Lifetime Film Review: V.C. Andrews’ Fallen Hearts (dir by Jason Priestley)


About 12 minutes into Fallen Hearts, the perpetually aggrieved Heaven (Annalise Basso) goes to the local circus so she can taunt her stepfather, Luke (Chris William Martin), over the fact that 1) Heaven looks exactly like her mother, Angel and 2) Angel’s dead.

Upon arriving at the circus, Heaven runs into her stepbrother, Tom (Matthew Nelson-Mahood), but it takes her a while to recognize him because he’s wearing a big red clown nose.  It’s not until he takes the nose off that she recognizes Tom and then asks him why he’s dressed up like a clown.  It turns out that Tom is a clown now!  I guess he got a promotion.  Tom then asks why Heaven has made herself up to look exactly like Angel….

Unfortunately, Luke has already spotted Heaven and, apparently not understanding how death works, becomes convinced that Angel has returned to life and is standing in the middle of a low-rent circus in West Virginia.  Unfortunately, Luke is apparently now a lion tamer and he’s so shocked to see his dead wife that he loses track of his lion.

And, of course, the lion promptly kills Tom.  Would the lion have spared Tom if he hadn’t removed his red clown nose?  We may never know.

Now, of course, everyone in the film treats this as being a great tragedy.  Strangely enough, no one blames Heaven, even though none of this would have happened if not for the Heaven’s apparent obsession with mentally tormenting everyone from her past.  But I have to admit that I laughed out loud as soon as I saw that lion in the background because I knew there was no way the scene was going to end without Tom getting pounced on….

And really, that’s the type of film that Fallen Hearts is.  It’s the third film in Lifetime’s adaptation of V.C. Andrews’s Casteel Saga (the previous two were Heaven and Dark Angel) and, from the minute that lion pounces at Tom, everyone should know better than to take anything that happens too seriously.  Fallen Hearts somehow manages to be even more melodramatic than the first two films and, as directed by Jason Priestley, Fallen Hearts appears to be fully in on the joke.

Priestley not only directs but he also appears in the film, once again playing Tony Tatterton.  Tony is not only Heaven’s unacknowledged father but he’s also her stepgrandfather as well.  When Heaven finally ends up marrying Logan Stonewall (James Rittinger), Tony invites them to come up to Massachusetts for their honeymoon.  Heaven says no but Logan, being a simple boy from the West Virginia hills, is all about family.  While up in Massachusetts, Heaven discover that her first husband, Troy (Jason Cermak), isn’t dead after all.  He’s just been in hiding for the past five years, mostly because, after the wedding, he discovered that he was also Heaven’s uncle and that type of relationship just isn’t right.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Troy and Heaven from having sex after they run into each other while wandering around a hedge maze.  Troy vanishes the morning afterward but soon, Heaven discovers she’s pregnant.  Is the baby Troy’s or Logan’s?

Actually, speaking of babies, Heaven’s trashy and bitter sister, Fanny (Jessica Clement, stealing the entire damn movie) is also pregnant!  And it turns out that Fanny’s been having an affair with Logan so he might be the father.  Then again, there’s also scene where the town’s preacher looks at Fanny and shouts, “WHORE!,” so who knows for sure.  The one thing we do know for sure is that all of this is going to lead to two pregnant sisters facing off in a court room.  These things always do.

Anyway, Fallen Hearts is not a film that’s really meant to be taken seriously and, as I said before, the film itself is obviously in one the joke.  The melodrama is turned up to 11 and the actors tear through the overripe dialogue like a moonshiner trying to outrun the cops.  Annalise Basso again manages to keep things somewhat grounded as Heaven but the film is totally dominated by Jessica Clement, who brings the wonderfully trashy Fanny to vivid life.  The townsfolk and the hillfolk might not think much of Fanny but she keeps Fallen Hearts beating.

The fourth part of the Casteel Saga, Gates of Paradise, will air on Lifetime next Saturday.

