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By midlandsmovies, May 21 2019 06:42PM



Depicted Illusion


Directed and written by Jordan-Kane Lewis


2019


Depicted Illusion is a new dramatic character study from young student filmmaker Jordan-Kane Lewis which explores the mind of a serial killer whose victims also become his “art”.


Opening with a Blade Runner-style electronica score, the short begins with a dead body and what looks like a crime-scene photographer taking pictures of a slain woman.


However, this is actually Johnathon, the killer himself who is also a photographer and who uses his gruesome scenarios as the backdrop in his regular job.


The film also uses a voiceover (ironically like Blade Runner’s original cut too) and attempts to blend the disturbing night-time incidents with some more mundane day-time conversations.


The mix of dark lighting and digital sounds echoes some of Nicholas Winding Refn’s work – which seems an influence – and the filmmaker has high aspirations mixing heady religious themes into the protagonist’s murderous intentions.


The filmmaker acknowledges their low budget and short time to plan and unfortunately this is noticeable in a few specific areas. Especially the sound which could do with another pass in the editing studio.


Using mainly on-set audio recording there is sadly a noticeable hum in an unbalanced mix and the voiceover also gets lost in a soundtrack that is at times too loud and also too sloppy.


Some consistency would help in the lighting too but the filmmaker does make a lot of interesting shot choices. Keeping the audience visually engaged, the director – clearly cinematically influenced – adds in “God” shots, drone shots, slow zooms and sequences filmed from a car to tell their story which is to the film’s credit.


As the serial killer drags more bodies around, the voiceover moves into a sermon of the killer’s manifesto of sorts and whilst the acting is a little under-par, parts of it reminded me at times of the blank expressions within Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.


The killer uses photos of his victims in his art – a bit of Lords of Chaos here crossed with Velvet Buzzsaw - and the ending sees a group of white-masked cult members (fans?) coaxing Johnathon to a local pub.


Dressed like the party-goers from Eyes Wide Shut, but filmed in what looks like a Wetherspoons, another location would have added more atmosphere but the film’s strange ambience continues with a macabre and non-explanatory conclusion.


The filmmaker is not short of cinematic inspiration and throws a lot of meaningful ideas into the 15-minute short but it’s slightly undone by the – albeit acknowledged – confines that go with a student film.


However, whilst not entirely successful on the technical side, Depicted Illusion delves deep into the mind of a disturbed individual with some resourceful flourishes despite its low budget limitations.


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 15 2019 07:45AM



Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) Dir: Joe Berlinger


Serial killer Ted Bundy returned to public consciousness with the Netflix series ‘Conversations with a Killer” and this resurgence of interest led to this biopic, based on a book by his former long-term partner Elizabeth Kendall.


As to be expected from the source material the film picks up during the time of Kendall and Bundy meeting and charts their lives from that point on, taking in accusations, courtroom drama and the struggle of fighting for justice.


However it is clear that rookie writer Michael Werwie struggled to adapt the source material, as he fails to grasp or decide what the focal point of this film should be. As a result director Joe Berlinger, on paper a great choice due to his background in true-life productions, struggles to maintain viewer interest over the 110 minute run time, despite managed to create a strong look to the film and benefiting from terrific cast performances.


Due to not knowing what sort of film it wants to be, or even who the underlying story should be with - Kendall or Bundy - Extremely Wicked… fails to fully engage on any level. Not to mention as the events unravel we begin to empathise with the charming and ever hopeful Bundy as he fights against what appears to be one of the great American miscarriages of justice.


Even knowing the reality, it is hard based on the film itself not to start thinking that Bundy is being railroaded by the system into being a patsy for unexplained crimes. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that the crimes themselves are relegated into the background, as is Kendall, for the majority of the film making it easy to separate the handsome, normal man from his heinous and brutal crimes.


Admittedly this is part of the films purpose but one in which it fails to manage in an effective manner. This is no doubt further complicated by Zac Efron’s fantastic performance which is delightful, but one fears that by getting him on board that certain compromises had to be made in order to protect Brand-Efron, and that possibly includes showing as little violence as possible for as long as possible, and that in itself is problematic when dealing with this subject matter.


Featuring big hitters such as the previously mentioned Efron and heavyweight actor John Malkovich, ‘Extremely Wicked…’ was always going to be a competent production but sadly in seeking a wider acceptance, and no doubt a financial return, the film panders to more mainstream tastes than perhaps the subject matter demands while trying to deliver too much content, which ironically results in it delivering very little of substance.


