I missed all things Encapsulated last week so this time out I’m cinematically super sizing it! That’s right film fans, I’m checking out a record twelve flicks and from genre to ratings it’s a big old mixed bag. Gals with deadly gifts, romance amidst tragedy, proms and being shielded from the sun, stand up dissections, possession pictures, trailers galore, inspiring docs, creepy cabins, bad guys meeting badder guys and hell hath no fury all grace the myriad of movies covered this week. Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews for The Girl With All The Gifts, 1 Night, Dying Laughing, The Covenant, Fists Of Fury, Do You Dream In Color?, Bitter Harvest, Hunting Grounds, Comfort, Bornless Ones, Drifter and VooDoo below!
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
For those who are unaware of the premise or even genre of this little hidden gem, stop reading now and go into this sucker completely cold. (I did and the flick was better for it!) For those who need to know this tale that originally starts with some strange staging involving shackled children learning life in a classroom and then delves into more fast moving undead matters is a real nifty nail biter. Complete with suspense (to eat or not to eat friends and family is the question!), questionable characters (Glenn Close’s overly dedicated doctor is a tad a scary herself!) and plenty of cool carnage, this girl may have a gaggle of her own gifts, but she thankfully, unselfishly and cinematically shares them with those willing to watch.
1 Night is a familiar tale of romance that is given a pinch of originality by meshing parallel perspectives at both the beginning and end of two relationships together. It’s a gag that does add an air of unique (and even at times a strange time traveling familiarity!), but ultimately it’s the chemistry between the two couples that saves the day. As the older duo Justin Chatwin (so good in the hidden gem The Invisible!) and Anna Camp provide equal amounts passion and pathos in their chemistry, while Orphan alum Isabelle Fuhrman and Kyle Allen bring a quirky sweetness to their youthful side – both work wonderfully in tandem to make 1 Night an evening to remember.
There have been a ton of docs on the illusive career known as Stand-Up comedy, but none with as much raw honesty as Dying Laughing. Going well beyond the funny façade (though there are some gut busting bits – see the Emo Philips segments!), Directors Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood get some rare real moments of emotion from their talkative subjects that include the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Coogan, Billy Connolly, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Izzard, Amy Schumer, Jerry Lewis, Sarah Silverman and Chris Rock with stories involving everything from bombing on stage to creating material and even tales of physical violence all in the name of getting a laugh. But it’s the poignant words of wisdom from the late great Gary Shandling that give the subject of stand-up as a career and this doc perspective. His advice? There are no shortcuts – even the witty have to work at it.
There’s a strange photo of a group of scantily clad gals surrounding a burning symbol being used to help promote this indie horror outing and it’s definitely story and movie misleading. What actually makes The Covenant stand out as a terror tale is its strange staging of a brother and sister story where multiple tragedy brings the two siblings together…and things get weirder from there. Add plenty of unhealthy doses of odd neighbors, cross-burnt friends, haunted houses, incestuous sexual possessions and one charismatic priest with a specialty in exorcising the demons (Clint James as the cocky Father Francis Campbell rules!) and you got a fright flick that delivers the scary stuff.
FISTS OF FURY
(Full Moon Features)
I know that former Full Moon master Charles Band is listed as producer and director of this program, but it’s essentially a compilation of old school Kung Fu trailers. Fortunately for Band his selection is sensational including the themes of kick ass gals (even one with still smoking hot badass gal and Fury host Cynthia Rothrock!), Bruce Lee knock offs (Bruce Le and Sammo Hung with Enter the Fat Dragon!), flicks with weapons (swords, flying guillotines and shaolin poles – ‘Raise a fist and he’ll cut it off!’), guns vs. fists (a little Lee Van Cleef and viva Chiba!), one man armies (All hail Revenge of the Ninja!), and my personal favorite bizarre brawlers (Kung Fu vs. Yoga, Crippled Masters and Drunken Master – missing is only Gymkata!) – hey Charles, where is Volume 2?!
DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR?
