Sunday, 23 November 2014

Three film shorts from Jeremiah Kipp: The Minions, Painkiller & Berenice


Thoughtful. talented and enigmatic - 
talents that Jeremiah shares with me..............possibly.
I often forget, when I'm scribbling my often self-indulgent nerdy mutterings, that once I press 'publish' there are people out there in the scary old world who actually take time to read them. I know, I know - there's no accounting for taste, eh? Take for example the review I wrote a couple of blog entries ago for the new Indie horror, Phobia. Not only has the article had to date well over 500 views according to my blog stats history thingy, but it also garnered a veritable slew of positive feedback from a whole heap of people, which was nice. What was even nicer was that the review led directly to the excellent work of another film director after the man himself emailed me to say just how much I had liked my Phobia review and wondered if I'd be interested in looking a selection of his not inconsiderable body of work.

The man in question is Jeremiah Kipp, a New York City based writer, producer and director with over ten years experience creating narrative and commercial films to his name. Not only that, but he has worked with some noticeable names such as the redoubtable Tom Savini and Chris Sarandon.......not bad, eh? After the usual success anybody has after flattering me with praise, Jeremiah asked me if I would consider having a look at some of his short films for a blog feature. Well of course you know what my answer was, don't you? 

In all, Jeremiah sent me Super-secret online links for three of his short movies; The Minions, Painkiller and Berenice. Would I care to check on or two of them out? He politely asked. Forget that, was my reply, I'll check out all three! That's right, because as you all know me too well by now, besides being self-indulgent and shallow ramblings, I am also rather greedy.

THE MINIONS

"THE MINIONS is based on a true incident. The story is about being thrust into a desperate situation that requires mutual trust between strangers. 

Given the volatility of the circumstances and the uneasy state of mind of the characters, a lot can go wrong. And does."

We've all been there (well, many of us), one is simply walking along a night time city street minding ones own business, when around the corner are some seriously drunk individuals who may or may not be in need of some help. It has certainly happened to me on more than one occasion and to be honest, I'm not sure what is worst, when the drunks are a couple of loudmouth male Neanderthals, or a couple of legless (in the drunk sense of the word, not a missing appendage) giggling women. In The Minions, the second of those scenarios are what face our protagonist, William (played by the far too good-looking Lukas Hassel), after he has decided one evening to take a route through New York along The Witches Path, a path that has achieved urban myth levels of whispered supernatural danger. 

Of course, this is the movies (albeit just 11 minutes of movie) and so therefore this decision proves not exactly to be a straightforward one. William almost makes it to the end of the path, until he suddenly comes along two drunken girls, one of whom keeps collapsing in a heap to the floor. After debating whether or not to help them, he decides to become involved. Unfortunately for him, they are not merely a couple of drunk and defenceless girls, they are minions and that means that things are going to take a very different turn from what William was expecting from the evening.

The Minions is easily my favourite of the three offerings that Jeremiah sent me - that's not to say that the other two are not worthy, because they very much are. However this particular story hit an immediate chord with me for a number of reasons. To begin with, it works wonderfully in transforming a traditional Grimm-like fairy tale of being lost in the forest and being taken advantage of by supernatural forces, and instead sets the story in a modern sprawling urban city. I'm something of a country boy these days but I have spent much of my previous years living in the city, and until you've done the same, it is difficult to convey just how much a dynamic daytime urban landscape can so completely change in complexion when night falls. The feeling of isolation that one can feel within a previously bustling city when darkness comes and results in streets becoming empty, is palpable. So too is that feeling that some of the people one meets on a lonely city night can often seem 'slightly the wrong side of normal', a feeling that is often compounded when one gets 'trapped' in a one-sided drunken conversation. 

I know what you're thinking, you're sat there confused that you've never actually had that feeling when walking through an evening city landscape and thinking that there are strange people around you. Well have you considered that the person who is 'slightly the wrong side of normal' might actually be you?..........

This film nicely captures that sense of ever increasing isolation and, without hesitation, increases the pressure immeasurably throughout to result in a enigmatic and thought provoking climax.

The subtlety of the lighting and direction ,which perfectly conveys the ever encroaching supernatural atmosphere, Is nicely complimented by the quality of the acting. I'm sure that quite naturally, Lukas Hassel will deservedly get the majority of the acting plaudits. A running time of just 11 minutes is no time at all in terms of character development, yet Hassel skilfully carries us along with him on his journey of discovery. He is obviously far too tall and good looking for his own good (the same thing is often said of me....stop laughing you there at the back!) but I'll put any sense of jealousy aside. I would go as far as saying that he has a distinct captivating quality on screen in his almost note-perfect depiction of a man appalled, fascinated and excited by the events he is being drawn into.

