“Indie” Horror Films

Here is a bit of irony for ya: as much as I despise reality programming, especially shows like “Survivor” and “Fear Factor,” I so do tend to enjoy when films use it as fodder for a storyline. Media fascinates me, in a Marshal McLuhan/Neil Postman/Jacques Ellul sort of way. Mixing reality television with social media? Even more better.”Reminiscence Streaming

Postman famously posited that media such as television (and hence computers) is served best when it is mere entertainment and minimal on education. Entertainment as distraction is nothing new, as even the Roman Empire knew about “bread and circuses.” This Swedish/British Columbia, Canada-filmed release definitely leans in that direction. While the overarching premise is not novel in the horror genre, people fighting for their lives for the entertainment of others – recently in films about, say, Escape Rooms – the addition of Reality Programing gives it a nice twist.”Zone 414 Streaming

A rich and sadistic man (think Jeffrey Epstein-type [alleged]) that tends to tilt his head to the side, Nero (Jerome Velinsky), who as no moral compass and is willing to pay people large sums to do dastardly things, puts together an online reality show titled “Furcus’ House of Fun” (aka “Funhouse”). He gathers a group of eight attractive mix-gendered (but no LGBQ) C-Level has-beens from around the world for what they think is a “Big Brother” or “Survivor” kind of show for a prize of USD$5 million, but it ends up the latter program is more literal than figurative.

The central character is Kasper (Valter Skarsgård), a Swedish man whose claim to fame is that he was married to a pop star who, like the others – a nice touch is that most of the actors are actually from the countries they represent – arrives in a house in an undisclosed location with no memory of how they got there (after they had signed the contract). They all have different colored shirts to make it easy to identify by the world-wide web audience. The rest include the likes of an Influencer, Mixed Martial Arts fighter, a model, and a one-hit wonder singer, for example.”Snake Eyes Streaming

At first, it is all fun and games as the contestants (someone uses the word “dysfunctional”) get to know each other, make out, sing karaoke, go into the hot tub, drink a lot of alcohol, and be served by people dressed in odd Panda masks (the animal is the logo of the program). There is even the old “confession booth” they all must enter and try to win the favor of the audience, who votes out whomever they choose every three days, though it gets progressively quicker. And this is where events get dicey. Of course, they are being filmed 24/7.”The Tomorrow War 2021 Streaming

The first act of about 20 minutes, helps the film’s viewers to both get to understand the premise framework of the show, and also sets up some background to the characters. When you have eight of them, it is easy to just see them as fodder for the violence to come, but this way we can get to know and either like or dislike them. There are some friendships made and some rivalries (a memorable quote: “People like me…bitch.”). This will make it more emotional as shit hits the fan into the second act when the blood begins to flow in challenges that take on an elaborate, almost Saw franchise fashion. It also kind of reminds me of Cube (1997).”Le Bal des folles 2021 Streaming

Again, as a student of media, I find it equally fascinating when the story focuses on the audience, the “Perez Hilton” kind of snarky webcasts making puns about deaths (e.g., “How can you take selfies without arms?”), and the CNN type of newscasts and interviews. As each kill naturally gets more gruesome, in some ways, like Dog Bites Man! (1992), it puts the film viewer as a participant in the action similar to the web show’s audience. Are we sitting there enjoying the painful killing of this octet, one by one? Most likely, yes. You know there are going to be those who sit in front of their large HD screens and pump fists screaming “yes!” while the other hand holds the beer (or popcorn).

Yes, I realize that this is not reality, but does it inoculate us to real violence? That is a question that has seriously been asked in modern cinema since at least the 1980s (remember the “Video Nasties” situation in England, and the PMRC in the States?). I have no opinion one way or another, as I enjoy these kinds of films, but I also like to look at the sociological aspects, as well.”Kate 2021 Streaming

The Head Panda gives a twisted but accurate description of what society considers entertainment, amusingly using the Kardashians as an example of decline. But, as I said above, it predates that. Just look how many copies of the Faces of Death VHS sold (or was rented), and is even discussed now on many genre chat boards. On those very chat boards, people often request suggestions for the bloodiest, goriest, and most disturbing releases. Yes, I agree that there is a difference between reality and cinema magic, but shows like those I mentioned above, like “Fear Factor,” “Survivor,” and even those like “The Bachelor,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Housewives of (Wherever),” and that nasty recent Ellen DeGeneres’ “Ellen’s Games of Games, has helped make violence and social interactions into entertainment. While meta-commentary in the film is explicit, it is also not preachy and stays off the soapbox, unlike my annotation.”Prey 2021 Streaming

And speaking of cinematic magic, the SFX is damn fine here if that is your thing, as it is mine. Lots of violence, torture (not in a focused, body horror kind of way), and missing or separated body parts. The acting in the film, for the most part, is quite good, with the standouts being Cat (Amanda House, aka musician Mandy Mouse) and especially scene stealer Nevin (Dayleigh Nelson, playing a Brit, but is from British Columbia).”Chaos Walking 2021 Streaming

My complaints are minimal and twofold: first, it was a tad long though the pacing of the kills is nicely distributed once they start; second, I found the sex scene later on a bit unbelievable considering both the circumstances and the conversation that preceded it. But both of these were not enough to take away from the story, which had more than a couple of interesting twists and turns to keep up the attention and enjoyment level. As for the social observations, well in this case, it actually adds to the story rather than bogging it down. This is a competent and fun thrill ride by sophomore feature filmmaker Lee.”Black Island 2021 Streaming

Note: Sweet Girl 2021 Streaming

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