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New Releases for Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Among Them

Genre: Thriller

Directed by: Kevin James Barry

Run time: 89 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Video-on-Demand

The Lowdown: Among Them, an independent thriller initially released in 2018, is getting a do-over courtesy of Cinema Epoch, with a second release on streaming platforms.

The film, the sophomore effort by director/co-writer Kevin James Barry, is ambitious as eff and opens with a nice homage to Quentin Tarantino when Barry chooses not to show the mechanics of a bank robbery gone awry.

Among Them, instead, waits until the trio of criminals are about to make a getaway before leaping into the fray.

Barry sets up his movie early on, and you understand quickly that Among Them is going to live or die, rise or fail, depending on how the audience takes to its core trio, bank robbers Harry (Jonathan Thomson) and Mick (Dan Liebman) and unexpected hostage Sydney (Evalena Marie, who co-wrote the script).

And, for a time, Among Them soars. When Harry and Mick discover Sydney in the trunk of their rental car, where no one should be, it’s a wild curveball that sets up a number of interesting avenues for the plot to explore.

Barry quickly introduces a supernatural element, as well, as all three core characters start experiencing strange visions where an unknown assailant means to do them harm.

Unfortunately, neither Barry nor Marie know what to do with the soup once they’ve added all the ingredients.

While all three characters have distinct traits – Harry is the stoic, doesn’t get rattled guy, Mick is the impetuous one and Sydney seems perfectly content to be a hostage for them both – Among Them doesn’t bother taking the time to provide any reason or backstory for any of them to help viewers get attached.

A perfect example of this is how the film doesn’t even bother to explain how Sydney came to be in the trunk, or why she doesn’t feel threatened at all around bad, bad men.

The supernatural elements are handled even worse. Are they dead or dying and stuck in some weird purgatory? Is their mysterious client who ordered the robbery dabbling in black arts? If all three are having visions, why aren’t they talking about them, especially when they keep escalating?

For a short movie, Among Them drags and drags. Every time Harry and Mick leave Sydney alone, they come back to find her knocked out, hogtied or stuffed under the bed. And still no one does anything productive to get out of their shit spiral.

The biggest complaint about Among Them has to be the ending, which just…ends…with no answers, no explanations, just a bunch of mystical hoodoo imagery suggesting that the film you just watched was somehow really profound when in fact it was just a swing and a miss.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – Brief. Gore – Minimal.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Is it the bank robbers or the crazy mad scientists?

Buy/Rent – Neither.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Arrow Video, 96 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): In our darkest hour, we should all pray to goddess to bless Cassandra Peterson.

I shudder to think what life might have been like if we had grown up in a world without Peterson’s alter-ego, Elvira.

How many young, impressionable goth girls would have come of age in the 1980s and not known it was okay to push back on sexism and misogyny, whether in the workplace, school or the nightclub, without having Peterson/Elvira there to cheer them on.

Yes, I know, there’s only so much a make-believe hostess of subpar B-grade horror movies should be able to do, but damn if Peterson didn’t always try.

And that’s the big takeaway I got when watching Peterson’s first big-screen, leading lady role in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Even today, 32 years after its debut, Mistress of the Dark stands remarkably tall because of its script co-written by Peterson that sticks a thumb in the eye of male superiority at every turn.

Also Available:

The Rhythm Section (Paramount Pictures, 109 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Click here to see our review in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Guns Akimbo (Saban Films, 98 minutes, R, Video-on-Demand): Click here to read our review in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Not to be Overlooked:

The Zombinator (BayView Entertainment, 82 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Originally released in 2012, the so-amateur-it’s-awesome DIY horror gem, The Zombinator, is basically how I imagine my first movie would turn out.

It’s cheesier than Wisconsin and populated by a wonderful cast of unknowns who seem to be completely ad-libbing their dialogue.

The premise, for lack of a better word, is that while filming a fashion documentary in Youngstown, Ohio, a group of college students at a wake for a friend are suddenly thrust into the middle of a full-on pandemic of the undead.

Even at a slight 83 minutes, The Zombinator doesn’t always move with the quick pace fans might hope. The film by writer-director Sergio Myers bogs down whenever he tries to pivot back to the appearance of a plot, but boy howdy, some of the situations he comes up with are a genuine riot.

For example, after narrowly escaping the first zombie attack, the core group of friends reconvenes and decides to seek shelter in a Catholic school building. Only as soon as they enter, the group suddenly discovers a deep stairwell that takes them to an underground railroad. And then, if that wasn’t enough, they stumble across a gaggle of paranormal researchers waiting patiently in the dark to prove that zombies exist. And they’ve brought two chain-smoking priests to help ward off evil!

You can’t make this shit up.

If you long for the days when DIY VHS films were all the rage, then you’re going to devour The Zombinator now that it’s finally streaming on most major VOD platforms.

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