Category: Movies

We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet.  They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Lection and Shed.

Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.

 

**

 

Low-budget movies tend to come in two distinct categories: watchable and unwatchable. Today, we take a look at two movies released this year by South Carolina filmmaker David Axe.

One is quite watchable and the other, well … you guessed it.

 

Lection

 

 

Lection has probably the least amount of dialogue since 1928 – the year they stopped making silent movies (more or less). The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which two casualties are the spoken word and the written word. “Election” becomes “lection,” “vote” becomes “vot.” Conversation becomes nearly non-existent.

A third casualty is the movie’s wardrobe department, which can happen when your budget is a mere $25,000 and the amateur cast is encouraged to wear their Saturday-afternoon shabbies. Hey, it’s OK though, because this is the (extremely) casual, dystopian future.

Anyway, a rag-tag group of survivors has split into two factions fighting for more bread. Or rather, “mor bred.” One faction is led by a sexy young black woman (Sanethia Dresch). The other group is led by a grumpy old white man. You can probably guess which side wins.

 

(Above right, actress Sanethia Dresch’s shapely backside; more about that below)

 

I’ll credit writer-director David Axe with this: His story is ambitious. It wants to explore the societal division between haves and have-nots. The problem is the movie’s execution. (I’m reminded of football coach John McKay’s rejoinder when asked what he thought of his team’s execution: “I’m in favor of it.”)

A major problem with Lection is its lack of dialogue. No speaking means long, long, long stretches of deadly dull footage in which nothing much happens. In this case, less is not more.

To watch the trailer for Lection, click here.

 

Shed

 

(Above, Mike Amason in Shed)

 

Compared to Lection, a lot happens in Shed (not to be confused with The Shed, another 2019 premiere), an Axe production that features many of the same actors from Lection but in a much more entertaining movie. Unlike Lection, Shed is a watchable mess.

It’s a bit of a throwback to 1980s schlock, but Axe has a few things going for him: His musical soundtrack is distinctive and surreal; and the man certainly has visual flair. Many of Axe’s shots are clever.

But mostly, Shed is enjoyable on a guilty-pleasure level. If you like gore, there is that. If you like gratuitous nudity, there is plenty of that. There are even moments that reminded me of – in a good way – Blade Runner. And if you enjoy hammy performances, here we have Lection’s Mike Amason (pictured above) in another villainous role.

The plot involves some mumbo-jumbo about an unhuman species that traversed the Atlantic hundreds of years ago, and which must kill humans in order to inhabit their skins. Events are frequently incomprehensible, but the film is never dull. Axe’s musical score, his pacing, some over-the-top performances, and the striking visuals ensure the movie’s entertainment value.

To watch the trailer for Shed, click here.

 

**

 

The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Actress (and Her Shapely Derriere)

 

 

One thing Lection and Shed have in common is actress Sanethia Dresch, who stars in the former and provides support in the latter. She is a bright spot in both films. We tried to interview her.

After initially agreeing to do the interview, she did not reply to the actual questions. We’re guessing she might not have cared for our third query:

“Most of the reviews of Shed mention the “threesome scene” early in the movie. Can you take us through what it’s like to film a scene like that? It was a very dark scene (at least on my computer), but it appears that you are nude in it – were you? Was that difficult?”

Or perhaps she was scared off by the mention of Rip van Dinkle:

“When I get your replies, I might have some follow-up questions. Also, we have a humor columnist named Rip van Dinkle who wants to ask you a couple questions. I’ll forward them to you after I receive your replies to this interview.”

Can’t really blame her for that. Dinkle scares off most people.

Or, as director Axe told us: “She’s not always very responsive.”

Anyway … there seems to be some dispute about the aforementioned threesome scene (it’s mentioned in pretty much every review). For one thing, the actress who plays “Kahlan” (Caley Fleming) apparently used a body double (Courtney Busby) for the simulated sex — although the close-up shots below certainly seem to be of Fleming:

 

 

Then there is the third member of the horny trio, “Morgan” (Dresch), who joins in the bedroom fun. Axe told us: “To be fair, she (Dresch) wasn’t actually nude in that threesome. It just very briefly looked that way. The nudity in that scene mostly was the result of clever editing.”

