Review: ‘The Wolf and the Lion,’ starring Molly Kunz, Graham Greene, Derek Johns, Charlie Carrick, Evan Buliung, Rhys Slack and Rebecca Croll

March 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Molly Kunz in “The Wolf and the Lion” (Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)

“The Wolf and the Lion”

Directed by Gilles de Maistre

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in unnamed cities in Canada and briefly in New York City, the dramatic film “The Wolf and the Lion” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few indigenous people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An aspiring classical pianist illegally raises a wolf and a lion in her home, and she has conflicts with people who want to take these wild animals away from her.

Culture Audience: “The Wolf and the Lion” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching ridiculous and extremely corny movies about people’s interactions with wild animals.

Graham Greene and Molly Kunz in “The Wolf and the Lion” (Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)

Extremely vapid on every level, “The Wolf and the Lion” is a poorly made drama that irresponsibly advocates for untrained people to raise large wild animals, such as a wolf and a lion, inside their homes. This amateurish-looking movie foolishly makes it look like people with enough love in their hearts for animals are automatically qualified to raise wild animals as if they’re domesticated pets. And according to “The Wolf and the Lion,” anyone who tries to take these animals out of these dangerous situations is automatically a villain.

That’s the entire story presented in “The Wolf and the Lion,” a horrendously cornball movie filled with the worst possible stereotypes of family-oriented animal movies, in order to warp reality and make it look like wolves and lions can be cuddly pets in the household. While “The Wolf and the Lion” has heavy-handed preaching about animal abuse in circuses, most of the movie hypocritically ignores the fact that keeping large wild animals cooped up in a house, instead of letting them roam free in their natural habitats, is another form of animal abuse. That’s one of many examples of how tone-deaf and idiotic this subpar film is.

Even though the titular wolf and lion in the movie were raised together in real life and actually are in the movie (as opposed to be being entirely created by visual effects), everything else about this story is very phony. The animals aren’t real in every scene though. There are some obvious cheap-looking CGI effects when the animals do unrealistic stunts.

In this world created in “The Wolf and the Lion,” viewers are supposed to believe that it should be perfectly normal to let these wild animals wander around unchecked and unsupervised in places where people and domesticated pets could genuinely be hurt or killed by these predatory animals. It might be acceptable if “The Wolf and the Lion” were a movie in the fantasy genre, but this movie was created to simulate the real world and to depict how wild animals should be handled by humans. Unfortunately, everything in this worthless movie is mishandled.

“The Wolf and the Lion” was directed by Gilles de Maistre and written by his wife Prune de Maistre. This husband-and-wife filmmaking duo can be blamed for unleashing (no pun intended) other low-quality, irresponsibly depicted animal movies on the public. Their other film credits include 2018’s “Mia and the White Lion” and “Jaguar My Love,” whose release date is to be announced.

In “The Wolf and the Lion,” which takes place in unnamed cities in Canada and briefly in New York City, the central human character is Alma (played by Emily Kunz), an aspiring classical pianist who’s in her early 20s. Alma was raised by her widower grandfather because her parents died when she was a very young child. In the beginning of the movie, viewers find out that Alma’s reclusive grandfather (her last living relative) has died, and she has inherited his small house in a remote wooded area in Canada, where she grew up with her grandfather.

Alma travels from New York City, where she’s been living for an untold period of time, to check out the house and deal with some legal affairs related to her modest inheritance. When she arrives back in her hometown, she’s greeted by her godfather Joe (played by Graham Greene), who lives nearby and encourages her to stay at the house where her grandfather lived. Alma agrees because she’s reluctant to go back to New York City, where she has an important music competition that has made her nervous because she’s afraid of failing.

Soon after arriving at the house, Alma sees home videos made by her grandfather, where he mentions that he made a new friend: a female snow wolf that he has not named. The wolf is shown in the videos roaming free in the nearby wooded area. And it’s at this point you know exactly who will be the mother of the wolf cub that Alma encounters later in the movie.

Around the time that Alma has settled into her new home, the same snow wolf is seen being tracked by two men who’ve been looking for a rare snow wolf. They are a scientist named Eli (played by Charlie Carrick) and an expert hunter/tracker named Charles (played by Derek Johns), who was hired by Eli for this trip in the woods. Eli runs a program where wild animals can be studied and re-introduced into the wild. Charles and Eli know there’s a snow wolf in the area and have set a trap.

