Asylum Seekers–review

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   It is really a shame that for most directors and filmmakers the only time in their careers that they have the freedom to experiment with storytelling because I think we the audience lose out on a lot of really interesting work. Alas, the perception, and perhaps reality, is that general audiences don’t want to be challenged but want to have films that are escape and little more. It’s my hope that director Rania Ajani is able to continue making such visually appealing, unique films as we need those just as much as we need movies about giant robots.

   Asylum Seekers is the story of several strangers all seeking refuge in a crowded asylum. The lives of these people have become too big, too complicated, and they are looking for a place to retreat from the world. Each of these potential patients is wrought with a myriad of issues but the biggest issue of all seems to be themselves, something they are not quite able to see. The problem for these wannabe patients though is that there is only one spot available in the hospital which forces the applicants to vie for a place of refuge. In order to win that space the five people must follow the direction of an unseen director who puts them through several tests and it is the results of these bizarre challenges that will choose who gets the last bed. What the people learn though is that while they may be crazy, the director is nuts and it may not just be the last of their sanity that is at risk during these tests but their very lives as well.

   A dark comedy that is perhaps not strange enough and yet too strange at the same time. Asylum Seekers sits in the awkward spot of being too weird for most comedies yet it isn’t quite weird enough to get in on the cult status that so many seek. Just the same, this is a solid, well made film that is pretty fun. The acting is hit and miss, the actors not quite sure how far to take things and how much to reign themselves in, which is one of the things that skews the tone. This really is a very nice looking film and shows off how nice the RED cameras are to shoot digital films with.

   I think the problem here for me is that because the film isn’t quite weird enough I just don’t feel that passionately about it. It isn’t bad, at all, but it isn’t great. It isn’t memorable. It’s fun, and will be worth a watch on an instant stream, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it. It does show a lot of promise for this director though and I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us next.

6.5 out of 10

The Ward (OR John Carpenter’s The Ward – chris ringler’s the review!

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   Can I tell you how glad I am that John Carpenter is back? I have loved this man’s films since I was a kid and to have him getting back to form is amazing to me. Sure, this isn’t a homerun, this isn’t the ‘good old days’ but this is a big step forward. See, I liked Ghosts of Mars, it was ok, and so was Vampires, but neither was really that solid. The Ward, this is solid.

   When a young woman with no recollection of her past is caught burning a house down she has seemingly no connection to the house she is taken to an asylum so the doctors there can decide what to do with her. What the girl finds there is that things are not as they seem. The other patients are secretive, are hiding something, as are the staff, and there seems a shadow over the entire ward itself. When the girl begins to see something that seems to be stalking her when she isn’t looking and the feeling that there is something wrong here grows. Slowly she learns the secret of the ward, the story of the dark thing stalking them all, but can she figure out what this thing is and how to stop it before it’s too late?

   The thing about the story here is that it’s too familiar. The film plays like two films I have seen recently and that is not Carpenter’s fault but is the fault of the writers. The story is a very simple ghost tale but that is fine, that isn’t an issue. The thing is that Carpenter makes this film rise above that simple story. The actors are good, the sets are nice, the effects are decent, but in the end this is Carpenter’s show and he proves that he is ready to get back into the full swing. What he needs is a killer script. He needs that script and who knows how good it can be?

   It has been so sad to see the great horror directors wilt over the years, wilt under the pressure of a studio system with no loyalty and short memories. It is rare and nice to see John Carpenter showing that he still has his skills, still has his eye, and can still make good films. I hope that some of the other old school guys come through as well.

   This is not a great film, at all, but it’s a darn solid one, and is a very good watch. The very end is as trite and dreadful as any ‘80s horror film but the rest was so good that I forgave it. I really recommend this and hope this is the start of a new era for the grand legend of horror.

7 out of 10

Five Across The Eyes – review

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    I am writing a very, very, very brief review of this because it really doesn’t deserve more than that. I don’t like to be mean about things connected to the arts because most people that do this stuff do it for passion and for love. Sure, make money, some make a LOT of money, but the few that do are extraordinarily rare. Saying all that, there are some things that are just calling for a swift kick.

This is such a thing.

   Five Across the Eyes follows five very loud, very obnoxious, very screamy teen girls (who play their parts well being that they are being what you might expect teen girls to be with all the screams and foolishness) who are out for fun. Only one of the girl’s has a license so the others are relying on her to cart them around. While out the girls accidentally run into a parked SUV and, scared about getting into trouble, drive off without telling the owner of the other vehicle. Not long after they leave though the owner of the SUV tracks them down and begins a horrifying ordeal that will leave the girls in danger of their lives and those that survive forever scarred and damaged.

   See what I did? I made it sound sorta interesting. It isn’t. Shot in what I first thought was a style choice but what seems more like a lack of imagination and trust in their ability, the filmmakers shoot the film almost entirely from the van. This means that you miss a lot of what happens in the movie and are oft times subjected to the camera’s focus being readjusted. Again, in more deft  hands this gains an immediacy and danger but here it simply shows the limitations we are presented with. As an audience we don’t want to hear that there wasn’t enough budget. We don’t want to see it. We want the filmmaker to over come all of that and trick us into thinking they were working with more than they had. Alas, that is not the case. The acting is histrionic, the story is thin, and the situations are so bereft of logic that it plays as a grim urban legend. It is interesting because the terrorizer in the film is a woman but acts as a man down to making the girls undress before her to shame them. The film almost plays like a torture film without as much of the nastiness of some of the recent films in that subgenre. There are moments where you cannot help but yell in frustration at the screen as the characters act so far beyond reason that you wonder what was going on in the heads of the creators. The most damning thing here though is that there are flashes of cleverness. There are flashes of intelligence. Alas, they are just flashes and little more.

   I luckily saw this for free as it was streaming but this is such a poorly shot, poorly acted, poorly conceived film that I would hate to think I might have paid for that.

   As much as I dislike this film I, as always, applaud the filmmakers for getting the thing done and not just done but released. That is a huge accomplishment. It’s my hope that they will have learned from this film and will get better at their craft with every film they make. Looking at the credits you see that this must have been a film of passion as there were so many family members involved. So I say this – while the film is not good, there is much to be said about getting a film together, made, and released and there are far worse productions that come out of Hollywood with real money behind them so there’s hope here, just not a good film.

3 out of 10