Hmmm. That piqued our curiosity, and so because we have way too much free time, we lightened the (very dark) scene.

We suppose there could be a merkin involved, but these certainly look like bare butt cheeks to us:

 

Before:

 

 

After:

 

 

In the shots above, Morgan (Dresch) enacts a fantasy she earlier described to Kahlan (Fleming): “I’ve been dreaming … Gauge (Gauge Santiago, the dude above) is always there … I want you, too: your mouth, your tits, your cunt, your skin. And Gauge — his hands, his cock.”

Apparently some dreams do come true.

 

(Fleming, left, and Dresch discussing … uh, maybe Gauge?)

 

 

Sanethia Dresch

 

 

.                   grouchyeditor.com Dresch

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(Click on photos for a larger view)

 

 

 

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Bonus Trivia

 

Shooting Shed was apparently quite the experience. Director-writer-editor-photographer Axe includes this statement in the end credits: “An amateur cast and crew made Shed for $25,000 in Columbia and Eastover, South Carolina in late 2018 … during a hurricane. A bunch of actors and crew quit during production.”

And then there is this from Axe in an on-line interview:

 

 

Can’t say the actresses weren’t warned about Shed’s nude scenes. Here is the casting call:

 

 

Speaking of nudity, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention actress Emilia Olga’s (“Caley”) eye-catching full-frontal shower scene:

 

Olga All Dressed Up:

 

 

Olga All Undressed:

 

 

Just for fun, here is a blink-and-you-miss-it skin shot when Morgan’s cheerleader skirt flies up as she runs through the woods:

 

 

In case you are beginning to wonder if we have a fetish about Sanethia’s fanny, well, we aren’t the only ones. Check out this clip from her YouTube page and a shot from her Instagram:

 

 

 

The “End”

 

 

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Burning

grouchyeditor.com Burning

 

Until its ending, which I thought was unnecessarily ambiguous, Burning felt like a Korean version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. A young man (Ah-in Yoo) falls in love with a free-spirited girl (Jong-seo Jun) in the first half of the film and then, after the girl vanishes, he spends the second half engaged in an obsessive search that leads to some very dark places. But until that abrupt and unsatisfying ending, the movie is compelling and filled with haunting images. Release: 2018  Grade: B+

 

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Dolemite Is My Name

 

I’m old enough to remember when Eddie Murphy burst upon the American scene in movies like 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop and, of course, on TV’s Saturday Night Live. It was a dynamic time for Murphy and for his audience, because we hadn’t seen anything quite like him.

So it’s a bit melancholic to see middle-aged Eddie in Dolemite Is My Name, sporting a pot belly and lacking that brash, youthful energy of days gone by. But Murphy retains some of that spark, and in Dolemite he’s given a role that leaves behind fat suits and haunted houses in favor of some depth. Alas, the story of 1970s comedian-turned-movie-“auteur” Rudy Ray Moore is oh-so-familiar and predictable. It’s in the same ballpark as Ed Wood and The Disaster Artist, but not quite as good. Release: 2019 Grade: B-

 

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Mandy Kaplan (see sidebar) and Johnny Giacalone play a married couple experiencing the seven-year-itch – scratch that; seven-year-itch implies pining for new romantic partners. What these two have is more like “it’s-been-seven-years-and-nothing-about-you-lights-my-fire.”

After consulting with a marriage counselor, Nick and Willa embark on a 30-day program to spice up their love life. The program, however, is less Hallmark and more Hamster.com. Anyone game for anal sex?

 

 

Pros:  Although the film is raunchy, at heart it’s old fashioned and feel-good. The two leads are likable, which they pretty much have to be in a movie like this, and several of the supporting characters are a hoot. A few scenes are flat-out hilarious.

