hotel

Besetment (2017)

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2017, Uncork’d Entertainment/Barbed Wire Films

Director:
Brad Douglas
Producer:
Brad Douglas
Writer:
Brad Douglas
Cinematography:
Chuck Greenwood
Editing:
Greg James

Cast:
Abby Wathen (Amanda Millard)
Marlyn Mason (Mildred Colvin)
Michael Meyer (Billy Colvin)
Max Gutfreund (Brad)
Greg James (Sheriff Joe Palin)
Hannah Barefoot (Deputy Julie Nelson)
Lindsae Klein (Amanda’s Mother)
Sonya Davis (Brittany)
Douglas Rowe (Pastor Ben Hastings)

A young woman’s new job turns into a nightmare in this indie horror film from filmmaker Brad Douglas.

Amanda Millard is a struggling young woman. She has been trying hard to find a job so she can avoid her alcoholic mother, who has the tendency to berate her on a daily basis. When a major opportunity arises eighty miles away, she decides to give it a chance. The journey takes her to work as a position as an assistant at a motel in a very small town.

There, she meets the elderly Mildred Colvin, the owner of the hotel. She accepts the job but when her car dies in the middle of the night, she is startled but saved by Billy, Mildred’s son. After a night of drinking, Amanda passes out and wakes up the next day. However, when Amanda meets Brad, the town’s local chef, she slowly discovers that her new boss may not be exactly whom she seems to be. To make matters worse, after passing out and discovering something very shocking, Amanda soon learns she about to find herself in the biggest fight of her life.

Indie filmmaker Brad Douglas crafted a very disturbing tale of one young woman’s fight for survival that smoothly runs at 74 minutes. The film truly takes a three-act method where the first act involves our heroine, Amanda, having to struggle with her alcoholic mother’s berating and getting the opportunity to get a job. The second act involves the Colvins, a mother and son duo who operate the motel in town, which suspiciously doesn’t seem to have any customers and their involvement with Amanda and the mother’s going to extremes. The third and final act takes quite a page that meshes both what to expect in a horror film with a dash of something seen in a Lifetime movie.

No matter if one will like or dislike that notion, it is the performances of the cast that truly makes the film watchable and make one want more. One can only feel for lead actress Abby Wathen, whose central character of Amanda already endures quite a lot only to have to amp up that endurance when she is held captive by her new boss. The struggles she must go through in a day where people may have Saw or Hostel come to mind thankfully does not go to that level of extreme, but to see how everything is played out in two pivotal flashbacks just show nothing but sympathy for her.

One can perhaps think of the film Misery where the antagonist starts out as sweet but soon has those sinister motives and veteran actress Marlyn Mason truly delivers in the nice elderly lady turned crazed motherly figure of Mildred. Michael Meyer’s Billy brings to the mind the kind of son who doesn’t agree with his mother’s dastardly deeds, but is forced to obey Mommy. And in one flashback, that obedience is taken to a level that may bring to mind the stereotypes of a small town like the one depicted here, but still proves to be very disturbing nonetheless.

Besetment is quite a harrowing yet very disturbing horror film that shows the struggle of one young woman, all driven with great performances, especially from Marlyn Mason as the crazed owner of the hotel. If you like indie horror, add this one to your list.

WFG RATING: B+

Uncork’d Entertainment will premiere this film on VOD platforms on June 6th with a DVD release date of September 5th locked down.

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Minbo, or the Art of Gentle Extortion (1992)

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Juzo Itami’s satire of Yakuza politics would be forever known as the film that put the late director in real-life danger after its release.

A very prolific hotel is in contention to host an international summit. However, there holds one little problem. A local Yakuza gang finds the hotel the perfect place to extort guests and make the place their own home for entertainment. Determined to have the summit held at the hotel, the owner hires a lowly accountant, Suzuki, and a local bellboy, Wakasugi, to serve as “Yakuza managers”. Their job is to drive the gangsters out of the hotel.

However, it is clear these two can’t get the job done and in the case of Suzuki, he actually is forced to bribe the gang boss, who tells him if he needs anything to let him know. When everything begins to get worse and worse, they hire the services of Minaru Inoue, a lawyer who is skilled in the art of “minbo”. Minbo involves a form of reversal extortion that for Inoue, has proven successful in driving local gangsters out of establishments. With Inoue’s influence, the hotel staff slowly begin to get the motivation to stand up to the Yakuza. However, with the summit getting closer and closer, will it be too late?

Juzo Itami’s films are quite a meshing of subtle comedy mixed in with customs or satires of what happens in Japan in terms of society. For one reason or another, Itami decides to tackle the politics of the Yakuza in this comedy, in which they are played as deviants who just take over establishments and use methods of intimidation to get their way and/or extort money from the staff and in the case of this hotel, the guests as well. In one scene, when members Suzuki and Wakasugi, played with comic panache by Yasuo Daichi and Takeshiro Murata, try to confront the gangsters when they attempt to get their money back from a borrower, everyone looks at the confrontation and does not do anything about it.

