Film Review: Kindred Spirits (dir by Lucky McKee)


Kindred Spirits tells the story of two sisters.

Chloe (Thora Birch) is the older sister.  She’s the one who literally raised her younger sister, Sadie (Caitlin Stasey).  At one point, in the film, Sadie even says that she thinks of Chloe as being her mom.  Chloe got pregnant when she was 17 and had a daughter named Nicole (Sasha Frolova).  Just as Sadie considers Chloe to be her mom, she also grew up considering Nicole to be more of a little sister than a niece.  Once, Sadie even saved a very young Nicole from getting run over by a car.  That’s what a good sister does.

Eventually, Sadie left home.  When Kindred Spirits begins, it’s been a while since anyone has heard from Sadie.  As for Chloe, it’s been a struggle but she’s built a good home and good life for herself and her daughter.  However, Nicole has now reached her own rebellious stage and Chloe’s clumsy attempts to warn her about “making the same mistakes I did” do not make things any less awkward between them.  Chloe has stated as secret relationship with her neighbor, Alex (Blue Ruin‘s Macon Blair) but she doesn’t know how Nicole will react.

And I’m sure that many people would dismiss Nicole as just being a ungrateful brat or Chloe as just being an overly protective mother but both Sasha Frolova and Thora Birch do a very good job of bringing some unexpected shading to their roles.  The details of Nicole and Chloe’s relationship ring true, everything from the awkward conversations to the rare moments of open closeness.

Suddenly, Sadie shows back up!  Both Chloe and Nicole are happy to see her and, when Sadie says that she needs a place to say, they of course invite her to live with them.  At first, everything’s perfect but soon, Sadie is showing some signs of instability.  She wants to be Chloe’s daughter but, at the same time, she wants to be Nicole’s best friend.  She starts dressing like Nicole and even sneaks off to a high school party where she’s thrilled to discover that everyone thinks that she’s still a teenager. Nicole starts to suspect that something might be off about Sadie.  Meanwhile, Sadie is busy murdering people.  Throats will be slit.  Dollhouse furniture will be driven into foreheads.  Blood will be spilled.

In fact, quite a lot of blood will be spilled.  Though this film aired on the Lifetime Movie Network towards the end of October and it’s plot certainly sounds Lifetime-y, Kindred Spirits only ended up on LMN after traveling the film festival circuit.  As such, it’s a bit more graphic than the usual Lifetime film, with close-ups of wounds and plenty of language that ended up getting awkwardly silenced during the film’s airing.  The ending is also considerably darker than the average Lifetime film.

I liked Kindred Spirits.  The story may be predictable but Lucky McKee directs with a lot energy and brings a lot of atmosphere to the film.  Best of all, Birch, Frolova, and especially Stasey all give excellent performances.  It’s nice to see a film with not just one but three strong female roles.  It’s a pity that a few good people end up dying but …. well, that’s family.

4 Shots From Horror History: Shaun of the Dead, The Devil’s Rejects, Land of the Dead, The Woods


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue to the aughts!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Shaun of the Dead (2004, dir by Edgar Wright)

Shaun of the Dead (2004, dir by Edgar Wright)

The Devil's Rejects (2005, dir by Rob Zombie)

The Devil’s Rejects (2005, dir by Rob Zombie)

Land of the Dead (2005, dir by George Romero)

Land of the Dead (2005, dir by George Romero)

The Woods (2006, dir by Lucky McKee)

The Woods (2006, dir by Lucky McKee)

Finally! Something to look forward to! Here’s the trailer for Tales of Halloween!


PCAS

October’s such a great month!  Not only does Halloween provide the perfect excuse to get dressed up all sexy-like but the theaters are also full of horror movies!

Speaking of which, check out this trailer for the upcoming horror anthology Tales of Halloween!  It’ll be coming out on October 16th and, among the ten directors contributing: Mike Mendez, who directed the great Big Ass Spider, The Descent‘s Neil Marshall, and The Woods‘s Lucky McKee!

I can hardly wait!

Arleigh’s Top 9 Films of 2014 (Front End)


We’re now past the halfway point for the film season of 2014. The year has seen it’s share of hits, bombs and surprises. Many look at the box-office numbers some that these films generate as a sign of their success. Others look at how the critics-at-large have graded these films as a way to determine whether they’ve been successful.

I know some people would list nothing but independent arthouse films as their best. They look at genre and big-budget films as not being worthy of being the best of the year, so far. It’s that sort of thinking that limits one’s appreciation of film, in general.

Does having a 150 million dollar budget mean that a film cannot be one of the best of the year. Past history will suggest that’s not the case. Yet, there are cinephiles out there who will dismiss such films because they consider it as being too Hollywood. The same goes for people who look down upon genre films like horror, scifi, westerns and many others that do not fit their slice-of-life drama study. They’re not existential enough for some.

I’ve come to look at all the films I’ve been fortunate enough to see through the first six months of 2014 and picked 9 of the best (I picked a random odd number since Lisa Marie already does the even numbers thing) no matter their genre, type of film and budget. I’ve picked a couple of scifi films, a documentary, an action-packed blockbuster sequel, a wonderfully made 3-D animated film (itself a sequel), a neo-noir Western, a brutal crime-thriller, an indie horror-thriller and one of the best comedies of the last couple years.

