella), the only cop in the precinct who doesn’t hate him for what he did years ago…

Sam Jackson’s kind of fun, though. And it’s hard not to hope that the excruciating opening act exposition and cop grandstanding is all a way to quickly build the world in which these cleverly planned, torturous games are played.

It is not. It is the whole movie. And it isn’t clever, it isn’t fun, it isn’t gory, it isn’t scary.

It isn’t necessary.

South African Mayhem

Fried Barry

by Hope Madden

So, Fried Barry then.

Four years ago, South African writer/director Ryan Kruger made the 28th short film of his young career, a quick and experimental one-man meth attack starring Gary Green called Fried Barry. On the merits of Kruger’s vision for harrowing realism underlying a scifi vibe, as well as the startling central figure (Green is quite something to gaze upon), the short film made a big impact.

It’s also a single scene of a profound reaction to a drug. Not a lot to build on, and yet that’s just what Kruger does in his feature of the same name, streaming this week on Shudder.

Green returns as a Cape Town low life whose latest high is complicated due to an alien abduction.

Or is he just really, really, really high?

Kruger maintains an experimental feel, although his feature takes on more of a traditional cinematic structure. This primarily consists of Green—looking as disheveled, lean and imposing as ever—wandering wide-eyed and silent through Cape Town. Oh, the adventures he finds!

Most of them involve different women who are curiously interested in having sex with this obvious junkie. He must just smell so rank! Suspend disbelief. The movie is nuts.

It’s not entirely unique, though, as it continuously calls to mind Rolf de Heer’s notorious 1993 film Bad Boy Bubby—another Huck Finn style adventure about a man-child and the curiosities he stumbles into.

And to be honest, de Veer’s film is far more of a mind f*ck.

Fried Barry also conjures Terry Gilliam and Panos Cosmatos (top-notch purveyors of drug-fueled mayhem), and maybe even an especially high-octane Lynch. Which is to say, the film offers insanity to spare. Kruger’s episodic fever dream blends frenetic editing and a charged soundtrack into something harsher and harder than a psychedelic trip, but the film lives and dies with Green.

It isn’t as if the actor performs alone. He stumbles into and upon a slew of wild, weird and sometimes insane (literally) characters. But it’s Green you cannot take your eyes off of.

Dude is fried.

Thirst Like a Gang of Devils

Boys from County Hell

by Hope Madden

Lend me ten pounds and I’ll buy you a drink.

That’s Eugene’s (Jack Rowan) line. He’s done working for his Dad (Nigel O ‘Neill), the meanest bastard ever to run a construction crew. Eugene’s happy to waste his youth drinking with his mates in The Stoker and ushering naive tourists to that pile of stones they come out to see – not that there’s really a vampire under there. Certainly not the one, true vampire that inspired Bram Stoker in the first place.

Right! So, many pints and backhoes and buddies later we find out whether ol’ Abhartach under those stones is a myth or not.

As writer/director Chris Baugh adapts his 2013 short into a fun, effective monster flick, he begins by tossing out vampire tradition. Ireland’s own Bram Stoker had written a piece of fiction, after all, and this is reality. The new mythology is a little muddier and more monstrous than Dracula, but never less than fun.

Baugh taps into the same kind of smalltown boredom that situates the nation’s most memorable monster movies, from Grabbers to Rawhead Rex. He does a lot with a small budget, suggesting the monster more than showing it until the final act, but there’s plenty of blood to make up for the subtlety.

A couple of veterans (O’Neill, as well as John Lynch, also on Shudder right now in Christopher Smith’s The Banishing) give the cast a strong backbone. A solid group of young ne’er do wells (Louise Harland, Michael Hough and Fra Fee joining Rowan) create a lived-in camaraderie. The charm and familiarity among the ensemble are undoubtedly the reasons the film works as well as it does.

Boys from County Hell is a horror/comedy, but it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny. It’s actually a good deal more tender in its own endearingly bull-headed way, with a narrative more focused on the father/son dynamic than on coming of age or bloodshed. Baugh’s deep sense of these characters and this terrain benefit the relationship building and give the film a nice throughline.

This is a “what are you going to do with your life” film, and for some people, it takes a good, old-fashioned bloodletting to help them make up their minds.