Lifetime Film Review: V.C. Andrews’ Dark Angel (dir by Paul Shapiro)


When we last saw Heaven Casteel (Annalise Basso), she was boarding a bus so that she could leave the backwoods of West Virginia and hopefully live with her mother’s wealthy family in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dark Angel picks up where Heaven left off, with Heaven arriving at stately and creepy Farthinggale Manor and discovering that the rich are just as fucked up as the poor.  She’s greeted by her stepgrandfather, Tony Tatterton (Jason Priestly), who tries to come across as being friendly but quickly reveals himself to be cold and manipulative.  She also meets her grandmother, Jillian (Kelly Rutherford).  Jillian always has a drink in her hand and worries that Heaven will leave “hill grime” around the house.  Jillian doesn’t want Heaven to stay at the house for too long but Tony manages to change her mind.  Tony tells Heaven that, in order to thank him for his generosity, she’ll basically have to do everything that he says.

For instance, Tony tells Heaven that she is, under no circumstances, to enter the estate’s hedge maze.  (Rich people always have a hedge maze.)  So, of course, Heaven does just that.  She gets lost but eventually, she comes across a small house sitting in the middle of the maze.  Inside the house, a handsome man (played by Jason Cermak) carefully crafts a doll’s face.’

“Excuse me, sir,” Heaven says, “I got lost in your hedge maze!”

“You must be Heaven,” the man replies.

The man it turns out is Troy Tatterton, Tony’s younger brother.  Troy suffers from depression and he’s been exiled to the maze because Jillian can’t stand the sound of dolls be made.  Troy and Heaven soon find themselves falling in love, despite Tony’s demand that Heaven stay out of the maze.

Tony also demands that Heaven stop writing to her family but, of course, Heaven continues to try to reach out to them.  Her siblings aren’t doing quite as well as Heaven.  For instance, one sister is living in a trailer.  Her brother is working at a circus.  And her two youngest siblings are living in Washington, D.C, where they’re undoubtedly surrounded by politicians and interns.  AGCK!  It’s a fate worse than spending the rest of your life brewing moonshine in the hills.

And, while dealing with all of this, Heaven is also trying to graduate from high school and hopefully get into an Ivy League college!  She wants to study literature.  At one point, she explains that her favorite writer is Shakespeare but that she also really loves Fitzgerald.  She says that Fitzgerland “saved the best for last,” with Tender Is The Night.  It was at this point that I yelled, “HIS LAST NOVEL WAS THE LAST TYCOON!” and threw a shoe at the TV. 

Complicating matters even further is the fact that her old backwoods boyfriend, Logan (James Rittinger), is attending college in Boston.  Logan says that he doesn’t want anything to do with Heaven because he’s still angry over everything that happened during the previous movie but it’s pretty obvious that he’s still in love with her.

And then….

Well, listen — a lot happens in Dark Angel.  As opposed to Heaven, Dark Angel is full of twists and turns.  Everyone’s got a deep, dark secret and, at time, it gets a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of it all.  Then again, that’s what makes a film like this fun.  It’s just so over-the-top and implausible that you really can’t help but enjoy watching it all play out.  Every few minutes, someone else is popping up and either taunting Heaven for being from the hills or revealing that they’re actually one of her relatives.  Seriously, this is one messed up family.  The good thing is that Dark Angel seems to be aware of how silly all of the melodrama occasionally is.  The other good thing about Dark Angel is that it mostly involves rich people instead of poor people, which means that, as opposed to the first film, everyone gets to wear nice clothes.

Annalise Basso again makes all of us redheads proud in the role of Heaven but the film is really stolen by Jason Priestley, who appears to be having the time of his life playing the ambiguously evil Tony.  Kelly Rutherford is a bit underused as Jillian but she does get one good scene towards the end of the film and she makes for a stylish drunk.

