<![CDATA[horrorigins.com - Articles]]>Thu, 22 Oct 2020 16:25:21 -0700Weebly<![CDATA["Synchronic": Mind-bending Sci-fi Horror Rooted in Human Connection {Movie Review}]]>Wed, 21 Oct 2020 16:30:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/synchronic-mind-bending-sci-fi-horror-rooted-in-human-connection-movie-review
Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s latest film, Synchronic, may initially seem like a far-out sci-fi horror flick about a time-altering drug, especially based upon the opening scene. However, the film is anchored to reality, specifically the personal struggles of two paramedics working in New Orleans. Their story and character arcs ground Synchronic in all the pain and beauty of everyday life. The result is a powerful genre film about human connection.
Like Benson and Moorhead’s previous work, 
Spring (2014) and The Endless (2017)Synchronic isn’t afraid to ask deep philosophical questions, but what centers the film are the stories of Dennis (Jamie Dornan) and Steve (Anthony Mackie). Each character undergoes his own struggle. Dennis is unhappy in his marriage, despite the stability and loving family that he has. Steve finds out that he only has a few weeks left to live, due to a brain tumor. Steve may seem like a playboy to Dennis, but he’s lonely, living solely with his dog and glancing at his friend’s picture-perfect marriage.

The first act of the film leans into horror. Steve and Dennis spend their time rushing from house to house, responding to calls and witnessing firsthand the effects of synchronic. In one scene, they pull up to what could be the crack house from hell. The camera moves through the grimy rooms, panning in on the police, Steve, and Dennis, as they investigate the grisly scene, discovering an axe-like weapon stuck in the wall.
Jamie Dornan and Anthony Mackie in Synchronic (2019)
The ramifications of the drug become more personal after Steve and Dennis learn that Dennis’ daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) has gone missing after taking the drug. This causes Steve to buy up all the packets of synchronic that he can find. Initially, we think that he does this to prevent others from taking it. However, with only a few weeks left to live, he decides to locate and save Dennis’ daughter. Each time he takes the drug, he transports to the past, including an ice age. He sees New Orleans as it was ages before Mardi Gras ever became a thing. Each hit he takes plops him in the middle of a different era. The psychedelic messes with the flow of time itself. 

Steve quickly learns that romanticizing the past is foolish. Shortly after emerging from the ice age, he quips, “The past fucking sucks.” Later in the film, he tells Steve, “The present is a miracle, bro.” His friend needs to hear this, since he’s constantly discounting his marriage and the happy life that he’s built. Steve puts his life in danger each time that he takes synchronic. He never knows which era he’ll encounter, and even the 20th Century poses a threat, since he’s a black man living in the deep South. If he stays there for too long, he could become trapped and fade from the present. 
Anthony Mackie in Synchronic (2019)
Yet, for all of its trippy elements, some of Synchronic’s best moments are rooted in real human connection. Steve and Dennis commiserate over their problems, their failed dreams, and their thwarted desires.  They do this in dingy bars and upon the rooftop where Brianna disappeared. Each character has his own deep flaws, but they also make each other better. Steve specifically helps Dennis realize what he has. Both Mackie and Dornan give earnest performances throughout the film, but Mackie’s performance really resonates.  We feel for his character. He also manages to deliver a few comedic lines in an otherwise heavy film.

Benson wrote the screenplay, and as already mentioned, the story hits a lot of high notes. Moorhead handled the cinematography, and it too deserves praise. In one haunting sequence, Dennis and Steve’s ambulance pulls into an abandoned amusement park. In the background, a listless roller coaster looms beneath an inky sky. In another scene, the friends respond to a call on Bourbon Street. The usual popping tourist destination is dimly lit. The men encounter a man in a top hat. His face is painted like a skeleton, and bone protrudes from his leg. The street known for its drunken revelry becomes a hellscape. New Orleans has a rich history of ghosts and voodoo. The film was shot on location, and the city’s darker aspects come alive, thanks to both the set design and cinematography. 
Anthony Mackie in Synchronic (2019)
Synchronic successfully blends a lot of different genres, including horror, sci-fi, drama, and even a few comedic beats. Its storytelling is rich, and its characters are well-drawn. Synchronic hits deep and reminds us that maybe the present isn’t so bad after all.  Keep an eye on Moorhead and Benson. They use genre filmmaking as a vehicle to address the human condition and all its frailties. 

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Brian Fanelli fell in love with horror movies the first time he watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid. His writing on the genre has been published by Horror HomeroomThe Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Signal Horizon Magazine. He is also the author of two books of poems, Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His non-horror writing has been published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College. 

<![CDATA[Anonymous Animals: Spoiler-Free {Movie Review}]]>Thu, 08 Oct 2020 16:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/anonymous-animals-spoiler-free-movie-review
During the turn of the century, the New French Extremity film movement spread across France, potentially its most iconic film movement since the New Wave. These were dark, provocative films that aimed to dissect the country’s taboos and unrest. Many films within the movement are worth discussing, but I’m talking about this for one main reason. New French Extremity has some crazy horror films! There was a time when a horror fan went to NFE to really test their stamina, often with depression inducing results (it took me a long time to recover from Martyrs). The horror community embraced these films, and since the movement’s “end” in the early 2010s, French horror has been left in the shadow of New French Extremity. A few gems can be found throughout the last decade, but as of 2020, one surprise film may signal a second wave of arthouse horror in France. This is Anonymous Animals, the feature debut of Baptiste Rouveure.
Taking place somewhere in the countryside, Anonymous Animals centers on three overlapping stories involving unnamed individuals and the humanoid animals they are at the mercy of. To say, the shoe is on the other foot, is an understatement, as we follow a sheepdog-farmer taking in a man found on the side of the road, a deer-hunter quietly waiting for his next chase, and a horse-butcher working in a slaughterhouse with a slightly sadistic bull enforcer. There’s no explanation, or backstory, or even dialogue. The whole film is presented as an average day for the animals, as opposed to the humans trapped in a very inhumane situation. Are you getting it yet?

