Latest Blog Posts

by Bill Gibron

11 Oct 2009

In retrospect, it’s amazing to consider the ongoing link between cultural heritage and folklore and what we call ‘horror’. Fear is such a part of who we are personally, so tied into the very facets of our humanity and human knowledge of mortality that the fables and fairytales which fueled our youth often translate into the terrors that remain as adults. It’s all a matter of updating and contemporizing. This is especially true in countries with long standing traditions, regions more or less formed out of the myths and legends of the past. In the wonderful new film Left Bank, Belgian director Pieter Van Hees uses a modern setting to tell an ancient tale of ritual, sacrifice, and the beast that must be appeased. Within this world of cellphones, skyscrapers, and instant information, some remnants of our dark ages linger, unholy…and hungry.

Marie is a professional runner with hopes of making it to the European Championships in Portugal. Her coach has faith in her, while her mother hates how she pushes herself. When she is diagnosed with a mysterious blood disease, Marie is sidelined. Hoping to ease her disappointment, she moves in with new boyfriend Bobby. He’s a car salesman and the dean of a prestigious archery guild. His apartment on the outskirts of Antwerp (known locally as ‘Left Bank’) also has a bit of a history. The previous tenant, a woman named Hella, simply up and disappeared one day. Her fiancé, Dirk, thinks it has something to do with the complex’s haunted history. It was built on the site of a heretical church, a place where a pit to the underworld is supposedly located. Soon, Marie learns that she’s in line to be a sacrifice to the monster that lives in the basement, an entity served by many in the building - perhaps even Bobby.

Left Bank is so much more than a standard horror movie that when it starts its slowburn stomp toward a truly crackerjack ending, we tend to distrust the pacing. Few fright films use deliberate moments of silence and inactivity as a means of creating menace, especially in the newfangled formula in which everything scary is supposed to be over the top, action packed, and hyperactive. Instead, Van Hees hopes we will buy into the blatant David Lynchian nods, the sequences of dream logic surrealism that evoke something other than shivers. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the obvious last act macabre, narrative fusing the modern with the mythic to create a visceral creepshow callback, we’d swear this was some manner of Inland Empire riff. There are shots here that instantly recall the clinically controlled approach of Kurbrick, the Coens, and of course, the aforementioned Midwestern madman himself.

It’s also interesting the way Van Hees misdirects the audience. When we think of horror, we automatically assume diabolical or disturbing ends. But Left Bank may not be asking for our concern. Instead, we could be dealing with a question of implied perception. We hear words like “sacrifice” and “underworld”, see situations in which other characters appear terrified and tormented, we see a leg injury turn gangrenous and oozing, and we instantly sense something sinister. But all throughout this amazing movie, Van Hees never goes for the throat. Instead, he keeps things ambiguous, baiting the viewer with portents both evil and evocative. If we are to believe Bobby, if we listen very carefully to everything he has to say, the fate of those introduced to cellar 51 might not be all that bad - at least, within the context of what we usually associate with the realm of fear.

The cultural differences also make Left Bank compelling. The entire subplot involving Marie’s running career is very interesting, giving us insights into the character that otherwise might be missing from the narrative. Indeed, it reflects on her health food store managing mother, her overly friendly coach, and the oddly detached doctors who treat any injury like a combination of calamity and inconvenience. Superstition also rears its illogical head, residents of the apartment complex responding in oddball ways when they learn of its potential history. There’s even a small amount of socio-economic commentary at play, Bobby’s Russian buddies clearly illustrating the growing connection between Eastern Europe and Asia. That they also act both aggressive and subservient to the situation at hand offers its own clever conclusions.

