Tag Archives: Netflix

Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting Of Hill House

Netflix has been knocking it out of the park with their originals this year, and Mike Flanagan’s Haunting Of Hill House is no exception. Flanagan is the man behind 2013’s brilliant psychological opus Oculus and last year’s stellar Stephen King adaptation of Gerald’s Game, he’s been cutting his teeth and proving solid mettle in the horror genre for years now, and with this one he’s given the freedom of long form storytelling to give us a supremely chilling, deeply depressing yet surprisingly cathartic and effective piece of frightmare bliss than any horror fan will love. Based on a book by Shirley Jackson, I can’t speak for faithfulness to source material here but I can say that this is powerful, thoughtful and frequently terrifying stuff, a haunted house tale interwoven with rich, deep family drama and complicated psychological aspects that makes for an invigorating, if nerve exhausting experience.

From the first night the Crain family moves into vast, ornate Hill House mansion right up until the final, fateful night Mr. Crain packs up his five children and flees the estate without Mrs. Crain, they are relentlessly plagued by ghosts, spectres, bumps in the night, haunting visions and things you can’t even describe. The film flashes back between the children’s stressful childhood having to spend a year or so in the house, and to the present time where they have somewhat gone their separate ways and all have inner demons to face, stemming right back to their experience there. Did their mother really get overtaken by malevolent spirits, or did she simply lose mind? Why didn’t their father tell them anything about what he saw in the mysterious red room moments before he evacuated them in a panic? What was real and what wasn’t? Will they be able to overcome the residual trauma of these painful, scarring events and carry on into the light of their adult lives, or will the darkness envelop them as it did their poor mother? It’s a complex, dense story that goes way beyond simple haunted house motifs and cuts a direct line to the essential using the blueprint of a horror film, and that makes it something special.

Flanagan is fascinated by themes of mental illness and the ambiguity that lies there, and as he did with Oculus, he makes it a little bit tough to see where the vague line between psychosis and actual supernatural forces is drawn, letting the audience ponder what is actually real to some degree. Certainly the house is haunted for real, it’s too convenient that an entire seven person family would show symptoms that extreme, but how much did the house really do, and how much is in the shattered perceptions of these tormented folks? I love the complexity and challenges we get as a viewer there and can’t wait to see what Flanagan does next in his career to build upon these themes.

Now the big question: Is it scary? Oh my yes. I’m not easily rattled by horror but this has some of the most blood freezing moments of inspired ghostly terror I’ve seen, and a few that made me walk away and go find one of the cats or the dog to hold as I made the well thought out decision to watch most of this at night while I was alone in the house. From a scuttling zombie in a dumb waiter shaft, floating spirits that roam hallways peering in doors and looking under beds, the freaky ass ‘Bent Neck Lady’, giant dogs and all sorts of other stuff, this house is packed to the brim with terror. It’s also relentless, like you don’t even get that much of a break between scares and before the family can launch another heated, dramatic argument there’s already some leering ghoul or screeching apparition on their heels, even when they’re grown up and far from the house. They’re well staged, unexpected scares too, some of them reaching that chilling point where you genuinely wish you didn’t see what you just saw because you know you’ll lose sleep.

The cast is carefully chosen and all give beautiful work, but the standout has to be Carla Gugino in a difficult role as Mrs. Crain, loving mother, troubled woman and fallen angel. Carla did a showstopper in Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game last year and tops it here with an intense, passionate turn that echoes Jack Torrence while showing the aching confusion of a broken mind in crystal clear fashion. Henry Thomas does his best as Mr. Crain but they saddled him with unnatural blue contact lenses that make him look more like one of the ghosts than a human father, while Timothy Hutton fares excellently as the older version of him. The children are all vividly drawn, both in childhood and grown up later, brought to life by a talented bunch including Michael Huisman, McKenna Grace, Violet McGraw, Victoria Pedretti, Lulu Wilson, Julian Hilliard, Oliver Jackson Cohen, Elizabeth Reeser, Kate Siegel and Paxton Singleton.