Cons:  The tone is often peculiar. 30 Nights mixes a Disney-movie sensibility with hard-core interludes. Sometimes this works because the contrast is so stark that it tickles. (Remember watching “June Cleaver” speak jive in Airplane!? Imagine June and Ward experimenting with anal sex, instead.) At other times this tonal juxtaposition just feels … off. I mean, golden showers in a feel-good comedy?

But there are several laugh-out-loud scenes, which is a tough find in 2019.   Grade:  C+

 

 

Director: Tom Metz III  Cast: Mandy Kaplan, Johnny Giacalone, Dan Fogler, Katie Walder Release: 2018

 

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Walking Out

 

I have a weakness for movies like this one. You know: wilderness movies with hungry bears, or deep-sea movies with dead-eyed sharks. That’s because, unlike most sci-fi and horror films, these scary stories could really happen. To you. Or to me. Walking Out, in which a father and his teenage son encounter peril in the Montana mountains, does well with its survival elements. On the downside, although Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins are believable as dad and son, their on-screen chemistry left me a bit cold. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

**

 

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

 

Whenever a studio announces plans for a movie version of a beloved TV show, the hope, at least among fans of the series, is that the movie version will be bigger and better. Bigger budget = better experience. There is good news and bad news about Netflix’s two-hour revival of the classic Breaking Bad. The bad news?  The movie, which follows the trajectory of young Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the death of Walter White, is no better than the series. The good news? The movie is just as good as the series – and you don’t get any better than that. Release: 2019 Grade: A

 

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A Young Man with High Potential

 

Is it just me who finds it off-putting when a perfectly good suspense-drama finds it necessary to include a 10-minute sequence of graphic gore? Young Man concerns a social nerd/computer genius (Adam Ild Rohweder) who falls for a sexy girl (Paulina Galazka), then lets things get out of control and winds up running from the law – a cliché plot, for sure, yet suspenseful and well acted. But when Crime and Punishment veers into Blood Feast, it loses me. Release: 2018  Grade: B-

 

 

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A Simple Favor

Anna Kendrick does A Simple Favor.  Big mistake.  

 

I was beginning to despair of ever again seeing anything clever and funny, i.e. entertaining, in a Hollywood “comic thriller.” But then I saw A Simple Favor, which has it all: clever script, fast-paced direction, and engaging characters. Anna Kendrick is perfectly cast as a Susie Homemaker with a video blog who gets drawn into a murder investigation when her new “best friend,” a glamorous mystery woman (Blake Lively), goes missing.

At times the plot does get a bit far-fetched. I gave that a pass because of the top-notch cast and a tongue-in-cheek tone that works.  Release: 2018  Grade: A-

 

**

 

Personal Shopper

Pretty much how I felt while watching this film

 

A Simple Favor is a female-centric movie for everyone. Personal Shopper is, alas, a female-centric movie for diehard fans of Kristen Stewart only.

Stewart plays a celebrity’s assistant in Paris who grieves for her recently deceased twin brother. And grieves. And grieves. The first hour of the movie was intolerable: Kristen mopes, Kristen strips, Kristen engages in endless, pointless text messaging with a mystery man who might be her brother’s ghost. No, thank you. Release: 2017  Grade: D

 

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June is a short month. That’s my excuse for not finding a movie that interested me enough to warrant a typical two-paragraph review in short.

I tried, but there is such a sea of mediocrity out there in Streaming Land that … sigh. I can barely muster the enthusiasm to write a sentence or two about the films I did watch, much less an entire paragraph. To wit:

 

The Wolf’s Call (2019) – France tries to do a Tom Cruise action flick without Tom Cruise or much action. Not a great idea, France.  Grade: C

 

The Isle (2019) – Plenty of atmosphere in this period piece about ghostly possession. Howling winds, candlelit cabins, and gorgeous outdoor scenery – but nothing remotely scary.  Grade: C-

 

Murder Mystery (2019) – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston mingle with the beautiful people and try to find a killer. Sadly, Sandler and Aniston are no Nick and Nora Charles.  Grade: D

 

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The Perfection

 

Some movies seem to revel in insulting the audience’s intelligence. Moviegoers enjoy twists, so The Perfection doles out twist after twist – never mind that each one is more nonsensical than the last. Audiences also like sexy movie stars, so The Perfection includes a gratuitous lesbian sex scene between stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning. Last but not least, modern movie fans apparently can’t get enough gore and so – you guessed it – this movie has it in spades. Are we happy yet?