Not every film needs subtlety to be effective, and Anonymous Animals makes its point loud and clear without a single word uttered. In a its short runtime, the film combines the surreal nature of a Gary Larson Far Side comic, with the bluntness of a PETA documentary. The documentary feel is on full display, as Rouveure provides his own cinematography along with two other credited DPs, Kevin Brunet and Emmanuel Dauchy. The three provide a shallow, shaky, hand held look, from the perspective of the humans in their state of disarray. There are only a few times where it feels sloppy. This, however, is balanced out by still shots of the animals alone with their daily grind. Interestingly, they’re rarely center framed, usually off to the side, so the visuals can tell the story. It builds a tense atmosphere where you never feel clean watching this, and there’s not a scene that goes by that doesn’t feature a form of dust, dirt, or cobwebbing in the air.
Credit also has to be given to puppetry and mask effects, which are the closest thing to a star in the film. There’s a certain uncanny valley feel to how simple the effect is, with a realistic animal head on a human body, some being more expressive than others. The film does get that a dog is more expressive than a horse, and definitely more expressive than a deer with a poker face (put a gun in the deer’s hand and you’re set with the creepy factor).

Anonymous Animals really shines is in its sound design. When there’s no dialogue to hold your hand, you’re focused on what else you can hear. The animals still have their natural grunts and snarls, while displaying some common human traits that would be second nature in any other film; shame, brutality, maybe enjoying your job a little too much. There’s one gloriously creepy scene that the trailer definitely took advantage of, where we see the horse dining alone, eating a steak that we can assume he cut himself. The film keeps its distance, choosing to only focus on the sound of a horse savoring meat, and the slow chewing indicative of an appreciation of its own work. Other primary sounds we hear are the common sounds of a slaughterhouse; electricity whirring through lights and fences, machinery grinding in a close distance, and instruments being sharpened. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre influence is strong with this one, and I mean that as a high compliment.

Now, where the film succeeds, there are some first-time feature drawbacks and that comes in pacing and editing. Rouveure also edits his passion project, and is able to deliver some solid scenes, but choices are questionable. The film overuses cuts to black in between the three stories, which at first puts you at the same level of confusion and unease as the human characters, but progress to a point of tedium. It actually starts breaking tension at the third act, where suspense should be at its highest. This frustration is also amplified by the film’s disregard for time of day, as it cuts away from a story taking place at night to another story taking place during daylight. This isn’t a linear story by any means, but consistency is an important factor in creating mood.

By the end, I wasn’t disappointed with the experience. Even if I knew what the stories were building to, I was still daring myself not to shut my eyes by the end. I was dreading the inevitable and it left me feeling drained. So, in that sense, I got exactly what I wanted. Maybe I do wish the film was longer (it carries a runtime of one hour and four minutes), and had an extra story to the narrative.
Anonymous Animals has the makings of an New French Extremity standout, and Rouveure is on the right track to leading a new generation of French horror. For a film that has sprouted up out of nowhere, I feel it will be worth discussion in due time. It’s an Orwellian dystopia we may have seen before, but all it takes is a little brute force to remind you how scary a different perspective can be. And at this point in the year, we could all use a lesson in perspective. Vive la New French Extremity. 

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Alex Ayres is filmmaker and writer based in Atlanta, GA. An avid genre fan overall, he started his love of horror at age 13, diving head first down the rabbit hole and has not looked back since.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a BA in film and creative writing, Alex has a steady background in screenwriting, having written multiple short and feature screenplays. His most recent screenplay 6/09 has been accepted into various film festivals and writing competitions around the country, winning best comedy at the Austin After Dark Film Fest in 2019. His short screenplay Soup’s On is currently in early stages of pre-production.
When not spent hunched over at his laptop on his third cup of coffee, Alex works as a non-union set worker on various productions in Atlanta, primarily as a Set PA, 2nd AC, Boom-Op, and Extra. In time, Alex will pursue his Master’s in screenwriting. Making film and teaching film is a life-long goal that he’s going the distance with.
Alex was a volunteer with HorrOrigins during its inaugural film festival and is excited to participate further in curating a gruesome and fun time for Fright-Knights and Ghouls.

<![CDATA["The Devil to Pay": A Gripping Revenge Thriller {Movie Review}]]>Tue, 29 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/the-devil-to-pay-a-gripping-revenge-thriller-movie-review
Lane and Ruckus Skye, the writers of Becky (2020), are back with another revenge-fueled tale, The Devil to Pay. In their directorial debut, the husband and wife duo create a world with its own rules, where anyone who breaks “Creed” is punished severely. The film contains mesmerizing cinematography and an affecting score. Though the story is at times a little uneven, the film’s hardscrabble protagonist is well-drawn.
Filmed in Georgia, the movie takes place in the Appalachian Mountains, in a small community that lives and dies by its own rules. They’re governed by what they call the “Creed,” a system of old customs and traditions. Our protagonist, Lemon (Danielle Deadwyler), largely keeps to herself and keeps watch over her boy, Coy (Ezra Haslam). Her world is undone when she learns that her husband was killed fulfilling a debt for a neighbor, the sinister Tommy Runion, played by Catherine Dyer. It’s up to Lemon to complete her husband’s task, or else the Runion clan will kill Lemon and her boy.

