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Sunday, November 18, 2018

BAFF 2018: VIOLENCE VOYAGER is the grossest children's adventure ever made

Have you ever found yourself watching a Studio Ghibli movie and thinking, "I wish these child characters suffered a strange bodily transformation"? Or perhaps you were watching The Fly and lamented the fact that Cronenberg hasn't made a children's body horror film. If you fall into either of those categories, boy do I have the film for you!

Violence Voyager tells the story of Bobby, a 12-year old American boy living in the mountainous regions of Japan. When he and his friend Akkun decide to hike over the mountain to visit their friend on one of the last days of Summer, they happen upon a strange amusement park. Though the park seems empty, the man and his daughter that run it seem friendly enough, so the boys decide to check it out. After having fun making their way through, fighting robot decorations with water pistols, they soon discover that the park is a cover for something much more sinister and real.

We can't talk about this film without first talking about its style, because it's so super unique. The film is done in what is called Gekimation, which is sort of a mix of animation and puppetry in which all the characters are flat drawings that are physically moved around against a drawn background. This allows for some really interesting depth that traditional animation can't achieve, and also means things like real water, blood spatter, etc. can be used in conjunction with the puppets. It also means it must have taken an enormous amount of work (three years from director Ujicha, I believe), as each character has thousands of different drawings to cover each scene in the film.

This style initially gives it a very whimsical feel that matches how the kids feel finding a cool amusement park that they can explore all to themselves, but then works as a perfect counterpoint to the grotesque body horror that is to come. This movie is messed up, in the best possible way; without spoiling it too much, lets just say that some kids are turned into weird creatures that resemble half-robot-half-insects, and there are numerous scenes involving an acid that melts skin. Even in the most dramatic and horrifying moments, though, it nearly always manages to keep the tone of adventure, making the whole thing a bizarre and singular experience. I never knew how badly I needed to see a hideously transformed boy go on a mission with help from his animal friends to rescue other children from a monstrous facility in the guise of an amusement park.

Violence Voyager is wild, weird, and wonderful. From the beautiful animation style to the score that is reminiscent of an adventure game with dark undertones, it is a movie that can't be easily categorized–except that it seems Ujichi is making it his own (his previous film, The Burning Buddha Man seems to have a similar style and tone). Long live the Cronenbergian Children's Adventure!

Violence Voyager played at the Buried Alive Film Festival 2018, and is making its way through the international festival circuit. Check out their website for more updates on where you can see it!
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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 160: Reviewing GREEN BOOK and WIDOWS

This week, Hannah and Kyle dive into this weekend's newest releases, the heartland-tugging road tripper Green Book, and Steve McQueen's first foray into action filmmaking with Widows.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BAFF 2018: FRAMED live streams insightful frights

"The time will come when our personality begins and our viral existence ends. That will be a real fucking mess! You won't exist without internet." This quote from the new Spanish horror film Framed sums up the complex ideas that the film manages to explore underneath its bloody exterior.

The concept is a simple one that essentially combines something like The Strangers and Nerve: a group of friends is terrorized in their home by a psychopathic stranger who is streaming the whole thing live on the web in an attempt to get as many viewers as possible. We've seen this kind of thing before, but perhaps not as well, not as successful as a horror movie, and certainly not as cleverly.

From the opening shot, full of neon and bursting out of blackness with booming sound design, its clear that the viewer is in for a treat. Framed is shot very well, with beautifully stylized lighting that defies the usual drabness that accompanies home invasion style horror. Picking any frame at random, I'm struck by the strong color contrast, from the light blues to warm yellows to bloody reds. The sound design throughout, while at times a little cliche in its jump scare stabs, is incredibly effective; the gooshy gore sounds and glitchy transitions really sell the scares. Throw in the pumping electronic music that starts during the intensely cool opening credits sequence and you've got a lot to sink your visual and auditory teeth into.

Speaking of gore, this movie is not for the faint of heart. The kills are often brutal, from dismemberment to zombie-style neck bites. Particularly disturbing is one kill that involves a knife to the head that the victim survives, meaning his death is drawn out over much of the movie in a way that will make you continually cringe. The practical effects are great, and the makeup team deserves a special shout out for the purpling bruises and gashes that look oh-so-painful.

As a surface level horror film, it plays a bit like a torture porn home invasion crossover, something almost like a gorier Funny Games, but the real surprise treat is that there is much more to the film than blood for blood's sake. There's an element of economics as a character complains that due to the lack of jobs in Spain, he has to try to make scary videos to upload and make a few Euros. Later, the characters realize that nearly all of them have jobs that involve "being as viral as possible," even the guy helping poor children in Africa get connected to the internet.

