Tagged Zach Gilford

The Last Winter: Larry Fessenden’s Fossil Fuel Horrorshow

The Last Winter. 2006. Directed by Larry Fessenden. Screenplay by Fessenden & Robert Leaver.
Starring Ron Perlman, Connie Britton, James Le Gros, Jamie Harrold, Zach Gilford, Kevin Corrigan, Jamie Harrold, Pato Hoffmann, Joanne Shenandoah, Larry Fessenden, and Oscar Miller. Antidote Films/Glass Eye Pix/Zik Zak Kvikmyndir. Rated 18A. 101 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★
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It’s no secret I’m a huge Larry Fessenden fan. His collection of films recently hit Blu ray, so I luckily snatched up a copy from eBay at a solid price. The entire 4-disc collection includes his films No TellingHabitWendigo, and of course The Last Winter. Included are a ton of extra bits like music videos and short films Fessenden pulls out of virtual obscurity, as well as the man himself talking us into the pictures, plus the short pieces too. The commentary is great all around, everything about this collection is magic.
The Last Winter is a rare bird. While I’m not huge on certain special effects in this movie, I can’t fault it much more outside those elements. In a day and age where too many people deny climate change, not to mention its impact(s), Fessenden takes the horror genre and weaves a contemporary issue through its cliches and tropes in a unique way. The story, above all else, is what matters. Add to that some solid performances, excellent tension developed by Fessenden’s directorial style, and this is a supremely creepy effort among a ton of post-2000 horror movies which aren’t worth their weight.

American oil company KIC Corporation is drilling in the arctic, constructing an ice road into the Northern Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to find more locations in which they’ll explore for more deposits. At a station ran by corporate shill Ed Pollack (Ron Perlman), a team of environmentalists work side by side with people from KIC. James Hoffman (James Le Gros) and his assistant Elliot Jenkins (Jamie Harrold) are the most recent scientists evaluating the project. When Pollack bumps heads with Hoffman, the latter is taken away from the project permanently; no doubt due to Ed’s pull at KIC. At the same time, young crew member Maxwell McKinder (Zach Gilford) goes missing for a while. Upon his return, he seems distant, disturbed. One night, he wanders out into the wilderness, naked and mentally unstable. The rest of the crew find him dead, eyes only empty sockets. And then, they realize the environment may be starting to take back what they’ve drilled so relentlessly out of its bones.
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Hoffman: “Why do we despise the world that gave us life? Why wouldn’t the world survive us, like any organism survives a virus. The world that we grew up in is changed forever. There is no way home. Is there something beyond science that is happening out here? What if the very thing we were here to pull out of the ground were to rise willinglyconfront us. What would that look like? What if this is the last winter, before the collapse? And hope dies.”

The cinematography is spectacular. So many of the exterior shots in particular, they’re marvelous to look at – from the wide shots of the Arctic Circle, to the helicopter and sweeping crane shots of the camp. Every last sequence in the entire film looks gorgeous, even the dark, shadowy moments. Again, as I said earlier, there are a few shots involving special effects I don’t think come off so great. At the same time, the camerawork itself is all around fascinating. Fessenden has a great eye for unique looking shots, things which catch the eye: crane and helicopter shots, tight and wide angles, the whole spectrum alike. Here, he’s aided by cinematographer G. Magni Ágústsson.
Together with a distinctive look and feel, The Last Winter‘s atmosphere comes across so feverishly in part due to the inclusion of an eerie score by Jeff Grace (Cold in JulyThe House of the Devil, The Roost). Not only is there a quality score, the tone consistently set between that and the visuals, there’s incredible sound design courtesy of Abigail Savage (who many will know well from her turn as Gina Murphy on Orange is the New Black). Everything is creeping, in terms of sound: the wind in the background, the stamp of ghostly hooves across the frozen arctic plains, and later the crashing plane, all the fire which follows and so on. I’m always keeping my ear out for good sound design, as well as score. But there’s something about the background sounds and noise of a film which really elevates a film properly if accomplished well. The sound design can truly make a movie less interesting if the sounds incorporated are annoying or aggravating, instead of compelling and rich, as they certainly are in this film.
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While I could rave on about Ron Perlman, even James Le Gros or Connie Britton, most of what interests me about The Last Winter is the plot and the story. Fessenden creates an ecological horror film out of the fear of global warming/climate change. The character of Pollack (Perlman) represents those stubborn sort who think the tipping point has passed, even if they’re willing to admit the world climate is changing for the worse. His hardheaded nature is the type which got us to this point. But yet in this film, we literally see the evidence climbing up and out of the ground. The living embodiment of nature fighting back against us. I know a lot of viewers may find Fessenden’s themes here heavy handed and obvious. However, I find the presentation makes things so interesting, it’s hard to deny the thematic power at play. Fessenden uses many typical horror genre tropes to explore the sociopolitical issues inherent in the dynamic between those who quest for oil versus those who keep telling us to be wary of our reliance on fossil fuels without worrying (or caring) about the consequences.
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The Last Winter, despite some of its less than stellar computer generated imagery, is a 4 out of 5 star film. For me, it is. Others may be turned away from its environmental message, buried beneath its thrills and its horrific moments. Some might not like other aspects, who knows. But I cannot tear myself away from the grim tone, the compelling cinematography, sound design and writing. Even more than that, the writing helps bring out some timely messages about us, our world, and the future that could come to be eventually. I don’t think it’ll look exactly like this portrait of madness Fessenden illustrates. All the same, I’m inclined to feel we’ve absolutely treated this planet like shit. Some day we might pay for all our transgressions against this world we claim to love.

