Monday, April 14, 2014

My Name is A by Anonymous (2012)

Alyssa and her sidekick are inseparable. It is quickly established the sidekick will be mostly silent, she does everything Alyssa does from putting on the same make up and they take turns cutting each other. The girls are both strawberry blond teens and are quick to anger. Two unnamed others come along, The Angst (Alex Damiano) and The Performer (Teona Dolnikova). The girls all have similar likes and behaviors-such as make-up style, self destructiveness through cutting, etc... The thing is Alyssa is a shattered girl and try as she might the world has a way of keeping the teens on the ropes. Based on the true story of a teenage thrill killer, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS tackles the question of motivation. Not why so much as why not or maybe even why not sooner?

Alyssa is a girl who never had a chance. She has been neglected, psychologically, physically, and sexually abused. She's fractured and bounces from highs to lows. Her only interactions are with her sidekick, Angst and Performer. They are not uplifting or fun as much as volatile and destructive. Each of the girls practices some form of self-harm. All seem to cut and each display other maladaptions. It is painful watching Alex Damiano playing the angsty bulimic. She forces herself to throw up into mason jars and keeps them on a shelf. She looks frighteningly skinny as she showers and is terrificly disturbing throughout the whole film. Teona is the consummate performer. She is always just barely keeping it together to pass as mostly "normal."

Eventually the line between the four begins to blur as sidekick and Alyssa don identical makeup and Teona the performer turns around with a start at the sound of a knock and the door is answered by the Angst who is soon weeping and begging her father to stop molesting her to no avail. When Alyssa plays a CD it is actually a song by Performer-presented complete and like a music video interlude. The line disappears entirely as young Elizabeth (Kaliya Skye) is escorted to her unavoidable fate. 

The actors acquit themselves adequately with Damiano pretty much stealing the show. It is painful to watch her and I mean that as a compliment and not a critique. Much of the camera work is done by the actors as well as the primary cameraman Arturo Guerrero. The shots are framed tightly and though I think it could have benefited by taking a step or two back I can see where the closeness of the shots help enhance intimacy with the characters as well as claustrophobia. 

MY NAME IS A is a stark and haunting portrayal of a teen who has become horribly lost. Not quite a horror film but a quite horrifying film for sure. Most of the film is presented as found footage style shaky cam and some of the scenes involving Angst and Performer are not presented as such and jar the viewer out of the narrative a bit, as though warning you to keep your distance, while lending to the ethereal nature of the two. This movie will alter your mood. There is no question about that. If it doesn't make you angry or melancholy it will leave you questioning what goes on in society today. It pushes and pulls you out of your comfort zone and leaves a hollow feeling by the time the closing credits roll. Snapshots appear throughout the end credits and if you are familiar with the real life case you will recognize that the pictures are the movies Alyssa miming the real life killer. This added bonus makes the experience all the more uncomfortable. This well executed flick will be coming to you from the folks at Wild Eye Releasing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Indie Flix: Hole (2010)

HOLE begins at the end and ends at the beginning. Ex-con Ed Kunkle (Paul E. Respass) tries to live a normal life but he finds himself unable to live with the demons of his past. He works as a janitor and as part of his parole he must meet with a priest. Eve (Teem Luca s) struggles with the loss of her child. She is kind to Ed and he reciprocates her kindness with a gift from his childhood. Where he is trying to be helpful he is actually hurtful. Detective Bodie Jameson (Jim Barile) believes his girlfriend is cheating on him and he relates to her the story of Hector (Joaquin Montalvan) and Graciella (Theresa Holly) and how her infidelity drove him into a murderous rage. What chills her soul is that Bodie says he can understand Hector's feeling. Bodie is buckling under the weight of his work.

Ed's history of child abuse haunts him and as such he is constantly striking out against his cruel mother. Sadly Ed sees his mother in many women and takes decades of anger and rage out on them. The anger seethes from him even as he tries to be polite and comes across as tone deaf and a tad out of touch. A local priest tries to befriend Ed but ends up being more of a bother to him than anything. Detective Bodie tries to track Ed down but comes up short and almost becomes the monster he is pursuing as his speechifying becomes more cryptic and dangerous. Ed's madness takes control as he has horrible flashbacks to his childhood. This sets off the already violent and unstable Ed on a precise and violent course that will finally bring his suffering and Eve's to a merciful end.

While having some similarities to Joaquin Montalvan's LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER, HOLE is another creature entirely. A splash of some stylistic elements from the backwoods cannibal hoedown are on display in full force in the hallucinogenic HOLE. The director's attention to detail is apparent in Ma Kunkle's shed with all of the knick knacks, geehaws and other minutia creating an unsettling mood with their mere presence. Another shared theme is redemption. Once again Paul E. Respass has an opportunity to turn his character's life around upon release from prison and it is even personified in the person of the priest. It also shows how the pursuit of those that do evil can turn the good to evil as Bodie Jameson is overcome by darkness. The highly stylized non-linear storytelling may throw some if the viewer doesn't hold on tight once HOLE takes off. Joaquin Montalvan has demonstrated once again that he has top notch production skills. HOLE is well directed, edited, shot, and has good special effects. Stunning visuals and and a great performance from Paul E. Respass make this one to see. Respass may be one of the best talents working in independent film. Check it out.

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