Movie Review: Night of the Tentacles (2013)

Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Dustin Mills’ Night of the Tentacles is a Faustian tale of terror with a twist; inspired by the likes of Frank Hennenlotter and Roger Corman, it provides a new take on classic tale while sprinkling it with inspiration taken from Basket Case and Little Shop of Horrors.  Dave (Brandon Salkil) is a down-on-his-luck erotic sci-fi artist whose simple joy is listening to his pregnant neighbour masturbate as he too rubs one out.  One day, while stroking the purple headed yogurt slinger, he has a heart attack, only to be given a dodgy ticker.  Not one to miss out on a deal, Satan appears and offers him a new heart in exchange for his soul; the replacement heart lives in a box instead of his chest, but it works just the same as a regular heart.  The only difference is it must be fed twice a week with people meat or else the deal is off.  Surrounded by terrible neighbours, it’s a deal Dave can live with – until the tentacled heart tries to eat his lovely pregnant neighbor Esther (Nicole Gerty) that is.

Esther aside, Dave couldn’t have picked a better buffet for his heart to munch on; the couple next door are constantly having sex which the whole building can here, for a start.  Then there’s the woman who threatens to kill his beloved dog if he doesn’t stop flushing his toilet because the sounds of the faulty pipes annoy her when she pees.  Lastly, there’s his hilarious and perverted landlord (played by Mills) who embodies sleaziness.  But eventually he runs out of neighbours, which only leaves Esther and her unborn baby…

Needless to say, there’s plenty of toilet humour in Night of the Tentacles, but it’s so packed with invention, imagination and heart that it rises above most low brow horror comedies.  That being said, the toilet humour is indeed hilarious: try not to stifle a laugh as Belial, an agent of Satan and reference to Basket Case, asks Dave if he’d like to be farted on so he can masturbate, for example.  Regular laughs will be had throughout, with the bulk of them coming from Dave’s monster heart with its British accent and camp, condescending nature.

The special effects are cheap and charming, but impressive considering the budget was under $2000.  If you can appreciate micro-budget movies you won’t be disappointed, but bare in mind this is home made filmmaking, so if that doesn’t appeal to you then you’ll probably be put off with its cheapness.  Like all of Mills’ projects, he works wonders with what he has to create something grander in scope than it has any right to be.  He’s a superb talent who makes unconventional movies with unique concepts and experimental ideas.  Up until now, they’ve all been a treat and Night of the Tentacles is tasty.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Dustin Mills

Starring:

Brandon Salkil, Nicole Gerty, Dustin Mills, Jackie McKown

Genre:

Horror Comedy

Running Time:

90 min

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Movie Review: Applecart (2015)

Horror, Movie Review

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The artistic evolution of Dustin Mills so far has been somewhat similar to Bjork. While both apply their trade to different fields of art, they share an uncompromising tendency never to repeat themselves, creating outside the box works, with consistently excellent results. Not many filmmakers working today compete with Dustin’s unpredictability and tireless work ethic; with an average of 4 projects a year and each of them being different to the others, he’s an exciting talent to follow if you’re an indie horror fan, but even his most long-term die-hard followers couldn’t have predicted a film like Applecart. Needless to say, there aren’t many films out there like Applecart.

Applecart is an avant-garde portmanteau film comprising of 4 shorts: ”The Sleepover,” ”Caretaker,” ”Dad” and ”Let Me Show You Something”, all of which are shot in the style of a 1920’s black and white silent film, with the only sounds being a recorded audience track and burlesque style photoplay music. All of the characters wear white masks at all times; a symbol for their deepest, darkest secrets, and their emotions are impressively conveyed through body language. Throughout the film, the only food eaten by the characters is apples; this is a representation of forbidden fruits as we watch them indulge in sheer depravity.

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Applecart is not a film for the faint of heart; running at approximately 56 minutes, Mills is somewhat a merciful towards his audience, because despite being an excellent accomplishment, it isn’t the easiest of content to stomach. Tackling themes such as domestic abuse, abuse of the elderly, abuse of women and sexual perversion, it’s an unfortunate mirror of the real world we live in as opposed to mindless exploitation fodder that would be easier to digest if we didn’t think our neighbours might be capable of such acts. Despite portraying such themes in the extremist of manners, reality has proven time and time again they aren’t necessarily hyperbole. Applecart represents fear of normalcy; who knows what goes on behind closed doors when it comes to our colleagues, friends, neighbours and even family? Putting madness on the screen is easy. Having meaning behind it is something else entirely, and Mills most certainly has a message.

