Wickedchannel.com weighs in on our new release, FEVER!

“I am a fan of the Artsploitation label. They have such a flair for the cutting edge in world cinema. They have a balance of art house and odd aggressive. This is a label that have had more movies in critics top ten than most major movie studios.” — James DePaolo, www.wickedchannel.com

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I am a fan of the Artsploitation label. They have such a flair for the cutting edge in world cinema. They have a balance of art house and odd aggressive. This is a label that have had more movies in critics top ten than most major movie studios. Being that I am a product of Buffalo New York’s art house 70’s style and then grew into the gritty French Quarter of New Orleans art house theaters where the theater is not even sure what they are going to show till it is curtains time. When I use a sentence that says, “ Artsploitation are going outside their comfort zone”, is when I feel excited for what I am about to explore. Raphael Neal has a history of acting and being a photographer, but his feature film debut showcases that maybe directing is his strong suit. For people not familiar with the source material of this film, it is a loose retelling of the true crime of Leopold and Loeb. Fever takes the story to a different playing field when we explore what would inspire their drive to carry out the crime. This film is rich in character development as we watch our main characters start to go into this mental manifestation while trying to justify to themselves that what they are doing is normal. The murder that happens in this film is not as special as watching this film and the direction the film takes to try and showcase such a weirdness yet paranoid frankness. The biggest positives to this film were the acting and the direction the film took. This film did not want to be the same old film we have seen countless times, it went into pastures never explored to give us such a depth to the characters and an idea how fractured and easily manipulated it was during this time.

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The biggest negatives, well smallest negatives because this film does not have big ones. I felt at time, it was a slow burn and seemed a bit repetitive in certain moments. The climax of the film may not be to everyone’s liking, but I did like it. People may feel in the dark if they are familiar with the case. While this film gives you all the info you would need, some people do not like going blind into these kinds of mystery films. For a company that has more hits than misses, this is clearly a good little film that deserves to get some attention and maybe have some people watching it. If you let this film manipulate you, you will become a fan by the middle. My advice, sit back and have fun and let this film give you a different slice of pie.

8 out of 10

DoBlu.Com says FEVER is…

“An intelligent film with engaging performances that interacts more on an intellectual level than most thrillers [as it] wrestles more with its deeply abstract ideas. A delicate, thoughtful psychological exploration. Fever is for fans of international cinema interested in careful drama and big ideas.” — Matt Paprocki – www.doblu.com

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Fever is loosely inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb case of the 1920s which saw two wealthy students believe they had committed the perfect crime. The case has acted as the source of inspiration for many films over the years, including Hitchcock’s Rope. French director Raphaël Neal’s Fever is technically an adaptation of the 2005 novel by Leslie Kaplan. This is an intelligent film with engaging performances that interacts more on an intellectual level than most thrillers.

Two wealthy high school students deeply interested in philosophy decide to murder a random victim. Fever isn’t a mystery. The movie hardly dwells on the specifics of the crime committed together by Pierre (Pierre Moure) and Damien (Martin Loizillon). What we do get is an intimate look at their inner lives and the psychological aftermath of their act. They think they have gotten away with the crime until a neighbor becomes convinced these two teenagers are behind the murder.

Zoé (Julie-Marie Parmentier), an optician in the neighborhood, bumps into the teenage murderers by chance. The chance encounter draws Zoé deeper and deeper into the paths of Damien and Pierre. Meanwhile, Damien and Pierre become more interested in their family’s history during World War II and its connection to Adolf Eichmann and the Final Solution, the Nazi plan to exterminate Jewish people.

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Fever is a thoughtful thriller less concerned about gut-wrenching plot twists and wrestles more with its deeply abstract ideas. Like many French films, it has been constructed with an eye toward literary sources, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The baby-faced teenagers at the center of its narrative are more than just characters named Pierre and Damien, but meant to represent so much more symbolically. After becoming murderers, they become fascinated researching a relative that may or may not have been a French collaborator that worked with the Nazis as part of the Final Solution.

The aftermath of the crime does begin affecting the teenagers in completely different ways as they begin to understand what they’ve really done. Pierre is pensive and fraught with nerves, while the more outgoing Damien is seemingly more relaxed. Will the stress and pressure from their crime break these two childhood friends apart? That question is always hanging over Fever, even if the psychological thriller delves into its characters with subtle understanding.

