We Are What We Are (2013) Review

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In We Are What We Are, Jim Mickle and Nick Damici gave us an atmospheric and terrifying entry in the family horror genre. In the beginning, not only does the rainstorm slowly uncover the Parker’s secret, but also it compliments the film’s washed out colors and bleak and somber tone. Each scene is discomforting quiet because there’s a minimal amount of dialog and sometimes a few haunting piano pieces. Instead, the actors often have to rely on body language to display their increasing anxiety. When the story arrives at the final confrontation between Michael Parks and Bill Sage’s characters, the combination of Jim Mickle’s camera work, and Parks and Sage’s body language and dialog a delicious and menacing scene worth repeat viewings.

Although this film retains several mysteries, overall it isn’t a typical who-done-it. Instead, the story allows us to slowly follow a trail of bread crumbs to uncover the family’s secret. The first few scenes drop enough hints for us to understand we’re on a bloody path; however, we have yet to discover how depraved the family is. Unlike other family horrors such as Devil’s Rejects, Texas Chainsaw, Spider Baby and so on, this story keeps turning on our expectations. Rather than following the same tropes and formulas we’ve watched in the past, each scene is weighted down by the character’s moral dilemmas. Each character has depth and honesty and they aren’t one note psychopaths one would typically expect.

Because of the pacing and style, it’s hard to talk about the story beyond the surface level. Each significant plot reveal only adds that much more to the experience and horror of this film. If one squints hard enough they may view this as a commentary on religiosity. However, like a great record, it’s better to just put this one without preconceived expectations and watch how beautifully the pacing, the acting, and story twist together one of 2013’s finest horror movies.

PPF 10/1 | Panels Pixels Frames

PPF 10/1 | Panels Pixels Frames.

In our first week of horror month, we talk about Tusk, Eden Lake, In Fear, Sacrament, the Guest, Gotham, How To Get Away With Murder, Sleepy Hollow, Equalizer, Destiny, Nicholas Cage, and more!

Colder (2013) Review

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STORY BY Paul Tobin

ART BY Juan Ferreyra

Colder is set in a world where a Jungian Shadowland lies just beyond the perception of sanity. This place of nightmares are where all the fears and traumas dwell and wait for their chance to feed on damaged souls. There are two who can travel back and forth between chaos and order. Nimble Jack, the antagonist who looks like a gothy Neo-Nazi, feeds on those who are the most insane and corrupted. Nimble Jack has an uncanny ability to find his victims one loose thread that keeps their sanity stitched together and pull until they begin leaping from tall buildings or slipping nooses around their necks. Colder references the cold skinned Declan. Declan can feed on insanity too but in the process he is able to mend the fractured egos and pull them back into orderly state of being. These two form the duality between chaos and order, apathy and sympathy, despair and hope, and demonstrate what happens when one is tipped too far.

In first few pages, Paul Tobin walks us through an asylum where oppressive order burns away to violent chaos. With each new patient, their maddening diatribes become less coherent and their actions become more violent. This culminates with the introduction between Nimble Jack and Declan. In one scene, Ferreyra and Tobin perfectly capture Nimble Jack’s ruthless apathy. He crawls into a convict’s cell and unravels the man and motivates him to hang himself. Nimble Jack watches the convicts kicking dance of death and delightfully compares it to a man swimming. Meanwhile, they use Reece, Declan’s caretaker, as a way to demonstrate Declans compassion and sympathy. In order to get Reece to understand Nimble Jack and Declan’s world, Declan allows Reece to start losing her grip on reality in order to see the Shadowland. The deterioration of Reece’s state of mind throws Declan into deep regret and remorse.

Every character is a macabre caricature done in beautiful inks and paints. The panels are creative and break the mold in order to match the surrealism of this cerebral story. There’s the nostalgic flash back scenes which have newspaper or comic strip style gutters and framing. Whereas the shadowland will use its colors to softly create boarders while retaining the surreal aspect that each frame is fading into the other. Or, there are action sequences framed by rearview mirrors or close up shots of Nimble Jack in Declan’s eyeballs. Watching Nimble Jack grotesquely crawl out from underneath a victims skin, it’s hard to deny this is the most beautifully depicted nightmare currently on the shelves.

Colder has a cerebral depth which is often left out of most horror genre comics these days. Instead of relying on a cat and mouse chase, the creators decided to plunge into the depths of nightmares. They’ve created an unnerving intensity which will make its readers jump at their own shadows. 

