Review: ‘Barbarian’ (2022), starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long

September 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

Georgina Campbell in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” (2022)

Directed by Zach Cregger

Culture Representation: Taking place in Detroit and briefly in Los Angeles, the horror film “Barbarian” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Murder and mayhem ensue when a woman, who’s in Detroit for a job interview, finds out that her Airbnb-type rental house has been double-booked with a male guest, who is also staying at the house. 

Culture Audience: “Barbarian” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching suspenseful slasher films that mixes formulaic plot developments wth a few surprises.

Justin Long in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” falters with uneven pacing and some gaps in logic, but this slasher flick delivers the type of suspenseful mystery, jump scares and interesting characters that a horror movie should. The acting performances are better than the screenplay. If not for the performances and some clever surprises, “Barbarian” would be a very run-of-the-mill horror movie.

Written and directed by Zach Cregger, “Barbarian” is somewhat of a departure for Cregger, who is also known as an actor who does a lot of work in comedy. (He was one of the original cast members of “The Whitest Kids U’ Know,” the comedy sketch series that was on the IFC network from 2007 to 2011, after launching for a short stint on the Fuse network.) Cregger’s feature-film debut as a writer/director was the forgettable 2009 sex comedy “Miss March,” in which he co-starred with Trevor Moore, one of the other cast members of “The Whitest Kids ‘U Know.”

“Barbarian” begins with the arrival of aspiring filmmaker Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), who has traveled to Detroit, because she has a job interview to be an assistant to a semi-famous documentary filmmaker. Tess is staying at a one-bedroom house (at the address 476 Barbary) that she rented through Airbnb. And because this is a horror movie, she arrives at night when it’s raining outside.

To her surprise, Tess finds out that there’s another guest who’s already at the house, and his rental time is for the same time that she’s been booked. His name is Keith Toshko (played by Bill Skarsgård), who has arrived from Brooklyn, New York. Keith tells Tess that he booked his reservation through Home Away, an online service that’s similar to Airbnb. Keith also says that he’s part of an artist collective called the Lion Tamers Collective, and he’s in Detroit to look for living space for the group.

After Tess and Keith see that they both have confirmations for the same booking, Tess offers to leave, since Keith arrived at the house first. Tess starts to call around to find a hotel room to book, but the first place she calls doesn’t have any vacancies. Keith says that there’s a big convention happening in Detroit, so she probably won’t have much luck finding a hotel room. The movie never says where Tess lives, but it’s far enough were she had to rent a car for this trip.

There are several moments in “Barbarian” when people make less-than-smart decisions—the types of decisions where viewers might say to themselves, “I would never do that.” The first of those moments in “Barbarian” happens when Tess takes Keith’s word for it that she won’t find a hotel room, and she gives up too easily in her search to find a hotel. This is the type of questionable decision that horror movies rely on, in order to put characters in danger.

Tess then offers to sleep in her car for the night, but Keith insists that she stay in the house because the neighborhood is too dangerous for her to be sleeping in her car at night. At this point, even though Keith is friendly and polite, viewers will be wondering if Keith really is a good guy, or if he has sinister intentions for Tess. This question is answered at a certain point in the movie, but “Barbarian” does a very good job of keeping viewers guessing about what’s going to happen.

Tess then makes the fateful decision to spend the night at the house. Keith tells Tess that she can have the bedroom, while he sleeps on the couch. Because Keith is a complete stranger to Tess, as a precaution, Tess uses her phone to secretly take a photo of Keith’s driver’s license when she see his wallet on a table in the bedroom.

There’s tension in the house, but not just because of fear. After a while, there’s sexual tension, because it becomes obvious that Keith is attracted to Tess. And when Tess begins to feel more comfortable around Keith, the attraction becomes mutual. Their first night together in the house has some scares for Tess when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find out that her bedroom door, which she had closed behind her, is open.

The terror in the house doesn’t happen right away. Tess begins to trust Keith enough that she accepts his offer to share the house with him for the rest of their stay in Detroit. When Tess goes outside the house for the first time when it’s daylight, she sees that the house is the only well-kept house on a residential street that looks like a bombed-out war zone. All of the other houses on the street look like condemned, unhabitable buildings.

