Friday, January 1, 2016

BRYAN'S 2015 DEVIANT FAVORITES


Things have been rather quiet on this little Deviant blog as of late. So much so that I have been contemplating a number of different directions to take the entity that is Film Deviant and rejuvenate the entire site. However, life has taken me down several different paths, on a creative level this past year...so, the ideas are all still up in the air. However, let us not discuss those things right now. Let us, instead, talk about the stuff that I enjoyed in 2015.

Now...let me just start my discussion by admitting something that I've been a bit reluctant to come to terms with lately. Writing film reviews and generally panning films for being terrible is something that I might not do anymore. Honestly, after shooting my first short film, Gelato Giallo, and beginning pre-production work on my new feature, I have experienced first-hand how much goes into creating a film from scratch. Everything from fleshing out a screenplay to casting the right people for the roles...all the way to premiering it on the big screen. It is a unique experience that I feel extremely honored to have undergone and I have a new found respect for filmmakers everywhere...no matter what kind of film they end up with. Well...except for Michael Bay, of course. Oh...and everyone that was a part of making Fright Night 2: New Blood...because fuck that movie. Anyway, this is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit...especially considering that Film Deviant generally revolves around film reviews and commentary. While, I will certainly do my very best to continue the fun commentary and off-center discussion that I've always felt was the (black) heart of FD...I wanna do it in the most productive way possible. A way that I feel will contribute to this genre that we all love so dearly. It's no secret that I have submerged myself in gialli this past year...perhaps more so than any sane person would want to. But, in doing so...I have come to the conclusion that it is important to share certain films that normally don't really get shared all that often. I mean...sure, the bigger and newer genre films often rule on social media...and even the older classics...but, how about the lesser known ones? I feel that it is my responsibility to share those particular films and let the world know about them. Even the smaller...more contemporary ones that usually fall through the cracks these days. So, I feel like FD will be moving in that direction, while also serving as a production company for any new projects that I will be working on (which, currently, we have two upcoming projects for 2016).

So, having said all of that...let's start the show...shall we?


2015 was a decent year for the genre. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to watch everything that came out...but, the stuff that I watched was, for the most part...pretty good. One such pretty good film was one of my favorite cinematic experiences of the year. George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road  is, in my opinion...a classic action film that never relents and finds a way to be big and bold while maintaining an edge and personality all its own. It is rated R genre through and through...and, yet, feels much more genuinely relevant than any of the traditional big budget action film that has come out in quite some time. Sure, you love a good superhero film...or a giant dinosaur running amok in a park film...but, will you remember said movie by the time you get home? Mad Max: Fury Road  is a film for all of the cinema misfits that still believe in good cinema. If you went to the theater this year to see Mad Max: Fury Road  and you didn't feel anything...Jesus, I don't know what to tell you. You may have to go see a specialist about that...or something.



Speaking of great experiences this year...one absolutely beautiful decision that I made in 2015 was purchasing the Arrow Blu-ray steelbook of Mario Bava's immortal classic, Blood and Black Lace. While the film works so wonderfully all on its own...the version that Arrow Films released earlier this year seriously rivals the likes of Synapse Films' Demons  release of the previous year. Yes...I went there. Those that know me...have come to the realization that I am obsessed with Lamberto Bava's Demons. So, to put any film up against the exquisite Synapse Films release is about as high praise from me as it gets. Blood and Black Lace  is known far and wide to be the first film to truly lay down the blueprint for all gialli to follow. Even the influence of the rich color palette of the film resonates well into the next two decades...and even in today's genre filmmaking. Arrow Films really went to great lengths to make this THE definitive release of the film. In terms of shear presentation alone, there aren't too many Blu-rays out these days that can hold a candle to this one. The design of the steelbook is luscious. The extras are seemingly endless. Hell, they've even taken the liberty of including Ryan Haysom's masterful short neo-giallo, Yellow. As far as 2015 Blu-ray releases...Arrow Films' Blood and Black Lace  is literally as good as it gets.


