Tagged Activist

No Telling: Mary Shelley’s Rural Frankenstein

No Telling. 1991. Directed by Larry Fessenden. Screenplay by Larry Fessenden & Beck Underwood.
Starring Miriam Healy-Louie, Stephen Ramsey, David Van Tieghem, Richard Topol, Ashley Arcement, Robert Brady, Susan Doukas, Ward Burlingham, J.J. Clark, Stanley Taub, Francois Lampietti, and John Van Couvering.
Glass Eye Pix.
Not Rated. 93 minutes.
Horror

★★★★1/2
tumblr_nvscpgAbbS1r1p2eko1_400Larry Fessenden has long been a filmmaker in which I’ve had intense interest. There’s a quality about all his films, no matter how far apart thematically or plot-wise they may be, I’m consistently drawn in by and after every watch, regardless which movie, I usually find his stories on my mind for days.
The first time I saw a Fessenden film was about a decade ago – more like 11 years ago, to be exact. I saw his flick Wendigo on a whim. It was being screened by some group in St. Catharine’s, Ontario where I went to school at the time. There’s a mysterious and eerie air to that movie I couldn’t compare to anything else, at least nothing I’d seen at that point. Not only that, I was going to film school and his filmmaking struck me as such a beautiful, natural process. After seeing more of his work, eventually getting the chance to see Habit, Fessenden became a beacon of light in the indie world. Because his movies, while low budget compared to Hollywood, didn’t feel low budget. He makes use of interesting locations, as well as talented actors to make all the horrific and sometimes completely terrifying aspects of his writing come across.
No Telling is perhaps some of his best work, honestly. Though it isn’t a comment on his skills – he’s always improving, like any true artist.  But I find most interesting here the weight and execution of what he’s getting across in this film. Plus, there’s a lovably indie quality to this film which gives it a subtle, special quality. Certainly Fessenden doesn’t appeal to everyone as it is. At the same time, if any of his movies might divide people it is this one – paced with a wonderfully slow burn, there are some intensely gruesome moments in terms of animals; something a portion of people appear to have trouble with. Either way, be prepared: it’s a great non-conventional horror movie.

Geoffrey and Lillian Gaines (Stephen Ramsey/Miriam Healy-Louie) move into a a house during the summer, out in the countryside. Geoffrey is a scientist. He does top-secret work in his barn where a lab is setup. His artist wife Lillian becomes friendly with an activist named Alex Vine (David Van Tieghem), which becomes more frequent as time goes on.
Soon enough, though, Lillian begins to wonder what it is exactly her husband does out in the laboratory. Some days she barely sees him at all. Others, he’s there yet not really, or he sweats uncontrollably, nervous and awkward around any other people. Once Lillian manages to get into the secretive lab, she sees pictures of dissected animals, she finds one of the old traps, and their relationship begins to crumble.
In the same vein as Mary Shelley and her mad Dr. Frankenstein, Fessenden’s No Telling pits man against nature, man against man, and even woman again man.
12584_1The basic look of this film is actually incredible. Funny enough, the cinematographer David Shaw actually did nothing after this movie, which is a shame. Though, he did operate Steadicam on a film in’95. It’s crazy because one of the first things I enjoyed about No Telling was the look. The Blu ray comes courtesy of the Larry Fessenden Collection, only recently released; also comes with Habit, Wendigo, and the Last Winter, as well as a ton of extras including short films, music videos and lots of commentary. Really this Blu ray collection is a fucking treasure.
No Telling‘s audio and picture are both unbelievably perfect. The exterior shots are something to behold, then there are great contrasted shots of shadowy goodness inside the barn-laboratory and even at times in the house itself. Again, I’m so amazed Shaw didn’t go on to do more work as cinematographer. Between him and Fessenden there is a wealth of beautifully composed shots, interesting camerawork (angles particularly) and an all around nice style.
Fessenden-5Obviously, when you look at this film’s alternate title The Frankenstein Complex, you can easily see – even without doing so – there are roots of this story growing out of Mary Shelley’s original novel Frankenstein. Lots of interesting things happening in this movie, courtesy of the tight screenplay from Fessenden and Beck Underwood. Naturally, this comes out from the young doctor and his experiments. However, the movie takes it further into the idea of man playing god using animals as his subject. You can clearly see how Fessenden feels about animal experimentation; at the same time, he makes a good point for the side of the scientist, as well. As I mentioned earlier, there are a couple particularly savage shots where Geoffrey (Ramsey) is in his barn-lab doing work that might get touchy for anyone sensitive seeing animals in horror movies. But this only serves to create a weird character in Geoffrey, the heinous doctor working out in the isolated farmlands on who knows what sort of mental medical experiments.
The whole film is very heavy in theme. We watch this doctor and his wife sort of spiral into a descent towards a place where life is dark and dangerous. To compliment such darkness, again it’s the camerawork and the style of Fessenden which make it all compelling. One specific shot I can’t stop thinking of comes after Geoffrey puts a few small metal traps out to catch animals around the property – as Lillian is upstairs, the snap of a trap comes in the distance and then a red filter takes over the visuals, slowly cutting and cutting, editing towards shots of a fox (or something similar) baring its teeth, no doubt caught in the trap’s jaws. Very, very effective and such a neat moment. I was caught off-guard, in such a perfect sense. Made my eyes widen and excited me with all its horror. This is only one of the awesome sequences out of this fascinating film.
No-Telling-still-3_283824dc-a267-e511-9442-0ad9f5e1f797_lgThis is one of my favourite Larry Fessenden films. I’ve seen them all now, especially since getting this collection it’s been easy. 4.5 out of 5 stars, none less. No Telling has a ton of spooky horror, but it isn’t conventional like jumpy stuff. Nor is there a lot of the typical sort of reliance on genre tropes. What Fessenden does here is a create a unique and intensely modern story using Mary Shelley as a very basic framework. Too many seem to pass this off as a mere retelling of Frankenstein. It is so much more. Just take a chance and watch this excellent little indie horror. It will compel and disturb you and surprise you even.

