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article imageReview: The beasts from within are worse in this week’s releases Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 3, 2018 in Entertainment
This week’s releases include an amazing story of real-life survival; a darkly humorous tale of a man who wants desperately to change; a horrific movie about bullying; and a classic film about monsters and monstrous people.
The 12th Man (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory
Norway, 1943: After a failed anti-Nazi sabotage mission leaves his 11 comrades dead, Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud (Thomas Gullestad) finds himself on the run from the Gestapo through the snowbound Arctic reaches of Scandinavia. It's a harrowing journey across unforgiving frozen wilderness — one that will stretch on for months and force Jan to take extreme action in order to survive.
At the start of the film, Jan is shown standing solitarily, staring into the horizon, and the picture explains he was his unit’s sole survivor. The next scene shows a group of men climbing to shore amongst the debris of their boat and being rounded up by German soldiers. So his trial began immediately and the sabotage mission was quickly replaced by a quest to survive. It’s difficult to know what drove him to stay alive all this time as his labours against injury and cold are shown with cringing realism, as is the torture endured by the Nazi’s prisoners. While this is the story of the survival of one man, it’s also about the courage shown by those who helped him along the way at the risk of being killed for harbouring a fugitive… and by the end, the efforts of these strangers take precedence over his own ability to decide his fate.
There are no special features. (Shout Factory)
A Swingers Weekend (DVD)
MVD Visual
Seemingly perfect couple Lisa (Erin Karpluk) and Dan (Randal Edwards) plan a steamy swingers’ weekend. However, things go wrong when a third couple drops in unexpectedly.
The first thing one notices in this film is the actors appear to have been casted because they resemble more recognizable performers. The couples each represent a stereotype, including the carefree spirit, the uptight planner, the stud, the dud, the one who falls in love and the one who was tricked into attending. The whole picture is fairly shallow and doesn’t offer audiences much for sticking around except for a few light laughs and the opportunity to gape at these people’s naiveté when nothing goes as they’ve planned.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Barry: The Complete First Season (DVD)
HBO Home Entertainment
Barry (Bill Hader) is a depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest who falls in love with acting while on a job in Los Angeles. Barry’s handler, Fuches (Stephen Root), hires Barry out to the deeply violent Chechen mob, led by Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler), and his right-hand man, NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan). Barry’s target is an aspiring actor who is having an affair with Pazar’s wife. When Barry follows his “mark” into an acting class taught by beloved teacher/guru Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), he is instantly drawn to the group of acting students, particularly Sally (Sarah Goldberg). Barry wants to start a new life in this community of eager hopefuls, but his criminal past won’t let him walk away. Can he find a way to balance the two worlds?
This is the darkly humorous story of two opposing world’s colliding. Being a hitman for hire goes hand-in-hand with staying anonymous, which is the complete opposite of being an actor. Barry is a good assassin, but he feels disconnected from life and treats acting class as a form of therapy to help him rediscover his emotions. Opening up his life feels good at first, but there are things he simply can’t reveal that create obstacles for his new pursuits. For example, joining Facebook is a big step forward for Barry, but also potentially the biggest mistake of his life. Fuches is the worst possible father figure, while the Chechens are the strangest and most demanding group of gangsters. It seems like Barry will never really commit his last act of violence before moving on, but that waits to be seen next season.
Special features include: “The World of Barry”; and “Inside the Episodes.” (HBO Home Entertainment)
Bleeding Steel (Blu-ray)
VVS Films
A special forces agent (Jackie Chan) is assigned to protect a scientist and his creation form a sinister gang.
This movie feels like it was adapted from a manga with all its high-tech, sci-fi elements, but mostly because it seems a little choppy or vague at times; but it turns out it’s an original story that just needed a little more care before the final cut was released. From full-body, bullet-proof armour to mechanical, bio-engineered organs to superhuman abilities, this movie reaches well-beyond reality’s current limitation to imagine the impossible and the potential future. There’s enough action to keep up a relatively fast pace, but it gets a little bogged down in the vague technology, secret projects and scientist’s life. Nonetheless, it’s mostly entertaining if you don’t mind jumping around more than was really necessary.