The directors do a superb job establishing tension, especially early on when Lemon is summoned to Tommy’s house. Her face is etched with worry, and again, Deadwyler’s performance throughout the film deserves praise. She conveys both resolution and dread through her clear-eyed facial expressions. Dyer, meanwhile, is a ruthless villain on par with the neo-Nazis in Becky. In her kitchen, she clenches Lemon’s hand and threatens to kill her and her son if Lemon refuses to do as she asks. A moment later, when the oven timer dings, she smiles and says, “The biscuits are done.”  

The Skye duo have a knack for writing complex villains whose sinister motives and sadistic sense of right hide behind fake smiles and niceties. In that regard, they ensure that these Appalachian characters are not cliché. Lemon specifically is fully realized, and her need to protect her only child makes her a relatable protagonist. 
Danielle Deadwyler in The Devil to Pay (2019).
Sherman Johnson’s cinematography is another high point. The shots of misty mountaintops capture both the lush beauty and danger of those deep woods and the people who inhabit them. The whole film is beautiful. This is matched by Brad Carter’s score, which mostly features plaintive banjo notes and sometimes cello and acoustic guitar. It underscores the tone and mood of the film quite well.

If there’s any real flaw to the film, it’s the story. There’s reference at the beginning of the film to communities that have existed since the 18th Century and a quote from a 2010 census worker about how those communities don’t want to be bothered. However, the world we peer into is not given enough weight or depth. It’s just sort of there.  Its rules are sometimes muddled and confusing. In a neighboring community, there’s a weird and chilling cult whose chant “back to the ether” has severe ramifications for a member of the Runion clan. But again, the cult exists with no explanation. Yet, they’re one of the most haunting and fascinating aspects of the film that feel underutilized. Heck, I wanted to know how these two different worlds keep peace with each other.
Ezra Haslam and Danielle Deadwyler in The Devil to Pay (2019).
Any gripes about the story are minor. The Devil to Pay has enough epic moments, especially the scenes between Lemon and Tommy and the performances by Deadwyler and Dyer. They steal every scene that they’re in. Deadwyler’s character evolves from a hardworking farmer to a shotgun-wielding mother who will protect her boy at all costs, while unleashing revenge on those responsible for her husband’s death. The film’s performances are bolstered by well-scripted tension, stunning cinematography, and Carter’s fitting musical score that will make you feel lost in these Appalachian communities.

Overall, The Devil to Pay is a solid directorial debut for Lane and Ruckus Skye. They’ve already proven with Becky that they can write a solid revenge story, but they kick it up a notch with The Devil to Pay, a lyrical backwoods tale. 

The Devil to Pay comes out on Oct. 2 in drive-in theaters and on-demand and DVD on Oct. 6

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Brian Fanelli fell in love with horror movies the first time he watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid. His writing on the genre has been published by Horror HomeroomThe Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Signal Horizon Magazine. He is also the author of two books of poems, Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His non-horror writing has been published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College. ​

<![CDATA["Common Decency": A Macabre Meeting of the Exes {Short Review}]]>Sat, 26 Sep 2020 17:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/common-decency-a-macabre-meeting-of-the-exes-short-review
There comes a time when relationships come to a crossroads and the couple either make up or break up.  If it is the former, the relationship moves forward, if it is the latter, the relationship comes to an end.  When the relationship ends, more often than not, there is anger and pain between the two parties but, through time, they both find a way to heal and move on with their lives.  This is not the case with the short film Common Decency.
Beth (Caroline Bloom, who is also the writer of this film) confides with her Therapist (Deborah Lacey) about the hurt, anger, and frustration of not being invited to her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.  The Therapist tells her to perform self-care on herself and to feed her soul, not hurt it and to let her anger float away.  Beth finds self-care by going to her ex-boyfriend Joe’s (Adam Hagenbuch) house.  After some uncomfortable conversation, Beth confronts Joe about her not being invited to the wedding to which Joe tells her they have grown apart and he has moved on with his life and that she should do the same.  Beth’s response comes in the form of a wedding gift turned abduction with Beth and Joe having their own therapy session with an unexpected twist.

This film is well fleshed out due to Caroline Bloom’s writing along with the direction of Stefan Dezil and editing of Courtney Hope Thérond.  The music composed by JoAnne Harris gives the film a carnival feel which enhances the film as it takes you on this strange and twisted journey.

Freud once stated that depression is pain turning inward but, in this film, the anger turns outward to the benefit of this macabre tale of a broken bond gone bad. 

Common Decency was screened in part with the Charlotte Film Festival.

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Paul Grammatico was forbidden to see graphic films as a child and limited to edited TV movies, Paul received his horror information second hand through stories from older friends and siblings. He also vacationed in a desolate cottage, raised in houses with creepy basements, and lived in an apartment with a “full torso apparition”.Inspired by his experiences, Paul is a multi-award-winning screenwriter with an affinity of the weird and unexplained.

