Bound by Flesh (2012) This fascinating documentary by Leslie Zemeckis tells the sad, bizarre story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton (some may recall them from the Tod Browning classic, Freaks), who were sold into a form of legalized slavery. Born at the turn of the 20th century in England, their circuitous path led them to the United States, where they were showcased like royalty, but failed to reap the benefits of their success. Although the twins eventually won their emancipation from their adoptive parents, their victory was short-lived, followed by a lifetime of exploitive managers and career missteps. It’s essential viewing for anyone interested in the history of sideshows or stories about the indomitable nature of the human spirit under adversity.
Rating: ****. Available on DVD and Netflix Streaming
WolfCop (2014) After all the positive buzz about writer/director Lowell Dean’s horror/comedy, I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down by this blatant attempt to create a new cult classic. Leo Fafard stars as Lou Garou, a lazy, alcoholic sheriff’s deputy in a corrupt one-horse town. His life changes for the better when he acquires the ability to change into a werewolf, and uses his lupine powers to help fight crime. Unfortunately, the comic elements are more hit than miss, most of the characters aren’t three-dimensional enough to care about, and the story leads to a plot twist lifted from Hot Fuzz. I applaud what the filmmakers were attempting on such a meager budget, but I wish more time had been spent on the script. If you’re into cheap thrills with a few laughs thrown in, it might still be worth a look.
Rating: ** ½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix Streaming
Honeymoon (2014) In this low-budget horror directed by Leigh Janiak, bland 20-something newlyweds Bea and Paul (Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway) spend their honeymoon in a secluded cabin. One night, Bea wanders off into the woods and vanishes. When Paul finally locates her, she doesn’t appear quite right. The rest of the film is spent uncovering the mystery about what happened to her during those lost moments, as Paul begins to suspect she may not be the same person. The deliberate pace, obviously meant to convey a slow burn, is tedious rather than suspenseful. Honeymoon meanders to an ambiguous conclusion, prompting one to question if aliens or supernatural forces were involved. By that time I ceased to care.
Rating: **. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix Streaming
Space Station 76 (2014) I hated this movie – not for lack of talent behind or in front of the camera, mind you, but for the opportunity the filmmakers squandered. Director/co-writer Jack Plotnick starts with the kitschy premise of a ‘70s concept of the future, focusing on the dysfunctional crew of a space station. But what could have been a fun exercise in retro sci-fi/comedy is undone by a relentlessly depressing tone. The script, credited to five individuals, lacks any heart, with the heavy bits outweighing the light moments by a substantial margin. 1970s hit songs and polyester apparel can’t diminish the misery of the characters’ lives, dominated by marital discord, clinical depression, attempted suicide, death of pets, and parental mind games. Perhaps this uneasy mix of retro comedy/drama with fanciful elements could only have been handled by Wes Anderson or Jared Hess, but in the hands of Plotnick and crew, it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Why the extra half-star, you might ask? There are a couple of funny bits with a robot therapist spouting tired aphorisms that made me chuckle, and it was nice to see Keir Dullea in a cameo. These fleeting moments do little to excuse the unpleasant experience of the rest of the film, however, or mitigate the cognitive dissonance I felt, thinking about what could have been, versus the atrocity I was actually watching.
Rating: *½. Available on DVD