Tag Archives: Richard Brake

Drone On

Vesper

by Rachel Willis

Imagine a world in which most of the plant and animal life has been obliterated, and what’s left is deadly and inedible. In this world, Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper have crafted Vesper. The filmmakers share writing credits with Brian Clark, and together, they plunge us into an unforgiving dystopia.

Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) is an adolescent girl who primarily fends for herself while also caring for her invalid father (Richard Brake). Her father, however, has placed his consciousness inside a volleyball-shaped drone. The drone’s sloppily painted face and dialogue ensure that Vesper never truly seems alone. She doesn’t always get along with her drone father, but as the story unfolds, we get a sense of their strong connection.

Saying too much more would take away from the discovery that comes as each moment unfolds on screen. A lot of this world is left to the imagination and flashes hint at sinister elements in every nook and cranny. Though Vesper and her father live alone, there are others who inhabit this world, and their motives and actions vary from deadly to seemingly benign.  

The world-building in the film is mostly solid, just a few things requiring a strong suspension of disbelief. Allow yourself to be sucked in and the minor inconsistencies are easily overlooked. The science fiction elements bend closer to fiction than science, but it will only annoy the very skeptical.

This is because it’s hard to see past the powerful performances, particularly from Chapman. Though she shares the screen with numerous dynamic actors – and her very pessimistic drone – she commands every scene she’s in, which is nearly every one. She’s capable of carrying the film on her shoulders, and the movie is better for it.

Though sometimes reminiscent of films like Annihilation, Vesper manages to offer up a new vision of the future – one that’s terrifying, bleak, but sometimes hopeful. It’s a strong film with solid performances and a uniquely prescient take on our current reality.

Scare BnB

Barbarian

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

When you see as many movies as we do – especially horror flicks – taking us places we did not see coming is much appreciated.

Barbarian certainly does that, mashing horror, dark comedy and social commentary to wild and mostly satisfying ends.

Tess (TV vet Georgina Campbell) is in Detroit for a job interview. She books an Airbnb in an unsavory part of town, only to find out Kieth (Bill Skarsgård) booked the same place on HomeAway. What to do?

They talk, flirt a little, and Tess agrees to stay in the bedroom while Keith takes the couch. They’ll sort it out in the morning.

In his feature debut, writer/director Zach Cregger (The Whitest Kids You Know) lulls us with a competent but familiar hook. What’s really going on? Can Keith be trusted? Creeger throws in some creepy camera angles, terrific lighting maneuvers and jump scare fake-outs to build tension.

Then Tess makes her way down to the basement. Yikes.

But even after Tess’s startling discoveries, we’re still feeling like we have a grip on what’s ahead.

And then Cregger takes us to Hollywood, where producer AJ Gilbride (Justin Long) is sacked from his latest project due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Um…what?

AJ’s story suddenly crosses paths with a tale set in the same house in 1982, this one starring Richard Brake. While that’s often great news for viewers, it is rarely good news for other characters.

What could start to feel disjointed and episodic instead congeals into a bizarre and brutal minefield of surprises. There are times when these surprises hang together with unrealistic decision-making, but Cregger’s sly script overcomes most of its conveniences and missteps.

Not every moment works. Certain choices feel ridiculous and breaks of levity keep the film from being as disturbing as maybe it should be, given the content. But most of that is forgivable, mainly because of the surprises Cregger has for us, and the nimble way he brings them out of hiding.

Games of Chance

Bingo Hell

by Hope Madden

Sometimes a title really hits you, like Bingo Hell. Maybe because the idea of playing this game makes me lose the will to live.

Co-writer/director Gigi Saul Guerrero has a slightly different use for the image of folks hunched over their boards hoping to win something from the community chest. A veteran of the horror short film, Guerrero pulls together conflicted thoughts about gentrification and neighborhood loyalty, poverty and affluence, and the sketchy influence of organized gambling for her first feature.

Speaking of veterans, Adriana Barraza — reliable as ever — leads the film as Lupita, the aging but spunky heart of her community, Oak Springs. She doesn’t dig gentrification. Watching members of her community take the cash and bail because they don’t have the cash to pay newly exorbitant rents doesn’t break her heart, it fuels her rage.

Lupita is a spitfire and Barraza’s relish with her outbursts drives the film’s energetic, campy outrage. Bingo Hell has social commentary to spare, but it’s not preaching. It’s attacking.

Guerrero’s film, part of Amazon Prime’s 2021 Welcome to the Blumhouse program, doesn’t oversimplify causes and solutions. Still, it delivers its recommendations as more of a blunt instrument than a surgical tool.

It is much fun to watch Barraza and other mature actors (L. Scott Caldwell, Grover Coulson, Clayton Landey) inhabit characters with agency and some degree of complexity, but it’s Richard Brake who offers Barraza the best sparring partner. Effortlessly sinister, the underappreciated character actor delivers another memorable baddie.

With characters to root for, violence to spare, and a healthy acceptance of chaos, Bingo Hell is pretty fun.

Math!

31

by Hope Madden

Before heading to the screening of Rob Zombie’s new flick 31, I hopped on imdb to find out how long a film it was. I needed to know whether Chipotle would still be open when the movie got out. While on the site, I happened to notice that 31 possessed a metacritic score of 11.

For those of you new to metacritic, it’s a website that calculates a film’s ratings from major film critics across the globe and offers an aggregate score from 1 to 100. Now, I didn’t read those reviews – I like to go in clean – but still…

Eleven.

It’s Halloween night, 1976. A van full of what appear to be do-it-yourself carnies pulls into a dusty, woebegone Southern gas station and meets a couple of creepy characters.

You’ve seen at least one horror movie in your life. You know things cannot end well for everyone involved. But if you’re familiar with Zombie’s work, you’ll know that 31 is neither a spoof nor a ripoff. Every film in Zombie’s repertoire is a mishmash homage to everything from slashers to Blaxploitation flicks to grindhouse movies to the “savage cinema” of the Seventies. 31 is no different, except that the mishing and mashing don’t work especially well.

The homages continue with the cast. As is the director’s way, Zombie’s populated his overly familiar yet strangely mismatched world with similarly remembered yet out-of-place faces. Favorites Sheri Moon Zombie (natch), Jeff Daniel Phillips and Malcolm McDowell join Laurence Hilton-Jacobs (that’s right! Boom Boom Washington, people!), Meg Foster and Richard Brake in a game of death on Halloween night. (31 – get it?)

The writing is dreadful and the acting worse. While Zombie’s attempts at humor may make you recoil, the carnage itself is generally uninspired. He contrasts the grimy fight on the ground with a weirdly opulent games-masters celebration (powdered wigs and all). What I’ve learned is that you can bedeck Malcolm McDowell with all the frilly collars and broaches you like, he can’t deliver with a shitty script. And if he can’t manage, what’s a hack like Sheri Moon Zombie supposed to do with it?

“You want to know what’s in this head of mine? I’ll tell you what’s in this head of mine. What’s in this head of mine is…”

Do you know what that is?

That’s bad writing.

Is 31 an 11? No. It’s probably a 31 – not bad enough to be memorable, not good enough to pay to see.

The great news, though, is that Chipotle was still open.

Verdict-2-0-Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gBCsqmvf3A