30 April 2015

The Lost Future

The Lost Future Gets a Little Lost Itself
by Kristin Battestella

Young tribesman Kaleb (Sam Clafin) and Savan (Corey Sevier) protect their village against violent, mutated humans affected by a unknown virus. Their people, however, are starving while the beasts increase. Tribal leaders fear the disease and do little as they become prey – much to Kaleb's protest. A mysterious outsider Amal (Sean Bean) aides the young warriors in battle and tells them of a yellow powder antidote developed by Kaleb's late but literate father. Unfortunately, the cure and its formula have been stolen by Gagen (Jonathan Pienaar), who lords over an abandoned city. Will Kaleb – who is also able to read – be able to retrieve and recreate the yellow powder in time to save his people from death and monsters?

With its 2010 European via SyFy Channel production, the odds were already against The Lost Future. However, it is the clouded action before promising story approach that truly dampens the potential of this post apocalyptic tale. I know it isn't saying very much when The Lost Future feels like a poor man's 10,000 B.C – which I did like – but neither the double talk tribal angst nor the hunting action cold opening fool viewers into thinking that The Lost Future is in caveman times. We know the title of the picture and the not cool misleading of the audience isn't as clever as producer Jonas Bauer (The Pillars of the Earth), the numerous writers, and longtime television director Mikael Salomon (Nash Bridges) think it is. Wooden dialogue is immediately indicative of the primitive meets future mash up, and this stilted mix of attempted speaketh fancy with leftover modern lingo is at times so jarring that it sounds like a bad dub job. Awkward “What's a book and what do you do with it?” conversations highlight this first draft script design, and the lies about the status of this post apocalyptic community which should be at the forefront of The Lost Future falter as a result. Though underdeveloped, starving hunters fearing a killer virus and a monster perimeter thanks to speculation on God's will, justice, fate, and generational punishment are intriguing topics. Place these alongside a spying outsider and debates on remaining stagnant and clinging to fear or trying to proactively save one's people, and you have story and suspense. Unfortunately, The Lost Future doesn't fully explain its who, what, and why and instead favors several assorted battles and beastly fights before mentioning its confusing goings on in the minutes between the would be spectacles. Three supposedly important deaths happen in first fifteen minutes, but we can't much care about nameless fatalities when the action has already been proven as more important that the plot. Mutants, diseases, past information, immunity – a lot's being thrown at the screen to deflect us from the superficial writing. Intercutting between trapped villagers, the journey for a cure, and more split action means to trick the viewer into not seeing the aimless happenings but instead leaves the audience without an anchor. It's not the best option, but opening with a prologue explaining the science and experiments gone awry would have gone a lot further in grounding the nonsensical and putting the premise at hand in focus.

How will I ever unlock the secret of the yellow powder?!” cries the lackluster Sam Clafin (The Hunger Games) as our hero of the hour Kaleb. He doesn't look the part, has heaps of bad dialogue, and seems insignificant thanks to a too similar rival turned best friend. If he's the tribe's only hope, whelp this is Miscasting 101 all around. The post-The Tudors Annabelle Wallis as Dorel isn't made to be too sexy a cavewoman at least, but everyone else does wear more and her fabrics cover up everywhere except where they are needed. More sad however, is that she remains a useless love triangle damsel who, considering the hunting and gathering society in which she lives, shockingly can't do anything like, you know, maybe hunt or even row the fricking boat. By contrast, Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) as Kaleb's sister Miru is made overly gung ho and supposedly strong, but unfortunately, her convenient and contrived plot points lead to exactly what she hoped to prevent. Good job! Although he uncharacteristically changes his tune because the plot says so, prospective antagonist Corey Sevier (Cedar Cove) as Savan at least looks brutish and bearded as The Lost Future requires. He also gets slightly more to do than have sex with Dorel while Kaleb watches. Awkward! Going with these primitive teenager perspectives to steer an already muddled script hurts The Lost Future when the apocalyptic divisions and dystopian strata could have been much more nuanced.