A mention also needs to be given to the two minions, Cristina Doikos and Robin Rose Singer, who are both excellent in their respective roles. Doikos in particular provides a satisfyingly textured performance as Sarah who more than holds her own as a perfect equaliser to the character of William. The fact that she is also rather fabulous on the eye doesn't harm either....if that doesn't sound too shallow and superficial, which by my own admission, I very often am.

So we have an intelligent supernatural story that explores the human weaknesses that may well be within us all, featuring a fine cast and a well put together slice of movie production. My only major grip is that isn't isn't longer in length.

The Facebook page for The Minions can be found RIGHT HERE



PAINKILLER


"Painkiller is a dark, disturbing tale of addiction, abuse, and codependency that combines body horror and psychological terror. 

Two scientists (Kelly Rae LeGault, Thomas Mendolia) develop a radical solution for pain: an organism that thrives on suffering and rewards its host with pleasure. 

When one of the scientists volunteers as a test subject, however, the couple quickly discovers that the organism comes with a chilling side effect. The scientists turn to outsiders for help (Jill Di Donato, Jerry Janda), but can anything stop the organism before its appetite for agony consumes them all?"

You can call me an old soppy romantic, but I'm a real sucker for a dark twisted sado-masochistic love story where pain, pleasure and body horror blend seamlessly into each other. Painkiller features a loving theme that I'm sure that we're all familiar with; Boy meets girl. Boy persuades girl to experiment with combining pain with pleasure. Girl needs more and more pain until the boy has trouble keeping up. Boy calls another boy to help out with girl's pain addiction. We've all been there. 

This is without doubt the harshest, most brutal and unrelenting to watch of the three films sent to me by director, J√©remiah Kipp. Painkiller, written by Jerry Jander (who also appears in the film) once again (as with The Minions) deals with the inherent weaknesses of base human nature, namely a man being seduced by a desire or ambition that proves to be disastrous and ultimately costly.

I will admit right now that I'm not the biggest fan of so-called 'body horror' or 'torture porn' and while Painkiller may not quite fit into that rather extreme sub-genre it certainly does have its nasty blood soaked moments. Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that there isn't a place (or an audience, because that's obviously not the case) for this sort of material, Indeed, neither am I saying that I don't find merit in such works - and I'm certainly not saying that I disliked this movie, quite the contrary in fact.

What I'm trying to say. in my usual waffling method, is that one of the joys of this blogging lark is the occasional surprises that come my way to challenge my sometimes limited and constricting preconceptions about what I like to watch. Painkiller certainly has done that, and while it's not perfect, I found myself more engrossed for the 15 minute duration of the film than I anticipated I actually would be when I read the accompanying blurb beforehand.

Jeremiah & the team take 5 mins from filming to read the
latest blog article from the Fifth Dimension.....possibly.
The script by Jerry Janda, who also produced the film, provides a confident and measured pacing to the experience, something that some short story film makers forget. Instead some seem obsessed in trying to fill every screen moment with fast paced complex narrative. I was surprised to learn that this was Janda's first time at having a script filmed, such was the quality of his writing.

Jeremiah Kipp once again directs with astuteness in bringing to life Janda's characters which provides a nicely intelligent and convincing feel, not only to the lead couple's relationship, but also to the mutual destruction that is to ensue between them. Once again, Kipp doesn't fall into the trap of other movie-short makers by trying to get every directional trick that they ever learnt in film school class onto the screen.

There's enough here to satisfy the gore-hounds to an extent and the lesser gore-hounds like myself. I too must make special mention the special effects quality of the organism that has been produced - for a low budget short film the creature that has been produced is utterly convincing and pretty high up there on the 'yeuch' factor. The moment when it enters the host's body is simply wonderful - so much so so that this 'lesser gore-hound' rewound that part a couple of times to view it again.

The overall acting performances of the cast are mostly confident and convincing, with the two leads,  Kelly Rae LeGault, Thomas Mendolia who play the scientist and lovers being particularly excellent in their roles. However, the same cannot quite be said of Jerry Janda's appearance which is less confident and assured than the others, with his dialogue delivery at times early in the feature feeling stilted and over dramatised. It must be said though that as the film progresses his performance does become more assured, however, the role overall is the one less than convincing link in the chain. 

However, in general I was mesmerised and genuinely impressed (as well as surprised) in just how much I enjoyed a film of this uncompromising and relentless nature. Painkiller at it's core is a mean and nasty narrative about the human experience, but delivered by all involved with more than a modicum of intelligence and style - and it's all the better for it!

