Review: ‘The Wretched,’ starring John-Paul Howard, Piper Curda, Azie Tesfai, Zarah Mahler, Kevin Bigley and Jamison Jones

May 1, 2020

by Carla Hay

John-Paul Howard in “The Wretched” (Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight)

“The Wretched”

Directed by Brett Pierce and Drew Pierce

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city in Michigan, the horror flick “The Wretched” has a predominantly white cast (with some African American and Asian representation) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A troubled teen who goes to live with his divorced father for the summer thinks there’s something sinister going on at the house next door, but no one believes him.

Culture Audience: “The Wretched” will appeal primarily to horror fans who like bloody gore and stories about evil spirits, but the movie does little to dispel the negative stereotype that horror movies have terribly written screenplays.

Madelyn Stunenkel in “The Wretched” (Photo courtesy of IFC Midnight)

“The Wretched” had the potential to be a critically acclaimed classic in a sea of low-budget, predictable horror movies. Unfortunately, “The Wretched” (written and directed by brothers Brett Pierce and Drew Pierce) devolves into an incoherent mess in the last 20 minutes of the film, thereby wasting the potential that it had in the beginning of the story. “The Wretched” has some impressively scary imagery, given the film’s low budget, but it’s not enough to overcome the movie’s laughably bad ending.

In the production notes for “The Wretched,” the 1985 children’s adventure movie “The Goonies” and Roald Dahl’s 1983 dark fantasy novel “The Witches” are cited as influences on “The Wretched.” The Pierce Brothers also say in the production notes that the evil spirt in the movie (called The Wretch) was inspired by witchy folklore such as Black Annis (from England) and the Boo Hag (from the Appalachian Mountains). Being derivative isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a movie to be if the “inspired by” aspects of the film are elevated by good direction, acting, and screenwriting. “The Wretched” falls short with its screenwriting.

The movie begins “35 years ago,” as it says on screen, where a teenage girl wearing a Sony Walkman goes to a house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in an unnamed Michigan city. (The movie was actually filmed on location in Northport, Michigan.) Based on what’s seen in this brief scene, she appears to be a babysitter. The house is silent and apparently empty, but the movie’s foreboding musical score by Devin Burrows signals that something terrible is about to happen.

A family photo in the house shows that a man and a woman live there with their pre-teen daughter, who looks to be about 7 or 8 years old. But there’s something odd about the photo: There’s an “x” mark scratched on the man’s face. The unnamed teen makes her way to the house’s cellar, where she encounters something bloody and terrifying: The mother, who now looks like a grotesque witch-like creature, is hunched over the daughter and chewing away at the child’s neck to the point where the daughter is almost de-capitated. The teenager screams and tries to leave, only to see that the father is at the top of the cellar stairs, as he slams the door and locks the teenager inside.

The movie then fast forwards to “five days ago,” when the protagonist of the story is introduced. His name is Ben Shaw (played by John-Michael Howard), a 17-year-old who has arrived by bus to live in the area with his divorced dad, Liam Shaw (played by Jamison Jones), for the summer. It’s later revealed in the story that Ben is a teen with a troubled past, and he’s been sent by his mother to temporarily live with his father, in the hopes that it will help Ben straighten out his life.  Ben has a cast on his left arm, and it has something to do with some trouble he got into when he was living with his mother, who’s not seen in the movie but can be heard having phone conversations with Ben.

As soon as Ben arrives at this father’s modest house, it’s obvious that Liam hasn’t spent much time raising Ben, because Ben gives him a kid’s bicycle as a gift. Ben says that he has his driver’s license and that his mother is planning to buy him a car. A sheepish Liam apologizes and admits that he didn’t realize how much Ben had grown up since the last time they saw each other.

Liam works as a manager of a local marina called Porter Bay, where he’s gotten Ben a part-time job as a deckhand who can also give sailing lessons to kids. They live in a seaside city that has a lot of vacation homes owned by the type of people who also have their own boats docked at the marina. Ben soon encounters a privileged group of teen vacationers, led by an arrogant bully named Gage (played by Richard Ellis), who immediately tries to make Ben feel inferior by bossing him around.

During his first day on the job, Ben also meets a friendly co-worker named Mallory (played by Piper Curda), who’s around the same age as Ben is. She teases Ben about the nepotism that got him the job, because he says under other circumstances, someone with an arm cast wouldn’t be able to get such a physically demanding job at the marina. Ben and Mallory have the kind of slightly flirtatious banter that indicates that they could end up dating each other. Mallory has a younger sister named Lily (played by Ja’layah Washington), who’s about 9 or 10 years old and who hangs out a lot at the marina when Mallory is there.

One day while on the job, Ben sees his father Liam romantically kissing a woman near one of the docked boats. It’s the first time that Ben is aware that his father has a girlfriend. Later, when he mentions to Liam that he saw him with this woman he doesn’t know about, Liam tells Ben that her name is Sara (played by Azie Tesfai), and she also works at the marina. Ben said that he would like to meet her. Liam (looking happy and relieved that Ben is open to meeting Sara) immediately agrees and says that Sara can come to the house for dinner that night.

Meanwhile, Liam’s next-door neighbors get their own spotlight in the story. They are tattooed mother Abbie (played by Zarah Mahler), her husband Ty (played by Kevin Bigley) and their two sons—a newborn baby and a pre-teen named Dillon (played by Blane Crockarell), who looks to be about 7 or 8 years old. Abbie and Ty are the type of parents who go to Burning Man (it’s mentioned in the movie) and go to a lot of rock concerts, where they sometimes also bring Dillon.

While Abbie and Dillon are hiking together in the woods nearby, Abbie tries to deny that they’ve gotten lost. While Dillon’s mother briefly walks out of his sight range, Dillon sees a strange-looking tree with a large opening in its trunk. The opening appears to lead underground. All of sudden, he hears his mother’s voice coming from the tree and telling him to walk down into the opening.

As Dillon hesitantly approaches the tree, the voice becomes more impatient and insists that Dillon go through the opening. But then, his mother shows up behind Dillon, and he realizes that it wasn’t his mother calling him from the tree after all. When he glances back, Dillon sees that the tree has disappeared.

Meanwhile, Ben has his own strange encounters. In his first night at his father’s house, he notices what looks like a strange creature creature crawling around the next door neighbors’ front yard, near the cellar.  Ben goes there with a flashlight to investigate and sees a raccoon. But he isn’t entirely convinced that what he saw was a small animal. Just as he’s about to snoop further, Ty catches him in the front yard and asks Ben to leave.

The next day, Ben sees Dillon playing by himself in the front yard, and he strikes up a conversation with the boy. Dillon appears to be homeschooled, so he’s eager to have a “older brother” type to hang out with on occasion. Ben and Dillon end up forming a friendly, almost brotherly bond, but Ben warns Dillon to stay away from the cellar in Dillon’s house. Ben has been spying on the house and is convinced that the epicenter of the house’s evil is in the cellar.

A densely wooded area is within walking distance of both houses, so Ben is aware that whatever he saw could have come from the woods. While Ben is suspicious that something might be lurking near the houses at night, he begins to spy (using binoculars) on the neighbors’ house at night. Abbie and Ty leave their curtains open during some amorous moments, so Ben essentially becomes an unexpected Peeping Tom.

It isn’t long before something horrible and deadly happens that sets off a chain of events where Ben discovers that an evil witch spirit is on the loose. There’s an eerie symbol of the letter “A” upside-down that’s part of the mystery. And when the demonic spirit is nearby, flowers start to immediately wilt and die. Through an Internet search, Ben finds out about the legend of the Slip-Skin Hag, who is a “dark mother born from root, rock and tree” and is a “devourer of children.”

While Ben tries to figure out what to do, he’s invited to some local teen parties, where he gets closer to Mallory. The night that Ben is supposed to have dinner with Liam and Sara, Ben instead goes to one of the parties without telling Liam that he won’t be there for dinner.  Ben and Mallory get drunk and spend some time alone together, and some romantic sparks fly between the two of them. Unfortunately, just as Ben is about to lean in and kiss Mallory, he vomits. (It seems like there’s a vomit scene in almost every movie that has underage teenagers partying.)

While at the party, Ben ignores the numerous calls that he’s been getting from his father. By the time Ben comes home, Liam is furious, and they have an argument, where Ben calls Sara “that bitch you’re sleeping with.” Sara overhears Ben insult her, and she immediately leaves the house, but the argument puts a strain on Ben’s relationship with his father.  Sara and Ben eventually patch things up and make sincere efforts to be cordial to one another.

Things get even stranger after Ben comes home to unexpectedly find Dillon hiding in Ben’s bedroom. Dillon pleads with Ben not tell Dillon’s mother Abbie that he’s hiding there if Abbie comes looking for him. Of course, she does go looking for him. What happens after that is where the movie starts to derail.

The rest of the story has major plot holes where the existence of certain people in the story are denied by others, and Ben is made to feel like he’s going crazy because he seems to be the only one who remembers that these people have existed. It’s not as if Ben has any supernatural powers, but you’d have to believe that an entire community, not just one household, has collective amnesia about these “disappearing” people. And that doesn’t make sense, given that it contradicts people’s memories in later parts of the story.

As for why Ben’s father doesn’t believe Ben’s claims that something sinister is happening at the house next door, it’s explained by Ben coming home late from the parties, and his father assumes that Ben is high on drugs. Given Ben’s troubled past that’s revealed in the movie, his father’s assumption actually makes sense.

After Ben comes home from a party where he was humiliated by group prank led by Gage, something happens that leads the movie down an even more ridiculous and messy path to the point of no return. There’s a surprise plot twist at the very end that makes absolutely no sense. And the very last shot in the movie is a horror-movie cliché, since it sets up the idea that there could be a sequel. (Don’t count on a sequel, since this movie won’t be a sleeper hit or even a cult classic.)

The best parts of “The Wretched” are how the movie builds suspense for the first two-thirds of the film before the story goes downhill into incoherent, poorly edited chaos. The visual effects (which are mostly practical, since the movie doesn’t rely too heavily on CGI) give the movie its most terrifying moments, since “The Wretched” is more in-your-face horror than psychological horror. Madelyn Stunenkel plays The Wretch witch monster in the film. All of the cast’s acting in “The Wretched” is average.

“The Wretched” is the Pierce Brothers’ second feature-length film as directors, after their 2011 zombie flick “Deadheads,” which made the rounds at several film festivals that year but was never released in theaters. (“Deadheads” is now available on home video.) Brett and Drew Pierce are the sons of visual-effects artist Bart Pierce, who did uncredited work on Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic horror flick “The Evil Dead.”

Having a father with a visual-effects background partially explains why the visual effects in “The Wretched” are the more well-crafted parts of the movie. The cinematography by Conor Murphy also achieves the intended atmosphere of voyeurism and terror throughout most of the film. But setting up the right visual environment in a movie is a wasted effort if the story isn’t very good and the editing is sloppy. The Pierce Brothers show hints of potentially making a major breakout film, but “The Wretched” is not that movie.

IFC Film/IFC Midnight released “The Wretched” on digital and VOD and ins select U.S. drive-in theaters on May 1, 2020.

 

 

 

Review: ‘1BR,’ starring Nicole Brydon Bloom, Taylor Nichols, Giles Mathey, Celeste Sully, Clayton Hoff, Susan Davis and Naomi Grossman

April 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

Nicole Brydon Bloom in “1BR” (Photo courtesy of Dark Sky Films)

“1BR”

Directed by David Marmor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the horror film “1BR” centers primarily on a middle-class apartment complex with a predominantly white cast, with a few African American, Latino and Asian characters.

Culture Clash: An aspiring costume designer in her 20s moves into the apartment and finds out that her neighbors are not what they first appeared to be.

Culture Audience: “1BR” will appeal mostly to people who like suspenseful, well-written horror movies with an underlying social message, and viewers of “1BR” must be able to tolerate disturbing scenes of torture.

Taylor Nichols (pictured at far right) in “1BR” (Photo courtesy of Dark Sky Films)

The title of the creepy and nightmarish horror flick “1BR” refers to the abbreviation that is often used in listing ads for a one-bedroom apartment. A one-bedroom apartment for rent is why aspiring costume designer Sarah, a woman in her early-to-mid-20s who’s recently moved to Los Angeles, attends an open house at Asilo Del Mar Apartments, which looks like a typical middle-class apartment complex. It’s a motel-styled, two-story apartment building with a swimming pool in the center.

The first person whom Sarah (played by Nicole Brydon Bloom) sees when she arrives is a friendly man who’s around her age. His name is Brian (played by Giles Mathey), who lets her in through the security-system entrance door. By the way that Brian and Sarah look at each other, it’s clear that there’s some mutual attraction between them. The open house is fairly crowded, and shy Sarah feels a little overwhelmed at these new surroundings and by not knowing anyone in the building.

Another person she meets is a senior citizen named Edith “Edie” Stanhope (played by Susan Davis), an apartment resident who’s called Miss Stanhope by the other tenant. Miss Stanhope has an outgoing disposition, but sometimes wobbles and appears disoriented when she walks. Miss Stanhope nearly falls into the swimming pool, and she’s rescued by some observant people nearby who catch her in time to prevent this accident. It’s unclear if Miss Stanhope is intoxicated or has some type of physical condition that causes her to act this way.

Sarah also notices that a creepy guy with glasses has been staring at her from several feet away, but he quickly moves out of her sight when he sees that Sarah has caught him staring. She is eventually greeted by building manager Jerry (played by Taylor Nichols), who has a pleasant demeanor when he asks her to fill out an application form. During their brief conversation, Sarah tells Jerry that she’s new to Los Angeles and doesn’t know anyone in the area. Jerry asks Sarah if she has any pets, and she says no, because she overheard Jerry telling other potential renters that the apartment building has a policy of no smoking and no pets.

However, Sarah has lied to Jerry. She does have a pet: an orange tabby cat named Giles that’s with her at the motel she’s been staying at until she can find an apartment. While in her motel room, Sarah has a tense phone conversation with her estranged father (played by Alan Blumenfeld), who is unhappy and skeptical about Sarah’s move to Los Angeles and her dreams of being a Hollywood costume designer. For now, Sarah is working as a temp administrative assistant in an attorney’s office.

Her father (whose name is not mentioned in the movie) expresses his disapproval, but there’s not much he can do since Sarah is an adult. In the conversation, the death of Sarah’s mother is mentioned, and it’s a touchy subject because her mother died of cancer. Sarah’s father is now remarried to someone named Diane, who clearly isn’t one of Sarah’s favorite people. When he tells Sarah that he’s going to fly out at some point to visit her in Los Angeles, Sarah practically hangs up on him. Later in the story, it’s revealed why Sarah has a lot of resentment toward her father.

Sarah is pleasantly surprised to get a call that her apartment application was approved and that she can move in right away. In reality, someone with limited financial resources, a low-paying temp job, no job prospects, and no parents or friends who can be co-signers on the lease would not be approved for this type of apartment. It’s the first sign that things are “too good to be true” with the building’s swift acceptance of Sarah as a tenant.

On the day that she moves in (with her cat Giles hidden in a blanket-covered cat carrier), Sarah sees Brian again and more sparks fly between them, as he offers to help her move her belongings into her apartment, which is No. 210 on the second floor. She politely declines his help and realizes that she can’t invite him into her apartment either, because doesn’t want anyone in the building to know that she’s broken the “no pets” policy by having a cat.

Meanwhile, Sarah is shown to be a very timid people-pleaser at her office temp job. She meekly complies when a demanding female superior orders her to work overtime on a project and clock out to work on the project, so the company won’t have to pay her for the overtime. Sarah’s feisty and foul-mouthed co-worker Lisa (played by Celeste Sully), who has the cubicle behind Sarah’s, is the complete opposite, since Lisa openly talks back and defies the same superior who tries to tell Lisa what to do.

Lisa is the type of person whose idea of giving a pep talk to Sarah is to reference her vagina by saying, “Vag up” instead of “Man up.” When Sarah asks Lisa where she gets the confidence to not be intimidated by the office bosses, Lisa tells Sarah: “I just remind myself that it’s my fucking life.” Although they’re complete opposites, the two women form a friendly bond.

Shortly after moving into the apartment building, Sarah attends a building barbecue that’s held near the swimming pool. She sees Brian, Miss Stanhope and Jerry again. Sarah also meets some of the other tenants in the building.

They include Jerry’s wife, Janice (played by Naomi Grossman); their pre-teen daughter Natalie (played by Hannah Altman); and a middle-aged married couple: attorney Oliver (played by Jaime Valena) and physician Esther (played by Earnestine Phillips). All of them seem very happy to welcome Sarah to the building as the newest tenant.

Sarah also sees the creepy man with glasses again. And this time, he approaches Sarah by giving her a book titled “The Power of Community” by Charles D. Ellerby. “You should read this book,” he tells Sarah. “It changed by life.” And then as quickly as he appears, he leaves again. Sarah doesn’t know what to think about this awkward exchange.

Even though the tenants in the building are very welcoming to Sarah, she experiences problems at the apartment as soon as she moves in. At night, Sarah hears the very loud sounds of creaky plumbing. The noise keeps her up at various hours. And one night, in one of her rooms, she finds a copy of the apartment building policy with the “no pets” rule and this threat written in bold, red letters: “Some people are allergic, you selfish bitch!”

