From New Release

I-LIVED is Modern Horror Junk

I-Lived. 2015. Directed and Written by Franck Khalfoun. Starring Jeremiah Watkins, Jan Broberg, Shannon Collis, Josh Cowdery, Nic D’Avirro, Luis Fernandez-Gil, and Sarah Power. Bleiberg Entertainment. Unrated. 97 minutes. Mystery/Thriller.


★1/2
37729_1_largeI was, and still am of course, a huge fan of Franck Khalfoun’s remake for Maniac, and I thought it was one of the best horrors I’d seen since the start of the 2000s. Even the lacklustre P2 wasn’t all terrible.
However, we’ve arrived at Khalfoun on his latest outing – I-Lived. I think there are some interesting ideas here because I really do enjoy new films that try and explore the latest technologies via fiction, or speculative type science fiction – and this has elements of that: the wonder, and the horror, of the future of social media, the internet, apps, and so on. But instead of Khalfoun delivering something innovative and terrifying the way Maniac worked for him, we get a lukewarm piece of thriller cinema, which could have been a good movie had it been written much better, right from the plot and the story down to dialogue and characters.

I-Lived sees Josh Fosse (Jeremiah Watkins), a 20-something and fledgling app-reviewer who hopes to work with a big tech company, try and squeak through life: his rent is way past due, his girlfriend is gone, he constantly has to duck his landlady, and nothing is going on in his life, whatsoever. Then Josh discovers the I-Lived app – you put in life goals, and the app tells you how to achieve them, the steps, and all kinds of suggestions – which promises not only to improve just a single aspect of his life but life in general. At first, things don’t seem to be working much. Once Josh gets serious about testing the app, his life automatically gets better with every passing day – he gets a new girl, he lands a new show online for a big tech company, and in general Josh becomes a more confident guy, et cetera. Finally he decides it’s him doing all this, not the app, but after the app is gone things spiral – the girl leaves him for someone else better looking and more successful, his viewers go down big time, and generally his life becomes awful once more. Soon, when Josh types his new goal into the app, ‘Make my mom better’, the app starts telling him to do more questionable things – the first being “kidnap someone”. This leads into dark, dark places for Josh and his already rough life.
39496870088020395290Not overly impressed at all by the script Khalfoun managed to come up with, and I wish I didn’t feel the way. There’s real excellent ideas here, maybe even some profound musings on how we simply accept the terms & conditions of all this new technology (iPhone updates, Facebook, the list goes on…) without ever looking at it all – some people do, most of us do not. Maybe there’s also some moral ground in there to be covered much more in-depth. Sadly, Khalfoun squanders a lot of the greatness that might have been mined from this idea. The main character Josh Fosse [Watkins] goes over well at times, others he is annoying, a little dumb, and even obnoxious. Not to mention there are lapses of common sense in the script, such as the fact Josh has no money, he can’t pay his rent – the landlady says it’s been 3 months or so – and yet he somehow manages to do one of the tasks his I-Lived app suggests: he gets a tattoo. Now, maybe he had a little cash put away, but the dumb dolphin tattoo he gets is a decent size; not huge, not small though. There’s no way I can believe he had the money to just walk into a shop and get a tattoo, not when his finances were clearly in the toilet. That was a dumb moment.
Screen-Shot-2015-05-04-at-7.42.29-AM-620x400Overall, I didn’t like Josh as a character. It isn’t that I hate him, I just thought he was badly written, and I don’t particularly like the performance by Jeremiah Watkins; he flip flopped from being all right to just blah. The online videos he did were brutal, I hated those because his personality was so over-the-top, and perhaps that was the point – a lot of online reviewers, vloggers, et cetera, have that zany type of speech and way they act – it just did nought for me, turned me off from Josh as a character in general. As time went on, I liked Josh less and less; not for what he did, for the way he was developing. It was like there was no real progression in him as a character – he got worse, but it was like that never properly came across between the script and Watkins’ mediocre acting.
6fQ2yRfThere was one great scene where Josh has a bit of a hallucination, more like a dream: he sees his mother after he comes home, she is in the kitchen, her slippers off, there are shards of a broken plate all over the kitchen floor, and she is weeping – she picks up a piece of the plate, jagged and sharp, and tells Josh “you did this”, blaming him as she cuts a nice bloody smile across her throat. It is a whopper of a scene, which I did not expect because mostly this plays like a genuine mystery-thriller, and the acting from Jan Broberg as Josh’s mother creeped me out like crazy. If only Khalfoun could’ve made more of this creepiness happen throughout, maybe I’d feel different about the film as a whole. There’s one other scene where Josh and his landlady… work things out, so to speak… and that was decent enough. It couldn’t reach the same level as the scene with Josh’s mom in the kitchen, though, that was a great horror-ish moment.
ilived6I watched this entire movie, but I feel like I could’ve easily just paid part attention and got as much out of it as I did seeing the full running time. A few points it was even just straight up CheeseFest 2015 – the reversal of I-Lived = Devil-I? Come the fuck on, Franck! I mean, you could figure that ought on your own just by looking at it, did Josh have to flip it around and physically see it? Did it need to be explicitly stated like that? Man, oh, man… disappointing.
Khalfoun is capable of better, he did Maniac and it really impressed me, this was just a huge letdown. There were unsettling moments here and there, one great shocker of a scene. Past that, I was not pleased with the whole film, not in any way. The ending did nothing to change my mind after making it all the way through this lame-duck thriller. SO HEAVY HANDED, FRANCK! THE HORNS ON THE WALL SHOT – REALLY? DEVIL HORNS, FRANK? Just… I mean… what happened to implicit storytelling? Everything is spelled out in front of us here, so much so that it’s frustrating. This could’ve been a good story at times, but no – Franck had to hit us over the head, over and over, with ultra-tired “evil inside” type buggery.
The final moment with Josh basically expresses how I felt after watching this movie. And at least that brief effect looked cool.

