Sound of My Voice

I remember the first time I saw the trailer for Melancholia, I thought, “Looks like an interesting concept for a low-key sci-fi film.  And then, I remember seeing a trailer for Another Earth and thinking, “Damn, seems a lot like the concept for Melancholia.”  I was so wrong on so many levels.

But that’s another conversation for another time.  What’s important is that my initial curiosity for Melancholia piqued my curiosity for Another Earth.  I ended up seeing Another Earth way before Melancholia and loved it.  A scant year after Another Earth was released, Sound of My Voice came out.  And while the film certainly didn’t share the same plot threads as the other two films, it still gave off an eerily similar vibe; science fiction-y, low-key, ambient, atmospheric, and, once again, starring Brit Marling.

The story revolves around journalist Peter Aitken (Christopher Denham), a fledgling journalist trying to get a big break by infiltrating an underground cult with the help of his girlfriend Lorna Michaelson (Nicole Vicius).

Getting to the cult meetings involves thorough showering, dressing in white gowns, strange meeting places, blindfolded van rides, and some of the most intricate secret handshakes known to man.  The cult leader, Maggie (Brit Marling) claims she woke up one day in a tub in an abandoned apartment where she had been magically transported from the future.  The year 2054, to be exact.

She promises that she will take them back with her if they all jump through the many hoops she puts in front of them, including blind faith in her extraordinary claims, eating and regurgitating fruit, days of starvation, and eating worms.  Just to name a few.

As the time to make the journey to 2054 comes nearer and nearer Peter and Lorna start to wonder about each other, adding an interesting layer to the film.  Each of them, at one point or another, believes the other may actually be falling under Maggie’s spell.  And all of this, of course, is shrouded in mystery.  IS she telling the truth?  IS she making it all up for some more sinister reason?

I enjoyed this film on a number of levels.  First off, I like Brit Marling, although I could see how some might not.  She is an interesting actress.  In both films she plays a similar character; a somewhat lethargic, doe-eyed lead who, despite her languor, still manages to be enigmatically charismatic.  In that way, in particular, she is the perfect lead for the film.

In addition to excellent casting, the film works well on a number of other levels.  The way Peter sometimes seems to lead Lorna parallels the way Maggie leads the cult.  Peter, who starts out the most incredulous of the group, is often times seen wearing a gown that is a slightly different shade than the rest of the group.  A nice color scheme to reflect his skepticism.

The dialogue.  While some of it does seem ridiculous, one must suspend their disbelief to some degree.  For example, the idea behind eating and then regurgitating the fruit — that they were purging themselves of previous wrongs done by them and to them in order to purify themselves – seems a little silly, especially since it just HAPPENS to coincide with the day that Peter ingests a tiny microphone so he can get audio of the cult.  Mmmmm….contrived.

But, then again, it is a cult, and I would rather the filmmakers take a stab at creating a personality rather than what I saw in the woefully overrated Martha Marcy May Marlene where the main reason we seemed to be given as to why the members were wooed to joining was because the leader (John Hawkes) knew how to play guitar.

By and large, though, the script is well written, dialogue and all.  There are a lot of loose ends at the end of the film, A LOT, but the film is short, under 90 minutes, and I enjoyed it enough I would consider watching it again to see if I could piece the puzzle together.

Written by Ryan Venson

High Tension


Starring: Cécile De France, Maïwenn Le Besco Directed by: Alexandre Aja

I grew up in the heartland of America, and therefore was taught to fear two of High Tension’s most distinguishing features…isolated farmhouses and the French.

Right out of the gate I am going to tell you that High Tension is 90% “great horror” and 10% “one of the worst things I have ever seen.” A difficult dichotomy to be sure, but far from impossible.  Like many films of the genre, it starts out sprinting only to trip across the finish line. I’ve gotten ahead of myself, so let me take a step back.

Two female students, Alexa and Marie, are on their way to Alexa’s parent’s home in the country.  Shortly after they arrive, a strange man shows up, brutally slaughters  Alexa’s family, binds Alexa, and throws her into the back of his truck.  Marie manages to stay hidden during this ordeal, but cannot just let this madman kidnap her best friend. The rest of the movie becomes a cat and mouse style horror film wherein Marie desperately tries to get the upper hand on the antagonist and save Alexa.