Because someone has intruded in her apartment and knows that she has a forbidden pet, Sarah starts to feel even more frightened. But since Sarah doesn’t know when the threatening note was put in her apartment, it’s hard for her to figure out who could’ve done it. The apartment building has surveillance cameras, but apparently, the intruder knew that there was a surveillance blind spot near Sarah’s apartment.

During a visit in Miss Stanhope’s apartment, Sarah mentions the creepy guy who gave her the book. Miss Stanhope tells her that his name is Lester (played by Clayton Hoff) and that he’s a harmless widower who lost his wife to cancer. Miss Stanhope is a former Hollywood B-movie actress, so Sarah enjoys Miss Stanhope’s company and likes to hear stories about what it was like to make movies back in Miss Stanhope’s heyday. But Sarah sees more signs that Miss Stanhope is experiencing something that’s affecting her physical balance. Miss Stanhope says it’s just because of her old age and she laughs it off.

Meanwhile, the loud plumbing noises at night has caused Sarah to lose sleep, and it’s affecting her ability to think clearly and be alert in the office. Lisa notices that Sarah hasn’t been her usual self, so Sarah confides in Lisa about what’s been going on at the apartment. Sarah also invites Lisa over to her apartment to hang out and so Lisa can possibly hear the strange noises too.

What happens in the last two-thirds of the movie has a lot of spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review, but it’s enough to say that Sarah finds out the hard way that there are very sinister forces in the apartment. Are these forces supernatural or not? That’s something also revealed in the movie, which has some intense and graphic torture scenes that might be too disturbing for very young or sensitive viewers.

However, the violence in the movie is not gratuitous, and much of the horror is psychological. Writer/director David Marmor makes an impressive feature-film debut with “1BR,” which has a low budget, but the quality of the film is much higher than a lot of horror movies released by major studios. The taut pacing and suspense of “1BR” will grip viewers until the very last scene. And although some of the film’s concepts aren’t new—influences includes director Roman Polanski’s horror films and director Karyn Kusama’s 2016 horror flick “The Invitation”—”1BR” has a clever way of making social commentary about propaganda and conformity.

All of the actors do a perfectly fine, but not outstanding, job of portraying their characters. Brydon Bloom’s portrayal of Sarah is believable and empathetic, considering that she has to carry the film in almost every scene. However, the real strengths of the movie are the film’s story and the terrifying way that it’s told.

“1BR” also makes effective use of music, by infusing retro pop songs in some of the more horrifying scenes, such as the Three Thirds Orchestra’s cover versions of Andy Williams’ “Happy Heart” and Merilee Rush/Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning.” Quentin Tarantino famously uses upbeat or sappy pop music in the violent scenes in many of his movies, so there’s a bit of that influence in “1BR.”

Best of all for a horror movie, “1BR” will keep people guessing about what’s going to happen next. There are many horror movies being made that are utterly predictable, but “1BR” does not have that problem. The ending is chillingly haunting and will stay with viewers long after seeing this movie.

Dark Sky Films released “1BR” on digital and VOD on April 24, 2020.

Review: ‘Behind You,’ starring Addy Miller, Elizabeth Birkner, Jan Broberg, Philip Brodie and Aimee Lynn Chadwick

April 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Elizabeth Birkner in “Behind You” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Behind You”

Directed by Matthew Whedon and Andrew Mecham

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “Behind You” has an almost all-white cast (except for an Indian American with a small speaking role) portraying middle-class characters battling a demonic spirit in a haunted house.

Culture Clash: Two underage sisters end up living with their mysterious aunt, who owns the haunted house, and  they have conflicts with their aunt over how to deal with the terrifying presence in the home.

Culture Audience: “Behind You” will appeal mostly to people who like suspenseful and fairly predictable stories about a demonic spirit inflicting terror upon people.

Elizabeth Birkner and Addy Miller in “Behind You” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The horror flick “Behind You” takes the frequently used “haunted house” concept and brings some thrilling moments to the subgenre, even though the movie ends up being very predictable and kind of messy in the final third of the movie. However, there are some genuinely frightful jump scares throughout the film, which is elevated by the believable acting from the movie’s cast members.

“Behind You,” which takes places in an unnamed U.S. city, begins with a flashback to 1979, when a 16-year-old girl and her boyfriend are reading a scary bedtime story to the girl’s younger sister, Angela, who is about 7 or 8 years old. The story being read to the girl mentions the Jabberwock, Lewis Carroll’s mythical demon creature that was part of Carroll’s 1871 novel “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” If people don’t know anything about “Behind You” before seeing the film, this reference to the Jabberwock is the movie’s first foreshadowing that mirrors will play a big role in the story.

The story reading ends when Angela is told that it’s time for her to go to sleep. However, Angela is afraid to go to the bathroom by herself. Her older sister tells her, “People don’t really go through mirrors.”

Fast forward to 2019. Two blonde sisters who look very similar to the blonde sisters from 1979 are being driven in a car to a destination where they don’t necessarily want to go. (For whatever reason, all of the women and girls in this movie are blonde.) The two sisters in the car are in the same age range as the sisters from 1979. They are teenage Olivia (played by Addy Miller) and her younger sister Claire (played by Elizabeth Birkner), whose divorced mother Rachel has recently died.

Because Olivia and Claire’s estranged father cannot be located, the sisters are being taken to the home of their only other living relative: a recluse named Beth Molnar (played by Jan Boberg), who is Rachel’s older sister. Rachel’s friend/co-worker Camilla Clark (played by Aimee Lynn Chadwick) is driving the sisters to their aunt Beth’s home, which is everything you would expect from a place that turns out to be a haunted house.

As soon as they arrive, they are greeted by a middle-aged neighbor named Charles (played by Philip Brodie), who tells them that he’s a friend of Beth’s who helps her out a lot. The sisters are reluctant to live with someone they’ve never met before, but Camilla assures them as she looks at the house, “This doesn’t look so bad, does it?”

Meeting their aunt Beth for the first time turns out to be an uncomfortable experience for Olivia and Claire. As soon as Beth sees her nieces, she looks slightly horrified and tells Camilla coldly, “I don’t want them here.” However, Camilla has no choice but to leave the sisters there, because Camilla doesn’t have legal rights to keep the children.

Of course, since viewers have already seen in the flashback how much Olivia and Claire look like the sisters from 1979, it’s pretty easy to figure out that Beth was the older teenage sister, based on the timeline and the age Beth seems to be at now. It explains Beth’s reaction and why she might not want flashbacks to what something awful that happened in that house in 1979.

And if it isn’t made clear enough that there’s something terrifying about the house, Beth immediately sets rules for Olivia and Claire. She tells them that they’re not allowed to wander around the house at night. And under no circumstances are they allowed to go into Beth’s study or in the locked basement. Beth also warns the sisters that if they hear things at night, it’s either the old house making noises or it’s because Beth is sleepwalking.

It’s during this tension-filled first meeting that Beth and viewers see that Claire will not speak to strangers directly, as a result of the trauma of her mother’s death. (How Rachel died is not mentioned in the movie.) Instead, Claire will only speak to a stuffed animal (a white bunny rabbit), which she has named Lucy B.

Beth’s reaction is one of disgust. She comments about Claire’s habit of speaking to the stuffed animal: “It’s a sign of weakness, and weakness is not good.” Claire and Olivia look hurt by Beth’s harsh words, but they have no choice but to live with this unpleasant aunt who doesn’t really want them there.

In the dark and foreboding house, Charles cooks the dinner that they have during the sisters’ first meal with Beth. It’s during this dinner that Charles gives Beth a book with “necromancy” in its title. It’s the first time that Beth cracks a smile because she’s pleased that Charles has found the book for her. When Olivia asks what the book is about, Charles tells her that it’s about “history.”

During the dinner, which Charles says is “African stew,” Claire has a health scare when she suddenly starts choking and she passes out. Olivia immediately runs to her belongings and brings back a hypodermic needle, which she injects in Claire, who comes back to consciousness. Olivia says that Claire is allergic to peanuts. She asks if the stew’s ingredients included peanuts, and an apologetic Charles admits that it does.

It isn’t long before Olivia and Claire (who share a bed) find out there are more terrifying things that can happen to them in the house than an allergic reaction to peanuts. But before all the mayhem starts, Olivia gets the first sign that the place is haunted in the sisters’ first night at the house, when she goes into the bedroom’s bathroom and sees that the bathroom mirror is covered in wallpaper.

Of course, she tears some of the wallpaper off and sees, to her horror, that the mirror shows a reflection of a decomposed body of a girl in the bathtub behind Olivia. When Olivia turns around, the body isn’t there, but the frightful vision is enough for Olivia to get freaked out and run back to her bed.

Then, Claire wakes up to hear her toy bunny rabbit Lucy B. whispering to her. It sounds like a child’s voice that’s overdubbed in layers with echoes, and the voice effects are some of the creepiest and scariest parts of the movie. The voice tells Claire that she needs to go to the forbidden basement. But first, the voice tells Claire that she has to get the key to the basement lock from Beth’s study. (And Beth happens to be in the study, but she’s asleep.)

The voice also tells Claire that she can see her mother again if she follows these instructions. What follows over the next hour or so of this 86-minute film are the most suspenseful and best parts of the movie. More than half of the movie has spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review, but it’s enough to say that Beth is indeed the older sister from 1979 who was shown in the beginning of the film.

And it’s also revealed what happened to Beth’s younger sister Angela, the frightened girl who was being read the bedtime story. It should come as no surprise that the house has been haunted for years. And why is Beth still living there? That is also explained in the story.

“Behind You” uses a lot of the same tropes as a lot of other horror films about demonic spirits, haunted houses and exorcisms. What makes this movie a little different is how mirrors are used in possibly defeating the evil spirit that is inflicting terror on the house’s residents. The movie explains why Beth is still living there, but it doesn’t adequately explain why, during key parts of the story when certain violent acts have already happened, Olivia doesn’t call the police.

It’s probably the biggest obstacles that movies about haunted house find difficult to overcome: How do you explain why the people in the house don’t get out of there and/or call the police? In “Behind You,” there are several attempts to leave the house by certain people, but (you guessed it) the demonic spirit in the house makes it difficult. As for not calling the police, there’s sort of a flimsy reason presented in the movie for why the people in the house don’t call law enforcement (the cops won’t believe that a ghost is responsible for the violence that happens in the house), but it’s still not very convincing.

Another major plot hole to the movie is that this haunted house is not isolated (like most haunted houses are in movies) and is instead on a typical suburban-looking street with next-door neighbors. (“Behind You” was filmed in Utah at a house that was for sale and underwent interior renovations for the movie.) There are scenes in “Behind You” where certain characters could run to a neighbor’s house to get help, but they don’t. However, most horror movies rely on characters making dumb decisions in order to move the story along and create more scares. “Behind You” is no exception.

“Behind You” was written and directed by Matthew Whedon and Andrew Mecham, and it’s the duo’s feature-film debut as directors. According to the movie’s production notes, the film’s initial script was written by Mecham, and Whedon came on board to help with a major rewrite of the screenplay, in order to add more tension. Although the technical elements (such as the editing, cinematography and musical score) of “Behind You” work just fine, and there is plenty of tension in the story, the screenplay really needed some more work for the final 30 minutes of the movie.

Although the last third of “Behind You” falls off the rails into ridiculousness, there are some noteworthy elements to the movie. For a low-budget film, the visual effects are good (but not outstanding) and achieve the intended results of some genuinely eerie and frightful imagery. The house’s interior production design also succeeds in conveying the unsettling atmosphere of a house that’s permeated by evil.

And the acting by Birkner, who plays Claire, is especially good in showing a range of emotions and performing difficult scenes that most child actors would not be able to handle. Birkner, who was 10 when she filmed “Behind You,” is a talent to look out for if she decides to continue acting. But the flip side to what the child actors do in the movie is that more sensitive viewers might be bothered by some of the violent scenes involving the child actors. It’s not exploitative, but some of it is disturbing and definitely not recommended viewing for very young children.

Compared to other movies about haunted houses, “Behind You” isn’t the worst, but it’s not groundbreaking at all. The movie’s ending is ultimately what drags the film down to the “mostly mediocre and forgettable” level. And yes, the very last scene is as cliché as you can get. However, if you’re looking for a movie with some creepy and unnerving moments, then “Behind You” should deliver what you might want, as long as you keep your expectations very low for a well-written plot.

Vertical Entertainment released “Behind You” on digital and VOD on April 17, 2020.

Review: ‘Uncaged,’ starring Sophie van Winden, Julian Looman, Mark Frost and Reinus Krul

March 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Mark Frost in “Uncaged” (Photo courtesy of 4Digital Media)

“Uncaged” (also titled “Prey”)

Directed by Dick Maas

Dutch with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Amsterdam, the campy horror flick “Uncaged” (which has the title “Prey” in countries outside the U.S.) features an almost exclusively white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A murderous lion is on the loose in Amsterdam, and some of the citizens can’t agree on how to stop it.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like cheesy B-movies in the horror genre, but the graphic bloody gore (including images of murdered children) might be too much for some viewers.

Julian Looman and Sophie van Winden in “Uncaged” (Photo courtesy of 4Digital Media)

“A killer animal on the loose” is a subgenre of horror films that signals that the movie is probably very dumb and very campy. The Dutch film “Uncaged” (written and directed by Dick Maas) certainly fits that description. There’s a lot of graphic violence, but the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. That tongue-in-cheek, self-aware humor about the low quality of this film makes this movie about a rampaging lion a little bit more entertaining than it should be.

The story immediately begins by showing the lion killing people. What’s amusing about the way this CGI-created lion is portrayed is that it seems to have supernatural powers by the way it can disappear in a large urban city and then quietly and suddenly sneak up behind someone without warning, all within a few seconds, like some kind of ghost. This movie is definitely not concerned with being realistic.

In the first 10 minutes of the movie, the lion has appeared at night, outside a house in a quiet neighborhood. Without warning and apparently without making enough noise to wake the neighbors, the lion massacres a mother, a father, their two daughters (one a teenager, the other a 5-year-old cowering in bed) and the teenage daughter’s boyfriend, soon after she had snuck out with him on a forbidden date.

If something like this happened in real life, there would be a small army of people immediately sent to find and kill the lion. But not in this movie’s version of Amsterdam. The authorities are so inept that the local police chief—a bumbling blowhard named Zalmberg (played by Theo Pont)—doesn’t even want the public to know that there’s a lion on the loose, even though investigators find the lion’s footprints and claw marks all over the mauled bodies. (It should be noted that the movie shows graphic images of bloodied and dismembered children’s bodies and children being killed by the lion, so if you’re easily disturbed or offended by this depiction of violence, it’s best to avoid this movie.)

Two of the people who get involved in the hunt for the lion are local zoo veterinarian Lizzy Storm (played by Sophie van Winden) and her boyfriend Dave (played by Julian Looman), who’s a cameraman for a local TV news station. Lizzy is called to the scene of the crime by police investigator Olaf Brinkels (played by Reinus Kul), and she confirms that the killer is a human-eating lion. No zoos nearby have reported a missing lion, so Lizzy theorizes that the lion came from the wilderness that’s closest to the city, or the lion escaped from a private citizen who illegally owns the  lion.

Amid all of this crisis over the killer lion, Lizzy and Dave are having some relationship issues. He wants to keep their romance casual and he’s obviously dating other people, while Lizzy wants ladies’ man Dave to be monogamous and make more of a commitment to her. In a conversation that they have in a diner, it’s clear that Lizzy knows that Dave is a chronic cheater who often lies about it, but for whatever reason she’s still dating him.

However, Lizzy tells Dave that she’s getting tired of his antics and she makes a half-hearted attempt to try and distance herself from Dave. How sleazy is Dave? While he and Lizzy are out walking after their dinner date, a woman and her boyfriend confront Dave on the street and demand that he give the woman the videotape that Dave made of her. It turns out that Dave pretended that he was filming the woman (an aspiring actress) for a screen test, and apparently she wasn’t wearing underwear, and he filmed up her skirt without her permission.

Dave often works with TV reporter Maarten Gravestein (played by Pieter Derks), who also happens to be Dave’s roommate. Dave and Maarten are both very ambitious about getting news scoops, so when they hear about the lion on the loose, they’re determined to be the first on the scene for any of the breaking news and to possibly get exclusive footage of the lion. Dave knows that Lizzy is involved in the investigation, so he uses his relationship with her to his advantage.

Meanwhile, the lion strikes again. This time, it’s at a golf course, where three co-workers (a boss and two of his subordinates) are playing golf together. For some reason, the boss has taken one of the subordinates in the woods to fire him. The boss even brought the severance paperwork with him. (How bizarre.) And you can imagine what happens after that. This scene should give people a laugh for anyone who’s had a horrible boss.

The visual effects for this lion are what you might expect for a B-movie like this one, but what makes the lion hilarious to watch is that the movie picks and chooses when the lion will bring attention to itself as it walks in areas where the lion would definitely be noticed before it pounces. For instance, when the lion sneaks up on people in the woods, it somehow can magically do that without its feet making any noise as it walks through the woods.