There's something to be said for popping in a film and just having it run you over with the force of a fucking monster bullet train. 2015 had one horror film that did exactly that. Deathgasm  is one hell of an adrenaline rush for connoisseurs of music that can conjure demons and films that effortlessly evoke the spirit of the 80's. Jason Lei Howden has a really impressive IMDb resume...but, nothing is as balls out of your pants and in your face as his 2015 effort. There is just soooo goddamn much to behold in this film. The players, the music, the gore...EVERYTHING. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the film feels so much bigger than it obviously is. I mean...there's a dude on the top of a mountain thrashing a guitar while his sex goddess writhes at his feet. It is the kind of film that you wanna watch with a 12-pack, a group of like-minded friends and a desire for something on a different level. Von Trier cinema this is fucking not. Perhaps the one horror film that I've watched the most...had it not been for the release of the next one on this list. DEATHGASM IS BRUTAL AS ALL FUCK.


2015 was a huge year for giallo films, as far as I was concerned. Hell...I made a short neo-giallo, for Chrissakes. I pretty much watched everything that was giallo-related that was available. However, with all of the great Italian classics that finally got a cleaned up release this year...there was one newer film that caught my imagination and straight-razored its way to my heart. The Editor  was released from Scream Factory this past September and was finally available to us genre fans that can't afford plane rides to the fancy film festivals around the world. Those familiar with the boys at Astron 6 know full well that these are, not only a talented group of filmmakers...but, a group that truly marches to their own beat. They not only created a fresh and fun callback to the old-school Italian films...but, they did it with a love and respect for those films. They cast the notable talents of Tristan Risk, Laurence R. Harvey and none other than Udo Kier...and even got Claudio Simonetti to work on the soundtrack. The Editor  is seamless entertainment that shines a loving light on the lesser-known gialli that have influenced generations of filmmakers, including the gents at Astron 6. If you can only watch one film on this little list of mine...I would not hesitate to recommend The Editor  for your viewing pleasure. Such a seductively funny and gorgeous film.


Goodnight Mommy  is as tight as it is haunting. It is the harrowing, intimately told tale of a family going through...shall we say...changes. God...I wanna talk more about this film...but, I seriously don't wanna spoil it for you guys. The payoff is part of why I love it so much and going in as cold as possible is the only way to experience it. Also, far beyond that...it is a film that tries new things, which is always welcome these days. Honestly, tho...I would not be surprised if someone in Hollywood is already planning an American remake of this great experience. Goodnight Mommy  is perhaps my favorite surprise of 2015. While the hype and praise was surely inescapable...it was all well deserved. Rarely does a film this small and personal find a way into the backbone of an audience and it is refreshing to see something so special and heart-wrenching live beyond its word-of-mouth. Goodnight Mommy delivers on its hype in spades. The dialogue is sparse and the cinematography is downright spellbinding...and its hold on the viewer parallels no other film from 2015. If you haven't already....SEE THIS FUCKING FILM.


Every once in awhile a film takes you completely off guard and manages to seep into your subconscious on a deeper level. Spring  is the one film that did that to me this year. It is a refreshing simple love story which unravels into a heady science fiction body horror monster movie. And...yet...it has more heart than most films that I've seen this year. Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker really sell the whole story with their lovely on-screen chemistry and deep emotional performances. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead make expert work of creating something much more substantial than it could have been. Especially once the details of the character of Louise is revealed. The audience is led to believe some heavy-handed science fiction stuff that could have easily derailed the experience. However, in this story...we are on board with whatever happens because we truly care about these two star-crossed lovers...even when the shit goes down. Love really matters in Spring.


We Are Still Here  is perhaps my personal favorite genre film of the year. I just love the Fulci-esque atmosphere that this picture is soaked with and yet, Ted Geoghegan really does a great job of invoking the late Italian master while still making it his own film. The perfect balance of restraint and payoff really shines here...and the performances (save for the one dude's girlfriend...I forget her name) are all great...and it really is great to have Barbara Crampton front and center in genre films once again. In the midst of the current Hollywood unnecessary sequels and even more unnecessary remakes...We Are Still Here  displays a clear genuine love for the genre that isn't seen too often in films today. Hell, I even enjoyed the J&B reference...or should I say B&J. We Are Still Here  is a film that gives me great hope for the landscape of the genre and proves that there are still some cool things to do in it. I also adore it whenever a filmmaker enables the spirit of an old master to breathe and live on within their own work. It never feels like homage...but more like something deeper when the tribute is used as fuel rather than the driving force.