<![CDATA[VHS Massacre Too: A Defense of Physical Media in the Age of Streaming Services {Documentary Review}]]>Sat, 26 Sep 2020 16:16:20 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/vhs-massacre-too-a-defense-of-physical-media-in-the-age-of-streaming-services-documentary-review
Who doesn’t like streaming a movie from the comfort of their home? While that may seem like a good thing, director Thomas Edward Seymour’s documentary VHS Massacre Too explores the decline of the exploitation film and physical media in the Netflix era and the impact that is having on film preservation. The doc is one of the best defenses of physical media and independent film that you’re likely to encounter
In some ways, VHS Massacre Too is more focused than its predecessor, VHS Massacre (2016), which also looked at the decline of physical media but was often overly nostalgic in its execution. Seymour’s sequel, which recently screened at the Charlotte Film Festival, brings back some of the names from the first doc, including Troma Entertainment founder Lloyd Kaufman and film critic Joe Bob Briggs, but the sequel does a better job laying out specific reasons why physical media and independent cinema have declined and why it’s important to maintain them. The result is a lean documentary that will make you think about how you’re consuming media and the impact of our viewing habits.

In the opening minutes, Briggs and others give a brief overview of the exploitation film and even dig into film history, including the Hays Code, to discuss the role of censorship throughout cinema. This overview is informative without ever wandering into the weeds. Briggs also reminds viewers that while films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are considered genre classics now, the film faced such controversy upon its release that drive-ins were essentially the only way to see it.

From there, the doc explores various reasons that physical media has declined, and as a result, the exploitation film along with it. One of the main culprits the doc blames is Blockbuster. Even if physical media collectors have fond memories of browsing their local Blockbuster and scanning VHS covers, Briggs and others note how Blockbuster is partially responsible for the decline of independent cinema and the death of the direct to video market. The doc points out how the once all-powerful chain killed several mom and pop video stores, which were more likely to stock indie films, specifically horror and exploitation, because it was cheaper for them to do so. Blockbuster, meanwhile, stocked their shelves with new releases from bigger studios because they had partnerships with those companies.
VHS Massacre 2 (2020)

Additionally, the doc spends a lot of time looking at the impact of streaming services. In this case, the consequences have become even more profound than the impact of Blockbuster on the video market. In interviews with indie filmmakers like Debbie Rochon and independent film company heads like Kaufman and J.R. Bookwalter (Tempe), the impact of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime comes into sharp focus. Kaufman states that even if a Troma film is viewed over 500,000 times online, he makes very little money. Meanwhile, due to the algorithms of streaming services and the ever changing rules, it’s not likely an indie film will stay on a streaming service for long, and if it does, it’s often buried beneath piles of content from major studios. “We’re not in control of our destinies, they are,” Bookwalter says, after admitting his indie film company is essentially finished.

Ironically, for a while, Netflix, when it primarily shipped DVDs, was supportive of indie films. Bookwalter points out that the company wanted content. However, when they launched the streaming service, they were far less likely to promote independent cinema and instead cut deals with the bigger studios to feature their content.

Overall, the doc presents a rather grim portrait of independent cinema. Kaufman says that the indie film industry is “squashed” and notes how even the word independent has been co-opted by bigger studios. Yet, he does propose solutions. He calls for bigger companies to be broken up so we don’t have monopolies. The doc ends with a note that viewers should also support net neutrality rules, which were overturned in 2017 by the Republican-led FCC.  Yet, administrations come and go, and it’s possible the negative changes can be undone by a future administration, especially if citizens voice a desire for such changes.

If I have one gripe about the first VHS Massacre, it’s that it tried to tackle too much for a single documentary. The sequel, however, it's more focused in its intent. It adequately explores the causes of independent cinema’s decline and how that impacts film history and preservation. Yet, it doesn’t leave viewers feeling powerless. As already stated, it lays out actions film fans can take, and it sees the collector’s market, specifically within the horror community, as a lifeline.

While VHS Massacre Too focuses mostly on exploitation and horror films, the doc should interest anyone interested in film history or media studies. It’s a fascinating and sad look at the decline of physical media and the exploitation film. It shows what we’ve sacrificed and lost in order to que up a film on Netflix from the comfort of our living room. ​​

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Brian Fanelli fell in love with horror movies the first time he watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid. His writing on the genre has been published by Horror HomeroomThe Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Signal Horizon Magazine. He is also the author of two books of poems, Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His non-horror writing has been published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College. ​

<![CDATA["Bleed with Me": Unnerving and Ambiguous Slow-Burn Horror {Movie Review}]]>Fri, 25 Sep 2020 17:21:25 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/bleed-with-me-unnerving-and-ambiguous-slow-burn-horror-movie-review
How well do we really know our friends? Amelia Moses puts that concept to the test in Bleed with Me, a horror film rooted in the psychological with a slow-burn pace. At times, the story is a mind game, and some scenes are completely ambiguous, but overall, it works. The film stands a cut above other thrillers and was a real highlight of the recent Charlotte Film Festival. The film speaks to a deep-rooted fear that those closest to us may not be who we think they are.
Bleed with Me has a premise recognizable to most horror fans, at least initially. A trio visit an isolated cabin for a winter getaway. Sounds familiar enough, right? However, from there, Moses subverts our expectations.  Rowan (Lee Marshall) suspects that her friend, Emily (Lauren Beatty), is stealing her blood. Each day, Rowan’s condition worsens, and she’s certain that her bestie is to blame. Emily’s boyfriend, Brendan (Aris Tyros), is caught in the middle. To be clear, this isn’t a vampire narrative. Emily bares no fangs, and that makes the film more horrifying. In one of the earliest scenes, Rowan cuts her finger by accident, and Emily licks the blood, proclaiming that she made it all better. It’s a deeply unexpected and unsettling moment. 

