Thursday, March 26, 2015

Screener Screamers - Infernal

It's time to bring out a new feature on Midnight Cinephile, which I've decided to caller Screener Screamers!  (Que cheesy spooky organ music).

As you may be able to guess, it is in Screener Screamers (There's that music again!) that I will review film screeners that are sent to me!  Clever, eh?
I've never reviewed a feature film before it's release before and I'm going to be kinda feeling my way through this so bare with me. Obviously I'm going to steer clear of any spoilers while still trying to be the informative and hilariously charming fellow that you've come to know and love.

Tonight's Screamer:  Infernal.

The film starts with sweethearts Nathan and Sophia packing up and getting ready to move.  In what is quite possibly the fastest wedding proposal/wedding/pregnancy in film history, our couple has a little girl named Imogene [sic].  "That's an odd name for a girl these days," I thought to myself "That's like a Shakespearean name!"  So naturally being me I decided to look up the name.  Turns out it was the most popular baby name for girls in 2014.  Who knew!?

I'm guessing you probably didn't come here to learn about popular baby names, so we'll move on.  We're pretty much dropped into the family when Imogene is eight years old.  She's an odd child that has an unhealthy obsession with combing her hair.  She has problems making friends and has a nasty habit of just wandering off and staring off into space.  Nathan and Sophia fear that she may be autistic.  So they bring her to a psychiatrist who has them start filming everything that happens in the house using a teddy bear with a nanny cam imbedded in it (which Imogene names Brandy "Because that's what Mommy drinks every night.") as well as a hand held camera that is used in the rest of their day to day activities.

Imogene's behavior gets stranger and the stress of the situation is clearly getting to both Nathan and Sophia as they start to fight more and more.  It becomes evident that we are dealing with something more than just autism.  There is something evil lurking and waiting to take hold.  Nathan is the first to believe that what is happening may not have a natural explanation.  It takes Sophia a bit longer to accept that there may be some otherworldly forces at work.  Things continue to spiral downward towards the inevitable downbeat conclusion. As far as plot is concerned that's as far as I am going to go.  I think that this film works best when you go in knowing as little as possible. 

I was a bit concerned when I realized that it was going to be a found footage film that it was going to be a
Paranormal Activity clone.  I am happy to report that it is not.  As a matter of fact I found myself forgetting that it was supposed to be found footage several times, only to be reminded when a character would physically grab that camera and move it.  It was quite refreshing to see that this wasn't a shaky-cam fest as are many similar flicks and that there are shots that are beautifully composed.  There are some sequences and shots that had me rewinding my screener to confirm that I wasn't going insane and I really saw what I saw.  Again, I do not want to spoil anything so I can't say anything further on the subject other than:  Keep your eyes open!

The sound design also surprised me quite a bit once the film got going and paranormal elements took hold.  Just as I was concerned with the filming style in the beginning of the film, I was also concerned with the sound design.  The opening scenes are all set to rather generic sounding alternative rock tunes.  I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be stuck listening to the same for most of the film.  Much to my surprise and relief that was not the case.  Once we're in the thick of it the tacky rock music is gone (save for one brief dance montage scene) and the aural soundscape is a bizarre and unsettling combination of low rumbles and a strange static.  The sounds of dogs howling in the background during various scenes very effectively convey a sense of dread.

There are jump scares, there are scenes of quiet fear and there "WTF" scenes as well....but they all tie together and form a constant sense of impending doom and pervasive dread.  From the very beginning there aren't many moments of humor or levity (even the above mentioned dance scene does little to break the mounting feeling of hopelessness) for the family. 

All in all I enjoyed the film quite a bit.  The acting was a little uneven, but I've never let that stand in the way.  One thing that kept driving me absolutely bonkers was the fact that I kept thinking I'd seen Andy Ostroff (the actor playing Nathan) somewhere before and I just couldn't place him.  After the film ended I jumped on IMDb to see where I may know him from.  Turns out he's from Massachusetts and not far from where I lived for many, many who knows....maybe I saw him around somewhere. 

So like I said, after I got past the 20 minute mark I really started to enjoy the film and by the end it had won me over.  Don't let the found footage thing get in the way of you seeing this film.  It's a bit of a slow burn, but the sense of pervasive dread permeates throughout.  Infernal hits select theaters and VOD on April 10th.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Midnight Cinephile Is About To Ruin Your Childhood Forever!

I have jumped up on the old soapbox before....whether it was defending "bad movies" that most people have no interest in (Nobody's Children - Defending the UnDefendable) or standing up against the myriad horror elitists and so called journalists who engage in active hate mongering on movies, directors, actors, etc (The Problem With Horror Elitists and the Self Appointed Critics or, Roger Ebert Would Be Ashamed of You.).  I'm a pretty upbeat guy and I'm also pretty relaxed, but every now and then I feel the need to address problems that arise that really bother me.

I suppose that this could be considered a continuation of the "Horror Elitist" article......but the problem has run deeper and expanded past said elitists.  In this day and age everyone with a keyboard or a smart phone has a platform to let their feelings be known.  There are some who use this amazing privilege to create blogs and websites that celebrate the things they love.  Then there are others who see the technology as a way to spew their venom and toxic thoughts to plague the rest of us.  For a great example of these dregs of humanity look at the YouTube comments on pretty much any video in existence.  Holy hell.

Anyway....before I go off on a huge tirade about people trolling and such, let's focus back on the task at hand....which in and of itself is really a form of trolling.  I can't believe I'm using the word trolling in an article...what the hell has my life come to.

As I'm sure you are well aware we (and by we I mean Hollywood....not you and I) are in the midst of a long running reboot/remake cycle.  No big happens.  There was a big remake boom in the 80's too.  Not quite as big as this one....but it was still there none the less.  In addition to remakes, there is also a trend in which filmmakers who grew up in the 80's (much like myself) are now taking the things they loved in the 80's and turning them into films.

Do you know what the #1 response is to a new 80's toy/cartoon/pop-culture/videogame inspired movie?  "Stop ruining my childhood you ^&$#^&$^)@^&)!!!!!!!"

Really?  Please enlighten me as to how the filmmakers traveled back to 1985, track you down and then proceeded to defile your most beloved toy/etc.  The truth is it does absolutely nothing to your childhood.  Skynet did not go back and erase your childhood.  Just as remakes do not magically erase your DVD's and Blu Ray copies of the original films.  They are still sitting there on your shelf waiting to be watched.

And now to make matters worse, some of these jackasses have managed to start writing for film websites such as WhatCulture which feature one of the most ridiculous articles entitled 10 Ways That The Marvel Cinematic Universe Has Ruined Cinema.   It was one of the most infuriating reads of my life.  Uneducated, biased and complete bullshit.  Sam Hill, the author of said steaming pile of garbage is clearly against Marvel films from the get-go.  Most of his "10 Ways" are the same thing worded slightly different.  I will not go into specifics because the article does not merit nor deserve any additional views.  It is crass, lazy and offensive "journalism" and it frustrates me to no end.

I wish that article was an isolated incident but the sad truth is that if you spend about 5 minutes online you'll come across no less than 20 similarly themed articles.  All written by whiny wanna-be writers who evidently have no joy in life other than sucking the fun out of the air for the rest of us.

If you've read this far, I thank you.  I needed to get that off my chest.  I realize that I haven't been around much and I know that I've already said that I'll be getting back to maintaining a more regular schedule and I still stand by that's just taking a bit longer to get to that point than I thought!