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The French-language movie is a delicate, thoughtful psychological exploration of two teenagers. This is not a bloody thriller or even a particularly violent movie. Fever operates in bigger historical issues and deeper emotional responses than typical American fare, neatly setting up parallels between the murderous teenagers at its core and the French people after World War II. While Zoé’s somewhat superfluous side story adds tension, it feels underdeveloped. If you are looking for a slasher or neatly plotted murder thriller with twists and turns, this is not the movie for you. Fever is for fans of international cinema interested in careful drama and big ideas.

The 2014 French film is unrated and runs 81 minutes. It is presented in its native 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Artsploitation Films is its DVD distributor in America.

Der Bunker Director Discusses Film’s Reaction

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Some of us have that weird neighbour. The one that makes inexplicable noises at ungodly hours, or the one that hates any and all humans, but loves all 15 of their cats. However, it would be fair to say not many of us have neighbours like that of Der Bunker.

Already screened in cinemas across the world and with an official release date of 21st January in Berlin (see here for more details), Der Bunker is a black comedy that tells of a university student who rents a room in a family’s forest cabin to concentrate on his studies. However, things start to take a turn for the strange, when the family asks the student if he could help tutor their only son, Klaus. Only, this “child” has evidently been brought up in a rather odd household, and before long, the student starts to discover just how crazy a situation he’s got himself into.

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The film’s director, Berlin-based Nikias Chryssos, tells Berlin Loves You of the response to Der Bunker, the filming process, and what we can expect from the talented filmmaker in the future.

“Der Bunker was a creative roller coaster, the film felt alive at all times,” says Chryssos. “We shot close to Berlin, in a suburban neighborhood called Kleinmachnow. The production team redesigned an entire regular family house as an underground bunker and then we locked ourselves in with the crew and actors. Soon, we felt quite psychotic ourselves.”

The German movie industry has a lot to be excited about, as along with recent stunning films like Victoria and Der Samurai, Der Bunker is a film that forges its own path – creating something truly unique and palpable. “It’s not a film for everyone, so I feel lucky it went to so many festivals where it received good feedback from the audience and also very positive press reviews,” tells Chryssos.

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With an upcoming DVD release in late January in the US, Chryssos is thrilled for his first full-length film to become more open and accessible to a whole new set of film lovers – the ones that like to watch movies at home. “BluRay and DVD gives us a chance to produce some really nice bonus features like ‘deleted scenes.’ You’ll find some cool stuff like Klaus and his father speaking English in order to prepare the boy for the global stage or the mother singing a creepy lullaby,” Chryssos explains.

Off the success of winning ‘Best Director’ at the 2015 Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival for Der Bunker, Chryssos is currently working hard on his next projects, including a children’s movie that he describes as “Toy Story written by Roald Dahl.”

The AF Bio: Gabriella Wright

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A model, a humanitarian, a musician, an actress, and an artist, Gabriella Wright has enjoyed a rich and varied life behind the camera since since her film debut in 2004. She is best known for playing Queen Claude of France in the series The Tudors and “Gina” in the action thriller The Transporter Refueled.

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She will next be seen as a woman in danger in our upcoming thriller, Lucas Pavetto’s The Perfect Husband, available July 26th on DVD!

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The AF Bio – Bret Roberts

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Bret Roberts, star of our upcoming feature, The Perfect Husband, is a producer, actor, writer and musician who was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1975. He made his screen debut as a sailor in Pearl Harbor (2001) and began producing in 2007 with “Blind Man”. His rugged good looks and rough-hewn appearance have led to him being typecast as a blue-collar tough, and he has portrayed a number of bad guys in cult horror films such as “Red Velvet” and “Raven”. Although he has almost 50 films to his credit over the span of a 16-year career, mostly in supporting roles or as a bit player, it was his role as real-life murderer Richard Ramirez in the 2002 horror documentary Nightstalker (film) that made audiences sit up and take notice. A cameo as Jim Morrison in My Dinner with Jimi (2003) led many to remark on his uncanny resemblance to the legendary musician. Roberts appeared in a Little Big Town country music video and has written a song for a video documentary, “Utah Too Much”.
WATCH THE PERFECT HUSBAND ON DVD JULY 26TH

Artsploitation Films Picks Up American Indie Horror The Anatomy of Monsters

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Cannes, May 12, 2016 – Artsploitation Films has announced that is has acquired the North American rights to the edgy and dark American independent film The Anatomy of Monsters directed by Seattle-based filmmaker Byron C. Miller.