The street is also eerily quiet, except for a harrowing incident when a homeless-looking man on the street—Tess later finds out his name is Andre (played by Jaymes Butler)—runs after her and yells at her not to stay in the house. Tess is so frightened by this stranger, she runs into the house and locks herself inside. When she calls 911 to report the incident, the operator says that there are no police units available to go to that street.

Tess gets another big red flag when she goes to her job interview with the documentary filmmaker Catherine James (played by Kate Nichols), who asks Tess where she’s staying while Tess is in Detroit. When Tess mentions the neighborhood and that she’s staying at an Airbnb house rental, Catherine’s immediate reaction is surprise that this neighborhood has a house that meets Airbnb rental standards. Catherine is also very concenred that Tess is staying in that neighborhood, which has a bad reputation for crime, so Catherine urges Tess to be careful.

And something horrible does happen in that house. Luckily for viewers, it’s not revealed in the “Barbarian” trailer or other marketing materials. The movie avoids the pitfall of not giving away its best moments or the movie’s chief villain in the trailer. However, it’s enough to say (as shown in the “Barbarian” trailer) that there’s a long and sinister tunnel underneath the house. And lurking in that tunnel is someone identified in the movie’s credits as The Mother (played by Matthew Patrick Davis), who will definitely make viewers squirm.

Meanwhile, about halfway through the movie, “Barbarian” introduces another character who has a connection to this house. He’s a famous actor named AJ Gilbride (played by Justin Long), who lives in Los Angles. AJ is successful enough to be a steadily working actor who gets starring roles, but he’s not mega-rich. He owns some rental properties, including the house in Detroit where Tess and Keith are staying.

AJ is first seen in the story as he gets bad news from his agents: An actress named Melisa (voiced by Kate Bosworth), whom he is co-starred with in a TV pilot called “Chip Off the Old Block,” is accusing him of rape. Melisa is suing AJ because of this alleged sexual assault. AJ might also face criminal charges. AJ, who vehemently proclaims his innocence, tells anyone who’ll listen that the sex he had with Melisa was consensual.

Because of the scandal, the TV network for “Chip Off the Old Block” has decided that if the network picks up “Chip Off the Old Block” as a series, AJ will no longer be a part of the show. AJ says that he plans to countersue Melisa for defamation. His attorney advises AJ not to contact Melisa or talk to the media while the case is pending.

AJ gets more bad news when he visits his business manager, who tells AJ that AJ doesn’t have enough money to cover the cost of AJ’s legal fees. The business manager advises AJ to sell some of AJ’s property. The business manager also tells AJ that he no longer wants to work with AJ.

A desperate and despondent AJ goes to Detroit to see what he can do about selling the house that he owns at 476 Barbary. AJ has neglected the property so much, he wasn’t even aware that the property’s management company had been renting out the house to visitors for temporary stays. He’s in for a shock when he finds out what’s been going on at that house.

“Barbarian” has a flashback to the 1980s, when this Detroit neighborhood was safe, clean and well-maintained. A middle-aged man named Frank (played by Richard Brake) is seen going to a home supply store and telling a helpful sales clerk that he needs plastic sheets for a “home birth.” Viewers see that Frank is actually a bachelor, but he lets the sales clerk assume that he has a pregnant wife who will soon give birth. Frank doesn’t talk much, and there’s something “off” about him, because he acts like someone who has dark secrets.

Frank is then seen arriving unannounced at a house where a woman is home alone. He’s wearing a repairman’s uniform, and he politely tells the lady of the house that he’s from the utility company, and he needs to do an inspection. The woman lets him inside the house without hesitation. Frank then goes in the bathroom alone and unlocks the bathroom window.

After just a few minutes in the house, Frank thanks the woman resident, and he leaves the house. It’s at this point you know that Frank is going to break into the house later through that unlocked bathroom window. Who is Frank and what kind of criminal is he? Those answers are eventually revealed in the movie. This flashback scene also foreshadows that the neighborhood will go downhill when a male neighbor tells Frank that his family is moving soon because the neighborhood is “going to hell.”

