Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Familiar: Possession and Redemption

Honestly, "Temptation is Damnation"
is the opposite of both the theme of
this film, and indeed, all of Scripture
It's a pretty standard trope in Evangelical Christianity: don't play with Spiritual forces. Even secular horror deals with the theme on a regular basis, but with a less explicit moral of, "Do not mess with things you don't understand." However you say it, the message remains the same. Spirits are not to be trifled with.

Such is certainly the case with 2009's The Familiar. Writer-Director Miles Hannon's only film to date (though he has done editing on others, like The End of the Spear) is fairly ambitious for an evangelical movie. Starring Bryan Massey (W.'s "Skeeter") and Laura Spencer ("Zoe," Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), The Familiar follows hard-drinking, widowed gunsmith Sam -- an ex-preacher -- as he struggles to understand his own personal demons, and ultimately the literal demons plaguing his dead wife's sister.

Sam is the estranged son of an evangelist (Ben Hall, Fingerprints), the best friend of the town Sheriff, Charlie (Jeff West, who apparently hasn't been in anything else ever, but has a great face), and slowly spiraling into permanent stupor. At least, until his sister-in-law shows up on his doorstep, looking for some closure. Laura had been estranged from her sister (Sam's wife Katherine, played by Stephanie Young) since long before the accident that took her life. Now a spiritualist looking for enlightenment, Laura wants to reconnect with Sam, the only family she has left.

Predictably, the two become attracted to each other, even as Laura begins to succumb to the whims of a demon named Rallo, who she unwittingly summoned trying to help Sam. As things come to a head, Rallo begins to manifest itself in more physical ways, even posing danger to Sam and his friends.

Along the way, Sam, in his loneliness, gives in to one temptation after another, giving Rallo even more power over him and Laura. Ultimately, Sam is frightened enough to turn to the only help he has left -- his evangelist Dad.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I fired up the Netflix. I was surprised, at least a little, that I hadn't even heard of the movie until recently. Overall, it wasn't a bad movie. The idea, though not necessarily original, was at least executed in a different way. The acting wasn't bad/wasn't great, though at times it seemed to highlight some of the absurdities in the script.

One thing I noticed right away, while there is almost no language in the movie, where it does exist, it comes solely out of the mouth of Sam, who seems uncomfortable with using it. Perhaps this is because it is mostly unnecessary, and seems as though it was written into the script for the sole purpose of escaping a Child-friendly rating.

As far as family-friendliness, this was the only real hangup to the movie. There were some risque elements, a hint at nudity (but just that -- no actual nudity, for parents worried about exposing their kids to it), and almost no real violence. I read somewhere that the movie was rated R, but I doubt it. Netflix lists it as unrated, and I'd go PG-13, tops. Barely.

The movie can feel heavy-handed at times -- even for an evangelical film -- though I'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly where they could have done it differently. The fact is, you can't do a Gospel film without the Gospel, and particularly when it comes to Spiritual Warfare, it is vitally important to the plot. Still, there were stretches of preachiness which were largely unnecessary, in the forms of both unsubtle subtext and overt dialogue.

Still, the overall message of grace and redemption is worthwhile, and for its faults, I'd still recommend The Familiar as at least worth a look.

Tourniquet Fights Brutal with Brutal; Releases New Album Art and Title

Technical metal favorite Tourniquet has come off a nine-year hiatus, and are preparing to release a new album, coming this Summer. They released the title and cover for the new album, with their most brutal and in-your-face message to date, last week.

The album, Antiseptic Bloodbath, is named for the title track, which bears a message about "the way our society prefers to sanitize brutality."

Long-time animal advocates, Tourniquet's new cover -- and the song that goes with it -- is about as subtle as a kick in the teeth.

The art was done by Travis Smith, who has also done album art for Avenged Sevenfold, Iced Earth, King Diamond, and others.

The Antiseptic Bloodbath teaser video is below:

You can see a larger view of the cover, and read Tourniquet's explanation of the art and song, at their facebook page.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Now at Fear & Trembling: Issue 45

Every month, AFitD will be highlighting the new issue of Fear & Trembling Magazine, which offers new, short horror fiction. Currently available, Issue 45.

Sanctuary, by Pauline Creeden
Survival means making hard choices. Just ask Jennie. 

Pauline gives us a new take on zombie survival fiction. Mother and son, doing some shopping and heading to church. Things go badly. Read it here.

Locks, by Kristi DeMeester
Dreams... or nightmares... can seem so real sometimes.

The nature of nightmares and the human psyche. And a question: what happens in there, after you leave the dream?  Read Locks.

Soul Thief, by Jeff Chapman
You've heard it said, "Don't give up the ghost?"

Wait, which came first? The video game or the creature?  Read the story

Lindsay Zana Voices Newsome's Winter

Actress, musician, and voice over artist Lindsay Zana is doing the audiobook read on Keven Newsome's Winter (via Zana is currently active in an online series called "Girls Next Door," and voiced the character "Silhouette" in the video game "Heroes of Newerth."

Winter is the story of a girl in the midst of discovery, heartache and terror. Winter has been a goth since high school and only recently has given her life to Christ. As she begins a new chapter in her life -- college -- she is also learning about her special gift. She finds herself haunted by visions -- sometimes mundane, sometimes horrifying -- and soon becomes wrapped up in mystery, murder and conspiracy.

Below is a sample of the upcoming audiobook:

For more information on:
Keven Newsome:
Lindsay Zana:
Winter: Splashdown Books

Saturday, May 12, 2012

SAHRI: Coming this Summer

A low-budget, indie company called DDX Media expects to release their second feature this summer. Feature #1 was supernatural/"Christian hero" film called Light. That first movie dropped in 2011. 

Though no exact release date has been given, post-production on Sahri is currently underway.

Sahri is being touted as "A Christian Horror/Suspense film targeted at providing a positive message to today's youth through the powerful media of film." Says the description:

When a youth group sets out on a mission trip to help an elderly man save his home from being demolished, they soon find out that they get more than they had bargained for. Could this house actually be haunted?

The movie is for and about a church youth group. The production itself -- that is to say, the camera work and editing -- seems fairly tight. In the clips I've seen, the acting is... well, the acting isn't being done by professional actors. Take that for what it's worth. As always, you'll have to make up your own mind. 

DDX Media has a few promotional videos available on YouTube (though you have to scroll a bit to find them). Below is their Clips promo. 

(hat tip to Christian Film Database)

Friday, May 4, 2012

horrorporn ... or is that porn horror?

Nerdnews site io9 introduces the trailer and kickstarter campaign for an independent, "found footage" horror movie called Harmless. Harmless follows a husband and father who introduces pornography into his home, and with it, an evil that torments his entire family.

While not the most subtle premise ever, the trailer itself is fairly well-done, and it certainly seems interesting. The trailer below:

More info at the official site.