“[Director, screenwriter] Pavetto and [screenwriter] Vavassori prove they are geniuses when it comes to suspense…it is an hour and twenty-five minutes worth of drama and speculation. After watching this thriller, many people will probably think twice before choosing their partner for the rest of their lives.” – CrypticRock
“Heart-wrenching, unnerving and utterly brutal right up until the shocking end. It’s a beautifully shot film with great practical effects and a haunting mood. It’s a genuinely entertaining flick that’s brutal, bloody, unnerving and visually satisfying.” – HorrorMovies.ca
Matthew Baker, the seemingly sane critic at Shattered Ravings screened BUNNY THE KILLER THING and fell in love. He wrote, “One of the wildest and weirdest films I’ve ever seen…a mesmerizing, stomach-churning, and gut-busting foray into hilarity and horror. And I loved every minute of it. If you are easily offended, stop reading right now, and move on to something else. But if you can stand gratuitous rabbit/human nudity, then you’re in for a real show. BUNNY THE KILLER THING is a riotous venture into the absurd….grab a group of friends and buckle up for a bizarre trip.”
In January 2013, the temperature inside director Joseph Sims-Dennett’s apartment was soaring to 55 degrees, as he called “action” and his lead actor vomited black ooze into a bathroom sink.
No, it wasn’t because of trauma from the heat (although Sims-Dennett did send everyone home that day).
If you’ve seen Observance, you know the scene in question – one of several hair-raising moments in the shudder-inducing psychological horror film, which had its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival last year and will premiere at Sydney’s Randwick Ritz on April 3.
An idea born of a bad time in his life, Sims-Dennett says the shoot was equally horrifying.
It coincided with Sydney’s hottest recorded heat wave, which was only magnified inside his Rozelle apartment where Observance was shot.
“We were doing these 17-18 hour days and everyone got burnt out really quickly. We were all just swaying,” he says.
But there was a silver lining.
“That feeling that was on the set – particularly my anxiety – was somehow captured in what we were shooting.”
It was the intention of Observance, which emerged from a dark time in his life.
In November 2012, he and co-writer/producer Josh Zammit had both just lost their jobs and decided to use their spare time over the summer to make an art-house film.
“We lived over in Rozelle and at night we would walk around Rozelle and Balmain, or wander over to Callan Park – that gigantic abandoned mental hospital – break in there and walk around talking about what made us scared,” he says.
“It was almost like therapy, like an examination of what made us frightened, and that’s what fed into the script and where it came from.”
The film follows a private investigator (played by Lindsay Farris) who is wading through his own personal grief when he lands a seemingly easy job: to watch a young woman in her home and report back. But as he trains his camera on the subject from a derelict apartment across the street, strange and increasingly disturbing occurrences begin to happen, seemingly coming from the building itself.
The feeling of unease that infuses Observance has drawn comparisons to Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and Rear Window – something that’s flattering, but unintentional on Sims-Dennett’s part (he didn’t even see Repulsion until after they finished filming).
Yet however unsettling Observance might be, Sims-Dennett sees it now as a kind of window into his past.
Artsploitation Films is proud to announce the acquisition of Counter Clockwise, a hyperventilating blend of science fiction, horror and dark comedy directed by Atlanta-native George Moïse. The film is currently enjoying an extensive festival run and is the recent winner of “Best Science Fiction Film” at both the Eugene International and Action on Film Festivals.
A scientist working on inventing teleportation instead accidentally invents time travel. As a test, he zaps himself 6 months into the future but that future is a sinister, confusing and violent one as he finds himself being chased by hitmen as well as being the prime suspect in the murders of his wife and sister. He attempts to change history and save his loved ones by travelling back in time to resolve the mysteries.
The film, starring Devon Ogden and Kerry Knuppe, is set for DVD and VOD release October 4, 2016.
Artsploitation president Ray Murray said, “Totally inventive, fun, and complex. I immediately watched it a second time just to fully understand all the wild happenings! We do not release many American made films, but this film marks an acquisitions exception. We hope audiences will enjoy and be confounded as much as I. We release a lot of difficult and challenging titles, but with Counter Clockwise, we have an entertaining, fast-paced sci-fi murder/mystery treat.”
In May of 1924, two affluent students from the University of Chicago kidnapped a 14-year-old boy and murdered him in order to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. The murderers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, were convinced that the philosophical implications of their crime would not only justify their actions but exonerate them if they were caught. The Leopold and Loeb case captured the imagination of the public at the time (headlines at the time touted the event as the “Crime of the Century”) and it would go on to influence a number of high profile films over the years, among the most celebrated being Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope and Richard Fleischer’s Compulsion.