In another scene, the lion goes on a rampage in the middle of a trolley bus. Did people not see the lion before it had a chance to get on the bus in the first place? Apparently not. The lion is also larger than normal and it has such a massive amount of super-strength that bullets and other weapons don’t seem to cause the type of injuries that would definitely wound an animal of that size in real life.

Even though the local media have already reported that a lion is on the loose in Amsterdam and has killed several people in the city, incompetent Police Chief Zalmberg holds a press conference where says he will neither confirm nor deny that there’s a killer lion on the loose. His reasoning for not being forthcoming to the public is that he doesn’t want people to panic, but in doing so, he delays getting the proper help to catch the lion. Officer Brinkels disagrees and thinks that the public has a right to know, so that the people in the city can take the necessary precautions, but there’s not much that Brinkels can do to change his stubborn boss’ mind.

And even though the lion was seen in one of the city’s parks, the park is still kept open. (Having park curfew at 6 p.m. doesn’t help when the lion has been known to strike during the day.) Needless to say, the police chief makes some more bad decisions that lead to more people getting killed.

One of the details that the movie’s subpar screenplay consistently gets wrong is how it shows Amsterdam to be a city where only one person is appointed to “save the people.” The police chief is shown as having too much power in the decision making. Where is the mayor? Where is the fire department, which usually gets involved when there are wild animals on the loose? And in one part of the movie, only one man (the police chief’s cousin) gets sent to trap this lion. Yes, really, in a big city like Amsterdam.

In the last third of the movie, the police get desperate and look for another possible savior. Early in the investigation, Lizzy mentioned that she knows a British guy who’s a professional hunter. Because apparently there’s no one else in The Netherlands that the police think they can turn to, Officer Brinkels asks Lizzy if the British hunter is available. And wouldn’t you know, he is.

His name is Jack DelaRue (played by Mark Frost), and the Amsterdam police pay to fly Jack from England to Amsterdam to complete the task of finding and killing the lion. Jack makes a less-than-wonderful impression when Lizzy and Brinkels go to pick him up at the airport. He’s drunk. And what Lizzy didn’t tell Brinkels is that Jack is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair. (One of Jack’s legs was chewed off by a lion in a previous hunt.)

How cringeworthy is this movie’s dialogue? When Brinkels tells Jack some bad news, Jack says, “You’re pulling my leg, right?” Brinkels answers, “Yeah, both of them.”

It should come as no surprise that Lizzy has a personal history with Jack: They used to date each other, and they haven’t seen each other in about eight years. Naturally, Dave gets insecure and jealous when he finds out that one of Lizzy’s ex-boyfriends has been chosen to rescue Amsterdam from the killer lion.

Before Jack can start hunting the lion, he does some questionable investigating (such as smelling the animal’s feces), and he estimates that the lion is about 7.2 feet tall and weighs about 480 pounds. Police Chief Zalmberg isn’t a fan of Jack, so the police chief finally does what he should’ve done in the first place: get a SWAT team to help. But that also turns out to be a disaster.

The final showdown scenes are over-the-top and completely unrealistic. Somehow, Jack’s battery-operated wheelchair has the speed of a small race car. And in one scene, someone punches the lion, as if that would stop the lion in the middle of a vicious attack. In another scene, someone’s idea of fighting off the lion is to throw a gun at it. And during all of these life-or-death battles with the lion and the people tasked with hunting it, no one thought of bringing a tranquilizer gun.

The lion isn’t the only one who seems to be immune to injuries. Lizzy gets in on the action in some scenes that would break her bones in real life, but she walks away unscathed except for rumpled clothes and hair. And there’s a twist near the end of the film that apparently also makes her immune from explosions too.

If you want to spend about 107 minutes of your time on mindless entertainment, then “Uncaged” can be just what you need. Just don’t be surprised if you feel like you’d rather be locked in a cage with a lion than be forced to watch this silly movie again.

4Digital Media released “Uncaged” in the U.S. on digital HD, VOD and DVD on March 17, 2020. The movie’s title is “Prey” in other countries, including The Netherlands, where the movie was originally released in 2016.

Review: ‘The Hunt,’ starring Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank

March 13, 2020

by Carla Hay

Betty Gilpin in “The Hunt” (Photo by Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

“The Hunt”

Directed by Craig Zobel

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in a remote part of Croatia, which is disguised as the United States, the satirical horror film “The Hunt” has a predominantly white cast of characters portraying wealthy, middle-class and working-class people.

Culture Clash: Wealthy liberal elitists kidnap, hunt and kill non-wealthy conservatives who believe in conspiracy theories.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who like horror movies to have an underlying social message, but “The Hunt” doesn’t live up to its controversial hype and is just another mediocre violent movie with a high body count.

Vince Pisani, Hilary Swank, Teri Wyble and Hannah Alline in “The Hunt” (Photo by Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

The irony about the controversy that postponed the release of the horror flick “The Hunt” is that the movie is a scathing commentary about wanting to permanently silence people, based on assumptions about certain people’s intentions. That’s exactly what happened to “The Hunt,” when numerous people, who never saw the movie, protested by saying that the film glorifies murder and was too dangerous to ever be released.

In response, Universal Pictures, which had originally scheduled “The Hunt” for release in September 2019, pulled the movie from its schedule, before releasing the film six months later. And although some things could have been edited out of the film to make it less controversial—we might never know because the movie wasn’t screened for the media when the September 2019 release was cancelled—what did make it into the film shows that the controversy was much ado about nothing.

The controversy was fueled by concerns that “The Hunt” (which is about a group of people killing another group of people) was not an appropriate movie to release at a time when there were mass shootings in America. But the reality is that most horror movies are usually violent and are about people getting murdered. Violence has been a part of most horror movies, long before there was an increase in gun violence and mass shootings in the real world.

The reason for the protests against “The Hunt” go much deeper than concerns about inspiring copycat killings, because “The Hunt” was perceived as a politically charged film commenting on the divide between liberals and conservatives in America. How these two opposite groups would be portrayed in the movie was perhaps scarier or more offensive to a lot of the protesters than any of the gory violence that “The Hunt” was sure to depict. (And in case anyone was wondering, all the hunters and hunted in the movie are white Americans, so the movie avoids any racist or xenophobic controversy.)

It turns out that it was a mistake to automatically think that “The Hunt” glorifies liberals and demonizes conservatives. The liberals (the hunters) are actually the worst characters in the film (because they’re murderers), while the conservatives (the hunted) don’t really spout any of the narrow-minded, bigoted views in the movie that they allegedly have. The hunted people are too busy trying to survive the violent attacks that they get almost immediately after waking up bound and gagged in a remote field. And one of the hunted ends up being the movie’s main hero who fights back.

Her name is Crystal (played by Betty Gilpin), who’s a car-rental employee, and her spotlight as the movie’s toughest badass in the hunted group doesn’t come until about 25 minutes into the movie. But before then, at the beginning of the movie, viewers see someone’s phone with the text-message conversation that sets in motion this whole idea of “hunting conservatives.”

One of the text messages said that there would be “nothing better than going out to the manor and slaughtering a bunch of deplorables.”  For people who didn’t follow the U.S. presidential race in 2016, the “deplorables” word refers to a controversial September 2016 speech that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made when she said: “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of [Donald] Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.”

On a private plane, viewers see some of the people who were part of the text conversation. They’re fussy, snobbish (such as when they treat the flight attendant like she’s an idiot), and try to outdo each other in political correctness when they talk about social issues. Their extreme “wokeness” is obviously a parody.

But there’s some truth in the satire, such as in the way one of the pretentious elitists interrogates the flight attendant over the ingredients of his meal, to give the impression that he’s extremely concerned about the environment. And yet, he doesn’t see the irony that flying on a private jet is most definitely not an environmentally responsible thing to do.

The airplane crew members are oblivious to the sinister nature of the trip until a heavyset guy in a flannel shirt staggers out into the cabin area. The elitists panic and say that he wasn’t supposed to be awake yet, he’s called a “redneck,” and he’s dealt with in a very violent way. The person who’s the mastermind of this trip then shows herself: Her name is Athena (played by Hilary Swank), and it’s clear that she’s a ruthless psycho who can’t wait for the hunt to begin.

The hunted people have been drugged and kidnapped from various parts of the United States. (The druggings and kidnappings are mentioned, but not shown, in the movie.) By the time the hunted people have woken up bound and gagged in a remote open field, it doesn’t take long before they’re being shot at repeatedly by the hunters. The hunted people later find out that they’re not in the United States, as they assumed, but have been taken to a remote part of Croatia, for reasons that are explained in a certain part of the story. (The movie was actually filmed in Louisiana.)

One of the hunted is a nameless young woman (played by Emma Roberts) with big blonde hair and pastel blue athleisure wear, looking like someone’s idea of what a Fox News anchor would be like at home. She manages to free herself from her bindings, and she finds a key to unlock the gags that they’re wearing. Eventually, everyone gets free of their bindings and gags.

And then the hunted find a giant locked crate in the middle of the field, which is pried open to reveal a live pig (which viewers find out later is named Wilbur, because the movie has multiple references to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”) and an arsenal for them to use to defend themselves. The arsenal is a large variety, including samurai swords, Smith & Wesson firearms and fully automatic military-grade weapons. Meanwhile, Crystal is shown briefly by herself making a compass out of a leaf and a straight pin.

The hunted, who are mostly nameless in the movie, includes an options trader (played by Ike Barinholtz), who’s originally from New York’s Staten Island; a podcast host (played by Ethan Suplee); and various people who look like stereotypical “rednecks,” by wearing flannel shirts or outfits that look like they’re about to go fishing and, ironically, hunting.

The hunters are all dressed in luxury designer clothes. They’ve also hired a military-trained firearms expert named Sgt. Dale (played by Steve Mokate), who acts as their consultant for this killing spree. The details about who these hunters are and why they decided to participate in this massacre are revealed later in the story.

“The Hunt” (which was written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, who’ve worked together on the HBO shows “The Leftovers” and “Watchmen”) constantly skewers the elitist “liberal” views of the hunters. In one scene, two of the hunters debate over whether or not they should have included politically conservative people of color in the all-white group of targets because they need to have “diversity.”

In another scene, one of the hunters is wearing a Japanese-style robe, and one of the cohorts makes this remark: “Is that a kimono? That’s cultural appropriation.” And as one of the hunters gasses a victim, he says to the person he’s killing: “And for the record, climate change is real.” These jokes are meant to be clever, but they wear thin after a while because the tone of the movie is so uneven.

On the one hand, “The Hunt” wants to be a biting social commentary on the destructive hatred that can arise from extreme political differences. On the other hand, the commentary is undermined by the slapstick comedy in much of the film, whose violence is almost cartoonish.

The big showdown at the end of “The Hunt” is especially ridiculous, as the people involved suddenly have superhuman-like stunt skills and recover from injuries so quickly and unrealistically, that it takes away the humanity that’s necessary for a story like this to work well. In the end, “The Hunt” is a lot like the self-righteous political blowhards that the movie intends to spoof—there’s a lot more bark than there is bite.

Universal Pictures released “The Hunt” in U.S. cinemas on March 13, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has moved up the VOD release of “The Hunt” to March 20, 2020.

Review: ‘Beneath Us,’ starring Lynn Collins, James Tupper, Rigo Sanchez and Josue Aguirre

March 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

Josue Aguirre in “Beneath Us” (Photo courtesy of New Mainstream Entertainment)

“Beneath Us”

Directed by Max Pachman

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror flick “Beneath Us” has a cast of white and Latino characters, with the whites representing the upper-class and the Latinos mostly representing the poor and working-class. 

Culture Clash: White supremacists who hate undocumented Latino immigrants turn into their rage into something deadly.

Culture Audience: “Beneath Us” follows a lot of horror tropes about serial killers on a murderous rampage, but the movie will primarily appeal to viewers who like horror flicks to have an underlying social message.

Lynn Collins in “Beneath Us” (Photo courtesy of New Mainstream Entertainment)

If movies are a reflection of what’s going in society, then there must be a reason why there’s been a recent surge in movies about people being hunted down and killed just because they’re a certain race or represent a certain class of people. “Beneath Us,” the Brazilian film “Bacurau” and “The Hunt” all arrive in U.S. cinemas in the same month (March 2020). And all three of these movies have plots about white serial killers feeling they need to “eliminate” certain people whom they consider to be “undesirable” to society.

For the horror movie “Beneath Us” (directed by Max Pachman, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Mark Mavrothalasitis), the entire premise of the movie was already revealed in the trailer, so there’s no need to tiptoe and be coy about what this movie’s plot is. The only real spoiler information is revealing who survives in the story and who doesn’t.

Unlike writer/director Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning 2017 horror film “Get Out,” there’s absolutely no subtlety or mystery in “Beneath Us” about who the villains are and why they’re killing people. As seen in the “Beneath Us” trailer, there’s already been a body count before the story began, and the movie is just going to show more people getting killed.

So who are the targets of this murderous mayhem? The beginning of the film shows two Latino men trapped in a filthy underground bunker and trying desperately to get out. Most of the movie then shows how they got into this dire predicament. The title of the movie obviously has a double meaning: The captives are buried alive beneath their captors, and their captors think that their kidnapped prey are “beneath us” in America’s social hierarchy.

In the beginning of “Beneath Us,” viewers see that a young man named Memo (played by Josue Aguirre) is an undocumented immigrant who has recently crossed the border from Mexico into an unnamed U.S. city. He’s come to live with his older brother Alejandro (played by Rigo Sanchez), who also came into the U.S. illegally. Alejandro has been barely scraping by financially, by doing odd jobs that can pay in cash, such as construction and handyman work.

Alejandro has been living in the U.S. for about five or six years. He’s been sending money home to his wife and son in Mexico. Alejandro is also trying to save up enough money to pay for a hefty bribe to bring his wife and son over the border through an illegal underground network. It’s a network that exploits desperate immigrants by charging prices way beyond what most immigrants can afford, in order to smuggle them into the United States.

Upon arriving in the United States, Memo is constantly lectured by Alejandro about how they have to work hard to achieve the American Dream. Memo might have thought that living in the U.S. would be an exciting adventure for him. But he gets a rude awakening, because he and his brother have to spend long days and nights loitering outside certain places with other undocumented immigrants, in the hopes that people will hire them for odd jobs and contractor work.

Alejandro is part of a small group of other undocumented workers who work together on these jobs when they can. Memo joins this group, which includes cocky alpha male Hector (played by Roberto “Sanz” Sanchez) and his meek sidekick Tonio (played by Thomas Chavira). One day, while the four men are hanging out at a parking lot near a home-supply store, they get the attention of Liz Rhodes (played by Lynn Collins), who seems to be in the market for remodeling.

Liz has all the signs of being able to more than afford their services, so Hector approaches her and tells her that she can hire the four of them for a lot less than whatever she’s paying the contractor she originally hired. She looks at them briefly and says yes right away. She then immediately invites them over to her large home and drives the four men there herself. The home is in a somewhat isolated area, with a large field separating the house from the nearest neighbors. (Of course the house is somewhat isolated. This is a horror movie.)

From the beginning, Memo senses that something isn’t right about this woman. For starters, she said yes too quickly. She didn’t seem concerned about getting work references. And she had no qualms about bringing four male strangers into her home without knowing anything about them.

And perhaps out of desperation, the guys didn’t even ask for details about what kind of remodeling they would be doing. Hector just promised her that whatever she needed, they could get it done. Shortly after arriving at the home, Memo finds a building nail that’s encrusted with hair on it.

Meanwhile, Hector has his eye on Liz for a possible fling with this new boss, and he drops some not-so-subtle hints to Liz that he’s open to getting “fringe benefits” while on the job. Hector and Tonio also play Peeping Tom when they spy on Liz from afar in her bedroom window, as she’s toweling off after a shower. Hector’s hope for a sexual encounter with Liz is dashed when her husband, Ben Rhodes (played by James Tupper), arrives home and she kisses him lovingly in the driveway. Ben and Liz have no kids, but they have a German Shepherd that acts as a watchdog.

Hector wonders aloud to his co-workers, “What kind of man lets his woman pick up strangers? We could be psychos.” Memo replies, “How do we know they’re going to pay us?” It won’t be long before the four unlucky men find out who the psychos are.

Through Liz’s conversation with a real-estate agent over the phone and later when he comes to visit, viewers find out that Liz and Ben Rhodes have become rich by flipping houses (remodeling homes to sell them for much higher prices) and have about 10 properties that they’ve flipped so far.

Liz (who’s the dominant partner in the marriage) has the four laborers working non-stop all day and through the night. When they collapse from exhaustion and fall asleep on the property, she wakes them up by turning a water hose on them. Her pleasant demeanor from earlier in the day is completely gone, and she shouts at them that they won’t get paid unless they finish the work.

This is where the Dumb Decisions People Make in Horror Movies start to kick in for “Beneath Us.” Memo tells the other guys that they should all just cut their losses and leave, because he thinks they’re being set up and won’t get paid. But he’s outvoted by the other guys, who think that they’ve already come this far, and all they have to do is finish the work to get the money.

It never occurs to these supposedly experienced laborers that anyone unethical enough to treat them like slaves and make them work non-stop is someone who has no intention of paying. Perhaps the movie wants us to believe that because they’re undocumented immigrants, they’ve left their common sense behind when they crossed the border.