There aren’t that many films I genuinely feel are complete and utter wastes of my time, I try to really look for something to latch onto whether it’s sound design, score, acting, make-up/effects, or anything I can… here there is nothing I truly enjoyed past tiny bits and pieces. I do hope Khalfoun comes back with something a hell of a lot better next time. Because this is a lot of nonsense and numbskulled filmmaking, in my opinion.
Not every last scene was trash. Close enough, I guess. I liked the premise, it could’ve been a contender. In the end, it has nothing special or innovative, and the poster line that says “A New Film Experience from Franck Khalfoun” is total rubbish. I can’t recommend this, other than to see how he followed up Maniac. On my list of highly forgettable fodder for 2015.

Advertisements

Mark Duplass is CREEP(y)

Creep. 2015. Directed by Patrick Brice. Written by Patrick Brice & Mark Duplass.
Starring Patrick Brice & Mark Duplass.
Blumhouse Productions.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
Comedy/Horror


★★★★★creep-posterI know Mark Duplass mainly from two sources – his amazing portrayal of Pete on FX’s raunchy fantasy-football comedy The League, and the film Baghead which he co-directed with his brother Jay Duplass. He’s a great talent, and of course I’ve seen his other work; another film he wrote and directed with his brother I love is the acerbically funny Jeff, Who Lives at Home. But it’s his performance on The League I love most.
In Creep, Mark Duplass channels brief spots of Pete, which I think are mostly culled from his own personality anyways, and yet there is a real childish gentle quality to the character he plays – at least in the beginning. This, above all else, drives Creep into terrifying territory.
The film starts with Aaron (Brice) who is heading to meet someone he has contacted through Craiglist that wants to be filmed, of course in exchange for money. Aaron arrives at a cabin in the hills where he meets Josef (Duplass) who explains he is dying, and about to be a father, so he wants the video of him to reflect the good & bad of him; later to give to his son. Josef wants to be filmed constantly. Even as he strips naked for a bath, what he calls “a tubby“, which is recorded all for his yet-to-be-born son, Josef asks Aaron “are you okay?“, and seems to want him to be at ease during the process. Uncomfortable, yet harmless, the conversation and relationship develops between Josef and Aaron, but all is just not as it seems.