Flanagan has shown true innovation here as a storyteller, deliberately editing together the narrative like a fractured patchwork quilt of scenes, starting some and doubling back to them a few episodes later so they tie in a certain way and show you a new angle on a character you wouldn’t have surmised, bringing things from a tactical, developed slow burn to a hair raising all out finale that shows us every ghost the house has to offer, but more importantly those that exist in the psyche of each family member, and the relationship between them. Cinematographer Michael Fimognari strives to use cuts seldom and hold the shots as long as possible, creating some dynamic, flowing camera work that captures things succinctly without any frenetic nonsense or hectic motion. The show samples everything from David Lynch style sound design, Stanley Kubrick visuals a lá The Shining, The Conjuring esque retro vibes, Stephen King trippy cerebral narratives and more, but it’s definitely a distinct piece all its own, from an original voice of horror that disarms, affects and scares no end. This is the kind of horror I love seeing, where the scares are used to illuminate and say something about the characters, because if you don’t care about them once the ghosts start coming out, well then the story has lost you in cheap parlour tricks. Flanagan knows this, and doesn’t let anyone off easy with his arresting, unexpected story. Brilliant stuff.

-Nate Hill

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BLINDING ACTION: The Making of BLINDSIDED: THE GAME by Kent Hill

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It’s funny how the fates play their hand. Not long before I hand completed the interviews for this piece, I found I had been gifted the opportunity to interview Phillip Noyce, who happens to have directed BLIND FURY – a film that was both the inspiration behind and the film that came to mind when I first heard about Blindsided: The Game. And what a film! Walter is a seemingly unassuming guy who likes his peace and serenity – and his warm apple pie. His daily life, to the voyeur, would appear idyllic – that is until he decides to visit his local convenience store at the wrong time. A gang of stand-over men are looking for payment on a debt owed by the proprietor, and Walter’s friend. You know something is rotten in Denmark, and Walter looks as though he is the kinda guy to let sleeping dogs lie. No way! Like Josey Wales before him, Walter is the man, the hero who’ll always double back for a friend. That’s when the ACTION begins….

You might find yourself, as I did, waiting for something to happen. When Walter reveals his secret however, you’ll marvel and the grace, fluidity and devastating ability that the film’s hero has been keeping under his hat. The ensuing war which Walter wages with the movie’s antagonists is fierce – with a satisfying resolution.

I think the only thing I wasn’t happy about after watching Blindsided is that it ended – ’cause I, for one, wanted more. So it was an honor and a privilege to sit down with the filmmakers behind this veritable dynamo – this indie action gem waiting in the wings.

Blindsided: The Game pays homage to classic action films like Zatoichi and Blind Fury not only in its protagonist Walter, a blind swordsman, but also in that the film places heavy emphasis on storytelling combined with great action. This is no surprise with Clayton J. Barber in the director’s seat, who comes with over 20 years of experience as a stunt coordinator in Hollywood. Leading man Eric Jacobus plays Walter, a lovable cook who’s an expert gambler and swordsman. The character is the amalgamation of Jacobus’s 18-year career as a comedic action performer in the indie film arena. Director Clayton J. Barber is pushing the boundaries of modern action entertainment by bridging Hollywood with the indie action film world.

Barber notes that, “Eric Jacobus came from the indie action film realm. He was like a punk rocker of the action genre using raw film-making. We’re bridging these worlds together to create a totally new kind of action experience.” Jacobus echoes Barber’s sentiments: “Indie action guys have all the tools they need to showcase their skills, but the element of storytelling still has to be there. Clayton’s that storyteller who knows action. This is our Le Samurai.”