And what about the lion in this movie? The movie’s opening scene shows a hunter (played by Frank Schorpion) shooting and killing a lioness, in order to take her cub. This male cub is going to be sold to a circus. The hunter takes the cub on a small private plane that he is piloting. He’s the only human on the plane. The plane crashes and the pilot is injured but unconscious, while the cub survives and falls into a tree.

Meanwhile, the trap that Charles and Eli have set has caught the snow wolf. Alma happens to see the trapped wolf when she’s walking in the woods, so she sets the wolf free by using a pocket knife. Alma also encounters Charles and Eli, who admit that they are looking for a snow wolf. She yells at them for illegally trapping the wolf, and she orders them to leave because they’re trespassing on private property.

Almost as soon as Charles and Eli leave, something happens that looks like it could only be in a movie: The orphaned lion cub literally falls from the tree right into Alma’s arms. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. Of course, Alma loves animals, so she decides to take the cub home with her, where she feeds meals to the cub, such as meat and bottled milk.

Soon after finding the cub, another “only in a movie” moment happens: The snow wolf that Alma rescued shows up at her door with her male cub. And so, Alma takes in these two other animals too, as if her home is suddenly the local menagerie. Alma knows what she’s doing is illegal, but she doesn’t care, because misguided heroines in badly written animal movies cannot be stopped.

Eventually, mountain rangers come knocking on Alma’s door, because the circus that was expecting the cub has reported the cub missing, and the rangers want to know if Alma has seen the cub. The pilot was taken to a hospital and has told authorities about the general area where he thinks the lion cub could be. The lion cub was already microchipped by the pilot as a way to identify the cub if it’s found.

Alma was raised by her grandfather to be an animal advocate opposed to circuses. And so, when she finds out that the cub was captured to go to a circus, she lies to the mountain rangers and says that she hasn’t seen the cub. However, Alma’s godfather Joe eventually finds out that Alma is illegally keeping three wild animals in her home. He doesn’t approve, but he doesn’t report what he knows either.

The movie has an unnecessary subplot about how one of the mountain rangers, whose name is Ysae (played by Rebecca Croll), is an ex-girlfriend of Joe’s. Ysae broke up with Joe (it’s hinted that he cheated on her), and she’s very bitter about the breakup. And guess who’s going to be the ranger who’s the most fired-up about finding this lion and turning it over to the circus? It’s all just so contrived, in order for these two ex-lovers to be on opposite sides of this inevitable battle over the lion.

While Alma acts like she thinks she’s Dr. Dolittle, Alma reluctantly has to go to New York City for the music competition that she’s dreading at St. Mary’s Academy of Music Fest. The competition is essentially an audition for a job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. And so, Alma leaves all three of the animals alone in the house with enough food and water while she goes away for a few days. Viewers will be cringing at this horrible decision to leave these animals in the house unsupervised.

And it should come as no surprise that something terrible does happen: While Alma is away on her trip, the mother wolf escapes from the house and gets captured by Eli and Charles in the woods. The two cubs, left to their own devices, end up trashing the house. When Alma comes back, she’s shocked to find out that the mother wolf is missing and that these wild cubs have destroyed many things in her home. Alma tries to find the mother wolf but can’t because Alma has no idea at the time that the wolf has been taken somewhere else.

Knowing that she’s in way over her head, Alma calls a rescue group, whose specialty is wild animals, to see if the group can take these unruly cubs. However, the rescue group tells her that the animal sanctuary it works with in South Africa is no longer accepting cubs. Of course, because this movie is all about an untrained Alma raising this wolf and lion by herself, she gives up on finding any rescue groups that can take these animals. Alma decides to permanently keep the wolf (whom she names Mozart) and the lion (whom she names Dreamer) so that they can all live happily ever after.

Alma did well in the music competition, but she decides not to take the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra job that was offered to her. She tells Joe that although she still loves music, she no longer wants to be in an orchestra. After all, if Alma had an orchestra job, that would ruin the movie’s narrative of Alma having the time to be the saintly rescuer of wild animals. Somehow, she raises Mozart and Dreamer to young adulthood and manages it to keep it a secret, because the only person who visits her is Joe, who has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude about this secret. (In real life, the wolf’s name is Paddington, and the lion’s name is Walter.)