The film revolves around a seemingly normal yet homicidal young man who ventures out one night in search of his first kill. At a lonely bar he meets a young woman, takes her to a hotel room and prepares to slash her throat…until he discovers she harbors secrets far worse than even he could imagine.

Ray Murray, President of Artsploitation, called the film, “Refreshingly gritty, the kind of film John Cassavetes would have done if he ventured into genre filmmaking. The storyline is original, the tension palpable and it features a star-making performance by Tabitha Bastien as the far from innocent victim.” He says of the director and co-writer Miller, “Byron ignored the constraints of his limited budget to make a creepy, dark, disturbing and immensely creative thriller.”

Miller, who previously directed the feature Night and is currently attached to direct the genre film, Unwelcome, called his film, “midnight poetry in that attempts to create “the feeling of late night hours and sinister urges,” and commented, “It truly is an honor to work with Artsploitation Films, and be included among their stunning library of titles. Paul Morgan (screenplay, cinematographer), and I put our souls into this film and brought it to life with a beyond dedicated cast and crew. I can’t wait to share this monster with the world!”

The Anatomy of Monsters trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcU0QPXg8xA
The Anatomy of Monsters is scheduled to be released on DVD and VOD early fall, 2016.

The AF Interview – Raphael Neal

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We asked director Raphaël Neal 11 questions about his feature debut film, “Fever“, releasing on May 24:

1. Your movie, Fever, is partially based on the famous Leopold & Loeb murder case of the 1920’s which was also the subject of two other films: Compulsion and Rope. Have you seen those films and did they impact or effect your treatment of the subject matter?

As a Hitchcock fan, I knew about Rope for a long time. I discovered Compulsion while working on Fever and it showed me another possibility of dealing with the same story. But I realized that a lot of movies – and books too – actually deal with the idea of the perfect murder, the murder without a motive. For instance, I love Edward Dmytryk’s film-noir Crossfire, starring Robert Ryan as the murderer. There is that amazing scene in which the detective explains how, without any clue, he found out about the murderer’s identity: he questioned the roots of the motive, which is Ryan’s hatred for the victim. Hatred was the clue, the hidden motive. Although I absolutely admire all those movies, it was important for me to have a different take on the subject. I was dealing with the “banality of evil”, which meant that the hatred has to be hidden, suppressed, sort of diffused in every day’s life. In Hollywood movies, especially the older ones, the bad guys are obviously bad, or scary. I wanted my characters to be sort of less spectacular.

2. Your primary career is photography – why the leap?

I’ve always wanted to make movies – as a matter of fact, a lot of my photo series involve creating fake movie stills! “Fever” arrived at the right moment in my career – maybe I wasn’t ready before. I also like to try out new things and not repeat myself. Directing and producing a movie seemed like an exciting challenge!

3. How did this help in the making of the film?

Although I had a director of photography, I was extremely clear on what I wanted on the visual aspect of the movie. I showed Nicolaos Zafiriou (the D.O.P.) several movies and photos. I knew I wanted something very bright, I kept telling him to show the criminal’s faces without any shadow. I remember hearing people say that the fact that I was a photographer could handicap the film and make it too aesthetically pleasing. So it was important for me to remain objective, somehow. Again, nothing spectacular.

4. What made you decide to use that famous case as a jumping-off point?

The case inspired the book “Fever” which my movie is adapted from. I liked the author’s take on the case. In real life, Leopold & Loeb committed their crime before the Second World War, with an admiration for philosophers like Nietzsche. What is fascinating – but also scary – with Leslie Kaplan’s story is that the exact same sort of crime happens decades after the war, when everybody kind of thought we’d learnt the lesson.

5. Both Damien and Pierre alternate between sleeping and insomnia but at different times. Is this because guilt and remorse effect each differently or is there a grander statement?