Barber and Jacobus aren’t the only stuntmen involved in Blindsided: The Game. The film features an ensemble of action stars and stunt performers both behind and in front of the camera. Roger Yuan, a veteran action star featured in action films such as Shanghai Noon and this year’s Accident Man, who plays the shopkeeper Gordon, also choreographed one of the film’s major fight scenes. Producer David William No (Altered Carbon from Netflix, and Matrix Reloaded) acts as a knife-wielding card shark and goes toe to toe with Jacobus in the climax. Veteran stunt performer Joe Bucaro (xXx, Iron Man) plays the ruthless gang leader Sal, Nicholas Verdi (Close Range, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) plays Nico and acted as director of photography, and Sal’s enforcer is played by Luke LaFontaine (Savage Dog, Master and Commander) who also served as the sword fight coordinator.

Production company, JB Productions, is dedicated to delivering strong storytelling and first-rate action, created by people who truly understand action. Barber says, “This is a new approach to action film-making. Blindsided: The Game is the perfect collaboration for us, and we hired great stunt performers to play the lead roles and even work behind the camera with us because we wanted to work with folks who knew action. That’s the brand people are buying into, and we’re always looking to build that brand by collaborating with talent both in America and overseas.”   Jacobus and Barber previously collaborated on the hit short films Rope A Dope and Rope A Dope 2: Revenge of the Martial Arts Mafia. Blindsided: The Game is an expansion of the 2017 short film Blindsided, which was the first title under the Jacobus / Barber (JB) Productions banner. Blindsided was released to much acclaim, with fans craving a conclusion to the story. Blindsided: The Game replays the entirety of the original Blindsided and carries the story to completion, capping the film off at the length of a TV pilot.

Jacobus and Barber are confident that Blindsided: The Game will fulfil fans’ desires for a complete film. Blindsided: The Game will be free to stream on YouTube NOW!

ERIC JACOBUS

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CLAYTON J. BARBER

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DAVID WILLIAM NO

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LUKE LaFONTAINE

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WATCH THE FILM NOW…

Netflix’s The End Of The Fucking World

Netflix’s new original show The End Of The Fucking World is impossible to really describe until you go binge it for yourself, which isn’t a tough task, considering it’s only eighth episodes, each twenty minutes or so in length. It’s a dark comedy, a road movie, a love story, a pseudo coming of age tale and everything in between, seen through a sardonic yet heartfelt lens, wicked sharp acting that’ll have you laughing in stitches when it’s not hitting you in the feels, and the beautifully blunt script to back it up. James (Alex Lawther) is a stoic seventeen year old who is fairly certain that he’s a psychopath. He’s killed all manner of household pets and local wildlife, but plans to graduate to something bigger very soon. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is a mouthy little thing, also seventeen, with a monumental attitude problem and enough social dysfunction to fill an auditorium.They’re an odd pair, and hit the road together after James literally decks his father in he face and steals his car. This isn’t your average love story, road flick or black comedy though, which is a good thing. Mad at their families and willing to get prickly with anyone who crosses their path, these two are an odd suited pair and an electrifying couple of protagonists to spend four hours with. I could outline more of the plot but then I’d be shedding unneeded light on a beautifully unpredictable, often scary, achingly sweet and altogether unique turn of events that land with an arc that has to be seen to be believed. Out across rural England their joyride leads them, and into shenanigans ranging from puzzling to endearing to downright disturbing (there’s both a serial killer and a molester involved, but not in ways you might expect). Lawthon and Barden are two uncanny finds, bringing teenage awkwardness, earned warmth and hilarious delivery to every facet of their work. If this is a tick on the barometer for the steady uphill direction that Netflix is heading in with their originals, keep at it. Oh and please please please give us another season of this, because I’m already in withdrawal.

