HorrorFest International Winner ‘Red Light’: An Interview with Filmmakers Ted Raimi and Alex Kahuam


By: Amanda Guarragi

Since 2001 HorrorFest International has brought the Horror community together to celebrate the genre and emerging filmmakers. The festival showcases features, short films and scripts, to live in-person audiences. This year, the film Red Light won for Best Midnight Movie at the festival. Director Alex Kahuam is absolutely delighted that his film got the midnight spot during the festival and was overwhelmed by the reception. The film stars the legendary Ted Raimi, as Ian, a man who teaches millennials a thing or two about karma.

The film begins with this quote,

“As a child I never imagined that all of the real monsters in the world would be human”

-Mobeen Hakeem

It sets the tone for the rest of the film because everyone has their own perception of monsters. It is a reflection on humanity and the treatment of others. It also highlights the persona of social media influencers, on and off their screen. Kahuam wrote a great screenplay exploring these ideas and he definitely presents them in a unique way,

“It reflects all people. It’s just a reflection on humanity and how we are monsters in a way and that’s what I wanted. So the audience would get a taste of what the whole picture was going to be. Everyone’s a monster in their own way. 

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(left) Chloe Ortega, Jade Janet, Esteban de la Isla, Alex Sands and Layne Herrin

Red Light captures the human condition and how everyone fears something different. The most unique aspect about this film is the long takes that Kahuam decided to do. Everything was perfectly orchestrated and the tension was really prominent throughout. These long takes also brought out great performances from his actors, allowing their fear to feel real. Kahuam also used lighting and shadowing to enhance the atmosphere,

“The colour is super loud, violent and visceral and I wanted the audience to feel that at the beginning and at the end.”

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment

The placement for these colours for the opening and closing shots, definitely packed a punch and made it memorable.

Not only was this film visually pleasing and so incredibly fun to watch, Ian (Ted Raimi) as a character was intriguing and he left you wanting to know more. The writing for the character was really strong and watching his story unfold was great. Raimi spoke about his character and praised Kahuam for writing him so well. Raimi said that his character and the story reflected something that everyone is currently dealing with,

“We happen to be in the middle of a generational crisis right now, it usually takes place every 50 years. I think Alex has tapped into that quite well and so it was easy to step into.”

– Ted Raimi, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(Ted Raimi as Ian)

This is what is interesting about Ian’s character, he genuinely believes that he is paying it forward and restoring order in the universe. Ian kidnaps these teenagers and ties them up in his basement to set them straight, all while answering to a higher power, his own parents. We see three generations in a very different light and how they respond to each other.

The last act in this film has stayed with me because of how powerful the visuals were. The Horror elements were perfect and it is a short film that would work even better as a feature because of how strong the writing is. From the lighting, to the song choices, to the sound design, the film is beautifully crafted and I am looking forward to seeing more from Alex Kahuam.

The Queen’s Gambit Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Queen’s Gambit is a sexy, well written, tension filled chess match and every episode is structured to perfection. The story is about a young orphan, named Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), learning the masterful game of chess, from the custodian at the orphanage, named Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), she gets adopted at the age of fifteen and goes on to play in tournaments.

The series follows Beth Harmon at different stages of her life. There are moments that Beth remembers vividly, that shape her psychological and emotional state as a young girl. As a little girl, at the age of 8, she is very reserved but cunning and when she found an interest in chess, her intellect came naturally when playing the game. Mr. Shaibel knew that she was special and that is why he continued to teach her the game of chess.

When Beth turned fifteen, she was finally adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley, who have a nice little home in Kentucky. As she enters into chess tournaments, her new mother finds intrigue in the prize money she could win, if she beats the rest of the men vying for the same title. Beth holds nothing back and uses her intuition to carry her far, eventually leading her to go head to head with one of the greatest Grandmasters to the play the game in Russia.