The same character also happens to be the very first viewer of "Amusement in Somebody Else's Home," the channel that will eventually broadcast their own torment. On top of the more obvious social commentary of the millions of viewers that continually tune into the violence from the comfort of their own homes, this clever moment implies a more individual responsibility; we are all complicit in the increasing violence on the web, even when we know it hurts us. This is taken further as the television news at first is horrified by this new media phenomenon, but eventually latches on enthusiastically as viewership rises.

Another interesting bit that sets this film apart is that the killer uses strange drugs to control his victims, making them obey his every command or turning them into animalistic creatures. While this aspect pushes the limits of the believability of the situation, it does act as a powerful metaphor for how we as a society have given control of our lives over to the realm of the internet.

Overall, Framed is an impressive achievement in modern horror. Whether you're looking for a bloodsoaked gorefest with over-the-top kills or something with some thought and commentary behind it, you'll be satisfied. I expected something far less polished and well thought out, and was pleasantly surprised!

Framed will be screening this Saturday 11/17 at 4pm as part of Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. You can support and follow the film by visiting their website and Facebook page.
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

BAFF 2018: THE GOD INSIDE MY EAR delivers stylish editing and hallucinations

There's a small subgenre of horror films that I like to call the descent-into-madness film. It's a tried and true, from Fuller's Shock Corridor to Aronofsky's Black Swan to Kon's Perfect Blue, and when it's done right it can be as unsettling and mesmerizing as the goriest Italian Giallo. These films do run the risk of being all style and little substance when the goal is to portray something as abstract as madness itself. Joe Badon's The God Inside My Ear walks that fine line, and manages to combine some of the techniques of the classics into something pretty interesting.

The God Inside My Ear follows Elizia (Linnea Gregg) as she navigates life after a difficult breakup. Not a totally normal breakup, either; her ex left her after becoming deeply involved with a strange cult that helped him avoid the lizard men that were out to get him. Elizia finds herself hearing strange voices in inanimate objects and over the phone in the form of an oddly personal telemarketer, and in time begins to lose her grip on reality as her friends get more concerned for her mental health.

The first thing to note about the film is its strong sense of style, particularly in the visuals and the editing. There are a number of stylistic flourishes that really stand out, in particular the use of color. On top of the colored light that recalls a film like Suspiria that is used throughout, there is a careful use of color in the production design which never misses an opportunity to make even the dullest household setting a little more interesting. 

The editing (done by Joe Badon himself, along with Joseph Estrade and Daniel Waghorne) is fascinating and easily the most effective thing about the film overall. It never shies away from extreme techniques, like the split screen blind date that recalls De Palma, or the many layers of exposures to create psychedelic effects. Perhaps even more striking, perhaps, is the use of jump cuts as we progress further into Elizia's instability. While the audio stays consistent, we cut just slightly forward in time at random intervals, creating a sense of unease, almost as if we're blacking out and missing time as Elizia is.

Metaphorical imagery is of the utmost importance in a movie like this, and it's done very well here. From the opening sequence of eclipses, water, and extreme closeups of eyes and ears, it's clear that we're in for something a bit more abstract. The dreams and hallucination sequences are the best bits of the film, each with a different sense of style and tone than the last, and it's clear that this is where the heart of the film lies.

The tone is an interesting one; it almost plays out like Wes Anderson directing Eraserhead. Elizia and most of the surrounding cast play things with a very dry sense of humor that is cleverly at odds with the sometimes apocalyptic imagery in her mind. While Gregg perfectly embodies this tone, sporting a very Zooey Deschanel look, her friends have a less humorous perspective throughout.

If you're a fan of these kinds of abstract horror or suspense films, this is definitely worth your time. Some may find the preference of style over substance to be repetitive or dull over the course of the film's 93 minutes, but the style is oh-so-cool. There's a lot to like here, and a revelation near the end of the film cleverly provides an answer to the mysterious events while still asking further questions.

The God Inside My Ear is directed by Joe Badon and is the opening feature film of the 2018 Buried Alive Film Fest on 11/15 at 9pm in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Saturday, November 3, 2018

BAFF 2018 Upcoming!

Our favorite horror film festival is only a few weeks away! Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 takes place November 14-18 at 7 Stages Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. This year has some pretty exciting features (see trailers below) as well over 50 short films and some exciting events. Here are a few of the things we're most excited about!

