Tag Archives: Jennifer Reeder

Cue and A


by George Wolf

You ready for scary?

1994 was almost thirty years ago. Three zero.

So the fourth film in the V/H/S series places the found footage premise in a decidedly nostalgic vibe, with plenty of videotape filter effects, “taped over” moments and no worries about smartphones crashing the internal logic.

Five filmmakers deliver separate short film visions, as four segments are bookended by an anchor meant to tie them all together as a narrative whole.

Jennifer Reeder handles the wraparound, entitled “Holy Hell,” which follows a SWAT team invading a compound while members shout about drugs and search warrants. They find much more than drugs in a frantic, satisfactory opening that suffers from some uneven production values and pedestrian acting.

Chloe Okuno’s “Storm Drain” finds an Ohio TV reporter and her cameraman investigating the local legend of the Rat Man. Venturing a little too deep in the sewers, what they find sheds a nicely subtle light on the plight of the homeless before the creature effects come calling.

Okuno’s camerawork and dark tunnel framing is effective, and Anna Hopkins delivers a fine performance as the reporter, but like all the segments here, “Storm Drain” feels like a great idea that’s never fully realized.

That is the most true with Simon Barret’s “Empty Wake.” Barrett, writer of You’re Next, The Guest and Blair Witch, gives us a funeral home employee waiting out a wake that no one is attending. As a storm escalates outside, noises from inside the casket suggest a soul may not be ready to move on.

Barrett lays out some nicely simplistic stakes, and plays a fine game of peek-a-boo with the inside lights going off and on, but the payoff ultimately lands as a bit familiar and anti-climactic.

The opening shot of Timo Tjahjanto’s “The Subject” grabs your attention immediately, bringing you into the horrific laboratory of a mad scientist conducting human experiments. What starts as a fun and gore-filled homage to both Frankenstein and Tetsuo descends into an overlong, first-person shooter game that squanders much of its early potential.

“Terror,” the final segment from Ryan Prows, brings horror comedy to the party with a look at good ‘ol boy militia members aiming to overthrow the government. They’re more than well-armed, they’re fostering a supernatural entity. And you can guess how well that goes.

Prows never completely sets the tone, as the few truly comedic moments crash into an overall atmosphere that plays it too straight for satire.

Reeder closes it all out with the conclusion of “Holy Hell,” bringing a surprise to one of the SWAT teamers and an overly tidy reinforcement of the videotape theme.

V/H/S/94 presents a host of promising ideas and several solid moments. A step up from Viral for sure, but with too many false starts for a rewind-able experience.

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way

I Like Tomorrow

by Hope Madden

Need one more reason to be thrilled that the Wexner Center for the Arts is reopening to the public? A new collaboration between filmmakers Jennifer Reeder and Nancy Andrews—the delightfully spacy I Like Tomorrow—plays through July and August in The Box.

The 11-minute short showcases Andrews’s animation prowess, as well as the versatility of performer Michole Briana White, who delivers three roles in one.

White plays Captain Regina Lamb, a lone astronaut who’s been in orbit a while. Maybe a really long while. And at the moment, she’s working through some relationship issues. With herself. Specifically, she’s navigating her commitments to her past self (White again, as Reggie) and her future self (White as Rae).

The I Like Tomorrow aesthetic is MST3K meets Bowie, and who wouldn’t be wild about that? White’s performance is lonesome, slyly insightful and very funny. She makes excellent use of Reeder and Andrews’s nimble dialog, using space exploration to mirror relationship communication, then focusing everything inward.

Captain Lamb’s journey toward appreciating who she is today, this moment, is as charming as it can be. White gives each of the three versions of Lamb age-appropriate personalities and the interplay among the three is priceless.

As layered and insightful as the film is, Andrews and Reeder never abandon their playful attitude. In fact, the comic in this cosmic episode only increases as Captain Lamb’s journey wears on.

Musical interludes and animation, set design and costumes all work together to create a mood that’s simultaneously lonely, hopeful, and weirdly funny.

Go Beavers!

Knives and Skin

by Hope Madden

Falling somewhere between David Lynch and Anna Biller in the under-charted area where the boldly surreal meets the colorfully feminist, writer/director Jennifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin offers a hypnotic look at Midwestern high school life.

When Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley) goes missing, carefully erected false fronts start crumbling all over town. Cheerleaders take a harder look at football players. Football players cry in their Mustangs. Goth girls fondle pink dresses. Pregnant waitresses bleed at the kitchen sink.

And everyone sings impossibly appropriate Eighties alt hits acapella. Even the dead.

Knives and Skin’s pulpy noir package lets Reeder explore what it means to navigate the world as a female. As tempting as it is to pigeonhole the film as Lynchian, Reeder’s metaphors, while fluid and eccentric, are far more pointed than anything you’ll find in Twin Peaks.

She looks at relationships between mothers and daughters, as daughters toe the line between acceptable and unacceptable levels of conformity and mothers bear the toll exacted by years of fitting in.

Reeder blurs that line between popularity and ostracism, characters finding common ground as they address the question: Are you a whore or a tease?

The ire is not one-dimensional. Though toxic masculinity requires a price, the males in Middle River, even the worst among them, are as sympathetic and as damaged by expectations as anybody.

Reeder’s peculiar dialogue finds its ideal voice with Grace Smith as Joanna Kitzmiller, a jaded feminist and budding entrepreneur. Likewise, Marika Englehardt and Tim Hopper bring extraordinary nuance and sympathy to what could have been campy characters.

This cockeyed lens for the middle American pressure cooker that is high school suggests exhilarating possibilities, but does so with a melancholy absurdity that recognizes the impossibility of it all.

And in the end, all the Middle River Beavers stare longingly at the highway that leads out of town.