Disturbing, gritty, and at times gross, it’s a new take on the serial killer. Based on the novel by Todd Rigney, who also penned the screenplay, and directed by Scott Schirmer on a budget of just $8,000, Found is a film that takes the story of a serial killer and shows it from a different perspective. A child’s perspective to be exact. Marty is a shy kid that keeps to himself, his life seems pretty normal until he discovers a severed head in his brother’s room. That’s right, a severed head just sitting in a bowling bag in his brother’s room. The shocking part is, he’s not too concerned about it. The opening line, words that grip you from the start in their cold, dead hands, says it all; “my brother keeps a human head in his closet.” Tells you everything you need to know. There are two brothers, one keeps heads in his closet and the other is…kind of okay with it.
It’s not just one head though. His brother Steve has actually killed many people. He just switches the head out every few days. Usually, it’s black women and he often rips their hair out. Wearing his mother’s best kitchen gloves (she washes the dishes with those things man!), Marty studies these heads with morbid curiosity as if they’re just yet another shocking treasure a kid might find in his older brother’s bedroom. No different than porn, pot, or wannabe Satanic paraphernalia purchased from Hot Topic.
Marty may be willing to keep brother’s murderous secrets, but he’s not entirely accepting of it, or I guess I should say, comfortable with it. That changes, however, once he realizes the power it gives him. A power he struggles with. He starts looking at everything differently. A victim of relentless bullying, Marty lives like a mouse in a world of wolves. The brothers have a strange relationship that seems distant at times and codependent at others. As their relationship strengthens, the darker Marty becomes, and the more resilient he becomes toward his tormentors, viewing violence as the ultimate weapon against his own personal institutes of oppression.
It’s more than just a story about a kid who finds out his brother is a serial killer though. As I said before, it shows the mind of a serial killer from a different perspective, removing us completely from their viewpoint. There comes a point in the film where Steve reveals why he kills but the reason that he gives is clearly a lie. It may be what he tells himself, an explanation he’s made his personalized excuse, but in reality, Steve doesn’t have an answer, even he seems mystified when questioned. He’s aroused at the notion of inflicting pain but is either unaware of this or incapable of grasping the concept as fact.
Found shows the total lack of self-awareness that resides in the psychopath. Even they don’t always know why they do what they do, they just do it.
I’m going to be frank here and say that I believe the film to be slightly incestuous. The taboo theme appears twice, one in a more obvious context but it lingers very faintly throughout the film. It can be interpreted in any way one wishes but I feel that Steve’s borderline infatuation with his brother, especially near the end, crosses a certain line. However, it’s impossible to know what’s really going on in Steve’s head because everything is seen from Marty’s perspective. It’s both a strength and weakness of the film. Steve remains a huge question mark in the end. He seems to be a living contradiction when it comes to emotion; an angry teen who draws pleasure from pain but falls apart at the mere sight of his brother’s tears.
Found is layers on top of layers and like Rachel Green’s abominable English Trifle, there’s a meaty surprise inside. There is both a cultural and a psychological frame of mind presented with a large chunk dedicated to toxic masculinity. It is surprisingly well-rounded. Don’t look at the cover and write it off as another exploitive horror movie, it’s more psychological than anything else.
At its core, Found is a disturbing coming of age film that doubles as a study of the psychopath. It details the struggles of a boy coming into manhood, and the dangers of seeing his psychotic older brother, a stand-in for hypermasculinity, as someone to revere. My only real issue with the film has nothing to do with the plot but just the camera work that makes it feel like a home movie. Near the end, the quality adds to the realism portrayed in the story but it takes a while to get used to. (3.5 / 5)
Headless isn’t really a spin-off of Found. It’s actually a movie within a movie that was popular enough to become its own feature. Headless appears as part of the plot in Found as a film Steve steals from the video store that serves as his inspirational “how-to” murder guide. A part of the fake feature is played in Found in a sequence that is definitely one of the more disturbing, and over the top, moments of the film. It goes past gooey, torture porn, and just dives headfirst into House of a 1000 Corpses territory.
The DVD and blu ray of Found features the full uncut version of Headless that appeared in the film, running at about 24 minutes. Fans, however, wanted more and in 2015, a full-length feature film based on the short was released and produced through a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a little hard to find now. It can be watched on YouTube and you can buy the DVD on Scott Schirmer’s website but aside from that, I don’t think it can be found anywhere else.
It isn’t the exact movie that Steve and Marty watched but it features the same character of the Masked Skeletal, once again played by Shane Beasley, doing what he does best. Going around decapitating young women. Headless is definitely for a select audience. The Terrifier crowd might get a real kick out of it. I personally disliked it because it was a nonstop gorefest that didn’t have much of a story aside from copying and pasting Ed Kemper’s biography into the screenplay.