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THE PURGE: ANARCHY Further Envisions POTUS Trump’s Domestic Policies on Crime

The Purge: Anarchy. 2014. Directed & Written by James DeMonaco.
Starring Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel Gugliemi, Castulo Guerra, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Edwin Hodge. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 103 minutes.
Action/Horror/Thriller

★★★★purge_anarchy_xlgMy favourite thing about the fact The Purge: Anarchy exists is that there is room for exploration within the speculative universe that the film/its predecessor inhabits.
There are a lot of social issues in both these films, especially the sequel. Because what we’re seeing in Anarchy here is a group of stories which represent the wide reach of social consequences that enacting an event such as The Purge might cause. It would mean so many different things to so many different people, of all kinds, of all mindsets and sensibilities, of all mental states.
People want to continually try and say that The Purge as a concept would never happen, a government would not allow it. THESE FILMS TAKE PLACE IN A WORLD WHERE AMERICA HAS BECOME A FULL-FLEDGED TOTALITARIAN REGIME! If you don’t understand that and you can’t recognize what that means, then you probably shouldn’t be judging the film because you think “This would never happen”, and you might not want to keep talking about it. Because this is not meant to happen in our reality, this is speculative fiction, it’s a horror-thriller within a fictional near future in America.
So strap in, have some fun. Stop being so serious all the time….
RELEASE. THE. BEAST.the-purge-anarchy-review-16-1500x844The Purge: Anarchy takes place on the verge of the annual Purge event, March 21st in 2023.
Several stories are happening at once. Everyone counts down to Purge time.
On one end of town, Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter Cali Sanchez (Zoë Soul) lived with Eva’s sick father, Rico (John Beasley).
Then there are Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a couple who’ve clearly hit rough times, and they end up stranded with car trouble just as the event begins to come down upon the city.
All the while, Leo “Sarge” Barnes (Frank Grillo) has a personal tragedy which drives him. He has all kinds of weaponry, a car made to sustain damage throughout The Purge, and there’s obviously someone, or some people, that he seems to be looking for; his bedroom wall has pictures plastered over it.
Once the murder on the streets begins, including the viciously callous Big Daddy (Jack Conley), Sarge and the others end up coming together as the violence escalates to epic proportions, and they’re all forced to trust one another. At least for a little while.purge-anarchy-macheteSPOILERS AHEAD.
SURPRISE, MOTHAFUCKA.
The part of the plot that scares me most is the angle with Papa Rico (John Beasley) because it speaks to social consequences of a different kind than just simply racially motivated, and now sanctioned one night a year in March, murder. Here, we have a man selling himself to a bunch of sick white folk who want to have their Purge in a perceived civilized, more quaint and special manner, and above SAFELY because they’re true cowards who want the thrill without the risk; a celebratory bit of Purging, if you will, dressed to the nines with champagne on-hand.
It’s sick, and it is also something you can imagine happening – brave, brave people sacrificing themselves in such a manner in order to afford better lives for their family members, offering themselves up on the one night a year murder is legal just to help out with the bills and the rent, all because they’re old, or they’re sick, or they just simply don’t want to live in a sick America that has descended into madness.
Great, effective part to the plot that I find highly disturbing in its own right.The-Purge-Anarchy-13Then you’ve got Sarge (Frank Grillo) whose motivation to Purge is not like so many of the other maniacs out looking for a sick thrill every March 21st. No, Sarge heads out in the dark of night for the Purge because he has a vendetta, he needs revenge. He isn’t looking for innocents to kill, or perceived ‘scum of society’ (as the fresh young whites in the first film were out doing). He’s got a score to settle. Plus, he’s got the gear and the firepower to make sure the job gets done, and gets done damn well.