Like other knowing foreign fright films, Left Bank definitely lets us in slowly and methodically. We are never overwhelmed with information, even when Van Hees turns up the trickery to add some artistic flourishes (the party scenes, complete with superbly spastic camera movements, really amplify the dread). There are many unanswered questions here - why is Marie’s father so unimportant to the story? Why did Hella disappear if our heroine was always the “target”? What is the significance of the files in the archery guild (except, perhaps, to act as a shout out to The Shining)? And when Marie finally understands her fate, what is confronting her and why does it seem so…apathetic? It’s mysteries like these that make Left Bank so intriguing. It allows a viewer to bring their own interpretation to the mix, making as much sense (or as little) out of Van Hees’ designs as possible.

In the end, Left Bank will probably be unfairly judged for its lack of gore, understated approach, and often indecipherable conceits. But when something is this moody, this given over to gorgeously composed shots of sinister inference, a lack of blood or believability is a minor complaint at best. Pieter Van Hess has created a thriller that seeps under your skin, that shocks you with its nonconformity to the written rules of terror. Instead, what we end up witnessing is one girl’s chance at a second life - albeit one drenched in the pagan beliefs of centuries gone by. How that fits within the facets of modern metropolitan life in today’s Belgium is what this movie is really driving at. As with many movies made outside the US, it’s a battle between the ways of the past and the wants of now. How said struggle ends is what give something like Left Bank its power - and its ability to unnerve.

by Bill Gibron

11 Oct 2009

Sometimes, technology can be a cinematic godsend. It can salvage an entity long missing from the medium, or reinvent a title that has been unfairly dismissed thanks to poor transfers, unnecessary editing, or a general lack of availability. Add in DVD’s (and now Blu-ray’s) ability to amplify the experience with all manner of contextual bells and whistles and it’s a shame that more movies aren’t given the updated format red carpet treatment. Luckily, Richard Stanley and Severin Films got together to give his rarified masterpiece Hardware a high definition revamp. The results are so revelatory, so outside one’s original perception and opinion of the film that it’s like the commercial cliché states - you re-experience this fascinating future shock sensation for the first time.

The dystopian storyline finds former military grunt turned wasteland scavenger Moses Baxter returning from a trip into the irradiated landscape surrounding one of the last major cities on the planet. Along with buddy Shades, he arrives at a trading post, hoping to get something special for his girlfriend Jill - it’s Christmas after all. She’s an artist and spends almost all her time cooped up in her heavily guarded apartment. With the influx of refugees squatting in the building and a perverted stalker across the way, she’s overly cautious and more than a little concerned.

When Moses brings her the skull piece from a weapon known as M.A.C.H. 13, neither one knows what they have. She adds it to a commission she is constructing. He’s glad he’s made his girl happy for once. They are not prepared for a resulting power surge, the mechanical brain’s ability to regenerate itself and its weaponry, or the killer robot it constructs. It’s not long before both Moses and Jill are fighting for their life, desperate to destroy this murderous piece of hardware before it destroys them.

For many, their first (and only) experience with Richard Stanley’s carefully configured social commentary was a sloppy VHS version that was underlit, poorly cropped, and edited to remove material deemed unseemly by the MPAA - and even then, it was an astonishing work of visionary genius. Taking the tired Terminator conceit and twisting it into something far more deadly and dynamic, the South African auteur mixed a little of his haunted homeland into the narrative, giving us sly inferences on segregation, class warfare, and a person’s inability to avoid the consequences of both. There are also references to Mad Max, untold ‘50s sci-fi schlock, and the advent of computer porn. The results continue to astound to this very day, a movie so dense with visual and psychological meaning that you need multiple viewings to catch everything the then 24 year old (!) was working through.

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener with this new Blu-ray release is how opulent and ornate Stanley’s production design is. We get loads of details in the corners of the compositions, overheard asides that make the narrative all the more multi-dimensional. In essence, this is a battle between war and peace, a private insular world where love and companionship are infiltrated by the military and its ever-present desire to annihilate. The repugnant aspects of the real world (represented by peeping pervert Lincoln) also creep into the calm Jill is trying to manufacture for herself. She wants Moses to settle in, to stop heading out into the dusty orange nightmare than is what’s left of nature and simply share her bed. It’s interesting then that, after the M.A.C.H. 13’s restart, our heroine becomes its most important target. It’s as if the machine can actually sense her anti-establishment view of the world and wants to destroy it once and for all.