But since this movie has to pile on some melodrama, there comes a point in time when the secret is revealed. Alma lives fairly close to a lake, where one day a mother and underage daughter (played by “The Wolf and the Lion” screenwriter Prune de Maistre and her real-life daughter Neige de Maistre) are in a boat by themselves on the lake. At this point in time, Mozart and Dreamer are young adults (about one or two years old), who frolic together unleashed in the woods.

Alma sees these two strangers in the boat, and she panics because she knows that Mozart and Dreamer are running wild nearby. And sure enough, the mother and daughter see the wild animals on the land, just as Alma is running to try to prevent the animals from being seen. Alma is so panicked that she falls, hits her head on a rock, and loses consciousness.

Alma wakes up to find out that the authorities have arrived and taken the animals away. Mozart is taken to Eli’s science observation place where Mozart’s mother is, because scientist Eli gets involved and convinces the authorities that Mozart is better off being with his mother. Dreamer is taken to the circus that had purchased Dreamer and has a legal right to own the lion. Luckily for Alma, she’s not arrested, but she’s told that she will be arrested if she tries to keep wild animals on her property again.

But do you think this threat of arrest will stop Alma? Of course not. The rest of the movie is about her trying to find Dreamer and trying to convince Eli to give her custody of Mozart. Eli thinks Alma is crazy. For obvious reasons, the authorities don’t tell Alma the name of the circus that has Dreamer. And so, there’s a long stretch of the movie where Alma plays detective, by making phone calls and eventually taking a road trip, going from circus to circus to try to find Dreamer.

The name of the circus that has Dreamer is Allan Elreve Circus, named after its predictably villainous owner Allan Elreve (played by Evan Buliung), who cruelly abuses the animals that he trains for the circus. Allan is also teaching his son Rapha (played by Rhys Slack), who’s about 10 or 11 years old, that this violent and sadistic way of training animals is the correct and only way. Rapha is very uncomfortable with this animal cruelty, and he feels especially protective of the young male lion that has recently been brought to the circus.

Alma isn’t the only one looking for Dreamer. Mozart is too. “The Wolf and the Lion” is so laughably bad, there are some things that happen in the movie that are almost cartoonish. This wolf suddenly becomes a detective too and somehow can plan a rescue mission all by himself. And so-called professional animal handlers and authorities are made to look like bungling and flaky morons.

“The Wolf and the Lion” would be easier to take if the movie had been intended to be a comedic adventure story. Instead, it’s a continuous and irritating pile-on of sappy and sloppily filmed melodrama (including embarrassing performances by the entire cast), as if the filmmakers think that “The Wolf and the Lion” is important family-oriented cinematic art. The reality is that “The Wolf and the Lion” endorses actions that are dangerous to people, and this terrible film is an insult to people’s intelligence, no matter what age you are.

Blue Fox Entertainment released “The Wolf and the Lion” in U.S. cinemas on February 4, 2022. The movie was released in Europe in 2021.

Review: ‘Antlers’ (2021), starring Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane and Amy Madigan

October 29, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jeremy T. Thomas and Keri Russell in “Antlers” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“Antlers” (2021)

Directed by Scott Cooper

Culture Representation: Taking place in Cispus Falls, Oregon, the horror film “Antlers” feature a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few Native Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A schoolteacher finds out that a 12-year-old student in her class is hiding a horrible secret.

Culture Audience: “Antlers” will appeal primarily to people interested in horror movies that are about how damage to Earth’s environment can have terrifying consequences.

Jesse Plemmons, Jeremy T. Thomas and Keri Russell in “Antlers” (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

More than the typical “creature on the loose” horror movie, “Antlers” tells a haunting yet somewhat sluggish story about how a decaying environment can wreak havoc if the problem is ignored. The dangers of this denial of also run deep in the movie’s human relationships that are plagued by abuse and neglect. The movie falls into some very predictable and repetitive traps, but there’s enough suspense in “Antlers” to hold most people’s interest.

Scott Cooper, a filmmaker known for his outlaw-inspired movies about troubled loners (such as 2009’s “Crazy Heart,” and 2015’s “Black Mass”) directed “Antlers” and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca. The screenplay is based on Antosca’s 2019 short story “The Quiet Boy.” Guillermo del Toro is one of the producers of “Antlers,” so you know it’s going to be some kind of story involving a mysterious creature hiding among humans. Cooper is also one of the producers of “Antlers.”

