'Awaken' trailer and the Impending Brain Explosion

'Awaken' trailer and the Impending Brain Explosion

AWAKEN is a feature documentary from filmmaker Tom Lowe that explores humanity's relationship with technology and the natural world. Shot over a 5-year period in more than 30 countries, the film pioneers new timelapse, time-dilation, underwater, and aerial cinematography techniques to give audiences new eyes with which to see our world. AWAKEN is a celebration of the spirit of life, an exploration of the Earth, and an ode to the Cosmos.

Netflix Binge: GirlBoss

I'm going to preface this with the fact that I did little research about this new Netflix show before brain dumping the whole first season (yeah, roll your eyes, you know you do the same damn thing).

I mean, I watched the trailer about a week ago and knew it was about the now bankrupt webstore NastyGal creator, Sophia Amoruso, but I had little idea about much more of it.

Then I mass binged on GirlBoss and wasted an entire weekend of my life.

Okay, so it wasn't a full weekend. But it was a good 6.5 hours... and that time is gone. GONE FOREVER.

The show started out mildly amusing. I'm a fan of Britt Robertson, I dig her snarky deliveries. She was pretty awesome in Ask Me Anything and when Secret Circle & Life Unexpected were on, I remember digging her style.

But it's literally not her fault that I disliked the show: It's Sophia Amoruso's fault.

I thought the flow of the show was great, I thought the acting was good, and that's about it. The content of the show pissed me off. I HATED Sophia Amoruso as a person (or, at least, how she is portrayed in the "loose retelling of true events... real loose").

I watched the trailer and was drawn to the world I was a part of: the internet in the 2000's, making a name for yourself, being empowered, and empowering others.

This chick...

The whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way. This is a girl who I would purposefully avoid talking to at all costs (and avoid being associated with) and not just because she's rude. Because she's an asshole.

Somehow the shows direction becomes about a boy.

Yawn. Eyeroll.

COME ON. You've gotta do better than that.

The end of the series may have been me circa 2006-2009. And maybe that's why I disliked the show. I know how it feels to run a website where the awesome comments are what keep you going. But I never treated anyone the way this psycho treats her friends, her boyfriend, her parents, or her neighbors.

Also, if RuPaul is your damn neighbor, you best come with a little bit more respect then that.

I've never been to LA and maybe I just don't get it. I don't know, nor do I care. And damn, do I feel really bad for disliking this show. I'm supposed to be a supportive woman to other women, right?

Well, except for Sophia and Lena Dunham... I dislike both of them.

I'm all for making money, I can't discredit anyone for trying to get that paper. But this show just didn't do it for me.

MasterWorks Broadway & Broadway Records Release Groundhog Day The Musical - Original Broadway Cast Recording - Digital Album Available Now - CD Out May 12

MasterWorks Broadway & Broadway Records Release Groundhog Day The Musical - Original Broadway Cast Recording - Digital Album Available Now - CD Out May 12

Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin, Book by Danny Rubin, Directed by Matthew Warchus

"Groundhog Day manages to hold onto everything that made Harold Ramis' movie such a classic and adds songs bound to become nearly as memorable." - Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

Universal CityWalk Inaugurates its All-New State-of-the-Art Universal Cinema

Universal CityWalk Inaugurates its All-New State-of-the-Art Universal Cinema

Celebratory Event Invites Movie-Goers to "See Movies Where Movies are Made" as Universal CityWalk Officiates the Grand Opening of Its Multi-Million Dollar Cinema Renovation

Needed a Zen Break

Welp, I'm back Jack!

I needed a break to get my job back on track and now that it is... I've decided to return to the wonderful world of blogging.

I could go on and on about how stressed out I've been and I'm sure the last frigging thing I need is to overload myself... but I can't help it. I've always been a writer and it's apparently my lot in life.

Sorry for all the apathy in my return to blog post... Byproduct from my back surgery.

I'll work on it, don't worry

Cinema Obscura: Rare Exports

This post was originally published on the DIDS website. Check out more reviews like this at From the Depths of DVD Hell.