The next day, Tonio accidentally injures one of his hands while using a construction tool. Instead of letting him get medical attention, Liz tells the men that she can’t let them leave because they’ll all get in trouble because of the workers’ illegal immigration status. She tells them that calling an ambulance or taking Tonio to a clinic would require paperwork and identification, and the men admit that they don’t have any of the proper documentation.

And even if they wanted to leave, they couldn’t, as the men soon discover that there’s a high electrical fence surrounding the property that’s ready to electrocute them if they try to climb it. And then Liz and Ben show the men their guns and let them know that they won’t hesitate to use these weapons on them. Liz in particular takes pleasure in demeaning the men and hurling racist insults at them. At any rate, things turn very ugly and bloody very quickly.

As the thoroughly wicked and unhinged Liz Rhodes, Collins sometimes veers into a campy performance. At times, she literally cackles and howls like a witch. You almost expect her to pull out a broom and witch’s hat while toting that gun around. Ben mostly takes orders from Liz, but he’s equally maniacal in his racist and violent agenda. This movie’s showdown of good versus evil is mostly predictable, but there are several moments of tension-filled suspense. It’s clear from the movie’s message that no matter what happens to these characters, the insidiousness of racism isn’t going away anytime soon.

New Mainstream Entertainment released “Beneath Us” in select U.S. cinemas on March 6, 2020.

Review: ‘Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street,’ starring Mark Patton

March 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

Mark Patton in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” (Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema)

“Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street”

Directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen

Culture Representation: In this documentary which has mostly white Americans and some Latino representation, actor Mark Patton (who’s best known for starring in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge”) tries to make sense of the circumstances that led him to quit acting in the 1980s, including the homophobia that he says ruined his career.

Culture Clash: Patton places a lot of blame for his career downfall on “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” screenwriter David Chaskin, who gave interviews saying that Patton made the movie too gay.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal primarily to horror fans, audiences who care about LGBTQ issues, and people interested in “whatever happened to” stories.

David Chaskin and Mark Patton in “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” (Photo courtesy of Virgil Films)

Faded actor Mark Patton says that the 1985 horror flick “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” was the best thing that ever happened to his career and also the worst thing. He never starred in another major motion picture again after this sequel got mixed-to-negative reviews. And in the documentary “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street,” he tries to make sense of what went wrong.

Patton is one of the producers of the documentary, which was capably directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen. Because Patton is a producer of the documentary, it explains why the film is mostly a sympathetic portrayal of him. It’s a compelling story, even though Patton (who still calls himself a “movie star”) at times seems to have an exaggerated sense of importance about his impact on the movie industry. He certainly isn’t the only actor who’s become a “has-been.”

Narrated by Cecil Baldwin (who sounds like he could be narrating a true-crime documentary), the movie starts off with Baldwin’s voiceover saying that “the world wasn’t ready for a male scream queen” when “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” was released in 1985, when Patton was in his 20s. Although Patton’s Jesse Walsh character in the movie wasn’t explicitly gay, he had effeminate mannerisms, and the movie had some homoerotic undertones, which are explained in this documentary.

The basic premise of “Freddy’s Revenge” was that “A Nightmare on Elm Street” villain Freddy Krueger—the slasher serial killer with full-body burn scars, a striped sweater and gloves with knife blades as fingernails—had invaded the body of Jesse Walsh, a nerdy and sensitive high-school student. Jesse has been having nightmares about Freddy after moving into the same house where Freddy terrorized the main female character in the first “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movie. Jesse finds out later that his body has been possessed by Freddy—which is a departure from the first “Nightmare” movie, where Freddy only appeared when the main character was asleep.

In one of his dreams, Jesse goes to a gay bar and orders a drink. He’s seen at the bar by his gym teacher, who later punishes him for underage drinking. Freddy then kills the gym teacher in a homoerotic shower moment that includes the naked teacher getting slapped with a towel on his rear end. And the very concept of Freddy entering and leaving Jesse’s body has also been pointed to as homoerotic. Although Jesse shows a romantic interest in his friend Kim Myers (played by Lisa Webber), many people who’ve seen the movie think that Jesse is gay and in the closet.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” director Jack Sholder, who’s interviewed in the documentary, swears that he didn’t see any gay overtones when he was making “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.” Sholder says that he cast Patton in the starring role because Patton looked like he had the vulnerability needed for the Jesse Walsh character. The movie’s screenwriter David Chaskin is more evasive when he’s asked about any homoerotic content in the movie. Chaskin says that although he didn’t intend for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” to be a gay horror movie, he understands why people think it is.

Patton was a closeted gay man during his brief acting career in the late 1970s to mid-1980s. After “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” was released to profitable box office but mixed-to-negative reviews, there were minor rumblings in the media about the gay overtones in the movie. Patton says the chatter was enough for his agent to get scared and demand that Mark only audition for roles where he played an obviously heterosexual character.

But except for two roles in television in 1986, Patton didn’t work as an actor again for decades. (He resumed his acting career with a small role in the 2016 independent horror film “Family Possessions.”) As far as a lot of people where concerned, he had disappeared. What really happened?

Patton places a lot of misdirected anger on Chaskin, whom he accuses of getting him “blacklisted” from the industry by “outing” Patton in interviews, where Chaskin would claim that he never wrote the Jesse Walsh character as gay and that Patton just played the character as gay. In the documentary, Chaskin gives his perspective: “‘Nightmare 2′ was a possession movie. I like the concept of an innocent person being invaded.”

But the more Patton tells his life story, the more it becomes obvious that Chaskin is just a scapegoat for what really led Patton to suddenly “disappear” from showbiz. Patton’s on-again, off-again live-in boyfriend—actor Timothy Patrick Murphy, best known for his early 1980s role as Mickey Trotter in “Dallas”—had AIDS, and so did many of their friends.  Murphy was “in the closet” about being gay, at a time when almost no working Hollywood actors were openly gay.

In the documentary, Patton candidly talks about finding out around the same time that he was filming “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” that he was also HIV-positive. Because his lover and many of his friends were HIV-positive or dying of AIDS, and because he didn’t know if or when he was going to die too, Patton says in the documentary that he had a “nervous breakdown,” and he decided to quit acting. After admitting all of that, why does he have so much hatred for Chaskin?

As Patton tells it, Chaskin deliberately and cruelly fueled the homophobia that Patton believes led to him becoming an industry pariah. Patton says that the AIDS crisis was just one of the reasons why he quit acting, but he believes that Chaskin and homophobia in Hollywood were the main reasons. It was also during a time when Rock Hudson revealed he had AIDS, and there was a “gay panic” in Hollywood to not hire actors who were rumored to be gay. (This was during the beginning of the AIDS crisis, when many people mistakenly thought that only gay men could get the disease.)

Even though homophobic ideas about AIDS certainly affected how Hollywood did business, Patton comes across as too paranoid and illogical when he says that Chaskin was out to get him. Chaskin never had that much power to get Patton blacklisted from Hollywood. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” was Chaskin’s first movie screenplay, and his Hollywood career never really thrived after that. Chaskin has written only three feature-length movies since then (all little-seen independent films), the last one being 2000’s “Love Hurts.”

Furthermore, an untold number of gay actors were in the closet back then who had rumors swirling that they were really gay, but they still kept working. Patton’s boyfriend Murphy was one of them. Murphy’s last movie was released in 1988, the year that he died from AIDS at the age of 29. The reality is that Patton just gave up because of all the personal problems in his life. If he has anyone to blame other than himself, it’s probably his agent at the time, who obviously didn’t have enough confidence that Patton could find work because of the gay rumors.

We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Patton had a better agent at the time. But in hindsight, from the way that Patton describes his epic meltdown, he probably would’ve quit acting anyway, even if he had been getting steady work. He says he left Los Angeles, moved to Mexico, cut ties with showbiz, and spent years in a deep state of depression. He says that by the time he left the entertainment business, he had found out that he had “HIV, cancer and tuberculosis” and he was “bedbound for a year.” With all of these health problems that would affect his ability to work, exactly how is that David Chaskin’s fault?

And when Patton describes how he got into acting in the first place, it’s easy to see why he couldn’t handle the first major rough patch that came along. He never really struggled to get his big break. It all happened very quickly for him.

He describes his childhood in suburban Missouri, where he grew up in a Christian household, as living in an area where people looked just like him (white and wholesome-looking). However, his parents’ marriage was troubled (they divorced when he was 14), and his mother spent time in and out of psychiatric institutions.

In the documentary, Patton says he knew he was gay from an early age, but he went to great lengths to keep it a secret. He caught the acting bug when he would perform at talent shows in school. When he made the decision to move to New York City after high school, Patton says it was the first time in his life he felt he could be openly gay among his friends. (Although Patton’s IMDb page lists his birth year as 1964, more likely he was born in 1959 or 1960, because in the documentary, he says he moved to New York in 1977, after he graduated from high school.)

And how Patton broke into showbiz is the stuff that people dream about but rarely happens. Within days of getting his first agent, he was working as an actor, and he says it’s because he had the right “look.” (In other words, a pleasant-looking boy next door.) Getting work in commercials led to his first big break: a supporting role in the Broadway play “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” starring Cher, Sandy Dennis and Karen Black. In 1982, Robert Altman directed the play and the movie, which had the same stars as the Broadway show.

That kind of luck—co-starring in your first movie with that level of talent at such a young age—almost never happens to most actors. Therefore, it’s easy to see why Patton took for granted that things would continue to go that easily for him. In the documentary, he’s somewhat arrogant in describing how lucky he was to have such smooth sailing in his first few years as an actor. His attitude comes across as, “Of course I got work right away. I was cute and I had a great personality.” He doesn’t fully acknowledge that the opportunities that he got at the beginning of his acting career is not how it happens for most people when they first become actors, even for those who reach the A-list.

Because he never really paid his dues before getting high-profile roles, Patton comes across as a little too entitled in thinking that the ride should’ve kept going that way for him because he thinks he deserved it. Even the biggest entertainers have had career flops and pitfalls. The ones who survive the bad times (such as Patton’s idol Cher) are the ones who don’t give up, like Patton did.

Early in the documentary, Patton quotes something that Cher told him: “In show business, you always have to do what’s best for you.” Patton should also have learned more than a few other things from Cher about how to get through career slumps. (He’s old enough to remember how Cher became a laughingstock of showbiz in the early 1990s when she did infomercials for Lori Davis hair-care products.)

Patton says he decided to return to the entertainment business shortly after he was tracked down in Mexico by the filmmakers of the 2010 documentary “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy,” which was a comprehensive history of all the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies up to that point. It was through that movie that Patton realized how the “Nightmare” fandom was still large enough that he could start making money by doing personal appearances, such as going to fan conventions that specialize in fantasy entertainment.

A considerable amount of the documentary shows Patton doing just that, as he’s seen interacting with fans, doing Q&As at “Nightmare” events, and traveling with his assistant Bill Nugent from personal appearance to personal appearance. The documentary also features commentary from “Nightmare” fans, some more famous than others. (Podcast host John Fozzie Nelson and drag queens Peaches Christ and Knate Higgins are among those who say glowing remarks about Patton.) Most of them either comment on the “Nightmare on Elm Street 2” movie, Patton’s identity as a gay man and/or how he and the movie helped them accept their own sexuality.

To his credit, Patton seems very grateful for fan appreciation, now that he knows how fickle fame can be. He has this to say about interacting with fans: “They don’t want to know about your problems. They want to see a movie star.” And he offers this response to people who think that doing the convention circuit is degrading: “If it seems whorish to do this, then be a good whore, because you’re taking their money.”

When he’s not traveling, Patton runs a gift shop in Mexico, where he lives with a man who’s described in the movie as his husband Hector Morales, who didn’t know when they first met about Mark’s past as a Hollywood actor. Because Patton is now a passionate AIDS activist and because he seems to have found true love with Hector, it’s safe to say that Patton is in a much better place in his life right now.

One of the best parts of the documentary is when it shows the 30th anniversary reunion of “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” which took place at Shock Pop Comic Con in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The reunion included director Sholder, along with cast members Robert Englund (who plays Freddy Kreuger), Patton, Myers, Clu Gulager, Marshall Bell and Robert Rusler.

Patton’s co-stars have good things to say about him, but Sholder is the only one shown on camera giving Patton a much-needed reality check that he needs to let go of all this hatred toward Chaskin. (Chaskin was originally announced to attend the 30th anniversary reunion, but he ended up not going, for reasons that weren’t made clear in the documentary.)

And so, it’s inevitable that near the end of the film, Patton and Chaskin agree to sit down together and hash out their differences, after not speaking to each other for decades. It’s a necessary part of this documentary, since all of Patton’s whining about Chaskin gets very irritating after a while. Ultimately, “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” is a cautionary tale about bitterness, and it’s a wake-up call for any actors who think they’re owed a long and successful career in showbiz just because they starred in a couple of movies.

Virgil Films released “Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street” in Los Angeles on February 27, 2020, and on VOD on March 3, 2020.

2020 Tribeca Film Festival: features lineup announced

March 3, 2020

Tribeca Film Festival - white logo

Drew Barrymore and Drew Barrymore in “The Stand-In”

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, today unveiled its feature film lineup. Continuing its tradition of championing the discovery of emerging voices and celebrating new work from established talent, the 19th edition of the Festival foregrounds comedic, music-centered, political and socially-conscious films from diverse storytellers who use art to inspire positive change and community restoration. The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival will run April 15-26.

The features program will include 115 films from 124 filmmakers from across 33 different countries. The line-up includes 95 world premieres, 2 international premieres, 4 North American premieres, 4 U.S. premieres, and 9 New York premieres and one sneak preview. This year’s program includes 19 directors returning to Tribeca with their latest projects, and 44 of the feature films have one or more women directors. The feature program was curated from 3,385 submissions, and this year’s Festival received a record 10,397 total submissions across all categories.

“First comes the story, then empathy, then comes change.  When you change the narrator, you empower different voices to show audiences new worlds through their eyes,” said Paula Weinstein, Chief Content Officer of Tribeca Enterprises and program advisor.  “We are privileged to have so many new and rich worlds brought to life by visionary storytellers. We hope audiences leave the Festival deeply touched, moved, and entertained.”

“This year’s festival embraces the unique power of film to bring people together — whether that’s literally the communal experience of watching a film in a packed theater, or the more intangible way a great film can make you empathize with a stranger’s struggle,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director. “In an election year where we will go to the polls to make big decisions about our future together, these films are an opportunity for connection and understanding.”

“The 10 films in our International Competition reflect the power of political and artistic filmmaking from all over the world. From returning filmmakers to new voices, we will welcome and celebrate the diverse storytellers who will share their personal visions of their own cultures. Tribeca audiences will embark on 10 journeys full of poetry and emotion in these innovative international tales,” said Frédéric Boyer, Artistic Director.

The competition category includes 10 U.S. Narratives, 10 International Narratives, and 12 Documentary competition features. Additionally, the feature line-up includes 16 Spotlight Narratives, 20 Spotlight Documentaries, 17 Viewpoints, 5 Midnight, 13 Movies Plus selections; 6 Tribeca Critics’ Week, 3 films as part of this year’s new Women at Work section, and a family event.

As previously announced, the 2020 Festival will open April 15 with the world premiere of award-winning director Mary Wharton’s documentary, Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President, at the Beacon Theatre as part of the City National Bank Screening Series with live performances from music legend Willie Nelson, Musical Director Paul Shaffer, Nile Rodgers and others. New this year, the Festival will be expanding across the Hudson river to the city of Hoboken, NJ, using cinematic storytelling and experiences to connect to this culturally vibrant community.

In addition to Weinstein, Cusumano, and Boyer, the programming team includes VP Filmmaker Relations and Shorts Programming, Sharon Badal; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz (features, TV, and online work), Loren Hammonds (immersive and features), Lucy Mukerjee (features); Programmer Ben Thompson (shorts); and a team of associate programmers.

 

2020 Feature Film Selection:

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Tribeca’s U.S. Narrative Competition showcases extraordinary work from breakout independent voices and distinguished filmmaking talent. These 10 world premieres will vie for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Angela Bettis in “12 Hour Shift”

12 Hour Shift, directed and written by Brea Grant. Produced by Jordan Wayne Long, Tara Perry, Matt Glass, Christina McLarty Arquette, David Arquette. (USA) – World Premiere. Nurse Mandy is just trying to make it through her double shift alive, but her nasty drug addiction, annoying coworkers, needy patients, and devious cousin are making it pretty tough, not to mention organ-stealing criminals and an injured convict. With Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Kit Williamson, Tara Perry, David Arquette.

Cowboys, directed and written by Anna Kerrigan. Produced by Gigi Graff, Anna Kerrigan, Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker. (USA) – World Premiere. Troy and his young transgender son Joe are on the run from his conservative mother in the Montana wilderness, with a detective in hot pursuit in this emotionally powerful narrative. With Steve Zahn, Jillian Bell, Sasha Knight, Ann Dowd.

Fully Realized Humans, directed and written by Joshua Leonard. Produced by Sean Drummond, Chelsea Bo. (USA) – World Premiere. Parents-to-be Elliott and Jackie (an eight-months pregnant Jess Weixler) embark on a quest for self-actualization before the imminent birth of their first child in this strikingly honest and hilarious portrait of parents and children. With Joshua Leonard, Jess Weixler, Tom Bower, Beth Grant, Michael Chieffo, Janicza Bravo.