“Barbarian” makes a few references to “white flight” in Detroit (when white residents moved out of certain Detroit neighborhoods because more black people were moving in) and the #MeToo movement. But these social issues don’t overwhelm the story, which remains mostly focused on the horror. “Barbarian” is an overall commentary on decay and neglect in communities, particularly in urban areas.

The characters in “Barbarian” are believable as people, even if some of their actions are illogical. For example, after Tess sees some disturbing things in the house, she stays in the house much longer than most people would. It’s very hard to believe that she can’t figure out other options on where to stay besides this creepy house.

“Barbarian” also brings up some questions that are never answered. There’s a part of the movie that shows there have been some missing people with a connection to the street where the house is. Wouldn’t any loved ones and friends be looking for these missing people? And who’s been maintaining the upkeep of the house? There’s no mention of housekeepers for this place. It’s the only house on the street that’s very neat and orderly on the outside of the building, even though the house’s front lawn looks run-down and messy.

A showdown scene near the end of “Barbarian” also doesn’t make sense on a physics level. However, the mystery of the house is plausible, as long as viewers believe the movie’s depiction that the cops in Detroit avoid this neighborhood as much as possible. “Barbarian” is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of renting a vacation home from strangers, particularly for women traveling alone. Tess obviously didn’t do enough research about the neighborhood and house where she’d be staying.

“Barbarian” writer/director Cregger (who has a cameo in the movie as a Detroit friend of AJ’s) could have paced the movie a little better, since the suspense-filled tension stops in areas where the tension should have been better-maintained. However, the movie has a talented cast, and the film delivers plenty of terrifying and ominous moments that should satisfy most horror fans. “Barbarian” is the type of horror movie where viewers shouldn’t overthink some of the details and should enjoy the terror ride for what it is.

20th Century Studios will release “Barbarian” in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2022.

Review: ‘Don’t Breathe 2,’ starring Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III and Madelyn Grace

August 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Stephen Lang and Adam Young in “Don’t Breathe 2” (Photo by Sergej Radovic/Screen Gems)

“Don’t Breathe 2”

Directed by Rodo Sayagues

Culture Representation: Taking place in Detroit, the horror flick “Don’t Breathe 2” has a predominantly white cast (with a few Latinos and African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: In this horror sequel, a blind Gulf War veteran battles against more intruders who invade his home. 

Culture Audience: “Don’t Breathe 2” will appeal primarily to people who like watching mindless, ridiculous and violent horror movies.

Stephen Lang in “Don’t Breathe 2” (Photo by Sergej Radovic/Screen Gems)

At some point, the filmmakers of the “Don’t Breathe” franchise gave up all pretense of making realistic horror and decided to lean into very campy foolishness. In “Don’t Breathe 2” (a follow-up to the 2016 sleeper hit “Don’t Breathe”), the franchise’s elderly blind protagonist fights more like Marvel’s blind superhero Daredevil than a regular human being who is blind. Depending on your tolerance for dumb horror movies, you’ll either be amused and/or bored when watching “Don’t Breathe 2,” but you probably won’t be scared.

“Don’t Breathe 2” was written by Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues, who also wrote “Don’t Breathe.” Álvarez directed “Don’t Breathe,” while Sayagues makes his feature-film directorial debut with “Don’t Breathe 2.” The difference in the quality of films is very noticeable. “Don’t Breathe” is a taut, believable thriller, while “Don’t Breathe 2” is a ludicrous mess. It might be hard for some viewers to believe that both movies were written by the same people.

In terms of characters, the only one from “Don’t Breathe” who’s in “Don’t Breathe 2” is protagonist Norman Nordstrom (played by Stephen Lang), who isn’t a virtuous hero but more like an anti-hero. In “Don’t Breathe 2,” viewers don’t even really find out Norman’s name. In the end credits, he’s only listed as “The Blind Man.”