There are lots of other interesting themes at work in Hardware, material that makes this more than some sly subgenre workout. Stanley offers up radio shock jock Angry Bob (voiced by Iggy Pop) as an obvious Greek chorus. But instead of simply mocking the means of everyday survival, this mouthpiece has some salient philosophies to push. Lemmy of Motorhead fame also turns up as a cabbie with his own take on things. Together, they form a front that more thoughtful people like Moses and Jill have to conquer and overcome. In Dylan McDermott and Stacey Travis, Stanley finds an unlikely duo. The pretty boy actor thrust upon him by a wary studio (including then executive producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein) just can’t compete with his costar’s ethereal femininity. The final confrontation, which pits beauty against scary scarp iron beast remains the movie’s ultimate statement, a clash for the very soul of humanity heightened by the knowledge that there may be no actual winning strategy.

Stanley is lucky to see his masterwork land at Severin, a company that shows an intense amount of care and consideration for how they manufacture and supplement important outsider titles. We are treated to several short films from the director (including the brilliant “Incidents in an Expanding Universe” which formed the basis for Hardware), a discussion over the sequel which never came to be, a collection of deleted and alternative scenes, and a wonderful, all-new Making of labeled “No Flesh Shall Be Spared”. Featuring many in the cast and crew in updated interviews, we get a marvelous overview of the production and its many problems. Stanley is also on hand to deliver a full length audio commentary that completes the package, highlighting various facets of the filmmaking, including a marvelous robotic villain that more or less fell apart after every take. 

The biggest bonus here, however, is the transfer. Argue all you want to about 1080p and its variations or the levels of grain and the use of edge enhancement, but when the results are as amazing as the Hardware image, you have a hard time arguing format. The Blu-ray is indeed a shock, a testament to the time taken to remaster the movie, as well as Stanley’s imagination and cinematic creativity. This is a small movie that’s massive in scope, sets and backdrops suggesting vast post-apocalyptic locales and endless miles of sand strewn nothingness. Compositions create concepts of free association, Stanley suggesting things that you must then decipher and determine. Even better, the action and random splatter are handled in an artistic and stylized manner. This is not just a gonzo gorefest. As a director, Stanley uses blood as a means of amplifying his ideas, not drawing your attention away from them.

This makes Hardware all the more appealing, a movie that clearly needed the 19 years of technical advances in digital reproduction to fully realize its audio/visual aims. It also argues for Richard Stanley’s unlikely status as auteur in waiting. After his equally electrifying Dust Devil, and the little seen Brave, he was given the chance to direct the big budget Hollywood update of The Island of Dr. Moreau, featuring Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. After four days of irrefutable personality clashes, he was fired, replaced by John Frankenheimer. Since then, Stanley has made minor documentaries and a few short films, but nothing to compare to this amazing first shot at fame. Hardware didn’t deserve to be dumped onto home video during the heyday of the VHS. Here’s hoping that two decades later, a new type of technology will broaden its appreciation. As seen here, it definitely deserves it.

by Bill Gibron

11 Oct 2009

Imagine you’re Sam Raimi. You struggle for years to be recognized as a true directing talent, delivering fright films as beloved as The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness while battling a studio system that thinks horror is all you have to offer. You broaden your career horizons with tongue in cheek comic book efforts like Darkman, as well as equally effective thrillers like A Simple Plan. And then, to top it all off, you turn the superhero movie into a multi-billion dollar genre by helming the Spider-man franchise (at three popcorn blockbusters - and counting). Yet like Woody Allen and his ‘earlier, funny’ films, the fans keep clamoring for more macabre. You could direct a dozen visionary dramas and still the geeks will complain about the lack of new dread on your resume.