Yes, they both react in different ways. It is something I loved in Kaplan’s book: not only that they react in different ways, but each character sort of changes a lot throughout the story. Even though they have committed a murder, they switch from fear and remorse to plain joy or making jokes. Again, that was something that seemed unusual for a movie, and yet very realistic I think. People can do terrible things and yet, life goes on.

6. Is it significant that Damien’s grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer, while Pierre’s grandma is a Jew. Why?

I think it is, yes. This was in Kaplan’s book – which is very daring. Although Damien’s grandfather is not a nazi but suspected of being a collaborator. It is interesting to see that decades after the Second World War, this sort of friendship exists and leads to such an awful crime. I think both Damien and Pierre want to break free from a heavy past, and yet sort of repeat history. To me, it says a lot about where we’re at right now in France.

7. The number 69 is mentioned twice in the film; accident or deliberate?

This story about that woman who was sent to a concentration camp because the list only had 69 people and some officers wanted a round number is true. It is dreadful and says a lot about the idea of a crime without real motive. The fact that this number comes back in the movie was a way to evoke Pierre and Damien’s sort of fascination about those awful stories, to a point that is almost like madness. Eventually, my cowriter, Alice Zeniter and I found it funny to use a number which evokes a sexual position, while Pierre and Damien seem so obviously to be virgins.

8. Why the drag routine? Is it a sublimation of their homosexual desires or of something else?

This scene was not in the book, it’s one of the scenes I totally invented. It’s a reference to my photo work (I do a lot of self-portraits) but also a way to show Damien’s madness. He’s desperately trying to make fun of the crime they committed… and yes, it may be a way to express something more mysterious to him. If homosexuality is there, I wanted it to be subtle, and open to any interpretation.

9. By equating the “unmotivated crime” with the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis in WWII, are you saying that destiny, or GOD himself, is the criminal rather than man himself?

There is this terrible feeling that a lot of things just won’t ever change – despite the lessons that History teaches us. Wars just never stop. As an optimist, I like to think that people can change, if they express themselves – whether it’s love, anger, sadness or grief. I think that this idea is at the core of the movie. Damien and Pierre just want to express something but people around them won’t listen. Like their philosophy teacher. Of course they’re responsible… but society has its share of culpability too.

10. The Heydrich drinking and smoking sequence was a masterstroke of both comic relief and of communicating the idea that history is in the eye of the beholder. What were you trying to say with that?

Again, that was in the book. It’s one of the sentences that Damien and Pierre repeat to the point of driving themselves mad, like a mantra. I liked the idea of young people repeating a sentence, an idea – because it gave them an intellectual dimension. Damien and Pierre are fascinated with words, with ideas. What we’ve added here from the book is the scenes where Damien and Pierre are repeating this sentence to people in the streets and shops. I liked the fact that they were desperate to get any attention. They wanted to share with the world their discovery about the banality of evil, but nobody cared.

11. The scene with Pierre breaking down in class was very powerful and emotional, but was it motivated by remorse or fear?

It’s a good question and I like that it remains open to interpretations. Their motive, like their emotions remain mysterious, even to themselves. I’ve never wanted to make a movie about remorse. What was shocking in Leslie Kaplan’s book, is how these two guys didn’t really seem to feel any remorse. They didn’t really consider that woman like a human being – like in that “69” scene. I think, if we were to keep just one reason why he cried, one word, it would be sadness.

WRITER/DIRECTOR JONAS GOVAERTS TALKS CUB, AUTHENTIC BOY SCOUTS, AND YES, THE DOG SCENE

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As you might remember from my review of seeing Cub at Fantastic Fest, it was one of the most satisfying film experience I had the whole festival. When a lot of other movies are experimenting with combining lots of different genres to try to stand out, Cub was a straight-forward, brutal story of kids camping in the woods. It also featured some of the best cinematography and original music in any horror film in recent memory, making the film highly enjoyable in many different respects. Unfortunately, I felt like Cub didn’t get as much appreciation out of the festival as it deserves, specifically because of a scene involving violence towards a dog that was too intense for audiences to judge it from its many other strengths. I got to chat with the film’s writer/director, Jonas Govaerts, about his first feature length horror film and to let him address some of the issues audiences might have had with the dog violence. He also sent over some exclusive behind-the-scenes shots from the making of the film from photographer Erik De Cnodder.