There are no special features. (VVS Films)
The Bride (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
Frankenstein builds the perfect woman — and lives to regret it — in this marriage of horror, romance, and unbridled passion. This gothic tale, inspired by the themes and characters originally brought to life by Mary Shelley, follows Frankenstein's creations as they search for their place in the world — the gorgeous Eva (Jennifer Beals) by declaring her independence, and her grotesque intended mate Viktor (Clancy Brown) by learning self-worth from a compassionate circus dwarf named Rinaldo (David Rappaport). Can Dr. Frankenstein (Sting) survive when the monster returns to claim his bride?
This reimagining of Frankenstein gives the doctor’s creations far more agency than they’re generally afforded. Articulate and emotional, the monsters are more human than many of the people they encounter. The circus folk treat Rinaldo and Viktor horribly, while the doctor knowing how Eva came into this world refuses to treat her with any compassion. While Beals portrays a quick-learner who begins as a deer in headlights and evolves into a self-aware woman, Brown is tasked with playing her opposite — a man who didn’t reach the same level of completeness as his counterpart and is driven by his emotions rather than reason. What’s most surprising is the people one expects to take advantage of his inexperience are actually the ones who are kindest to him.
Special features include: commentary with director Franc Roddam; interview with director Franc Roddam; interview with actor Clancy Brown; and TV spot. (Scream Factory)
Feral (Blu-ray)
Scream Factory
One by one, each falls victim to the “feral” disease, until only Alice (Scout Taylor-Comptonen) and Jules (Olivia Luccardi) — girlfriends testing the waters of their new relationship — are left standing, armed with a shotgun and holed up in a remote cabin. They’ve got a hell of a fight before them if they hope to survive in this grisly blend of survival thriller and contagion shocker.
This is yet another version of the zombie/virus narrative, in which a group of young people vacationing in the middle of nowhere become infected and turn on each other. What appears to be a hybrid of several horror monsters — vampire, werewolf and zombie — the creatures’ connections to humans have been severed and all living beings are simply a food source as they’re now driven by the basest instincts. Nothing about this movie is particularly surprising as a lone stranger in the woods offers to help them, but clearly knows more about what’s happening. In addition, the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, which makes all attempts to save them feel wasted.
There are no special features. (Scream Factory)
The First Purge (Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Now with the New Founding Fathers of America in charge of America’s political landscape, change is inevitably coming. When Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei) presents the chance for a risky, theoretical social experiment to become a live phenomenon, The Purge is born. Once Demitri (Y’Lan Noel) is aware that his hometown of Staten Island has been selected to partake in the monumental social study that will forever change the way citizens interact with their government and neighbours alike, he naturally becomes suspicious of its purpose. Alongside community activist Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), the three take to the streets of the first ever purge to protect their city and seek to survive at the risk of their own lives.
This is the best film of the franchise as it combines the horror of the situation with ghoulish terror and extreme violence. Even though the attempts at jump scares are generally ineffective, the overall feel of the movie is frightening. A very strategic plot device results in glowing eyes staring from the darkness, which is incredibly alarming and used to great effect. It also emphasizes the threat that lurks around every corner by having the perpetrators wear disturbing masks and ride around as mobile killing units. And of all the characters to strike fear in people’s hearts, a couple of older women rise to the occasion with their disturbing collection of weaponized toys. When Demitri discovers the area needs protection from more than just a few bloodthirsty neighbours, Demetri and his crew are the only ones equipped to provide it.
Special features include: deleted scene; “A Radical Experiment”; “Bringing the Chaos”; and “The Masks of The First Purge.” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Housewife (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) has been haunted by a horrific childhood trauma for 20 years and struggles with vivid, disturbing nightmares that leave her detached and unable to live a normal life. Then an old friend recommends Holly meet with charismatic cult leader, Bruce O’Hara (David Sakurai), and she is led on a twisted journey of waking dreams that will begin to unravel the fabric of reality and reveal the truth about Holly’s family and a terrifying destiny.