Raphael Neal’s French language thriller Fever, which is an adaptation of Leslie Kaplan’s novel of the same name, is the latest attempt to deal with this notorious case. It’s not difficult to figure out why so many writers over the years have been attracted to this material. The philosophical and moral stakes involved in the Leopold and Loeb offer the storyteller a clear avenue at probing the dark side of human nature. In a manner that can only be characterized as darkly prescient, Leopold was fascinated with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche; he was compelled by Nietzsche’s concept of the “superman,” and his misreading of the concept would find its horrific echo in Hitler’s Third Reich.
Damien (Martin Loizillon) and Pierre (Pierre Moure) are two high school seniors who are enrolled in a philosophy class. In an early scene, their teacher praises Damien for provocatively proposing the idea of a motiveless murder as a thought experiment to interrogate some of the ideas that they’ve been exploring in class. The irony is that Damien’s thought experiment has been put into action; the film begins with the murder of a woman who has been chosen at random. Complicating matters is a chance meeting with Zoé (Julie-Marie Parmentier), a woman who works at an optometrist’s office nearby the crime scene. The two young murderers bump into Zoé as they are fleeing the crime and it’s not long after the story of the murder becomes a news sensation that she starts to suspect that these two teens are responsible.
The film switches back and forth between Zoé’s obsession with the murder and the boys’ response to the aftermath of their crime. A complex relationship exists between these two boys; the blond-haired and confident Damien is easily the dominant figure, whereas the soft-spoken Pierre quietly anguishes over what they have done. The film very clearly stresses the homoerotic tension that exists between these two boys; as Pierre flirts with a fellow female classmate, we can see the look of jealousy in Damien’s eyes. Another scene has Damien dressing up in her mom’s clothing in a mock-playful fashion to further emphasize the close but inarticulate bond between these two boys share.
One of the smartest things that Fever does is to foreground the theoretical concepts that are inextricably linked to this crime. Damien and Pierre read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem for their philosophy class, and that book’s famous exploration on the “banality of evil” clearly correlates with the action of the film. Damien also discovers that his beloved grandfather was a collaborator with the Vichy government during World War II. The two teens become obsessed with researching what he had to do and they struggle to square the man’s actions in the past with his current kindly demeanor. Issues of morality and guilt are very much in spotlighted by the filmmakers, albeit in a manner that is never didactic or smug.
Despite the fact that the film tackles these weighty concepts, Fever manages to be a tonally quirky film. A sense of playfulness is generated by the unique soundtrack by French musician Camille, which is a sort of avant-gade cabaret style. One of the most unusual scenes occurs when Zoé and her husband attend a performance by Alice Snow (played by Camille herself) where she sings the title song in an a capella fashion that provides both the vocals and the percussive accompaniment. It’s a moment that serves to highlight the lyrics: “You give me fever – when you kiss me, fever when you hold me tight / Fever – in the morning, fever all through the night.” This conception of “fever” refers not only to the intellectual whirlwind that has consumed the lives of Damien and Pierre but also reflects a personal conflict that exists between Zoé and her husband. Zoé’s obsession with the absurdity of a senseless murder causes her to call into question her own life and the feelings that she has with her husband. Fever concludes on an ambiguous note that some viewers will find unsatisfying but is in keeping with the spirit of inquiry that Damien and Pierre’s philosophy teacher seeks to instill in her class; the point is not that the film tells you what to think, but that it inspires you to think at all.
Artsploitation’s DVD release of Fever presents the film in an excellent 2.35:1 transfer. Neal’s film is not stylistically flashy (this is more a film about ideas than action) so the lack of high definition is not a big deal. There are no imperfections to report.
There are two audio tracks on the DVD. The primary, and recommended, setting is a 5.1 Surround Sound track that does an excellent job. While the film is mostly dialogue driven, the track lets the rear channels do their work in outdoor scenes. Camille’s music comes through with clarity and provides a unique counterpoint to the action. There is also a 2.0 Stereo Track that is well balanced.
The only extras that exist are a theatrical trailer for the film and some annoying trailers for other Artsploitation releases that you need to skip through when you first put in the DVD.
The Final Word:
While Fever may not be as iconic as some of the other films that have been influenced by the Leopold and Loeb case, it’s a unique modern take on the subject matter that refreshingly spotlights the political and philosophical ideas that are involved in the crime. It’s willingness to avoid the conventionality of a film like Barbet Schroder’s lackluster Murder by Numbers (also inspired by Leopold and Loeb) deserves to be commended.
I am so thankful the fine folks at Artsploitation Films have high standards of quality for their films. They are one of the few film companies that seem to continually release good movies on a regular basis. Such is the case with today’s title, FEVER. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but I’m happy to report the film delivers on several levels. It is a taut, effective thriller, but it’s also a gripping mystery as well. In short, FEVER is a nice piece of French cinema.