Cinema Obscura - a weekly trek through the darker and frequently more random and forgotten regions of Cult, Foreign and Obscure cinema and pretty much everything in between. Each week highlighting a film worth hunting down, for those who like to wander away from the more-traveled-roads of Mainstream cinema.

This week marks a first for me, seeing how this is the first Finnish movie that I have reviewed ever, which is not too surprising as Finland isn’t exactly known for having a thriving film industry, yet it is from here the next “Alternative Christmas” Selection hails from, as Director Jalmari Helander sets out to give us a very different take on the Santa Claus myth.

Set on Christmas Eve, were a group of reindeer farmers living near the Korvatunturi mountains find their herd mysteriously slaughtered. Blaming the loss of their herd of wolves they quickly to write the mysterious deaths off while now facing no source of income. Meanwhile a young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) suspects that something that something else might be afoot, especially as an American drilling team working in the mountains have just discovered the mythical tomb of Santa Claus.

Starting life as a short film known as “Rare Exports Inc.“ (2003) were director Jalmari Helander, shot in a faux documentary style following band of three hunters (marker, sniper and tracker) on the hunt for the wild Santa Claus. This he followed up in 2005 with the fake health and safety film “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions“ both of which were greeted highly positively but it would seem that Helander wasn’t quite over his feral Santa obsessions, as with this film he finally expands his highly unique twist on the Santa legend into a full-length feature.

Helander’s vision of Santa is far from the jolly fat man who we all tend to think of when we here the name, but here is portrayed as a Nordic legend were Santa is a horned demon, who kidnaps naughty children and who was imprisoned in the mountains to stop his twisted ways. Still Helander plays things close to his chest throughout, as he slowly adds layers to the myth, with the reindeer first turning up dead, followed soon after by all the village radiators and children apart from Pietari mysteriously vanishing overnight, but the real mystery begins when a strange bearded and naked old man turns up in one of the wolf pits” could he be the same mythical Santa or is he something else?

Still fear not as the towns folk here are unsurprisingly a tough bunch of people, with even kids frequently shown carrying rifles, which is the lifestyle you’d expect looking at their remote living conditions, were their sole source of income come from their reindeer herds, which makes it easy to understand their plan to sell this strange old man to the American’s as a genuine Santa and Helander has done a great job of bringing to life a great cast of characters, who are genuinely interesting and believable to watch, while maintaining the same spirit of his original short films.

While it might seem like yet another Christmas horror movie, the film is actually not as horror based as it would seem and largely plays like a warped fantasy film as Helander crafts out his own mythology for the Christmas legend, while his decision to play the events from a child’s perspective only help make the myth all the more believable, something seriously helped by Pietari not being one of the usual Hollywood smart ass movie kids, but rather a more realistic character who not only has genuine fears about a killer Santa roaming the village, but also worries about his fragile bond with his father, who is largely emotionally cold to his son, spending most of his time as the unofficial head of the village and ensuring that their turn enough profit from their herds to enable them to survive, something which has clearly caused him to lose touch with his own son’s emotional needs, with this relationship in particular being one of the key plot lines as the film progresses, with Pietari clearly keen to show that he is more capable of looking after himself than his father would believe, while there is at the same time an undertone that the men in the village have to prove themselves to be men capable of contributing to the survival of the village, which Pietari has frequently failed to do with his shy and retiring nature, while all the other men are shown as tough and burly.

Santa and his naked elves (it makes sense when you watch it trust me) once again maintain strong ties to things largely associated with Christmas; hence we see them with a ravenous appetite for Gingerbread, as well as being able to smell children, while their lack of dialogue only adds a mysterious edge to them, as well as enforcing the fact that these are very primal creatures and as such perfectly suited to the barren landscape which they inhabit. Meanwhile, the drilling crew are given out leaflets encouraging them to be good and think happy thoughts while working on the dig, by their mysterious American employer, while never fully being told what it is that they are looking for.

Despite being marketed as a horror film, there isn’t much in the way of gore with most of the deaths outside of a surprise pick axe to the head happen off screen, with only brief scenes of a reindeer carcass being butchered being the closest the film gets to gore, though it is expected that to a Finnish audience these scenes wouldn't be overly shocking, much like a Korean audience would view the squid eating scene in “Oldboy”. Still, the film has nothing taken away from it, by keeping things gore-free, while perhaps missing the chance to include the always effective shots of blood on fresh snow, which was kind of disappointing, much like Santa never getting a big final reveal.

