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New Releases for Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dread Central Presents: Nina Forever/Imitation Girl

Genre: Horror

Directed by: Ben and Chris Blaine

Run time: 98 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Not since 2011’s Bellflower has a movie about young love been so brazenly unafraid to bask in the thorough mess of it all – the joy and euphoria, the lust, the self-doubt, the lying and the utter devastation that doomed romance spawns.

And, it’s a safe bet that anyone reading a synopsis of Nina Forever might feel afraid to even press play on the Blu-Ray.

After all, this is a movie that begins with a failed suicide and launches straight into a bloody, gory good ménage-a-trois between lovesick Rob (Cian Barry), free spirit Holly (Abigail Hardingham) and Rob’s decaying and quite dead ex-girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy).

That’s right, Nina Forever is that movie, the film that isn’t afraid to document the good kind of necrophilia.

But Nina Forever is about so much more than the titillating tease of watching two people have fantastic sex next to a corpse who can only lie there and roll her eyes, cough up gore and provide scathing commentary because she’s no longer the center of attention.

In fact, it’s quite possibly one of the darkest yet most poignant meditations on the human heart in quite some time, if not ever.

After Nina’s death, Rob just wanders through life, often erupting in fits at the bland and joyless supermarket where he works. He spends an inordinate amount of time with Nina’s parents, a pained expression permanently fixed on his face, despite their insistence that he move on and let Nina go.

They don’t really mean that, though. They’re just as lost as Rob, which explains why they nearly fall apart when he finally introduces them to Holly, an enchanting ginger who’s barely past her 19th birthday. In Holly’s eyes, any man willing to take his own life because he can’t fathom an existence without his true love is a man worth risking everything for, if only for the chance he might feel that way about her too.

The why and how of Nina’s very existence despite her death reveals even deeper layers of the human condition. Is she haunting Rob, or Holly? And why would anyone knowingly and willingly invite her to burrow into their heart?

Nina Forever is finally getting a proper U.S. release nearly three years after it debuted overseas, and all the thanks go to Epic Pictures for wisely packaging the film as a double feature under its Dread Central Presents distribution banner, along with Imitation Girl, an equally heartbreaking and insightful look at humanity, which stars the luminous Lauren Ashley Carter.

Better still, this double feature is actually one of three new Blu-Rays now available from Dread Central Presents, along with Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight and Vidar the Vampire and The Monster Project and #Screamers.

Nina Forever is a rare achievement and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. The same holds true for both Imitation Girl and Vidar the Vampire. The other films are worthwhile, just not nearly as strong, but still worthy of a viewing.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Oh yes!

Nudity – Gratuitous Gore – Gratuitous

Drug use – No

Bad Guys/Killers – Young love.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

The Gifted: Season 1 (Fox, 569 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Who knew that the best post-X-Men experience would come courtesy of The Gifted, a wildly inventive comic book/family drama mash-up from Fox that stormed network television starting last year.

Everything works in the first season, from the steady, guiding presence of parents Stephen “Vampire Bill” Moyer and Amy Acker to the authentic sibling bickering of Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White) Strucker.

Each of the main mutants is clearly defined and fleshed out, including Eclipse (Sean Teale) and Lorna/Polaris (Emma Dumont) and Thunderbird (Blair Redford) and Blink (Jamie Chung), and the special effects are impressive and smartly used for maximum impact.

9-1-1 – Season One (Fox, 437 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Proving there is no genre that they can’t master, Ryan Murphy, Tim Minear and Brad Falchuk took a conventional procedural about police and fire-rescue first-responders and goosed it with genuine emotion, relatable human dynamics and some of the best, edge-of-your-seat 9-1-1 emergency calls imaginable. 9-1-1 was not only a breakout show from the 2017-18 fall television season, but an immediate must-see viewing appointment every week.

Exorcist II: The Heretic – Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, 117 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Truth be told, I had never seen Exorcist II: The Heretic, the 1977 sequel to the scariest movie ever made (confession – I’ve never actually seen The Exorcist from beginning to end in one sitting, either), but the John Boorman-directed follow-up, which he shot four years before his masterpiece, Excalibur, is memorable not for its scares, but its fearless plunge into the crazy. How else would one approach a sequel to an instant classic like The Exorcist?

The [REC] Collection (Shout! Factory, 335 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): In 2007, two Spanish directors set out to do the impossible, to create a found-footage zombie thriller that both avoided the pitfalls of that subgenre and scared the shit out of viewers.

What Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza came up with, [Rec], not only reinvigorated zombie cinema and found-footage films, but it launched one of the best horror franchises of all time.

If you’ve never seen the [Rec] series of four loosely interconnected films, Shout! Factory has wisely packaged them all together in this impressive boxed set. Come for the original, if only to marvel at the fuckery that became the inevitable U.S. remake, but stay for the crème-de-la-crème, the zenith of the series, [Rec] 3: Genesis, which transforms a wedding party into the ultimate fight for survival, and becomes one of the best, most tragic horror love stories of modern cinema.

Don’t Open Your Eyes (Screen Media Films, 105 minutes, Unrated, DVD): I owe myself $10 after watching Don’t Open Your Eyes, the debut chiller from writer-director Dmitry Yun.

In one of the first scenes of Yun’s film about a home-health nurse named John (Tom Kemnitz Jr.), who agrees to substitute for a colleague, Annie (Jamie Carroll), to care for a terminally-ill elderly woman named Agnes (Gergana Mellin), John announces that Agnes’ home reminds him of a place he visited as a child.

I immediately wrote in my notes: $10 that comes back later.

Revealing a key plot point isn’t a spoiler when it’s so clearly telegraphed, but most of Don’t Open Your Eyes almost seems to be working in opposition to its premise. Yun’s film is methodical to a fault, unspooling in chapters that don’t offer enough to advance the plot or set the stage for eerie bumps in the night to come. In fact, it takes more than 45 minutes for Agnes to have a burst of clarity where she provides an even more pivotal plot point, and the movie still drags its feet.

Suffice to say, one or more of the three main characters is not who or what they appear to be, but it takes way too long to get to the creepy, including some genuinely unsettling flourishes that Yun handles well.

Is Don’t Open Your Eyes worth the effort it requires of viewers? Personally, I would say no, but there could be a case made by fans of Hammer-style gothic chillers who might argue that a slow burn is more satisfying than a raging bonfire.

Also Available:

Circle of Dust – Full Circle: The Birth, Death & Rebirth of Circle of Dust

Records Collecting Dust II

Power Rangers: Chojin Sentai Jetman: The Complete Series

The Bride

All Styles

The Day of the Jackal

The Baby

Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town

Scarlet Diva: Collector’s Edition

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Strange Nature (Ojala Productions, 100 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Writer-director James Ojala’s debut feature, Strange Nature, would have benefited from a lot more strange in telling its tale of a local community being poisoned by a company contaminating the water, which in turn creates monstrously abnormal creatures.

But, as it is, Strange Nature is still a watchable, often engaging, exercise in low-fi environmental horror that features an interesting subplot about the main heroine’s past exploits as a wannabe ‘80s pop star and yet another solid supporting turn from co-star, and genre icon, Stephen Tobolowsky.

Head Count (Godmother Industries, 90 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Head Count, an uneven yet engaging new sci-fi thriller, recently debuted at the LA Film Festival and is now making its way to streaming platforms.

The first film from director Elle Callahan opens with a wonderful quote about the Hisji, a fictional mythical entity similar to a Djinn: A HISJI is a vengeful thing, five times its name you never sing, with skin pale white and eyes of green, it’s something you’ve already seen.

Head Count is the story of Evan (Issac Jay), who is traveling to Joshua Tree to visit his new-age-y brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe), despite there clearly being a strain to their family bonds. They go on a hike and encounter a group of friends, mostly couples, with one lone single girl, Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan).

Evan and Zoe hit it off, so much so that he tells Peyton to go back home and he will see him in the morning. Zoe’s friends have rented a remote cottage and that night, they sit outside playing a game of campfire stories for the digital age. Essentially, everyone takes turns picking a random website on a smart phone to read an urban legend or other creepy story from out loud.

Evan chooses the Hisji, and he reads a poem aloud that sounds awfully close to an incantation. Little does he know, he’s basically sealed their fate. The Hisji, it turns out, can mimic the appearance of anyone. Before long, lots of strange shite starts happening.

Callahan gets major kudos for nailing multiple jolts that completely catch viewers cold when you suddenly realize that a character who has been talking at length might not be the person you believed them to be.

For anyone who saw the wonderful 2013 sci-fi chiller, Coherence, you know just how unsettling the idea and the imagery of multiple versions of one person can be.

Head Count meanders a bit much to fully stick its landing, but boy howdy, those early, unexpected shocks bode well for Callahan’s future as a filmmaker.

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