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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Etheria Film Night (2014) Horror Sci-Fi

Etheria Film Night (2014) - Why does there have to be a organization collecting, choosing and promoting women in genre film making? It became very evident why during the event, after the shorts had played and before the feature. Put on by All Things Horror for the third consecutive time  Etheria Film Night at the Somerville Theater features women writers, directors, film makers, and women in the genre film making industry who most people have never heard of. They promote women working in the industry and try to get their films seen by a wider audience. Co-founder Stacy Pippi Hammon flew in from the west coast to represent the group and wanted to do a swag give away based on answers to trivia questions. All the answers were women who have done fabulous work in the industry but getting correct answers to the questions was a challenge. The small audience of 20 or so, myself included had a very hard time coming up with the names so much that Stacy needed to give hints. As she said in the session, if she were to ask you to rattle off a few Wes Craven films most people could do so; but if she was to ask you to do the same for women who have done equally solid work you could not. It is not that women are not doing great work in genre film making it is that getting noticed is difficult. Etheria works at celebrating and promoting their work trying to get a wider audience to see and appreciate it. The shorts and feature on this film night were chosen from more than 500 submissions and have been promoted by the organization for the entire year. The quality of the films was very good and it was a nice mix of horror and horror elements and some science fiction mixed in. This night consisted of seven shorts and a feature all worth the time to find watch, and enjoy.
 The Guest (2013) - Written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic is a only five minutes long but delivers a barrage of beautifully framed imagery while telling a story of a man paying a debt owed to a hidden demon. Wonderful to look at with stark contrasts we see the outcome of a deal made that must be paid. The framing of shots with focus on color and contrast work well if even at one point a clumsy blood spurting device pulls you out for a second. Shorts are interesting containers for ideas, often coming in late and leaving as soon as the idea is delivered works best and this dark little moment in the main characters life is presented with style. We will soon see more from Vuckovic as she starts her first feature an adaptation of Clive Barker's Jacqueline Ess (possibly) with actress Lena Headley. It's in preproduction so sometimes things change.
  Serpent's Lullaby (2014) - This 13 minute short does a good job in revealing, dropping hints and the filling out the picture with atmosphere and style. It is a story of an eccentric women (Jenimay Walker) at the moment of her greatest life decision. Watching this without knowing anything about it is a better experience than reading about it first. Pay attention to the hints along the way to discover the sad tale of desire for love but always having to deal with loss. The chtonic character coming into a modern world but holding onto the ritual of burial is poignant. Director Patricia Chica executes the story well and the script written by Charles Hall has emotional resonance. Leaving aside that the myth the lead character is based on has a definitive end, we can call this a what if... tale.
  Little Lamb (2012) -Written and Directed by Heidi Lee Douglas. A rear period piece in the short format which may be why it was stretched to twenty-three minutes. It succeeds in the things that make it a period piece, the settings including some haunting landscapes, the costumes and the wee bit of history shared that sets the period. What it does not do is particularly make that time period essential to the story.  It uses the 1829 women's prison in Tasmania to set up why the lead character Louisa, a criminal girl who see the job as a servant with the mysterious Mr Black as a better alternative to captivity in the prison.  It's the tales kicking off point; the rest of the yearn could have been anytime in history. The story is a simple one, once you get past the window dressings. It is a 'don't look in the locked room' warning story but with elements of the French Folktale Bluebeard. So we know what will inevitably happen to spur the climax which is well executed.This film looks great and is dark and foreboding and ends in fire.
  You Me & Her (2014) - Written and Directed by Sarah Doyle. A multidimensional story of how a woman named Anna (Shannon Woodward) breaks out of her mundane life no matter the consequences. Dimensional sci-fi stories are always a double edged sword. On one hand there is the wonder of the differences of like, but not the exact same dimension where character can either explore or like in the case of this find out about the other side. These stories can be anything from scary to strange to humorous but there is always the second edge. The benefit of having anything be possible by compare and contrast can also work against a story if the items being examined are too cliche. This story comes close to that but is saved by the turn. Funny and thoughtful it not only describes the situation but the mental state of the lead character so that her consequence filled decision can not be seen as negative or callous. As she says "I'm a human being, I have a voice and I deserve to be happy." As we all do.
  113 Degrees (2013) -  A woman scorned story? After over 500 days in space crew members  Francesca (Lizzy Davis) and Joe (Brian Groh) have developed a affair of convenience. Well at least that is how it could be seen, instead of talking with Brian about where there relationship will go once back on earth Francesca thinks she knows the harsh reality. While Francesca has to repair a coolant leak outside the ship she start getting ideas about how they can end their relationship. The consequences will mark them irreversibly. At twenty-one minutes the film feels a bit longer, the romance elements driving the film seem counter to the action taken. The lack of communication seems strange considering they have nothing but time to work things out. It seems in that time they would have at least broached the subject of  "What happens when we get back home?"
