Tag Archives: disturbing content

Short Film: TUB

797 151 Americans are masturbating right now. You’re welcome for that mental image. A single man might rub one out anywhere there’s a wifi connection and a box of tissues but for many married men, the shower is stealthier. With so much spilled seed washing down shower drains on a daily basis, have you ever thought about what happens to it all? Of course you haven’t. You’re not a sick fuck. But do you know who has thought about it, and thought about it a lot? Bobby Miller.

Sorry to out you, Bobby, but actually, he kind of shined the wank spotlight on himself when he debuted a short film called TUB at Sundance in 2010. For a brief time, it was all anyone could talk about, and here’s why: a young man who can’t commit to his girlfriend impregnates his tub instead. Accidentally, of course. But still. A controversial 12 minutes.

When we saw Bobby Miller at Fantasia Film Festival, he was introducing his first feature, a little slice of body horror called The Master Cleanse. He struck me as a very funny guy with an offbeat sense of humour and a certain sensitivity. His film impressed me by being well-written and way more thoughtful than any such movie has a right to be.

Miller has said that he hopes TUB will “become the new Jaws, but y’know, for masturbation” which is about the greatest ambition I’ve ever heard publicly stated and I sincerely hope it’s the headline of his resume. Because I’m certain I’ve aroused your curiosity (though hopefully no more), seek out the brilliant short film TUB.

His name is Bobby Miller, folks. He’s going to be famous some day.

Trash Fire

Entourage’s Adrian Grenier plays Owen, a surly, selfish douche, wiped clean of any trace of Vince’s trademark charm, a man seemingly incapable of love or commitment who makes you wonder just what his girlfriend sees in him. Turns out, his girlfriend Isabel (Angela Trimbur) has begun to think the same, and attempts an anniversary breakup that’s only interrupted thanks to Owen’s inconvenient seizure. She dutifully nurses him back to health but is only rewarded by more of his blunt thoughtlessness when she finds out she’s trash-with-fire-movie-2.jpgpregnant. “Get an abortion” he says, and she agrees, because who’d want to have a baby with him? But he has a change of heart and she agrees to consider it if only he’ll finally introduce her to his surviving family members – a grandmother and a sister he hasn’t spoken to since his parents’ funeral.

Turns out, his parents died in a house fire that was accidentally set by him. His little sister  (AnnaLynne McCord) was badly burned but survived. The guilt is eating at him (and maybe making him a less than awesome person to be around) but not quite enough to go back and get the sister he abandoned to his mean grandma. Grandma, it turns out, is a hellacious bitch and played with delicious abandon by Fionnula Flanagan.

Director Richard Bates Jr. has a bone to pick with religion and he’s not in the mood to be subtle about it. Everyone will have their turn to squirm underneath his unrelenting magnifying glass, like they’re the ants and he’s the little boy MV5BMTEzMTU1Njg2MDleQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDcwMTAxNDcx__V1_UY268_CR229,0,182,268_AL_.jpggleefully catching them all on fire. Trash Fire has its roots in horror of course, a fact that constantly slithers up and down your spine, especially when AnnyLynne McCord tiptoes into the bedrooms of the sleeping guests with nothing but a ghostly white nightie and a shotgun.

Fantasia Festival programmer Mitch Davis described this as a “venomous black comedy” and director Bates echoed that, doubting we’d see “a darker comedy this year.” Flanagan accounts for much of that, with her acid tongue, shrewd timing, and zealotry so self-righteous it’s literally masturbatory. Bates exorcizes some major demonage on-screen, calling it “the most personal and fucking weird therapy session” but feels ready to be a good husband to his new fiancée now (they got engaged at Sundance). Can the same be said about his tumultuous lead character, Owen? I can’t give away all his secrets, but I will say this. That ending? You’re going to need a good stiff drink.

Swiss Army Man

People walked out of the theatre when this film debuted at Sundance, and they walked out of the screening I was at recently as well. And while I would never dream of insulting a film maker this way at a film festival, I can kind of understand why it happened. Swiss Army Man is profoundly uncomfortable. It’s disturbing. It’s gross. It’s also one of the most affecting and unique film-going experiences I’ve had this year, or ever.

swiss-army-manIn this cross between Castaway and Weekend at Bernie’s, Paul Dano is Hank, a man despairing of hope after living too long on a deserted island. Just as he’s about to give up completely, a ray of sunshine arrives in the form of a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe). Eventually named Manny, the corpse helps Hank to not feel so alone or lonely, and becomes even handier as he proves himself a veritable multi-use tool in Hank’s plot to escape the island.