Williams and Browning play star cellists who encounter a terrifying virus while on a trip to Shanghai—or so it seems.  So far, so good; the movie looked great and there was genuine tension. But then the far-fetched twists began, so that by the end of the story The Perfection was anything but.  Release: 2019  Grade: D+

 

Logan Browning’s ass is the only thing approaching “perfection”

 

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We get a lot of review requests along with links to private “screeners.” Mostly, these are low-budget movies so dreadful that they don’t even appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime – yet.  They have titles like Luciferina and The Haunting of Mia Moss and, in this case, Blood Paradise.

Often the movies are unfinished: The soundtrack might not match the video, the credits have yet to be added, that sort of thing. But occasionally these films have a certain rustic charm; the spirit of Ed Wood living on.

 

Blood Paradise

 

 

Imagine you’re a Swedish actress. Your director-husband looks like a Greek god, and you resemble a younger version of Melania Trump (you are both former models). But you don’t have a lot of cash at your disposal. What do you do for work?

If you’re statuesque beauty Andrea Winter, you make a low-budget horror-comedy on the family farm in north Sweden. And you recruit your non-actor parents and brother to play pivotal roles. Oh, and you produce, co-write, score, edit and star in it.

We’re going to do something a bit unusual here. We’re going to write not one, but two reviews; one of Blood Paradise itself, and one of the film’s main attraction: Andrea Winter Wahlgren.

 

The Movie

 

 

Novelist Robin Richards has writer’s block and decides that a change of scenery might be the fix she needs. So she moves into a farmhouse in rural Sweden. There is just one problem: The locals are a peculiar lot. Very peculiar, including a poker-faced farmer (Winter’s real-life father) who makes mysterious trips into a nearby outbuilding; her “biggest fan,” an odd-looking fellow who sidelines as a Peeping Tom; and a gruff neighbor who enjoys playing with guns (Winter’s real-life brother).

When Robin’s boyfriend (Patrick von Barkenberg) shows up on the farm, things take a nasty turn.

The premise of Blood Paradise isn’t bad. At first, I was reminded of Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone: a female novelist moves to the country and fish-out-of-water hijinks ensue. But the comedy part of Blood Paradise is, unfortunately, dropped pretty quickly, and the horror that remains is fairly pedestrian stuff.

You’ve seen this story before. The phones don’t work. The locals are more odd than ominous.

But the farmstead is attractive, and so is …

 

The Farmer’s Daughter

 

 

By now, it’s become something of a cliché: A European actor will do extensive nudity, American audiences will be (a bit) shocked by said nudity, and the actor will state that, where she (usually a she) comes from, nudity is commonplace and “natural.”

Why is something considered so natural in parts of Europe thought of as more sexual — and naughty — across the pond? Is it a hangover from the prudish Puritans? Or are the Europeans bullshitting us?

In the YouTube clip below, Andrea answers a fan’s question about the nudity in Blood Paradise:

 

 

Either way, it’s not your everyday movie in which a fetching daughter scampers about in the buff in scenes with her real-life male relatives.

The Grouch did the following e-mail interview with Winter:

 

 

The Grouch:  Thanks for doing this interview. At the beginning of Blood Paradise, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – would it be mostly comedy, mostly horror, or a mix of the two? I thought the story might be influenced by, say, Romancing the Stone, in which an attractive novelist with writer’s block travels to some far-flung location and winds up in a wild, comedic adventure. But by the end of your movie, it was quite clearly more in line with movies like Psycho or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What was your intent in making this movie?