On the whole, “Rare Exports” is a very sweet natured yet twisted movie and best categorized as with the likes of “Pans Labyrinth” and “The City of Lost Children” as it took attempts to create a fantasy Christmas tale for adults, especially as the sight of rampaging naked old men, might be a little too much for most kids, let alone adults to take, while Helander still manages to pull off a surprising twist at the end, which nicely ties into his earlier shorts. Still, if you want something different to watch this Christmas as well as an interesting take on the Santa myth, I would recommend giving this one a look.

Cinema Obscura: The Star Wars Holiday Special

This post was originally published on the DIDS website. Check out more reviews like this at From the Depths of DVD Hell

Cinema Obscura - a weekly trek through the darker and frequently more random and forgotten regions of Cult, Foreign and Obscure cinema and pretty much everything in between. Each week highlighting a film worth hunting down, for those who like to wander away from the more-traveled-roads of Mainstream cinema.

On May 25, 1977 George Lucas created with “Star Wars” the summer blockbuster, launching a saga which go onto be one the most popular franchises of all time, while giving nerdy males like myself something to fill all that time we had on our hands from you know not being able to talk to girls etc, while raking in $4.41 Billion in box office revenue from the films alone and this doesn't include the money generated from the countless spin off’s and merchandise”_because after all no home is complete without it’s glow in the dark lightsaber! 

Needless to say George Lucas has frequently tried to torpedo his cash cow with some shall we say interesting directions in which he chose to take the franchise with the first of these being in “Return of Jedi” which introduced the Ewoks, a creation which grew out of his desire to have a village of Wookies which somehow turned into these monstrosities which as we all know, were greeted by much disgust by the fan base, while also being one of the few cute and cuddly characters that people didn’t mind seeing being blown up. Still these would seem quite passable by the time that “The Phantom Menace” finally came out sixteen years later and unleashed the nowlegendary(and not in a good way) “Jar Jar Binks” which once again caused further venom to be unleashed by the fan verseas wellas the occasional burning effigy, as Lucas had finally managed to create something even crappier than those bloody teddy bears!!

Alas there would be something would top both these thing in terms of overwhelming badness, so much so that it would only ever be shown once in 1978 only to ever reappear on bootleg VHS copies as all those involved tried to forget it had ever been created. I am of course talking about “The Star Wars Holiday Special” and seeing how this December I am celebrating an “Alternative Christmas“ looking at the films which might be set at Christmas but are anything but traditional in the vision of the festive season they provide, in a series of reviews both here in this column as well as over my blog "From The Depths of DVD Hell", so what better time to revisit this rightfully forgotten cash in.

Riding high on success of “A New Hope” the story follows Han Solo and Chewbacca as they travel to Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyk to celebrate Life Day with Chewie's family who comprise of his father Itchy, his wife Malla and son Lumpy all of which would be later retconned to Attichitcuk, Mallatobuck and Lumpawarrump, rather than taking the more sensible choice of just killing them off. Still these bargain basement Wookie costumes you best get used to watching, as they are your main company for pretty much the whole run time of this thing, while their various grunts and growls are even more nonsensical when they are the only characters on screen, often meaning that Art Carney seen here as the trader and family friend Saun Dann is left to try and string things together for those of us who don't speak Wookie, while the audience wonders why they aren’t getting to see their favourite heroes instead of these second rate characters

Meanwhile the Empire are busy searching for rebel agents on the planet after losing Han and Chewie, whose attempts to elude the Empire once again forms the mainback bone of the plot, which is intercut with random cameo appearances by Luke Skywalker, C3PO, R2-D2 and Princess Leia, aswell as several variety show style segments, musical performances and a cartoon, all of which add up to a two hour car wreck of a holiday cash in.

