Short Film Review: A Black Heart In White Hell (2015)

Arthouse, Extreme Horror, Horror, Short Film Review

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”A Black Heart In White Hell” is the brand new short film from restless indie horror director Dustin Mills and Crumpleshack Films.  If you aren’t aware of Dustin’s work yet then you’re missing out on one of the most exciting and hard working independent filmmakers working today, whose body of work is of a consistent level of high quality and refreshingly original.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” sees Dustin in full experimental mode, dragging the viewer into hell with the films victim and – if you dare stick around – forcing us to endure her plight with her.

”Not Sorry” are the words The Woman (Reagan Root) writes on the mirror before she takes her own life in the bath tub, assuming that she’s leaving this world unpunished for crimes we later learn she committed.  However – when she wakes up in a white room, a series of events unfold which force her to face the consequences of her sins.  What ensues is a bloody nightmare involving monsters and tormenting imagery as she’s punished in some gross, unsettling ways.

There were 2 movies which sprung to mind when watching ”A Black Heart In White Hell”: ”Eraserhead (1977)” and ”Begotten (1990)”.  My comparison is not based on the content contained within either of those movies, as they’re both completely different; what I’m getting at is they both share an ability to evoke a strong visceral reaction and psychologically pummel your senses at the same time.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell”, like those 2 movies, unsettled me through imagery, sound and it’s own original content.  I guess another comparison to those movies you could make is that it’s like nothing else out there, but that’s always been the case with Mills’ work anyway.  However, Lynch and Merhige’s movies are ugly experiences which suffer from too much self-indulgence.  ”A Black Heart In White Hell” is a visually stunning spectacle to look at, with an interesting story and additional fun factor.  Sure, it’s gross and distressing, but it’s also highly enjoyable and oozing with immediate rewatch value.

The film contains absolutely no dialogue, but the story is cohesive:  The nightmares of the lead and her crimes appearing on a television screen give us all of the information we need to understand what’s going on and why she’s being punished.  Credit must be given to Reagan Root for being able to portray a convincing character through actions, expression and body language alone.  She’d still be a joy to watch even if she wasn’t always naked.  The supporting cast consist of Dave Parker (with the awesome Youtube channel), Brandon Salkil and Jeremy Ryan, who serve as a reminder of why her soul is being ripped apart.

”A Black Heart In White Hell” is Mills’ best work to date and continues to showcase the evolution of a boundary pushing auteur making a name for himself in the world of underground cinema.  You can pick this up along with Dustin’s other movies over at Dustin Mills Productions, or stream it on VOD for pocket change.  Not only would you be supporting indie film by checking it out; you’d be treating yourself to some unique, original horror.

Writer & Director: Dustin Mills

Starring: Reagan Root, Dave Parker, Brandon Salkil, Jeremy Ryan

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 30 min

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Movie Review: Screamplay (1985)

Arthouse, Comedy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Troma, the company which is known for specializing in copious amounts of sleaze, nudity, low brow humour and shock value has been a household name for over four decades now.  So it’s to be expected that some of their releases will float under the radar from time to time.  One such release was ”Screamplay”, the one and only feature from Rufus Butler Seder, who wrote, directed, edited and starred in this offbeat murder mystery.  

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”Screamplay” is a unique entry in Troma’s catalog and a one-of-a-kind movie if there ever was one.  Filmed entirely in black and white, with set designs purposeful recreations of films from the 1920-30’s, it’s all very artsy; especially compared to the trash the company is known and beloved for.  The story focuses on a young writer named Edgar Allen who moves to Hollywood with dreams of writing murder mysteries for the big screen.  But when the murders in his screenplays start happening in real life,  he must confront an odd array of characters ranging from washed up actresses, rock stars, the police and off-kilter tenants as the mystery unfolds.

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While watching ”Screamplay”, I drew comparisons to the early Sam Raimi oddity ”Crimewave (1985)”, as they both adopt the stylings of a classic era of film, with the similar over-the-top caricature characters and set pieces, dialogue and filmmaking techniques.  However, they use them in such a way that hasn’t been done before, to create darkly comic horror films ripe with manic energy and 80’s violence.  If someone told you this was a Sam Raimi creation without prior knowledge, you’d believe them.

Bob White as Lot in Screamplay

Taking inspiration from German Expressionist cinema, Hollywood’s silent films, Italian giallo, Gothic horror and the classic whodunnit?, it condenses them into the form of an 80’s B movie to create an engaging mystery that is also a satirical commentary on the dark side of Hollywood.  It chronicles the actors and actresses who are hot one day and but a memory the next; the aspiring artists who leave their normal lives behind with dreams of making it, only to find their hopes dashed and dreams broken; the greedy money men willing to exploit anything in order to make a quick buck and the madness that comes with it.  Every character has succumbed to madness in some way and they each provide strange melodrama between murders.

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”Screamplay” is an oddity only a niche audience will enjoy, so if you appreciate the surreal, avant-garde, strange and experimental cinema you’ll no doubt find a special place in your heart – and on your shelf – for this weird little gem.  Rufus Butler Seder has never made, wrote or starred in another film since: let’s hope this isn’t his one and only, but if it is, what an innovative legacy to leave behind.  9/10

Director: Rufus Butler Seder

Writers: Rufus Butler Seder & Ed Greenberg

Starring: Rufus Butler Seder, Katie Bolger, George Kuchar

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Running Time: 90 min

Short Film Review: Steps (2015)

Arthouse, Comedy, Short Film Review

steps

Steps, a self-proclaimed ”staircase fetish art film”, is the latest short from Floridan avant-garde sleaze maestro Tyler Hosley; a polarizing filmmaker if there ever was one.  With a creative thought process that operates in defiance of good taste and normalcy, Hosley’s shorts up until now have been strange beasts to say the least, and you’ll either want to run from these beasts as fast as you can or stay and pet them.  With Steps, he’s delivered a delightfully perverse oddity of escalator erotica that’ll make you laugh as much as it’ll make you feel weird about watching it.  That being said, it might just motivate you to rub your genitalia all over a staircase, like you’ve always wanted to do.

Tyler’s shorts are all zero budget, homemade productions, but they demonstrate the raw potential of a filmmaker with unique ideas who deserve a chance to work with a substantial budget and show what he can really do. Steps is my favorite one yet and I hope it either entertains you as much as it did me.  Check it out below.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

Tyler Hosley

Starring:

Tyler Hosley, Andrea Hosley

Genre:

Comedy, Surreal