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SXSW ’16 Review: ‘HUSH’

To start with a bit of housekeeping, Hush joined the critically acclaimed Iranian Sundance debut Under the Shadow when it was swept up by preeminent streaming service Netflix before it was ever screened in front of an audience. Adding  to their growing stockade of boutique horror films, Netflix has queued up the Mike Flanagan-directed thriller starring John Gallagher Jr. and Kate Siegel for fast turnaround release on April 8th. Meaning that those who want to get pupils on this high intensity home invasion thriller as soon as possible won’t be forced to wait long, however Hush, a film that lives and dies by its supreme sound design, should be experienced in the filmic church that is the theater. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ’10 CLOVERFIELD LANE’

10 Cloverfield Lane is predicated on a beautifully simple catch 22: I am trapped in a room with psychopath but if I leave said room, I will most certainly die. The only safe solace in a decimated post-apocalyptic world, a bunker shared with a dangerous captor named Howard (a never-better, totally Oscar-worthy John Goodman), is indeed no safe solace at all. To hostage Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), this post-op lion’s den houses clearly seems to house a hulking threat; a man who percolates with such clear-eyed ferocity, unwavering mania and steadfast paranoia that the probably poisonous air outside seems an amenable option. But then again, what if he’s not a psychopath after all? Read More

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Out in Theaters: THE HEART MACHINE

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Would you fall in love in the wild, wild west of romance that is online dating? What if you believe that your betrothed were living in a foreign country only to discover that they are instead a mere stone’s throw away? Would you get jealous? Angry? Violent? Director and writer Zachary Wigon provides his surreptitious take on the ‘romance as app’ generation in what can only be described as a wry, 21st century romantic thriller in the superb The Heart Machine.

Virginia and Cody live in a world where people, and by extension potential lovers, are available at the press of a button. It’s how they found each other in the first place. Exactly which medium connects the two starred-crossed lovers isn’t important.  It’s some ChatRoulette/Match.com hybrid where interests are complimented, and people are summed up in bite-sized, infographic widgets. Everyone becomes a Buzzfeed list. On paper, Cody and Virginia are a perfect match, another successful e-copulation born of algorithms and personality profiling. The ying fills in the yang, the yang fills in the ying.

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In their very first Skype conversation, things appear to be going well. Their laughs are easy and genuine, their chemistry awash in the emotional distancing and persona creation that only the internet allows. Through the peephole of their computer cameras, they seem to cook up something of a fondness for each other. In the moment of signing off though, Virginia pulls a rabbit from her hat, revealing that she’s living abroad in Germany and won’t return for six months. Not to Cody’s knowledge, she’s totally lying. It’s an instinctual move on Virgina’s behalf, distancing herself from potential emotional attachment, a helpless response to likely adoration. To him, her strange behavior that surrounds this geographical farce should have been a tell-tale sign to back off, but that’s only what we can expect from an emotionally cognizant and mentally furnished partner.

But you can smell the stink of desperation off Cody, a dopey but genial type played to ambiguous perfection by John Gallagher Jr. From the first scene, he’s suspicious of Virginia’s tall tale but has so little going on in his life that he can’t help but get snagged by in its rabbit hole. Gallagher is great as the discerning cuckold, cryptic in his intent and often impossible to get a read on. His is the kind of smiley face that could be hiding a cold blooded serial killer.

No matter his intention, Cody never comes off as the irascible type, even when what becomes a full-blown investigation drives himself towards the deep end. There’s moments where we don’t know if when they finally meet he’s going to hug Virginia or stab her and the not knowing is most of the fun. Instead of confronting her about it (like a normal person would), Cody escapes into a fantasy of himself, letting this new persona of a ragged sleuth take the wheel. As an outdated, wannabe noir detective, he’s inefficient but tenacious. He’s the J.J. Gittes of Brooklyn. But his femme fatale may be the end of him.

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Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) is a salacious soul, a libertine of the new sexual frontier who uses her iPhone like a map to genital gold. Letting it guide her to new and uncharted carnal encounters like a treasure hunter, she comes across as cold and heartless. But while Wigon originally only wrote her as a small part to Cody’s larger quest, her final place in the film is much more substantial and rounded. A lascivious side is accented by her bookwormish other half; the art enthusiast and glory hole hussy all wrapped into one complicated young enchantress. Wigon may pass judgement on her at first, but goes on to attempt to truly understand her. The Heart Machine is not Wigon’s damnation of feminine guile so much as Shiel giving a masterclass on it.

Since the inception of apps literally designed to track down horny people in the closest possible vicinity, the world of relationships increasingly invokes a compartmentalization of love and sex. To have the two worlds wrapped in one risks too much, it dangles too much to lose. To Virginia, sex is a physical act, love the pick me up after your shotgun lover doesn’t want to cuddle. The Heart Machine is about world’s colliding, about the harlot losing her mask and the beau his sanity. It’s a bittersweet game of cat and mouse that brings a much needed 21st century update to the romance thriller and will keep you on the edge of your seat and thoroughly entrenched in the characters. While the internet makes promises of covert encounters, anonymity only works when you keep your circles separate. The question is: Are you secret, are you safe?

B+

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SXSW Review: THE HEART MACHINE

“The Heart Machine”
Directed by Zachary Wigon
Starring John Gallagher Jr., Kate Lyn Sheil, David Call, Libby Woodbridge, Louisa Krause, Halley Wegryn Gross, RJ Brown
Drama, Thriller
85 Mins 
United States

Would you fall in love in the wild, wild west of romance that is online dating? What if you believe that your betrothed were living in a foreign country only to discover that they are instead a mere stone’s throw away? Would you get jealous? Angry? Violent? Director and writer Zachary Wigon provides his surreptitious take on the ‘romance as app’ generation in what can only be described as a romantic thriller in The Heart Machine. Read More