Still what is most interesting about this special is that all the cast return to play their characters, something unheard of for a special of this type and something which they would all later regret upon the release of the final product, with Lucas rarely commenting on it and seemingly refusing to acknowledge it’s existence, while Carrie Fisher would provide her commentary for the Star Wars DVD’s on the condition that Lucas gave her a copy, somthing which she openly admits to showing at parties, usually when she wants everyone to leave. Still these appearances outside of Chewie and Han Solo are pretty much glorified guest appearances with the majority of the special being left to Chewie’s family to irritate the audience with their painfully unfunny attempts at humour while preparing for Life Day or eluding the Empire.

Still if the antics of Chewie’s family were not annoying enough we also get even more unlikable characters introduced via various celebrities of the time who will no doubt beunrecognizableto most people not born back then, as they try to earn some cool points and no doubt an easy pay check off the back of the Star Wars craze, so hence we get Harvey Korman (yep i've no idea who he is either) showing up in three separate skits, with the most memorable of these being the mildly amusing “Cooking with Chef Gormanda” a four armed cook who Malla struggles to keep up with. Meanwhile his appearance as a malfunctioning droid in an instructional video is just painful to watch. Still slightly better is “Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur as a bar tender at Mos Eisley cantina, which also see’s a welcome return of the various residents and cantina band, though her bursting into “Good Night, But Not Goodbye” will have you quickly looking for the fast forward button.

This random musical interlude is not the only questionable musical moment, as Princess Leia even bursts into a song set to the tune of the Star Wars theme, which unsurprisingly didn’t catch on and hence why you always get folks trying to warble the instrumental version. I did wonder though why "What do you buy a Wookie for Christmas, when he already has a comb" didn't make the special.

Outside of the amateur hour operatic’s we also get musical performances by both “Jefferson Starship” and “Diahann Carroll” both of which quickly descend into 2001 style acid trip light shows , while Carroll’s performance is creepily watched by Chewie’s father as Carroll informs him that she is his “fantasy” while inviting him to “experience her”, while certainly not made any less creepy by the fact that Itchy is sitting in a machine pressing buttons which supposedly control the experience, which also brings into question if sex with a wookie is classed as bestiality?

So while the majority of the special is plain garbage there is still one good thing to come out of this and like the penny in the pile of shit, it is the first ever appearance of Boba Fett!! That’s right the coolest character in the whole of the Star Wars Universe made his debut here in the cartoon segment of the special, which take the term “Artistic License” to whole new level meaning that we get a rubbery looking R2-D2 and a version of Han Solo which bares a striking resemblance to Mick Jagger. Still it’s a fun first appearance for Boba Fett and is the only real reason to sit through the rest of the special which no doubt explains why it’s in the third quarter and not at the start.

To say that the special is flawed, is to put things lightly as honestly it deserves to have any copy in existence gathered up and burned and should in no reason what so ever be attempted to view while sober, with laces in your shoes or without atleast a couple of friends to heckle to hell out of it, neither of which I had for this last viewing which created an experience which is nothing short of cinematic root canal surgery”...you have been warned!!

Cinema Obscura: The Wizard of Gore

This post was originally published on the DIDS website. Check out more reviews like this at From the Depths of DVD Hell

Cinema Obscura - a weekly trek through the darker and frequently more random and forgotten regions of Cult, Foreign and Obscure cinema and pretty much everything in between. Each week highlighting a film worth hunting down, for those who like to wander away from the more-traveled-roads of Mainstream cinema.


Since exploding on the scene towards the end of 2001, the Suicide Girls have become something of a culture phenomenon, having burst out of their web based roots to the point where they are now considered the alt-scene rival to both Hustler and Playboy with founder Missy Suicide frequently going on record with her claims that they receive more submissions than both those magazines combined. As the years have gone by and the profile of the site has grown, thanks largely to various celebrity endorsements from the likes of Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl, it was only really a matter of time before the Suicide Girls turned their attentions to the movies and this 2007 remake of the Herschell Gordon Lewis original marked a pre-emptive strike by the girls to break into the market before releasing "Suicide Girls Must Die!" in 2010.

I should state at this point before I go any further that I am looking at this film, purely on its own merits, rather than drawing comparisons to the 1970 Herschell Gordon Lewis original, which some of you no doubt hold dear like it's director the legendry grandmaster of splatter and will no doubt be up in arms about someone daring to remake one of his films, but seeing how I last watched the original, a couple of years back and not being able to find a copy in time for this review, I have for this reason decided to just look at this film on its own, without drawing comparisons between the original and this remake.