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Jonas Govaerts on set

WolfMan: The experience of watching Cub both felt unique in comparison to most contemporary horror movies but also had a sense of familiarity to it, like it was combining a lot of elements of horror movies I loved. What were you influences or inspirations when developing Cub, both aesthetically and narratively?
Jonas Govaerts: That’s a tough one right off the bat! There are definitely some conscious visual references in there: our ‘death pit’ was inspired by the climax in Dario Argento’s Phenomena, for example, and the idea to use these ingenious death traps came from a little-known Japanese film called Evil Dead Trap which I’ve always adored. But once the movie was finished, I started noticing other influences, that must’ve sprung from my subconscious: I suddenly remembered reading a comic as a child called “Alinoe,” in which a little boy befriends a strange feral child. And the father of our lead Maurice Luijten pointed out a scene that he thought was ripped off from Alien: again, not a conscious nod, but the similarities are striking. Narratively, though, we’re not really paying homage to anything: we just took a very simple premise and let the events flow naturally from there.
WM: The setup of the film and the stories about the monster in the woods told by the scout masters felt like they could have been based on real events or real stories. Were there any real world inspirations for the events in Cub?
JG: All the scouting stuff you see comes from my own experiences as a boy scout: the den yells, the songs, the night games, the camp stories made up by the leaders to scare us… Even all the different whistle signals you hear are correct. I’ve seen a lot of summer camp horror movies, but never one where the camp stuff felt real, at least to me. The lair of the bad guy was inspired by something called the Ark II: in the eighties, some crazy Americans built their own make-shift bomb shelter out of about forty buried school buses, which was later closed down by the government. You can still find some pictures of it online. Of course, the horror elements are all fictional: those were the kind of things I fantasized about when lying awake in my dark tent at night, listening to the sounds of the woods… There’s a reason the scout totem given to me was Imaginative Toucan.

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WM: Having these horrible things happen to such young children was a bold choice. They’re old enough to be developing their personalities, yet young enough to be considered “innocent.” What was the process like of deciding how old the children would be, especially considering the traumatic things that happen to them? What was the casting process like for the kids?
JG: For me, having Sam and the other cubs be about twelve was perfectly logical: it’s a time when your imagination runs wild, and you don’t know enough about the world yet to separate fantasy from reality – thus it’s the perfect age for a horror story like this. Adults will often underestimate kids, which is what happens in the film as well: I remember some very dark thoughts going through my twelve-year-old head, yet I was perceived as this little innocent boy. Children are more complex creatures then we give them credit for, especially in movies.
The casting process was a combination of luck and very hard work: I found my lead pretty early on, in a short film called “The Gift” (pretty accurate title, now that I think about it!) by Ralf Demesmaeker. Then, I brought in an actress friend of mine, Joke De Bruyn, who’s very good with kids: we started mixing and matching until we had the perfect scout troupe. By the way, Joke also provided the creepy guttural sound the Feral Child makes in the movie, and she appears as Sam’s ‘mother’ in the photograph he carries around.

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WM: A highly controversial, highly talked about scene involves violence towards a dog. You don’t have to convince me why it’s integral to the story, but what is your message to anyone who might be turned off from the whole film because of it? Were you ever pressured to tone that sequence down?
JG: It’s an odd one, isn’t it? If all the events that occur in the movie would take place in real life, I’m pretty sure no one would even mention the dog! Yet for some reason, in cinema, we value animal life more than we do human life. I certainly knew the scene had the potential to turn off certain viewers: that’s why I chose what I considered to be the most non-sympathetic, evil-looking breed of dog in existence. Not that it helped: some people still find him adorable! All I can say is that for me the scene has a very specific narrative purpose: it’s a key moment in the film, not just a cheap tactic to shock a jaded horror audience. Visually, it was toned down a bit in the end, but only for practical reasons: I originally wanted to do some things to that dog that just weren’t possible! Now, the sequence is a little more suggestive, which seems to make it even more disturbing to some people.
I should point out it seems to be a cultural thing as well, though: in Belgium and France, the scenes where we make fun of Walloons (French-speaking Belgians) seem to cause more outrage than the dog scene!