The cast consists of Mills’ regulars Erin R. Ryan, Allison Egan, Haley Madison and Dave Parker.  Kudos to every single actor and actress for not only for their bravery to be a part of something so bold, but to carry a film without words and convey every emotion with a body movement is an outstanding accomplishment.  This is not a film that’ll cater to all tastes; the most open minded viewers might find it too odd and perplexing, and the most jaded extreme aficionado’s might find the content to be too grim and disturbing.  But if there’s one thing any objective viewer could agree on it’s that the cast delivered.

All in all, Applecart is not for everybody: it’s as extreme as it is beautifully shot; easy to digest storytelling is replaced with arthouse sensibilities and a style of film not seen since the 20’s, and it’s as bizarre and challenging as they come.  I loved it, personally.  Filmmaking so brave, bold and free is a breath of fresh air, even for independent horror.  With output as frequent and magnificently strange as it is, Mills could very well give Shion Sono and Takashi Miike a run for their money in the frequency of strange department if he had their resources; but nevertheless his work is just as good as our Japanese maestros in its own right.  Mills is a keeper, and Applecart is the best horror film of 2015 thus far.  9/10

Written & Directed By:

Dustin Mills

Starring:

Erin R. Ryan, Allison Egan, Dave Parker, Haley Madison

Genre:

Horror

Running Time:

56 mins

Movie Review: Easter Casket (2013)

Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews

Easter-Casket

It’s strange to think that Easter is a relatively unexplored holiday in horror films; you’d think with all of the religious mythologies and potential killer rabbits it would be a gold mine for material, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s fairly untapped.  However, Dustin Mills saw this gap in the market, and thanks to the power of his wizardry, we have an annual holiday viewing that’s absolutely essential for your holiday horror hurrahs.  If you’re familiar with Dustin’s work, you know to expect something original with each of his offerings, which is why his fan base has been loyal and steadily growing since his first feature, The Puppet Monster Massacre (2012), which was, if anything, an unforgettable introduction that introduced us to a unique talent.  Easter Casket, like all Dustin Mills movies, could only come from the mind of Dustin Mills; a micro-budget horror comedy about a puppet rabbit hellbent on destroying Catholicism and reigning in the Apocalypse isn’t your standard fare, but that’s what makes it so wonderful.

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Easter Casket centers around Father Asher (Josh Eal), a warrior priest tasked with stopping The Easter Bunny, who is killing the clergy and Catholic school girls because the Church wants to do away with rituals not pertaining to Christ.  Needless to say a full throttle rampage ensues and the less said about it the better.  The element of surprise and unpredictability in store for you will only enhance your experience.

Dustin Mills really pulled the rabbit out of the hat with this movie, because despite being made for pennies, it’s impressive in so many ways.  First of all, it’s visually stunning and wildly creative; the lack of budget is a blessing in disguise as it encourages creativity and making the best of what’s available.  Puppets and toys are used to great effect, only adding to the films charms.  Its low budget is certainly not to its detriment as the inventiveness is what makes it so alluring.  However, the films greatest strength is its story; it just goes to show how far an imaginative, well crafted mythology can go and the tale of Peter Cottontail (aka The Easter Bunny) is engaging.  I’ve always felt that horror movies should explore unique mythologies more often as their creative scope is limitless; let those imaginations pour out all over the screen, I say.  Throw in a hilarious script, puppets at a coke orgy, female nudity and a Mega Pope and you have a certified cult classic on your hands.

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From an objective point of view, the only criticisms I can give Easter Casket are the obvious low budget constraints, which might not sit well with some viewers.  But, as I said earlier, I felt they worked in the movies favour.  At times it feels like a larger than life movie, set in a massive universe adjacent to our own.  Not since Astron-6’s masterpiece Manborg (2011) has a low budget movie had so much charm and high concept ideas that it sucks you into a world you’ll get lost in. This is the type of creative spirit that makes being a film fan the greatest joy on Earth, and discovering talents like Mills is just as good as rubbing one out when the house is empty and you can watch your porno with the volume up full.  9/10

Writer & Director:

Dustin Mills

Starring:

Josh Eal, Erin R. Ryan, Jason Crowe, Dustin Mills, Dave Parker

Genre:

Comedy Horror