Tom McLoughlin’s One Dark Night

Are you a horror fan? Do you have Shudder? If the answers are yes to the former and no to the latter you should get on it, because the curators of this streaming service have delved deep into the genre mines to come up with some long buried gems that have probably escaped the sonar of even seasoned fans. Example: Tom McLoughlin’s One Dark Night, a film I would never have dreamed existed if I didn’t see it in the cue, is a brilliantly grotesque little slice of peak 80’s schlock that almost feels like a long lost John Carpenter film. Meg Tilly stars as a college girl who will do anything to join a stuck up sorority ran by a titanic bitch of a head sister (Robin Evans). In this case the initiation ritual happens to include spending one night alone in a spooky mausoleum, but this place just happens to be the final resting place of a notorious serial killer with the clairvoyant ability to reanimate the dead into unsettling shambling corpses. On top of that the bitch head sister sneaks in through a busted window and plays mean pranks on her too, while the killer’s harried widow (Melissa Newman) and her boyfriend (Adam West) arrive to try and put a stop to these supernatural shenanigans. This film is just so much fun for a number of reasons: Tilly is a gorgeous, exotic looking scream queen who is convincing, charismatic and very talented, the special effects for the corpses are horrifically slimy and disgusting and these hovering cadavers get, shall we say, uncomfortably close to our heroine. As soon as the dead killer wakes up and his otherworldly energy permeates the crypt, the film is bathed in a beautiful, Lovecraftian purple glow that enhances the visual aesthetic, supported by an atmospheric, creepy score by Bob Summers. One scene in particular is incredibly effective and legitimacy horrifying, where we observe the first few coffins open and the partially decomposed people come eerily floating out, slowly, with an anxiety inducing inevitability using the confined space, glacial but steady pacing and the terror of the actors. The corpses are interesting here because they aren’t zombies, they aren’t possessed like in Evil Dead, they aren’t sentient or leering or even capable of eye contact… they’re simply rotting dead bodies being moved by telekinesis, and somehow that was eternally more scary to me than zombies or anything else of the like. Anyways, if you like old school gooey horror in the tradition of Carpenter, Craven and Hooper with a neon purple infused, Colour Out Of Space sensibility then you’ll totally dig this. Get Shudder too while you’re at it, it’ll be the best streaming service splurge you’ll make.

-Nate Hill

ANTIBIRTH (2016) – A REVIEW BY RYAN MARSHALL

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It wouldn’t be impractical to compare ANTIBIRTH, the messy (in more ways than one) feature debut from accomplished visual artist Danny Perez, to the unexpectedly PCP-laced joint or to the scatter-brained B-side to a profoundly psychedelic experience. Indeed, it’s precisely this kind of abnormal out-of-body ambiance that the film aspires to; evoking heavy shades of David Lynch, Cronenberg and many others as it stretches its admittedly thin concept to grotesque, kaleidoscopic extremes.

Brimming with all sorts of hazy, shamelessly abrasive potential from frame one, this grungy yarn concerns the plight of wayward trouble-maker Lou (Natasha Lyonne), who wakes up one morning after a night of heavy hedonism to the most sickening sensations. These are later discovered – first, by Lou’s best friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny) – to be the symptoms of pregnancy, but neither of the two can recall the events which transpired that previous evening.

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There are at least a dozen movies attempting to co-exist here, but taking precedence over most others – at least for a while – is the hang out picture. The viewer assumes a sort of sleazy fly-on-the-wall perspective for roughly the first half of the surreal narrative, watching as Lou’s situation get worse and the she engages in mundane daily routine. Suddenly, disturbing visions of obscured memories begin to plague the poor party-goer’s mind, and upon the arrival of a peculiar old woman (Meg Tilly, delightfully bat-shit) in the small mid-west town, things take an unexpectedly twisted turn.

Perez is probably best known for his collaborations over the years with Animal Collective, in which he provided the band’s heady tunes with an appropriately imaginative visual companion (see the excellent and often overwhelmingly terrifying  “visual album” ODDSAC from 2010), so it’s no secret that his first foray into more grounded narrative work would be an ambitious one. Like that earlier film, ANTIBIRTH dabbles almost exclusively in gross body horror and Perez certainly has the means of dishing it out when the time comes, which is – rather unfortunately – too late in the game.

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Allowing for a better understanding of his past work, one might get the sense that Perez is more interested in exceedingly strange ideas and imagery than he is in people. This doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, but when the anti-heroine of the director’s abstracted world is one-dimensional at best and insufferable at worst, and those around her aren’t much better off, a gory good time then becomes an unnecessary struggle to locate anything of genuine substance. One could argue that the film’s indifferent attitude is embedded in its punk DNA, but when it accumulates to something as frequently unfunny, off-putting and shoddily constructed as this, it can be best chocked up to sheer ineptitude.

As expected, Perez is able to cook up some spectacular moments throughout – the idea of a quiet Michigan town teeming with experimental military activity and extraterrestrial conspiracy is an enticing one, and that sound design is pretty neat – but his stylistic flourishes end up being more debilitating – and, dare I say, amateurish – than exhilarating (the sequences set in the “Fun Zone”, a family-friendly pizzeria seemingly converted from an aging dive bar, are a fine example of this). Where it clearly wants to revel in oddity and excess, the film remains stagnant and can barely stay afloat, meandering on an already fairly weak foundation. It’s a leisurely, sedated, albeit colorful descent to whatever lies beneath the bottom of the barrel; you’re free to take that as you will, but the effort it requires to find something even vaguely inspiring isn’t really worth it.

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