The Half of It, directed and written by Alice Wu. Produced by Anthony Bregman, M. Blair Breard, Alice Wu. (USA) – World Premiere. In a modern-day Cyrano-meets-Pygmalion, Ellie, a shy Chinese-American straight-A student finds herself helping the school jock woo the girl they both secretly love. With Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire, Collin Chou. A Netflix Release.

Little Fish, directed by Chad Hartigan, written by Mattson Tomlin. Produced by Lia Buman, Rian Cahill, Chris Ferguson, Tim Headington, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Mattson Tomlin. (USA) – World Premiere. A pandemic attacking people’s memory is spreading around the world at an alarming rate. Two young newlyweds struggle to hang onto who they are, both as individuals and as a couple. With Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Raúl Castillo, Soko.

Lorelei, directed and written by Sabrina Doyle. Produced by Francesca Silvestri and Kevin Chinoy, Jennifer Radzikowski. (USA) – World Premiere. Reformed ex-con Wayland returns to his hometown and reconnects with his high school girlfriend Dolores, now a single mom with dreams of Hollywood in Doyle’s fable-like tale of second chances. With Pablo Schreiber, Jena Malone, Amelia Borgerding, Parker Pascoe-Sheppard, Chancellor Perry.

Materna, directed by David Gutnik, written by David Gutnik, Jade Eshete, Assol Abdullina. Produced by Liz Cardenas, Emily McEvoy. (USA, Kyrgyzstan) – World Premiere. Four women whose lives are separated by race, culture, and class but connected by the complexities of motherhood become inextricably bound together by an incident on the New York City subway. With Kate Lyn Sheil, Lindsay Burdge, Jade Eshete, Rory Culkin, Michael Chernus, Sturgill Simpson, Assol Abdullina. In English, Russian with English subtitles.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, directed and written by Jonathan Cuartas. Produced by Kenny Oiwa Riches, Anthony Pedone, Jesse Brown, Ian Peterson, Patrick Fugit. (USA) – World Premiere. Dwight and his sister Jessie reach a crossroads over what to do about their little brother Thomas, a sickly child with a mysterious affliction, in this moody American indie feature debut. With Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell.

No Future, directed by Andrew Irvine, Mark Smoot, written by Mark Smoot. Produced by Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams, Jeff Walker, Lisa Normand. (USA) – World Premiere. Following the overdose of an estranged friend, recovering addict Will, still struggling with his own sobriety, returns to his hometown where he begins a troubled affair with his friend’s grieving mother. With Catherine Keener, Charlie Heaton, Rosa Salazar, Jackie Earle Haley, Austin Amelio, Jefferson White.

The Violent Heart, directed and written by Kerem Sanga. Produced by Ed McDonnell, Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Plouffe, P. Jennifer Dana, Mark Roberts, Ross Putman, Dave Hunter. (USA) – World Premiere. Fifteen years after the murder of his older sister, taciturn Daniel finds himself falling for Cassie, a vivacious high school senior in this southern gothic-inspired Romeo & Juliet story set in the American heartland. With Grace Van Patten, Jovan Adepo, Lukas Haas, Mary J. Blige, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Jahi Di’Allo Winston.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Over Tribeca’s 19-year history, the non-fiction film selections have exhibited work from emerging and renowned filmmakers, including future Academy Award® winners. This year’s films will compete for Best Documentary Feature, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.

Eduardo San Juan Breña in “499” (Photo by Alejandro Mejia/AMC)

499, directed by Rodrigo Reyes, written by Rodrigo Reyes, Lorena Padila. Produced by Inti Cordera, Andrew Houchens. (Mexico) – World Premiere. The powerful hybrid documentary 499 examines Cortez’s legacy almost five centuries later through the eyes of a stranded conquistador traveling through Mexico. The film is a cinematic meditation on the violence that still vibrates through society. With Eduardo San Juan Breña. In Nahuatl, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

Dear Mr. Brody, directed and written by Keith Maitland. Produced by Megan Gilbride, Melissa Robyn Glassman, Keith Maitland, Sarah Wilson. (USA) – World Premiere. In 1970, eccentric hippie millionaire Michael Brody, Jr. decided to give $25 million away to anyone who needed it, sparking a media frenzy and thousands of letters from strangers all requesting his help.

Enemies Of the State, directed by Sonia Kennebeck. Produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna. (USA) – World Premiere. When their hacker son is targeted by the US Government, the DeHarts will do anything to protect him.  And so begins to unravel a web of secrets in this twisty, stranger-than-fiction cyber-thriller story. With Joel Widman.

Father Soldier Son, directed by Catrin Einhorn, Leslye Davis. Produced by Leslye Davis, Catrin Einhorn, Kathleen Lingo, Nancy Donaldson Gauss. (USA) – World Premiere. This intimate documentary from the New York Times follows one American family over the course of ten years, becoming an intergenerational exploration of the meaning of sacrifice, purpose, family and American manhood in the aftermath of war. A Netflix release.

Jacinta, directed by Jessica Earnshaw. Produced by Jessica Earnshaw, Holly Meehl, Nimisha Mukerji. (USA) – World Premiere. An astonishing and ultimately hopeful record of the hereditary nature of trauma, Jacinta follows the lives of three generations of women struggling to maintain stability. TFI supported.

Landfall, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. Produced by Ines Hofmann Kanna, Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA) – World Premiere. Chronicling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Landfall is a sensitive and urgent portrait of the continued fraught relationship between the US and Puerto Rico, a land in mourning and resistance. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

The Last Out, directed by Sami Khan, Michael Gassert, written by Sami Khan. Produced by Michael Gassert, Jonathan Miller, Sami Khan. (USA) – World Premiere. An affecting story of raw talent, passion and naivete, The Last Out follows three Cuban baseball players with Major League dreams who, facing difficult choices, embark on radically different paths when those dreams don’t pan out. With Happy Oliveros, Carlos O. González, and Victor Baró. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. Also playing as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Pray Away, directed by Kristine Stolakis. Produced by Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous. (USA) – World Premiere. Pray Away is a powerful exposé on gay conversion programs, revealing the damage inflicted by shame and repression through intimate testimonies from current members and former leaders of the pray the gay away movement. TFI supported.

Socks on Fire, directed and written by Bo McGuire. Produced by Tatiana Bears, Amy Dotson. (USA) – World Premiere. Bo McGuire returns home to rural Alabama to document the bitter property feud between his homophobic aunt and gay uncle. Blending home videos with cinematic reenactments, McGuire paints a riveting picture of a house divided. With Odessa Young, Carron Clark, Chuck Duck, Michael Patrick Nicholson, John Washington.

Simple as Water, directed by Megan Mylan. Produced by Robin Hessman, Megan Mylan. (USA, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Germany) – World Premiere. Megan Mylan’s closely observed fragments of lives cut between Turkey, Greece, Germany, and the U.S.. Each unfolding scene portrays the elemental bonds holding together Syrian families pulled apart by war, searching for a new life. In Arabic, English with English subtitles.

Wake Up on Mars (Réveil sur Mars), directed and written by Dea Gjinovci. Produced by Sophie Faudel, Dea Gjinovci, Britta Rindelaub, Jasmin Basic. (France, Switzerland) – World Premiere. Two teenage sisters lie in a vegetative state in the small Swedish home of their Kosovar family, the cause of their mysterious malady, known as “resignation syndrome,” entwined with their personal trauma experienced as refugees. With Furkan Demiri, Djeneta Demiri, Ibadeta Demiri, Nurje Demiri, Muharrem Demiri, Resul Demiri. In Albanian, Swedish with English subtitles.

Wonderboy, directed and written by Anissa Bonnefont. Produced by Stella Maris Pictures. (France) – International Premiere. French fashion house Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing allows the camera to become his confidante as he embarks on a search for his birth mother, in this enchanting documentary about adoption and identity. In French with English subtitles. 

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION

The New-York based Festival breaks its geographical boundaries with the International Narrative Competition, welcoming filmmakers from abroad to join a global platform for contemporary world cinema. These films will compete for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

Kantu Shimokura in “Ainu Mosir” (Photo by Sean Price Williams)

Ainu Mosir, directed and written by Takeshi Fukunaga. Produced by Eric Nyari, Harue Miyake. (China, Japan, USA) – World Premiere. In an indigenous village in Northern Japan, sensitive 14-year-old Kanto takes his first tentative steps towards manhood as a debate brews among the community about a controversial ceremony. With Kanto Shimokura, Debo Akibe, Emi Shimokura, Toko Miura, Lily Franky. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Asia, directed and written by Ruthy Pribar. Produced by Yoah Roeh, Aurit Zamir. (Israel) – World Premiere. Asia is not your average mom. She’s free-spirited, open-minded and non-judgmental; but all that is put to the test when her teenage daughter – who happens to be differently abled – announces that she’s ready to lose her virginity. With Alena Yiv, Shira Haas, Tamir Mulla, Gera Sandler. In Hebrew, Russian with English subtitles.

Contactado, directed by Marité Ugás, written by Marité Ugás, Mariana Rondón. Produced by Mariana Rondón. (Peru) – World Premiere. Tribeca alums Mariana Rondón and Marité Ugás return with a captivating drama about an aging self-proclaimed prophet who revisits his past as a spiritual guru after an eager young follower entices him to return to preaching. With Baldomero Cáceres, Miguel Dávalos, Lita Sousa, Samantha Castillo, Solange Tavares, Beto Benites. In Spanish with English subtitles.

The Hater (Hejter), directed by Jan Komasa, written by Mateusz Pacewicz. Produced by Jerzy Kapuściński, Wojciech Kabarowski. (Poland) – International Premiere. Disgraced Law student Tomek will do what it takes to impress Gabi and her liberal family. Taking a job at a sordid PR company, he finds he excels at spreading political misinformation. But at what cost? With Maciej Musiałowski, Vanessa Alexander, Maciej Stuhr, Agata Kulesza, Danuta Stenka, Jacek Koman. In Polish with English subtitles.

Kokoloko, directed and written by Gerardo Naranjo. Produced by Gabriel Garcia Nava, Gerardo Naranjo. (Mexico) – World Premiere. In a tropical seaside village, Marisol pursues personal freedom while navigating between the two men in her life – her lover and her violent cousin who is keeping her captive. With Alejandra Herrera, Noé Hernández, Eduardo Mendizábal. In Spanish with English subtitles.

My Wonderful Wanda (Wanda, mein Wunder), directed by Bettina Oberli, written by Cooky Ziesche, Bettina Oberli. Produced by Lukas Hobi, Reto Schaerli. (Switzerland) – World Premiere. Wanda nurses the patriarch of the wealthy Wegmeister-Gloor family. When an unexpected complication arises, family secrets come to light and arrangements are made to try and appease everyone in this biting family drama. With Agnieszka Grochowska, Marthe Keller, André Jung, Birgit Minichmayr, Jacob Matschenz, Anatole Taubman. In German, Polish with English subtitles.

Nobody Knows I’m Here (Nadie sabe que estoy aquí), directed by Gaspar Antillo, written by Enrique Videla, Josefina Fernández, Gaspar Antillo. Produced by Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín. (Chile) – World Premiere. Memo lives on a remote Chilean sheep farm, hiding a beautiful singing voice from the outside world. A recluse with a glittery flair, he can’t stop dwelling on the past, but what will happen once someone finally listens? With Jorge García, Millaray Paz Lobos García, Luis Gnecco, Alejandro Goic, Gaston Pauls, Eduardo Paxeco. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. A Netflix release.

She Paradise, directed by Maya Cozier, written by Maya Cozier, Melina Brown. Produced by Mishka Brown, Jeniffer Konawal, Kara Baker, Jolene Mendes, Marie-Elena Joseph. (Trinidad and Tobago) – World Premiere. When naïve teenager Sparkle joins a dance crew of confident older girls, she encounters an alluring but unsettling new world of sex and money in this snapshot of sisterhood in Trinidad and Tobago. With Onessa Nestor, Kimberly Crichton, Chelsey Rampersad, Denisia Latchman, Kern Mollineau, Michael Cherrie.

Sublet, directed by Eytan Fox, written by Eytan Fox, Itay Segal. Produced by Gal Uchovsky, Micky Rabinovitz, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery. (Israel, USA) – World Premiere. In this heartwarming latest from Eytan Fox (Yossi), John Benjamin Hickey plays a gay travel writer who trades New York for Tel Aviv, where a charming young man helps him get perspective on his long-term relationship. With John Benjamin Hickey, Niv Nissim, Lihi Kornowski, Miki Kam, Omri Loukas, Tamir Ginsburg. In English, Hebrew with English subtitles.

Tryst with Destiny, directed and written by Prashant Nair. Produced by Manish Mundra. (India, France) – World Premiere. A billionaire learns there is something money can’t buy, a lower-caste couple attempts to build a new life, and a corrupt city cop finds himself far outside of the law in Nair’s slyly biting triptych on class in contemporary India. With Ashish Vidyarthi, Suhasini Mani Ratnam, Viineet Kumar, Kani Kusruti, Jaideep Ahlawat, Palomi Ghosh. In English, Hindi, Telugu with English subtitles.

 

SPOTLIGHT NARRATIVE

Anticipated premieres from acclaimed filmmakers and performers are the focus of the Spotlight Narrative section which continues to be a launching pad for compelling stories.

Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney in “Bad Education” (Photo by JoJo Whilden/HBO)

Bad Education, directed by Cory Finley, written by Mike Makowsky. Produced by Fred Berger, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Oren Moverman, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Mike Makowsky. (USA) – US Premiere. In the wake of an impending embezzlement scandal, a charismatic superintendent struggles to maintain order to keep his high school district prosperous in this energetic dark comedy based on an outrageous true story. With Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan and Ray Romano. An HBO Films release.

Clean, directed by Paul Solet, written by Paul Solet, Adrien Brody. Produced by Daniel Sollinger, Adrien Brody, Paul Solet, Elliot Brody. (USA) – World Premiere. Tormented by a past life, garbage man Clean attempts a life of quiet redemption. But when his good intentions mark him a target of a local crime boss, Clean is forced to reconcile with the violence of his past in this brutal and bloody thrill ride. With Adrien Brody, Glenn Fleshler, Richie Merritt, Ari Chandler-DuPont, Mykelti Williamson, Rza, Michelle Wilson, John Bianco.

Don’t Tell a Soul, directed and written by Alex McAuley. Produced by Merry-Kay Poe. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey’s older brother Matt convinces him to rob a house for their sick mother and security guard Hamby falls in a well chasing them. Now Hamby must match wits with the teenagers in order to get out. With Jack Dylan Grazer, Fionn Whitehead, Rainn Wilson, Mena Suvari.

The God Committee, directed and written by Austin Stark. Produced by Molly Connors, Amanda Bowers, Jonathan Rubenstein, Ari Pinchot, Jane Oster, Bingo Gubelmann, Benji Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere. When a donor heart arrives at a New York City hospital, a committee of doctors and bureaucrats must convene to decide which of three patients deserves the life-saving transplant in this ethically charged medical drama. With Kelsey Grammer, Julia Stiles, Colman Domingo, Janeane Garofalo, Dan Hedaya.

Happily, directed and written by BenDavid Grabinski. Produced by Jack Black, Nancy Leopardi, Ross Kohn, Spencer Berman, BenDavid Grabinski. (USA) – World Premiere. Joel McHale stars in this Jack Black-produced romantic-comedy-thriller about a happily married couple whose friends perform an intervention to put an end to their constant public displays of affection. With Joel McHale, Kerry Bishé, Stephen Root, Natalie Morales, Paul Scheer and Natalie Zea.

Inheritance, directed by Vaughn Stein, written by Matthew Kennedy. Produced by David M. Wulf, Richard Barton Lewis, Arianne Fraser. (USA) – World Premiere. When the patriarch of a wealthy and powerful New York family suddenly dies, his daughter is left with a shocking secret inheritance that challenges her beliefs in justice and threatens to destroy her family’s lives. With Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, Chace Crawford, Patrick Warburton, Michael Beach. A DIRECTV release.

The King of Staten Island, directed by Judd Apatow, written by Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus. Produced by Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel. (USA) – New York Premiere. Judd Apatow directs Staten Island’s own Pete Davidson in this bracing, emotional comedy about a burnout who has to learn to let go of the past and finally grow up. With Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Ricky Velez and Steve Buscemi. A Universal Pictures release.

Love is Love is Love, directed by Eleanor Coppola, written by Eleanor Coppola, Karen Leigh Hopkins. Produced by Anahid Nazarian, Adriana Rotaru. (USA) – World Premiere. Tribeca alum Eleanor Coppola delivers a heartwarming triptych that explores love, infidelity and romance. With Maya Kazan, Joanne Whalley, Chris Messina, Kathy Baker, Marshall Bell, Cybill Shepherd, Rita Wilson, Rosanna Arquette, Polly Draper.

Love Spreads, directed and written by Jamie Adams. Produced by Jamie Adams, Maggie Monteith. (Wales) – World Premiere. Rock band Glass Heart seclude themselves in a remote cottage to find inspiration and energy for their next album. It all hinges on star Kelly, but inspiration won’t come, and tensions start to build. With Alia Shawkat, Eiza Gonzalez, Chanel Cresswell, Nick Helm, Dolly Wells, Tara Lee.