Edmund Bigelow (Kip Pardue) is a reporter for his own underground newspaper, obsessed with the obscure and bizarre nightlife of the Post Punk LA he lives in. After watching one of the elaborate magic shows put on by Montag The Magnificent (Crispin Glover), a magician with very dark twist as in his shows he seemingly kills members of the audience in various gory ways, only for them to appear unharmed at the end of the trick. However, when these volunteers start turning up dead, in ways similar to how they appeared to die on stage, Edmund decides to conduct his own investigation.

Opening with a blood drenched Edmund, as he staggers towards a strip club, clutching the latest issue of his newspaper, his Noir Esq. voice over gives us a quick background on his character, as it’s safe to say this film hits the ground running, throwing us head first into this decaying Post Punk version of LA, which Director Jeremy Kasten has chosen as the setting for his retelling of the Splatter classic which he has chosen to use as the base for his love letter to the LA Underground scene.

What first becomes apparent with this remake, is the overwhelming feeling it that the Director Kasten wasn’t sure how he could tell a Noir style psycho-thriller, within this world he has created, something which might go a long way to explaining why both Edmund and his girlfriend Maggie, are dressed like they are from the 1940’s with their retro tastes also stretching to their home life as well, with Edmund’s apartment being decorated with various old fashioned items from the period, while meanwhile the majority of the inhabitants of this world he has chosen for his setting are dressed more Punk or just with the sole intention of causing offense, such as characters like Hans (Bob Rusch) who appears during the first of Montag’s performances wearing a Nazi uniform, while during the opening party scenes we also get a quick shot of “Blood Wrestling”, which was ironically only added after several of the Suicide girls who had turned up to be party extra’s bugged Kasten to have them killed in the film and as a compromise created this scene, which actually works well in developing Edmund’s character, as he just smiles upon seeing this scene of naked women wrestling in blood, clearly having become immune at this point, from being shocked by this underground world, he has become fascinated with, while at the same time preferring it seems to remain an observer, rather than joining in and it’s Montag’s performance’s which to his surprise actually manages to shock him, despite him initially dismissing the act.

Montag’s performances are all equally bloody and gooey, as the (unwitting) volunteers appear to get killed in several horrible ways which include being burned alive and death by bear traps. The volunteers played here by Suicide girls Flux Suicide, Cricket Suicide, Nixon Suicide and Amina Munster (who makes the most of having no leg in real life, by having it torn off in the film) are all surprisingly convincing as actors for the small amount of screen time which they have, especially Flux who actually has one of the more important scenes of the film, but even more surprising is that you never once do you get the feeling that, they have been used just because of their “Suicide Girl” links or as that the film is some kind of shameless "Suicide Girls" plus, especially after all it is one of the selling points of the DVD to lure weak minded men / women folk like myself, drawn in by the “Featuring the suicide girls” tagline on the DVD cover.

Director Kasten has assembled a great group of horror heavyweights including Crispin Glover, Jeffrey Combs, Brad Dourif all of which are great in their respective rolls, with Glover acting truly off the hook with a performance which is almost hypnotic with his showmanship as the Magician Montag, as he prances around the stage while constantly addressing his audience with his random rants about the embodiment of self. Meanwhile Jeffery Combs is almost unrecognizable, until the end of the film as “The Geek”, spending the film dressed like a crazy homeless person, as he provides the warm up act for the show, biting the heads of rats and performing other equally disgusting acts, much to the intended repulsion of the gathered crowd. Brad Dourif is basically back in his usual crazy role as Doctor Chong, which is the kind of role we have to come to expect from him, when he is not providing the voice of the psycho doll Chucky in the “Childs Play” films. Meanwhile the rest of the cast do a great job with Kip Pardue more than capable of playing the lead, keeping the audience intrigued, while never giving the final twist away, as he forces the audience to see only what Edmund see’s, uncovering the puzzle one piece at a time as he slowly puts it all together. I also should mention that this is probably one of the few films, where I haven’t been truly irritated by Bijou Phillips, who usually I find either too sleazy or just plain annoying, but here I felt none of that and was surprisingly sold on the apparent innocence of her character Maggie, who is clearly not as comfortable in this alternative world as Edmund seems to be, constantly sticking close to him when confronted with anything that invades her little bubble of innocence that she has created for herself, while often appearing shocked at just how deep into this world Edmund has immersed himself.