I can’t praise or caution this movie enough. If the desecration of corpses is not for you, I’m sure The BFG is playing somewhere. I wouldn’t have guessed that the desecration of corpses was particularly for me, but I was completely won over by this movie. Written and directed by ‘Daniels’ (as Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan are collectively known), these men are clearly innovative thinkers who are pushing the boundaries not just of movie making but of human decency – and it works. They have used a compelling if shocking situation and made it feel completely relatable. They boil it down to themes of depression, social isolation, family dysfunction, eccentricity and resilience.

Paul Dano is as good as he’s ever been, but Daniel Radcliffe is the true surprise here. I would Swiss-Army-Man-Featuredhave loved to be a fly on the wall when these two were in negotiations to join the movie; Daniels were known for little else than a bizarre music video (Turn Down For What) yet somehow convinced two smart, bankable stars to take on the most provocative film of the year (and you thought The Lobster safely had the title!). Radcliffe stretches the part of dead body into something that’s both absurd and touching. He’s clearly set on eradicating Harry Potter from our memories by making bold and interesting choices, and this is a definitive step toward a bracing career as a versatile actor.

I also have to say I love what they did with the music. Not just the score, though that was good too. You have to see the movie to know what I’m talking about, but the way this movie uses music really made my heart soar. It really elevated for me what was already a good movie – a smart script paired with excellent acting, topped with some truly beautiful photography.

Sean and Matt will tell you that I’m probably the last person on earth to enjoy scatological humour but I did find myself laughing at this movie, more than I thought I would (although I think I might need to invoke Vanta-black once again, with feeling). But mostly it made me think, which I didn’t expect at all. It made me really think, and sometimes feel sad. It made me think on the possibilities and limitations of imagination, on the nature of self-reflection, and on the merits of choosing a best friend who is dead.

A movie like this doesn’t come along very often. I’m still buzzing with the joy I feel when I know I’ve witnessed something special. I won’t sleep tonight. This is why I go to the movies.

The Voices

Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds.

No, I’m not trying to conjure him. I’m just trying to remind myself why I put myself through this in the first place.

I first watched and liked Reynolds when he was on a TV show called Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place. Yes, it’s a terrible name, and surprisingly, they shortened it a couple of seasons in to just the Two Guys & A Girl (even more surprising that there were a couple of seasons). Horrid as the show was, I’ve liked Reynolds on a scale sloping markedly downward ever since, probably because he’s coasted on being a pretty but empty husk of a the-voicesman. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I realize I didn’t watch this to see if Ryan Reynolds is capable of breaking the mold. I watched it for the talking animals.

The premise: Jerry is just a normal, likable guy who happens to have pets who can talk to him. His cat, Mr. Whiskers, is particularly evil, as I completely expect all cats are, so no one is overly surprised when the cat takes things to a sinister place when an office-crush stands Jerry up for a date. The only thing more satisfying than wet cat food is gruesome serial murder!

The movie is actually kind of interesting in a way – it does a good job of showing us Jerry’s psychosis by giving us contrasting views of what he’s experiencing vs. what everyone else is experiencing. The difference is chilling the first time you notice it, and it’ll haunt you for the rest of the movie.

Jacki Weaver is a stand-out as his court-appointed psychiatrist, which you can 06-voices-review.w750.h560.2ximagine is a doozie of a job. Weaver is always a delight, a god-damned delight, and she’s an excellent stand-in for the audience as Jerry moves from cute to creepy. Is Reynolds any good? It’s clear he’s really into this role, but he kind overdoes the vacant eye thing. Unless those are his real eyes and he’s been wearing convincing puppy dog contacts this whole time! But he’s got a touch of that pre-Deadpool, charming psychopathy that just kind of works.