The reason why this movie is called “Antlers” is revealed about halfway through the film, which takes place in the small town of Cispus Falls, Oregon. And once this information is disclosed to viewers, the movie just becomes a countdown to when certain people in this small town will find out the secret that a mysterious killer beast is living among them. The fact that “Antlers” is about some kind of deadly monster is part of this movie’s marketing, which includes movie trailers that already showed flashes of this creature. What’s revealed when watching the movie is how the monster ended up this way, why the creature is in this small town, and how this beast has been able to hide.

Fortunately, “Antlers” doesn’t take a stereotypical “slasher flick” route of of just being scene after scene of generic people getting killed. The movie takes its time to let viewers know the main characters of the story. “Antlers” has some not-so-subtle messages about the dangers of polluting the environment. But the movie also has depressing observations about how easily children can be neglected and/or abused, as well as how that trauma can be passed down through generations.

“Antlers” opens with a scene of two grungy-looking men in an abandoned mine shaft. Their names are Frank Weaver (played by Scott Haze) and Kenny Glass (played by Michael Eklund), and they have the type of dirty and disheveled appearance of people who’ve haven’t slept or cleaned themselves in at least a few days. Frank has left his 7-year-old son Aiden Weaver (played by Sawyer Jones) in Frank’s truck outside and ordered Aiden to stay there. He tells Aiden that he has to do some work and that it’s no place for kids.

If this sounds like Frank and Kenny are involved in drugs, it’s because they are. They’re both using the mine shaft as their meth lab. But their meth cooking is about to be interrupted by a mysterious creature that attacks them. After some time has passed, Aiden becomes restless and curious to find out what’s taking his father so long. He goes into the mine shaft and then movie abruptly cuts to the next scene.

Julia Meadows (played by Keri Russell), a bachelorette in her 40s, has recently moved back into the area (Cispus Falls is her hometown) after living in California for 15 years. She works as a teacher at the local middle school. Her younger brother Paul Meadows (played by Jesse Plemons), who is in his 30s, is the sheriff of Cispus Falls. Just like his sister Julia, Paul is single with no children.

It’s eventually revealed in the movie that Paul and Julia have had a somewhat strained relationship because she abruptly moved away from this hometown. Paul felt abandoned by his older sister. And there are still bitter feelings between both siblings for why they became estranged.

In one scene, Paul and Julia have a brief heart-to-heart talk about it. Julia tells Paul about her feelings of guilt about this long exit from his life: “Just know that I have spent my entire life trying to deal with leaving you.” Julia also says that she would understand if Paul still resents her, but she couldn’t stay in their family household anymore.

Paul seems to understand but he also wants it known how Julia’s departure hurt him. “I spent my entire praying that you’d come back,” he tells her. What caused this family rift? It’s shown in nightmares that Julia has that she and Paul had an abusive father (played by Andy Thompson), who is now deceased. One of the flashbacks (with Katelyn Peterson as an adolescent Julia) makes it clear without showing anything too explicit that Julia’s father was a deeply troubled man who sexually abused her. The mother of Paul and Julia is also dead, and it’s unknown how much she knew about this abuse.

In her classroom, Julia is frustrated because her students don’t seem to be connecting with her. The kids seem bored or unimpressed with her style of teaching. At this point in the cirriculum, she is teaching them about folklore and fables. Julia asks for the students to volunteer what they know about these types of stories that can be centuries old.

Eventually, Julia finds out that a quiet and shy 12-year-old boy in her class named Lucas Weaver (played by Jeremy T. Thomas) has been drawing some disturbing images in his notebook. The illustrations include demon-like animal figures in the woods. Does one of the creatures have antlers? Of course it does.

One day, Julia asks Lucas to tell her and the classroom of students what’s the story behind one of the drawings. Lucas then tells a creepy tale of a little bear that lives with a big bear and a small bear that are different because the big bear and small bear are always hungry. Based on the reactions by the other students in the class, Lucas is now perceived as even more of a “freak” who is a social outcast at the school.

Even before Lucas told this story, he was being bullied at school by some other boys. The leader of the bullies is a mean-spirited brat named Clint Owens (played by Cody Davis), who gets his comeuppance when Lucas puts dog excrement in Clint’s backpack for revenge. It sets off a feud between the Clint and Lucas. And if you know how horror stories like this usually go, things will not end well for one of these boys.

