Showing posts with label jen soska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jen soska. Show all posts

31 March 2015

DVD Review - The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

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Horror, Anthology
Monster Pictures
DVD Release Date:
30th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: 18
Julian Gilbey, Erik Matti, E.L. Katz, Jen Soska,
+26 more
Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Martina García, Béatrice Dalle, Ian Virgo
Buy:The Abcs Of Death 2 [Blu-ray]

The ABC’s of Death 2 is a far more accomplished and enjoyable anthology horror than its predecessor. My hopes had perhaps been too high for the first instalment, expecting the epic project (26 directors, 26 short films all instigated by a letter of the alphabet) to showcase the future of horror whilst simultaneously saving it. Well, The ABCs of Death 2 literally streaks past the first to deliver a whooping containment of disgraceful goodies courtesy of the most exciting people in the business.
                The nice thing about the ABCs is that it doesn’t seem to favour one director more than the other. The first instalment had problems with consistency mainly because some of the films were crazy longer than others, but here it seems everyone’s been given a max run-time. It just helps to keep the film moving and- more to the point- the less interesting ones won’t be on for long. But what an eclectic array of phantasmagorical delight and nightmarish titillation! The entries are a spectrum of horror if ever there was one. They go from grungy to sleek, gory to squeaky clean, it’s all impressive as an argument for horror’s flexibility. Sci-fi dystopia, folk tales, thrillers, slashers, creature features, character pieces, there’s a wealth of great material.

A is for Amateur (E.L. Katz- Cheap Thrills) and S is for Split (Juan Martinez Moreno-Lobos de Arga) go down the thriller route, tackling synth beat pulp and split-screen home invasion respectively. The Japanese entries are 2 of the best this time around with innovation overriding bamboozlement in both Hajimi Ohata’s O is for Ochlocracy and Soichi Umezawa’s Y is for Youth. Y is particularly impressive, the stunning stop-motion manifestations of a young girl’s rage prove a grotesque but entirely unique presentation for Umezawa’s debut.

Other animation ventures strike gold by pushing the boat out and having fun with the ideas of horror. If you haven’t checked out Robert Morgan’s animations then I urge you to do so; never before has the landscape of nightmares been so aptly manifested. His particular style is a haunting ode to Kafka and Cronenberg, a foul Wallace and Gromit that crawled up out of your subconscious, and in D is for Deloused he’s on tip-top nasty form. On the other hand, Bill Plimton’s H is for Head Games is effortlessly funny and just plain pleasing in its simplicity.

Rodney Ascher’s Q is for Questionnaire is strangely obvious considering the filmmaker’s exquisite deconstruction of The Shining and clear understanding of subtext. Even then it’s still entertaining to watch. The only really bad shorts are Todd Rohal’s P-P-P-P Scary! and Alejandro Bruques’(Juan of the Dead) E is for Equilibrium, though even E doesn’t infuriate as much as Rohal’s excruciating waste of a letter, which fails to get laughs from a hoakey exploitation of stuttering and Lynch.

The most impressive films are K is for Knell (Bruno Samper), a stark and haunting sci-fi tale with a plethora of terrific imagery, Robert Boocheck’s M for Masticate for shameless hilarious drugsploitation and Marvin Kren’s black and white treat R is for Roulette. Steven Kostanski (Manborg) delivers more dark retro fun in W for Wish and proves yet again that he is a particular and talented filmmaker. In the end, The ABCs of Death 2 leaves us on a higher note than the first, climaxing with Chris Nash’s Z is for Zygote and stealing the show as the most ideologically horrific, practically disgusting, film of the anthology.

                I could write a few hundred words on each film, but that would be pointless and to be honest I just wouldn’t want to ruin it for you. Even if you hated the first, give the second a go, it’s a consummate expression of horror in all its forms and a showcase of the most vibrant and enjoyable kind.

At this rate, I cannot wait for The ABCs of Death 3.

