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Direct, surreal, and raw, a strange little film made on a microbudget that’s way better than it has the right to be. Written and directed by Evan Kidd, Panda Bear It is a charming film about a local rapper who finds himself trapped in a deep depression after the passing of his girlfriend. The film unfolds as a melody played from the keys of a piano, slow in low blue light inside the hold of a dreamlike haze. In other words, it deals strictly with emotion and handles said emotion with gentle hands.

Kamus Leonardo (Damien Elliot Bynum) is frozen. He’s still here, still living, but he doesn’t feel alive anymore. His girlfriend Destiny was his anchor in life, someone who saw something in him that he couldn’t see himself, and without her, the world has just stopped dead. On top of all that, he’s also seeing a panda bear everywhere he goes, or a person in a panda suit.

Yep. A panda suit.

It’s just hanging around. Big panda head hovering in worry over Kamus’s prone body on the couch, squeaky vocal cords chastising him for not eating anything but snack food. The panda is honestly a little creepy. It’s not supposed to be but there’s just something unnerving about a person walking around in a full animal consume all nonchalant in the background. So cute, so creepy. The panda serves as a symbol of Kamus’s grief and what he’s lost, what he misses, and his will to keep fighting. Every time he wants to give up, Panda won’t let him. I think it’s safe to say that pandas were Destiny’s favorite animal.

Stuck in a creative rut. He spends his days eating cheese puffs and avoiding any kind of painful thoughts. Making Kamus one of the most relatable movie characters of all time.

This is a short film. Credits included, it’s just 63 minutes. Proving a film doesn’t need to match the time it takes to commute from Cape Coral to St. Petersburg in order to be good. Take a note here people, stop making two and a half-hour long movies!

The short runtime forces everything to move along very quickly though, throwing Kamus in the final two stages of grief that immediately takes viewers through his depression into the early, but tender, stages of acceptance. Unlike other films about grief which often creates a before and after effect, showing life with Destiny and then without, Panda Bear It throws you in the middle of it. Jumping in the water already half-drowned. The wound is no longer fresh, having some time to improperly heal like a cut that stopped bleeding but never closed. Kamus has mourned, but in doing so, he’s become numb to the world. He’s lost the will to live and no one can get through to him. No one except Panda, who finally urges him to get out of the house.

Notebook in hand ready to be filled with rap lyrics, the two embark on a cross-country road trip where they see that someone everywhere is grieving from something in their past. “You’re not alone.”

Apparently, Panda Bear It was made on a budget of $500 but it does not feel like it. Every penny was well spent. The score, audio, and cinematography are all spectacular. The opening shots of the film especially, featuring the two departed lovers embracing in a field lit by dusk is absolutely gorgeous to look at.

A quick but powerful study of the mourning process, Panda Bear It has a lot to say and it says it well. Sincere and honest in its portrayal. There are different ways to deal with grief and Kamus goes through a bunch of them, blending the surrealist depression with dry humor and real charm.

There are some light horror undertones in this feature, only in the very beginning though. It lives within Kamus, in his fear of accepting that Destiny is gone and she’s never coming back. Her absence is quite literally haunting him.

You can stream Panda Bear It now on Amazon Prime

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

If you want to check out the movie, click on down or on any of the amazon prime links. Remember, if you do view it via the links we get some $ from it.

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Mandrake, a Film Review

Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey, starring Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty.

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Mandrake is a 2022 supernatural horror directed by Lynne Davison and written by Matt Harvey. This film boasts a cast that includes Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, and Paul Kennedy. It is currently available for subscribers in DirectTV, Shudder, Amazon Prime, or AMC+.

Cathy Madden (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer tasked with the most vilified case in her town, Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty). When a child goes missing, all eyes turn to the infamous Bloody Mary. Cathy, always believing in the best of people, tries to protect Mary. But evidence begins to mount, and Cathy finds herself in increasing danger.

Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw
In the forest
Derbhle Crotty as Mary Laidlaw

What I Like

Deirdre Mullins and Derbhle Crotty add weight to the film in their performances. Cathy proves resilient against the challenges she faces, while Mary can make any actions intimidating.
To not spoil anything, the ending is bittersweet in the best of ways, showing Cathy grow and mend relationships.

The atmosphere around Mary Laidlaw brings about the intimidation that earns the nickname Bloody Mary. It becomes easier to see why a town would fear this woman as we find her motives sinister.

Mandrake Cover Art: A mandrake behind Deirdre Mullins' Cathy Madden
Deirdre Mullins as Cathy Madden

What I Dislike

While there may be external magical elements, I found people obeyed Mary Laidlaw a little too easily for a vilified woman. There wasn’t enough for me to be convinced she intimidated them to action or magically charmed them. Or perhaps the performances felt underwhelmingly passive?

There was an irritating moment where a stalker helped save the day. The assistance is minor, but it still irritates me.

The daytime scenes of the film are bland. Perhaps it’s intentional, but the night scenes are stunning, making the contrast greater. While this film focuses on its night scenes, I couldn’t understand why it looked so bland, and sometimes poor quality, in the day.

Kraken eating a boat icon for Zeth M. Martinez
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Mandrake can be a frightful enjoyment, especially when set at night where the details work. However, many elements left me wanting more or better. If you’re looking for a witchy tale, I’d say there are better options, but Mandrake can keep you entertained.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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