No, I didn't only watch The Lost Future for Sean Bean, but he adds a much needed classy to a production that knows he is the best they have. The DVD designs all feature Bean (Game of Thrones) over everyone else, he is top billed despite having less screen time than others, and most importantly, he looks smashing with a bow and arrow. As the wise outsider Amal, his voice alone raises the tone of The Lost Future, and his smooth delivery adds authority even if he's stuck with a lot of mutant exposition. Was Bean the only person who took the much maligned script seriously or simply the only cast member with the know how to do so? Amal's introduction advances the tale more in five minutes than a half hour of action, and the irony that this one man is doing better than an entire village helps make some of the unintentional chuckles slightly explainable. The cowering superstitious folk flounder while Amal and his family make their home in a ruined church with re-purposed past gadgets – but his comfort isn't enough to him so long as others are without a cure. He has the titular focus in mind rather than the immediate struggle, and The Lost Future plum seems like it would have been a great sociological science fiction film had it been told from Amal's point of view. Man doing science with consequences, antidotes stolen, mutant results, apocalyptic separation, a brotherhood to protect human tribes – the back story Bean is telling sounds a lot more interesting!

Ironically, other elder statesmen support in The Lost Future provide more bad acting instead of maturity. The old speaketh, out of touch adults don't jive with the protesting teens, and everyone feels like they are in the wrong movie. The Lost Future styles itself as a would be television pilot with unnecessary village B and C episodic storylines and too many characters that should have been removed. Capable men on horseback arrive out of nowhere to help in the final half hour when it's too late, and smarmy villain Jonathan Pienaar (To the Ends of the Earth) hams it up a bit too much amid the rushed industrial finish. Once again, The Lost Future misplaces itself by introducing a city, new population, and more characters far, far too late in its 90 minutes. How are viewers supposed to get our bearings when someone new comes along every fifteen minutes? This backdoor pilot mood really piles on the people and possibilities yet simultaneously gives away everything that could have been done in a series season. Unfortunately, The Lost Future unfulfills on most of this blink and you miss it, fast moving potential – there's simply no time to digest whether we like any of these players or not.

Yes, the CGI sloth monster is poorly designed and the actors are woefully thrusting spears into thin air before looming over cheap looking faux animal carcasses. The zombie virus makeup and yellow powder designs are poor, too, and the hectic fight scenes make it tough to tell who is who – unless there is a cool slow motion moment with the appropriately cued music swells. Those fast, seemingly superior and parkouring mutant humanoids are also conveniently and nonetheless defeated, and some of the action looks distorted, as if the camera speed was altered for some kind of misguided special effect. A cave exploration side plot is likewise ridiculously small scale and poorly edited to cover up the rock reuses, however, the up close, through the leafy foliage filming smartly hides outdoor limits. The distant cityscape graphics also look fine, and the Life after People damaged set pieces with piles of dusty rubble, rampant vegetation, old technology, and abandoned libraries look the part. Though perhaps misused thanks to a lot of meaningless walking to and running fro, the South Africa locales are quite lovely with a fitting, untouched bleak beauty. The Lost Future may look rocky to start with an over reliance on battle graphics, but overall, the practical designs look natural and any slightly hokey visuals are not the deterrence here. Indeed, a half hour behind the scenes feature on the blu-ray release proves the production wasn't without its merits, but the absent subtitles – which would have helped tremendously with names and unclarified plot points – highlights the decision to go with the gimmicks instead of fully executing all the script possibilities.

I saw The Lost Future when it first aired on SyFy, and although I haven't watch the channel much before or since thanks to its lack of actual science fiction, this one does seem a bit more sophisticated than the hear tell likes of Sharknado and the other monster of the week knockoffs. Granted, the cerebral post apocalyptic possibilities go unexplored at the expense of more action or a speedy run time while the script spends most of its time on muddled, disjointed storylines and distractions that proceed accordingly just because they should. Ironically, The Lost Future can be humorously viewed as an educational tool on how to not botch a good story with what modern television and film says we should have rather than what the tale needs. One may prefer something more serious, but this is still somehow a fun picture. If you accept The Lost Future as is for the superficial entertainment, Bean fans and science fiction audiences can have a good time. Viewers may even see this as a gateway to search for similar but better realized dystopian adventures, and ultimately, I like to think that the point of The Lost Future is that the ability to read can save the planet. Who knew?

17 April 2015

More Mario Bava Horror!

Bava Horror, Again!
by Kristin Battestella

What's not to love for the classic horror viewer when it comes to the stylish scares, tempting thrills, and colorful chills from that giallo master Mario Bava?