Both movies take place in Detroit and have a small number of cast members. In “Don’t Breathe,” almost all the violence happened in Norman’s house, while “Don’t Breathe 2” has other locations for fight scenes in addition to Norman’s house. Fair warning to people who get easily squeamish: Compared to the first “Don’t Breathe” movie, “Don’t Breathe 2” has lot more gratutitous violence and is more fixated on showing close-ups of people’s bloody wounds.

People don’t need to see “Don’t Breathe” to understand what’s going in on “Don’t Breathe 2,” which is supposed to take place several years after what happened in “Don’t Breathe.” In “Don’t Breathe,” Norman battled against three young thieves who broke into his home to steal about $300,000 in cash that they knew he kept in the house. In “Don’t Breathe 2,” his home invaders are organ harvesters. Yes, you read that right.

What would organ harvesters want with a senior citizen who’s blind? It’s eventually revealed in the movie, but it has to do with the girl who is living with Norman. Her name is Phoenix (played by Madelyn Grace), and she’s about 12 or 13 years old. An early scene in “Don’t Breathe 2” shows that Norman has been training Phoenix to defend herself. In this idiotic movie, Norman is magically able to run through dense places like a forest or a cluttered hideaway he’s never been to before, without the use of a cane or guide dog. And he never trips or stumbles.

Phoenix is homeschooled, and she has no friends except for a young woman named Hernandez (played by Stephanie Arcila), who drives a van for a company called Lake Park Fern and Plant Sales. Norman is extremely protective of Phoenix, but he trusts Hernandez to take care of Phoenix when Phoenix needs to go somewhere that would require someone to drive her there. Hernandez comments to Norman about his parenting skills to Phoenix, “You know, you either need to loosen up that leash, or she’s going to bite it off.”

How did Phoenix end up living with bachelor Norman, whom she calls “Father”? That answer is also revealed in the movie. But a clue is in the movie’s opening scene, which shows a girl, who’s about 4 or 5 years old, walking from a burning house into the middle of a street and then lying down in the street, as if she’s in shock. The movie then picks up eight years later by showing Phoenix and Norman doing a personal safety test exercise, where he pretends to be a kidnapper who’s after her.

Phoenix fails the test because Norman was able to come up behind her and ambush her. She tells him that she’s sorry she failed the test. Norman says he won’t be able to give Phoenix more freedom until she passes all of her tests.

The movie reveals another clue about Phoenix’s identity when she’s giving Norman a haircut and asks him if the white streak in her hair is because Norman has white hair. Based on his answer, Norman has told Phoenix that she’s his biological daughter. And where is Phoenix’s mother? Norman has told Phoenix that her mother is dead.

And the reason why there are no photos of the mother is because “everything was lost in the fire,” says Norman. It’s implied that Norman told Phoenix that her mother died in this fire. However, there’s a major plot hole later in the movie. In order for this plot hole to be credible, viewers would have to believe that Phoenix has no memories of her childhood before she was 4 or 5 years old.

People who saw “Don’t Breathe” will know about Norman’s backstory that he lost his first daughter in a car accident that was caused by a wealthy woman, who gave him a $300,000 settlement that he kept hidden as cash in his house. And there’s something in that movie that reveals how far Norman was willing to go to have another daughter. In “Don’t Breathe 2,” Norman shows remorse by saying he’s sorry for all the bad things that he did in his past. It’s so people who might not have seen the first “Don’t Breathe” movie will know that Norman is far from being a saintly victim.

Besides Hernandez, Phoenix’s closest companion is the family dog: a Rottweiler named Shadow. Strangely, the movie never really shows Shadow being a guide dog for Norman, who usually moves around like a person who can see. The only indications that he might be blind are in scenes inside the house where he occasionally extends his arms in front of him, or when he’s in attack mode and uses a weapon like a blind person.

But too often, there are scenes where Norman ambushes people with perfect precision, like someone who can see. One example is a laughably unrealistic scene where he attacks an intruder in the house by breaking a window from the outside and putting a chokehold on the intruder who’s near the window. How did he see the intruder through the window if he’s blind? Don’t expect any logic in almost all of this movie’s action scenes.