-Nate Hill

Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game


Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game is exactly what horror/thrillers should aspire to be: devilishly well written, engagingly acted, crisply directed and scary enough to wake the dead. Presented on the Netflix platform with their trademark lack of marketing (they tend to hurl out content willy nilly, sans fanfare), it’s just shown up and is already one of the best horror films I’ve seen all year. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood give encore performances and the best work of their careers as a couple who make their way to a cottage in the country, trying to spice up the ol’ marriage. When Brucie has a nice heart attack mid-foreplay (he popped a few of those magic blue pills), Carla is stuck handcuffed to the bed in the middle of nowhere, with no one for company except a mangy stray dog that begins to take chunks out of dead Bruce. So begins a fiercely internal, visceral psychological survival story, a brutal chamber piece that delves into her twisted childhood, troubled marriage and churns forth a tale to curl the pain on the cabin walls. There’s hallucinations, inner monologues, squirm-inducing gore, elliptical mind games and a pseudo-twist ending that had me shuddering into the couch. Gugino has never been more intense, believable or varied in her work, turning this character into something potent and tangible, bringing her past trauma and fight for survival to screaming life. Greenwood is smart, witty and so darkly funny it’s tough now to picture him as the stoic, emotionally shut off archetype he usually has embodied before this film. Additional work from ET’s now eerily grown up Henry Thomas and Twin Peak’s ginormous Carel Stryucken (terrifying here) adds class and distinction. The show belongs to Carla and Bruce, and what a show they put on, feasting on the rich, textured dialogue and playing sandbox in the story that uses depth, character and genuine menace to lasso us right in. In a year that’s seen at least one King novel unforgivably bastardized, and one other given the solid yet flawed and incomplete treatment, it’s reassuring to find one that comes up pretty much perfect in every way. Kudos to Netflix, the two leads and everyone else involved. 
-Nate Hill

Netflix Original Content: GET ME ROGER STONE

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Netflix’s newest arrival, GET ME ROGER STONE, is the best and most important political documentary since THE WAR ROOM. The film showcases the flamboyant and unapologetic architect of not only the Trump presidency but also the transformation of the Republican Party post Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Stone is proudly candid as he recounts and fully embraces his insane political power. He cut his teeth at nineteen when he got caught up in the Watergate scandal, from that point forward he became a champion in the dark shadow world of lobbying. It was during the 1980 presidential campaign that Stone met his future mentor, Roy Cohn.

What you see is what you get with Stone. He doesn’t really care about policy, the truth, or America. He wants to yield unmatched power and accrue as much money as he possibly can. He was behind the 2000 Florida recount debacle, the plethora of sexual misconduct allegations of Bill Clinton in the 90’s. He brought down former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, and he is the man responsible for not only Trump’s brand but building his political base and capital.

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While most of the things Stone has said and done are pretty much awful, you can’t help but be amazed by his awesome power. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He wants power and money and more power and more money. And he’ll be the first to tell you that.

Much like Trump, Stone is a showman and absolutely revels in the attention he gets. Good or bad, he doesn’t care. As Stone proudly proclaims, “it’s better to be infamous than not to be talked about at all.” Regardless of your political affiliation, or your personal feelings regarding Stone, you cannot deny that the guy is an absolute genius.

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GET ME ROGER STONE is currently streaming on Netflix.

Netflix’s Small Crimes


Netflix’s Small Crimes is a bitter, barren, gnarled piece of work that leaves an uneasy vacuum in the air as it passes. If you haven’t heard of it yet, that’s because the platform does almost zero promotion when new content comes off the assembly line, quietly slipping it onto the site without so much as a tv spot. Some are forgettable, and some are gems that could have done with a bit of buildup. This one is like David Mamet, Cormac McCarthy and Elmore Leonard sipping whiskey sours one cold, empty night and brainstorming ideas. I love the time honoured themes presented here, but what I love and admire more is the filmmaker’s courage in completely subverting, perverting and putrefying the formula. There’s countless films about disgraced cops, criminals or what-have-you who return home to a small town with designs on putting the wrong things right and finding a modicum of redemption. Thing is, in 99.999% of these films, we end up with a happy ending where all the kinks are ironed out and bygones are left as such, a trend which really cripples the stakes and grinds our expectations down with a blunt, predictable Hollywood ending. Not this one. Nikolai Koster-Waldau, aka Jamie Lannister, is a wiry, cracked out ex con who used to be a cop, before he viciously, and I do mean viciously, sliced up the town DA at the behest of a crime kingpin. Moping back into the county following a six year stretch in the pen, it’s inevitable that his very presence will stir up a few noxious vibes. Sure enough, he runs into trouble from all angles, including the vengeful DA (“, looking like he shaves with a wheat thresher), a scummy corrupt detective (Gary Cole eats up the dialogue like candy), the mobsters he used to be employed by, and even his parents (Robert Forster & Jacki Weaver), who are clearly broken by the past. There’s a feeling of inescapable doom, an inevitable choking quicksand that Waldau wades deeper into,