  Dawn (2014) -  Director Rose McGowan takes the imagined early 60's innocence, the simpler time where young love blooms between sheltered Dawn (Tara Lynne Barr) and gas station attendant Charlie (Reiley McClendon). Twisting this nostalgic time into a dark tale of hurtful malice. Written by M.A. Fortin, and Joshua John Miller it captures a time before the youth social awakening, when parents were still over bearing and in this case the character Dawn is too unexposed to the world to know how to save herself from the influence of Charlie. It is sad and shocking but well executed with each subtle turn fitting perfectly into the world that is created on screen
  Hide and Seek (2013) - Kayoko Asakura brings us this quick 11 minutes of grief fueled sadness laden story of loss and jealousy. Yohei (Keitarô Komuro) comes to the house of Hanao (Asaka Nakamura) to learn the traditional Japanese instrument the Koto. She sees Hanao's son running around playing hide and seek and mentions it off hand. What follows are some good horror elements and a twist to reveal what is really going on. Simple but effective.
  The Jelly Wrestler (2013) -Ending the shorts on a humorous note is always a positive at these events, and The Jelly Wrestler is just that. Bartender Eileen's (Elisa Taylor) best days may be past her but when she takes one last shot at fame with a jello wrestling contest at the bar she worked in. Years before she was the champ but an incident with a rival ended her rain. Now with manager Amy needing to be trained another shot at glory presents itself, but at what price. This film is kicks and really tells a yearn in its 15 minutes. Director Rebecca Thomson keeps the stakes high but the fun flowing from a script by Claire D'Este. They have us pulling for Eileen all the way through.
 Soulmate (2013) -Writer / Director Axelle Carolyn created a sad story of a widow who after a suicide attempt seeks recovery in the isolation of a small Welsh village in the country. An unexpected companion helps her to move past her loss and begin living again but at what cost? Taken for what you see on the screen its a ghost tale. One in which the connection between Audrey (Anna Walton) and Douglas (Tom Wisdom) is the energy put out by the thoughts of suicide, his years before resulting in his death and hers more recent where she survived. The film becomes about how his spirit strengthens her while at the same time giving him someone to interact with for the first time since his death. She also make him more real as seen by the change in makeup on the character as the film progresses. Through the characters of Theresa (Tanya Myers) and Dr. Zellaby (Nick Brimble) the property managers of the cottage we discover the history of Douglas and how he came to his haunting. There is some smart writing by Carolyn in making the expository characters be intrinsically tied to the story of the cottage. So often exposition feels like an information dump by making Theresa a player in Douglas' story it allows the exposition without the information feeling forced. Theresa organically shares the idea about like spiritual energies because her character is built in a way that she has a reason to know about it. It is brought home even further by making her part of both the turn and the twist of the story.
  The film is interesting in it is a story that can be read from different character and each will see something different. For Audrey it is a ghost story, where she actually has a relationship with him and they play out a storyline together about grief and loneliness and coming to a place where you have to choose between staying in the world of the living or seeking death. If looking at the story from the property managers they are tied to the history of the house. Theresa is trying to reconcile her guilt connected to Douglas' death and sees Audrey's validation of Douglas' existence as an opportunity she to this point has not had. Now there is a possibility that they are just getting caught up in the imaginings of Audrey's psychosis and maybe if Douglas is not real the events of the climax went differently than seen in the film. Its an interesting exercise to try to explain the outcome of the climax from the point of view that Audrey is psychotic and Douglas does not exist; that is a bit of speculation though. There is still another way to read this film and that is from the point of view of Audrey's family. They see a women who after a suicide attempt runs off to the Welsh countryside and then eventually is returned in worse condition than she left. For them she has left to finish what she started in the first scene of the film.
  The film looks good and the music is understated and fits well in the film. it's a well tied together tale with interesting juxtapositions between the characters. There was a wish that the pacing could have been a bit sharper.  It is also amusing that the dog's name is Anubis in real life, its fits so perfectly as a symbol. Still it is a fine film that tells an interesting story about grief and finding reasons to live after loss.
  The night of films were quite enjoyable and I was happy to support a group looking to advance the work of Etheria and thank them for putting such a high quality selection together. I was also glad to see Stacy Pippi Hammon supporting the groups that play the Film Night by coming in with swag. So people should check out there website and if you program film events consider Etheria for quality films. An a big shout out to All Things Horror who sponsored the event and continue to be such a vital leader for horror lovers in eastern Massachusetts.

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