Monday, directed and written by Argyris Papadimitropoulos. Produced by Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Damian Jones, Deanna Barillari. (Greece) – World Premiere. Mikey and Chloe are two Americans living in Athens. Both are romantically unattached when they meet one hot summer Friday. Their instantaneous chemistry leads to a whirlwind weekend and questions about their future when they wake up Monday. With Sebastian Stan, Denise Gough.

My Zoe, directed and written by Julie Delpy. Produced by Malte Grunert, Gabrielle Tana, Andrew Levitas, Julie Delpy, Hubert Caillard, Dominique Boutonnat. (Germany, France) – US Premiere. In this hybrid of drama and science fiction, audiences are treated to director and star Julie Delpy’s newest exploration of modern relationships—here the eternal tie of parent and child. With Julie Delpy, Daniel Brühl, Gemma Arterton, Richard Armitage, Sophia Ally. In English, French, German with English subtitles. A Blue Fox Entertainment release.

Silk Road, directed and written by Tiller Russell. Produced by Stephen Gans, David Hyman, Duncan Montgomery, Alex Orlovsky, Jack Selby. (USA) – World Premiere. Ripped from the headlines, Silk Road captures the birth of the titular darknet marketplace through an elaborate, thrilling cat-and-mouse game between its ambitious creator Ross Ulbricht and a disreputable DEA agent desperate to bring down the millennial kingpin. With Jason Clarke, Nick Robinson, Alexandra Shipp, Katie Aselton, Jimmi Simpson, Paul Walter Hauser.

The Sound of Philadelphia, directed and written by Jeremie Guez. Produced by Aimee Buidine, Julien Madon, David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon, Trevor Matthews, Nick Gordon. (France, Belgium, Netherlands, USA) – World Premiere. Raised as brothers, cousins Peter and Michael are the progeny of Irish hitmen. Thirty years later, both are caught in an endless familial cycle of revenge and destruction. With Matthias Schoenaerts, Joel Kinnaman, Maika Monroe, Paul Schneider, Nicholas Crovetti, Ryan Phillippe.

The Stand-In, directed by Jamie Babbitt, written by Sam Bain. Produced by Tom McNulty, Caddy Vanasirikul, Ember Truesdell, Chris Miller, Brian O’Shea (USA) – World Premiere. Drew Barrymore stars in this comedy about a Hollywood actress who trades places with her enthusiastic stand-in so that she can take a break from the public eye. With Drew Barrymore, Michael Zegen, TJ Miler, Holland Taylor, Charlie Barnett, Ellie Kemper, Andrew Rannells, Lena Dunham.

Stardust, directed by Gabriel Range, written by Christopher Bell, Gabriel Range. Produced by Paul Van Carter, Nick Taussig, Matt Code. (UK) – World Premiere. In 1971, David Bowie embarked on a transformative road trip through America with struggling publicist Rob Oberman. Stardust provides an intimate glimpse into the moments that inspired Bowie to reinvent himself in order to truly become himself: his iconic celestial alter-ego Ziggy Stardust. With Johnny Flynn, Jena Malone, Marc Maron.

The Trip to Greece, directed and written by Michael Winterbottom. Produced by Melissa Parmenter. (UK, Greece) – World Premiere. Back for their fourth cinematic travelogue, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan head out together on a Greek excursion inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey—and, naturally, fueled by sharp-witted banter and the best Werner Herzog impressions imaginable. With Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon. An IFC Films release.

SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY

Documentaries consistently make waves at Tribeca as notable filmmakers and major stories are represented in this section through high-profile premieres.

Bishop Juan Gerardi in “The Art of Political Murder” (Photo courtesy of Prensa Libre)

The Art of Political Murder, directed by Paul Taylor. Produced by Teddy Leifer, Regina K. Scully. (UK) – World Premiere. The shocking murder of human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi in the aftermath of the Guatemalan Civil War sets the ground for a powerful battle between justice and corruption in this political crime thriller Executive Produced by George Clooney. With Francisco Goldman, Ronalth Ochaeta, Claudia Méndez Arriaza, Leopoldo Zeissig, Rubén Chanax, Arturo Aguilar. In English, Spanish with English subtitles. An HBO Documentary Films release.

Athlete A, directed by Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk. Produced by Serin Marshall, Jen Sey, Julie Parker Benello. (USA) – World Premiere. In the riveting Athlete A, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk delve into the world of elite competitive gymnastics and the toxic culture within that allowed sexual abuse to go on for decades unchecked. A Netflix Release. Also playing as part of the ESPN/Tribeca Sports Film Festival.

Banksy Most Wanted, directed and written by Aurélia Rouvier, Laurent Richard, Seamus Haley. Produced by Laurent Richard. (France) – World Premiere. Banksy is a household name, but behind this name hides a multitude of stories, artworks, stunts, political statements and identities, leading to one of the art world’s biggest unanswered questions- who is Banksy? In English, French with English subtitles.

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, directed by Brent Wilson, written by Brent Wilson, Jason Fine. Produced by Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Brent Wilson. (USA) – World Premiere. The Beach Boys’ lead songwriter takes a drive around Los Angeles with Rolling Stone editor and longtime friend Jason Fine in this nonlinear cinematic memoir, as vivid and multifaceted as his music. With Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Sir Elton John, Linda Perry, Jim James, Nick Jonas, Gustavo Dudamel.

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful, directed and written by Gero von Boehm. Produced by Felix von Boehm. (Germany) – World Premiere. Catherine Deneuve, Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour and others give their take on legendary photographer Helmut Newton’s life, art, and legacy, in this portrait of a man who was at once provocative, unconventional, subversive and genius in his depiction of women. With Grace Jones, Sylvia Gobbel, Isabella Rossellini, Anna Wintour, Nadja Auermann, Phyllis Posnick, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Faithfull, Claudia Schiffer, Hanna Schygulla, Carla Sozzani, Arja Toyryla, June Newton.  In English, French, German with English subtitles.

Hydration, directed by Mimi Valdés. Produced by Pharrell Williams, Mimi Valdés, Jerry Kolber, Adam “Tex” Davis. (USA) – World Premiere. Hydration takes audiences backstage and behind the scenes of Pharrell’s ground-breaking Something in the Water festival, using music to bring together his divided hometown of Virginia Beach. Featuring exhilarating live performances by legendary music artists Jay Z, Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani and others. With Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Pusha T, Dave Grohl, Snoop Dogg and more.

Ice Cold, directed by Karam Gill, written by Karam Gill, Nicholas Stafford Briggs. Produced by Peter Scalettar, Carmen Garcia Durazo, Andrew Primavera. (USA) – World Premiere. From Executive Producers Migos & Quality Control, explore one of rap music’s most elaborate forms of personal expression…jewelry. Fans love it; haters only see superficiality. Ice Cold cuts deep into the “bling bling” obsession to examine its often overlooked socioeconomic motivations. With Migos, Lil Yachty, J Balvin, Slick Rick, Ben Baller, ASAP Ferg.

Kubrick by Kubrick (Kubrick par Kubrick), directed and written by Gregory Monro. Produced by Jeremy Zelnik, Martin Laurent. (France) – World Premiere. A rare and transcendent journey into the life and films of the legendary Stanley Kubrick like we’ve never seen before, featuring a treasure trove of unearthed interview recordings from the master himself. In English, French with English subtitles.

Larry Flynt for President, directed by Nadia Szold, written by Nadia Szold, Tchavdar Georgiev. Produced by Ben Browning, Lauren Mekhael, Steven Prince, Ivan Orlic. (USA) – World Premiere. Assembled from never before seen footage shot in 1983, this fascinating film documents controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt’s unlikely bid for the White House after a gunman’s bullet left him partially paralyzed. With Larry Flynt.

Not Going Quietly, directed by Nicholas Bruckman, written by Amanda Roddy, Nicholas Bruckman. Produced by Amanda Roddy. (USA) – World Premiere. An intimate, inspiring look at activist and loving father Ady Barkan, diagnosed with ALS at age 32 and who, in spite of declining physical abilities, embarks on a nationwide campaign for healthcare reform. With Ady Barkan, Rachael King, Elizabeth Jaff, Ana Maria Archila, Nate Smith, Tracey Corder.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, directed by Laura Gabbert. Produced by Steve Robillard, Mohamed Al Rafi, Jeff Frey, Lauren Deuterman. (USA) – World Premiere. Follow celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi as he assembles a star-studded team of the world’s most innovative pastry chefs to put on a Versailles-themed culinary gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With Yotam Ottolenghi, Dominique Ansel, Ghaya Oliveira, Dinara Kasko, Sam Bompas, Janice Wong. In English, French, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian with English subtitles.

Rebuilding Paradise, directed by Ron Howard. Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Xan Parker. (USA) – New York Premiere. Director Ron Howard profiles several survivors of California’s deadliest wildfire who must decide whether to leave or to remain and rebuild in a town that is now on the front lines of the climate crisis. With Woody Culleton, Michelle John, Carly Ingersoll, Matt Gates, Zach Boston. A National Geographic release.

Ricky Powell: The Individualist, directed by Josh Swade, written by Josh Swade, Christopher McGlynn. Produced by Josh Swade, Christopher McGlynn, Eamon O’Neil. (USA) – World Premiere. Ricky Powell boasts a quintessential New York story, rising to fame as a street photographer in the 80’s and 90’s and touring with the Beastie Boys, capturing some of the wildest moments in popular culture. With Ricky Powell, Natasha Lyonne, Debi Mazar, Mike D, Laurence Fishburne, Chuck D, LL Cool J, DMC.

Somebody Up There Likes Me, directed by Mike Figgis. Produced by Peter Worsley, Louis Figgis. (UK) – North American Premiere. A series of intimate conversations with Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, whose extraordinary music career placed him at the forefront of the British R&B explosion to rock ‘n’ roll stardom. With Ronnie Wood, Sally Wood, Imelda May, Damien Hirst, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sir Rod Stewart, Charlie Watts.

Stockton on My Mind, directed by Marc Levin, written by James Lester, Marc Levin. Produced by Marc Levin, Mike Marangu, Cassius Michael Kim, Daphne Pinkerson. (USA) – World Premiere. In 2016, Stanford graduate Michael Tubbs became the youngest and first African-American mayor of Stockton, California. Stockton On My Mind follows Mayor Tubbs through his first term in office as he tirelessly advances his innovative proposals for a city at a turning point. With Mayor Michael Tubbs. An HBO Documentary Films Release.

This Is Paris, directed and written by Alexandra Haggiag Dean. Produced by Aaron Saidman. (USA) – World Premiere. There’s Paris Hilton and there’s “Paris Hilton”, the latter a character created by a teenage girl desperate to escape into a fantasy. Alexandra Dean’s revealing documentary offers the real Paris’ untold story. With Paris Hilton, Kathy Hilton, Nicky Hilton Rothschild. A YouTube Originals release.

Tough Love: The Lennox Lewis Documentary, directed by Rick Lazes, Seth Koch, written by Josh Dubin, Seth Koch. Produced by Chad A. Verdi, Rick Lazes, Nick Koskoff, Tom DeNucci. (USA) – World Premiere. Lennox Lewis’ rise from humble beginnings in the East End of London to the top of the boxing world defied the odds. Using never before seen footage from Lewis’ personal archives, Tough Love: The Lennox Lewis Documentary shines a light on what makes a true champ. With Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Dr. Dre, Nelson Mandela, Emmanuel Steward, Jim Lampley.

Wojnarowicz, directed by Chris McKim. Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Chris McKim. (USA) – World Premiere. A collage-like, incisive look at the life of writer, painter and thinker David Wojnarowicz, whose powerful, unapologetic way of seeing the world gave voice to queer rights at a critical time in US history. With David Wojnarowicz, Fran Lebowitz, Peter Hujar, Kiki Smith, Richard Kern, Nan Goldin, Carlos McCormack.

Yung Lean: In My Head, directed and written by Henrik Burman. Produced by David Herdies & Michael Krotkiewski, Ludvig Andersson. (Sweden) – World Premiere. When a Swedish teen rapper finds a rabid fanbase via the internet, international superstar Yung Lean is born. But as his fame grows, darkness settles in, blurring the line between reality and his own vivid imagination. With Jonatan Leandoer Håstad, Axel Tufvesson, Carl-Mikael Berlander, Benjamin Reichwald, Emilio Fagone, Oskar Ekman.  In English, Russian, Swedish with English subtitles.

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, directed by Muta’Ali, produced by Jevon Frank, Victorious De Costa, Muta’Ali (USA) – World Premiere. In 1989, a black youth was murdered in Brooklyn when he was misidentified as the boyfriend of a local white girl. The aftermath of Yusuf Hawkins’ death exploded into a social movement, exposing racial prejudices that continue to plague us today. With Al Sharpton, Amir Hawkins, Diane Hawkins, Freddy Hawkins, Mayor David Dinkins. An HBO Documentary Film release.

VIEWPOINTS

Viewpoints, which includes narratives and documentaries, recognizes distinct voices in independent filmmaking by creating a home for bold directorial visions and embracing distinct characters or points of view.

Ben Irving in “Giants Being Lonely”

Giants Being Lonely, directed and written by Grear Patterson. Produced by Olmo Schnabel. (USA) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. From lauded mixed-media artist Grear Patterson, this engrossing coming-of-age drama centers around two troubled high-school baseball players — the gifted star-pitcher, Bobby, and the overlooked coach’s son, Adam — as they struggle with sex, love, difficult family dynamics, and teenage isolation. With Jack Irving, Ben Irving, Lily Gavin, Gabe Fazio, Amalia Culp.

A Glitch in the Matrix, directed by Rodney Ascher. Produced by Ross Dinerstein. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Are we living in a simulation? Acclaimed documentarian Rodney Ascher (Room 27, The Nightmare) tackles this question with compelling testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in this engaging journey for the truth.

Harley, directed by Jean-Cosme Delaloye, written by Jean-Cosme Delaloye, Lila Place. Produced by Jean-Cosme Delaloye. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. With inklings of American Movie, Jean-Cosme Delaloye’s Harley stands out as an outrageously entertaining portrait of Harley Breite, a thriving criminal defense lawyer attempting to win over his Dulcinea.

Honeymood, directed and written by Talya Lavie. Produced by Eitan Mansuri, Jonathan Doweck. (Israel) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Following a fight in their honeymoon suite on the night of their wedding, a bride and groom embark on a surreal urban odyssey through the streets of Jerusalem in Tribeca award winner Talya Lavie’s dazzling romantic comedy. With Ran Danker, Avigail Harari. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

I’m No Longer Here (Ya No Estoy Aqui), directed and written by Fernando Frias de la Parra. Produced by Gerardo Gatica, Alberto Muffelmann, Gerry Kim. (Mexico) – US Premiere, Feature Narrative. 17 year old Ulises loves to dance. But when the local cartel mistakenly targets him, he’s forced to flee his home in Mexico, landing alone in the wilds of Queens. With Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño, Bianca Coral Puernte Valenzuela, Jonathan Fernando Espinoza Gamez, Luis Leonardo Zapata, Leonardo Ernesto Garza Ávila, Estefania Judith Tovar Ramirez, Rocio Monserrat Rios Hernandez, Brandon Yahir Alday Vazquez, Yesica Avigail. In Spanish with English subtitles. A Netflix release.

La Llorona, directed and written by Jayro Bustamante. Produced by Jayro Bustamante, Gustavo Matheu. (Guatemala, France) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. As the patriarch of a privileged family stands trial accused of genocide, a new housemaid comes to the house. Her presence unleashes something– is it the pent-up tensions of a family at the breaking point, or does she bring something more sinister with her from the depths of Guatemalan folklore? With María Mercedes Coroy, Sabrina De La Hoz, Margarita Kenéfic, Julio Díaz. In Spanish with English subtitles. A Shudder release.

La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla, directed, written, and produced by Raquel Cepeda. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. While the Bronx burned, Lorine claimed her place as queen of the NYC street gang The Savage Skulls. 40 years later, she examines her impact in the intervening years: as mother, spiritual advisor, activist, and keeper of a controversial legacy. With Lorine Padilla, Elizabeth Maldonado, Senator Luis Sepulveda, Council Member Ritchie Torres.

Looking for a Lady With Fangs and a Moustache, directed and written by Khyentse Norbu. Produced by Max Dipesh Khatri. (Nepal) – US Premiere, Feature Narrative. Plagued by otherworldly visions, a young Nepali musician and entrepreneur is told that he only has one week to live. Norbu’s atmospheric, trancelike fourth feature sees him reckon with his spiritual skepticism. With Tsering Tashi Gyalthang, Tulku Kunzang, Orgen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Tenzin Kunsel, Tulku Ngawang Tenzin, Rabindra Singh Baniya.  In Nepali, Tibetan with English subtitles.

Marvelous and the Black Hole, directed and written by Kate Tsang. Produced by Carolyn Mao. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. A teenage delinquent befriends a surly magician who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. With Miya Cech, Rhea Perlman, Leonardo Nam, Kannon Omachi, Paulina Bugembe,  Keith Powell. TFI Supported.