A Bay of Blood – Signor Bava directs this 1971 plot of heiresses, real estate, and murder – you know, the usual – with his expected mix of upscale cinematography and unsettling panache. Storms and classical melodies create a sadness to start as nasty deaths disrupt a would be old time gentility. There's no dialogue for the first ten minutes, but the silently designed kills are tantalizing nonetheless. Add swanky affairs, alluring secretaries, and skinny dipping run afoul to the zany fortune tellers and partying teens, and all today's quintessential horror ingredients pack these eighty-four minutes. Pretty outdoor designs give way to blue nighttime hues and noir lit interiors add mood while red accents ominously treat the eye. Eerily framed bodies, hallways, and faux suicide notes add layers as those seventies zooms mirror the characters' swoons and fears. Although this is more bloody than Bava's earlier works – which some may like and others may not – the bodies here are normal compared to contemporary bimbos. The gory chase, squeamish squidworks, and nasty hatchet slices are artistically juxtaposed with sunshine, birds chirping, and that Bava delicacy. Of course, the weak script is certainly not perfect, the English audio is too low, the subtitles don't quite sync, and who is who or double crossing whom can be very confusing. Thankfully, the inheritance battles, illegitimate mysteries, and one by one eliminations mix well with the sex and violence. The bodies pile up in unique ways, and Friday the 13th certainly copied a kill or two! Some scenes may feel slasher for slasher's sake, but the stylish, somewhat melancholy tone remains strong. Everyone is fighting over this lovely land whilst also ruining it with ghoulish mayhem, and this deadly mystery is still an exciting grandpappy for the slasher genre.

Blood and Black Lace – Sweet, jazzy rhythms, classy titles, and a suspicious tone open this 1964 ninety minutes – one of Bava's earlier saucies full of secret diaries, scandal, drugs, hysterical dames, and murder. Though a little slow to get going thanks to confusing lookalike women, uneven or hampered dubbing, and misogynistic “I don't believe in permanent, exclusive relationships” two-timing men; the violence here is carefully styled and well filmed whilst also being rough, haphazard, congested, and disturbingly intimate as such horror risque should be. It is chilling and uncomfortable to watch as these women are attacked, abused, and tortured – this is real world scary violence not the fantastic or fake monsters. Ripped garments and blood marring the pretty faces add enough skin and gore suggestions alongside a vivid palette of flashing lights, shadow schemes in multiple colors, and symbolic reds matching the illicit. Rome exteriors, layered d├ęcor, and fancy frocks accent the mid century behind the scenes fashion drama, and delightful editing, interesting camera framing, and multi action intercutting raise the tension. The viewer side eyes these naughty women going off alone at night with obsessed, lusty men, yet it's fun to suspect as the screams and crazy turns add surprises. Who is this fedora wearing masked killer so desperate to keep the off the time racy hidden? Sure, the lethal planning and police investigation are a little sloppy; the subtitles don't match and thus send some of the details amiss. However, the deadly vignettes progress into a intriguing mystery rooted in a realistic setting and simmering schemes – making this little thriller a wild, must see precursor to slice and dice horror as we know it. 

5 Dolls for an August Moon – A swanky, sunny, coastal start with groovy records, spinning beds, and heady parties full of glitz and glamour quickly leads to bad business deals, isolated island danger, and mysterious science experiments in this 1970 thriller. Jokes about virgin sacrifices and saucy torture make way for kinky seductions, skimpy skin, juicy gold digging dames, and shady millionaires. No price – such as a life or two – is too much for this elusive formula, and smartly used darkness, silhouettes, and flickering lights accent the fine editing and carefully placed zooms. Though perhaps dated, now period flair and colorful Bava style don't look budget, and early genre staples add panache. From a false scary start to a scantily clad running beauty and a group of people trapped with a high stakes killer, the eighty minute suspense moves quickly as the players fall. Some of the back and forth money double talk might get lost in translation amid the Italian audio and English subtitles and too many Jacks and/or Jacques do make it tough to tell who is who. However, the dead piling up in the freezer adds a touch of humor, and it's amusing how the money and formula are more important to these people than finding the killer! Interesting lady leaning innuendo, character turnabouts, missing money, and finger pointing accusations accent the deadly competition, and red herrings lead to some excellent ante ups for the final twenty minutes. No, there isn't a lot of outright slice and dice scary or gore as may be expected, and calling this horror feels slightly mislabeled. Fortunately, there is a lot of entertaining tension here to match the interconnecting intrigue, and it's fun to guess who's behind the 'formulaic' foul play.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon – Romantic scoring and stylish red designs over the opening credits of this eighty eight minute 1970 slasher deflect the killer scares to come, but arty, distorted deaths and dreamlike swirls are edited in time with the eponymous slices, shiny blades, symbolic wedding night blood, and bridal voyeurism. Unique camera shots and frames filmed through the mirrors or the internal fashion photo shoot lenses add to the quality, non herky jerky camera movements, and creepy mannequins, seances, secret rooms, askew sexuality, marital dysfunction, and beautiful roses create heaps of atmosphere along with lovely locales, lush interiors, and a spooky speeding train. The killer narration is also bemusingly honest – this psychopath nonchalantly admits where the tallied and once pretty bodies are buried and how he hates his brow beating but unaware spiritualist wife Laura Betti, also of A Bay of Blood. The struggle against the urge to kill escalates as painful memories and seductive, tempting models help piece together this deadly psyche and the murderous source. Brief mentions of a faltering business and rocky inheritance, however, seem of little importance, and the police investigation feels too weak, even easy. Obviously, there are also perhaps too many motherly roots and Psycho parallels, but strangely, partway through the time here, the murdering mayhem turns into something more paranormal. The audience is intrigued by the killer and the surrounding twistedness, but this seemingly rushed double plot tries to do too much. Thankfully, there is a wacky, whimsical mood and internal wink to the deathly love and saucy subtext without the need for excessive skin or gore. There are some fun spins here to keep the bridal butchery entertaining, and I'm surprised this one seems a little unloved.

