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New Releases for Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Night Sitter

Genre: Horror

Directed by: Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco

Run time: 88 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Video-on-Demand

The Lowdown: The Night Sitter is a perfect example of why genre fans love movies.

The new film from co-writers/co-directors Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco is fantastically fresh, frequently hysterical and packed with some unbelievable practical effects courtesy of Ben Rittenhouse.

The film opens as Amber (Elyse Dufour) arrives for a babysitting gig with a widowed father, Ted Hooper (Joe Walz) and his young son Kevin (Jack Champion).

Hooper is a self-proclaimed paranormal expert who is trying to shoot enough footage to convince a production company to green-light a reality show about him and his adventures.

He’s also kind of a douche. He tries to ply Amber, who is underage, with booze before his date arrives with her own kid, Ronnie, for Amber to watch as well.

The one rule, the only rule, is that Kevin and Ronnie are not allowed inside Hooper’s locked office where he keeps a host of supernatural artifacts that he’s collected.

Suffice to say, before the night is over, Hooper’s office will be breached and a triumvirate of witches called the Three Mothers will be trying to catch, kill and eat the two boys to satiate their hunger for prepubescent flesh.

On its surface, The Night Sitter probably sounds a lot like a movie you think you’ve seen before, and to a degree, you’d be right. But here’s what distinguishes this film from its contemporaries.

Amber is one of the few female anti-heroes we’ve seen in a role like this. On the surface, she’s a grifter simply looking to take advantage of unsuspecting parents willing to trust their children alone in their home with a stranger.

But as The Night Sitter advances, Amber undergoes a significant metamorphosis, in large part because of her bond with Kevin.

That bond also is thoroughly explored in a way that most horror films rarely take the time to do. Amber and Kevin’s long talks about goodness and duality are both insightful and intelligent.

The Three Mothers are actually scary, not to mention alluring, enticing and altogether formidable.

The special effects work by Rittenhouse is truly a step above and beyond anything you’ve come to expect from a lower-budget, independent film like this.

And, finally, the big reveal in the relentless third act is incredibly effective, not to mention surprising.

I almost wanted to restart the film and watch it all over again as soon as it ended. That doesn’t happen often.

Do yourself a favor and put The Night Sitter at or near the top of your must-see list. You will not be disappointed.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Elyse Dufour is smoking hot.

Nudity – No. Gore – Yes.

Drug use – Yes.

Bad Guys/Killers – The Three Mothers.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

Luz (Screen Media, 70 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Luz is unlike any demonic possession film you’ve ever seen.

Luz is intoxicating, like a strong drink that goes down so smooth that before you realize what’s happening, you’re drunk and feeling all wobbly.

Luz is electrifying, like the first time you actually moved your hand past a girl’s (or guy’s) knee and started for the promised land. Remember how your heart sped up and your head got swimmy, yet, somehow, you fought past the rush of anticipation long enough for your expectation to be finally rewarded.

Luz is the cinematic representation of both literal and supernatural possession and the complete and total mind-fuck of hypnosis, displayed and weaponized in a way to show just how little control we truly have.

For just over an hour, Luz will take you on a breakneck sprint through familiar and yet foreign genre tropes, offering unexpected and horrific glimpses of the demon that resides in all of our hearts.

This is the arthouse equivalent of a drive-in masterpiece, packed with intelligent and provocative filmmaking choices that force you to reexamine and reconsider everything you thought you knew about this particular subgenre of horror.

Take out advice, seek it out, strap yourself in and get ready. You’re in for one hell of a wild ride.

Night Hunter (Saban Films, 98 minutes, R, Video-on-Demand): Ever since 1995’s Se7en, there has been literally no end to the number of films that have tried and failed (some spectacularly) to emulate David Fincher’s masterpiece.

Night Hunter, the feature-length debut of writer-director David Raymond, gets closer to the mark than most, even if it still pales by comparison once the credits roll.

Night Hunter is the story of a serial killer who captures and tortures young women. it's also the story of a grieving father (Ben Kingsley) who uses a young woman as bait to lure, torture and blackmail pedophiles. And it's the story of a gruff homicide detective (Henry Cavill) who sucks at being a father but excels at hunting down the worst of society.

If you watch closely, you’ll easily pick out the various films that inspired Raymond, from Se7en to The Silence of the Lambs to Raising Cain. Usually, that might detract from the viewing experience, but Night Hunter, despite its flaws, chugs along at a decent clip, sidestepping plot holes and allowing several scenes of stark and inspired carnage to distract the audience from any hint of intellectual theft.

It’s not the greatest serial killer thriller you’ve ever seen, but Night Hunter is a surprisingly engaging one, and much better than other, recent offerings.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros., 104 minutes, PG, 4K Ultra HD): In all fairness, Pokémon Detective Pikachu really should have been titled, How Much Do I Love Ryan Reynolds, because truthfully, that is the only bellwether that matters if you are going to make it through this movie until the bitter end.

Unless you know a lot about Pokémon, that is. If I knew the first fucking thing about Pokémon, I would probably have been geeking out the entire time.

Alas, that’s not my jam, but I do like Reynolds, so I waded into the Detective Pikachu waters without fear.

The film is basically a neo-noir told through the prism of a videogame where everybody is in on the joke. Pokémon and humans live side-by-side, mostly in peace.

The early-goings are like a sugar-high for kids and adults who love the characters who populate the Pokémon world. For everyone else, ie me, the early-goings of the film felt more like sadomasochism. It tickled at first, then it hurt. A lot.

