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    “REWIND THIS!” (SXSW Movie Review)

    Partway through director Josh Johnson’s VHS doc,  Alamo Drafthouse programmer Lars Nilsen explains, in his summation, culture hasn’t yet reflected on the impact of the dead (or not so) format. That impact, when looked at historically is where REWIND THIS! shines. Filmmakers like Frank Henenlotter, Charles Band, JR Bookwalter and Roy Frumkes (who very humorously hates the format), whose movies lived and found audiences on VHS, offer fantastic context and insight on being at the forefront. Anecdotes about shining to tapes before studios and the early days of sell-through prices make for great stories, while arguments about just what VHS did for low budgets, both on the distribution and filmmaking ends, are just a few buzz words away from sounding incredibly similar to the current pro-talk for digital revolution.

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    “HOLY GHOST PEOPLE” (SXSW Movie Review)

    While not exactly the type of film where one ends up asking themselves just who the title refers to (that line is drawn pretty clearly), there is a unifying trait in the entire ensemble of Mitchell Altieri’s thriller HOLY GHOST PEOPLE. The past haunts, and subsequently seems to catch up no matter how deep you embed yourself in something else; be it snake-handling backwoods church, be it isolation, be it alcohol, be it whatever it is you can sell yourself.

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    “SANITARIUM” (Miami International Film Festival World Premiere Movie Review)

    Midway through the artfully rendered horror anthology film SANITARIUM, Dr. Henry Stenson—a fourth-wall smashing psych ward headmaster/tour guide portrayed with typical sinister-civil aplomb by Malcolm McDowell—confides in we, the audience, the following distillation of his life’s work: “The mind is unbelievably resilient. It can create whole entire fantasies to protect us from reality and blind us from the truth…The more unpleasant the truth, the more potent the fantasy.”

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    “EVIL DEAD” (SXSW Movie Review)

    More often than not, when the name EVIL DEAD is invoked (like the nefarious, blood-scrawled writings in the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis), it’s actually shorthand for the more maniacally funny EVIL DEAD II, writer-director Sam Raimi’s nutty 1987 horror landmark that served as both polished sequel and camped-up remake of his equally beloved 1981 debut The EVIL DEAD. Both films have similar setups, as soon-to-be-cult-hero Bruce Campbell and others visit a remote cabin in the woods and accidentally unleash a demonic force, which takes turns possessing and transforming its victims into absurdist, homicidal caricatures of Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST. Though the original film’s budget was only a fraction of its successor, the franchise’s hardcore fans know its ratio of horror-to-comedy errs more on the side of unnerving terror, its grisliest sequence depicting a young woman raped by the forest itself.

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    “CHEAP THRILLS” (SXSW Movie Review)

    While there’s nary a viral video to be found in CHEAP THRILLS, the film is imbued with the culture of now (maybe always) and the fact that despite pleas for peace, we as humans enjoy seeing each other embarrassed  devalued and crushed. It’s inherent in reality television and 30 second fail videos, transcends friendships and class, and extends right to the 1% who have so much that the only true entertainment left is the indignities of others.

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    “THE LAST EXORCISM PART II” (Movie Review)

    THE LAST EXORCISM PART II is the second contradictorily titled sequel to come out in as many months, after THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT II: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA. I’m not the first to ask whether this means the original now has to be called THE SECOND-TO-LAST EXORCISM, and I probably won’t be the last to say the first should have remained the only.

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    “6 SOULS” (Movie Review)

    One could argue that the goal for any horror or thriller filmmaker is to keep the audience, at the very least, figuring out the story’s twists and turns alongside the protagonist. As wonderful as it is for genre films to stay one step ahead of the audience, ensuring that any surprises along the way are surprising at all, the mechanisms by which suspenseful films run—tension between characters, atmosphere and gradual revelation of story—can still work well when viewers encounter the dread and shock at the same pace as the hero they have invested in.

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    “RUBBERNECK” (Movie Review)

    As news stories about sociopaths whose actions seem unfathomable continue to permeate the media, perhaps it’s inevitable that thrillers concerned more with examining the devolution of their antiheroes’ minds than with the violence of their deeds should become a minitrend. This week’s example, RUBBERNECK, particularly foregrounds character over action, and cerebral thrills over the visceral kind.

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    “DARK SKIES” (Movie Review)

    The title of and ad campaign for DARK SKIES, not to mention an opening quotation from science-fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke, almost feel like miscalculations. The movie develops a decently teasing sense of mystery in its first half that can only be diluted by foreknowledge of what’s going on.

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    “WARM BODIES” (Movie Review)

    To address the most obvious question first: Yes, WARM BODIES is better than the TWILIGHT movies. For one thing, its undead hero has been conceived as a zombie first and a romantic hero second, not the other way around, though it does go on to spin the mythology in ways that benefit the latter.

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    “THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA” (Movie Review)

    The most unwieldy sequel title in a while indicates that the movie is not really a sequel at all. While this and the original THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT are based on a pair of Discovery Channel documentary features, the new movie has nothing to do with Connecticut or the events that took place there—and the association is rather unfortunate, since in some ways GHOSTS OF GEORGIA is superior to its predecessor.

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