In the meantime, Julie notices that Lucas looks pale and undernourished. She gently and tactfully tries to find out from Lucas what his home life is like. The only thing that Lucas will tell her is that his mother is dead, and that his 7-year-old bother Aiden is homeschooled. Lucas resists Julie’s attempts to befriend him. Julie feels like she can relate to Lucas, because they are both treated like outsiders at the school.

Julie takes her concerns about Lucas to her boss, Principal Ellen Booth (played by Amy Madigan), who seems distracted and very reluctant to get involved. Principal Booth tells Julie that after Lucas’ mother died of a drug overdose, child protective services investigated suspicions that the Weaver household was abusive, but CPS didn’t find enough evidence to warrant taking the children away from the home. And so, Frank Weaver was allowed to keep custody of Aiden and Lucas. Principal Booth promises Julie that she will stop by the Weaver household in the near future to check up on the children.

Cispus Falls has been on an economic decline for years. And it’s been made worse by the opioid crisis and meth epidemic that have ravaged Cispus Falls and its surrounding areas. However, the drug-related crimes that have been plaguing the community somewhat pale in comparison to the murders that have suddenly begun to happen in Cispus Falls: Mutilated bodies, including one of the meth lab men from the opening scene, are being discovered in the town’s wooded area.

Paul and his small team of police officers begin to suspect that a people-killing wild animal is on the loose. But there are many signs that this is no ordinary animal. Footprints indicate that this creature can walk upright. And the bite marks are unlike anything that the local forensic pathologist has ever seen.

There are some supporting characters in “Antlers” that are quite formulaic. Rory Cochrane portrays Daniel Lecroy, one of the cops on the Cispus Falls police force. Grahame Greene is Warren Stokes, a stereotypical elder resident of the town who seems to know everyone’s business and the town’s history. Warren is also the one who talks about the Native American folk tales that offer clues into the mystery behind the creature.

Between the disturbing drawings made by Lucas and the discovery of the mutilated bodies, it doesn’t ake a genius to figure out what’s going on. Julie does her own investigating, and Paul eventually finds out what she’s learned. Therefore, the main suspense in the story comes from wondering who’s going to die and who’s going to survive.

The bond that Julia tries to form with Lucas runs almost parallel to her trying to heal her fractured relationship with her brother Paul. There’s an underlying message of how children with dysfunctional or absentee parents can often find strength and support with each other if they don’t put up too many emotional barriers. Lucas’ plight becomes very personal to Julia. She feels like she wants to “save” Lucas because she knows what it’s like to be a kid who needed help but no one was there to save or protect her.

As expected, the creature’s full physical appearance is eventually shown in the movie. These scenes with the monster attacks should bring enough chills to horror audiences, but “Antlers” ultimately does nothing groundbreaking with how this creature looks or acts. (Dorian Kingi portrays the antlered monster.) The movie doesn’t over-rely on CGI visual effects for gimmicks, but it does rely on a suspension of disbelief that all the mayhem the creature causes wouldn’t eventually be noticed by more people and would eventually make big news. For example, if this situation happened in real life, it would need more than a small-town police department to handle it.

An argument could be made that “Antlers” should have been a short film. And there’s some validity to the argument, since the movie tends to drag for long stretches to an inevitable conclusion. However, the principal cast members’ performances serve the story in a competent way. No one is a bad actor here, but no one is outstanding either.

One of the big issues that “Antler” doesn’t address adequately is how Lucas has been able to keep his big secret for as long as he has without raising suspicions sooner. However, it might be the movie’s way of showing how abuse and neglect of children can happen in plain sight and nothing is really done about it. People (such as Principal Booth) who should be mindful of the warning signs sometimes prefer to deny that there’s a problem and make any excuse they can to avoid getting involved. In that respect, you don’t need an antlered monster to know that these real-life tragedies are their own horror stories.

Searchlight Pictures released “Antlers” in U.S. cinemas on October 29, 2021.

Review: ‘Tar,’ starring Timothy Bottoms, Aaron Wolf, Graham Greene, Tiffany Shepis and Max Perlich

October 2, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Shepis in “Tar” (Photo courtesy of 1091 Pictures)

“Tar”

Directed by Aaron Wolf

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the horror flick “Tar” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Native American and one Latina) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Some office workers are trapped in a building that’s being terrorized by a tar monster. 

Culture Audience: “Tar” will appeal primarily to people looking for a very lowbrow movie that delivers gory thrills with plenty of laughs because it’s not meant to be taken too seriously.