In no special order….

noah-banner222Noah (dir. by Darren Aronofsky)

capawsmovarthc-cvr-a91f8Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. by Anthony and Joe Russo)

cold_in_july_ver2_xlgCold in July (dir. by Jim Mickle)

HTTYD2How To Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean DuBois)

JodorowskysDuneJodorowsky’s Dune (dir. by Frank Pavich)

the-raid-2-berandal01The Raid 2: Berandal (dir. by Gareth Evans)

Snowpiercer (dir. by Bong Joon-ho)

GrandPianoGrand Piano (dir. by Eugenio Mira)

22JumpStreet22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

My honorable mentions: All Cheerleaders Die, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Joe, Edge of Tomorrow, Lego: The Movie, Blue Ruin, Locke, Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Sacrament

Trailer: All Cheerleaders Die


AllCheerleadersDie

Lucky McKee is one of my favorite horror filmmakers since I first saw his 2002 film May. I’ve followed his career since and last year he premiered his latest horror film during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

All Cheerleaders Die will have a limited release this summer and will most likely be available on Video On-Demand soon after. Whether I see it on the big-screen or in the comfort of my own home I know for a fact that my partner-in-crime, Lisa Marie, will be watching this as well. She won’t be able to resist after just seeing the title alone. It’s right up her wheelhouse, so to speak.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #93: The Woods (dir by Lucky McKee)


Last night, I turned over to Chiller and watched the brilliant 2006 horror film, The Woods.

Why Was I Watching It?

I ended up watching The Woods almost at random.  I didn’t want to go out last night because it’s Texas-OU weekend and that meant that the streets of Dallas would probably be full of drunk people from Tulsa.  Even more importantly, I couldn’t go out because I’m recovering from a sprained ankle.

Normally, under those circumstances, I would have watched and live tweeted an original SyFy film.  However, last night, SyFy was showing Fright Night which I had little interest in sitting through.  So, instead, I turned over to Chiller and decided to give The Woods a try.

And that is how I randomly discovered one of the best horror films that I’ve recently seen.

What Was It About?

The year is 1965.  Angry teenager Heather (Agnes Bruckner) starts a fire in a forest.  Frustrated by their daughter’s rebellious nature, her parents enroll her at Falburn Academy, a boarding school that sits in the middle of the woods.   Because she is the only redhead at the school, Heather is an immediate outsider who finds herself being taunted by the blonde Samantha (Rachel Nichols) and called “Firecrotch” by her other classmates.

However, Heather has more problems that just a bunch of anti-redhead bigots.  She has nightmares where voices seem to call to her from the woods.  Her friends Marcy and Ann both disappear from their beds, leaving behind a pile of dead leaves.  Meanwhile, the school’s mysterious headmistress (Patricia Clarkson) insists that nothing strange is happening…

What Worked?

I wasn’t expecting much from The Woods.  After all, it was a film that was released straight-to-DVD in 2006 and Chiller doesn’t exactly have a reputation for showing the best films.   But, oh my God, y’all — The Woods turned out to be such a good film!   The Woods is an atmospheric and surprisingly well-acted film that’s full of haunting imagery and memorable details.  Much like Dario Argento’s Suspiria (which has a similar plot to this film), The Woods is a triumph of both style and substance.

While the entire film is well-acted, special mention should be made of Patricia Clarkson, who gives a performance that is both menacing and humorous.  Genre fans will be happy to see Bruce Campbell in the role of Bruckner’s well-meaning father.

Finally, I have to admit that, as a member of the 2% of the population who have been blessed with red hair, I have a special appreciation for this film.  Behind all of the scares, The Woods provides a compelling portrait of the discrimination that those of us with red hair struggle with every single day.  From the minute Heather enters Falburn Academy, she is the subject of constant prejudice because of the color of her hair.  As someone who has had to endure countless comments about redheads not having souls, I both related to and appreciated the film’s sensitivity to those of us in the 2%.

What Did Not Work?

Over on the film’s imdb page, there’s some debate as to whether or not the term “Firecrotch” was in use back in 1965.  Personally, I think that’s nitpicking.  The fact of the matter is that anti-redhead prejudice has always been with us.  If people in the 60s didn’t attack us by calling us “Firecrotch,” they undoubtedly called us something equally bad.  As far as I’m concerned, the entire film worked perfectly.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Almost the entire film was an “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment, largely because the main character was a redhead and had to deal with constant anti-redhead prejudice.  (“Oh my God!  Just like me!”)

At one point, Samantha taunts Heather by asking, “Is your pubic hair red?” which is the exact same question that I got asked several times throughout high school, though in my case, I was usually asked by a guy with a smirk on his face.  (“You’ll never know,” I would reply.)  Heather then finds herself being repeatedly called “Firecrotch” by people who are jealous of her red hair and again, oh my god!  Just like me!

Finally, as I mentioned above, I sprained my ankle last Wednesday and, as such, I’ve spent the last few days recovering.  Amazingly enough, about halfway through the film, Heather twists her ankle.  She spends the rest of the movie either on crutches or painfully limping.  Oh my God!  Just like me!

(As a quick aside, can I just say how much I HATE crutches!?  Oh my God, they’re the worst…)

Lessons Learned

I am tempted to say that the main lesson to be learned from The Woods is that it’s not easy being a redhead.  However, I knew that before I watched the film.  I also knew that you should stay out of the woods, which is the main reason why you’ll never catch me camping.

So, the most important lesson that I learned is that everyone should see The Woods.

Redheads Unite