Case 347 Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Case 347 written and directed by Chris Wax, follows psychologist and UFO skeptic, Dr. Mia Jansen (Maya Stojan), and a team of documentary filmmakers who believe that alien abduction claims are forms of “mass hysteria”. The film uses found footage to tell its story, while integrating the live reactions of those filming and narrating the situation. On their journey they make some shocking discoveries and end up in a nightmare.

The film has pretty strong moments that peak your interest. The  different camera angles from the found footage, combined with security footage and night vision lenses, were used effectively to create a dark, sinister atmosphere. However, the film felt episodic and did not really flow from scene to scene that well. There would be an encounter and then dead air right after, it almost felt like we were waiting for something else to happen, rather than just being in the moment with the characters.

The film just seemed very mediocre and could have been a research paper, instead of a film. For a film that is relies so heavily on the footage they found, they don’t really make any of it plausible because of how mediocre it looked. For some reason it just did not feel believable. It just seemed messy and the performances were lacking any emotional depth. It emulated films that have dealt with paranormal activity and made it uninteresting.

Case 347 starts off strong and then loses its audience when it becomes over exaggerated. The found footage is not enough to make this film interesting and that is why it is difficult to sit through. It seemed very fake and majority of the scares were just used for shock value and it did not really make sense in relation to the the alien storyline. It had the potential to be a solid horror film but the performances were not strong enough to carry this through.

‘Always” Short Film Interview with Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario


By: Amanda Guarragi

The 2nd Annual Desertscape International Film Festival in St. George, Utah is a festival that celebrates filmmakers around the globe. People are encouraged to submit their short films and student films to the festival. The festival normally runs from July 29th to August 1st. This year, the short film Always has been selected for the program. I spoke to the creators of the film, Director Sam Zapiain and Writer/Producer Melissa Del Rosario ahead of the festival.

Always is a short film, based on real life experiences. It incorporates horror elements to cope with the illness of diabetes. There is an urgency in the storytelling because no one really discusses the struggle of living with diabetes. Its experimental use of painted images and rough editing, combined with the haunting score, make this a truly special film.

The importance of making this film for Zapiain comes from a very personal place. He wanted to address the struggles of those who live with diabetes in a very realistic way. “About three years ago, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, and how I handled the symptoms that surfaced out of the blue and out of control felt like a horror story. Out of control.” It is a film that shows the numbness and fatigue through painted images, that come to life in the depths of Alex’s (David Kurtz) mind.

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The sketches were placed in Alex’s apartment to show that he was an artist and his designs allowed him to explore his inner thoughts. It was a spur of the moment idea, right as they were about to begin shooting the film Del Rosario says, “Sam had this idea right before we are set to shoot. I got some paper out and started sketching immediately and I’m happy it all worked out.” Zapiain also wanted to use the sketches as a creative outlet for him to understand what was happening to his body, while trying to understand the symptoms of being diagnosed with diabetes.

The most challenging aspect of filming this piece for Zapiain was learning to accept and acknowledge the presence of a disease. “For quite some time it was the idea of it being behind me, and somewhat in a state of denial or disbelief. Creating the film meant I knew it was here to stay, and it would make a statement on my life.” Zapiain also thanked his producer Del Rosario for helping him recognize the story, writing it, and gathering such a wonderfully talented cast and crew. “In a way, the people behind the film were my therapy. They helped me accustom.” 

It was important for Del Rosario to take on a project that was so personal to a close friend of hers. “For me, as someone who is not diabetic, I decided to learn more about this condition because someone I care about has it. It was truly terrifying to learn about. I believe it is important to raise awareness about this condition and the symptoms others may be experiencing.” It was a project Del Rosario wanted to work on because there are millions of people in the world that are diabetic, with many of the not knowing they are, undiagnosed.

The focus on the horror elements also enhanced the storytelling. Zapiain wanted to incorporate his love for horror and he did this through the use of repetition, quick edits and stunning monochromatic sequences vs the scenes with insulin that were in colour,

“From a technical standpoint, it was a field day for us to play with shadows, and utilize the horror aspect, exaggerating hallways, dark rooms, silhouettes, etc. Colour meant the reality of the situation. Realizing these horrifying images are in the main character’s perspective, (black and white), and what actually exists in color.

There’s such richness in these tones and the lighting was also extremely effective to punch up certain textures. It is a beautifully shot film and there are certain images that will stay in my mind for a while.