Aaron Wolf in “Tar” (Photo courtesy of 1091 Pictures)

When it comes down to it, there are two kinds of horror movies in this world: The ones that take themselves seriously and want to really scare people to the bone. And the ones that don’t take themselves seriously and have plenty of comedic moments so that people can laugh along with the scares. “Tar” definitely falls into the latter category. Just keep your expectations very low, because this movie is not aspiring to be a horror masterpiece.

“Tar” has a “trapped in a building” concept that can only work if the characters have enough appeal for viewers to be willing to tolerate their personalities for as long as the movie’s running time. Fortunately, the performances from the “Tar” cast members are good enough to keep viewers interested in what happens to the characters in the movie. Directed by Aaron Wolf (who co-wrote the “Tar” screenplay with Timothy Nutall), “Tar” features Wolf in the role of the lead character: Zach Greenwood, who’s in his 30s and who’s been working in his family’s Greenwood Repair business in Los Angeles for the past 10 years.

The business is in an office building that’s right next to the La Brea Tar Pits. On a sidewalk near the office building, a homeless man (played by Graham Greene) displays a sign saying that he will tell a story to anyone for spare change. The story he tells has to do with the history of the La Brea Tar Pits and the legend that 40,000 years ago, mysterious and deadly creatures lived underground and in the tar.

According to this folklore, people have been killed or have disappeared in the tar for thousands of years. And it usually happens when there is construction around the tar pits that disrupt the creatures down below. There’s one tar creature that’s been named as the most fearsome of all: Machi Manitu, also known as Man of the Tar. It’s a creature that stands about 8 or 9 feet tall and has lived for an untold number of years, according to the legend. You know where all this is going in the movie, of course.

One of Zach’s co-workers named Ben (played by Sandy Danto) is so fascinated by this story that he never gets tired of hearing it every time he pays the homeless man to retell the story. On one particular day, Ben wants to heard the story twice in a row, but Zach, who happens to be walking down the street, literally has to lead Ben away so Ben can get back to work.

And by the way, there’s been some construction going on in the area. One night, one of the construction workers gets killed early on in the movie. He’s at the construction area alone when a mysterious force attacks him. At the murder scene, some mysterious tar is left oozing around his body.

Zach’s father Barry Greenwood (played by Timothy Bottoms) is Zach’s boss. And the business was started by Barry’s late father Alfred (played by Max Perlich), who is shown in flashback scenes with a teenage Barry (played by Liam Grace). Zach is only in the family business because it was the wish of his late mother. (Her cause of death is not mentioned in the movie.)

Zach has been getting bored and restless in the job, and he’s starting to wonder if he could’ve done something better with his life. When he starts making these kinds of comments to Barry, his father reminds him that this was the best job that college-educated Zach could get, since he wasn’t getting better offers anywhere else.

Barry also likes to remind Zach how hard Barry’s father worked to start the business and how they are enjoying the privileges of all that hard work. Essentially, Zach and Barry have a tension-filled relationship because Zach thinks Barry doesn’t understand him and is too demanding, while Barry thinks Zach can be whiny and ungrateful. Zach has probably been thinking about quitting the job, but Barry likes to point out that Zach doesn’t have very many options.

Amid this family squabbling, Zach and Barry have a more pressing issue: The family business is being evicted from the office building because the building’s greedy and uncaring owner Sebastian Sterling (played by Stewart Stone) has sold the property to a company that wants to tear down the building in about a month. Sebastian gave the building tenants only two weeks’ notice to move out of the building. Greenwood Repair has to temporarily close until the company can find new office space.

Most of “Tar” takes place on the very last day that the tenants have to move out of the building. Sebastian stops by to talk to Barry and Zach and remind them that if their business hasn’t cleared out by 6 a.m. the next day, he has a right to sue them, according to the lease that they signed. The movie pokes fun at Sebastian, because he’s the type of corporate shark that people love to hate.

Zach, Barry and their remaining two employees aren’t even close to finishing, so they expect to keep packing for the rest of the night. In addition to goofball Ben (who brings most of the comic relief in the movie), the Greenwood company’s other remaining employee is Marigold (played by Tiffany Shepis), who’s into tarot card readings and astrology. Marigold tells Ben that now that she’s out of a job, she’s thinking of starting her own tarot business.