The God Inside my Ear (11/15 at 9pm) 
After experiencing a peculiar and sudden breakup with her boyfriend, Elizia discovers a world of conspiracies, strange voices and horrifying visions.
Survival of the Film Freaks (11/18 at 2pm) 
Survival of the Film Freaks is a documentary exploring the phenomenon of cult film in America and how it survives in the 21st Century. The documentary traces decades of film fanaticism up to the present, where the ‘digital age’ has transformed the way we experience movies.

The Golem with live soundtrack by Samadha (11/16 at 10pm, 11/18 at 12pm) 
In 16th-century Prague, a rabbi creates the Golem – a giant creature made of clay. Using sorcery, he brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. Come and experience the film with a live soundtrack performance from Atlanta’s very own Samadha!

We'll be there for most of the screenings, so make sure to come say hi! Check out our coverage from the last few years!
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Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: MID90's never quite reaches the heights it's aiming for

When I was in my pre-teens, I fondly recall the MTV slacker generation that I was just shy of being a part of (born in 1983 for the record), but absorbed all the exact same media. The Beavis and Butthead episodes,Tony Hawk appearances at the X-Games, Rob Liefeld comic books, Sega Genesis, the list goes on and on. It's a time period I get a bit wistful for, and given that Jonah Hill and I are basically the same age, he probably has a somewhat similar perspective. I imagine if we sat down to just talk about whatever it was we dug as kids, we'd probably find a lot of common ground. Or maybe not. Though there's one thing I can tell for sure we'd line up on; only a cursory understanding of skateboard culture. The difference is I'm not trying to make a film about it.

Hill, the formerly stocky sidekick in Apatow comedies turned svelte Oscar darling makes his directorial debut here, with a meditation on young teenage life in 1995. Sunny Suljic, who's having a nice couple of early career years with The Killing of a Sacred Deer and getting up in gamers' feels with his pivotal role in God of War, takes center stage here in his first big screen starring role. As Stevie, he's a kid with a tumultuous home life. His brother (Lucas Hedges) treats him as a punching bag, while his mother (Katherine Waterston) is both overly doting, but also wrapped into her own relationship concerns that she can't really identify when things are going wrong.

So it's no surprise when Stevie turns to the first friends that will have him. He leans towards ingratiating himself with the local skater kids, a diverse crew that includes Ray (Na-Kel Smith), the leader with aspirations to turn pro, and his best friend Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) who is equally skilled but has none of the same motivation, Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin), who carries around a camera everywhere but whose name reminds me of a different movie I'd much rather be watching, and Ruben (Gio Galicia), the kid who gets him into the hobby in the first place.

From that point it's a tale of two different movies, one where this quintet hangs out, shoots the shit, and drops some funny (if offensive, yet probably 90's apropos) cracks at one another, and a second line of thought where Hill clearly wants to say something important about the youth of that time period, or maybe the pressures of adolescence in general. It's not terribly clear what the underlying thesis is, really. It's not a surprise that the former plays to Hill's strengths, being one of the quicker improvisational wits in the Apatow troupe, and when he aims for breezy - there's a relaxing charm to Mid90's that is a bit of a pale echo of more delightful hangout flicks like Richard Linklater's Dazed & Confused/Everybody Wants Some!! or SLC Punk. It doesn't quite have that same kick as any of those, or other, better films in the genre; replacing witter repartee for conversation that's only slightly elevated from the "you know how I know you're gay?" bits that peppered the films of Hill's past, but it has its own backward looking charm.

The struggle sets in when it's trying to veer away from that looser/slacker vibe and attempts to embrace "a message" and go full-throated Larry Clark. Stevie falls deep and quickly (honestly far too quickly for the running to support) into alcohol, drugs, and sexual activities all basically egged on by his new pals, which in turn makes his home life all the worse. We flash through all these moments so quickly though, they only barely register before the next big milestone in Stevie's coming of age has to occur. I rarely ask for longer running times, but the perpetual ADD this movie is inflected with does it no real favors.

It also wastes Katherine Waterston, which should be a jail-able offense.

Mid90's isn't an offensively bad film, but it feels like a wasted opportunity. You can tell Hill could craft an entertaining film in a mode he's comfortable with, but aiming for profundity finds his reach exceeding his grasp. Good try, though.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

The GeekRex Podcast: Reviewing FIRST MAN and THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

This week we take a look at the new Neil Armstrong biopic FIRST MAN, and the Robert Redford swan song THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN.

How'd they fare? Take a listen below:

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