Tag Archives: Olivia Scott Welch

In Nightmares

The Blue Rose

by Matt Weiner

There’s a deep-rooted, surreal evil lurking at the heart of the idealized, candy-colored world of Blue Velvet that traps all its characters in a web of… no, wait, this is The Blue Rose.

Writer and director George Baron’s first feature film is either a love letter to David Lynch or a pale imitation that draws heavily—heavily—on that director’s themes, mood, tone, plots, imagery and characters. Your mileage may vary depending on your affection for the original source material.

Young LAPD detectives Dalton (Baron) and Lilly (Olivia Scott Welch) take on a gruesome, high-profile murder case set in a dreamy 1950s version of Los Angeles. Like anyone in Hollywood, the two are looking for their big break, one much needed after botching their last case.

This one should be a straightforward whodunnit: painter Sophie Steele (Nikko Austen Smith) has more than enough means and motive in the death of her abusive husband. As the detectives chase down leads and interview less than forthcoming persons of interest, the lines between potential witness and suspect start to blur.

And all of that’s before the pair gets thrown into a Lynchian nightmare of an alternate reality, masterminded by a femme fatale overseeing a vast conspiracy. While this nightmare world often fails to rise above echoes of Lynch, the production design is immaculate for such an ambitious setting. It also goes a long way—along with a number of wonderful off-kilter performances—toward giving the nightmare sequences some actual teeth. (In particular, Viola Odette Harlow channels her best Isabella Rossellini as the nightclub ingenue Catherine.)

Often, though, Baron’s dream world swaps out soul-shaking Lynchian horror for jump scares. The effects are creepy but fleeting, and emblematic of the bigger problems with the story. The Blue Rose might be a fun diversion for diehard Lynch fans. But it also serves as a helpful comparison for those usually put off by the director, to see what a skin-deep send-up looks like without the cosmically unnerving core of the original.

It’s not the worst outing for a feature debut, but Baron should go beyond the sum of his influences if he hopes to equal them in profundity.

Away from Home for the Holidays

The Sacrifice Game

by Hope Madden

The Holdovers by way of Blackcoat’s Daughter, Jenn Wexler’s latest mines the Manson-esque horror of the American Seventies for a new holiday favorite.

The Sacrifice Game opens on December 22, 1971. A homey suburban couple has just wished its last Christmas party guests a good night when the band of four who’ve been watching from the  yard come a knocking.

And that’s the thing about the Seventies. People still answered the door to strangers.

Not every scene in Wexler’s era-appropriate gem sings quite like the opener, but genre fans will be hooked, and rightly so.

Nearby, in the Blackvale School for Girls, news of the murder spree has kids happier than ever to go home for holiday break. Except poor Samantha (Madison Baines) and weird Clara (Georgia Acken). Which means their teacher, Rose (Wexler favorite Chloë Levine) has to stay behind, too.

Just as they sit down for Christmas Eve dinner, a knock at the door.

Naturally, Rose answers.

Part of the reason The Sacrifice Game works as well as it does is the casting of the cultish murderers, each with a fully formed character and each somehow reminiscent of the kind of Satanic hippie villains that once gloriously populated trash horror.

Olivia Scott Welch convinces as former Blackvale girl turned bad while Derek Johns delivers a sympathetic turn as the misguided veteran. Laurent Pitre’s self-pity is spot on, but Mena Massoud’s narcissistic charm outshines them all.

There’s enough grisly material for the true horror moniker, but nothing feels gratuitous. Each scene serves a purpose, and all dialog allows characters to unveil something of themselves. The youngers in the cast are not quite as strong as the rest of the ensemble, but their relative weakness is not crippling.

The film looks fantastic, and though the storyline itself is clearly familiar, Wexler’s script, co-written with Sean Redlitz, feels consistently clever.

It’s a rare year to be gifted with multiple enjoyable holiday horrors, but 2023 already boasts Thanksgiving and It’s a Wonderful Knife. The Sacrifice Game more than merits a seat at the same table.