Scott Clark

28 January 2013

American Mary Review

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The Soska Sisters’ ambitious yet flawed debut feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk was just enough to get their feet in the door, something we can all be pretty grateful for considering the impressive cult legend that is their second feature film: American Mary.

                Katharine Isabelle stars as Mary, a dedicated and gifted young medical student struggling to make ends meet. After she responds to a Job advert for a local strip joint she is forced to use her skills in shady circumstance for the club owner. The result is $5000 and the promise she will keep her mouth shut. Soon, news of Mary’s skills reaches the black market and she begins to spiral into an underworld of people infatuated with body modification. Whatever needs done “Bloody Mary” can do… for a price.

                Everything that was perhaps amateur about Dead Hooker is sorted in American Mary, a film that is, for all its guts and glory, a fairly muted affair centred around a great principal idea. That’s no said to muddy the sisters’ use of gore (since this is a film at points dripping with the stuff) but the strong point is in the fact it doesn’t rush into being a horror film. At the very least that it doesn’t seem too interested in being a conformist piece of slash-happy Friday night fun.  Too often Indy horror dwindles in the plot department letting any terror miss-fire since we don’t actually give a shit about what’s going on.  Here the Twisted Twins have parodied American ideals, hinting that the macabre side of life is almost unavoidable in this: a film that narrates the collision point of sex, money, and the American Dream.

Isabelle is largely to thank for the success of the film, having spent plenty of time being fodder for serial killers (Freddy vs. Jason comes nostalgically to mind) she gets a shot at being an unexpected but formidable force. A careful balance of stone-cold calculating and human guilt hedges in the possibility of the ridiculous. If there’s any gripe about her performance it’s that she’s not given enough scenes to explore the more guilt-ridden side of Mary.

                Very quickly the film reveals a slick black heart wrapped in blood, mayhem, and sex.  The Soska’s obviously have a direction they want to take their own brand of visceral charm, but at times this seems too recycled. Moments that should have been truly deranged are lost in translation, the shock factor reined in by repetition. Cult imagery rears its triumphant head at numerous points, proving the Soska’s have the capacity for impressive mise en scene. An example?  Isabelle decked in stripper-wear performing surgery in a strip club basement jumps to mind first. It’s the sort of thing that sticks in your head.

                Plot-wise the film is pretty fluid, a nice birth-of-the-monster origin story makes the first half a hoot, but there seems to be some trouble with which direction to take the film in once Mary is taken advantage of. The revenge idea is great and certainly gives the film drive, but act two just seems a little bare, add this to the out-of-nowhere ending and the film seems to degrade slightly from its strong opening.

American Mary takes the passion and rage of a revenge film mixes it with modern gothic, anchors it with a great central performance, wraps the whole sordid affair in a slick and black shiny wrapping then lets it spin into an urban legend. Perhaps the spinning goes a little too far out of control and some wobbly decisions leave the film on a downer, but at this rate of improvement the Twisted Twins’ next piece should be genius.



UK Rating: 18
DVD/BD Release Date: 28th January 2013 (UK)

17 December 2012

Interview: American Mary Directors The Soska Sisters

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Jen and Sylvia Soska are the ‘terrible twins’ who are taking the film world by storm. Their second feature, AMERICAN MARY, is enjoying huge critical success ahead of its UK release in January 2013.

For their Director’s Night on Horror Channel, they have chosen ‘Hellraisers’,’Martyrs’ and ‘Pontypool’ and here they talk about their choices, why the UK is so special to them, the therapeutic nature of American Mary and why they can’t wait to get started on ‘Bob’.

Q: Last year Horror Channel broadcast the world premiere of ‘Dead Hooker In A Trunk’. What did that mean to you?

SS: When we were in the UK for FrightFest this year, we met so many people that were introduced to our work through the Horror Channel screenings - that gives an independent an audience they could never reach otherwise on a global scale.