Andrea Winter:  Our intent was to make a movie that was both fun and scary but in an artistic way. I see a lot of new independent horror films that have a lot of comedy and they’re really scary, but I don’t see many that are artistic. I didn’t just want to make another horror film just to make one. I consider myself as much of an artist as a filmmaker and it was important to me that our movie was as beautiful as it was scary. I also consider myself a vintage horror snob and we were very inspired by old horror films. Maybe that’s why our film turned out the way it did.

Grouch:  I watched an interview with you and the film’s director, which was quite illuminating. What was it like working with family members? Did they inhibit your work in any way? Also, what was their (family members) reaction to the finished product?

Winter:  It was truly fantastic working with my family members. They were so professional and sometimes I actually forgot they were my family members. I’ve always wanted to put them in a movie. They’re all such natural born actors. Our dinner parties are quite interesting. It’s incredible. I believe (and hope) they are proud of the movie. Of course I don’t think they have much of a choice but to tell me that they like it, since we’re family.

Grouch:  It seems to be inherent to movies like this – in the horror genre – that sex or nudity is part of the formula. But it’s unusual, I think, for the lead actress doing the nude scenes, in this case you, to also be the producer, co-writer, co-editor, music, etc. Was it difficult being “the boss” and then taking your clothes off in front of cast and crew?

Winter:  I made fun of it a lot. I mean, it probably sounds like a nightmare, trying to run a production naked, right? But it wasn’t that weird, believe it or not. In Sweden nudity is quite normal and the director and the cinematographer are both German. I see completely naked people sunbathing in the parks in Berlin like it’s no big deal all the time. In Germany men and women go to the sauna in the gyms together, completely naked. It’s the north European way I guess.

Grouch:  What has been the general reaction to your movie? Also, what’s next for you?

Winter:  From what I’ve read and heard I feel like people either love or hate our movie. I guess some people don’t get it. I understand and respect that. We made this movie exactly how we wanted to make it. It’s not supposed to be taken that seriously, we want people to laugh and have a good time. Every time someone tells me that they like the film, or when I hear audiences laugh at certain parts of the film it’s all worth it.

Me and the director, Patrick von Barkenberg, are developing two new projects right now. One is a TV-show that we have been working on for a very long time. We are hoping to make it in the UK, but we’ll see what the response is. The other one is an independent movie that we are planning on filming in Northern Italy if everything works out. I’m very excited about both of them.

 

At this point, the reader has probably made up his or her mind about whether or not to watch Blood Paradise. Possibly, you are like our contributor Rip van Dinkle and are most intrigued by Andrea’s nude scenes. She was kind enough to drop a “hello” to Rip in the comments section of his “Playboy Interview”:

 

 

In turn, we asked Rip to write captions for the sexy screen captures below. Rip, we should add, is not exactly politically correct.

 

 

 

Rip: “This is the first nude scene. Like all of us, Andrea enjoys some quiet time in the tub. Unlike most of us, she’s worth watching.”

 

 

Rip: “The dude above is Andrea’s real-life partner. You might be looking at him sniffing her foot, but I’m looking at some pussy hair. Then again, I’m a dirty old man.”

 

 

Rip: “The guy above is Andrea’s real-life brother, watching his sister scamper naked in a field. I wonder if he got a boner. I’m sorry, but if that was my sister, I would still get a boner. I wonder if she wondered if he got a boner.”

 

 

Rip: “Andrea told an interviewer that the scene above was shot at dusk, and that mosquitoes were biting her everywhere. Apparently, even the bugs wanted a piece of ass.”

 

 

Rip: “Gee, I wonder what the guy above is peeking at. Could it be Andrea’s perfect butt cheeks?”

 

 

We end with this intriguing YouTube clip from the same appearance referenced above, in which von Barkenberg hints that the DVD (tentatively scheduled for release in July) might be even more revealing than the theatrical cut:

 

 

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