From there, the rest of the film is slow-burn nightmare fuel. Rowan grows weaker and paler, and her visions become more and more horrific. She believes that she sees Emily in her bedroom, cutting her wrist to drain her blood. Yet, the camera never shows Emily in focus. Instead, we’re presented with a blurred vision through Rowan’s perspective. Is Rowan crazy? Is Emily really stealing her blood? I suppose that’s up for the viewer to decide.

For her part, Beatty plays the role quite well. Her character slips into Rowan’s room to check her temp and offer her tea. Her soft-spoken “good girls” are surprisingly as troubling as the visions that Rowan has. It’s never clear to the viewer whether or not Emily can be trusted, and it’s also uncertain whether or not Rowan’s visions are hallucinations that result from her fever. While this may not work for everyone, fans of psychological horror may enjoy Moses’ directorial and narrative choices.
Lee Marshall plays Rowan in "Bleed With Me" (2020).
Moses does a fine job establishing a sense of isolation from the get-go, with shots of snow-capped trees and fields of white that surround the cabin. Several interior shots feature Rowan, sweating and feverish in bed, trapped both by her condition and the cabin’s location.  Meanwhile, Moses slowly reveals more character details building to the film’s final act. It’s an effective storytelling technique that will again make the viewer question whether or not they should trust Emily, Rowan, or neither character.

Bleed with Me is not a film that relies heavily on gore or even blood, despite the title, but when blood is shown, it’s used quite well, either to reinforce one of Rowan’s awful visions or to conjure some real world frights. Who knew, for instance, that blood dripping from a rabbit onto white snow could be so haunting?

Bleed with Me probably isn’t for everyone. The pacing and ambiguity may be off-putting to some viewers, but Moses takes the old story about friends visiting an isolated cabin and does something unique with it. There are several scenes that will stick with viewers because of how disturbing they are. It’s clear that Moses, both as a writer and director, knows the horror tropes well. Instead of repeating them, she’s more interested in challenging and subverting an audience’s expectations. That’s what makes Bleed with Me cut more deeply than the usual paint-by-numbers genre films. It takes the usual story about friends visiting a remote cabin and does something wildly creative with the premise. The result is a lean film that contains both restraint and an effective use of scares and discomforting moments. 

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Brian Fanelli fell in love with horror movies the first time he watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid. His writing on the genre has been published by Horror HomeroomThe Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Signal Horizon Magazine. He is also the author of two books of poems, Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His non-horror writing has been published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College. ​

<![CDATA["#Alive": An Entertaining Zombie Affair for the COVID Era {Movie Review}]]>Tue, 22 Sep 2020 18:19:38 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/alive-an-entertaining-zombie-affair-for-the-covid-era-movie-review
The zombie genre has become as tired as a groaning corpse. Even the megahit "The Walking Deadwill end with its 11th season. Yet, 2020 and all it's unleashed upon the world should make the zombie genre relevant again. Director Il Cho’s #Alive feels incredibly timely at moments, especially in its portrayal of isolation and a global crisis. The film’s main flaw, and it’s a big one, is its deus ex machina ending. The conclusion mars an otherwise solid zombie flick.
The premise of #Alive is one that’s been in plenty of zombie and post-apocalyptic tales. A young video game streamer, Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-In), spends his days hauled up in his family’s high rise apartment in Seoul, sleepwalking through reality by playing video games. He’s ripped from that world when chaos unfolds outside.  He’s jolted by people screaming in the streets, chased by zombies with bleeding eyes.

It’s an effective opening. Typically, in a zombie narrative, the world has already gone to hell. In the first issue and episode of “The Walking Dead,” for instance, Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to a zombie apocalypse. Here, our protagonist witnesses the moment that the infection overtakes his neighborhood. In one of the film’s most gripping scenes, he watches the zombies haul a police woman off to her death, dragging her down the street. We don’t see them fully devour her, but observing her terror-stricken face moments before her death is nerve-rattling. The zombies are fast, mean, and lean, resembling the undead in the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) or 28 Days Later (2002).
Yoo Ah-In in #Alive(2020)
While the zombies are generally scary, that’s not really what makes the film relevant. Rather, it’s how isolation and the infection are portrayed. When Joon-woo sits down at his empty kitchen table and writes “I must survive” on a post-it note, before sticking it on a framed photo of his family, it’s hard not to relate to his pain. We’ve spent much of 2020 in quarantine, wondering when we’d see family and friends face to face again. Meanwhile, he spends hours listening to talking heads and scientists on TV theorize about the source of the infection and how it spreads. Those scenes in particular call to mind the early days of COVID when so much about the disease was unknown. One talking head mentions that the infected can remain asymptomatic for a while and still spread the disease. Sound familiar?