Barry and Zach try to remain positive about their eviction from the building, but the stress of moving frays their nerves, and they start bickering again. Zach gets some relief from the stress when his understanding and supportive girlfriend Rose (played by Emily Peachey) surprises him with a visit. She brings him some food and offers to help pack boxes. Rose and Max also have some lovers’ time alone in a locked office, but they’re interrupted by Barry before they can finish what they started.

A company on the same floor is also one of the last to move out of the office building. The other company is a small financial firm called Diana Dunder Accounting, whose namesake does not look or dress like a typical accountant. Diana Dunder (played Nicole Alexandra Shipley) looks like a model, and her tight blouse is cut so low that her ample cleavage is practically bursting out. Her company’s packing boxes are labeled “DD Accounting,” and it’s the movie’s cheeky way of saying that “DD” could describe her bra size. Diana has a loyal assistant named Carmenia (played by Dani Fernandez), whom Diana promises she will reward with a promotion when they move to a new office space.

Ben has a crush on Diana (who is single), but he’s somewhat reluctant to ask her out on a date because he thinks that she’s way out of his league. When Diana comes over to the Greenwood Repair office to borrow some bubble wrap, all Ben can do is awkwardly ogle at Diana. As day turns into night, there seems to be only seven people left in the building: Zach, Barry, Ben, Marigold, Rose, Diana and Carmenia.

Suddenly, all the electricity in the building goes out. It’s happened before on other days, and the electricity eventually returned, so the people who are left packing up boxes in the building don’t really panic. They just use flashlights. But then, Ben, Marigold and Diana see some creepy shadows in their offices. 

Diana is a little freaked out, so Marigold invites her to hang out for a while in the Greenwood Repair reception area. Carmenia is nowhere in sight at that moment. Ben takes the opportunity to flirt with the slightly frightened Diana. Ben tells Diana that if he ends up saving her life, she has to make out with him. Diana laughs and agrees to this deal because she doesn’t think there’s any chance that she’s in danger or any chance that Ben would be capable of saving her anyway.

One of the worst things about low-budget horror flicks is that the acting is often terrible. Fortunately, the cast members of “Tar” get the job done in a way that it looks like they’re having fun and they have genuine chemistry together, even in scenes where some of the characters end up having conflicts. And they handle the comedic scenes well-enough that it isn’t cringeworthy. This movie’s sense of humor makes it enjoyable because a lowbrow movie such as “Tar” should not try to put on fake airs that it’s trying to appeal to film snobs.

As for the Machi Manitu creature, director Wolf made the wise decision not to show the creature in full view until the second half of the movie. It helps build viewer suspense to see what the creature looks like. The monster is grotesque and fairly unique-looking, so the movie gets some points for at least trying to have some originality in how this monster is portrayed. Machi Manitu is played by two people: pro wrestler Othello (whose real name Donald Edwards) and Simon Carmody, who’s also the film editor for “Tar.”

The visual effects are adequate for this low-budget movie, and the scenes where someone gets killed are what viewers might expect. It’s already revealed from the beginning of the film that at least one of the characters has survived, because the movie cuts back and forth to this character (who has a bloody neck injury and whose forehead has tar stains) telling what happened on that deadly night. Fortunately, “Tar” moves along at a good pace, and it’s more entertaining to watch than a pretentious horror movie that tries to be “deep” but is actually very dull.

The biggest flaws in “Tar” are in some of the continuity shots and editing, which could have been smoother. One action scene in particular, when the one of the characters kicks down a door on the monster, looks very unrealistic and could have been filmed a lot better. Machi Manitu can shape shift into tar, which is one of the reasons why it’s hard to kill it.

As for why these trapped people in the building don’t call 911, that’s explained in the movie. Rose tries to call 911,  but her phone suddenly dies. It’s implied that there’s a power outage in the area, so cell phone towers aren’t working. And viewers can assume that the offices’ land line phones might already be disconnected because of the evictions and planned demolition of the building.

If people are willing to overlook a plot hole at the end of the film (when it’s not made clear what happened to the dead bodies), “Tar” delivers exactly what it appears to be: It’s a low-budget horror flick that mostly succeeds in blending deliberately tacky horror with an impish sense of humor. It’s the equivalent of a someone telling a silly “knock knock” joke that you’ve heard many times before, but the way that they tell the joke is so unapologetically cheesy, you can’t help but laugh. 

1091 Pictures released “Tar” in select U.S. cinemas on October 2, 2020. The movie’s release on digital and VOD is on October 20, 2020.

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