In a day I (Sickle) primarily covered slow-burners, I was prepared for a day that would require a tad bit of patience and a consistent level of attention in order to reap the benefits of a pay-off in the final act. They Look Like People was the first of such films and it boasted a strong record from early viewers as an all-around winner. TLLP had high expectations, but would this bar be met through my eyes?
TLLP immediately reminded me of Enemy (2013) in tone, presentation, pacing, and ambiguity of intention. Our most supernatural moments are confined to dream-like sequences and our protagonist walks the fence between psychosis and an empathy-plagued life of awareness to surrounding evils. The mirror between these two films, however, is broken by our final act. If you have not seen Enemy, it is important to note that neither it nor TLLP are for everyone. Yet, they come down to these intense final acts. And where Enemy left you with an ominous and persistent thought, TLLP simply…ends, with a resolution that feels unresolved to an extent.
TLLP was strong in its directing and acting, even if it at times felt like a Juno-type indie romp. The quality of the film is nothing to scoff at, as it delivered a few creepy scenes that left you with an unsettling feeling. It is, at its core, a brotherly friendship and the reaches we will go to be there for those closest to us without being in our bloodline. But the nuanced horror never pays off. And while that is the inevitable point, the effort you put into waiting for a peak of terror makes you feel disappointed when it doesn’t arrive, regardless of the intention.
In psychological horror, it is imperative to retain the tension and atmosphere. TLLP introduced a few too many moments of elation that break this tension and have a difficult time recovering from it. But what we get with this film is an art house-style horror film that leaves you uneasy until the very end. And we have the excellent cast and directing to think for that.
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 7/10
Horror, Ha Ha Shorts
The Root of the Problem - Did you know tooth fairies are based on a creature called a bonegruu who uses to get their teeth buy people burying them in the ground? That is all well and good but what happens when you are a tooth fairy in the city?
Flush - When a man uses and airport bathroom he gets more than he bargains for when the bathroom attacks and kills him. Maybe when you leave your phone on the toilet seat you just get a new phone.
Happy Birthday - What starts off as a normal child’s birthday party turns dark when the presents are fodder for an evil dog’s whims. Great child acting in this film and great reactions from the audience!
Bad Guy #2 – When you are a bad guy there is a lot of turnover and sometimes you have to watch a friend or two die in order to get to the top. This is a clever take on the interworking of a crime organization and a social commentary about who is left once you are at the top.
Night of the Slasher – It can be hard to get guy when you have a massive scar on you neck from a Maniac killer attacking you. It is even hard when you need to sacrifice the guy in order to summon the same killer in order to get sweet revenge. This meta film reminds us of Wes Craven, and is a perfect homage
Invaders –Two men trying to initiate a Funny Games/You’re Next/The Strangers style killing spree are “cut” short when the family don’t put up with their creepiness. This movie had a bit too much silly use of blood for my (Efrit) taste but upon recollection it was more funny than we initially thought.
As I (Sickle) closed out the evening with another slow-burner, I found myself seeking a certain level of stimulation from the film. I needed a little more than I got from TLLP, and I got that with this film. Boasting such names as Logan Marshall-Green and John Carroll Lynch, The Invitation had a leg-up based on name recognition alone. And both of these actors performed fantastically in this ensemble psychological horror film.
The Invitation gives us a very thick, slow-churning first act, forcing you to either side with Logan’s paranoia or the rest of the party’s ignorance. Even in the climax, you are riding the fence until the resolution is laid out before you. It is the actors, directing, lighting, and score that carry this feature. These elements become the vehicle for the unsettling atmosphere, and they work in harmony to give us a solid film that delivers where it means to.
It is important to keep this review short to avoid ruining any of the film’s finer points for virgin viewers, but it is certainly a recommended watch.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 8/10
John Carroll Lynch Interview
We had the utmost privilege to spend time listening to John Lynch in a brief interview. His calm and wise demeanor is so easily prevalent as he speaks with a voice that is both pacifying and authoritative. He was kind enough to expand upon his feelings on his time spent with The Invitation and answered questions in regards to some of his other works. Some highlights:
John quipped about the low budget of The Invitation, that everything was filmed on-site in a high-life suburban LA home. The dressing rooms for female and male cast members were rooms used in some scenes in the film. It not only significantly reduced costs for the film, but also established a tight-knit group that was going to have to interact closely over the course of the production.
John called Pruitt (his character in The Invitation) “the most peaceful man I’ve ever played”. He later clarified these words, stating that the character was the most peaceful, not the most kind, calling the character a “bad patch of road”.