Caliban (2014) Review

Writer Garth Ennis

Art Facundo Percio

Even in the far future, corporations will develop space technology only to explore, mine and harvest needed resources for their giant corporations on Earth. This story focuses on Caliban, a transport ship which carries the miners and supplies to resource rich destinations. Although this sounds like a grand adventure of exploration, for the crew it’s mind numbingly boring blue collared job at least until the Caliban makes first contact while in warp space.

Ennis begins this new space truckers story arc with a less is more formula. We’re introduced to Nomi with the starlog Sci-Fi trope. However, instead of wasting panels on world building, and history lessons, Ennis uses Nomi’s narration to establish the tone and world this mission is set in. Garth Ennis is a master at writing tight dialogue which still adds layers of depth and personality to each of his characters, and Caliban is no exception. From using nervous stuttering, words like “stuff” to describe technological “things”, to the jokes and insults, each character is uniquely defined within a panel or two. Also, Ennis uses the lack of Alien contact since the beginning of space exploration to emphasis the isolation and mundane lifestyle of a space trucker. Not only does Ennis show the improbability of a collision in a warp zone, but also the collision involving contact with alien life only adds to the mystery of the situation.

While Garth Ennis takes a less is more approach to Sci-Fi, Facundo Percio embraces the opposite. Percio artwork is crammed into every bit of cargo space of the ship. For example, the backgrounds are heavily layered with control panels, monitors with multiple lines of code, wires falling out of each console, even the Caliban clothes are highly detailed with patches, buttons, zippers and so on. Furthermore, although the characters are expressive during conversations, their eyes quickly become lost in vacant spaced out stares which adds the feel that the crew has been on this ship for much too long. The cramped panels, the vacant stares, and the warp space collision just further the overall claustrophobia of space travel.

What is always amazing is how Garth Ennis is able to use minimalist tight dialogue and narrative and create a psychologically tense thriller which keeps you guessing what will happen next. In addition, Ennis will lace his stories with just enough hyper realism in order to establish a familiar connection, rather it be mythology, conspiracies, or quantum theory, and it just shows how much care and detailed work Garth Ennis puts into his stories. It’ll also be interesting to see how Ennis writes Shakespeare’s Tempest into this Sci-Fi mystery. Ennis combined with Percio tireless artwork are sure to give us another great psychologically and claustrophobic thriller.  Image

A Serbian Film (2010) Review

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Director:

 Srdjan Spasojevic

Writers:

 Aleksandar Radivojevic (screenplay), Srdjan Spasojevic (screenplay)

Stars:

 Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic

They say that rape isn’t about sexual gratification; rather, the act is about power and dominance. A Serbian Film demonstrates this message in horrific detail. With an introduction which shows the son watching his father star in a softcore film, this movie clearly doesn’t want to hide it’s depraved intentions. The plot is about Milos, a fading porn actor being approached to star in his last smut film. However, as the movie progresses, it turns out this isn’t the normal production and film Milo is familiar with.

The prevailing theme of the story focuses on the idea of the nuclear family. This movie showcases how patriarchal dominance is exerted through sexuality and violence. The first act spends much of its time desensitized the act of sexual activity. This is made more clear when the wife ask why her husband, Milo, never has sex with her like he does with his former porn stars. He states it was because he loves her and that was a job. After the story moves on to act two, sexual acts become more brutal and their depictions are used as a form of dominance. By the time act three hits the top of its disturbing crescendo, we see sex and violence complete subvert the idea of family.

In the meantime, the writers also give forth some interesting philosophical subplots which may or may not have been fully realized by the time of climax. First, in the snuff film, an actess is introduced who becomes dominated by physical and sexual assaults. Next, Milo is shown a tape which depicts her giving birth to a baby which also becomes sexually assaulted. Although this is the point where the director of the snuff film gives privy to the overall themes behind his motivation, it’s quite hard to take him seriously and not view this as splatter porn when he is yelling, “I gave birth to Newborn porn”. Once more, the actress is shown as Milo is portrayed having sex with her before ending her life during his climax. Thus, ending the dominance cycle of sex and violence.

