Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two short tales of horror from Jeremiah Kipp: BERENICE (2014) and THE MINIONS (2014)

Jeremiah Kipp is a freaking genius.

You guys and girls don't know the man, but you soon will. He's a freaking genius when it comes to horror and if he's not helming a game changing horror feature real soon there is no justice in the world.

Last year Jeremiah contacted me and asked me if I would take a look at his short film THE DAYS GOD SLEPT. I loved the film from the get go. Its a disturbing psychological thriller that is best seen rather than described. (My review can be found here). Its a masterpiece and was one of the best films I saw last year. I've been trying to tell people about it ever since.

This year Jeremiah sent me two films and this double barreled shot has really blown me away. One is set in the daylight- the other at night. Both pack a punch.

An adaption of an Edgar Allen Poe story the film tells the story of an obsessive compulsive (monomaniacal)  young man named Edward who has his world shaken when his mother informs him that his cousin, Berenice, will be coming to stay with them. Something had passed between them some years before and once the pair are together the sparks begin to fly. Sadly however Berenice's health begins to fail just as Edward's obsession grows.

To be honest BERENICE is the weaker of the two films Kipp sent me. The weakness comes not from anything that Kipp has done, rather from restrictions placed on the film by the source story, there simply is a creakiness to the underlying Poe story, the monomania of the lead character and mysterious illness seem more like affectations than natural turns. Also the fact that most of the film is set during the day in or in brightly lit rooms diminishes Kipp’s ability to really manipulate the lighting, and shadows, with his masterly skill. The film is also hurt, slightly by an unevenness of Susan Adriensen performance as Edward’s mother.

On the other hand BERENICE still packs a punch. Thomas Mendolia as Edward makes the character monomania creepy, even if it is an affectation. His mask like face and staring is really unnatural.

Equally unnatural and very unnerving is the relationship between cousins, It’s not entirely natural, nor is how the relationship is viewed by Edward’s parents. Something is wrong there as well. Kipp’s ability to create and maintain that sense of wrongness is what carries the film over the occasional bump. For me the film redeems itself in the final moments with a last minute revelation that had me staring at the screen with a horrified look on my face. Yea once again Jeremiah Kipp pulled the chair out from under us.

BERENICE is by any standard a very good short horror film. It’d be the perfect pilot for restart of a more adult Tales From The Darkside series. Its only weakness is when comparing it to other films by director Kipp. I know that had I not seen it after his film THE MINIONS, I would have liked it much more.

Track the film down now.

BERENICE  appears on a DVD horror anthology called CREEPERS: HORROR ANTHOLOGY MOVIE TWO


I love this movie

I don't think I've ever had the absolute sense of dread forced upon me as fast as it comes along in THE MINIONS. Pretty much from the outset you know things are going to go wrong and you want to shout at the screen. Of course the characters would never hear us...and if they could they still would be damned.

The plot of the film has a man decide one night to follow the Witch's Path, which seems to be a normal road. As he makes his way down the road he meets two young girls....

Easily the equal to Kipp's earlier film THE DAYS GOD SLEPT, THE MINIONS is a kick in the chest and poke in the heart. A beautifully constructed film where nothing is overt and it's all implied- a few words here, a clever camera angle there and a carefully placed shadow, this is the sort of film that needs to be shown to film students to make them realize that you don't need blood and gore to get the job done. Seriously there is nothing overt even at the conclusion- it's all inferred and yet it manages to make us squirm in our seat and groan audibly.

You have to forgive the lack of detail but there is very little I can say without wrecking the film. I could reveal the plot but that would give too much. Trying to explain how Kipp uses the light and shadow, sounds and silences ultimately mean nothing until  you see it. Waxing poetic about its charms simply won't mean anything until we can do so together. This is one of those films you want to talk to some one about- you want to deconstruct and reconstruct it with someone who has seen it and understands just how amazing a piece of cinematic work it is.

This is a perfect poisoned confection, the sort of thing that will haunt your dreams made by one of the best filmmakers working in horror today.

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