his seemingly noble intent on reconnecting with his wife and daughters gradually ground away to reveal the true nature of his path, and it ain’t pretty. Gary Cole has a way with words and mannerisms, and he runs away with his bent cop role, stealing scenes like nobody’s business. Forster has salt of the earth gravitas in spades, and nails a near career best scene with clear eyed conviction, nailing our attention to his presence. It’s not a perfect film though, there’s pacing issues, sometimes it gets a little vague or scattered and a romantic subplot involving a nurse (Molly Parker) seems glaringly out of place. Waldau anchors it though, a twitchy, unpredictable ne’er do well who seems cosmically incapable of getting his act together. The ending floored my expectations and remind that there is hope for fresh narratives and abstract thinking amongst writers. You’ll come out of this one bruised, but you’ll be glad you sat through the beating. 

-Nate Hill

Netflix’s The OA: A Review by Nate Hill 

I always try to find unique and original projects when choosing films and shows to watch, for we live in a time where many titles you see out there are sequels, nostalgia reboots or spinoffs. These aren’t bad things per se, but it’s also important to break new ground and produce organic material, something which Netflix has a fairly glowing track record for. Tapping the creative well that is the mind of young female director/actress/producer Brit Marling, the platform has given her the chance to tell one of the most striking, beautiful and altogether astonishing pieces of work I’ve ever seen from the long form storytelling format. Earlier this year, Stranger Things knocked me flat, and recently Westworld has captivated my attention and imagination. But The OA has done something different for me; stirred my soul in a way that few creative pieces can, with a story so unpredictable that it starts to feel like the forces of nature at work, forking off into tributary sections of narrative that you would never, ever have been able to to surmise ahead of the reveals. 

  Now, something I’ll say right off the bat: This won’t be for everyone, and I predict many confused, bitter reviews. Such is the case with work that requires effort and clarity of attention from the viewer, as well as the key ingredient: objective thinking. This is both a scientific and spiritual story, bereft of any religious implicatioms, incredibly vague, esoteric and at times left open to interpretation, or clarification we will get from a second season, fingers crossed. 

  It starts off simply enough, with the return of a girl named Prairie (Marling) to the home she disappeared from seven ears prior. Mysteriously cured of childhood blindness and very secretive of the events which have befallen her, her loving parents (Scott Wilson and Alice Krige in knockout performances) are just happy to see her again. It’s here the story turns off it’s headlights and hurtles blind into the night, going to places you’d never have thought it would, let alone be explored in a mainstream network series. Marling and Co creator Zal Batmanglij (yes that’s his real name) have outdone themselves in the originality department, presenting ideas and questions so far from the norm of what we’re used to that their story really and truly feels unique from anything else we’ve ever seen. Marling is incandescent in the role, which requires her to go to some fairly tricky places in terms of acting, handling it with the shimmering grace of an angel. It’s difficult for me to say anymore because I want you to open up this gift of a story on your own, without anything to go on, but I must mention her co star Jason Isaacs, who plays a scientific man involved in her disappearance. He’s obsessed in a feverish, sick way, and in any other actor’s hands the character may have come across as too villainous or intense. Isaacs is an unheralded genius of the craft though, and despite the callous nature of the role, he seems more human, more grounded than most. 

  I really can’t tell you much more at this point, and what I’ve said so far is much less than I usually do in reviews, as far as plot goes. This is one to binge watch, one to let wash over you like a blanket of stars, and one to think long and deep about as soon as the credits of the last episode make themselves known. For the thinkers, the wonderers, the ones who ponder what’s out there and what may be in store for us way down the road of the cosmos, The OA is a blast of nutrition for the soul.