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WM: Tying back into that sense of the familiarity would be the heavy synth score from Steve Moore. How did he get involved in the project? What guidance, if any, did you give him for what you wanted the music to be like?
While writing the script, all I listened to was Zombi’s Spirit Animal, just to get me in the right mood. So when the time came to find a composer, I only had one guy in mind, and that was Steve Moore. Luckily, he was on Facebook, had some time on his hands, and didn’t cost a fortune – though I’m confident that that will soon change! All the stuff he sent me was great, but his first themes were sometimes a bit too Carpenter-esque: more cool than actually truly scary. Then, my editor Maarten Janssens suggested Steve should listen to the music they used in True Detective, and that seems to have really triggered something within Steve: he sent me an email with the header ‘Revelation!’, and attached was what is now the opening theme of the film. Just. Fucking. Perfect.

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“this Finnish flick is the vomit of American sex comedies from the ‘90s mixed with the outlandish gloop and glop of Dead Alive. It’s a tawdry mess really, but oh-so entertaining. Bunny the Killer Thing is the National Enquirer of contemporary slasher films” — www.ravenousmonster.com

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Finland is a magical, mystical country. It snows all the time, metal is always on the radio, and eleven months out of the year you can catch Santa Claus relaxing at his home in Rovaniemi. Finland is also sex-obsessed, pussy-obsessed, and dick-obsessed. Finland is the kind of place where redneck mad scientists engineer walking fuck machines that look like giant rabbits. Their clientele, who are fellow Baltic hillbillies, like things this way. After all, one needs something to do to pass the time during those twenty-four hours of sunshine. You’re probably not going to find this information from Finland’s tourism bureau. However, you can find it if you watch Bunny the Killer Thing.
In director Joonas Makkonen’s film we have the perfect horror setup: a group of Finnish teenagers want to have a party in the woods. As luck would have it, one of them knows an uncle who owns a cabin…a cabin the woods. Check the first box, please. Second, while driving to their destination, a Finno-Ugric foursome stumble upon an English-speaking trio. Not just any trio, but a Cockney Indian, a gay, black Londoner, and a Chinese man from Northern Ireland. This ragtag rainbow coalition also happens to be criminals who have abducted the Swedish pop star Lara Jessica Svensson. Why? Well, because the aforementioned redneck scientists want to shoot Ms. Svensson full of secret goo in order to turn her into a sex slave for two carrot-loving thugs.

Unbeknownst to the soon-to-be victims, an earlier victim, a British writer named Mr. McRain (played by Gareth Lawrence), managed to escape his imprisonment after being subjected to the same secret serum. Unfortunately, Mr. McRain got all hoppy hoppy and transformed into a bloodthirsty wererabbit. His lust is “fresh pussy” and his weapon is his abnormally large schwanz. Think of him as Jason Voorhees except with a leaky prick that he’s always “helicoptering.” Previous generations had axes, chainsaws, and knives, today’s generation, the generation of Bunny the Killer Thing, has a rape rabbit that molests detached limbs, eye wounds, and t-shirts that look like vaginas. It’s all so damnably endearing!
Obviously, sex plays a major role in Bunny the Killer Thing. There’s the normal puke-on-a Friday-night type of sex embodied by Vincent (played by Vincent Tsang) and Sara (played by Enni Ojutkangas) and Emma (played by Katja Jaskari) and Jari (played by Rope Olenius). Of course there is also the sketchy sex enjoyed by Nina (played by Veera W. Vilo), a British schoolgirl who rapes the drunken and asleep Sara while the preteen Jesse (played by Olli Saarenpää) sniffs panties and watches from the closet. Frankly, the film’s only normal couple is Mise (played by Jari Manninen) and Tim (played by Orwi Manny Ameh). This pair of odd birds call each other Mr. White and Mr. Black, drink beer and vodka in the garage, and generally crack on with things. Mr. Black also has an enormous yogurt slinger, which proves to be providential near the film’s end.