What surprised me when I first saw this film in 2003 was how well made it was, especially since I never think of French cinema when I think of horror.  Set aside that 10% for a moment and you will find a very well shot, crisply edited film that delivers exactly what the title promises, tension.  We stay with Marie as the frenetic pace of the film carries us along. We are hiding under the bed, fighting the urge to sob, as the stranger looms above.  We hop into the back of the truck to try and save Alexa, only to be locked in with her. When the opportunity presents itself, we try and escape to get help, and if no help will come, we fight. Marie makes the same choices that most of us would make, and that is why it is so easy to get caught up in this story.

Should you find yourself watching this movie, I beg you to turn it off just after the final confrontation with the stranger. You will still have seen a fine horror film.  Because while I am still very afraid of the French, what with their loosey-goosey healthcare and their love of Jerry Lewis, it is their inability to properly end a horror movie that scares me most (see also Them).

Written by Drew Martin

Santa's Slay


The old bait and switch.  You know what I mean, you go into the store for some Halloween decorations, costumes  and candy, and you notice there's already Christmas wreaths and wrapping in the aisle right behind it.  Santa's Slay masterfully employs this technique from the very beginning. It's not as scary as the title might suggest, but it is certainly a bloody good time.

The movie opens on a Christmas dinner with the likes of James Caan, Chris Kattan and Fran Drescher sniping at each other over a leathery holiday dinner.  This will not be your actual star studded cast, (either to your relief or dismay), but a vignette introducing you to Santa.

Ah, Santa. You also might have believed he Santa is a kindly old angel, gleefully distributing gifts to good little girls and boys. Not so much.  Former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg brings Santa to life as a bringer of holiday fear who drives a sleigh pulled by a buffalo and delights to deliver a boot to the head (or a sharpened candy cane to the eyeball) to, well, anyone who gets in his way.

A glorious Claymation™  interlude explains that Santa is actually a son of Satan, who typically celebrated December 25th with killing people.  He lost a bet to an angel and consequently had to be good (for goodness sake) for a thousand years and bring happiness and gifts on December 25th instead of death.  Unfortunately, the thousand years are up, and Santa is on the rampage again.

There is an actual plotline centering around Nick Yuleson (Douglas Smith) and his kooky Christmas-hating, basement bunker-building, gadget-inventing grandpa (Robert Culp).  Aided by Nick's friend Mac (Emilie de Ravine), they must stop Santa before he resumes his Yuletide killing sprees. They realize early Santa's tough – a mere shotgun won't stop him – so they have to find another way to bring him down.  The sport of curling, a nutcracker, and a skeet shooting club with a bazooka all figure into the mix.

More comedy than horror, pretty much all the gore in this movie is in good fun.  Really the only thing scary in this movie is Fran Drescher.

Some other highlights include:

  • Old people swearing
  • Santa's rampage in a strip club
  • Santa delivering a Goldberg-style spear through a deli counter
  • Santa driving a Zamboni
  • The credits – they will tell you who's been naughty or nice
  • A plethora of bad jokes and even worse puns.  Such as Santa picking up A Christmas Carol in the school library and wisecracking "Bet this will scare the Dickens out of them," before throwing a gas grenade.

Give yourself an early Christmas present and watch this movie during the Halloween season.

Written by Jennifer Venson



Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker Directed by: James Gunn

As Halloween fast approaches, every movie theatre and cable channel will start to devote more and more time to the bastard genre of the film world, the horror movie.  Many stars have appeared in them. Many good directors have cut their teeth by making them.  Still, no genre seems to get less recognition for good work than horror. I blame Sorority Row.

Slither is, as many of the better horror films have to be, more than just a horror film. Horror/Action, Horror/Comedy, Horror/Thriller, Horror/Hip-Hop (thanks Snoop), pick a genre and slap it on the end of horror and it has probably already been made (stop dragging your feet Bollywood). Slither pulls off the horror/comedy in a way that would make Sam Raimi proud.

The movie opens the same as a hundred movies before; an object from space comes crashing down in Small Town, USA.  Of course this object contains a small slug like creature that is bound and determined to take over our planet. Now let me answer your question before you ask. No, this is not an allegory on our current immigration concerns. Why would you even think that?