JS: The UK is very special to us. It's the first place the film showed at a festival and the first place it was released. It was only was fitting to have our television premiere where we've had such a stellar response. It was at the same time very surreal. We watched along via twitter with the fans and I think we crashed our twitter account half way through and had to carry on via Facebook, ha ha! And to have an intro from our horror girl crush, Emily Booth, was a dream come true.

Q: How did that film change your lives?

SS: That film and more specifically the support we received from the horror community has changed our lives. We have this amazing opportunity to create unique films and we have brilliant people standing by the work to make it possible. We're promoting our second film, American Mary, now; what's different is we're getting the chance to travel and meet the people who have made this possible and watch the film with them. I feel like we're the luckiest horror nerds on the planet.

JS: Dead Hooker In A Trunk was a massive success due to the outstanding support of the horror community. First and foremost, we're horror fans ourselves and there's nothing like the feeling of having our fellow horror lovers embrace what we're doing. It's never been more easy to make a film in the way that we have so much technology and that makes it on the flip side a great struggle to stand apart from all the others, particularly for first time filmmakers. DHIAT has made us known filmmakers and that is a huge honour. We are so grateful to the people who have believed in us from the very beginning. They're the reason we're able to keep making films.

Q: Your new movie American Mary, which opens in the UK in January, has made a huge impact across the globe and has critics clambering over themselves to heap praise upon it. Where did the idea come from?

SS: Thank you; it's a very personal story. We were fascinated about the body modification culture when stumbling upon it years ago and massively researching the subject matter. We were struggling after making DHIAT, this is before its release, poor as hell, starving, meeting monsters in the industry, and having all sorts of personal troubles. The script was very therapeutic - we put everything we were going through and ourselves into that story using mainstream medicine Vs body modification as analogies for mainstream film industry Vs the horror scene. We wanted to shift people's opinions on appearances on the surface as well as one person's struggles for success.

JS: We've always been outcasts and found friendship and acceptance with our fellow underdogs. That inability to accept people who are different comes largely from ignorance. The body modification community is largely misunderstood and seems to be the subject of modern day witch hunts. It makes no sense to me that cosmetic surgery is fully accepted whereas body modification is ridiculed. We wanted to educate people on body mod. It makes a perfect vessel for telling our story as well.

Q.How different was it making American Mary compared to DHIAT?

SS: On DHIAT, we were every department. It was sink or swim and everyone having multiple jobs. On AM, we had experts in every department that killed themselves to make every aspect of the film excel. We had the experience from DHIAT to understand each department role and be involved, but a great full team and some money makes a world of difference, especially with an ambitious film like AM.

JS: Every project is a different experience. You learn from each, but they're all unique. The things that happened on DHIAT didn't happen on AM. DHIAT taught us how to roll with the punches which is an invaluable skill for a filmmaker at any level. Every film does come with its individual challenges. They're never the things you prepare for. You just need to be able to trouble shoot and keep going no matter what is standing in your way.

Q: Do you think you’ve grown in confidence as writers and directors?

SS: Yes. This job toughens you up significantly. I wanted to please everyone earlier on and you just can't do that. You have to stick to your guns, get your shots, and make your day. You have to be worthy of the leadership and visionary position that you have. I love collaborating with other team members to create a beautiful project, but I don't put up with shit from people who derail the process. Life's too short to deal with assholes.

JS: Absolutely. You become more sure of yourself and confident with your vision. I'm proud of DHIAT, but that film was very reflective of where we were when we made it. AM is where we've evolved to and our next film will be reflective of where we evolve to next. As a Canadian and as a woman, society trains you to tread so lightly and avoid confrontation and that's a load of bullsh*t you need to train yourself out of. You need to stick to your guns and trust your instincts. I'm very comfortable with that now. We don't compromise with our artistic vision. When you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one, especially yourself.

Q: Does it make you nervous for your next movie?

SS: I'm dying to get back to work. I love travelling and promoting a film, but I only truly feel like myself when I'm working on creating a film - I long to get back to that. And the next one is completely different; I can't wait to get it out to people.