No wonder the wildly appealing Drag Me to Hell feels like a friendly extended middle finger to all those who keep wishing for the filmmaker to return to his roots. Raimi hasn’t lost his touch with terror, nor has he been avoiding the cinematic type because of a lack of inspiration. The results here - captured brilliantly in a new Blu-ray transfer from Universal - show that, even in a stripped down PG-13 format, the man who made Bruce Campbell’s chin a household name is as feisty and fevered as ever. Working from an original idea (brother Ivan once again contributing the script) and featuring a classic creepshow premise, we get the kind of edge of your seat shivers that haven’t been readily available since the last time we saw the all powerful Necronomicon. Add in the latest technological tweaks, and Raimi is ready for the 21st century.

Our story centers on Christine Brown, a loan officer for a small town bank. She desperately wants a promotion, if only to prove to her boyfriend’s parents that she’s not some hick loser. Unfortunately, in order to get ahead, she’s required to make some cutthroat decisions. When an old woman comes in looking for yet another extension on her mortgage, Christine is faced with a quandary. If she denies the deal, she’ll definitely win favor with the boss. But doing so will also hurt the elderly lady, who doesn’t look too long for this world to begin with.

Naturally, needing the brownie points, Christine turns her down. Next thing she knows, she’s cursed, destined to be tormented by a demon for three days before finally being dragged down to Hell. Looking for help, she turns to her lover. When he appears ineffectual, she has no choice but to contact a psychic for advice. His opinion is not very helpful either. With time running out, Christine must find an answer, or be doomed to an eternity of agonizing torment and torture.

As much a directing tour-de-force as a showcase for some sensational up and coming actors, Drag Me to Hell is why many of us fell in love with fright in the first place. It’s a wonderfully wicked journey with a genial genre guide who clearly knows all the horror hot spots. Even in a teen friendly format, Raimi revels in making people squirm. There are sequences here that should have even the most cynical scary movie buff hiding their head in gleeful gross-out shame. In fact, the highly touted “Unrated” version of the film is more of an MPAA mandate than a true amplification of the grue. The minimal amounts of added blood and bile are almost indistinguishable from the original theatrical cut. But anytime you mess with the original edit and don’t show it to the ratings board, they demand it go out sans score.

It really doesn’t matter since it’s Raimi behind the lens, the man who married laughter to legitimate scares to create the first true horror comedies of the post-modern age. Here is a filmmaker in full control of his faculties, able to elicit gasps out of scenes as simple as a young woman wandering around an unfamiliar house. We get fly attacks, projectile nose bleeds, false teeth fu, and enough old lady sputum to make an entire nursing home staff nervous. There is also a marvelous moment toward the end where Raimi pulls out all the stops, Evil Dead style, to turn a séance into a marvelous bit of audio/visual overkill. What’s even more appealing is the director’s desire to stay firmly within the kind of fright films he loved and loved making in his youth. There is no desire to go torture porn or full bore bloody. Instead, he wants to craft a rollicking rollercoaster ride where the inevitable downtime helps prepare us for the continuing chaos to come.

Drag Me to Hell has an expert cast ready to lead us through this maelstrom of motion picture menace. Alison Loham makes a perfect victim - savvy without being too smart, innocent but with enough bad-girl baggage to guarantee she won’t go down without a fight. She is matched well by Justin Long who gives new meaning to the concept of the well-intentioned wimp paramour. Solid support comes from David Paymer as the unscrupulous boss willing to play his employees against each other for greater business bonuses, and Dileep Rao as that classic fright night character - the psychic with an ever-changing means of making things better (or in his case, worse). The real star here though is Lorna Paver, made-up to resemble a rotting human ogre, her broken teeth and cloudy eye a sure sign of impending evil. Thanks to the Blu-ray, the level of nauseating detail in her performance is accentuated for squeamish viewers to revel in.