There’s absolutely no subtlety in Bunny the Killer Thing. The humor is like Sylvester Stallone—over the top. As for the violence, it’s gore galore with a little semen sprinkled in for good measure. There’s even some great one-liners, such as when the mad rabbit dines on the recently shagged Emma and remarks “Dirty pussy.” Let that be a lesson to you kids, don’t pull a Damone (“Hey, this is great ice tea”) with your gal pal because a sex murderer might just say something nasty about her lady parts.
Overall, this Finnish flick is the vomit of American sex comedies from the ‘90s mixed with the outlandish gloop and glop of Dead Alive. It’s a tawdry mess really, but oh-so entertaining. Bunny the Killer Thing is the National Inquirer of contemporary slasher films and we should thank Mr. Makkonen for that. I hear through the grapevine that he’s considered “promising” by the horror elites. Let’s hope that this tour-de-force of tits, farts, and ding dongs doesn’t drag him down into the abyss of superhero sequels or anything written by Max Landis. I’ll pray for you, my friend.

‘3 Beauties’ (‘3 Bellezas’): The Hollywood Reporter – Panama Review

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Carlos Caridad Montero’s fest-vaunted feature debut is a darkly comic satire on the excesses of the Venezuelan beauty industry.

Venezuela famously has more international beauty pageant winners than any other country, with thousands of the country’s mothers prepared to do what it takes to get their daughter to the top — and their family out of poverty. One such mother — unhinged, dangerous and compellingly played by Venezuelan Diana Penalver — is the target of Carlos Caridad-Montero’s satirical gaze in 3 Beauties. What initially looks like a local dark comedy can easily be seen as an entertaining attack on the suffering and insecurity generated by the international beauty industry to serve its own ends, and it’s presumably this universality which has led to multiple festival bookings for the pic, with more surely to follow.

One-time beauty queen Perla (Penalver) is the single mother of the marvelously named Carolina de Monaco Camacho Camacho (played as an adult by Fabiola Arace) and her sister, Estefania (Josette Vidal), as well as the heavily sidelined Salvador (Fabian Moreno). Perla is a monomaniac, whose single life goal is to prepare Carolina for beauty pageant stardom: “You must learn to betray,” she exhorts Carolina, whilst teaching her how to lose weight by vomiting; later she suggests to Carolina that she’ll probably have to sleep with a few old guys to get ahead.

“Princes don’t exist — there are only princesses,” she adds bitterly, and indeed the girl’s father is entirely absent from the film, not referenced even once. This is another LatAm movie which men are either animals or absent, part of an ongoing attempt to undermine the continent’s abiding machismo.

When the action moves forward some 10 years following an accident which nearly kills Carolina, the family is in the powerful grip of another kind of religion. The script cleverly points up that both the Catholic church (as presented here) and the beauty pageant business can be similarly manipulative, materialistic and dangerous. “We beseech you, Lord,” Perla pleads in the film’s best line, “to speed up our metabolisms.” As Carolina — and Estefania, too, driven by envy — prepare for the Miss Republic contest, it’s through the early scenes of this lengthy second section that 3 Beauties really shows its teeth, with the girls lined up and defined as either ‘tenderloin’ or ‘spam.’

The big gala finale is impressively shot but lightweight given what has come before, failing fully to capitalize on all the sense of threat that has been built up and descending too easily into an implausible combination of farce and tragedy. But the final scene — with its sideways wink at Some Like It Hot — is very nicely done, indeed.

There’s a political reading of 3 Beauties which says that it’s about Venezuelan dictators (Perla) and unquestioningly manipulated masses (her daughters). That may be over the top, but neither is it quite enough to say that Caridad-Montero is exclusively focusing on the country’s beauty contests. The film is taking a general look at our image-based culture.

To the eyes of a more politically correct culture, Perla, as superbly played by Penalver, is a slightly overweight, bustling seamstress, the very definition of middle class. But her wish to do the “right thing” for her girls makes her a monster, concealing a very dangerous woman who unfailingly does the wrong thing, causing them all kinds of damage (plastic surgery is just the beginning) and effectively breaking up the family in the name of her distorted ambition.

One effective moment has Estefania trailing blood around the stage from underneath her pageant dress; the girls’ attempts at getting a boyfriend, El Chino (Diego Guerrero), are also screwed up by the beauty pageant business. This is dark stuff, but the film doesn’t seem to want to confront the full consequences, preferring to linger on the surface consequences rather than explore troubled minds — so that while Penalver’s is a fine performance, it is not a deep one. But then again, there’s the troubling suggestion that in the case of Perla, there may in fact be no depths to explore.