That’s where Reynolds comes in, his voice like a soothing balm, taking away the candy-colored kaleidoscope of pain. Not every joke lands, but when they do, it’s like Reynolds is sitting right in your lap, firing off one wry zinger after another.

Is that enough to justify a feature-length film? Probably not, but if you’re watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu for the actual characters and story, you don’t care anyway.

The Curse of La Llorona (Warner Bros., 93 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): I’ve got to be honest, while I appreciate the shared multiverse that has grown since the debut of 2013’s The Conjuring, not every entry in this continuing franchise has hit the horror bullseye for me, and The Curse of La Llorona, while extremely admirable for finally exploring folklore from another country, is just not very scary at all.

Deep Murder (Screen Media, 95 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Very few films truly surprise me these days, but Deep Murder, man oh man, this one caught me on the right day at the right time because I absolutely loved it.

Essentially a parody of soft-core Cinemax thrillers AND slasher films, Deep Murder is effing hysterical throughout. Seriously, I haven’t laughed this hard or this genuinely in a long time. The screenplay is incredibly smart and ridiculously loaded with a consistent barrage of one-liners.

Even better, the acting is far and above what you’ve come to expect from a low-budget comedy. Every actor gives their all, fully committing to the zany antics and eccentric quirks of their individual characters.

One recurring gag that never gets old throughout is when random people show up, unannounced, porn-style. Imagine the “sexy” firefighter who wants to see if you need his hose, or the “horny” pizza delivery driver who wants to make sure you enjoy all your pie.

If you like silly, but super smart, comedy, then Deep Murder needs to be on your radar right now.

Also Available:

Batman: Hush

Alice, Sweet Alice

CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015

Penguin Highway

What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space

Charlie Says

Amazing Grace


Now on Video-on-Demand:

D-Railed (Uncork’d Entertainment, 90 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): There are two things you need to know about D-Railed, the latest thriller from director Dale Fabrigar, who previously co-helmed the 2012 found-footage dinosaur thriller Area 407 (which was a total mess, FYI).

Actually, these are aren’t two things you need to know, but two big questions you will be asking yourself at the end of this water-logged ghost story-hybrid.

One, why the fuck is there a sea creature in a period-specific railroad heist film?

Two, why the fuck is Lance Henriksen in this movie for all of about 60 seconds of total screen time and less than three lines of dialogue?

Wicked Witches (Midnight Releasing, 79 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Wicked Witches is a short movie that feels like an interminably long film about a coven of strange creatures that I think might be witch-vampire hybrids that keep a group of young men hostage to feed off of their spirit and their flesh.

I can’t really say that I enjoyed it, but I can say I finished it, and that in and of itself felt like work.

Perception (Gravitas Ventures, 102 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): It’s possible that Perception, the new thriller (and feature debut) from director Ilana Rein is simply smarter than me.

Or maybe I’m just jaded and I’ve seen this kind of set-up in too many movies before.

Perception is the tale of a widower who discovers a young boy trying to stow away in his car, and who returns the boy to his mother, who is a local psychic reader.

Psychic mom immediately picks up on two things: One, the guy, Daniel (Wes Ramsey), is a selfish dick whose wife passed away. And two, he’s got a lot of disposable income and the psychic just so happens to need an influx of cash to care for her family.

When she reads Daniel, however, something else, something darker takes center stage. His wife’s spirit is still attached to him, trapped by the painful memories of their tumultuous marriage.

Daniel doesn’t like hearing about those memories, so the psychic offers to do more. For $10,000, she will channel Daniel’s wife’s spirit and become a vessel so he can speak to her once more.

Do you see where this is going?

Rein does some channeling of her own, calling to mind the lurid, pulpy thrillers of Brian De Palma, which is not a bad thing, at all.

I just wanted more – more story, more action, more creepy paranormal early on, and when that didn’t happen, I honestly lost interest before finding out how Daniel’s predicament resolved.

Every Time I Die (Gravitas Ventures, 98 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): I have a rule when watching new movies, and it’s born of the fact that I have to watch a lot of effing movies.

If a feature film doesn’t hook me in the first half hour, I’m usually not going to stick around until the bitter end.

Every Time I Die, the debut feature from director/co-writer Robi Michael, is a curious genre effort that I really, really wanted to become invested in, if only because it seemed to be an interesting hybrid of Memento and your garden variety reincarnation flick where the main protagonist keeps blacking out only to wake up after some horrible event has occurred.

Sam (Drew Fonteiro) has issues. One, his girlfriend Mia (Melissa Macedo) is actually in a committed relationship. And, two, he keeps having these strange seizure episodes where he wakes up in different locations in new clothes almost as if he’s a different person.

Sam, Mia, her military boyfriend and a bunch of their collective friends end up at a birthday retreat at a cabin in the woods and Sam just can’t help but be that guy whenever he’s around her. Plus, his episodes seem to be getting worse.

As if that wasn’t enough to try and figure out, Michael also throws in some flashbacks, some weird totem items and an unsettling backstory that hints at Sam being a more sinister creepster than he appears.

Again, all good. I can work with this set-up. But then Every Time I Die just spins its wheels, or more accurately, just drags its plot out to the point that by the 40-minute mark, you have absolutely zero fucking idea what’s going on.

And that’s about the time that I moved on.

It’s hard for me to offer a recommendation since I have no idea how Every Time I Die stitches its disparate plot points together in the end, but I can say this – it’s interesting enough that if you’re a fan of sci-fi mind-screws that leave you asking more questions than the movie provides answers, you absolutely may want to check it out.

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