‘Here Alone’ Review

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Director: Rod Blackhurst

Writer: David Ebeltoft

Cast: Lucy Walters, Gina Piersanti, Adam David Thompson, and Shane West

Synopsis: A woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic that has decimated society and forced her deep into the unforgiving wilderness.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The final film I’ll be reviewing from the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival last weekend is Here Alone. Before last weekend, I didn’t even know anything about Here Alone, hell I didn’t even know it was a film, but I’m glad the programmers got this to play this film because it really hit me surprisingly hard.

Here Alone follows Ann (Walters), who is living off in the woods by herself after a widespread epidemic has killed most if not all of society making them into mindless monsters. However, during a supply run she encounters two survivors in Chris (Thompson) and his stepdaughter Olivia (Piersanti) and reluctantly takes them in while Chris gets over an injury. What follows is Ann’s journey to rediscovering what it’s like to be around other people, and the three trying to survive.

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Yes, you read that right, Here Alone is a zombie/infected film, well, it is more of a character piece and focuses more on the human side of things opposed to constantly trying to avoid hordes of the undead film. The film doesn’t even refer to them as the infected since Ann, Chris and Olivia avoid them at all costs. We do see the infected in the film, but they literally have about five minutes of screen time near the end of the film. This is something that I really appreciated about the film, because even when the infected are introduced, the focus is still on the human characters, more specifically Ann.

Here Alone will definitely test you. One, it’s a slow pace that feels like an art house film at times. The whole first act of the film is Ann doing her daily regimen with little to no dialogue, but seeing Lucy Walters go through the motions with the great cinematography by Adam McDaid it really keeps you engaged. Of course, some will probably find it boring, which is fine, but personally I liked the change of pace. Second, Ann’s full story takes a while to really develop, even though we can assume and deduct what happened to her since her flashbacks include her and her husband played by Shane West. Despite that, I loved the editing when everything came full circle on Ann’s story.

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When it comes to the main actors Walters does everything she can to be engaging as possible, and for the most part she succeeds. The only reason I bring it up is because the cast is so limited you can see the limits the characters and the performances. Adam David Thompson’s Chris has his moments, and Gina Piersanti’s Olivia has an interesting arc in the film and the payoff is a little mishandled in my opinion, but overall the performances are good.

All in all, Here Alone doesn’t necessary bring anything really new to the genre and these types of films, but it doesn’t mean it’s worth the watch. The film did crush me after watching it, and stuck with me way after.

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Here Alone

5 out of 5

‘I Am Not a Serial Killer’ Review

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Director: Billy O’Brien

Writers: Billy O’Brien and Christopher Hyde

Cast: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Lucy Lawton, Dee Noah and Karl Geary

Synopsis: In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

This is the second review of the films I saw at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. This one is the adaptation of Dan Wells’ novel of the same name, and in my opinion was one of the three best films playing that weekend. I had the opportunity to read the book years back and really enjoyed it, and I didn’t even know a film was in the works until it premiered at some film festivals. Thankfully, it was playing at this particularly film festival and I got the chance to see it, because it is truly one of the best films of the year.

I Am Not a Serial Killer follows teenager John Wayne Cleaver (Records), who is not like his peers, because John has been diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist Dr. Neblin (Geary). In order to keep his tendencies from getting the best of him, he makes rules for himself. What keeps some of that at bay is his job of helping his mother down at the morgue. However, the small town he lives in suddenly encounters mysterious and deadly murders that are labeled animals attacks. John being curious starts to investigates and eventually finds out what is causing the vicious attacks, and it’s something that he never anticipated.

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While the novel is classified as a Young Adult Novel, the novel and the film don’t feel that way. The film feels like an indie, off-beat comedy with thriller elements and even a little horror thrown in there. It also helps that director Billy O’Brien choose to shoot the movie on actual film because it gives it a nice grainy look that completely fits the film’s tone and overall feeling. It also gives the film a great look when the setting of the film changes from fall to winter.

One of the big reasons I Am Not a Serial Killer works is because of the cast, mainly lead actor Max Records as John Wayne Cleaver. The film is built on his shoulders and he carries it gracefully. You completely buy his character, and while he is supposed to have sociopathic thoughts, you still root for and care about him. Christopher Lloyd plays John’s neighbor Mr. Crowley is also great to watch especially once he gets more screen time.