Furthermore, Joon-woo is so relatable because of the simple things he misses. When he watches a commercial for ramen noodles, he devours his last pack of them, which he’s labeled as a final meal. After months of quarantine, who can’t relate to missing the normal and familiar things in life that we took for granted pre-COVID?
#Alive (2020)
The film features one more main character, Yoo-bin (Park Shin-Hye), a resourceful neighbor. Watching the relationship between Yoo-bin and Joon-woo deepen is another one of the film’s highlights. You generally want them to survive, especially as they grow closer to each other through their means of survival. For instance, when Joon-woo can barely stand, due to hunger pains, Yoo-bin attempts to get him food from across balconies.

The two characters are nearly zombie food on more than one occasion. Eventually, they’re swarmed by zombies upon a rooftop. Their death seems certain, and without spoiling the ending, I must state that the solution to their predicament is an easy way out. It’s the film’s only major flaw. It comes across as lazy writing, though maybe Cho, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matt Naylor, wanted to leave the door open for a sequel. Still, in an otherwise engaging film, the ending is a real letdown.  
Park Shin-Hye in #Alive (2020)
Overall, #Alive strikes a chord because it dropped months after we’ve endured a year of isolation and a pandemic that’s ravaged the world. Joon-woo’s depression and anxiety resonate. The zombies do their thing and their bleeding eyes are haunting, but it’s the protagonist’s inner-turmoil and friendship with Yoo-bin that are the film’s real highpoints. It’s just a shame that the ending deflates what’s otherwise a strong zombie movie.

#Alive is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Brian Fanelli fell in love with horror movies the first time he watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid. His writing on the genre has been published by Horror HomeroomThe Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Signal Horizon Magazine. He is also the author of two books of poems, Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize, and All That Remains (Unbound Content). His non-horror writing has been published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Brian has an M.F.A. from Wilkes University and a Ph.D. from Binghamton University. Currently, he teaches at Lackawanna College. 

<![CDATA[Which Film Directors Should Delve into the Horror Genre?]]>Thu, 17 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/which-film-directors-should-delve-into-the-horror-genre
Any film director that didn’t start off making horror films or have roots in horror rarely jumps into the genre. Why is that? The answer could be a multitude of reasons, but quite possibly the primary reason is because horror is not exactly their cup of tea so to speak. But we can dream, can’t we? I’ve compiled a list of three directors that I would love to see delve into the horror genre. Even though some of these directors might have had horror elements in some of their films, none have directed a straight-up horror film. 

Christopher Nolan

Nolan is easily one of the hottest directors currently making films, but also one of the best filmmakers we’ve ever seen, whose movies have grossed more than $4 billion worldwide. Nolan is known for his sci-fi, action, mind-bending thrillers, but when first starting, he directed more realistic and rigid films. Nolan's films like Memento and Insomnia showcased his ability to base stories and movies on real life and plausible events, but at the same time, he infused them with rigidity that often times doesn’t necessarily scare the audience, but can make us feel uncomfortable. 

A Nolan horror movie would definitely include that element of his early storytelling, but the main reason I have Nolan at number 1 is due the possible scale of his horror film. Can you imagine a sci-fi, thriller-esque horror film, a horror film with incredible action set pieces, a mind-bending story and plot? It would be something very unique. It could be a film gratifying to the eyes and ears. 
Nolan’s horror film would not necessarily rely on jump scares either, but instead include instances and aspects of life itself that frightens the audience, which in the end, is what makes a horror movie great. Not because of the jump scares and loud music, but because we can relate to what’s happening and it scares us. 

Something else that Nolan can do with the horror genre is expand its fan base. Nolan is one of the most well-known directors whose films always do well. And at the current moment, we are in a horror renaissance. However, horror is still not for everyone. Upon Nolan doing a horror film, he can bring the genre to a plethora of folks who haven’t really been interested in horror. 

Quentin Tarantino

A Tarantino horror movie. Let that sink in. Of the three directors, I believe a Tarantino horror film could be something really fun and innovative. Tarantino is known for his non-linear storytelling, which is seldom used in horror filmmaking. But one of the positives of using non-linear storytelling is that it can put us on edge. Our minds would be preoccupied with trying to piece things together and follow along, so when something sinister comes around, it could frighten us more so. 

Tarantino has expressed interest in directing a horror film. But seeing as he keeps stating that he’ll only direct 10 films, only time will tell if he will end up directing a horror film. Even though Tarantino hasn’t directed a horror film, he wrote wrote From Dusk till Dawn. But of course, all of Tarantino’s films have incorporated the use of violence and blood. And what’s one of the things horror films are most known for? Blood and violence. Oftentimes, the violence within horror films and the amount of blood used are over excessive and with no real purpose. However, in Tarantino films, violence has more of a beauty to it, if that makes sense. It could be plentiful, but it fits the story and the characters.  
Another aspect of Tarantino films that could be quite unique in horror films is the dialogue. Like Sorkin, Tarantino’s dialogue is an essential element. Horror films rarely rely heavily on dialogue. Two examples of films that did pay attention to dialogue more are Scream and Get Out. In particular, we think of the opening scene of Scream that we all love and enjoy. As for Tarantino films, a scene that mixes dialogue with tension and suspense well is the opening scene from Inglourious Basterds. It is a perfect example of a scene in which no loud music was used, and  no jump scares or anything of that sort were incorporated, but it still leaves a lasting effect. The scene is quite simple, but the dialogue is what drives the scene and leaves us feeling fearful and nervous for our main characters. Imagine a scene like that, but with more sinister matters and elements of a horror movie. 