JS: Quite the opposite. I can't wait to be shooting and prepping and cutting the new one. It's been a life changing experience to be able to travel with American Mary and have the opportunity to connect with the fans, but I feel the most like who I am when I'm working on a film. It's invigorating and exciting and there's no feeling in the world like it. I can't wait to create a new, original nightmare for the horror community.

Q: American Mary will be released in the UK in January. For the DVD; can you give us any hint of what extras we can expect?

SS: I like bringing people into the world of how the film is created. We've got some great behind the scenes goodies, a making of mini-documentary, and some other good stuff. Plus, it's our first film out on Blu-ray - we shot on the Red and it makes a big picture difference.

JS: Yup, everything Sylvie said. The behind the scenes is my favourite feature. You get to see us and the full cast and crew in the thrall of it all.

Q: You’ve chosen Pontypool, Martyrs and Hellraiser for your Director’s Night, can you explain why you picked these three movies?

SS: They are some of my favourite horror films. I don't like predictable, paint by numbers horror - these films are genuinely unique and memorable, Martyrs might actually scar your mind. I like that kind of feeling, films that make you feel something.

JS: Pontypool is one of the most original takes on a classic horror genre and it's one of those hidden little horror gems. We wanted to get it out there and share it. It's a film that too few people know about. Hellraiser is just an outstanding work of art. We saw it when we were 12 and needless to say it was quite impactful. We adore body horror and Clive Barker. It's one of those films that’s just as damn good every time you see it.

Q: So what’s next for you two?

SS: Bob is next. There's a monster in all of us, sometimes it gets out. Be prepared for something wild that you haven't seen before.

JS: I'm very excited to get going on Bob. It's a very original take on a genre that's been plagued with a lot of crap as of late. We have the remedy for that.

Jen and Sylvia Soska, thank you very much.

SS: Thank you so very much!!

From Jan 11 2013, The Soska Sisters will be in the UK for a nationwide theatrical tour for AMERICAN MARY, courtesy of FrightFest and Universal.

29 November 2012

Frightfest Announce UK Theatrical Tour For American Mary

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Following its recent successful UK festival run, including the world’s first screening at Film4 FrightFest in London in August, the smart and stylish horror thriller American Mary will return to UK cinemas for a theatrical tour from January 11 2013, courtesy of FrightFest Presents.

Additionally, Canadian-born writer/directors Jen and Sylvia Soska, and Mary Mason herself, lead actress Katharine Isabelle (Gingers Snaps) will all be returning to the UK to introduce the screenings, starting at the Prince Charles Cinema on Friday January 11, followed by shows around the UK including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Brighton and Leeds.

The tour will take in seven cities over seven dates, with introductions and post-film Q&As from the filmmakers, compered by FrightFest’s Alan Jones and Paul McEvoy.

Ian Rattray of FrightFest Presents commented: "After the fantastic reception both American Mary and the Soska Sisters got at FrightFest, we're immensely proud to be able to partner Universal Pictures UK for the theatrical opening of the film. This is FrightFest Presents’ first step into theatrical distribution and American Mary is the perfect fit for us".

Jen & Sylvia Soska commented: “After being given an opportunity of a lifetime for a filmmaker by having our first American Mary screening at the fantastic FrightFest, the festival organisers and Universal are doing it again by bringing us out to travel with the film in the UK for its theatrical tour. We are so thrilled to be coming  back where our career first kicked off with the first film and cannot wait to experience the new film with all the filmgoers in the darkened theatres. Looking so forward to meeting you all and seeing you there!

Katharine Isabelle commented: “American Mary is dark, twisted, smart and beautiful. When I first read Jen and Sylv’s script, I knew it would be an incredible professional adventure. The twins’ ingenuity and wit is just undeniable and I am so excited to share the result with audiences in the United Kingdom this January”.