Ultimately Extremely Wicked… is unsure if it wants to be a personal film or simply a factual telling of selected moments and as a result drags and lacks focus.


★★


Marek Turner


@CinemaEuropa



By midlandsmovies, Feb 18 2019 09:43PM


We have two unique takes on The House that Jack Built with Mike Sales and Marek Turner going head to head on Lars Von Trier's latest. Do they agree? Read on to find out...


The House that Jack Built (2018) Dir. Lars von Trier


The latest film from Danish director Lars von Trier (Dogville; Antichrist; Nymphomaniac) was never going to be one for the masses but once again through the casting of well known mainstream names, in this case Matt Dillon - in his best performance for over a decade - and Uma Thurman amongst others, he ensures a a healthy amount of interest and cinematic distribution.


Laughed at and lauded in equal measure when it debuted at Cannes in 2018 the film follows the seemingly hapless Jack as he descends not only into madness but also hell over a period of twelve years and multiple homicides.


Now although this sounds relatively straight forward, due to having such a duration to cover the film is split into non linear segments taken throughout the years, each representing a pivotal moment in Jack’s life and which is narrated over by the figure of Virgil (Bruno Ganz), in a nod to Dante’s Inferno to which this film is heavily indebted in terms or concept. Through these segments we delve deeper into the mind of Jack and his alter-ego, both of which manifest themselves through the films varying tone and visual appearance.


Arguably playing as a dark comedy for the majority of its time, with a touch of social criticism, it is in these tonal shifts that the audience will either be won over or lost but for those that go along for the ride they will discover a lot more under the surface in this tale of violence, satisfaction and repentance. With that final point being taken by some as a form of atonement by the frequently ostracised director and through the use of his own back catalogue and past behaviour it is certainly easy to see why.


Harking back to a period where every artistic decision, depiction or mise en scène was symbolic von Trier knows his craft well enough to show us the material to interpret the meaning ourselves. Undoubtably The House That Jack Built is self-indulgent and arguably pretentious sometimes but it is also well-written, entertaining and with layered deeper meaning. Dare we even say it is sophisticated. but here it is up to us to interpret in the main.


Working on several levels this film is one for those who like to spend the time digging a little deeper but whether it is ultimately worth it only you will know.


★★★★


Marek Turner


And another! Midlands Movies Mike Sales writes...


Polarising director Lars von Trier returns with another controversial film that follows a serial murderer’s 12-year killing spree with all the subtlety the filmmaker is known for.


It begins with middle-aged Jack killing a woman whose car has broken down and taking her body to be hidden in a freezer. He later pretends to be an insurance salesman in a leafy suburb to enter another woman’s home whom he awkwardly strangles. This time Jack is unable to flee the scene owing to his obsessive cleaning but soon manages to escape. More incidents pile up with the murder of a family on a hunting expedition, a woman whom he confesses to and lining up a group of kidnapped victims to kill them with one bullet.


Jack is played excellently by a dark, and sometimes darkly comic, Matt Dillon and the expected pretentiousness begins with auteur chapter headings – yawn. However, at times the film is far more conventional for large portions of its runtime, although this being von Trier, he intersperses the splatter gore with his own essay on the nature of man and violence.


Provocative von Trier doesn’t hold back with scenes of child murders, female mutilation and ruthless attacks yet he “justifies” these sickening incidents with a voiceover throughout (Bruno Ganz as ‘Verge’).


This "conscience" pontificates on a number of quasi-religious themes and primal fears in essay form. Does this literary motif bring von Trier’s work up to the status of art? Not really. The gruesome deaths could be from any b-movie horror but for me it was Dillon’s mesmerising performance that sees this one through.


As the film conclusion rolls around, von Trier dives off the deep end as we enter a literal Dante’s Inferno. Far too long and with a kind of hollow-seriousness, the mixture of dark subject matter, visceral filmmaking and attempts to say something about human nature are all typical fare for the director.


That said, there’s enough here to maintain interest (just) but clear a bit of time - it's 155 minutes long - as well as headspace, for all the horrific ideas von Trier throws at the wall. Although ugly, these will mostly stick in your mind as the director delivers his trademark nihilistic world view using grotesque visuals.


★★★


Mike Sales

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