JULY 27 — As a big fan and champion of the indie horror scene, I'm always on the lookout for interesting new films to check out, either based on the track record of the directors/actors or an interesting-sounding premise.
So even in the middle of the summer movie season, I'll still be doing my deep dives into the world of indie and low budget genre movies, in the hope of discovering the next great indie/low budget genre sensation.
This week's bunch of movies is quite varied, some very recent and some not so, but all quite comfortably under the radar enough to not register with most casual moviegoers.
So if you're of the more movie-curious kind, you'll probably find something interesting enough to check out here.
This one's been on my radar courtesy of the fact that its director Kimo Stamboel is one half of The Mo Brothers, the demented and bloodthirsty directing team responsible for the glorious bloodbaths in films like Rumah Dara, Killers and Headshot.
The team's other half, Timo Tjahjanto, has already made a name for himself with his solo films Sebelum Iblis Menjemput and the Netflix hit The Night Comes For Us, so it's only natural to expect that kind of excellence from his directing partner.
Sadly, despite the film's excellent technical merits (like good cinematography, lighting, special effects etc), even Kimo's proven track record with The Mo Brothers can't disguise the fact that Dreadout, a film adaptation of a popular survival horror video game made by Bandung-based studio Digital Happiness, is a total dud.
It tells the story of a group of teenagers with a hunger for online popularity, who have chosen to try and achieve that by doing a "live" streaming session at a reputedly haunted location.
As most of these films tend to play out, the kids then get their comeuppance for their disrespect as they accidentally opened a portal to another world, and then get to meet the ghostly and horrific villains of the film.
The painfully clunky dialogue, cringe-worthy characters and wholly predictable scenario make matters even worse, and despite some visually impressive scare scenes, the whole movie is just a bore to me.
I've long been a fanboy of Scott Adkins, the unsung should-be-superstar of the martial arts movie world, with a track record that reads like the best of the best of direct-to-video (DTV) movies which includes films like Ninja 2: Shadow Of A Tear, Undisputed 2, Undisputed 3 and Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning, so you can bet that I'll watch any new film he stars in, anytime!
So far he's headlined two new films this year (not including Triple Threat, because that's more of an ensemble film), Abduction being the other one, but Avengement, directed by DTV's current "it" auteur, Jesse V. Johnson (who also directed Triple Threat and previous Adkins films like Savage Dog and Accident Man) is quite simply a wonderful fight flick gem.
Creatively set in a pub for a majority of its running time, Avengement is a revenge movie, where the hero Cain is betrayed, after agreeing to help his gangster brother do a "simple" job, and the whole movie is about his quest to avenge the situation he finds himself in.
Unlike most fight flicks though, there's an emotional core here that makes Cain's predicament so involving for the viewer, which I won't reveal much so as not to spoil the film for you.
I'll just say that a mother is involved. And it's the script's strength in this department (alongside the absolutely solid acting) that elevates the movie to probably being in the DTV movie hall of fame alongside the aforementioned Adkins movies. Emotionally and viscerally satisfying, this is one of Adkins' best.
Critically acclaimed as one of the year's best genre movies, I guess it's better to let you know upfront that this is not your standard apocalypse movie, even if there is some kind of end of the world situation unfolding here.
If there's a recent movie comparable to this, it's the French movie The Night Eats The World, in which a guy wakes up one morning only to find that the whole of Paris has fallen victim to a zombie apocalypse.
The similarity comes in the form of the film's languid pace, with the first 20 minutes of Starfish dedicated solely to putting the viewers inside the protagonist Aubrey's head; she happens to be grieving the death of her close friend.
Waking up the next morning to no electricity, snow that wasn't there before and then encounters with alien-looking creatures, the mystery deepens when she finds out about the existence of secret frequencies buried in hidden mixtapes, that supposedly opened "doors" that led to the creatures roaming our world, and the mystery just keeps on piling up all the way towards the film's abstract, and quite clearly 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired ending.
A melancholic and cosmic journey that's not going to be for everyone, if you can imagine an abstract, trippy version of lo-fi sci-fi gems like Another Earth and I Origins, and think it sounds appealing, then you might just like this one.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.