Although the film begins on a digital camera and looks cheap with boring camera angles, the screenplay really does save the day. There’s a point where we are watching found footage with the protagonist, and each tape shows just enough to pull the viewer in and discover what happens with the next tape. Also, the third act runs a parallel path with the protagonist and a flashback to his previous day. This mixed narrative keeps the pacing alive and doesn’t allow the viewer to flinch of walk away from this spiraling madness. Furthermore, although Milo begins with a picturesque family and as a warm father, by the time the movie hits its stride his violence and chopped up memory makes the audience really question this unreliable narrator. The production design also adds to the overall cerebral madness. The sound design has the eery hollow sounds combined with the industrial score and set production of industrial warehouse contrasting with the bright family home also added to the nightmarish tonality.

Overall, this is a movie which spirals down and beyond depravity while doing a wonderful macabre illustration of dominance through sex and violence. This movie isn’t for everyone nor does it pretend to be. It’s more for those who have an affinity for exploitation.

Darkness: Vicious Traditions (2014) Review

darknessAlex Kot is mostly known for writing cerebral social commentary, and this one shot doesn’t deviate from his favorite theme. The story begins shortly after Romans have conquered a northern tribe. Estacado, a descendent of the Darkness, awakes among a slaughtered heap of bodies. He begins a quest to seek out the Roman commander Legatus to avenge the death of his brother and tribe. This is a quick paced story splattered with gray mud and gore. What makes this story Kot’s is the internal monologue which kicks against the fourth wall and makes it read like an anti-war sermon. Although Dean Ormston’s backgrounds lack the world building detail, the artistic demonstrations of the death and supernatural quickly remind its readers what comic books can get away with. Besides, with its video games, ongoing and the Top Cow crossovers, the world building isn’t necessary. It still has plenty of other details to absorb. For example, the thick shadows blacking out panels when the Darkness powers begin to seep through is a nice touch. With its writers and fresh artists, Top Cow is a publisher to be reckoned with and this quick one shot is no exception. Just like its big brother Image, it doesn’t matter if you are picking up Artifacts, Darkness, Cyber-Force, or any other Top Cow title. They will all be solid and beautiful reads.

Hannibal (TV Series) Review

ImageSo far, the Hannibal tv series is shaping up to be the most mind bending ongoing series. At first many were sceptical if we really needed another Hannibal. After all, we already had five movie adaptations. Plus, not only has Thomas Harris not published anything new on our favorite antagonist, but also he was nowhere near the production of this series. Regardless, Bryan Fuller’s reimagining expands on and is filling in a lot of the Hannibal world’s missing gaps. Currently, the series takes place before the events depicted in Red Dragon although the series still focuses on the Red Dragon protagonist Will Graham, played by Hugh Dancy. The series focuses on Graham’s ability to deeply connect with serial killers. This connection gives him the ability to  figure out motivation and therefore intricately create a psychological profile of the killers. However, this series elaborates on how Graham can’t simply turn off his empathic ability, and we see Graham’s mental state slip his motivations into a psychotic abyss. The writers narrative use of the Unreliable Narrator storytelling beautifully emphasises Graham’s deteriorating sanity. This is actually what makes the series stand apart from the other adaptations. Previously, we saw Will Graham use this ability, but when the hunt was over, he would often return to his previous sane state of mind.

When Hannibal Lector, played by Mads Mikkelsen, meets Will Graham, Lector, being a cold-blooded sociopath, finds Graham’s ability completely fascinating. First, Lector tries to emulate Graham’s ability by duplicating the murders of serial killers, which leads him to being called the copycat killer. This is another creative reimagining. Although copycat killers have been used in countless psychological thrillers, this one definitely has its own unique flavor. Also, we watch Lector establish the same social and professional bonds of Graham. However, his main motivation is to finally find a person who can connect and understand Hannibal Lector. This is where Lector’s infamous Cat and Mouse interaction starts bleeding through. Throughout the series we see Lector manipulate Graham into not only understanding Lector’s twisted point of view but also carry out the same murderous behaviors.

The production’s mise-en-scene is similar to Swedish Noir style which dreadfully enhances the fact that Hannibal Lector’s cold shadow is cast upon all the players of this series. The murder scenes are elaborate macabre art shows which could’ve gained praise from Salvadore Dali. There are times I find myself scratching my head wondering how this show is being broadcast on NBC’s primetime. If Hannibal keeps up the momentum, Fuller has plans on devoting a season to every Hannibal chapter. I for one cannot wait to see the introduction of Clarice,  the reimagining of Hannibal, and how he will tie Will Graham back into everything. The great thing about stories that already have a pre-established ending is that it gives the creators more time to focus on how to flesh out everything that came before. Right now, Bryan Fuller has convinced me that Hannibal Lector’s story is worth going back to.