The main problem I have with this film though, is mainly with how it is many ways attempting to fight well above its weight, with the story often getting confusing with the numerous layers, which Director Kasten has chosen to add to his vision, meaning that we are often bogged down in confusing visuals and making it hard to distinguish between the dream world and reality, something which it seems is clearly his intention, seemingly being represented of the mental state of Edmund though perhaps in the hands of another director, more familiar with this dream like style of film making, as sadly it detracts from what is generally a very watchable film. Still despite these issues I would certainly be interested in seeing more of his films, as the experience of watching “Wizard of Gore” certainly didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, unlike so many remakes that are churned out these days, it’s just more of a confused feeling that I now have to contend with. “Wizard of Gore” might get the backs up of the Herschell Gordon Lewis fan base and will no doubt be stumbled upon by fans drawn in more by the names featured on the cover, but it is certainly a film that deserves a watch (or two) as it is a film that has managed to at least escape the taboo of being a remake, to the point where it is a noteworthy film on its own merits, even if it’s minus points will no doubt lose it more fans than it gains, while perhaps proving to be one of the more interesting things that the "Suicide Girls" have attached their marketing machine to.

Cinema Obscura: Panic Button

This post was originally published on the DIDS website. Check out more reviews like this at From the Depths of DVD Hell

Cinema Obscura - a weekly trek through the darker and frequently more random and forgotten regions of Cult, Foreign and Obscure cinema and pretty much everything in between. Each week highlighting a film worth hunting down, for those who like to wander away from the more-traveled-roads of Mainstream cinema.

It’s safe to say that this era will be defined as the “the social networking era", especially as it seems the majority of us can’t get through the day without our Facebook / Twitter fix and I know that I'm certainly no exception to this. So what better time could there be for “Panic Button" to come along, the second feature by English writer / director Chris Crow who has made this  movie which  supposedly attempts to highlight the dangers of social networking sites, especially with it’s Dan Brown esq title card “Inspired by true stories shared via social networks.

The plot is honestly nothing too special as four strangers a brought together after winning a competition for an all expenses paid trip to New York on fictional social networking site All2gether.com. Having given up their mobile phones, the group board their private jet, were they are greeted by a mysterious voice represented by a cartoon Alligator, who appears on the numerous monitors in the plane, who proceeds to invite them all to play a series of games, in a bid to win even more prizes. It’s only once the games begin that the group realise that things might not be what they seem and even more so that they should really have read the terms and conditions.

The group though small in number are interesting enough from the first impressions we get from them as we have single mum Jo (Scarlett Alice Johnson), the geeky computer nerd Max (Jack Gordon), the laddish Dave (Michael Jibson) and the bubbly blonde Gwen (Elen Rhys), but it’s once the games start that we truly learn who these characters really are, as their darkest secrets are dredged from their internet histories and social network pages and put on show for the others to see, as director Crow reminds us just how much information we send across the internet on a daily basis and what it can possibly revel about us. Though small in numbers especially when compared to the group numbers in similar films, they still manage to have enough dark secrets to compensate and the claustrophobic setting of the aircraft cabin certainly working to the advantage of such a small number of potential victims.

The cast are all unknowns yet still pull off believable performances, with the anonymity certainly working to their advantage here as no one is viewed with any preconceived notions of what sort of characters any of the group really are. Joshua Richards however seems to be channeling Brian Cox for his portrayal of the mysterious voice known funnily enough only as Alligator seeing how he’s represented by surprise! Surprise! of all things a talking alligator. Still this Brian Cox inspired voice acting is a great choice, especially seeing how Cox was so memorable with his own commentary in brutal PS2 game “Manhunt" and it’s a similar switching between playful and taunting that Richards brings to the role, which proves to be one of the stronger parts of the film, especially as he continually gives the impression of being in complete control, even as the group try to fight against the game they are being forced to play