It’s clear early on that Holly is in need of help as she has horrifying nightmares and can barely leave her home without having an attack. She masks it around her friends and family, but it’s just a façade. The friend blowing through town is carefree and very much a believer in the supernatural powers she convinces Holly to explore. Holly’s experiences with Bruce are strange and dreamlike, but also very revealing of her past. Then it gets weird. Bruce decides Holly is chosen and destined to fulfill the prophecy of his cult, which is really into blood and masks. It doesn’t make a lot of sense after this and devolves into a bizarre ritual before ultimately coming to an equally strange end.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
Number One Fan (DVD)
Icarus Films
Muriel (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a beautician who for the past two decades has been French crooner Vincent Lacroix’s (Laurent Lafitte) number one fan. Muriel spends most of her free time keeping up with his new songs and going to his performances. She also is a big talker who lies compulsively. One night, Muriel opens her door to find Vincent — her idol — standing on her doorstep. His arrival turns Muriel’s life upside down as she embarks on a journey that even she could have never invented.
This is a bizarre story of obsession, devotion and manipulation. For 20 years, Muriel has been infatuated with Vincent, dedicating significant amounts of her time to attending his concerts, collecting articles, and staying up-to-date on everything related to his music and career. It’s amazing such a fixation could endure so long, but her preoccupation with him has never waned. Her reaction to Vincent’s request is somewhat shocking, but not in the context of her fanaticism. On the other hand, his audacity to make such a request of a stranger is inconceivable. What follows is an interesting test of her dedication and his impudence. The narrative is fascinating, particularly watching Muriel negotiate the various situations that extend from her initial agreement to help the star.
There are no special features. (Icarus Films)
Pin Cushion (DVD)
MVD Visual
Super close mother Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and daughter Iona (Lily Newmark) are excited for their new life in a new town. Determined to make a success of things after a tricky start, Iona becomes 'best friends' with Keely, Stacie and Chelsea (Sacha Cordy-Nice, Saskia Paige Martin and Bethany Antonia, respectively). Used to being Iona's bestie herself, Lyn feels left out. So Lyn also makes friends with her neighbour. As much as Lyn and Iona pretend to each other that things are going great, things aren't great for either of them. Iona struggles with the girls, who act more like frenemies than friends, and Lyn’s neighbour won't give back her stepladders. As a result, both mother and daughter retreat into fantasy and lies.
This is a film about cruelty, not just by Iona’s classmates but the adults in the neighbourhood as well. The girls at Iona’s school are horrible and take advantage of her gullibility by asking her crude questions she doesn’t understand, trashing her home while her mum’s out and publicly humiliating her because they “like to hurt people.” Lyn, on the other hand, has a physical deformity that causes people to shun her, which is exacerbated by the way she dresses. Both characters struggle to fit in where they’re unwanted, making the movie rather sad to watch. While most of the nasty actions of the bullies are cynically expected, the ended is horrifyingly unpredictable.
There are no special features. (MVD Visual)
Sleep No More (DVD)
RLJ Entertainment
Five graduate students are conducting a study to prove the theory that once you’ve passed 200 hours without sleep, you will never need sleep again. As the hours tick by and their struggle to stay awake intensifies, they each start to have strange and unsettling experiences. Visions from the past, violent impulses and terrifying waking nightmares begin to take hold and turn this experiment into a desperate fight for survival.
The concept is related to others regarding the use of one’s brain and what humans could perceive or accomplish if they were more evolved. Never needing to sleep again would certainly be an advantage, but the body carries out a number of functions while dozing that are essential to our health and several of which are related to our minds. This film solidifies that which is lost by creating a monster that’s vexed because the participants can no longer dream, though they can only observe its presence because they are no longer sleeping. However, the apparition is less threatening than the things they do to themselves as it appears they’re going mad. In the end, it doesn’t amount to much more than tediously watching a group of students suffering from mass hysteria with just the possibility of something more sinister afoot.
There are no special features. (RLJ Entertainment)
More about The First Purge, Barry, Number One Fan, Bleeding Steel, The Bride
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