Itami’s wife Nobuko Miyamoto, who had played more subtle roles in The Funeral and Tampopo, brings out one of her best roles to date. Going a complete 180-degrees, she plays Inoue as a tough talking, sassy woman who can turn the tables on the gangsters by using that sass to good effect. In the opening scene, she is mistaken for a gangster’s moll when she warns a trio of gangsters nearby a pool that the police are nearby and it would look bad for them if they continued causing trouble. Of course, she is totally using the art of lying to drive them away but it is clear she is that good and when she is hired, she decides to train the staff in helping them in this very delicate situation.

The film did result in a very dangerous situation. Five days after its initial release, members of the Goto-Gumi gang attacked Itami outside of his home. Itami ended up in the hospital and in an ironic twist, his stay in the hospital inspired him for his next film, The Last Dance. It is also long rumored and theorized that to this day, the Goto-Gumi may have been involved with the apparent suicide of Itami in 1997.

In any case, Minbo is truly one of Juzo Itami’s funniest films with Noboru Miyamoto driving the film in one of her best roles. It may be a satire and the real-life drama that ensued may have be insane, but this film is quite hilarious.

WFG RATING: A

Toho Studios presents an Itami Films production. Director: Juzo Itami. Producers: Seigo Hosogoe and Yasushi Tamaoki. Writer: Juzo Itami. Cinematography: Yonezo Maeda. Editing: Akira Suzuki.

Cast: Nobuko Miyamoto, Yasuo Daichi, Takeshiro Murata, Akira Takarada, Hosei Komatsu, Noboru Mitani, Hideji Otaki, Tetsu Watanabe, Akira Nakao.

 

REVIEW: See No Evil (2006)

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2006, Lionsgate/WWE Studios

Director:
Gregory Dark
Producer:
Joel Simon
Writer:
Dan Madigan
Cinematography:
Ben Nott
Editing:
Scott Richter

Cast:
Glenn “Kane” Jacobs (Jacob Goodnight)
Christina Vidal (Christine)
Michael J. Pagan (Tye)
Samantha Noble (Kira)
Steven Vidler (Williams)
Cecily Polson (Margaret)
Luke Pegler (Michael)
Rachael Taylor (Zoe)
Penny McNamee (Melissa)
Craig Horner (Richie)
Mikhael Wilder (Russell)
Tiffany Lamb (Hannah)

WWE superstar Kane makes his film debut as a menacing killer in this very brutal horror film from one-time adult film director Gregory Dark.

A group of delinquents are sent to the abandoned Blackwell Hotel as part of their punishment. They must clean up the deserted hotel so that the building can be eventually used as a shelter for the homeless. Under the watchful eye of guard Frank Williams, the delinquents attempt to do their job but between some of them, past demons tend to get the best of them. However, that will soon become the least of their problems.

As two of the delinquents decide to find a vault in hopes to find some money, they find something worse when they see the corpse of an elderly man with his eyes missing. They soon learn that they are not alone. Jacob Goodnight, a maniacal killer, has been hiding in the hotel and begins a killing spree. For Frank, it is having to deal with the past as four years ago, he had shot Goodnight in the head but lost his arm in the melee. As for delinquent Kira, the religious tattoos on her body entices Goodnight, who sees the delinquents as people with sins who can only repent in one way: death. Who will survive when this night is over?

While WWE Studios have been known for action films starring some of their top superstars, this is their first foray into the horror genre and it is actually done well. Writer Dan Madigan takes the slasher genre with introducing a new monster and combines it with religious fanaticism. The film also marks the mainstream debut of Gregory Dark, a director more known for his adult films in the 1990’s. Finally breaking through, Dark really makes the film a (no pun intended) dark and brutal tale that may start out as a slasher film, but it’s a darn good one.

In the role of our killer Jacob Goodnight is Glenn Jacobs, known to the WWE Universe as Kane. When the film was made, there was no corporate Kane, but the character was a demon who had a clean shaven head and 1 brown eye with the other supposedly having a light blue/white eye. This is exactly how one could see a monster in a horror film and Jacobs channels the character of Goodnight perfectly. The religious piece doesn’t really come in until he sees Samantha Noble’s Kira in the shower with her tattoos. Aside from his brute strength, Goodnight has two weapons, which are an axe and a chain with a hook that he can throw like a martial arts weapon.

While in this day of age, one would expect computer generated imagery for most of the kills, Dark decided to minimize the CGI and rely on practical effects for the kills. One victim gets a hook through their mouth and it looks quite convincing through the use of these good ol’ classic style of SFX. In what has to be an inventive death, one gets a cell phone shoved down their throat and you can actually see the cell phone engulfed in the victim’s throat. Again, this was done using practical old school effects. Some understandably had to result in using computer imagery to make it look convincing. Thankfully, the VFX team knows their stuff and it looks quite convincing when needed.

See No Evil is definitely a worthy entry in the horror genre. WWE superstar Kane really gives it his all as the menacing Jacob Goodnight and it would take eight years, but this is one killer we would see again.

WFG RATING: B

DVD