It’s too bad then that Raimi was too busy with Spider-man 4 pre-production to sit down for an audio commentary (the film’s less than stellar box office might have aided in that lack of availability). He’s a great narrator through his own films and a true fan of the genre. We do get a few production diaries, but they’re not the same. Indeed, the lack of complementary bonus features on this digital presentation presents a problem. Fans who’ve longed for Raimi’s return won’t be happy with something they feel is basically barebones. Yet those new to the man’s way with macabre probably could care less. For them, it’s a wonderful high definition transfer of the movie and that’s all that’s important. Luckily, the Blu-ray of Drag Me to Hell succeeds in said category. It’s also a brilliant return to form from someone who never really left. Once again, Raimi will have a hard time living down his legacy. When the movie is as good as this one, it’s not hard to see why.

by Bill Gibron

10 Oct 2009

Hey - novice fright filmmakers. Here’s a mandatory rule of thumb to follow when trying to deliver the shivers. If you can’t show your gore, don’t make a movie that is more or less reliant on same. If your version of the Memphis Meat Cleaver Massacre is going to feature all of its kills off-camera, perhaps you shouldn’t even bother. True, budgetary concerns can be a factor, and perhaps that best buddy of yours wasn’t the F/X wizard he claimed to be, but if you can’t unleash the sluice, you should definitely alter your cinematic intentions. Are you listening Gnaw and director Gregory Mandry? We get that you want to make a UK version of a cannibal cavalcade, a combination of The Hills Have Eyes, Tobe Hopper’s Texas Chain Saw epic, and about a billion other human meat spectacles. But no blood = no good. Sorry, it just can’t be said any other way.

Our story begins with a young girl vomiting (how prophetic). Her name is Lorrie and she is traveling to a remote cottage with her pals Jack, Judd, Jill, Matt and Hannah. They want to settle in for a weekend of partying and other illicit activities. But when they arrive at their location, their plans are quickly sidetracked. Blackstock Farm seems deserted, and while the table is spread with all manner of cakes and savory meat pies, the overall aura is dark and dreary. Things don’t get much better when creepy proprietor Mrs. Obadiah shows up. She seems overly nice, desperate to stuff her guests with all manner of steak and kidney snacks. Of course, what the visitors don’t realize is that the flesh is not prime - it’s people. That’s right, our gang has landed smack dab into the middle of an isolated butchery, Mrs. Obadiah and her sinister son harvesting the clientele for all the best cuts.

When you hear the premise and read the title, you expect certain things from Gnaw. You expect ample amounts of arterial spray, characters carved open with guts and other F/X offal spewing out all over the screen. You anticipate lots of skin snacking, villains making vittles out of the various heroes and heroines. There should be a few sequences of extreme vivisection, power tools and other unreal implements of death utilized to make mince out of the cast members. And the filmmaker should relish in the grue, providing gallons of the red stuff in a blood-infused orgy of murder and mayhem. Unfortunately, Gnaw offers none of these things. Like a Friday the 13th sequel from the good old MPAA censorship days, this is a dull little fright flick that hopes to get away with killing its constituents off screen, away from prying eyes. In doing so, director Mandry destroys his chances for cinematic success.

There is nothing else holding our attention here: not the worked up soap operatics between one incredibly jerk and the two girls who go ga-ga over him; not the nice guy destined to finish last (and perhaps, be picked off first); not the oversexed couple who can’t keep their hands off each other long enough to recognize the man in the corner with the animal carcass covering his face. Even the old lady with the bad British teeth is so obvious a red herring that her arrival should be met with a complimentary cup of cucumber sauce. Gnaw is needlessly slow, overarch in its exposition, tedious in its tendency to backtrack (how many times do we need to see Lorrie puke to recognize the early onset of pregnancy) and unable to deliver anything remotely resembling dread. In its place, we get some decent local atmosphere, a couple of clever set-ups, and a moment of two of suspense so fleeting it barely matters.