Norman is a Gulf War veteran, which is why he has combat skills. It still doesn’t explain why blind Norman can fight like a person who can see. He does use a few tactics that help him figure out where his targets are. But for the most part, the movie wants viewers to literally believe that blind luck is why Norman is able to fight like a superhero, even though there are no supernatural elements to the story.

One day, Phoenix and Hernandez are out for a drive together so that Phoenix can be outside for some exercise at a local playground. The playground is near an orphanage called Covenant Shelter. Some of the shelter kids are the playground too. But they ignore Phoenix, who is lonely and fantasizes that the kids have asked her to join them in their social activities.

When Phoenix has to use a public restroom nearby, she has a strange encounter with a sleazy-looking man who is loitering inside the restroom. He introduces himself as Raylan (played by Brendan Sexton III), and he tells Phoenix that she’s pretty. Phoenix, who has her dog Shadow with her, has her guard up and tells this creep to leave her alone, or else her dog will attack him.

Raylan backs off, but not before stroking Phoenix’s hair as she leaves the restroom. As Phoenix and Hernandez drive off in the van, Phoenix tells Hernandez about this uncomfortable encounter and assures her that she’s okay. Hernandez gets a good look at Raylan, who sees her eyeing him suspiciously. Instead of reporting the incident to the police—to at least alert law enforcment that a man is loitering in a public restroom and touched an underage girl there—Hernandez does nothing and takes Phoenix home. Do you think this will be the last time they’ll see Raylan? Of course not.

Meanwhile, a scene in the movie shows a TV news report that a doctor is under suspicion for operating an organ trafficking ring in the Detroit area. It should come as no surprise to viewers that Raylan and some other thugs are part of this gang that harvests and sells organs. And somehow, they end up crossing paths with Norman, Phoenix and Hernandez. And not everyone makes it out alive.

Rayland is the top henchman of this crew. All of the subordinate thugs are very generic with no backstories. They include Duke (played by Rocci Williams), a bearded tough guy; Jim Bob (played by Adam Young), a sadistic scumbag who wears his blonde hair in a mullet; Jim Bob’s younger brother Jared (played by Bobby Schofield), who looks like a broke version of Justin Bieber; and Raul (played by Christian Zagia), a muscular type who shows glimmers of having a moral conscience.

The fight scenes between these criminals and Norman are very predictable, violent and gory. The movie offers some suspense in a sequence where Phoenix has to use her agility and wit to try to hide in the house from the home invaders. But, for the most part, the showdowns are exactly what you would expect them to be, if you expect more ludicrous fight scenes on display. There’s a plot reveal in the last third of the movie that won’t have the intended impact because it’s just so moronic.

None of the “Don’t Breathe 2” actors does anything outstanding because their characters are written in such a two-dimensional way. The filmmakers wasted an opportunity to show more of the father-daughter relationship between Norman and Phoenix, which would have given more emotional resonance to what happens in the latter part of the movie. It seems like the filmmakers spent more time on the fight choreography than on crafting a good story.

“Don’t Breathe 2” is a perfect example of why so many movie sequels are inferior to the original movie. It’s a sloppily made film that took what could have been a solid horror franchise and ruined it with an asinine, boring story that uses formulaic violence and gore as a lazy way to try to scare people. “Don’t Breathe 2” won’t terrify most viewers, but it might give some unintended laughs at the stupidity of it all.

Screen Gems amd Stage 6 Films will release “Don’t Breathe 2” in U.S. cinemas on August 13, 2021.

Review: ‘Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge,’ starring Jesi Jensen, Nathan Kane Mathers, Sam Logan Khaleghi and Jerry Narsh

June 26, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jesse Dean and Jesi Jensen in “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” (Photo courtesy of Cinedigm)

“Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge”

Directed by Sam Logan Khaleghi

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Lake Orion, Michigan, the horror flick “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” features a racially diverse cast (white, African American and Asian) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A demon goes on a bloody killing spree in Lake Orion.

Culture Audience: “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” will appeal primarily to people who like tacky low-budget horror films.