Courtesy of Netflix
(center) Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

Scott Frank and Allan Scott created such a thrilling atmosphere in each episode. Not only was the game of chess really interesting and fun to watch but Anya Taylor Joy demanded your attention as she played the game. She has these big, beautiful eyes and she does so much with them. There’s so much depth in her performance and it was effortless. She was poised, ruthless and seductive, while she was playing the game. Taylor-Joy is truly a force to be reckoned with in this industry and The Queen’s Gambit is her best performance yet.

The script is so brilliantly written that Beth’s psychological and emotional trauma were explored in each episode, eventually leading to her downfall. Her traumatic childhood and her new life, coexisted inside of her but somehow the worst aspects of both haunted her in the end. Leaving an orphanage is almost like culture shock, Beth had to adjust to a completely new life and she navigated it by playing chess. She is such an inspiring character, even through her hardships, and definitely one of the most respectable chess players to ever play the game.

Courtesy of Netflix
(left) Marcin Dorocinski as Vasily Borgov and Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

The Queen’s Gambit is an incredible showcase for Anya Taylor-Joy’s talent as a bright, young actress and the roles she has taken, have definitely shaped her into the force she is today. The writing is what makes the limited series exciting but Taylor-Joy elevates it to another level of entertainment. It is almost impossible for anyone, to not binge these 7 episodes in one sitting because that is how exciting the creators made the game of chess.

After So Many Days: A 365 Day Journey With Musicians Jim Hanft & Samantha Yonack


By: Amanda Guarragi

After So Many Days is a documentary that will take you on tour, with a newly married singer/songwriter duo, Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack. They decided to embark on a tour, to play one show a day, every day, for a year. It is a concept that not many people have even come close to attempting, but they wanted to see how everything would play out. Jim and Samantha’s love of music, their creativity and determination sent them on a journey that changed them forever.

The film has been an official selection at more than 30 film festivals worldwide and has just been released today, along with a companion album “Songs from After So Many Days”. It is incredibly candid, as they film each other and their experiences, travelling to different cities and performing for everyone. Samantha felt really grateful for this experience and how interacting with their audience has been affected by the pandemic, “At a time where we can’t tour and we can’t physically be there in front of people, we’re hoping that this film can do that in place of us doing that. So it’s kind of touring for us at the moment which is nice.” The film festival circuit has been incredibly rewarding for both Jim and Samantha, they truly appreciated sharing their music and their journey with the world.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Jim and Samantha travelled to 14 different countries. There were so many beautiful moments and it was lovely to see the reception to their music on a global scale. One moment that popped into Jim’s head, was when they performed at a memory care facility. “We went in there and we learned a couple of songs, some old timey songs, to kind of bring some of that musical spirit in there.” It has been said that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s are able to piece some memories together through music because a memory can be tied to a song, which at some point in their lives evoked an emotion. “Seeing some people who were kind of suffering, hearing the music, light up and start to dance, that was really moving.” Something as simple as playing a song, triggers a memory, and that is what makes music so incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

The beauty of this documentary is that it is a 2-in-1 tour for the audience. Not only do you have a front row seat to their show but the behind the scenes of their day-to-day process. An entire year of travelling, performing and meeting new people, is definitely exciting but it can also be exhausting. It is such a well rounded piece. You really get to know Jim and Samantha so well. Their personalities fill the screen and their passion for their craft is truly inspiring.

After So Many Days is a wonderful documentary because it takes the viewer into a space where creativity and art is a necessity. This film speaks to creative minds and the hearts of determined individuals who want to pursue their dream. Jim and Samantha’s journey will uplift anyone who has been struggling with their process. The power of music demands to be felt in this documentary and it’s a great feeling.

Rebecca (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca is a slow psychological thriller, with a love story at its center. Love can be masked in so many ways and people pay the price for being blinded by their partner. Love can also whisk you away into situations that you wouldn’t have ever imagined. Lily James and Armie Hammer are perfectly cast as Maxim de Winter and Mrs. de Winter, they had great chemistry to carry out this film to the very end.