For those who don’t want a small portion of the film spoiled – turn away. I think when I really started to finally become unsettled is partway through the film as Aaron shuts off the video on his camera, but leaves the audio recording, and Josef reveals something he’d never told anyone before. It starts off like a weird animal porn story, evolving into a quasi-rape Josef says he perpetrated on his wife while wearing a wolf mask. This comes only awhile after we first see the mask – Josef tells Aaron initially the thing was a mask his dad had, a character named Peach Fuzz that he’d developed. But once the story is told, which worked well only as audio because it ratcheted up the suspense, the wolf mask takes on a new terror.
creep-mark-duplassWhat I love most about Creep is that the found footage sub-genre is used appropriately. Maybe there are a few minor nitpicks, but for the most part this film really follows the unwritten rules of the sub-genre to perfection. Best of all, the premise of the story fits in very organically with found footage.
Even further I think the idea of the whole thing initiating from a Craiglist ad is a great post-modern twist on the genre; while scary and enjoyable as a movie, it actually makes you re-think the whole idea of the online communities such as Craiglist where people anonymously perform transactions on everything from professional jobs to the unprofessional world of buy, sell, trade, and online prostitution. But most of all, the fact it’s just two guys, two characters, for the most part in one remote setting the greater portion of the film really works for the whole story. The found footage sub-genre often fails and seems beyond stale when the style is being forced inorganically into a situation where there’s disparity between how a camera should or shouldn’t play into each scene, and so on. This in turn stirs the nitpickers who will tear a film apart, sometimes rightfully so, to say ‘this doesn’t follow the “rules”‘ or what not. The sparse setting, characters, and basic plot really help the environment remain controlled and helps showcase the found footage style without too much going on.
Picture 1The moment that got me most is the phone call from Angela, when Aaron picks up the phone. A real great reveal, so to speak. It sort of peels away Josef’s facade slow with each sentence until you sort of gasp to yourself – not terror, but the feeling of the moments before a terror strikes – and from that moment on the creepiness descends upon us in torrents, waves, scene after scene, up to the end.
The mask really creeps me out. At first it wasn’t so scary, but in the final half hour it becomes the thing of nightmares; one scene, as Josef wears the mask and stands blocking a doorway, is spectacularly weird and creeped me out wholly.
There’s a genuine amount of suspense going on throughout the closing fifteen minutes or so, an air of dead, which ultimately leads to a real shocking conclusion. I thought it was about to go one way, yet still the finale was surprising, and didn’t come exactly as I’d expected it to. Duplass really makes the last couple scenes pop with the creep factor he puts out, and you should freeze frame it if you can right before the credits roll – a very dark, suggestive shot, brief and yet long enough to get under the skin. Then the title appears, the credits go, and you’re left to ponder. Great stuff.

I’ve got to give this a full 5 stars. Going into any Blumhouse film I’m honestly weary. There are a couple films I don’t mind, a couple I like, and then several I hate. Creep delivers the goods. Sure, it’s a very contained and limited film, but that’s not to say those are negative commentary. As I said earlier, I think found footage can be terrible if it tries to put in too much, this is exactly why Brice’s film is directed so well in my mind, why the shots all work and things seem to flow naturally without being forced. This is one of the most efficient uses of the sub-genre in horror. Along the way there are some excellent comedic moments, mostly dark I think, and they come in little bursts. I honestly found myself dropping my jaw a few times, amazed at the way things were going in the awkward relationship between Aaron and Josef – I watch a ton of horror, I’ve seen a ridiculous amount of gore and shock horror and all that, but regardless, Creep has so much tension, suspense, and the performance Duplass gives is creepy beyond belief, that the film goes over perfectly.
See this, ASAP. It’s on VOD via iTunes, and I would assume other platforms, today. Real great little watch. It isn’t an outrageous horror with elaborate plot, it doesn’t have any blood in it, or monsters, or supernatural entities – it is a straight up, balls to the wall psychological horror, and it melted me. I loved it. I can’t say that enough. And not to ruin anything, but I hope that they’ll expand and go for a sequel. No doubt Blumhouse is already champing at the bit for a sequel, or two, or three. This is one film I wouldn’t mind seeing more of, maybe even a prequel to see Josef before he arrived to his relationship with Aaron.
This is a creeper of a movie. I can’t wait to watch it again.