Miracle Fishing, directed by Miles Hargrove, written by Miles Hargrove, Eric F. Martin. Produced by Eric F. Martin. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. In 1994, Tom Hargrove was kidnapped in Colombia by the FARC. With a $6M ransom price and without support from the authorities, Tom’s wife and sons pick up the phone (and a Video8 camcorder) to negotiate directly with the largest terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere. In English, German, Spanish with English subtitles.

The Outside Story, directed and written by Casimir Nozkowski. Produced by Frank Hall-Green, Brian Newman, Joseph Stephans, Casimir Nozkowski. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Having just broken up with his girlfriend, introverted video editor Charles gets locked out of his apartment, accidentally embarking on a transformative odyssey through his neighborhood. With Brian Tyree Henry, Sunita Mani, Sonequa Martin-Green, Olivia Edward, Asia Kate Dillon, Rebecca Naomi Jones.

P.S. Burn This Letter Please, directed and written by Michael Seligman, Jennifer Tiexiera. Produced by Jennifer Tiexiera, Michael Seligman, Craig Olsen. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. A box found in an abandoned storage unit unearths a time capsule of correspondences from a forgotten era: the underground drag scene in 1950’s New York City. Firsthand accounts and newly discovered footage help cast a long overdue spotlight on the unsung pioneers of drag. With Henry Arango, Michael Alogna, James Bidgood, Robert Bouvard, Terry Noel, Joseph Touchette, Claude Diaz, George Roth, Esther Newton, Joe E. Jeffreys, George Chauncey, Robert Corber, Thomasine Barlett, Michael Henry Adams.

Pacified (Pacificado), directed and written by Paxton Winters. Produced by Paula Linhares, Marcos Tellechea, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Muskat, Paxton Winters. (Brazil) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. Following the violent clean-up and occupation of Brazilian favelas for the Rio Summer Olympics, timid teenager Tati is drawn to the father she’s never met in this layered, vivid portrayal of a world where loyalty to your neighbors comes above all else. With Bukasa Kabengele, Cassia Nascimento, Debora Nascimento, José Loreto, Raphael Logam, Lea Garcia.  In Portuguese with English subtitles.

The State of Texas vs. Melissa, directed by Sabrina Van Tassel. Produced by Isaac Sharry, Sabrina Van Tassel, Philippe de Bourbon. (France) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Melissa Lucio was the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas. For ten years she has been awaiting her fate, and now faces her last appeal. Van Tassel’s urgent documentary is the portrait of a woman against the entire system.

Stateless (Apátrida), directed and written by Michèle Stephenson. Produced by Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, Lea Marin. (USA, Dominican Republic, Haiti) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. In 2013, the Dominican Republic stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, rendering over 200,000 people without nationality, identity or homeland. Stateless explores this complex history and politics through one young woman’s fight to protect the right to citizenship for all people. With Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez, Teofilo Murat, Gladys Feliz. In Creole, Spanish with English subtitles. TFI supported.

Stray, directed and written by Elizabeth Lo. Produced by Elizabeth Lo, Shane Boris. (Turkey, Hong Kong) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Bringing us into the world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul, Stray delivers a deceptively simple and wonderfully touching journey of marginalization and resilience. In Turkish with English subtitles.

Through the Night, directed by Loira Limbal, written by Loira Limbal, Malika Zouhali-Worrall. Produced by Jameka Autry. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. This poignant and intimate documentary examines the emotional toll on families in pursuit of the American dream, told through the lens of a 24-hour daycare center in Westchester, New York. With Delores “Nunu” Hogan, Patrick Hogan, Marisol Valencia, Shanona Tate. In English, Spanish with English subtitles.

MIDNIGHT

Tribeca’s Midnight section provides a space for fans to discover new projects in genre filmmaking.

“Becky”

Becky, directed by Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott, written by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye. Produced by Raphael Margules, JD Lifshitz, Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Russ Posternak. (USA) – World Premiere. Mourning her mother’s death, teenaged Becky doesn’t think she could possibly have a worse time during a lake house trip with her dad. The unexpected arrival of four escaped convicts is about to prove she can. With Kevin James, Joel McHale, Lulu Wilson, Amanda Brugel.

The Boys from County Hell, directed and written by Chris Baugh. Produced by Brendan Mullin, Yvonne Donohoe. (Ireland, UK) – World Premiere. For decades, the residents of Ireland’s Six Mile Hill have traded urban legends about an ancient blood-craving ghoul that sleeps beneath their land. Bad news for the locals: A father-and-son team of pipeline workers have woken it up. With Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, Fra Fee, John Lynch.

The Dark & The Wicked, directed and written by Bryan Bertino. Produced by Bryan Bertino, Adrienne Biddle, Sonny Mallhi, Kevin Matusow. (USA) – World Premiere. On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying.  His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family. With Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley.

Honeydew, directed and written by Devereux Milburn. Produced by Dan Kennedy, Alan Pierson. (USA) – World Premiere. Unfortunately for a young couple on a camping trip, their car broke down in the middle of the night. Even more unfortunate: In hopes of using a phone for help, they’ve stepped foot inside a house of, to put it lightly, very strange horrors. With Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley.

Sputnik, directed by Egor Abramenko, written by Andrei Zolotarev, Oleg Malovichko. Produced by Mikhail Vrubel, Alexander Andryushenko, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Ilya Stewart. (Russia) – World Premiere. The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone—hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature. His only hope: a doctor who’s ready to do whatever it takes to save her patient. With Oksana Akinshina, Peter Fyodorov, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Anton Vasiliev, Pavel Ustinov. In Russian with English subtitles.

MOVIES PLUS

A Tribeca tradition, Movies Plus offers audiences the unique opportunity to continue the experience of a film through buzzworthy conversations or performances after each special screening. Past Movies Plus experiences have included a Sheryl Crow tribute to Linda Ronstadt (2019), the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus performed after the world premiere of Gay Chorus Deep South (2019), and a Broadway-style performance following Bathtubs Over Broadway (2018).

Sean Penn in “Citizen Penn” (Photo courtesy of KTF Films)

Citizen Penn, directed and written by Don Hardy. Produced by Shawn Dailey, Don Hardy. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. On January 12, 2010 a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti altering the landscape and lives of millions. Aid workers from around the globe descended on the island, along with one unlikely leader – actor and filmmaker Sean Penn. With Sean Penn, Ann Lee, Anderson Cooper, Cecile Accilien.

After the Movie: A conversation with director Don Hardy along with Sean Penn and CORE CEO Ann Lee.

Disclosure, directed and written by Sam Feder. Produced by Amy Scholder. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Documentary. Executive Producer Laverne Cox amplifies this study of transgender representation in the media, bringing together trans creatives and activists to deconstruct scenes from cinema through the ages in order to confront our evolving understanding of gender. With Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, Jen Richards, Mj Rodriguez, Chaz Bono.

After the Movie: A conversation led by Laverne Cox (Executive Producer), and Sam Feder (Director) with some very special guests, about the current rise and history of transgender representation in film and television.

Call Your Mother, directed by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady. Produced by Eleanor Galloway. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Comedians’ mothers take center stage in this documentary from the directors Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing (TFF 2006 selection Jesus Camp), a hilarious ode to moms and the way they have shaped the work of some of comedy’s biggest stars. With Louie Anderson, Awkwafina, Jimmy Carr, Bridget Everett, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Gold, Jen Kirkman, Jo Koy, Bobby Lee, The Lucas Brothers, Norm Macdonald, Jim Norton, Tig Notaro, Yvonne Orji, Kristen Schaal, Roy Wood Jr..

After the Movie: A conversation with comedians Bridget Everett, Rachel Feinstein, Judy Gold, Roy Wood Jr. and more.

Don’t Try to Understand: A Year in the Life of Earl “DMX” Simmons, directed by Christopher Frierson. Produced by Clark Slater. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Hip-hop icon DMX returns from a recent stint in prison determined to reignite his career, but his comeback proves ill-fated when faced with the mounting pressures of fatherhood, faith and addiction. This unfiltered documentary presents an intimate glimpse into the man behind the public persona.

After the Movie: A special performance by DMX.

Freedia Got a Gun, directed by Chris McKim. Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Chris McKim. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. After losing her brother to gun violence, New Orleans’ queen of bounce Big Freedia uses her national platform to shine a spotlight on gun reform in this achingly honest and human documentary plea for activism and reform. With Big Freedia.

After the Movie: A conversation with musician Big Freedia, journalist and executive producer Charles Blow, director and producer Chris McKim and producer Randy Barbato.

Fries! The Movie, directed and written by Michael Steed. Produced by Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. To better understand the globe’s obsession with the fried potato, chefs, food scientists, historians and celebrities, including Malcom Gladwell and Chrissy Teigen, take the audience on a joyous and mouth watering journey around the world to delve into everyone’s favorite fried food. With Chrissy Teigen, Malcolm Gladwell, Eric Ripert, Dave Arnold, Harold McGee.

After the Movie: A conversation with cookbook author and model Chrissy Teigen, chef Eric Ripert, Museum of Food and Drink founder Dave Arnold, and director Michael Steed.

The Go-Go’s, directed by Alison Ellwood. Produced by Trevor Birney. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Documentary. Through a wealth of archival material and candid interviews, Director Alison Ellwood takes us on a nostalgic look back at the Go-Go’s rise to fame in the 80s all the way to today, as the band collaborates on new music for the first time in nineteen years. With Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, Jane Wiedlin. A Showtime release.

After the Movie: A special performance by The Go-Go’s.

John Lewis: Good Trouble, directed by Dawn Porter. Produced by Laura Michalchyshyn, Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Using a combination of vérité and archival along with the 80-year old Georgia Congressman’s own words, John Lewis: Good Trouble examines Lewis’ current work and activism, and takes a look back at a lifetime of campaigning for political and social change. A Magnolia Pictures and Participant release.

After the Movie: A conversation with director and producer Dawn Porter and subjects from the film.

Kiss the Ground, directed by Josh Tickell, Rebecca Tickell, written by Josh Tickell, Rebecca Tickell, Johnny O’Hara. Produced by Rebecca Tickell, Josh Tickell, Bill Benenson, Darius Fisher. (USA, France, China, Uganda, Zimbabwe) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. A revolutionary group of activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians band together in a global movement of “Regenerative Agriculture” that could balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world, narrated by Woody Harrelson. With Woody Harrelson, Ian Somerhalder, Gisele Bündchen, Patricia Arquette, David Arquette, Tom Brady, Jason Mraz. In English, French with English subtitles.

After the Movie: A conversation with model and activist and Executive Producer Gisele Bündchen, actor and activist Ian Somerhalder and directors Rebecca Tickell and Josh Tickell.

The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show, directed by Yoruba Richen, written by Yoruba Richen, Valerie Thomas, Elia Gasull Balada. Produced by Valerie Thomas, Joan Walsh. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. While the country was embroiled in a divisive election with racial tensions flaring, civil rights activist Harry Belafonte guest hosted The Tonight Show for one week in 1968 transforming it into a multicultural political experience. With Harry Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg, Questlove, Tamron Hall.

After the Movie: A conversation with Artivist, Producer and Executive Director of Sankofa.org Gina Belafonte, director Yoruba Richen and Producer Joan Walsh. Moderated by Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editorial director and publisher of The Nation.

Truth to Power, directed, written and produced by Garin Hovannisian. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. The Grammy-winning lead singer of System of a Down, Serj Tankian helps to awaken a political revolution on the other side of the world, inspiring Armenia’s struggle for democracy through his music and message. With Serj Tankian, Rick Rubin, Tom Morello, Shavo Odadjian, John Dolmayan, Carla Garapedian.

After the Movie: A special performance by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, accompanied by the NYU Symphony Orchestra.

Underplayed, directed by Stacey Lee. Produced by William Crouse. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. From Delia Derbyshire to Alison Wonderland this inspiring music documentary portrays radical female artists breaking the rhythm of inequality in the electronic music industry and opening doors for the next generation. With Alison Wonderland, Tygapaw, Tokimonsta & Suzanne Ciani.

After the Movie: A World Class performance by iconic Brooklyn artist, Tygapaw, presenting an inspiring interactive vision of electronic music today.

With Drawn Arms, directed by Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi. Produced by Glen Zipper, Sean Stuart. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. At the 1968 Olympics, gold medalist Tommie Smith iconically raised his fist in a symbol of black struggle and solidarity. With Drawn Arms follows Smith as he looks back 50 years to the moment that helped define a movement and changed the course of his life forever.

After the Movie: A conversation with directors Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi, subject Tommie Smith and musician and executive producer John Legend.

TRIBECA CRITICS’ WEEK

In its second year, Tribeca Critics’ Week is a section of the Festival that presents a curated slate of six feature films from New York-based film critics including Eric Kohn (IndieWire), Joshua Rothkopf (film critic), Bilge Ebiri (film critic and editor, New York Magazine/Vulture), Alissa Wilkinson (Vox.com), and Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly).

Christian Bale in “American Psycho” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, Produced by Christian Halsey Solomon, Chris Hanley, Edward R. Pressman. (USA) – Feature Narrative. Twenty years after its debut, Christian Bale’s turn as the murderous NYC yuppie Patrick Bateman has lost none of its simultaneously hilarious and chilling power. With Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas. Join Tribeca and director Mary Harron for a special 20th anniversary screening and conversation.

I Carry You With Me, directed by Heidi Ewing. Written by Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga. Produced by Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing. (USA, Mexico) – New York Premiere. Acclaimed documentarian Heidi Ewing’s narrative debut is a cross-border romantic drama about a gay New York chef reflecting back on his experiences coming of age in Mexico. With Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Raúl Briones, Arcelia Ramírez, Pascacio López, Michelle Gonzáles, Luis Alberti, Yael Tadeo, Nery Arredondo, Alexia Morales. A Sony Pictures Classic Release.

Lux Aeterna, directed and written by Gaspar Noé. Produced by Gary Farkas, Clément Lepoutre, Olivier Muller. (France) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. In the midst of a hectic shooting day, a women-led film set gradually descends into psychological disarray. Singular provocateur Gaspar Noé’s latest sensory experience takes a piercing look at the dark side of the collaborative filmmaking process. With Beatrice Dalle, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Félix Maritaud, Karl Glusman, Clara 3000, Paul Hameline, Luka Isaac. In English, French with English subtitles.

The Nowhere Inn, directed by Bill Benz, written by Carrie Brownstein, St. Vincent. Produced by Carrie Brownstein, Lana Kim, St. Vincent, Jett Steiger. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. What’s meant to be a documentary about St. Vincent’s music career devolves into a mind-bending distortion of reality once the singer hires her best friend as its director. Deliriously warping the mockumentary template, Portlandia veteran Bill Benz’s directorial debut defies genre categorization. With Annie Clark, Carrie Brownstein.

Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker, written by Sarah Gubbins. Produced by Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman, Elisabeth Moss. (USA) – New York Premiere, Feature Narrative. Shirley Jackson, the celebrated author of the iconic 1948 short story The Lottery, is brought to blisteringly sharp life in Josephine Decker’s immersive drama. With Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman. A Neon release.

Sweet Thing, directed and written by Alexandre Rockwell. Produced by Louis Anania, Kenan Baysal, Haley Elizabeth Anderson. (USA) – North American Premiere, Feature Narrative. In this follow up to Rockwell’s acclaimed Little Feet, Billie and her younger brother Nico struggle through adolescence with an alcoholic father and negligent mother. Forced to run away, this band of outsiders find solace in a new friendship. With Will Patton, Karyn Parsons, Lana Rockwell, Nico Rockwell, Jabari Watkins, ML Josepher.

WOMEN AT WORK

What does it mean to be a working woman today? As the question becomes a more urgent part of the cultural conversation, Tribeca has curated a group of documentaries that seek to answer it across industries from sports, science, and law enforcement. These films consider how women in the workplace have struggled and thrived and always gotten the job done.

Frieda Zamba in “Girls Can’t Surf” (Photo courtesy of Frieda Zamba)

Girls Can’t Surf, directed by Christopher Neliusm and written by Christopher Nelius and Julie Anne DeRuvo. Produced by Michaela Perske and Christopher Nelius. (Australia, USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Under the radical glow of Australian sun, peroxide hair and fluorescent surf-shorts, a dark wave of male chauvinism crashed down on 1980’s surf culture. Girls Can’t Surf shares the untold story of pioneering women who surfed against this tide. With Pam Burridge, Lisa Anderson, Wendy Botha, Jodie Cooper, Rochelle Ballard, Pauline Menczer, Jolene Smith, Jorja Smith, Nic Carroll, Jamie Brissick, Ian Cairns, Alisa Schwarzstein, Frieda Zamba. Also playing as part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Picture a Scientist, directed by Ian Cheney, Sharon Shattuck. Produced by Manette Pottle, Ian Cheney, Sharon Shattuck. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. Despite the minimal news coverage, sexual harassment and gender inequality against women are no less prevalent in science than they are in pop culture and corporate America. Picture a Scientist illuminates this uncomfortable truth while also advocating for change.

