The Unraveling (2015) [FrightFest 2016]

UnravelingAs his fiancée is expecting his child, Michael struggles with his heroin addiction.  As his habit threatens his growing family, he is kidnapped and taken to the woods. Written by Thomas Jakobsen and Justin S. Moore and directed by Jakobsen, the film takes the addiction head on then moves in surprising directions.  The characters built are believable within the film’s established boundaries but also as humans.  What happens to them is not something everyone will go through but their reactions make sense, their actions as well.  One twist was a nit off feeling but once it’s passed, the film resumes being believable.

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The Unseen (2016) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2016]

UNSEENIn a small Northern Canadian town, a man who left his family behind to protect them receives a call that his daughter needs him.  Risking everything and possibly exposing the fact that he is becoming invisible, Bob Langmore takes a job for the local drug dealer to be able to see his daughter and help as best he can.

The Unseen is writer/director Geoff Redknap’s first feature as such, having made himself an enviable career in special effects on projects like The Cabin in the Woods, Supernatural, and Deadpool.  His background in effects shows in how Bob’s progressive invisibility is brought up and showcased.  Rednap not only does this really well, but he also creates believable characters and situations within an “invisible man” scenario.  The broken family dynamic feels real and human while their reactions and interactions blending naturally with the situations that are anything but natural.  The story does take its time getting started, making the first act seem long but once it does get going, the pace changes and the story makes the wait worth it.

The lead actor chosen for the part of Bob Langmore is very important and so Aden Young was carefully chosen and does great with the conflicted character who want to stay hidden while making sure his daughter is safe.  Viewers can see his struggle between self-protection and his need to protect his child.  Young’s performance shows this inner conflict and worry, as well as care and determination.  Supporting him as Bob’s daughter Eva is Julia Sara Stone whose expressive doe eyes lend themselves perfectly to the part of a girl finding herself while finding out her father’s secrets.  Another good performance in the film is Camille Sullivan as Eva’s mother and Bob’s ex, Darlene.  Her performance of as a caring mother feels genuine and adds to the family dynamic.

These three, with the help from the support cast, bring the story to life in a realistic manner, as much as can be. The effects, as can be expected from a special effects artist turned film writer and director, are great.  They are not only CGI as one would expect lately, but a mix of traditional effects, animatronics, and visual effects.  This paired with the original take on a man who is becoming invisible creates a striking look for the titular “unseen” man.  The way this look is created and how it evolves is a new take on the subject and very interesting.  Yes, it’s gross at times, but it’s absolutely worth it.  The look is unique and interesting; the way it evolves keeps the attention.  The crew behind this does a fantastic job.

Framing the story and its effects is the cinematography by Stephen Maier which showcases the Canadian North, almost creating a new character out of the locations and making some scenes feel as cold as the weather.  To go with these images, director Rednap tasked Harlow MacFarlane with composing the music for the score which mixes typical score music and industrial sounds that fit the settings perfectly as it sounds organic in the woodmill environment and in the rest of the film.  The songs chosen to add to the score are sometimes haunting, beautiful, and well chosen.  Only one song felt out of place, but the rest of the songs quickly made up for it.

The Unseen is an interesting take on the invisible man trope, showing a new way for the invisibility to take hold as well as a new source for it.  The acting is very good and the story works on multiple levels.  It’s a fairly serious horror drama but not stuffy or heavy per sey.  It explores an original side to the often seen story of a struggling broken family amidst the invisible man aspects.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14th to August 3rd, 2016.


Unbalanced Love (2016)

ULClocking in at three and a half minutes (five with bloopers included), director Sydney Hord’s “Unbalanced Love” is a tight and very good short horror film that oozes potential. Granted, I would have loved twenty more minutes for exposition, but considering the context of the film’s production, “Unbalanced Love” unfolds the premise and narrative very well.

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Under the Dark Wing (2014)


If there’s one complaint I can lobby at “Under the Dark Wing” is that I really would have loved ten more minutes for exposition. Director Christopher DiNunzio unfolds an interesting story with considerable ambiguity that audiences might enjoy, but I think ten minutes more would have lent the film more dread. In either case, “Under the Dark Wing” is still an eerie and fascinating horror drama that focuses on dread placing it front and center.

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Under the Skin (2014)

utsGirl drives. Girls picks up guy. Girl lures guy into black muck. Girl drives. Girls picks up guy. Girl lures guy into black muck. Girl drives. And that’s the gist of “Under the Skin.” I’m not sure if I’d recommend “Under the Skin” to even the most open minded arthouse buff. It’s not to say that “Under the Skin” is awful. It’s just an experience that won’t lend well to repeated viewings. Especially when you consider that much of what occurs is either explicitly stated and or subtly hinted at for ambiguity. For the sake of science fiction, much of “Under the Skin” is obvious, while director Glazer also vies for a gritty realism that’s sorely out of place when we see it.

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Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)


For the sequel to the creative but utterly underwhelming “Urban Legends,” director John Ottman and the writers basically ape “Scream” by taking the premise and much of the film’s general concept to the world of filmmaking. This time around “Final Cut” centralizes its story on a film school where a bunch of wannabe directors and actors are being knocked off by a serial killer with a fencing mask. Granted, I’m not a fan of the “Scream” films, but often times “Final Cut” feels like a poor man’s version of the Wes Craven series. A bunch of glamorous young folks in their thirties play aspiring Hollywood artists/college students, all of whom are being offed one by one by a masked killer in some of the most grotesque and anti-climactic ways possible.

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Urban Legend (1998)


I never understood why, if “Urban Legend” is set in New England, does the killer wear a heavy winter coat that drapes over their face during what looks like the early Fall season. You figure the killer would opt for something sleeker and more compact, as well as something that doesn’t directly cut off peripheral vision. But that is one of the many irritating aspects of “Urban Legend” that demands a lot from its audience in the way of suspension of disbelief. This is a world where suddenly everyone owns a winter jacket with white fur lining once we’re aware of the killer’s garb. Even swimmers who happen to be wearing swimsuits decide to wear it while walking along an in-door pool. Only in this universe does that make even the slightest bit of sense.

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