Grover McCants in “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” (Photo courtesy of Cinedigm)

There are two kinds of cheesy horror movies in this world: Movies that are so bad that they’re funny and movies that are so bad that they’re boring. Unfortunately, the moronic “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” falls into the latter category, as the characters in the movie don’t do very much but show up around different parts of the city and occasionally react when the movie’s “demon on the loose” goes after another victim. You know it’s bad when the demon, which is supposed to be the scariest thing about this film, looks like someone in a very cheap Halloween costume.

“Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” (directed by Sam Logan Khaleghi and written by Aaron Russman) begins with the demon attacking two casual acquaintances who are hanging out together at night in a graveyard in Lake Orion, Michigan. (The city is depicted in this movie as an industrial wasteland suburb of Detroit.) The two graveyard victims are Rochelle Winston (played Angelina Ebegbuzie) and Raj Dilal (played by Rish Mitra). Rochelle is savagely murdered, while Raj manages to escape.

It should be noted that apparently this demon likes to shop at Adidas, because the red demon is decked out head to toe (or maybe head to hoof) in black-colored streetwear, including a hoodie sweatshirt and athletic shoes. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Raj is the main suspect in Rochelle’s murder, since he was the last known person to have seen her alive. Raj is brought into the Lake Orion Police Department (LOPD) for questioning. He’s interrogated by Detective Liam O’Connor (played by Nathan Kane Mathers) and Detective Sammie Alayoubi (played by Amma Nemo), who think that Raj is guilty, especially when Raj starts rambling about how he saw a devil in the graveyard, and Raj insists that this devil is responsible for the murder.

Also on the LOPD staff are Chief Romano (played by Jerry Narsh) and Staff Sergeant Billie Jean Finnick (played by Jesi Jensen), who is the main field investigator in what will turn out to be the demon’s killing spree. Finnick is no pushover cop (she threatens to punch Alayoubi when he makes a sexist comment to her), but she’s open to the possibility that there might be supernatural forces involved in the murder.

Finnick (which is what most people in the movie call her) is also a military veteran with a tragic backstory of having her best friend Alice die in her arms while on a mission in Eastern Europe. (The death is shown in a flashback.) Alice’s father Cal (played Andrew Dawe-Collins) is a mean and bitter drunk who blames Finnick for his daughter’s death, which adds to Finnick’s feelings of guilt.

The purpose of the Cal character in the movie seems to be to occasionally show up and insult Finnick, whether it’s at the graveyard when he’s visiting Alice’s grave (it’s the same graveyard where Rochelle was murdered), or when he comes home and is enraged to find out that his son Ellis (played by Robert Laenen), who still lives with Cal, has taken a romantic interest in Finnick. Why is Ellis still living with his father? Ellis is an aspiring bronze/metal sculptor who’s trying to get his life back on track since he’s a recovering drug addict.

The murdered body count starts to pile up in Lake Orion. Finnick is called to a crime scene inside an abandoned temple, where another massacred body is found, and she sees the demon for herself, but it eludes capture. It isn’t long before Finnick decides she needs help outside of her jurisdiction.

She places a call to someone and says (try to not to laugh at this cheesy line): “I’ve got big trouble in a small town, sir.” The next thing you know, foul-mouthed Detective Nightingale (played by Grover McCants) from the Detroit Police Department shows up. He’s on special assignment to help Finnick and the rest of the LOPD to solve the mystery of this killing spree.

The Nightingale character is the best thing about this bad movie because the flippant lines he throws out show that he’s not easily impressed and he doesn’t really care what people think about him. His presence also brings some much-needed humor to this dreadfully dull movie.

Detective Nightingale takes Finnick to meet with Dr. Khadir (played by Nepoleon Duraisamy), who works at a nearby museum. Khadir tells them that an ancient Ottawa Indian tribe knife was stolen from the museum. Legend has it that whoever owns the knife can summon a “ruthless guardian angel,” but only if the owner of the knife doesn’t become greedy. French settlers in 1700s Detroit didn’t heed the warning, so death and destruction followed.

