Imitation Girl (2017)

 Imitation Girl (2017) movie poster

director Natasha Kermani
viewed: 07/27/2018

The always appealing Lauren Ashley Carter stars in Imitation Girl as NYC-based porn actress and as the alien who takes on her image on arrival on Earth somewhere in the Southwest.

Natasha Kermani’s debut feature is ambitious and sincere, though not as strong as it would like to be.

Vaguely in the mold of say, Brother from Another Planet or maybe Under the Skin, this low budget science fiction takes on the experiential discoveries of intelligent alien life come to Earth and learning about the world. Kermani plays with the doppelganger motif, contrasting disillusioned New Yorker Julianna with her wide-eyed and fascinated double.

Darling (2015)

Darling (2015) movie poster

director Mickey Keating
viewed: 06/25/2016

Mickey Keating’s throwback psychological horror film is steeped deeply in homage (most notably to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965)), but it also works as a terrific showcase of actor Lauren Ashley Carter, the unnamed “Darling” of Darling.  Carter is the Catherine Deneuve of Darling, a young woman trapped by her own psychosis in a big city, losing her shit, and killing a would-be suitor, though in this case with considerably more gore.

Carter is more than up to the task.  She co-starred in Keating’s Pod (2015) and compels throughout Darling with all the focus on her.  She comes to be caretaker in one of the oldest homes in New York City, one with a slightly sinister past in which her predecessor jumped to her death.  It doesn’t take long for the spiral to begin.

Shot in black-and-white with weird pulsing strobes, Keating’s film is stylish and good-looking.  Some of the shots of New York capture the cold beauty and isolation within the massive city.  While the film plays coy with the issues of psychology versus haunting or possession, really the ultimate short-coming is in Keating’s hewing to homage and shirking creating something utterly new and fresh.  The film winds up limited in this.

Carter is an excellent actress, a true horror fan, indie performer, would-be scream queen.  I’ve read that she’s broke and planning to quit acting and head back to graduate school, which may be the best thing for her personally, but would be a shame for what she could do.  She’s very, very good.

Pod (2015)

Pod (2015) movie poster

director Mickey Keating
viewed: 10/10/2015

Mickey Keating’s horror film Pod is a little hard to discus because it operates on some misdirection and a lack of knowing what the operative horror is, though it does come back to that old saw, “What is down in the basement?”

And I don’t want to give it away.

Keating builds the story of three disconnected and somewhat estranged adult siblings who are brought together to help cope with the crisis of one of the brothers, Martin (Brian Morvant), who has holed up in the family’s rural Maine cabin, talking delusionally. Martin is ex-military and fresh out of psych facilities.  Ed (Dean Cates), the more settled and “adult” one, wrangles Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) to head out to the cabin to see if they can help the seemingly deranged Martin.

In some ways, the building of the fraught family dynamic is the film’s greatest strength, constructing Lyla and Ed’s obvious discomfort with one another before they set in on the ranting ex-GI.  It’s a slow build to the final act where everything goes crazy (it’s a horror film, you know it’s not going to end like an episode of A&E’s Intervention, with mellow tunes, sunshine and redemption.)

To spill the details would be to ruin the film, though the film itself is a bit coy throughout.  Not just the question of Martin’s sanity but even the nature of “the pod” or an explanation for what ensues.

I watched this with my kids, who both also enjoyed it.   While questions abounded for them, I’m reasonably happy to sit with questions, if the reasons for the ellipses seem to make sense.

I noticed Lauren Ashley Carter last year in Jug Face (2013) and was really taken with her.  She’s terrific again here in Pod though she has less to do in the latter part of the film (than scream and cry), which is too bad.  She and Keating have another film released this year, Darling (2015), which seems like it really gives her room to do her stuff.  I look forward to seeing it.

Jug Face (2013)

Jug Face (2013) movie poster

director Chad Crawford Kinkle
viewed: 06/24/2014

I can’t recall where I stumbled upon Jug Face to place it in my film queue, but it was showing up both in Netflix and Hulu Plus streaming and so seemed to really be trying to tell me to watch it.  I’ve been venturing through both classics and anti-classics so it seemed a good time to watch a contemporary horror film…about which I knew virtually nothing.

It’s a strange concept for a film, a small backwoods community that worships a hole in the ground, “the pit”.  They make moonshine to sell in the nearby town and when “the pit” calls to a potter and tells him to make a “Jug Face” (a jug with the face of someone in their little community), he makes it from the mud of the pit and then that person has to be sacrificed to the pit.

You know, the kind of horrors that we all have.

The film stars the young Lauren Ashley Carter as the girl whose face shows up on the most recent jug.  She’s been having sex with her brother, even gets pregnant by him, so when she sees she is to be doomed, she hides the jug and tries to figure out a way out of the mess.  Only “the pit” starts slaughtering people at random in apparent punishment of the community for forsaking its desire.

The concept is odd enough and earnest enough to make it pretty compelling.  There are moments of “pit vision” when Ada (Carter) is seeing through the pit’s eyes that are done in pretty lame effect, which is my biggest complaint about the film.  Carter herself is quite compelling.  I’m definitely keeping an eye out for more movies from her.

An odd, interesting little film.

The Woman (2011)

The Woman (2011) movie poster

director Lucky McKee
viewed: 02/01/2012

Little tales of misogyny.  Actually, this is a big tale of big misogyny.  Thus its sordid reputation at film festivals.

I’d only seen one of director Lucky McKee’s films, his 2002 movie, May, which wound up surprising me positively.  When I read about his latest, edgy, controversial film, I was curious.  So much contemporary horror films are intensely uninspired, that something that shocks and appalls piques one’s interest (thus The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009), right?)

The story about a small town nuclear family, who lives isolated on a pretty private lot, who take in a feral woman that the father captures in the nearby woods, chains in the storm shelter, and ostensibly tries to “socialize”.  This, however, is no The Wild Child (1970), no real sense of humanity trying to better a feral human.  No, this is all hypocrisy, barely veiled paternalism, misogyny, and ultimately rape and more violence.  It’s not going to end well.

The film is about the father’s point of view, the iron-fist of the family law, smacking down the women, cowing them into shame and quietude, suggesting further violence, both physical and psychological.  And the creepy breeding of the teenage son into a sexual manipulator in his father’s image.  When the woman is finally cut loose, her vengeance is not just personal, it’s meant to be societal, a female rage that eviscerates the oppressors.

There are shots, moments, when this titillating material looks strong.  But those are shots and moments.  Between those shots and moments is the rest of the film, which feels sloppy or rushed, not as strong or sophisticated as it would need to be to pull off its intellectual goals.  Either that or just not plain visceral enough.

Frankly, the idea, the concept, is creepy and stark.  Could be interesting.  I still think so, even after having watched The Woman and feeling less than impressed with its take on its material.

And where lies the misogyny? Is it in the text or the subtext, in the eye of the producer or the beholder?  That’s probably an openly debatable question.