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PAST THE POISON: A Look at Rene Perez’s THE INSURRECTION by Kent Hill

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Right off the bat, I like pictures that make you think. Nicholas Meyer once said that movies have the dreadful propensity of doing it all for you, leaving nothing for later like some greedy kid turned loose in a chocolate factory. In the era where everything old is new again – dusted off, repackaged and marketed to an audience for whom, the first time it was released, isn’t a part of their lexicon – it falls upon us to turn to those filmmakers working outside the mainstream; the place where stories that entertain, provoke thought, and evoke the magnitude of the how insurmountable power and the forces that wield it engulf us…constant willing victims that we are.

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Though Rene Perez (as he once told me) might be near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to cinematic voices in the tempest that is the modern day film industry, to me, he is a tirelessly, self-sufficient auteur. His pictures – while made for the VOD market (not unlike the VHS boom before it) and designed for the casual scroller in search of an evening’s mild amusement – are more than mere formulaic forays in genre.

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With The Insurrection, Perez comes out with all guns blazing, literally, but with the timeliness and the gravitas of the message he is projecting. Michael Paré (Eddie and The Cruisers, The Philadelphia Experiment) is a military veteran. Strong, determined, and not afraid to stand tall in the crossfire, yet burdened by regret for the life and family he neglected while serving in the line of duty. This makes him the ideal candidate as well as the only choice, and hope, for the magnetic Wilma Elles’ (Playing with Dolls: Havoc, The Fourth Horseman) Joan Schafer. More than your garden-variety whistle-blower, she is a part of the grand plan, a loyal servant of the ‘Ruling Class’. After securing Paré’s release from prison, Joan tasks the warhorse to keep her alive long enough to tell all – not just of her own private torment, but primarily of a plan that began long ago…to make slaves of us all. And it is for these bold words – how we are but pawns for the powerful, the hungry masses that heartily sup upon the most potent of elixirs supplied by the small glowing screens we carry in our pocket – that she is now targeted for termination by her former overseers. The first casualty, when war comes, is truth, and because of this truth…she must not be allowed to live.

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Schafer’s truth also encompasses the concept that we, the controlled masses, are victims of the promise, the carrot, dangled by the influential. She presents the fact that, no matter the microcosm of society in which we dwell, whether it be the real world or the one manufactured on that luminous rectangle that hangs before us in the darkened movie theatre – whether it be Romero’s Land of the Dead, Anderson’s Logan’s Run or Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel – the promise our own ivory tower, our place among the Gods, is far too alluring a bait…as opposed to love, family…life’s simple wonders.

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As parallel duels of words and weapons rage, you will be equally gripped the story unfolding as you will by Perez’s dynamic camera and fluid editing. These combine, serving as an absorbing delivery system for a tale of the price those who choose to stand alone against the rising tide of the media-saturated, cynical world that consumes us, ultimately pay. Paré’s steely gladiator projects authority through his silence; a strong accompanist to Elles’ articulate argument relating to how easy it has been, and how easy it still is, for the mighty to suppress any and all beneath them.

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It is a thought-provoking work of intensity and depth that we have before us with The Insurrection. In the tradition of action-thrillers like Peter Hyams’ Narrow Margin and Harold Becker’s Mercy Rising, Perez and his team bring us a splendid declaration of the courage it takes to fight for freedoms we, all too frequently, take for granted.

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An American Werewolf In London: A Review by Nate Hill 

John Landis’s An American Werewolf In London has what is the most impressive human to wolf transformation sequence I’ve ever seen. You can dump your wallets out and buy all the CGI effects at hand, and none of them will ever match the tactile weight that practical effects have, the combination of hair, putty and latex that assures you there is *something real* on screen, and not the hollow timbre of computer driven wizardry. Everything in the film builds up to this shock and awe moment, and up until then it’s a fairly low key, atmospheric affair in which you never quite see the beast that kicks off the inciting incident. Griffin Dunne and David Naughton play the two American backpackers who find themselves wandering the moors of northern England, positive there is some kind of creature hunting them. The crusty locals avidly deny any such presence, but aren’t convincing and furtively shift their gaze, clearly not being honest. Sure enough, Naughton is attacked and bit one night, and he begins to exhibit those good old symptoms. The change happens all at once and is quite startling; this isn’t a sleek, aesthetic werewolf either, it’s a lumbering behemoth, all fur fangs and fury, storming about the cobbled streets of London like a coked out grizzly bear out running zookeepers. We only get to see him in London for a brief and chaotic end scene, but it’s worth it, taking the slow, misty nocturnal buildup and switching to broad daylight, revealing what was unseen before and bringing it jarringly down to earth. I can’t speak for the sequel, as I’ve never seen it, but this one remains one of the most well crafted, fun werewolf films you can find, and my personal favorite.