Full cinema listings:

Fri January 11 - Prince Charles Cinema, London
020 7494 3654,

Sat January 12 - Edinburgh Filmhouse
0131 228 2688, 

Sun January 13 - Glasgow Film Theatre
0141 332 6535,

Mon January 14 - Sheffield Showroom
0114 275 7727, 

Tue January 15 - Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds
0113 275 2045

Wed January 16 - Bristol Watershed
0117 927 5100, 

Thu January 17 – Duke’s at Komedia, Brighton

One of the year’s most horrific highlights, American Mary tells the story of broke student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) who grows disenchanted with medical school and the doctors she once idolised.
The allure of easy money sends a desperate Mary through the gruesome world of underground surgeries but soon finds they leave more marks on her than the so-called freakish clientele...
Smart, sexy, funny and utterly gorgeous to look at, American Mary features a standout lead performance from award-winning actress Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps), and puts the Soska Sisters, aka the Twisted Twins, squarely at the forefront of modern genre filmmaking.
On both sides of the Atlantic, Jen and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary has already been celebrated with more than a dozen international film festival honours, including Best Picture (LA ScreamFest, Shudder Fest) as well as Best Director and Best Actress (Toronto After Dark, LA Screamfest, Shudder Fest).
Total Film Magazine voted Katharine Isabelle Best Actress at London’s Film4 FrightFest in August, whilst SFX Magazine called American Mary the ‘Best of the Fest’.

American Mary will be released theatrically through FrightFest Presents at selected cinemas nationwide from January 11 2013.

21 November 2012

She's Coming! American Mary Gets UK Release

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The Soska Sisters (aka The Twisted Twins), co-creators of the award winning, cult indie smash hit Dead Hooker In A Trunk make an awe-inspiring return with their second feature AMERICAN MARY, a stylish, sexy, disturbing and darkly comic “body-mod” horror-thriller that many critics are hailing as the best and most genuinely original horror movie of the year.

Co-written and co-directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker In A Trunk) and featuring an outstanding, career-best lead performance by Katharine Isabelle (Being Human; Freddie vs. Jason; Ginger Snaps) in the title role, AMERICAN MARY has been wowing audiences at international film festivals (including London’s Film4 Frightfest) throughout 2012 and has been receiving 4/5 star reviews from critics, websites worldwide making American Mary a film Horror Fans should be checking out.

A provocative and thought-provoking combination of the horrors of a feminist “Frankenstein” with a fetishist twist and the visceral thrills of the “female revenge” genre, the film boasts a strikingly original script, laced throughout with a wicked sense of humour and a darkly erotic charge, that admirably takes the horror genre in a fresh and new direction. Simultaneously beautiful, repulsive, shocking and endearing, AMERICAN MARY is an unmissable experience that firmly establishes the Soska Sisters as two of the hottest new talents working in cinema today

Struggling to make financial ends meet while studying to be a surgeon, talented medical student Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) finds herself reduced to applying for work at a local strip joint in order to pay off her mounting debts. During her interview, she is unexpectedly called upon to perform some illegal emergency surgery on one of the club’s clients and is instantly rewarded with a significant cash payment.

Word of Mary’s scalpel-work soon reaches one of the club’s dancers, Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk), who approaches her offering to pay handsomely for some off-the-books, extreme body-modification work on a friend. The ensuing surgery is a huge success and Mary’s skills soon attract the attention of an underground network of high-paying clientele, all looking for someone to administer procedures and body-mod work unavailable through the usual legal channels.

However, the allure of the easy money and the increasingly bizarre work she is commissioned to perform begins to leave a mark on Mary, and when an incident involving the established surgeons she once idolized leaves her traumatised, “Bloody Mary”, as she has come to be known, responds in the only way she knows how.

We will hopefully bring you a review nearer the time and when is that time? American Mary will be released in UK&Ireland on DVD and Blu-Ray 21st January 2013.

Pre-Order/Buy American Mary: DVD / Blu-ray