I’ll make no bones about it: ‘The Voices’ is an odd duck. I’d venture to call this a black comedy, but I’m also wondering what’s blacker than black? Okay, just Googled it, and here’s the scoop: there is in fact a colour blacker than black, and it’s called Vantablack. It absorbs all but 0.035% of light. It’s so black that our puny little brains can’t even understand it, so if you were wearing a Vantablack unitard, your hands and feet would appear to be floating around magically. Which is about right for when your Scottish-accented cat tells you to behead the pretty blonde and stash her in myriad tupperware. You heard it here first, folks, a new genre called the Vantablack comedy, only to be unfurled when the black just doesn’t cover it. It’s the kind of movie you should list on your internet dating profile just to suss out the wackos who respond “Me too!” It’s a great barometer for the people you don’t want to meet in a non-public place, and if you dare to date, then do not stand them up, and if stand them up you must, be sure to call your mother and tell her you love her first.

The Voices isn’t as funny as it thinks it is, and never achieves any true suspense. If you take it at face value you’ll find some cheap voyeuristic thrills, and a good dose of madness (served cold, without the insight sidedish). So yeah. This one’s memorable if you embrace the wacky and don’t mind the macabre.


Short film: Heir

You all know I’m a chicken. Big, big-time chicken. I don’t do scary movies. I don’t do ’em. I have a preference for my urine to be either in my bladder or in a toilet, not spreading down the leg of my pants.

I made an exception for this film, however, because I thought: 14 minutes. I can survive anything for 14 minutes. I can even manage my bodily functions for 14 minutes! But about 7 minutes in, I wasn’t quite as confident.  Not that the scariness starts at minute 7. It starts from minute 1, in that creepy-crawly, suspenseful, bad feelings running down my spine sort of way. But I held on, guys. Me and my Fresca, we held on.

And you know what I encountered? I’m not sure if I should say. I don’t want to ruin the ending. Although I do want to warn the 99% of you who will find this BEYOND FUCKING DARK. So let’s play charades. The kind of charades where you can’t see me. But if you must picture me: my hair is perfectly coiffed and H2not at all a week overdue for a haircut, and my chubby little knees are definitely demurely covered by my yellow floral dress and not exposed because my dress is somehow bunched up around my hips AGAIN. Now I also need you to picture The Worst Thing Ever. Not the worst thing in a horror movie. It’s not chainsaws for hands or a chain-letter that kills your  favourite aunt. It’s the Worst Thing Ever. The kind of thing that, when you go to prison for it, all the other prisoners think you’re a disgusting lowlife. Stealing your Grandma’s welfare cheques? Understandable. Dismembering your wife? The dirty whore deserved it. But this? This is bad. So now imagine that this Thing turns you into a monster. Literally. Like, not just morally a monster, but actually a monster.

Yeah, it’s a little “taboo.” Unsettling? Oh, maybe a bit. Crawling with jarring, sickening imagery that will scar  your brain and refuse to leave it? Um, check. But it’s well-done, the practical effects are on-point, the make-up is top notch, the score is chilling, the cast is extremely well-chosen. I can’t criticize any part of this movie making. But man: its contents really zapped me. It’s gruesome, it’s shocking, and it makes you feel like a dirty, dirty voyeur.



Kill Your Friends

Is cynicism a sub-genre yet? Because it kind of should be. American Psycho. The Wolf of Wall Street. Network. Fight Club. I assume that Kill Your Friends was hoping to rub shoulders with these Kinds of Nihilism, except it isn’t quite clever enough to be admitted to the club.

It’s about the music business in London, circa 1997. Certainly a heady time to be an A&R maxresdefaultman, which is exactly what Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is. It’s the height of Britpop, and business is booming. If you find the next Oasis, or hell, the next Spice Girls, you’re made. But one misstep can also mean career suicide. It’s a super competitive industry, and both the screenwriter (John Niven) and the director (Owen Harris) have decided to bonk you over the head with this fact. And when, after the first 10 minutes or so, you’ve been completely bludgeoned with this theme, they yank open your jaw and force-feed it to you for 90 minutes more until you’re veritably choking on it.