The film feels like a journey in such a short period of time. The repetition, rough cuts and haunting (but stunning) images are all utilized to properly highlight the struggle of living with diabetes. Always is very well written and executed, it’s a personal story and everyone should watch it. To learn more about the struggles of living with diabetes, go to the American Diabetes Association website.

 

Swallow Review


BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI

Swallow is a film about a young housewife named Hunter (Haley Bennett). She appears to be in a “perfect” marriage, with her new husband Richie (Austin Stowell) and she finds out that she is pregnant with their first child. Hunter is then haunted by her traumatizing past and goes on a journey of identifying who she truly is. Carlo Mirabella – Davis addresses the importance of a woman’s agency and how to help those who suffer from mental illnesses.

Mirabella – Davis created a perfect atmosphere by composing the frame with some symmetry. There were moments where everything in the room was perfectly aligned and it gave the viewer a sense of calmness. There were plenty of perfect shots and then there would be an edit with something violent or bloody. The editing would almost disturb the peace and remind the viewer that, even though it looked perfect on the outside, something was terribly wrong on the inside.

The idea of perfection is toyed with in Swallow and Davis did it in such an interesting way. Davis created perfect frames but also challenged the ideal perception of perfect beauty in Hunter. Hunter seemed almost submissive to her husband Richie and would cater to him, she never wanted him to resent her or hate her in any way. She would dress up for him and had a full course meal prepared, when he came home from work. Ideally, Hunter was the perfect housewife for Richie, but wanting to be perfect for him, also made her lose any control she had for herself.

Haley Bennett gave a fantastic performance as Hunter. Majority of her performance lies in her expressions and her eyes. On the outside she maintained perfect composure, but on the inside, behind her eyes, you could tell she was struggling with something. Hunter felt like she was being controlled, so to regain this control on her body, she began to swallow small objects. As Hunter’s story unfolds, we see her become her own person and by the end of this film, she has full control over who she is.

Swallow is a strong film and Davis dives into a story we haven’t seen before, especially executed in this way. I wouldn’t even classify this as a horror; instead it felt more like a psychological thriller because her psychosis was rather interesting. When Hunter discussed her trauma and addressed her past, she almost seemed childlike when she told her story. It’s a good watch if you enjoy the psychology of human behaviour.

The Invisible Man Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Invisible Man is a film that has left me speechless.

Leigh Whannell developed a story that suited the lore of the title character so well. It’s definitely a departure from the original monster movie and it’s a modernized take on the meaning of being “The Invisible Man”.

Not only did Whannell write a fantastic story, he also created a chilling, isolated atmosphere that affected his protagonist, as well as the audience. You feel everything with Cecelia because of the framing and camera movements, it feels as if you’re stuck with her on this journey. The sound design is also something that flowed nicely throughout the film and was utilized at the right moments, for dramatic effect.

The Invisible Man is about a woman, named Cecelia (Elisabeth Moss), who attempts to leave her abuser. As her story unfolds, she discusses her trauma and what she went through with Adrian (Oliver Jackson – Cohen). Cecelia goes to live with her friend James (Aldis Hodge), who also happens to be a police officer. Cecelia then suffers from PTSD from her time spent locked up with her ex-boyfriend. Whannell handles the subject matter quite well and addresses the issue, of no one believing women, in a frustrating and exaggerated way.

The way I interpreted the meaning of “The Invisible Man” in regards to this particular story was, that even if someone, who was a victim manages to leave their abuser, they will always be with them. They may not physically be present but the trauma will leave its mark in the most brutal way. Whannell redesigned the meaning of this monster and the story is written, so that we can understand and empathize with Cecelia, as she tries to heal and overcome this nightmare.

Elisabeth Moss gave one of the best performances of her career AND of the year so far. From the very first moment Cecelia opens her eyes at the start of the film, she captures you and holds you with her until she closes them at the end of this film. Everything about her performance was absolute perfection, she made you feel everything with her and it was painful to sit through. It was frustrating majority of the time because no one believed her and that was the point of this film, to make you understand what victims of abuse go through.

The Invisible Man is poignant, brutal and rough to sit through. It is a film that the message demands to be heard. It’s almost difficult to discuss it with anyone, unless they’ve seen it because you it’s hard not to spoil it. Every situation was strategically placed and the execution of the scenes involving “The Invisible Man” were shot extremely well, with the help of fantastic special effects.