If you are not familiar with FEVER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:
High school students Damien and Pierre are from wealthy families with nothing seemingly in their lives to leave them disturbed. Yet they plan and carry out the murder of an unknown woman they have previously only spotted on the street. The police are at a loss, confused by this murder without motive. Zoé, an optician in the neighborhood, who is feeling more and more moved by this inexplicable murder, bumps into the teenage murderers by chance. But this chance fleeting encounter reveals inside her a growing and mysterious desire. Although scared (she could easily be a victim of Damien and Pierre), her erotic attraction for the duo goes beyond that. It gives her a chance to find a way out of the loveless rut that her life has ended up in. While Damien and Pierre, thinking no one will catch them, embark on a journey deep within their pasts. Inspired from a real life story of mindless and seemingly meaningless crime, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and from the scandalous Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920s, this thoughtful psychological thriller will enthrall viewers.
This movie is based (partially) on real events, although I’m not sure what liberties the filmmakers took with the source material. As such, knowing this heightens the tension within the plotline for me and makes it an even scarier film.
FEVER is shot well and looks good from a cinematography perspective. The camerawork is less artistic and more story-driven, which works great for a film such as this. The locales are all urban, and nothing stands out in that area, but they do not distract either. Overall, the film appears to have a decent budget and production value.
The acting is impressive, with both Martin Loizillon and Pierre Moure portraying the two main characters. Both do a great job with their roles, and I expect to see more of them onscreen in the future. Likewise, actress Julie-Marie Parmentier shines as Zoe. The whole cast meshes well, which lends more credibility to the script.
The storyline in FEVER is where the film truly comes into its own. It is filled with tension and carries with it a disturbing air, as the two main characters seem to show no remorse for what they’ve done. Even more unsettling is the fact that the act seems to have stemmed from a concept they were required to write an essay about in school: liberty. As the explanation for their atrocity unfolds, the viewer is left with a chilling sense of dread; this could have happened to anybody at anytime, anywhere in the world.
If I were forced to find a negative about the film, I would have to mention the lack of clarification on a few points. Several writers and their works are mentioned and even discussed in the film, but we are not given explanations as to why. I am assuming it is to build a dramatic ambiance, however I’m not sure. This is not enough to detract heavily from the film, but I do feel it worth mentioning.
FEVER is still a great film, however, and I recommend giving it a look. The DVD does not contain an English dub-over track, so be prepared to read subtitles…but doing so is no problem for this reviewer. I enjoyed the film, and I look forward to seeing what Artsploitation has in line for us next time.
Aaron Morgan is a Seattle WA based artist/illustrator who specializes in figurative based art work. He draws his inspiration from found materials and tries to use them in a way that is either interesting to himself or may inspire the viewer to see the item in a new or unusual way. He used his talents to brilliant effect in creating the artwork for our upcoming release, Byron C. Miller‘s The Anatomy of Monsters:
Who are your main influences within the genre, and what films do you regard as your favourites?
Certainly ‘The Shining’ has always been a favourite of mine, but I also love the Werner Herzog’s movies, he is one of the few remaining independent directors, a true artist. I also love the French horror scene, I particularly like Alexandre Aja, an amazing director.
The Perfect Husband is a fantastically emotional and terrifying premise. Where did the inspiration come from for such a storyline?
I decided to tackle head-on the fathomless darkness that can turn a couple’s relationship into a real nightmare, with the arrival of a still-born son, exorcising the anxiety and fear I was experiencing over the fact that I would soon become a father…
What is it that you wanted to achieve with this film?
A simple consideration that takes its cue from the facts of crime. No one knows anybody completely, not even those they are closest to.
The location is stunning; where was it shot?
Catania, Sicily, at the foot of the vulcan Etna. The Vulcan was actually erupting during all the shooting. I had to dub all the exterior scenes because the eruption noise!
I was impressed with the solid level of gore throughout, which took me back to the italian movies of yesteryear. What can you tell me about the FX on set, and was the level of violence an important part of the narrative from its inception?
Violence in this film is important for the audience to live a moment of madness. I wanted the scenes to be very strong and realistic so that the audience were quite taken by the protagonist, doing so, in the end the audience will be complicit wanting her to kill her husband.
The film successfully plays on the darkest side of human behaviour and fear, and I thought that the two main characters were superb. What was the hardest scene to shoot, and why?
The rape scene by the gypsy was not easy for Gabriella. It was very difficult for her, because she experienced real violence as a child.
I thought the film was a fantastic genre piece, with a disturbing twist that I didn’t see coming. How has it been received by fans, and are you happy with the finished result?
It wasn’t the finished movie it had intended to be. The beginning was planned to be much more complex, there were a lot of scenes that I had to cut due to lack of money, reducing the story to a few actors and a few locations, for the sake of the budget. As for fans, there were no compromises, there are those who hated it and those who loved it.
I have quite literally become a fan of your work overnight. What else can we expect in the future?
I have shot a new thriller called ALCOHOLIST in NY with BRET ROBERTS and GABRIELLA WRIGHTS, it also stars BILL MOSELEY (from The Devil’s Rejects). It is a story of a chronic alcoholic who spends all his time spying on his neighbour, waiting for the right moment to kill him. The movie was sold to a big distribution company, and it will be released later this year.