Hoult is fun to watch. He’s doing the heavy lifting in this movie, out-acting the material he’s given. But his character is one-note, and it’s the exact same note as the movie in its 2DDF593000000578-3296146-image-a-40_1446169552808entirety, so nothing sticks out. The bitterness is unending. Kill Your Friends aims to be the blackest of comedies, but when everyone is horrible all the time it really dulls your senses. It’s a grueling film to slog through without a single redeeming character so you can’t emotionally invest. Stelfox is pushed to further and further extremes but you won’t care an iota because nobody deserves to get out of this with their dignity intact.

imageTo their credit, they spared zero expense on the soundtrack: Blur, Prodigy, Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers, Oasis. It reminds you what a good time it was to be alive in the late 90s. It also makes you angry that they’ve failed to live up to these bands. Almost certainly there’s an interesting tale here to tell. Kill Your Friends has no idea what it is though, and hopes you’ll be impressed with blood and cursing instead, which is almost the same as story, right?

Son of Saul

A few days ago, I wrote about my experience with the movie Mustang, Turkey’s submission for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I was a little disconcerted by the hearty laughter from the audience at our local Bytowne cinema at the battle of wits  between a little girl and her mean (and probably violent) uncle. Even though the film’s director takes a hopeful and sometimes humorous approach to some tough material, I was way too nervous for this girl to laugh. I was reminded that night how differently two people can experience the same film.

Competing with Mustang for the Oscar is a film that even the Bytowne crowd can’t (and didn’t) find funny. Son of Saul is set in a Concentration Camp but is unlike any Holocaust movie I’ve ever seen.

There’s so much going on around Saul as he navigates his way through the camp in search of a rabbi who can help him give his son a proper Jewish burial. But we rarely see any of it. First-time feature director Laszlo Nemes used the Academy aspect ratio of 1.375:1, which I’d be lying if I claimed to understand exactly what it means but I gather that it produces an unusually narrow field of vision. The camera is usually either right in his face or right over his shoulder so we can see the camp only from his point of view. We have only the off-camera cries of anguish to remind us of the atrocities in the background. Through the eyes of Saul, there are no Oskar Schindlers, no Roberto Benignis to pretend for us that this is all a game.

This is some bleak material that is expertly shot by Nemes. With a technical prowess that occasionally reminded me of Alfonso Cuarón, I would have expected Son of Saul to move me more than it did. Mustang, for example, may not have the same flawless attention to detail but still managed to elicit an emotional response from me that I just couldn’t seem to manage with son of Saul. I was more impressed with the filmmaking than I was captivated by the story.

The Mule

I can’t, and won’t, recommend this movie.

You see, there are two kinds of people in this life: those who will watch a movie where poop is eaten, and those who won’t. Can you guess which category I fall into? It doesn’t matter. Because thanks to The Mule, I am now a person who has watched a movie where poop is eaten, like it or not (emphatic NOT).

The whole “plot” is just waiting for someone to take a dump. A little more context? Fine. Television repairman and all-round dim bulb Ray (Angus Sampson) gets convinced\coerced by his “best friend” Gavin (Leigh Whannell) to smuggle a whole key of heroin down his gullet. Ray lacks the smuggler’s panache, and the customs agent sees through his beads of sweat and flimsy story. The rectum comes up empty (after a thorough search that’s uncomfortable for all of us), so he’s being quarantined in a hotel room where cops (Hugo Weaving) are waiting round the clock for him to expel his bowels.

This movie starts out slow but as Ray writhes around on the bed, trying not to defecate or die, but mostly not to defecate, the situation around him starts to escalate. If you think the cops aren’t happy, you should see the drug dealers! But it starts to be an awkward contest as to who is the most shady and pretty soon there are no winners but lots and lots of losers, including me.

The truth is, you might actually enjoy this movie. It’s smart enough to elicit sympathy growls from your own tummy, I bet. Tony Mahony and Sampson co-direct, so there are at least two men to blame when you inevitably have to pause this movie to a) vomit, or b) brush your teeth vigorously, for days. I don’t have the stomach for a movie like this, no matter how good it otherwise is. I’d rather watch James Franco saw off his arm and Tom Hanks pull out his rotted teeth on a loop for the rest of my life than watch those 30 seconds of film ever again. Consider yourselves warned.

The Hunt

I haven’t been this shaken up by a movie in a long time.

Lucas works in a daycare. He is accused of touching one of the little girls in his care.

