Viewed – 01 July 2014 Pay-per-view
Has to be said, I’m becoming quite a fan of relatively unknown horror director Ti West, following the double hits of the unsettling House of the Devil and the gentler The Inkeepers. This latest offering sees him turning to the found-footage / religious cult sub genres to deliver another gradual build up experience. A film crew working for an underground TV channel travel to a remote island to report on a religious cult, following the revelation that their photographer’s sister has started living there.
This competently acted, slow burning thriller has plenty of shaky hand-held cameras, tense interviews with the locals, and a stand-out performance from Gene Jones as the worshipped cult leader referred to as ‘father’. Although the material is very familiar if you’ve seen the likes of Red State or Martha Marcy May Marlene, this was still done well and offers the viewer both sides of the coin; a very attractive existence as well as something much more sinister. The closing moments were tough viewing and pretty disturbing (…the baby) and left me shaken but also impressed with what Ti West had delivered, managing to pull the rug out from under me yet again.
I’d have really liked it to have gone a bit deeper into the inner-workings of the cult and their motivations, but to say any more would spoil it, so basically – this is another decent offering from one of the more interesting voices in horror.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 10 August 2012 Television
Documentaries exploring the dangers of the internet are becoming quite the little sub-genre, what with the acclaimed Catfish last year, and now this, eye-opening true story. It tells the tragic tale of Brian, a man lured into a web of lies by a woman calling herself Jessie, the tallhotblonde of the title, who over several months, forms a relationship with two men who both work at the same place, eventually causing jealousy and hatred that finally leads to murder.
Directed by Barbara Shroeder, this features candid interviews and disturbing transcripts of online conversations, that certainly drew this viewer in and kept him glued. As someone who uses the internet, the lure of the freedom the web bestows can be very appealing, but can also be a breeding ground for dishonesty, which in this case turned very bad indeed. Like Catfish, I found it hard to sympathize with the main protagonists, whose own stupidity and naivety was the cause of much of the trouble. And although it lacks that film’s gritty, handheld camera style that meant you felt a part of every moment, this still remained shocking in places … even if it had little new to say.
If you don’t already have a bit of knowledge of such dangers, like chatrooms, people pretending to be who they are not, this could paint the ‘net in a rather bad light – but like I have always said, with a bit of common sense, the web can still be safe – just stay away from tallhotblondes, I suppose.
Verdict: 2.5 /5
Viewed – 19 February 2012 Television
Oh the horrors of the internet age. Social Networking has become a major way for many to communicate with friends, family, and to some extent, complete strangers … so much so that relationships can be formed even if you never physically meet up. It’s a strange and dangerous new world, and one that photographer Yaniv Shulman discovered all too well in late 2007 / early 2008 when he became friends with a family and their art prodigy 8-year-old daughter, Abbie.
This absorbing documentary exposes just how easy it is to get drawn into a friendship with someone you have never met, and how what you are told and what you believe can become something else entirely. Directors / documentarians Henry Joost & Ariel Shulman have crafted a shocking and at times disturbing portrait of social networking and the caution we all should have whenever speaking to another person online, especially if you don’t really know them. It’s put together from a wealth of footage shot over the eight month online communication between Yaniv and the mysterious family, and along with some good editing, lots of hand-held camera and good use of Google Earth – this is one documentary I think anyone involved in the likes of Facebook etc should seek out immediately.
I thought some of Yaniv’s actions were kind of reckless, and when you consider how many weirdos and nutters prowl the internet, what he gets up to doesn’t send the best message. Also the final reveal and what has actually been happening, is portrayed with sympathy, when I felt like shouting at the screen. Yaniv handles things well towards the end though, but I felt he was almost as guilty as the other person involved for allowing what transpired to go on for as long as it did. Still this was gripping and thought-provoking, and to some extent, opened my eyes.
Verdict: 4 /5