Rampage: Uwe Boll Channels His Rage

Rampage. 2009. Directed & Written by Uwe Boll.
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Shaun Sipos, Michael Paré, Matt Frewer, Lynda Boyd, Robert Clarke, Malcolm Stewart, Steffen Mennekes, and Katharine Isabelle. Event Film Distribution.
Rated 18A. 85 minutes.
Action/Crime/Thriller

★★★★
rampage-53f072435d6d0So I’ve been dying to review a couple of the Uwe Boll films that I find are actually decent. As I mentioned in my review of the intense and wild Stoic, I don’t think Boll deserves all the hate he gets online and otherwise. I know that many people see him as an arrogant, egocentric fool, but I don’t see him that way. Sure, he takes the haters by the horns, especially lately with his mad rant online after his funding campaign for a new Rampage instalment failed. I just don’t see why people have pushed him to that point. I agree not many of his movies are good. However, I think filmmakers, and artists in general, ought to be given a chance to get better. Is it easy to make movies? No, it’s not, though fans seem to think it is by the way they treat directors and actors who make subpar movies.
With Rampage, I believe Boll has crafted a damn good action thriller that’s a lot more interesting than so many other movies in that category as of late. There’s a good deal of crazy action, yet what interests me most about the film is the premise Boll has come up with for the main character and what he eventually begins to do as the film goes on.