The one thing that people seem to ignore, is that Armie Hammer has this air about him – as this tall, beautiful man, who any woman would instantly fall in love with. He has those features and utilized them as Maxim de Winter. What really worked, was the way Lily James played into his persona, she was infatuated with him. She wanted him more than life itself, you could see it in her eyes and the way her body moved with his. The infatuation and lust for Maxim was definitely felt, all thanks to Lily James.

I was more taken aback with James’ performance because of how physical and emotional it was. Her body language was really interesting to watch and you’re able to feel everything she was feeling. She truly gave such a strong performance and it was great seeing this side of her. She also went toe to toe with Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who also gave a fantastic performance. Women were at the forefront, whether it was the newlywed, the house manager, or the ex wife, the presence of a woman’s energy was always felt and it was great.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs. de Winter

I’ve always been a fan of Ben Wheatley’s work and his direction for Rebecca was unique to his style. The only thing that may have been off sync for me, was the editing in this film. I felt like it jumped quite a lot and I understood the choices that were made but for some reason it didn’t translate well for me. The costume and production design, were probably my favourite aspects of the film because of how beautifully detailed everything was.

Rebecca has great performances, a strong score and a very interesting story with a twist ending. The most important thing about the film is how one perceives love as perfection. It seems that whoever falls in love (especially those hopeless romantics) have a skewed perception of the one they’re with. It doesn’t happen to everyone, majority of the time we can’t find that perfect person, but someone who comes close to the idea of perfection.

Make sure to check out Rebecca on Netflix October 21st!

Definition Please Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Definition Please is written and directed by Sujata Day, as she takes us into former Scribbs Spelling Bee champion, Monica Chondry’s (Sujata Day) world. The film highlights family identity, mental illness and internal struggles, in a powerful and realistic way. When Monica’s brother, Sonny (Ritesh Rajan) returns home, to take care of their sick mother Jaya (Anna Khaja), tensions arise and past trauma reveals itself in different ways.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions,
(center) Esha Chundru as Young Monica

Sonny lives in California and has become a personal trainer, living a very different lifestyle than his sister. Monica lives at home with her mother and she tutors young students in the area, while keeping her artistic side, as she occasionally paints in her treehouse. Both siblings are polar opposites and when they come together, the hidden rivalry slowly comes back to the forefront.

Both siblings had a very different perception, on how their life would turn out and being under the same roof, forced them both to reevaluate their current living situation. The film resonated with me because I’m currently in my mid-twenties, trying to navigate my life and to see Monica struggling as well, made me feel better. We are all on our own path and sometimes life derails you, on to many different journeys, in order to get to your final destination.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions
(left) Ritesh Rajan as Sonny and Sujata Day as Monica

As the one year anniversary of their father’s death approaches, Sonny and Monica are pressured by their mother to reconcile. What impressed me the most about this film, was how strong the writing was throughout. Everything was perfectly placed and the secrets were revealed, at the most opportune moments. It was incredibly emotional, lighthearted, and perfectly balanced.

The representation of Indian culture, shown through the soundtrack, family structure, pop culture and religious Hindu ceremonies, combined with American ideology, told a heartfelt story about achieving the American Dream. Sujata Day incorporated so many elements into this story, by creating such well rounded characters, that people can fully relate to.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions
(left) Sujata Day as Monica and Ritesh Rajan as Sonny

More importantly, she addresses the failures or questionable decisions that were made and finds that silver lining for her characters. The film also addresses mental health and has a very open discussion about it with its audience. The sibling dynamic between Sonny and Monica felt authentic, as they struggled to come to terms with who they are, together.

Definition Please is authentic, well written, charming and incredibly heartfelt. It’s a film that people need to see because of how wonderful these characters are and how important their journeys can be for so many people watching. It is a Dramedy, that has great balance and strong sense of direction from Sujata Day, in presenting a story that is important to her.