The creature starts to take control of the residents of Nowhere, USA. Some people are used as massive wombs so the creature can reproduce, and others are used as food. No, this is not a social commentary on America’s love affair with making babies and eating our body weight at each meal. Let’s focus people.

Some people live, some people die. It’s a horror movie, the story you know already. The real strength of Slither is in the cast. More often than not, horror movies are merely a stepping stone for some drama club rejects who thinks that showing your boobs while getting while getting your head cut off is their ticket into real movies. And to be fair, we all loved Dame Judi Dench in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. However, Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks actually add a certain degree of credibility and comedic timing that is rarely seen in horror movies.  They manage to do this subtly, keeping the movie just out of the clutches of your Army of Darkness slap-stick nature.

One last thing I have to mention. I am very grateful to this movie for excluding something that too often ruins a movie, technology. Not technology in the production of the film, but in the film itself. No one is running around with their cell phone calling for help, or looking up “slug aliens” on Google.  New technology makes the world seem small in the movies.  “Let me just Skype this professor in Mumbai to figure out how to kill the monsters while you text the National Guard.”  The world is large, and Genericville, USA is just a small part of it, and the characters aren’t trying to save everyone, they are just trying to survive.

In closing, let me see if I can do this right, SLTHR MMLMAO ITS GR8 & SCRY TNSTAAFL!

Translation: Slither made me laugh my ass off, it’s great and scary, there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

Seriously, there is an actuall text abbreviation for “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, look it up. I want you to use that sometime, and see if anyone has any idea what the hell you’re talking about.

Written by Drew Martin



Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

I love zombies.  Who doesn’t?

Well, my wife for one.  She sleeps light, one eye open, waiting for the zombie apocalypse to begin.  Next to the bed is a baseball bat on which is engraved “The Butcher.”  You know, just in case.

That’s one of the great things about zombies.  You can kill (or is that re-kill?) them with a swift lick to the head.  That’s a pretty nice advantage.  A major silver lining for the zombie apocalypse: It ain’t vampires!  What would you rather do, try and hit a 22” melon attached visibly to a body with pretty much any nearby object, blunt or sharp, or stab a spiky piece of wood through a torso to impale an invisible organ approximately 3.5” in circumference?  Yeah, exactly.

That’s why, for all the lore of zombies raising from the dead and dragging their carcasses around, Hollywood eventually had to inject some vigor in to them.  It’s a lot harder to figure out how to terrorize a group of unwitting survivors if the antagonist moves at a snail’s pace.

That’s why the #1 rule for surviving Zombieland is cardio.  You need to be able to get away long enough to plan your attack.  Even if zombies have gotten fast….they’re still pretty dumb.

Zombieland stars Jessie Eisenberg as Columbus, an amiably nerdy narrator with a written list of survival tips which he references throughout the film.  Each tip is revealed seamlessly, adding not only to the film’s style, but also perfectly to its humor.

Eventually Columbus stumbles upon another survivor, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), nicknamed after the cities they hail from.  Columbus is trekking cross country to get back to his city namesake to check on the well being of his family.  Tallahassee is, well, killing zombies.  Like it’s his job.  And I guess, in a world with no real vocations to speak of, maybe it is.  Gun, banjo, hacksaw, Tallahassee uses whatever object is nearby as his weapon of choice, and does so with such gusto and energy.  I guess sometimes you just have to wait for the zombie apocalypse to find your niche.

Eventually Columbus and Tallahassee stumble upon two cunning vixens, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).  After a shrew bit of chicanery, they steal Tallahassee’s truck, his gun, their pride, and yes maybe, just maybe, a little bit of their hearts.

Therein lies the success of Zombieland.  It turns out to be a road trip movie with zombies as a backdrop.  As a matter of fact, with the exception of the opening and closing sequences, there aren’t a whole lot of zombies in the film.  It is, by turn, well acted, well shot, sweet, and, above all, hilarious, with a little bit of action thrown in.  But never really any horror.  It’s best to not even think of it as a zombie film, because it isn’t really.  It’s turning the road trip genre on its ear, with screaming success.  The Griswold’s should take note.

Written by Ryan Venson