Rampage is the story of Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher). Ole Billy, by all accounts, is what I would call a real slacker. He’s living at home with his parents (played by the fantastic pairing of Lynda Boyd and Matt Frewer), whom he gives a hard time, as if they’re meant to usher him from a boy to a man. Bill works at a garage where he’s not treated how he would like to be treated. Outside of home and work, he beats around with his equally slack buddy Evan Drince (Shaun Sipos who did an excellent job in Boll’s other fairly solid 2009 movie Stoic). The two of them eat chicken and play paintball together.
Lurking underneath all the normality, Bill is a troubled man. Inside him brews a combination of childishness and being unprepared for life, crossed with the injustices of society both actual and perceived. This develops into a boiling rage. Bill pieces himself together a full bodysuit of armour made of Kevlar, as well as the guns and ammo and toys to boot, then heads out onto the streets: the rampage is on and no one is safe. Least of all the structures of society, which Bill – misguided or not – takes aim towards, blasting hard as he can.
4013549032360_B2There are definitely a few faults in the movie’s own logic. Perhaps this has more to do with the fact the script for Rampage was officially only about 10 or so pages long and less with any lapse in reason. Maybe the fact so much improvisation went into the filming made some of the plot get muddled. Either way, there’s not enough plotholes or anything in this movie for me to be turned off. Boll does a pretty good job with the material he brainstormed going in.
What I do enjoy quite a bit is the character of Bill. Not in the sense I agree with the verbal manifesto Bill Williamson pours on us through the camera’s eye throughout Rampage. I think, in my opinion, Bill is ultimately representative of dangerous right-wing logic. Others will say he represents something different, but I think the juxtaposition between Bill Williamson and Evan Drince at so many points speaks volumes. You can tell how Bill is so completely driven by the media, by right-wing flawed logic, and so on, as the television clips & radio stations flick by in the background, like they’re lodged in his brain.
You can tell so perfectly what Bill is setting up as he switches the bag of fake money in for the one with the real stuff, then burns the fake money declaring it is the worst problem of the world. You see how he’s not any kind of left-wing extreme activist. He’s the sort of person who we might see in any school or military complex or theatre, as is so often seen in America today – a sad, lonely, pessimistic soul who only wants to drag the world down to their level. My opinion is that Uwe Boll is making more of a statement about the people who commit these vicious rampages, armed to the teeth, than anything else. While maybe some of the opinions spouted off by Evan are more relatable, Bill Williamson represents the antisocial man in society, the one who just wants to watch the world burn, if I might steal a better written line than I’ll ever write. Even though Bill is an awful person for his crimes, the character is still interesting and I think Bol does well with making statements about this sort of madness. Honestly, he needs to move further away from video game adaptations more and more. If he can do more stuff like Stoic and Rampage, I’d gladly support him even more than I already do.

Bill: “You think people are equal. They’re not.
RampageNot sure what the budget on this film is, but I’ve got to admit some of the action is great work. As Bill stalks the streets of his city, first disabling the police station with a van loaded up on bombs in its trunk, he starts to mow down anyone and everyone in his path. There are points where I was more than impressed with the raw action Boll was giving us. One scene Bill gets hit with a couple shots from the police, but his Kevlar bounces the shots off him and then he responds with his own gunfire, ripping the cops apart. Vicious, savage action. Got to love some of that!
While disturbing, it’s actually a little funny – of course in a pitch-black sort of way – to see Bill confront a barista in the coffeehouse where he’d earlier been snubbed and insulted by the same man. It’s tense and terrible in the end, however, a brilliant little scene to watch.
There’s a bunch of dark comedy mixed in. Though, most of the film is highly serious. Pretty grim, yet exciting all the same.
11c1c38f080cWhat I like most of all, though, is Brendan Fletcher. The first time I can remember seeing him was way back now, about 15 years ago. I was watching Showcase and a film called Rollercoaster came on; he blew me away with his performance. After that, I made sure to catch any film or television show I could find him in. He has this incredible capacity for emotion, as well as a knack for dark roles. Here he displays several bits and pieces of those qualities. The mocking way he treats people, walking around town and blasting the citizens to bloody chunks, it’s truly macabre to see. Coupled with the action, its intensity, I think Fletcher’s work as the lead actor helps Boll make a solid thriller out of the material. Not sure how much of the character of Bill Williamson came from Fletcher, and what came from Boll. Regardless, I get the feeling the work well together and I’d like to see something outside of the Rampage movies where they work together. I know Fletcher has been in other Boll stuff, but I’d like a new film; maybe similar tone to this stuff, just a different story altogether. They appear to have similar sensibilities at times.
x4bR0WRI can’t not give this 4 out of 5 stars because I really do enjoy the film. Sure, there are moments I bet having a script, as I mentioned before with Stoic, might have been a benefit in the end. Although, I believe having an actor as solid as Brendan Fletcher playing the central role is something which ultimately helps the fact much of the “script” comes from improvisation. I’d like to hear the commentary on this film some day, perhaps more would be explained on that side of things.
The best part of it all is what I perceive to be Boll’s take on those who view right-wing extremist policies as the appropriate way to go, and what all these Kevlar, assault rifle toting gun lovers seem to be thinking in their heads. Bill Williamson is in no way a character fighting for the rights of every citizen, he’s fighting both society and the citizens in it. He just wants to tear it all down.
Either way, if you’re looking for something a little different and you’re secretly rooting for Uwe Boll, with every one of his films, to finally come out with something decent, you ought to check out Rampage. You might be pleasantly surprised with the end results.