I think Grillo is a talented actor. He might not have the extreme range of some others, but he has a lot of heart. I really do think he’s good in this role. Also, the character itself I dig because it shows a whole other angle to the entire Purge that we didn’t get to see in the first film. So to have a guy like Grillo play Sarge worked; he didn’t need to act to any Shakespearean level, he just had to give it some guts, which panned out perfectly. Grillo is a physical dude and that helped for this performance.the-purge-anarchy-frank-grilloThere’s a genuinely good level of action in this one that the first doesn’t reach. Not to say that’s a problem for the original, but I like that there’s some more excitement here. The premise of The Purge here is bigger in scope, involving more of the city, more people, instead of the more confined location in the first film.
Not only that, I found things truly terrifying. I mean, in The Purge there’s a degree of safety for awhile until things get going and people start to break into James Sandin’s home. Here, there’s just chaos and madness in the streets. Seeing some of the masked people in the streets wandering about with machetes, guns, all sorts of weapons – it’s chilling at times. Imagine getting caught trying to get home and then The Purge comes down on you; what would you do? Run like fucking hell. I like the tension involved in trying to imagine what it would be like on that one night out in those streets. It’d be like a nightmare come to life.purge-anarchy-mob-fireThere’s some appropriately twisted stuff in this movie.
One part that disturbed me was while Sarge (Frank Grillo) leads his rag-tag group around, they come across that woman with a megaphone just screaming absolute nonsense and firing off an assault rifle; corpses are littered across the street down below. Cracking scene that shows little glimpses into the world of others in this world of The Purge and the New Founding Fathers.
There are some excellent scenes like this, which take us further into the universe started in the first film, a creepily crazed vision of America from writer/director James DeMonaco.
A great bit is where a Wall Street banker type is strung up with a sign on him, bloodied, chains around his wrists and ankles – he robbed someone’s pensions, put some people in the poorhouse. You can see how so many would eventually start using The Purge to exact their brand of social justice, whatever flavour it might come in.
It’s funny – I see some complains about how Sarge was being prompted to reveal more about himself. What’s the problem there? Even while these people are willing to follow the man because he obviously can handle himself, don’t you think you’d want to know why this guy was out on the night of The Purge? I would. Might not keep pressing too much, yet still, he could’ve been leading them anywhere. I think it’s only natural someone would push to try and figure out who the hell this guy is, or was – because clearly he’s a changed man from who he’d been.
Plus, I mean… character development? I’m not saying The Purge: Anarchy is a perfect film, by any definition of the term. I just think people want to give it too hard of a time when it’s got a lot to offer.the-purge-anarchy-movie-picture-6I love what this sequel brings to the table; it ups the ante, it makes things more wide and completes The Purge universe where the New Founding Fathers have taken control of society, wiping out the poor essentially. There are some not-so-great things here – usually I’m a fan of Michael K. Williams, but I don’t like this role. I thought the film could’ve done without that part. Perhaps it could’ve waited for the third film, round out a trilogy with a story centred on groups trying to eliminate The Purge and the totalitarian regime headed by the New Founding Fathers. Here, this was a plot that sort of gets lost in the mix. Good stuff, just didn’t work fully here.
There are great scenes here, some of action, some of horror with viciousness and that thriller element. Fits in with some good modern horror movies. I can’t say everything works the way it should, but I feel there’s enough here to make The Purge: Anarchy a worthy sequel to a nice little surprisingly fun film. Judge on your own. I do think there are social issues this movie explores, along with its predecessor. People will continue to pass these off as silly movies, though, they are much more than that. Even better, they’re fun, they’re entertainment, and if you let yourself you can enjoy them a good deal.