Wes Anderson

An Anderson horror film would certainly be the quirkiest and possibly funniest horror film of the three directors. Anderson is known for his eccentric and fast-paced films. In addition to directing live-action, Anderson has also made two stop motion animated pictures: Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. Anderson is perhaps the only director in which one look at just one frame of his films will automatically tell you that he is the one who directed it. 

Anderson films are known for their colorful palettes and sets, costumes, and characters. Anderson’s characters are quite quirky, yet human, and we not only relate to them but enjoy their presence on screen. Something that a plethora of horror films lack is not just relatable characters, but interesting ones. Anderson will definitely make sure to give us fascinating characters as well as individual stories for those characters. This can bode well for the horror film as we’re more connected with the characters, thus if something bad were to happen, we’ll be more emotionally invested. 
In addition to the cool characters, the locations and settings within Anderson pictures are also distinctive and beautiful. Now, beautiful settings are not something new to horror films. However, an Anderson horror film may not necessarily be as dark visually as horror films usually are. Instead, they might be more colorful and include centralized framing. Anderson is perhaps one of the only directors who uses centralized framing within his films and to great effect. It’s not only visually dazzling, but it allows one to play around with the mise en scène, or with what’s within the frame. 

As for the story, Anderson will definitely make the horror film quite eccentric and filled with quirkiness as well as humor. Anderson’s films heavily rely on different types of humor and sometimes, a humorous moment within horror films shows the human qualities of characters because we usually use humor to cope with tense moments. It can also help distract us and then hit us with something frightening right after. So humor could work really well.

Final Thoughts

Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson are only three directors out of the abundance of possibilities that can not only make a great horror film but make a different and unique horror film. Even in the age of the horror renaissance, sometimes we’re left feeling that horror films are all the same. However, Nolan, Tarantino and Anderson won’t be thinking about a sequel or trilogy. They’ll focus their attention on giving us a great and unique film that incorporates the elements and traits that they are most known for. 

Something I do want to acknowledge is honorable mentions. Directors like Martin Scorsese, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and J.J. Abrams could make quite unique and special horror films. Steven Spielberg, even though some of his films incorporate those horror elements, such as Jaws, if making a darker, more sinister horror film could create something quite amazing. 

Nolan, Tarantino and Anderson would push the horror genre to new heights and places that we never thought would be possible, which would also increase horror’s fan base and bring in new audience members. For audience members like you and I, who are already fans of horror, it would be an absolute joy to watch a horror film by any of the aforementioned directors.

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Rico Suave is an aspiring writer and/or director. In 2017, one of his short films won an award and in 2019 he was a finalist with a short script he wrote. Rico is Colombian but has spent the majority of his life in the States.
Rico was a volunteer for HorrOrigins’ inaugural year and says it was a pretty unique and eye-opening experience for him. He plans to continue volunteering and this year has expanded his role to include writing articles for the HorrOrigins website.
Rico has a passion for horror films but really any genre is fine with him! He is a passionate lover of cinema.

<![CDATA["Rent-A-Pal": Sanity on a Knife's Edge {Movie Review}]]>Fri, 11 Sep 2020 16:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/rent-a-pal-sanity-on-a-knifes-edge-movie-review
In a quest to absorb all things 90s nostalgia, I knew I would feel right at home inside the world of writer-director Jon Stevenson’s Rent-A-Pal. A gritty and neon look at isolation, acceptance, and the errant paths the mind wanders when teetering between fantasy and reality.
We begin our journey at Video Rendezvous, through the lens of video dating reels laced with acid washed pageantry against a laser beam background. After a few bouncy side ponytails and a dummy, we land upon David, a suave veneer of “40 years young”. David, an incredibly strong arching role by Brian Landis Folkins, is sensitive, caring and as everyone does, searches for that special forever person.

A jolt of reality shatters David’s preparedness as he must recite his endearing self-endorsement again with disastrous results. In ways, there is a bit of David in all of us, misunderstood, only good on paper or sketched out beforehand, shouldered with an unseen albatross. For David, this weight takes the form of his Dementia-ridden mother, Lucille, played beautifully by the magnificent 
Kathleen Brady.
Wil Wheaton as ‘Andy’ in Jon Stevenson’s RENT-A-PAL. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.
David’s caretaker position seems dejected at the start. That hinge of duty and resentment. The very good boy and the ball and chain. David is meticulous in his care of Lucille, her schedule, her eating habits. He is patient and kind. And frustrated and lonely. A call from Video Rendezvous sends David rocketing towards the station on the tip on a possible match. When that match turns, star-crossed David sorts through the old tapes, setting sight on Rent-A-Pal. The jovial gent on the cover, Andy, played by a manically proficient Wil Wheaton, promises to be the best of forever friends. David’s forever could come sooner than he wished. ​​​​