Premiering at 2012's Horrorfest, it’s premise made it instantly one of the most talked about films of the festival, with its premier being greeted with much excitement and honestly the first thirty minutes of this movie are really great with the tension slowly being cranked up, as the games start of innocent enough with truths about the groups members being exposed to revel such fun facts as who secretly has a pierced scrotum, only to then suddenly take on a much darker edge, as the once playful voice suddenly becomes a lot more taunting and with the plane in flight it leaves the group with no were to run and zero means of escape, leaving them fully in the hands of this anonymous voice. Sadly it’s around this point that the film soon starts to loose it’s way as the group members are each assigned their own individual tasks causing a serious break in the tension, as the film now starts to feel as if it has no place to really go and is essentially padding out its run time, with this drawn out final game.

The main problem for myself with the film,  is that it tries to keep the focus purely on the group, no doubt due to budget restrictions which makes sense to keep the action purely in one setting, though without a second plot thread to keep the film flowing it results in the audience soon growing bored of these characters, especially when we know who they are which results in grinding everything to almost a standstill. A quick glance at similar films to this one only further highlight this issue, for example “Saw" (2004) is set largely around the two guys locked in a disused bathroom, but we still have the second plot-line involving Detective Tapp tracking Jigsaw to help keep the action flowing, even “Cube" (1997) had it’s series of identical interlinking rooms to throw in a few surprises, were as here it feels that they have written themselves into a corner with the setting and outside of how certain contestants meet their demise, there is very little on offer to surprise the audience once their secrets have been revealed and we know who they really are, with the final big twist almost seemingly anticlimactic once the big revel is given, while when the face behind the mysterious voice is revealed it only results in more questions as to how they managed to orchestrate the whole thing, while the epilogue is certainly undeniably chilling.

Director Crow has taken the refreshingly original direction here to keep the film largely gore free, which might be slightly disappointing for those expecting to see “Saw" on a plane! But it certainly doesn't take anything away from the film by not painting the walls with buckets of gore and amputated limbs, which after seven “Saw" movies is a much needed breath of fresh air for the genre and proving once again that you don’t always need to gross out your audience.

Despite having it’s numerous flaws “Panic Button" is still worth a rental, even if it doesn't exactly manage to keep up the tension the whole way through, it still plays out well enough to keep your attention, even when it feels like such minimal plotting is being stretched way too thin, while Director Crow show potential for good things, it is still way too early to start categorizing him as the new voice of British horror, he has still managed to pull off an effective film on a minimalist budget which reminds you again that a good films doesn't always need to have big named stars and a huge budget to achieve it’s effect and perhaps with a little more tweaking this film could have been a better example of this

Cinema Obscura: The Woman

This post was originally published on the DIDS website. Check out more reviews like this at From the Depths of DVD Hell

Cinema Obscura - a weekly trek through the darker and frequently more random and forgotten regions of Cult, Foreign and Obscure cinema and pretty much everything in between. Each week highlighting a film worth hunting down, for those who like to wander away from the more-traveled-roads of Mainstream cinema.

There are times as a critic were you will encounter a film, which makes you stop and say “I really have no idea, how the hell I’m going to review this” and much as was the case with “Martyrs” once again I'm presented with exactly the same situation, so this is going to be real interesting to see how this works out....so here goes nothing.

Lucky Mckee is probably the most indie of the new generation of horror directors, having first burst onto the horror scene with “May” (2002), he has continued to maintain his indie roots while continually proving to be one of the most exciting new horror directors currently on the modern horror scene, a reputation which he further cements with this film, which could also be his most controversial to date as  he once again teams up with horror writer Jack Ketchum for his second adaptation of Ketchum's work after previously directing “Red” (2008).

While “The Woman” is the sequel to Ketchum's “The Offspring”  it is not essential to have read that book or even seen the film version, to get into this film as it is still very much a standalone movie, country lawyer and supposed family man Chris (Sean Bridgers) capture a primal woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) he finds in the woods during a hunting expedition, whom he proceeds to chain in his cellar while making plans to “civilise” her, not realizing the effect she will have on his family, who are already a fractured unit to say the least with his wife Belle (Angela Bettis) suffering from his casual abuse, while he seems to be molding a monster in his own image with his son Brian (Zach Rand), meanwhile his eldest daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) lives in constant fear of her father, with the only one untouched by Chris’s influence seemingly being his youngest daughter Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen), while this family clearly is a powder keg waiting to explode and the woman could be  the spark to do just that.

