I Can See You (9/10)

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Doug, Richards, and Kimble are three scruffy young men trying to start a new ad agency in NYC. Doug’s girlfriend, Sonia, has scored them a gig with her employer, big-time cleaning product manufacturer Clara Clean, whose products may or may not be involved in ecological damage and de-forestation. Suffering from a lack of clarity in both their artistic vision and their stock photos, the three men decide that camping in the woods to get back to nature is just the ticket, so they head out of town, Sonia in tow, to the countryside where Richards grew up. Once there, Richards attempts to take some photos of nature’s grandeur, but the photos are marred by mysterious wisps of smoke, which seem to be invisible to the naked eye. That night, some old friends of Richards are invited to the camp for a barbecue, and he hooks up with his old flame, Summer Day. The next day, Doug and Summer disappear after a swim, which leads Richards to fear the worst. When Doug shows up that night without Summer and with a bad case of the crazies, things really go bonkers.

So, this movie is about as good as mini-micro-budget filmmaking can get, which, turns out, is pretty goddamn good. This thing starts out weird, and gets to be positively batshit crazy by the end. Nevertheless, it is consistently compelling, and features some genuinely creepy and jarring visuals and editing. The acting is better than one might expect at this price-point (including a great performance from indie guru and producer Larry Fessenden in a small but pivotal role), and the lack of production value really only adds to the lo-fi nuthouse vibe. The whole thing is reminiscent of something you might find in the “weird part of YouTube”, but holds up surprisingly well as a feature-length film. I really don’t want to say anything more about it, so just go watch it.

Hold Your Breath (6/10)

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Opening scene: It’s the 1950s and a sadistic serial killer is about to be executed for his crimes. Some shit happens, he kills a couple of guards and almost escapes, before finally being fried in the electric chair.

Cut to: Some young’uns are going camping and lock their cellphones up in the van’s glovebox (could this possibly be relevant later?!!!) As they drive past a cemetary, one of the girls says everyone should hold their breath because spirits might be roaming around and get sucked in as they drive passed. She says this is a thing, but nobody else in the movie has ever heard of it, but of course it must be a thing. Everyone reluctantly agrees, but the pot-smoking dudebro coughs on his pipe and ends up sucking in the serial killer’s spirit, dooming everyone to a horrible, painful, and somewhat entertaining death.

So, first, when Katrina Bowden is only the second-hottest chick in the movie, you’re in good shape babe-wise. The hottest chick seems to be dressed like Lara Croft for some reason, but I’m good with that. Later she is naked in a completely gratuitous (best kind, obviously) sex scene. There’s also some other nice boobs. Plot is bog-standard but executed (heh) well enough. Worth a watch for boobage and a couple of silly but impressive death gags. I gotta knock it for too much CGI gore though, that shit just don’t look right.

Solo (7/10)

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New-school take on an old-school formula. A teenage girl who has suffered some sort of trauma involving water takes a job as a counselor at a lakeside kids’ camp, presumably as a way to face her inner demons or some such. As a new counselor, she is required to do a “solo” – two nights camping on her own on an island away from the others. But is she really alone?

So this is another entry in the “survival horror” genre, as the girl faces off against a threat on the island. Ultimately, the success or failure of a movie of this sort boils down to two things: Is the threat credible and interesting, and does the protagonist make reasonable choices to combat or avoid the threat? Yes, and yes. It’s also very lean, moving the story along with little exposition, while still establishing the characters well enough that you can understand their motivations and have at least some concern about their survival. Overall, not the most original story, but very watchable and well made, and with at least a couple of interesting new ideas. No boobs though.