Mandry may deserve credit for doing his best with what is clearly an underwritten screenplay (by Michael Bell and Max Waller), but in a direct to DVD domain where clots and gratuity rule, offering neither is a recipe for commercial disaster. Fans who come looking for an unusual bit of bloodshed will go away angry, while seasoned gorehounds will demand their poorly spent rental fees back. Since the story set-up is so basic and borrowed from a dozen better fright films, Gnaw has to try and distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. Sadly, all it can do is wallow in its own amateurishness, going about its splatter-less slaughter in an anemic a way as possible. If this movie were any more by the numbers, it would come with a set of paints and a numbered black velvet canvas.

The digital packaging doesn’t improve matter much. Since this movie was made on that newest of interim technology - the high end video camera - the transfer retains a true homemade feel. Even the attempts at ethereal lighting and exterior ambience come face-to-face with such a set-up’s limitations. As for added content, Dark Sky Films finds ways of making even the most meaningful bonus features feel dry and uninteresting. The behind the scenes featurette does offer some insight, but its often overtaken by an inordinate amount of backslapping. The commentary from director Mandry is equally self-congratulatory. While he does recognize the movie’s limits, he also argues for the effectiveness of the various deaths. Clearly, he is watching something other than what the audience can enjoy.

Like many examples of the genre, a half-baked horror film like Gnaw demands rebuff. Even with the caveat that creep-outs, like comedy, are very personal in perspective, keeping the good stuff off the side is a scary movie no-no that only the rarest film can overcome. It takes a certain level of cinematic skill and categorical creativity to keep an audience interested once you’ve revealed your lack of splat. Gregory Mandry, while capable, just doesn’t have that level of motion picture legerdemain to offer. Instead, he drags us out into the country and leaves us there to rot, assured that he can somehow salvage the static situation. He can’t. Gnaw needed to be over the top and ultra-extreme in its treatment of the cannibal call. Even the Sawyers would find themselves snoring through this ineffectual mess. 

by Bill Gibron

10 Oct 2009

The genre film, by its very nature, is a bit of a cinematic chameleon. It can function as humor, social commentary, political diatribe, and in rare cases, sobering human tragedy. Coated in the usual celluloid garment of horror and/or science fiction, it takes talent and determination to traverse its pitfall-laden path. Ten years ago, Daniel Myrick made movie history of sorts by releasing his first person POV frightmare The Blair Witch Project. Along with collaborator Eduardo Sanchez, he created a night terror that functioned as a documentary, a pseudo-realistic look at fear as it happened, and a full blown web phenomenon. A critical and commercial ‘event’, the filmmaker retreated for a while, unsure of his next move. Now, almost a decade later, he’s returned with a fine film entitled The Objective (new to DVD from IFC Films). And once again, he has taken the standard scary movie and tweaked it with something different - a little speculative scope.

CIA agent Benjamin Keyes has been sent back to Afghanistan, a country he left ten years before, to track an unusual signature on a satellite image. It’s been one month since the horrible events of 9/11, and the US government wants to make sure that some rogue members of the Taliban aren’t hiding a loose nuke up in the desert mountains. Seeking a former source in a remote village, Keyes takes a highly specialized group of soldiers along on the mission. They include no nonsense Chief Warrant Officer Hamer, Sergeants Cole and Sadler, and Master Sergeant Tanner. They also bring on a local, Abdul, as their guide. Once out in the field, they find little relief from the ongoing battle. After an ambush leaves them injured and short on supplies, Hamer demands they return to base. But Keyes is unrelenting. He has a tip that what he is looking for is locked in Afghanistan’s notorious Hill of Bones, a sacred site that might also turn out to be this regiment’s final resting place.