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It will help those who watch it that the cast is great and has great and well-timed comedic beats at the beginning because the film is a slow-burn. The film never feels boring, although it briefly lingers around the middle, but it made sense why it did, and Records makes those moments still work. But, when all the pieces fall into place you’ll appreciate the grand scheme of it all.

Since I read the book, I knew the last act of the film comes from out of nowhere, and I think some people will be thrown off by it. The one thing I will say about the novel and the book ending – of course without spoiling it – is the film handles the last bit a little better than the source material. Mostly because the film adds more to the ending than the novel did with the main person involved. The other thing the novel does different from the book is establish some characters more. Especially the relationship between John and Mr. Crowley that was something I was really missing – and is missed – from the film.

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All in all, I Am Not a Serial Killer is definitely worth the watch, and is for sure one the best films of the year. While the slow burn and ending will leave some viewers feeling antsy, Max Records and the off-beat comedy moments will leave you hooked right up until the very ending.

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer

5 out of 5

‘Found Footage 3D’ Review

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Director: Steven DeGennaro

Writer: Steven DeGennaro

Cast: Carter Roy, Alena von Stroheim, Chris O’Brien, Tom Saporito, Jessica Perrin, Scott Allen Perry and Scott Weinberg

Synopsis: A group of filmmakers sets out to make the first 3D found footage horror movie, but find themselves IN a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

This will be the first review of films I had the pleasure of watching recently at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival here in Chicago. First up is Found Footage 3D, the winner of the Jury Award. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “a found footage movie in 3D?” Yes, I had the same question and doubt you had hearing the idea. However, what director and writer Steven DeGennaro was able to do with his feature-length directorial debut was highly impressive, and worthy of your time.

The film follows a group of filmmakers in director Andrew (Saporito), writer and male lead Derek (Roy), female lead Amy (von Stroheim) who also happens to be Derek’s estranged wife, sound technician Carl (Perry), assistant Lily (Perrin) and behind-the-scenes camera man Mark (O’Brien), who is Derek’s brother. They are working on their found footage horror film called Spectre of Death, but Derek has the master idea to set their movie apart from other found footage movies out there by, wait for it, making it in 3D. Derek drives the group out to the middle of nowhere to a creepy looking house that may or may not be haunted, and as the shoot goes on things start to grow eerie around the house and finally leads to a grand finale.

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Found Footage 3D isn’t your typical found footage movie, and I’m not just talking about 3D element. The film is a completely super-meta comedy film that slowly turns into a horror film in the best way possible. A term that I saw thrown around by a couple people, and something I completely agree with, is Found Footage 3D is the Scream for found footage movies. The characters know all the tropes and clichés that these movies do, and talk about them openly even making fun of them at times. But instead of it sounding like they are bashing found footage movies – in a way they are – they are bringing up things we all ask while watching these movies like “WHY ARE YOU STILL RECORDING DUMBASSES?”

Another big thing the film takes a shot at is the easy cash-grab studios try to trick people into thinking their film is much better because it’s 3D. But, Found Footage 3D does make the 3D work for the film instead of against it. The 3D works here, and as director Steven DeGennaro pointed out during the Q&A afterwards, they filmed it in 3D which helped, and they cameras they used added layers to the every shot in the film, so it actually feels like you’re there and not just looking at a single flat image with something or just a few things sticking out at you.

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However, the big reason the film works is because of the cast. Each of the characters have their moments to shine, and you really get to know them so you feel a sense of dread for them when things start to go crazy. I don’t even want to say too much about their performance because experiencing everything for the first time is a good way to go into the film. I do want to note Scott Allen Perry as Carl, who is by far the best character in the film and is probably the most “fan-like” character in the film. And yes, Scott Weinberg – a writer on multiple websites – is in the film playing “himself,” that’s all I’ll say.

All in all, Found Footage 3D is one of those rare films that come along that every fan should watch. The cast is great, it’s funny, scary and is an all around smart and good found footage movie that yes, is in 3D. Also, if you’re thinking the 3D would be disorienting with the found footage element – something the film does briefly make fun of – it surprisingly doesn’t. Seriously, give Found Footage 3D the chance it deserves when it comes out.

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Found Footage 3D

4.5 out of 5