You can find information on how to purchase Painkiller at: http://painkillerfilm.com/2014/10/18/buy-or-rent-painkiller-today/ 

The Facebook page for Painkiller can be found RIGHT HERE



BERENICE

There is an achingly beautiful quality about Berenice, partly is has to be said from it being an adaptation of one of my favourite Edgar Allan Poe stores about the dark side of loves craving, but also because the adaptation itself nicely brings Poe's legendary shocking imagery to life.

This third and final selection from Jeremiah Kipp is one of a quartet of short films included in Creepers - Horror Anthology, Volume Two. Once again, we have a story that continues the fascinating theme of human weakness, personal craving and a relationship that at first borders and then veers of onto the wrong side of obsessive destruction. Blimey, another film that could be talking about my life!

"Erm, you've got something on your chin......no, left a bit"
I'm assuming that Jeremiah is fan of Poe's work because we have here a lovingly faithful retelling of a story about the obsessive love that a young man has for his cousin, or rather one part of her anatomy - and before you start guessing, it's not necessarily the part of the female anatomy that I (or you) may usually be obsessed with. The adaptation is faithful in the sense of the shocking themes that Poe included in his work, but also in remaining authentic to the time line of the original story. It is nice to see Kipp resist the temptation to make a Poe short story into a longer Hollywood friendly feature length version, on option that more times than not results in the watering down of Poe's horror. 

As a consequence, the 20 minute running time of Berenice is practically perfect. This factor is made more so by Kipp's direction, which is noticeably more sequential in style than the other two offerings in this article. This turns out to be something of a master stroke by the director because, while there is certainly a time & place for a more abstract time line, such as the one that takes place in The Minions, the more episodic flow here accentuates nicely the ever increasing horror of the story. The film's ending is meant to both shock and surprise the audience. It worked when Poe first produced the story (perhaps too well, judging by the horrified reactions at the time) and it works terrifically well here.

"So, er.....how often do you brush your teeth?.........."
As with many directors, whether they be indie or mainstream studio based, Kipp seems keen to use a familiar stable of actors and crew for his films. In this feature the leading man is once again played by Thomas Mendolia and thanks to a far more edgier role here,  if anything he is even more impressive than he was able to be in Painkiller. Mendolia perfectly conveys a character who is trapped by obsession, an obsession that is deeply layered and ultimately deeply flawed. Cheryl Koski is also quite remarkable, both in terms of talent and easiness on the eye, in the title role of Berenice as the object of her cousin's ultimately horrific desires. 

When Edgar Allan Poe's story of Berenice was first read to audiences, the reaction to the ending was one of real shock and controversy. This film version is 15 minutes of fine ensemble acting and a genuinely sympathetic treatment of genuinely chilling subject matter. Once again Kipp has the nerve and temerity to actually ask the audience to think about what they are seeing on the screen, and just as importantly, what they are not seeing on the screen. Poe had the power to deal with a multitude of psychological themes in his work, thankfully Kipp produces a piece of work here that deals satisfyingly with each of the layers of this deceivingly complex story.

It is a treat for the eyes and ears and well worth checking out for yourself. 

Berenice, this fine adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story, is part of a horror anthology called "CREEPERS" and is out on DVD right now. It is available for order at creepersfilm.com 


Jeremiah Kipp's Biography.

His directing credits include THE SADIST starring Tom Savini, MASTERMIND starring Chris Sarandon, THE POD starring Larry Fessenden, CONTACT (commissioned by Sinister Six annual screening series), THE DAYS GOD SLEPT (Best Director-HorrorHound 2014), CRESTFALLEN, THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand), EASY PREY (commissioned by NYC's annual VisionFest), DROOL (commissioned by Mandragoras Art Space), SNAPSHOT and THE APARTMENT (commissioned by Canon to premiere their XL2 at DV Expo 2004). Producing credits include the feature films SATAN HATES YOU (created by Glass Eye Pix, starring Angus Scrimm, Michael Berryman and Reggie Bannister), GOD'S LAND, LET'S PLAY, IN MONTAUK, THE JONESTOWN DEFENSE and THE BED-THING (directed by Pulitzer Prize-nominated Matt Zoller Seitz). Assistant director credits include I SELL THE DEAD starring Dominic Monaghan, SOMEWHERE TONIGHT starring John Turturro, ONE NIGHT starring Melissa Leo, and the Sundance Award-winning MAN (dir: Myna Joseph).

For more information about the work of Jeremiah Kipp, then visit his website at http://kippfilms.com/main.html









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