After the Screening: A conversation with directors Sharon Shattuck, Ian Cheney and groundbreaking scientists and film subjects, Raychelle Burks Ph.D., Jane Willenbring, Ph.D., and Nancy Hopkins Ph.D.. Hosted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Women in Blue, directed and written by Deirdre Fishel. Produced by Beth Levison. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. After a high-profile police shooting rocks the Minneapolis Police department, its first female chief is forced to resign. Women in Blue takes a look at policing in America, as it follows the stories of the women officers who carry on the effort to reform the department and restore trust in the community. With Alice White, Melissa Chiodo, Janée Harteau, Erin Grabosky, Catherine Johnson, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Medaria Arradondo. TFI supported.

FAMILY EVENT

“The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, directed and written by Tim Hill; Story by Tim Hill and Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger; Based on the Series “SpongeBob SquarePants” Created by Stephen Hillenburg. Produced by Ryan Harris. (USA) – Sneak Preview. SpongeBob SquarePants, his best friend Patrick Star and the rest of the gang from Bikini Bottom hit the big screen in the first-ever all CGI SpongeBob motion picture event. After SpongeBob’s beloved pet snail Gary is snail-napped, he and Patrick embark on an epic adventure to The Lost City of Atlantic City to bring Gary home. As they navigate the delights and dangers on this perilous and hilarious rescue mission, SpongeBob and his pals prove there’s nothing stronger than the power of friendship. With Tom Kenny, Awkwafina, Matt Berry, Clancy Brown, Rodger Bumpass, Bill Fagerbakke, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Reggie Watts. A Paramount Pictures release.

2020 JURIED FEATURE FILM AWARDS:

Awards in the three main competition sections — U.S. Narrative, International Narrative, and Documentary Competition — will be determined by a jury and presented in the following categories: Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature; Best International Narrative Feature; Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature; Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature; Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature; Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature; Best Documentary Feature; Best Editing in a Documentary Feature, and Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature.

In addition, the Festival juries will present awards for Best New Narrative Director and The Albert Maysles Award (Best New Documentary Director) for first time feature directors in any section.

Two feature films—one narrative and one documentary—will be selected to receive the Audience Award, the audience choice for best feature film. Films playing in the Competition, Viewpoints, Spotlight, Midnight, Movies Plus, and Tribeca Critics’ Week screenings sections are eligible.

Passes and Tickets for the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival:

All festival passes are on sale now. Ticket Packages are currently available for purchase and will remain on sale until March 8, 2020. Single tickets to attend the Festival go on sale on March 17, 2020. Visit: https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets

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About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, brings visionaries and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, gaming, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. The Festival champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now in its 19th year, the Festival has evolved into a destination for creativity that reimagines the cinematic experience and explores how art can unite communities. The 19th annual edition will take place April 15 – 26, 2020. www.tribecafilm.com/festival.

#Tribeca2020

Twitter: @Tribeca

Instagram: @tribeca

Facebook: facebook.com/Tribeca

About Presenting Sponsor AT&T:

As Presenting Sponsor of the Tribeca Film Festival, AT&T is committed to supporting the Festival and the art of filmmaking through access and innovation, while expanding opportunities to diverse creators around the globe. AT&T helps millions connect to their passions – no matter where they are. This year, AT&T and Tribeca will once again collaborate to give the world access to stories from underrepresented filmmakers that deserve to be seen. AT&T Presents: Untold Stories -an Inclusive Film Program in Collaboration with Tribeca, is a multi-year, multi-tier alliance between AT&T and Tribeca along with the year-round nonprofit Tribeca Film Institute.

About the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Partners:

The Tribeca Film Festival is pleased to announce its 2020 Partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), BVLGARI, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Diageo, ESPN, HBO, Montefiore, National CineMedia (NCM), New York Magazine, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, P&G, PwC, Spring Studios New York, and Squarespace.

Review: ‘The Invisible Man’ (2020), starring Elisabeth Moss

February 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Elisabeth Moss in “The Invisible Man” (Photo by Mark Rogers/Universal Pictures)

“The Invisible Man” (2020)

Directed by Leigh Whannell

Culture Representation: Taking place in San Francisco, this reimagination of the 1933 horror classic “The Invisible Man” is a modern, female-oriented revamp, with a cast of white and African American characters who mostly represent the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A woman who escapes from an abusive boyfriend must convince people around her that he faked his suicide, found a way to become invisible, and is now out to get his revenge on her.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal to horror fans who are looking for a well-acted suspenseful film that has an underlying but not preachy message about social issues, such as stalking and domestic abuse.

Aldis Hodge, Elisabeth Moss and Storm Reid in “The Invisible Man” (Photo by Mark Rogers/Universal Pictures)

It might seem hard to believe, but there’s a horror-movie remake that actually isn’t an embarrassment to the original film. The 2020 version of “The Invisible Man” takes the original 1993 “The Invisible Man” movie (which was based on the H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel) and makes it an almost entirely different film by telling the story from the perspective of the Invisible Man’s girlfriend.

The 1933 version of “The Invisible Man” was about a mad scientist in England named Dr. Jack Griffin (played by Claude Rains), who discovers a drug that makes him become invisible, and he goes on a killing spree in a sinister plot to take over the world. In the 2020 version of “The Invisible Man,” the title character is Adrian Griffin (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a high-tech millionaire whose specialty is in optics. And for most of the movie, viewers don’t know much about him because his girlfriend Cecilia Kass (played by Elisabeth Moss) is front and center of the story.

At the beginning of the film, Cecilia is shown sneaking out of the bed she shares with Adrian at his oceanside mansion, which has an elaborate video surveillance system in place. The house also has a section that looks like a high-tech lab, with computers and mysterious body suits. Based on what’s shown in the next suspenseful 10 minutes, Cecilia has been planning this escape for quite some time. Cecilia has drugged Adrian, disabled the video surveillance, and packed the necessary items to leave Adrian for good.

There are a few scary close calls in Cecilia’s escape plan, but with the help of her younger sister Emily (played by Harriet Dyer), who drives the getaway car, Cecilia leaves Adrian behind with a mixture of relief and panic. Knowing that Adrian will look for Cecilia at Emily’s place, Cecilia hides out at the house of her close friend James Lanier (played by Aldis Hodge), who’s a cop and a single father to teenage daughter Sydney (played by Storm Reid), an aspiring fashion designer.

In the first two weeks after the escape, Cecilia is so traumatized that she acts like a recently released prisoner of war who’s become agoraphobic. Walking out of the house to the mailbox is big progress for her. It’s while she’s away from Adrian that Cecilia finally confesses to Emily and James the real reason why she has to take drastic measures to hide from Adrian. During Cecilia’s relationship with Adrian, he became more and more controlling and abusive. He would tell her what to do, when to eat, and what to think. And if she didn’t comply with his demands, he would hit her or do “something worse,” says Cecilia.

Cecilia is still afraid to come out of hiding, but then Emily (who’s an attorney) brings her some unexpected news: Adrian is dead of an apparent suicide, which has been reported by the local media. Not long afterward, Emily and Cecilia have a meeting with Adrian’s lawyer brother Tom Griffin (played by Michael Dorman), who is the executor of Adrian’s will. Tom tells them that Adrian left $5 million to Cecilia, on the condition that she’s proven to be mentally stable and she doesn’t get arrested for anything.

Feeling like the world’s weight has been lifted off of her shoulders, Cecilia starts to come out of her shell. As a gift, she gives $10,000 to Sydney so she can go to Parsons School of Design, and Cecilia promises more tuition money if Sydney wants to go to grad school. Cecilia also decides to resume her interrupted career as an architect, and she starts interviewing for jobs to re-enter her chosen profession.

But odd things happen during Cecilia’s job interview at an architect firm. The work samples that she had in a portfolio are not there when she opens up her portfolio. And then she passes out during the interview.

Other strange things keep happening. While cooking something in a frying pan, Cecilia briefly leaves the room and comes back to find the frying pan in flames, and it almost nearly causes a serious fire in the house. And then one night, Cecilia wakes up to find the blanket at the foot of the bed, and she sees a footprint on the blanket.

All of these  incidents might be explained away with logical reasons, but what sets Cecilia over the edge is when a prescription bottle, which she accidentally dropped during her escape from Adrian, shows up in her possession with a bloody fingerprint on it. Cecilia is convinced that it’s a sign from Adrian that he’s still alive, he’s invisible, and he’s taunting her. And things do indeed get much, much worse for Cecilia, as people around her question her sanity and she’s accused of something that could land her in prison for a very long time.

The 2020 version of “The Invisible Man” was written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who wrote the first two “Saw” movies and who created the “Insidious” franchise. (He’s written all of the “Insidious” movies so far.) “The Invisible Man” is his third movie as a director. It’s clear that he learned a lot from writing and directing the 2018 stunt-heavy film horror film “Upgrade,” because “The Invisible Man” has some heart-pounding stunts when people are fighting the Invisible Man.

Whannell’s “The Invisible Man” doesn’t rely too heavily on a lot of violence and gore for scares. (Although there is some bloody violence that will make people squirm.) Some of the most suspenseful moments in the film are the quietest moments or the claustrophobic moments, such as when Cecilia does some snooping in an attic where her invisible abuser might be hiding.

As the tortured Cecilia, Moss gives an excellent performance in making her an entirely believable character who might be losing her grip on her sanity. Hodge and Reid also give admirable performances by adding realistic emotional layers to what could have been generic supporting roles.

While a lot of modern horror films have been using hand-held camera techniques to induce scares, Whannell and cinematographer Stefan Duscio have gone against this trend by framing many of the shots with steady overhead angles, which make the scenes more terrifying. It’s why the 2020 version of “The Invisible Man” is the type of horror movie that should be seen on as big of a screen as possible.

The above-average acting and the modern reimagination of this classic horror story make up for the fact that “The Invisible Man” has some plot holes, especially with unrealistic police techniques and procedures. However, these minor flaws shouldn’t take too much away from the film.

“The Invisible Man” is the first of a series of remakes of Universal Pictures monster movies that Universal has assigned to Blumhouse Productions, whose specialty is horror, with franchises such as “The Purge” and “Insidious.” Universal’s classic monster movies include “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Mummy,” “The Wolf Man” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Let’s hope that these remakes will continue what this version of “The Invisible Man” started, by bringing fresh ideas without tarnishing the quality of the original story.

Universal Pictures released “The Invisible Man” in U.S. cinemas on February 28, 2020.

UPDATE: Because of the widespread coronavirus-related closures of movie theaters worldwide, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has moved up the VOD release of “The Invisible Man” to March 20, 2020.

Review: ‘Brahms: The Boy II,’ starring Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman and Christopher Convery

February 21, 2020

by Carla Hay

Katie Holmes in “Brahms: The Boy II” (Photo courtesy of STX)

“Brahms: The Boy II” 

Directed by William Brent Bell

Culture Representation: Taking place in England, the horror sequel “Brahms: The Boy II” has a predominantly white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A family with a troubled past moves to a new home and finds a doll that seems to be wreaking havoc on their lives.

Culture Audience: “Brahms: The Boy II” will appeal mostly to horror fans who like stories that aren’t too gory and follow a predictable formula.

Owain Yeoman, Katie Holmes and Christopher Convery star in “Brahms: The Boy II” (Photo courtesy of STX)

Around the time that Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2013 horror blockbuster “The Conjuring” became a hit that spawned sequels and the “Annabelle” spinoffs, independent film company STX decided it wanted to have its own horror franchise about an evil doll. Instead of a female doll, it would be a male doll. The result was 2016’s “The Boy,” a laughable stinker that made $64 million worldwide on a $10 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo. Apparently, the profit margin was good enough that STX went ahead with this slightly better but still terrible sequel “Brahms: The Boy II,” which is one of many disappointing horror films that have been released in 2020.

You don’t have to see “The Boy” to know what’s going on in “Brahms: The Boy II,” which were both directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear. In “The Boy,” American nanny Greta Evans (played by Lauren Cohan), who’s living in England, is hired by wealthy elderly couple Mr. and Mrs. Wheelshire (played by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) to take care of their underage son Brahms, only to find out that the boy is really a doll. The doll is named after the couple’s real-life son Brahms, who is said to have died under mysterious circumstances several years before. Greta thinks the job is weird, but she stays because she needs the money.

Slowly but surely, she finds out that not only can the doll move on its own, but strange things also start happening around the house, which is an isolated mansion in the woods. (Of course it is.) Even when she finds out that the doll is probably possessed by an evil spirit, she stays and starts to feel oddly protective of the doll. Family secrets are revealed, and there’s a plot twist/showdown that ranks as one of the most ludicrous in horror movies of the 2010s.

What happened in “The Boy” is referenced in “Brahms: The Boy II” with an update on something involving the plot twist at the end of the first movie. What makes “Brahms: The Boy II” a slight improvement over its predecessor is that the people’s reactions to the sinister doll are much more realistic. However, the movie’s screenplay is utterly predictable, using many of the same tropes and plot devices as dozens of other horror flicks about “fill in the blank” being possessed by an evil spirit.

In “Brahms: The Boy II,” housewife Liza (played by Katie Holmes) is an American living in London with her British businessman husband Sean (played by Owain Yeoman) and their son Jude (played by Christopher Convery), who has an American accent. (The movie doesn’t say how long this family has been living in England.) Sean’s work requires him to often be away from home, where Liza homeschools Jude.

One night, while Sean is away on business, two masked and armed intruders break into the home and attack Liza, while Jude witnesses the whole thing and can only stand by helplessly. The crime has been so traumatizing that Liza becomes depressed and distant from Sean, and Jude becomes mute. Jude’s therapist Dr. Lawrence (played by Anjali Jay) says that it’s unknown if Jude will speak again, but his chances of speaking again will increase if his parents create a positive environment and keep encouraging him to speak.

In an effort to start a new life, Liza agrees to Sean’s idea that the family move to the country. They choose a guest house on a vast property in the woods. On their first day in their new home, the family is walking in the woods when Jude finds a boy doll buried under a pile of leaves. The doll is buried with a list of 10 typewritten rules that include instructions that the doll cannot be left alone.

When Jude shows Liza and Sean the doll, they don’t say too much about it, because during the family’s walk in the woods, they’ve discovered the main house, which is a deserted mansion. Sean and Liza marvel at the mansion from the outside (even though it’s obviously in a state of neglect) and say they wish they could live there instead of the guest house.

Back at the guest house, Liza cleans up the doll and notices that it’s been broken before and put back together. Jude has immediately latched on to the doll and carries it with him wherever he goes. When Sean asks Jude what the doll’s name is, mute Jude (who communicates in writing) says the doll’s name is Brahms. How did Jude come up with that name? Jude says that doll told him that his name is Brahms. Although Sean privately admits to Liza that the doll is creepy, he and Liza both think that Jude could use it as a therapy doll that could help Jude to talk again.

Shortly after the family’s arrival, they meet the groundskeeper Joseph, nicknamed Joe (played by Ralph Ineson), and his German Shepherd named Oz. The dog immediately begins growling at the sight of the doll. Of course, the family doesn’t think anything of it and assumes that it’s the animal’s natural reaction to a strange-looking toy.

Meanwhile, when Jude is alone, he goes back out in the woods and finds a wardrobe with more of the doll’s clothes buried in the same area where he found the doll. Why did Jude go back in the woods to find this wardrobe? Brahms told him to do it.

Jude’s insistence in treating the doll like a real person who talks to him reaches a point where Brahms gets his own seat and meals at the dining table when the family eats together. Under other circumstances, the parents would look crazy for making these accommodations, but the story at least made it believable that these parents are so desperate for their son to talk again that they’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen, even if it means pretending that the doll is their son’s imaginary friend. Because the stakes are higher for the family in the movie (compared to a nanny who can just quit the job), it’s easier to see why the parents want take a chance by keeping the doll, if they think that it will help their son.

After Jude discovers a creepy doll mask (which is part of “The Boy” movie) and puts it on, he begins talking again, much to the delight of his parents. But his attachment to Brahms becomes even more disturbing when he tells his parents that they can never leave Brahms alone.

Meanwhile, strange things start happening. Joe’s dog Oz has disappeared. Liza notices that when she’s alone with the doll, it appears to move from one place to another when she’s not looking. It’s déjà vu to what the nanny experienced with the same doll in “The Boy.”

Feeling isolated and increasingly fearful, Liza invites a female British relative and her husband and their underage children for a visit. The relative’s kids are a bullying son and a pleasant younger daughter. When the bully begins taunting Jude over his attachment to Brahms and starts calling Jude crazy, let’s just say that things don’t go well for anyone who tries to hurt Brahms.

The cast of actors do a satisfactory job with the script that they’ve been given. The angelic-looking Convery is well-cast as Jude, since he’s able to portray the horror of an innocent soul being overtaken by evil. However, the way he looks is so similar to the Damien Thorn character in 1976’s “The Omen” that it’s bound to get comparisons.

The biggest problem with “Brahms: The Boy II” is that there is almost nothing in the movie that is fresh or original. It’s easy to know how the movie is going to end once secrets are revealed. The scares in the movie aren’t too gory, because the terror is more psychological and about what you don’t see instead of what you do see.

The ending has a few grotesque images that just look kind of freaky instead of truly terrifying. Although the screenplay and acting of “Brahms: The Boy II” are superior to “The Boy,” the movie still lazily wallows in overused clichés. And, like most horror flicks, it leaves open the possibility for a sequel. You’ve been warned.

STX released “Brahms: The Boy II” in U.S. cinemas on February 21, 2020.