The Objective is a classic suspense thriller. It plays with the audience, giving it only the information it needs to follow the occasionally confounding plotline. It provides simply drawn characters, crystal clear motivations, an environment that’s both alien and unfriendly in nature, and a finale which shines an intriguing new light on everything we’ve experienced before. Myrick, taking a noted turn toward a more mainstream motion picture dynamic here, delivers on the promise inherent in the set up. The narrative is mission oriented, and the intrinsic nature of such a storyline helps smooth over rough patches of pacing, scripting, and occasional directorial indulgences. Myrick makes some mistakes here and there, but we forgive the flaws, thanks in part to our desire to see the events come to a climax.

And it’s an interesting journey along the way. Working with an accomplished cast that really disappear into their roles, we find ourselves face to face with the hostile Afghan wasteland, and endless need for water and supplies, and a strange set of lights that seem to be following our military men. During these seemingly sedate establishing scenes, The Objective does something very sly. It establishes the conflicts and desperation that will come to define the latter part of the action. Even the minor military scenes, US armed forces fighting unseen enemies with rocket launchers and an unshakable resolve, add to the tension. Before long, Myrick has us shifting toward the edge of our seat, anticipation over what will come next filling our head with visions of death and dread.

That The Objective fails to fully deliver on said promise is one of its few weak points. Clearly, because of its micro-budget and aesthetic limitations (small cast, insular concept) Myrick cannot completely explore the ideas he’s working with. The whole CIA/UFO angle is underdeveloped, left to a series of sensationalized buzzwords. Similarly, we are dealing with a post-9/11 scenario with the war in Afghanistan only a few weeks old. Yet everything about the military operation screams “been there/done that.” Finally, the acting can be hit or miss. Jon Huerta and Matthew Anderson are very good as suspicious army men, while lead Jonas Ball earns more than a few missteps with his gravitas. Still, the script by Myrick, Mark A. Patton, and Wesley Clark Jr. (yes, the General’s son) is solid and even surprising at times.

Indeed, there’s another angle available, one that merits consideration especially in light of the actions being depicted. One could easily see The Objective as an indirect commentary on our cultural hubris and lack of understanding when it comes to our “enemy” in the Middle East. The US soldiers see diplomacy in a handful of chocolate bars, yet revert to stereotypical responses whenever their Islamic allies let them down. All engagement is “shoot first, never question ever” and once they are lost in unfriendly terrain, the camouflage comes off completely. Myrick may not have intended to make a statement about how America undermines its own efforts via a lack of consideration, sensitivity, and basic common sense. Outside of anything supernatural or beyond this world, The Objective seems intent on being critical of our nation’s inflated opinion of our own international import.

Some of this intent is discussed as part of the content on the recently released DVD from IFC Films. Myrick is on hand for both a marvelous Making-of and an insightful post-Tribeca Q&A. Both times, he confirms his desire to put politics into the film while finding a pleasant balance between various “otherworldly” elements. Director of Photography Stephanie Martin is also on hand to add her two cents, discussing the difficult shoot and the decisions on how to best render the more “mysterious” facets of the storyline. With a wonderful transfer and a lot of post-production detail, the digital package helps support The Objective‘s subtext.

Still, it’s the shivers that count, and while Myrick may not make our spine tingle like he did back in the late ‘90s (though this critic personally loathes The Blair Witch Project), The Objective is still an impressive piece of work. It never tries to do too much and keeps within its carefully controlled elements until the last act histrionics take over. Even then, the final beat is so satisfying, so ambiguous and ambitious that it makes the whole experience seem that much more special and worthwhile. It’s hard staying relevant after onli-nation declares you and your so-called “classic” a one-hit wonder. Yet Daniel Myrick has actually made three other films since leaving the unfriendly confines of Burkittsville (The Strand, Believers, and Solstice). With The Objective as yet another example of his growth as a director, it’s clear his early success was not a fluke. This is one filmmaker who can spin the genre into any shape he wants, and come out triumphant.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

READ the article