During The Invitation, John is seeing mumbling something during one of the final scenes, but it is inaudible. When asked about this, John said he could not recall the line, but
believes it was in some relation to a mantra spoken by the cult.
When asked about his role as Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story, John said that the most freaky thing was seeing himself as a Halloween costume. He has even provided his signature to be tattooed on a person’s body who already has an image of the clown on their skin.
In one of the most potent scenes in the film, John was asked about his performance in the powerfully delivered yell. He called the verbal exertion a realization of his character’s understanding that his answer to grief was wrong, and that it also could have represented a fulfillment of the foreshadowing provided by the wounded coyote at the beginning of the film.
In a very intriguing side-note, John was asked about his perspective on horror. When discussing it with a director, he had come to the conclusion that, based on modern humanity’s lost connection with the dead, “we’re left without the mess of death and we miss that.” A very thought-provoking point on why there is such a passionate fan base that follows the horror genre.
It was a great opportunity to hear him speak. He is a great man and a great actor. Check out The Invitation whenever you get a chance!
He Never Died
The second night of the Telluride Horror Show put Sickle and I in a tough spot. On the one hand we could see The Invitation, on the other we could see He Never Died. This presented a problem as both of these movie has received high acclaim from the people who have seen them. The Invitation was just announced as best picture at the 48th Sitges Film Festival and has a wonderful cast including Logan Marshall-Green and John Carroll Lynch (who we had the pleasure of meeting. He Never Died which premiered at SXSW has been on our radar since the Mile High Horror Festival. In the end, Sickle went to The Invitation and I saw He Never Died, and boy was I impressed.
Many people have said this movie is in a genre of its own and I would agree. This not quite horror, not quite drama, not quite dark comedy did a fantastic job of keeping you entertained the whole time. I would say that sometimes you just want an answer to exactly what is happening as the film tends to put so many clues out there that your mind needs resolution. But the end of the film makes it worth sitting through the frustrating Lost-esque every-forming mountain of questions.
I personally loved Henry Rollins portrayal of Jack the immortal cannibal. There was no misunderstanding that he didn’t care much about anyone right from the beginning and was not willing to put up with your “useless flesh-bag shit” if you will. There plenty of times when his interactions with people just make you laugh and other times where you feel his disdain for people is fully justified. It is no secret that when you live a long, long , long, …well you get the point , life you are inclined to become a bit jaded.
The plot is driven by Jack meeting someone from his past for the first time in about 20 years. For some reason this individual causes Jack to break down his stonewall of non-interaction and become more of a relatable character. He is also brought down to earth by the lovely waitress Cara who works at the diner he frequents. These two characters succeed very well in transforming jack through out the movie.
Finally we can talk about the blood and bullets part of the tag line. Jacks interactions with the antagonists of the film are some of the best around for a dark comedy. He cannot die and they do not know this, so they proceed to continually try to kill him for more and more hilarious and gruesome effect. This was well done and you can feel Jack’s mounting frustration build throughout the film.
I would definitely suggest this movie for anyone who is a fan of dark comedy’s and Henry Rollins. It falls a bit light on the horror for me to qualify it as such but that is why it kind of makes its own genre. If you can push through you feeble human mind’s need to have plot questions answered then this film is for you.
Horror Qualifier: 5/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 9/10
Fear Itself Shorts
Point of View – Working around dead bodies isn’t so bad unless the dead bodies move around when you are not looking. The creepiness in this film was in large part due to the positions the body would hold when the main character was looking at it.
Mr. Hendrix – Sometimes the pale-skinned, dress-suited monster in your closet is not always after you. To be quite frank, this short film was incredibly terrifying due to the suddenness of a lot of the monster scenes. Well done Mr. Hendrix, well done indeed.
Intruders – Despite the slightly confusing plot this movie has one of the most terrifying non-jump scares out of all of these shorts. Something about watching you impending doom point at you from across the way and run from the 20th story of one building to you room is just spooky.
No Service – Living in the mountains is great until your friends and family are trying to warn you about an impending apocalypse. This movie just goes to show you that you should never trust anyone running at you full speed covered in blood.
Vicious – Finding your front door of your home open upon returning home would make most people think someone is waiting form them inside. But sometimes the thing waiting for you on the inside side has been there all along. The use of lighting in this film was superb and elicited many awesome and tense moments.
Knock Knock – A child investigating a knocking sound from his closet door has never resulted in the discovery of such a horrifying discovery. The monster in this film was very creepy and makes me worry about what is in the dark areas of my home.