There isn’t much of a plot. I actually found it quite boring, but that’s my own personal opinion, I’m sure there are many who would disagree. It tries to find a common ground between slasher and arthouse, revolving around the unnamed killer I refer to as the Masked Skeletal as he carries out his many grisly murders. Through flashbacks, we learn of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and sister, who made him sleep in a dog cage that he continues to sleep in even as an adult. The abuse resulted in a hatred of women and a damaged psychosis that causes him to hallucinate a young boy with a skeleton head. The child, a possible representation for his stolen youth, directs him in his day to day life, including his many kills.
Headless is not something the average person would enjoy, not because it’s bloody but because it has almost no dialogue or character development and doesn’t follow the typical cinematic format. Imagine if Richard Rameriz or Kemper had a video camera. That’s what this is.
My favorite thing about Headless is the fake trailer that appears before the movie starts for a film called Wolf Baby, something that looks way more interesting than this. (1.5 / 5)
Photos are property of Forbidden Films.
Movies n TV
The Beach House, a Film Review
The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.
The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.
Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.
What I Like
Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.
Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.
Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.
In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.
What I Dislike or Considerations
A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.
It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.
One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.
There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.
The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. (3 / 5)
If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.
Movies n TV
Every Secret Thing, a Film Review
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.
Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.
When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.
What I Like
The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.
Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.
The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.
Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.
Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.
Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.
Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.
What I Dislike
Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.
A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.
As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.
Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
(2.5 / 5)
Movies n TV
Quid Pro Woe
We’ve now reached episode six of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And after the last episode, this one did not disappoint.
We start with Wednesday attempting to contact Goody Addams. Last episode, if you’ll recall, Morticia explained the difference between a psychic dove and a raven. Since Goody Addams was the last raven psychic in the family line, it’s got to be her that trains Wednesday.
But her seance is a failure, and Wednesday is interrupted by a magazine note shoved under the door. It says to meet someone at a crypt for answers.
When she gets there, it turns out that her friends have put together a surprise birthday party for her. Before she can cut the cake, however, she has a vision.
Goody Addams tells her that she must find a specific gate. After some investigation, Wednesday discovers it’s the gate to the old Gates house.
Wednesday goes to investigate, but she isn’t the only one. She is nearly discovered by Mayor Walker. He is also investigating the Gates family, even though they’re all reported to be dead. He leaves a message for Sheriff Galpin and is almost immediately run over by a car.
This incident is enough to get Wednesday’s town villages revoked. Though this seems like an empty punishment since the whole school is on lockdown. Someone burned Fire Will Rain on their front lawn.
Wednesday isn’t one for believing the rules apply to her. She has it in her head that she’s meant to save Nevermore Academy, probably from whatever descendent of Crackstone who’s still around. So she has no problem lying to Enid and Tyler and convincing them to help her sneak off campus and explore the Gates house further.
This, of course, is an incredibly informative trip. The kids find a hidden altar to Crackstone, as well as the missing body parts from the monster’s victims. They also find evidence that someone’s been staying in the house. Someone who’s staying in what looks like a little girl’s room.
Before they can find anything more, the monster finds them. They barely escape, and go to the sheriff with what they find.
Of course, the house has been cleared out by the time Sheriff Galpin arrives. Furious that his son was almost killed, he tells Wednesday to stay away from him.
Because that always works, right?
Galpin isn’t the only one angry. Enid is fed up with the way Wednesday has been treating her. And so she leaves their room to bunk with someone else, leaving Wednesday alone.
This episode was well done. The discoveries at the house were exciting, and I’m almost sure I know who’s behind the murders at this point. Overall, this was a good ramp-up to the season finale.
Finally, this episode did something I was worried just wasn’t going to happen. And for that alone, it deserves praise.
Wednesday has been incredibly selfish and inconsiderate since the first episode. She’s been rude and demanding towards Thing. She’s ignored her friends’ needs and emotions while insisting they put themselves in danger for her investigation. She has respected no one’s boundaries, even while other people have at least tried to respect hers.
And now, it’s finally come back to bite her. All of the people who have been doing their best to show her kindness and support are finally done with her bullshit.
Yes, this is a good thing! Characters are best when they’re allowed to learn and grow. When they don’t come to us flawless. When they mess up and learn from it. Especially for a show aimed at kids, this is essential.
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if this character was going to experience honest character growth, I’d have assured you it would never happen. Much to my surprise, it’s happening. I hope that Wednesday is going to come out of this a better person. With two episodes left in the season, there’s plenty of time for that. (4 / 5)