Once David pops the video in the recorder, things take a hard left, in the best way. Andy, an inviting, tender-voiced man in a chair with a quaint side-table seems more than eager to take on a new friendship, going through the motions of the probing questions one asks when trying to breakthrough the walls of someone. Andy is moved to leave space for David to answer. As he does, quickly and dismissively at first and then more thoughtfully as he plays the tape over and over, anticipating Andy’s questions which now seem to change form. Something else begins to morph as well, Andy’s expressions and life stories. One such story puts David in quite an indelicate situation culminating with the scolding of his mother, who thinks he is his father. Mixing her tirade with the background laughter of Andy on tape sends David to a breaking point, terrifying his mother. And David ends up back in the caregiver position once again. 
Brian Landis Folkins as ‘David’ and Amy Rutledge as ‘Lisa’ in Jon Stevenson’s RENT-A-PAL. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.
Andy and David make a BFF pact for the ages with David playing and rewinding his way to a canned friendship. David begins to depend more and more on Andy, for moral support, for a dirty joke and even a spirited game of Go Fish. All this one-sided camaraderie takes a downward spiral as our missed Video Rendezvous from the top of the movie reaches out for another shot with David. David can’t help but follow through on his date with the perfect woman. A trained caregiver in her own right, Lisa, played deftly by Amy Rutledge, ticks all of David’s boxes and then some. Their dating montage is the stuff of 90s rom-com movie magic is made of, filled with roller skating rinks, long glances, and slow dances. At last, for David, its seems his search is over. In a quick “back to my place” scenario David and Lisa begin the slow decent into naughtiness while an aggressively upset Andy looks on. 

How could David choose a woman over the friendship he’s tried so hard to cultivate from his comfy chair? Wheaton spoke about Andy’s detached social behavior, “a brokenness you just can’t fix with a reach so deep into David, he has no choice but to make this relationship work no matter what’s at stake.” David is caught between satisfying Andy and living the life he dreams of. Untethered by his sick mother and into the arms of an accepting love. David’s sanity ebbs and flows from absolute desperation to admonishment. Everything is standing in his way to be the man he wants to be, and Andy has shown him the light. Or has Andy done nothing at all. 
Brian Landis Folkins as ‘David’ and Wil Wheaton ‘Andy’ in Jon Stevenson’s RENT-A-PAL. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.
Throughout the film we bounce between whether David is under the influence of an ominous video presence or if David’s mind is so shattered, he’ll project anything onto anyone as a means of escape. When we spoke to Director Jon Stevenson, Wil Wheaton and Brian Landis Folkins regarding the framework for Rent-A-Pal, loneliness and an “incredible sense of wanting to belong envelopes all of us”, said Folkins. From personal stories of traumatic childhood experiences to finding and residing in dark mental spaces as adults, we never truly grow out of wanting to be validated, loved or appreciated. Stevenson creates a world where isolation and dark places can have us searching for any form of light, where acceptance of any kind changes our view to those we want to belong to, eroding our own choice and moral compass. For David, this arc seems inevitable as the sweet candy coating in the intro slowly peels away. At a runtime of 108 minutes, there are places that stayed a bit too long, though as the movie peels away the layers, the uncomfortable moments make a lot of sense. 

This film is great psychological horror that proves a change in attitude can be as simple as pressing play. ​​

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Mo Moshaty is a genre screenwriter, podcaster and producer. She splits her time between London and Upstate NY (while not in a global pandemic). As a Screencraft 2020 Quarterfinalist, Mo is currently working on bringing her Horror anthology television series, based on her short story collection, "The Chasm and the Caveat," to life as well as delving into horror short and microfilm production. Mo is the host of the upcoming HorrOrigins podcast and Lockdown Happy Hour, a global online collective of writers and creatives in addition to being a co-founder of New Shade Brigade, a collective working to bring marginalized, under-represented, LGBTQIA and disabled creatives together to collaborate internationally. 

<![CDATA["Raw": An Uncooked Horror Delight! {Movie Review}]]>Thu, 10 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://horrorigins.com/articles/raw-an-uncooked-horror-delight-movie-review
When it comes to foreign films, most of us will get turned off having to read subtitles. In the case of the French Horror/Drama Raw by director Julia Ducournauthe visuals capture us early on and won't let go. Now I had heard about this movie many times since its release in 2016, but never gave it a chance. Well, now that we have all been stuck inside from this pandemic I figured now is as good a time as any. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for this journey.
Justine (Garance Marillier) is a vegetarian setting out to join her sister at veterinary school. Upon her arrival, all the freshmen participate in a hazing ritual where their stuff is trashed and they have to eat a rabbit heart (you know the usual). Justine's body reacts oddly to the meat but not in the way of making her sick. She actually craves meat, disturbingly human flesh. 

In a twisted turn of events, the tone of the movie changes. There are moments where the characters aren’t speaking and the music plays perfectly in portraying the sinister thoughts coursing throughout Justine's mind. There are some great close up shots on the characters which give the scenes depth. The beautifully shot film radiates the neon lights, party sequences, Justine in the fetal position under her blankets, to a wrecked car on a long road which counters the cannibalistic tendencies of our protagonist.  
Raw does what it sets out to do. It makes you uncomfortable. Every moment Justine is alone with anyone, you never know how the situation will play out. It keeps you on the edge with its unpredictable left turns which instill fear for everyone. Then at the end, you’re hit with a sudden right turn and sends you on your way. Although, the movie is gory and raw (see what I did there?) in some parts, your eyes stay glued to the screen. For once, I enjoyed putting my feet up and watching where the movie took me.

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Hoping to break into the horror genre, Justin Cook McAfee graduated with a creative writing degree from Full Sail University. Since then, he has picked up videography, volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival, and started his own podcast. With his ever growing movie collection, Justin hopes to one day write and direct his own films. Until that moment calls, he spends his nights in the dark watching new horror movies. Justin is excited to be a part of the HorrOrigins team and ready to further his writing talents. Who would have thought seeing Mufasa die so many times as a kid would push him to horror?