Kill, Baby, Kill – From the period start with bloody spikes, evil child laughter, and coffins to the superb crumbling locales, bleak landscapes, and foggy cemetery – Maestro Bava invokes the total gothic formula for a macabre, dreadful mood in this 1966 mystery. Horrendous deaths, a foreign doctor's arrival, the mysterious baroness on the continent, suspicious townsfolk, village curses, and carriages complete with fearful drivers blossom amid an impeded investigation, reluctant autopsies, scared girls, and scary ladies. Eerie rituals and specters tapping at the window escalate the suspense while a dizzying spiral staircase and carefully placed zooms increase anxiousness – be they fast, hectic ascents or slow, simmering tracking shots. The print would show its age and low budget, but there are no faded visuals here thanks to the intentionally lush dimension, well lit design, smart shadows, strategic cobwebs, and spooky chic interiors. The hazy dream sequence isn't over the top yet remains disturbing alongside an orchestra of scary sounds, cat meows, and tolling bells topping off the atmosphere. While those familiar with the gothic Hammer productions or our recent American in another country versus juvenile phantom trends may find some elements predictable or the expositions convenient; skin suggestions and hints of blood do enough without the need for excessive nudity or gore. The English audio and subtitles are pretty good, too, and the players are quite fine over the fast moving eighty-three minute duration. Whichever of the assorted distribution titles you find this one under, there's no reason not to like the creepy mysteries, spooky revelations, paranormal fun, and sorcery shocks here.

07 April 2015

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Available Now!

Hello Everyone! 

Just a Public Service announcement for fellow fans of the horror genre!  Several of my reviews, lists, and interviews are featured in the HorrorAddicts.net's Horror Addicts Guide to Life anthology Available NOW!!!

Here's the Blurb and Where to Buy:

Horror Addicts Guide to Life – Available Now!


Cover art by: Masloski Carmen
Editor: David Watson

Do you love the horror genre? Do you look at horror as a lifestyle? Do the “norms” not understand your love of the macabre?

Despair no longer, my friend, for within your grasp is a book written by those who look at horror as a way of life, just like you. This is your guide to living a horrifying existence. Featuring interviews with Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, and The Gothic Tea Society...

Authors: Kristin Battestella, Mimielle, Emerian Rich, Dan Shaurette, Steven Rose Jr., Garth von Buchholz, H.E. Roulo, Sparky Lee Anderson, Mary Abshire, Chantal Boudreau, Jeff Carlson, Catt Dahman, Dean Farnell, Sandra Harris, Willo Hausman, Laurel Anne Hill, Sapphire Neal, James Newman, Loren Rhoads, Chris Ringler, Jessica Robinson, Eden Royce, Sumiko Saulson, Patricia Santos Marcantonio, J. Malcolm Stewart, Stoneslide Corrective, Mimi A.Williams, and Ron Vitale. With art by Carmen Masloski and Lnoir.

For more information, visit Horror Addicts.net or join the gang on Facebook!