A firm kick to the ass of anyone complaining that life is hard for them, this inspiring doc follows four extremely spirited and inspirational blind kids who refuse to let their disability define their life. Featured are Sarah, who is determined to travel to Portugal seeking family history, Connor, a pro-skateboarder who simply uses the power of hearing, Nick, who is a master of the drums and has his own band and finally Carina who fights the school powers that be to simply keep up her studies and graduate. All four defy serious odds and obstacles to map out their own destiny and this doc is a fitting tribute to their unwavering spirit. Would have loved to have seen the doc go a tad more investigatory on sides opposing some of the fab four (interviews with school officials for Carina and folks who decide the grants for the sightless to travel abroad for Sarah), but as far as a piece that projects their plight and power, the color of courage here is clear.
From the outset via the marketing materials Bitter Harvest appears to be yet another youth novel style tale. But it’s actually a heavy-handed drama about love and courage amidst genocidal policies against Ukraine in the 30’s. So while there is some whirlwind romance between young lovers Max Irons and Samantha Barks in the early section of the film, there’s also a ton of scenes of starvation suffering and the like at the hands of Stalin soldiers that kneecaps the viewer. And while the tone proves a tad uneven, mixed with a solid story and some good acting work by proud pop Barry Pepper and a steadfast Terence Stamp, the film still amply exposes real-life atrocities that are bitter to behold.
Even as a low budget creature feature, Hunting Grounds is pretty damn effective in its dark depiction of its badass bigfoot. The film pits an ailing father and son (along with appropriate understanding and blowhard cheesy side characters!) against the hairy man beast and amidst the so-so acting there’s some scary stuff in here. Helmed by John Portanova, the Sasquatch is staged, lit and shot in such impressive ways that it does illicit maximum scares – a rare thing for any genre outing let alone an indie flick. Add in another creepy Bill Oberst Jr. turn as a shifty woodsman and these grounds got some fertile furious fury guys ripe for hunting.
(Late To The Party Productions)
I actually dug the gimmick of Comfort which dons the familiar Before Sunrise scenario, but adds in an almost vampire like condition of having the male hero burn in the light of day. Of course it adds an extra dimension to the easy chemistry between leads Christopher Dinh and Julie Zahn, but the problem is the film never explores the relationship adverse ailment beyond surface level stuff. Meaning it’s used simply as a poster ploy to get you to buy into the way too familiar tropes of the getting-to-know-you genre playing out here – a good idea demands deep dissection.
(Black Drone Media)
A flick that’s somewhat Evil Dead light, Bornless Ones is a less effective cabin in the woods character carnage piece that’s less than memorable. R ipe with stuff we’ve seen (a little self mutilation, anyone?!), characters we don’t care about (Devin Goodsell’s boyfriend is a dirtbag in disguise!) and lame scares (what the heck are those things out in the bushes!) there’s not enough possession originality here to warrant a watch.
Drifter tries very hard to get its From Dusk Till Dawn vibe on with a tale of two criminal brothers and a terror twist half way through the film. Problem is Drew Hardwood’s Dominic doesn’t have half the charisma of Clooney, Aria Emory’s challenged brother Miles is a character we don’t care about and the lame killer vaudeville act they run into should be up for a Raspberry Award for over-the-top acting. The only time the flick works at all is in the opening bits where the Pierce Bros. badly bond over a robbery and forced gang confrontation – the rest is overly complicated film fluff that makes the audience drift.
(Freestyle Digital Media)
I can honestly say I’ve never seen a film quite like VooDoo. That’s not to say it’s a great one as there are serious tonal problems (it combines dark dream state visuals with vacation found footage – huh?!) and Grade-B acting across the board. (Even Ron Jeremy shows up…as himself!) But there’s no denying that VooDoo dares to go into some dark places that a lot of genre work won’t touch especially a trip to hell that’s as disturbing (ready to greet your deceased mother?!) and visceral (our frail leading lady Samantha Stewart gets violated…by Satan himself) as anything Wes Craven did in his heyday. A mix of mild young girl scares and sick and twisted horror at it’s most intense, VooDoo is one inventive mess.