Other films that I really dug were the sleep deprivation documentary The Nightmare  and the cannibalistic Western that you never asked for called Bone Tomahawk. While The Nightmare  isn't really a strong documentary, per se...it really excels once the nightmarish imagery takes hold. Really scary stuff that never completely leaves the viewer's subconscious. Meanwhile...Kurt Russell in a Western. With cannibals. Can't really say too much more than that. Seriously guys, the universe didn't have to give us Bone Tomahawk. We might have been perfectly content with just another fun genre film. However, it is 2015...and there is a gritty Western film with cannibals in it. And it stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins....and fucking Sid fucking Haig! And...it is a good film. So nice to see Haig in stuff like this...even if it's for a brief moment. While Bone Tomahawk  is not really for everyone (it requires patience and and unhealthy love for Westerns)...it is a film that will strike a cord with fans of violent Western horror...and for fans of seeing the long overdue badassary of Mr. Russell.

Another film that I would like to mention is the sci-fi thought provoker...Ex Machina. An experience that resonates far beyond the confines of its story, which is your usual brilliant prodigy goes on to build a corporation based on hyper-artificial intelligence and then strives for something more...so he Frankensteins a beautiful robot who turns out to be much more brilliant and deceptive than its creator ever planned. Ok...so, maybe Ex Machina  isn't your standard science fiction fare. That's what makes it so worthwhile. Every performance in this film is perfect and the climax will have you thinking for weeks. Hell...I'm still thinking about Ex Machina  almost a year after watching it.


Television brought us back into the deadite world with the fun Starz show...Ash vs. The Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell and company are back decades later with a brand new installment of everyone's beloved franchise. Only this time...Ash takes his bumbling crew with him back to the cabin in the woods where everything started in the first place. The series began with an honest-to-goodness explosion of Raimi awesomeness...and now feels like it is really fizzing out quite blandly. While this is an obvious bummer for fans of the franchise (seemingly not really phasing the hardcore apologists)...the show does manage to entertain in many ways and has brought an old beloved property back to the forefront. So...for that reason, alone...it is one of my favorite moments of 2015.

After making my own short film this past year I sincerely understand what it is like to create something out of nothing with not too much more than a burning passion and pure imaginative ingenuity lighting the way. With the help of my good friend Nathan Waters, we accomplished something special with our film. Which brings me to Richard Powell's amazing Heir. What a brilliant storyteller Powell is, able to convey such a well thought out premise and truly sucker punch the audience with some powerful elements. Heir  was among my favorites of 2015 for great reason and I cannot wait to see what Powell can do with a feature. I strongly recommend seeking out this disturbing 14 minute powerhouse of a short film at whichever film festival you can find playing in during its current run.

Geretta Geretta (left) and a cheesy-grinned Demons nerd (right) at a 30th Anniversary Demons screening
As for my favorite theater-going experience of 2015...nothing comes close to two particular moments. One of those moments came when I finally took my son to see a Star Wars  film for the first time in the theater. Just to feel his excitement while he was absorbing everything that The Force Awakens  has to offer brought the emotions out that day. Such an unforgettable experience. As far as what I will tell my 12 year old self if ever I take a Delorian back in time one day...nothing matches the pure geeky excitement of watching Demons in the front row of a packed vintage theater with Geretta Geretta seated next to me. I'm just very thankful that there were no demonic metal masks hanging in the lobby that night. And, yes, my friends...I have found a way to work Demons  into a "best of 2015" list.


So, there you have it, Deviants. Another year...and another list of films that made me feel something good. Again, I'm not 100% sure of what Film Deviant will eventually morph into...and to what extent we will be operating at...but, I will say that 2016 looks to be very, very busy with some really cool projects lined up. I promise that you guys will ultimately love what we have in store...and I can't wait to start sharing that stuff soon! In the meantime, I just want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my dark heart to all of you for coming to our little dark corner time and time again and reading what we have to offer. We certainly put a ton of effort into our stuff every single time....so, I cannot thank you enough.



THANK YOU FOR READING ALL YEAR LONG!




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