Khadir says that whoever stole the knife from the museum probably summoned the demon, which is called Le Nain Rouge, which is French for The Red Dwarf. However, this movie’s red demon (played by Jesse Dean) is definitely not dwarf-sized. “We have to find that knife!” says Nightingale.

While Finnick and Nightingale try to get to the bottom of the mystery, “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” features some other people who might or might not cross paths with the demon. Marcellus (played by the movie’s director Khaleghi) is a well-connected hoodlum who’s been able to avoid serious prison time because his godfather is Mayor Flynn of Detroit (played by rapper Swifty McVay), who is very corrupt and growing increasingly annoyed with covering up the crimes of Marcellus.

Pastor Wilhem (played by John C. Forman) is a Lake Orion clergyman who’s become increasingly concerned about the crime rate in the area. Anna Lee (played by Judy Stepanian) is a middle-aged spinster who does work at the pastor’s church and is convinced that a demon is on the loose. Ike Bruce (played by Dennis Marin) is a drug addict who operates a meth lab.

And by the time Lake Orion Mayor Marion DeVaux (played by Amy Andrews) shows up in the movie, she’s giving a press conference to announce that the city will have an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew because there have been 17 deaths in a week. Of course, if that type of murder rate in happened in real life in this city, the local police would ask the FBI for help, but why let those pesky realistic details get in the way of this bad movie?

“Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” was shot entirely in Michigan, so the movie has some local Detroit-area notables in the cast. Narsh, who plays Chief Romano, was the real-life police chief of Lake Orion, until he retired in 2019, after 38 years with the LOPD. Andrews, who plays Mayor Marion DeVaux, is in real life a news anchor at KTVI-TV, the Fox affiliate in Detroit.

And two of the cast members have a connection to Detroit native/rap superstar Eminem. Mathers, who plays Detective O’Connor, is Eminem’s brother. McVay, who plays Mayor Flynn of Detroit, is a member of Eminem’s former rap group D-12. But this movie is not going to be a Detroit classic, like “8 Mile,” the 2002 drama that was Eminem’s film debut. The closest that “Devil’s Night” comes to “8 Mile” is that the demon is clad in streetwear that looks like what Eminem would’ve worn in “8 Mile.”

Speaking of the demon, the visual effects in “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” are very amateurish, since the demon’s tail and long tongue don’t look realistic and are obviously digital visual effects. There’s also a very fake-looking explosion in the movie. And although the best technical aspect about “Devil’s Night” is the appropriate foreboding musical score, the film editing is terrible (the jump cuts would get a failing grade in film school) and the acting in the movie is even worse.

Most of the actors sound like they’re just reciting their lines instead of having realistic dialogue. And in some of the terror scenes, there’s some seriously awful over-acting. At one point in the movie during an action scene, a character shouts, “Don’t get any bright ideas!” while another character replies, “I used up all my bright ideas!” What a perfect way to describe this derivative and disappointing movie.

Kyyba Films and Cinedigm released “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” on digital and VOD on June 23, 2020.

Aretha Franklin dead at 76; Queen of Soul passed away from pancreatic cancer

August 16, 2018

by John Larson

Aretha Franklin, known by many as the Queen of Soul, died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit on August 16, 2018. She was 76. Days before her passing, her family had revealed that she was gravely ill and close to dying.

According to the Associated Press, the family released this statement after Franklin’s death:  “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world.”

Music mogul Clive Davis, who is Sony Music’s chief content officer, is organizing a tribute concert that will take place on November 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Live Nation is the concert promoter, according to the Washington Post.

Franklin, who got her start singing gospel music and later transitioned to R&B, was one of the most celebrated singers in modern history. She had 18 Grammy Awards, and received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement honor in 1994. She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors. In 1987, she was the first woman inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Among her numerous hits were “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Freeway of Love,” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” (her duet with George Michael), “Think” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”

In 2017, Franklin announced her retirement from touring. Franklin, who was married and divorced twice, is survived by her longtime partner Willie Wilkerson and her sons Clarence, Edward, Ted and Kecalf.

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