He says she’s lying. She can’t quite remember the details. Soon, though, the whole class is recounting the same story. They’ve all been touched inappropriately. They can all describe his basement, his couch and tables and rugs, in fine detail. But Lucas doesn’t have a basement.

the-hunt-klara-and-agnesThe thing is, we know the little girl is lying, right from the start. She’s just a kid and I felt no real ill-will toward her. She even tries to recant, but the problem is, her parents and teachers are already caught up in the persecution of a pedophile. His best friends, his girlfriend, his ex-wife – everyone is prepared to believe the worst. Gossip gets out of hand in this small Danish community in about 10 seconds flat. He loses his job, gets arrested, custody of his son is revoked. His whole life is turned upside down. The town is vehement about his guilt, and if the law won’t prosecute them, they will.

It’s absolutely awful to see this man wrongly convicted of the absolute worst thing you can accuse someone of. It’s fucking brutal. But I couldn’t quite hate the parents as much as I wanted. They aren’t really villains; they’re protecting their children. There’s some mishandling along the way, but of course there is. We are talking about very smThe-Huntall children, and of course things will get heated when we believe the worst has happened. This movie gave me such a heavy heart that I needed there to be a villain, but I think even Lucas struggled to entirely blame his tormenters – after all, he too is a father. The Hunt (English Subtitled) is very skillfully assembled, and all the more disturbing because it feels entirely too possible.

But what happens to Lucas? Even if he’s proven innocent, even if all the kids recant, even if all the parents are convinced…can his life ever recover?

Cold In July

Michael C. Hall plays a mulletted family man and devout Texan, circa 1989, which means when his wife wakes him up in the middle Michael C Hall Cold in Julyof the night because she heard a strange noise in the house, it’s his job to grope around for his bedside gun and tip-toe towards intruders. You always hope it’s just the cat, or a gusty tree branch, or water in the pipes, but when Richard finds a stranger in his living room, it’s a matter of mere heartbeats before that stranger’s brain is splattered on the ugly painting behind their ugly couch.

Richard feels awful. He didn’t really mean to kill anyone. The cops are quick to assure him that it was self-defense, and besides, the intruder is known to them, a criminal with an extensive rap sheet, no one worth being upset over. Except the dead criminal’s father (Sam Shepard) happens to disagree. He’s fresh out of prison himself, and his new project is stalking and threatening the young family of the man who just gunned down his son.

The cops are useless, of course. At first they brush Richard off, but when the threats become unignorable, they use a maneuver I can maxresdefaultonly hope is more Hollywood than handbook, and use the family as bait. Shit goes down and just when you think maybe Richard can go back to sleeping through the night, he discovers that the intruder he killed is likely not Sam Shepard’s son at all – but why would the cops deliberately misidentify him?

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s right: Don Johnson in a tall white cowboy hat. He’s the only one who ccold%20in%20july%203an help us now!

And that’s where I lost the thread. This movie is gritty and seedy, but it may be too intent on delivering twists and curveballs for its own good. You get in deep with this one, and things keep going from bad to worse. They stir the plot, and it thickens accordingly, with lots of shifts in tone, imagesCA49WFS5sometimes going from noir to comedy and back again within a few lines of script. Richard is the one who’s supposed to steer us, the audience, through all of these changes, but it’s hard to keep making excuses for why he’d let himself get involved in this increasingly shady stuff, as a sidekick to a man who just minutes ago wanted to revenge-kill his whole family.

This movie has a lot to say about masculinity and though it’s set 30 years ago, in our house it’s still Sean’s job to go confront the things that go bump in the night. In other houses? Apparently 1 in 5 men are happy to send their wives down toinvestigating scary noises at night do their own investigating, with 25% of men willing to feign sleep in order to avoid the duty. Sean is not so lucky. If left to his own devices, he’d absolutely sleep blissfully through a home invasion, and possibly also a portal to hell tearing a thunderous opening right underneath his pillow, if I wasn’t there to forcefully shove him awake. I’m not much of a nervous nellie, and since I’m an killerinsomniac, I’m used to the moans and groans a home makes when it thinks its occupants are asleep. But I have woken up Sean and sent him down to “check things out.” And guess what? It’s never a baddie. And if I really thought it was, I’d never sacrifice my best guy. I’d also never want to be left alone! I have seen a Wes Craven before: safety in numbers. What’s the middle of the night protocol like in your house?