The sequel to Dark Angel, Fallen Hearts, will air on Lifetime later tonight and hopefully, I’ll have a review of it up on Sunday.  And if I don’t, I guess you’ll just have to spank me like a character in a V.C. Andrews novel….

Horror On TV: Night Visions 1.1 “The Passenger List” (dir by Yves Simoneau) and “The Bokor” (dir by Keith Gordon)


Do y’all remember an old show called Night Visions?

Night Visions was a horror anthology show that ran for a season in 2001.  It got some good reviews as a summer replacement series but it struggled to find an audience.  After the 9-11 attacks, the show was preempted for three weeks straight and, when it finally did come back, I imagine that viewers weren’t really in the mood for a horror anthology, not when they had real-life horror to deal with on a daily basis.

And so, Night Visions was canceled but apparently, it still has a strong cult following.

Below is the very first episode of Night Visions.  It originally aired on July 12th, 2001 and it tells two stories.  In the Passenger List, a man investigating a plane crash starts to doubt his own sanity.  In the Bokor, a group of medical students make the mistake of cutting into the cadaver of a powerful voodoo priest.  Mayhem follows.

From what I’ve seen on YouTube, it looks like Night Visions was actually pretty good so enjoy this episode!

(And yes, each episode was hosted by Henry Rollins.)

 

Adventures in Cleaning Out The DVR: Night of the Wild (dir by Eric Red)


night of the wild

After I finished up my review of Buried Secrets, it was time to watch Night of the Wild.  Night of the Wild, which was produced by the wonderful people at The Asylum, originally aired on the SyFy network on October 3rd.  Much like Ominous, The Hollow, and They Found Hell, it was aired as a part of their 31 Days of Halloween.  I was on vacation when Night of the Wild was originally aired, so I missed it.

Night of the Wild is exactly the type of film that appears to have been made to give me nightmares.  It’s a film about killer dogs and I’ve always been a bit scared of dogs.  Recently, as a result of meeting some very well-behaved and sweet-natured members of the species, I’ve become a little bit more accepting of them but, for the most part, dogs still make me very nervous.  I just can’t deal with all the barking and the growling and the jumping.  Add to that, it freaks me out that dogs are apparently attuned to human emotions because I tend to be pretty moody.  Get a dog around me and chances are my emotional nature will cause them to have a nervous breakdown.

Night of the Wild opens with a green meteorite crashing down to Earth.  It lands near a small farming community.  Soon, glowing chunks of the meteorite are appearing everywhere and the town’s dogs start to turn against their owners.  (It’s debatable whether or not it’s just dogs that go crazy.  One of my favorite shots of the movie is of a hundred cats safely perched up in a tree, as if they’re aware that the dogs are having issues and don’t want anything to do with them.  There’s another shot the features several cows mooing in a slightly ominous fashion, as if they also can’t wait to take out a few farmers.)  It’s pretty much a typical SyFy/Asylum scenario — the dogs go on a rampage through town, a lot of people die, and the members of a family (made up of Rob Morrow, Kelly Rutherford, Tristin Mays, and Carmen Tonry) try to get to safety.

And yet, there are a few things that set Night of the Wild apart from other SyFy films.

First off, there’s the look of the film.  According to the imdb’s trivia section, director Eric Red and cinematographer Spencer Hutchins were inspired by the look of Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria.  And you can certainly tell while watching the film.  The colors are vibrant.  The green glow of the meteorite is often seen in the background.  When the dogs lay siege to a farmhouse, the reddish lighting will remind you of Suspiria‘s scenes of Jessica Harper investigating the hidden passageways of that haunted dance academy.

The other thing that sets apart Night of the Wild is just how violent and gruesome the film eventually becomes.  Unlike Sharknado 3, this is not a comedy.  This is not a film that invites you to laugh over all the mayhem.  Night of the Wild is a grim and dark movie, one in which you’re never quite sure who is going to survive and who is going to fall victim to the dogs.

Night of the Wild is a film that will make you want to hug your favorite cat.