Since its premier at Sundance “The Woman”, where a man in the audience walked out complaining about the violence and misogyny featured (as shown in a much discussed YouTube clip), it has essentially has been a hot bed of controversy since then, with Director Mckee throwing into this potent mixture torture, nudity, rape and visceral gore, but surprisingly the most shocking thing on here is the casual abuse which Chris is happy to hand out to his family, to maintain his position as the head of the household. When all these factors are combined, this is far from an easy movie to watch, yet Mckee still manages to keep a vice like grip on your attention, slowly twisting the tension as he builds up to the inevitable meltdown.

The cast are all pretty much faultless with Mckee’s once again casting his long term partner in crime Angela Bettis once more and whom has appeared in all his film since, playing the titular “May” in his debut feature she has proven more than capable of adapting herself to the various roles Mckee has written for her in the past and here she perfectly embodies the character of Belle, who has now been reduced to a timid shell of a person, to the point where she unquestionably follows her husband’s plans to civilize the woman, without Chris bothering to properly explain his intentions, while being certainly even less willing to stop him tearing the family apart. Bridgers is equally fantastic as Chris, easily switching between his dominating side he reserves for his family and the southern gentleman face he projects to the public on his day to day life, while only truly revealing the true depth of his evil at the climax which like his third side comes seemingly out of nowhere. Still he is very much in the mind of the end justifying his means, as he regularly beats the woman when she disobeys his commands, while not even thinking twice to use a power hose to clean the dirt of her body.

With such controversial material on display, I had to question how much the younger cast members were aware of the content of the film? Still both Carter and Rand handle their roles wells with Carter certainly being one to watch, with her portrayal of Peggy proving to be especially memorable, as she takes the audience with her on an emotional journey, as she struggles to handle the chaos around her, let alone the fact her parents are keeping a feral woman in the cellar. Yet at the same time you feel that she longs to feel the same acceptance that her father shows to her brother, frequently emasculating her appearance by cutting her hair short and wearing baggy clothes, seemingly to disguise her femininity ideas sadly not explored further, much like a last minute pregnancy accusation which comes out of nowhere, yet to which Mckee seems especially keen to nail down, even when the audience is doubting it’s plausibility, let alone that it is used as the breaking point for the family.

Rand on the other hand is more of the curious teenager and monster in the making, as his father bullies him constantly to mold him in his image, while when left to his own devices even starts imitating his father’s actions with the woman, quickly changing from the naive teenager into something a lot more dark and sinister whenever he is near the woman.

McIntosh is truly believable as the titular woman, whose statuesque figure embodies this Amazonian like character, whose very nature is deeply rooted in our most primal instincts as she lives only to further her own survival, happily chewing off Chris’s probing finger without seemingly the slightest bit faze by the violence of her acts, while communicating only in the most basic of grunts and howls. Even though she seems to understand what is happening around her, the woman remains true to her primal instincts throughout, as especially shown during the bloody climax were she truly shows what she is capable of, as she sets about extracting her own brand of revenge on her captives.

Despite several moments of extreme gore, outside of Chris losing a finger, Mckee has make the bold decision to keep the gore for his shocking finale were he delivers in spades and truly ensures that the film gets a bloody send off, while seemingly being more happy to torture the audiences psyche until then, through scenes of Chris’s torments let alone a rape sequence which is handled in a thankfully non gratuitous manor and serves solely as a representation of the decline in morals that the woman brings out in the men in the family, as Mckee once again demonstrates a keen intellect behind his desire to shock.

While it might be easy to get caught up in the sexual politics which Mckee continually plays around with throughout to varying degrees of success, it is essentially best to leave these points open to personal interpretation, while for myself I found it to be a film which worked best when looked on as a grim portrait of picket fence hell, while proving once more that hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned.