February 2024

The One Star Trek Co-Star Brent Spiner Had Difficulty Working With

Star Trek’s Brent Spiner had a difficult time with one of his most famous co-stars, who is arguably also one of the cutest.

James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy Reveals New Title And First Look At Superman Suit

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the new title for James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy! And the first official photo of the new Superman costume.

Dune: Part Two Ending Explained: Be Careful Of Messiahs

The spoilers must flow as we discuss the ending of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two and what could come next for the Dune movie franchise.

‘Boxing Helena’ Deserves Love for Its Fearless Leading Duo [We Love ’90s Horror]

I’m trying to decrease my usage of “good” and “bad” when discussing art. They are lazy shortcuts that distill creativity into the simplest qualitative assessments as if art is worth boiling down to a pure binary outlook. It’s why whenever any movie is widely labeled “good,” I can’t help but approach it with some increased skepticism. Conversely, “bad” movies always pique my interest, and I’m more likely to look deeper for their successful elements than what I find from the consensus.

This is the case with Boxing Helena, a film brutally derided in that repellant way critics love when they taste blood in the water. The directing and feature writing debut of Jennifer Lynch, Boxing Helena was savaged across the board and overshadowed by legal battles involving major stars who dropped out of the Helena role. With the film never making the leap from DVD and no official digital release available, there is an overall dismissive read of Boxing Helena as nothing more than a “bad” movie and thus worth forgetting.

Not on my watch.

Boxing Helena is a disarming (heh) modern-day fairy tale about Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands), a prominent surgeon who is obsessed with Helena (Sherilyn Fenn), a woman he can’t get over. After Helena is injured in a hit-and-run, Nick takes her from the scene and confines her to his house under the guise of medical treatment. To exert more control over her, he cuts off her legs and says it was necessary after her injuries. Thus begins a warped riff on Beauty and the Beast that will reveal itself to be a very specific (and divisive) kind of nightmare.

Now, it is worth noting that Boxing Helena is not flawless in its execution. Lynch did not expect to direct the script she wrote and her first-time instincts as a visualist are often the least engaging parts of the movie. The story’s attempts at escalation often conflict with the purposeful static nature of its central dynamic. So, even though the plot and characters are moving forward, the overall mood is one of stillness and reflection. This dissonance creates a “nothing is happening” effect even though that’s not the case. Combined with Lynch’s inexperience and surprise at having to helm the film in total as director, it’s as a piece of cinema where Boxing Helena feels at its shakiest.

However, Boxing Helena excels as an examination of confusing obsession with love. Nick is a sheltered prince, made to believe in a certain kind of romance that isn’t reflective of actual affection or care. That makes his role as a surgeon (read: caregiver) all the more poetically sinister. And it’s through Helena’s perspective we see the kind of sick admiration women fear from men who view themselves as idealized romantics in their own twisted version of chivalry. We’ll get to Helena’s perspective later as it’s one of the most ridiculed portions of the movie, but suffice to say that Boxing Helena captures the paranoia of an obsessive lover with fantastical grace.

But the strongest reason Boxing Helena doesn’t deserve its reputation is its cast. While it’s obviously delightful to see folks like Bill Paxton, Kurtwood Smith, and even Art Garfunkel pop up in supporting roles, this is a film carried by two dream-woven performances by Julian Sands and Sherilyn Fenn. The tragic death of Sands was the impetus behind tracking down a copy of Boxing Helena and it’s one of his most compelling roles. Sands always felt like he’d stepped into our realm from some Other Place. A unique and mystical presence, Sands is terrifying in his portrayal of Nick as a true man-child, regressing into a schoolboy demeanor that masks the monster Helena sees. Sands injects a genuine naivete into Nick that only strengthens how scary his obsession with Helena is. Actors who play villains often say they don’t view their characters as villainous in order to understand and empathize with the character’s perspective. Sands takes that to the extreme as Nick and it’s chilling.

Sherilyn Fenn adds a harmonious resonance with Sands as one of those actors that I’d believe actually came from Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Fenn radiates dark fire as Helena, a free spirit confined to being nothing more than an object of worship for a lonely weirdo. The melodrama and intensity Fenn is asked to display is demanding of any actor and she keys in with the story’s tone quite well.

The most contentious part of the movie comes when we are told everything we’ve seen after the hit-and-run has been Helena’s dreams and Nick actually took her to the hospital where she’s been recuperating. It’s here where Helena’s perspective recontextualizes everything and we realize this has been her nightmare. When we know that Nick has been by her side during her recovery, Fenn’s final moments of seeing that as ominous instead of endearing make the film’s foreboding fantasy all the more stronger. Unfortunately, most reads of Boxing Helena fall back on an undercooked “it was all a dream? That’s bad!” simplification that ignores the ever-present themes Lynch explored in the story.

Boxing Helena is much more than just a “bad” or “good” movie. It’s an earnest attempt at delving into the murky waters of devotion and the evils that lie in those depths. And it’s unfair that Boxing Helena should languish in obscurity when its two leads deliver fearless performances bereft of ego. Don’t let this get boxed away and lost to memory just because it’s “bad.”

The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of the ’80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.

The post ‘Boxing Helena’ Deserves Love for Its Fearless Leading Duo [We Love ’90s Horror] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.

Unnamed Footage Festival 2024: Here’s the Full Lineup of Found Footage Premieres With Images!

The Unnamed Footage Festival returns to San Francisco, California next month for the 7th edition of the Found Footage Horror, First Person POV, and Faux Doc film festival.

The full lineup has been announced this week. Read on for everything you need to know…

“The Unnamed Footage Festival team has unveiled the final wave of features for the 7th edition of their annual in-person event, including retro screenings and several special events. Alongside the full schedule and official festival art, UFF has announced a partnership with genre studio Welcome Villain Films, and with their support UFF7 has grown into the biggest and most diverse event in the festival’s history. 

“Following the pre-festival 10th anniversary screening of As Above So Below at the Alamo Drafthouse, UFF has added another night at the Artist’s Television Access for a badgeholder only sneak peek at a new version of The Outwaters with filmmaker Robbie Banfitch in person. An entirely new viewing experience, Outwaters: Detective Audio Version pairs the striking visuals with the observations of two investigators reviewing the footage.  

“Thursday March 28th is the official kick-off of the festival, the Recalibration Party, opening the event with Paul A. Brooks and Sierra Renfro’s Hunting For The Hag – an adventurous found footage horror film about three women trekking into the woods of Illinois to capture footage of a legendary creature known as the Hawthorne Hag. This will be followed by the third edition of the UFF Power Hour, DON’T STOP RECORDING 3: SENSORY OVERLOAD. 60 nonstop clips from television, social media, and in-world camera films contrasting maximalism with liminality, complete with complimentary beer and booze from the UFF sponsors.

“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Balboa and 4 Star theaters are a nonstop gauntlet of films and events, including the previously announced world premieres of Horror In The High Desert 3: Firewatch and looky-loo, Russian screenlife #Blue_Whale, yoga influencer horror Mind Body Spirit, and more titles that can be found in our first wave announcement

“UFF is now adding to that list the world premiere of Tahoe Joe 2: The Nevada Bigfoot Conspiracy, the first person cat carrier POV film Nias, the labyrinthine Australian psychological horror Puzzle Box, live TV broadcast gone wrong Haunted Ulster Live, Kansas Bowling’s 16mm vintage mondo film Cuddly Toys, grizzled New Jersey cop chaos magick investigation The Coldness, and more. This year’s retro screenings celebrate the 15th anniversary of Harmony Korine’s shot-on-video deranged look at the dark side of Americana, Trash Humpers on 35mm, and UFF collaborates with Bleeding Skull to present the shot-on-security-cameras forgotten found footage horror film, In Memorium from 2005.

“Short films include comedy troupe Simple Town & Andrew DeYoung’s AirBnB, Chinese artist Yangqi Deng’s conspiracy driven Turtle?, Andrew J. Paulsen’s Homebody, returning filmmaker Harry McDonough’s Red Leather Yellow Leather, Rafael Cherkaski’s (Sorgoi Prakov aka Descent Into DarknessWhacked, horror writer and rocker Christopher La Vigna’s A Place To Be, and more. 

“Special events will include an experimental block of Analog Horror titled “Analog Is The Future,” curated and hosted by Dread Central editor-in-chief Mary Beth McAndrews. This will highlight some of the most radical examples of this emerging genre, including videos from the popular channel Local 58 followed by a Q&A with creator Kris Straub. Lastly, the festival will be hosting a live performance for the first time ever with Selections From “MallWalk”a live, multimedia presentation of the investigative podcast covering a horrific tragedy that took place at Belmont, California’s Royal Galleria Mall in 2004. Whether or not you have heard the podcast, you will not want to miss this mesmerizing and bizarre tale, complete with music and visuals.  

“Unnamed Footage Festival is honored to partner with Welcome Villain Films as the Main Event Sponsor for 2024. Welcome Villain Films, who recently released Malum, Hunt Her Kill Her and Beaten to Death is a genre studio with an innovative approach to development, production, marketing, and distribution. A destination for filmmakers with unique voices who seek a creative studio partner that embraces their visions and has the ability to deliver them to genre-hungry audiences in exciting new ways, Welcome Villain Films’ mission is to empower creators to deliver edgy and exciting films in the horror and genre space.”


HUNTING FOR THE HAG (2023, USA, dir. Paul A. Brooks) 

OPENING NIGHT — Tara (Jasmine Williams), a young filmmaker, sets out with two friends Beth (Alexa Maris) and Candy (Co-writer and producer Sierra Renfro) to film a documentary in the woods of central Illinois about a mysterious legend known as The Hawthorne Hag. Tara plans to capture The Hag on camera for the first time in known history —  but within this forest, things may not be as they seem. Hunting For The Hag manages to be a found footage thriller, a cryptid flick, a psychological horror film, and fun as hell all at the same time. As bombastic as it is unsettling, there’s no better way to kick off a nonstop weekend of found footage horror than going Hunting for the Hag with UFF.  –  Talent in attendance for a Q&A

NIAS (2024, France, dir. Baptiste Rambaud)

US PREMIERE — Noémie is a professional cat sitter in France whose days are spent visiting with the cutest kitty clients while their humans are away. After the loss of a cat leaves her traumatized and paranoid, she can’t bring herself to say goodbye to a cat named Nias. Noémie catnaps Nias while his owners are out of town and finds herself in an intense chase through the city streets of Normandy. Shot entirely from the perspective of a cat carrier, Nias cleverly explores the rarely seen POV of an inanimate object, a style utilized in films like Nightlight (2015) and UFF2 selection The Moose Head Over the Mantel (2017). When the perspective is a cat carrier, that eliminates the question of “why are they still filming?” Enjoy the scenery and get lost in the cat heist! 

PUZZLE BOX (2023, Australia, dir. Jack Dignan)

Running from a violent incident in their past, sisters Kait and Olivia flee to a remote house in the woods where Kait can detox, Olivia can document the process, and maybe the two sisters can repair their strained relationship. Their trip turns into a nightmare when the house reveals itself to be an inescapable maze of ever-shifting rooms, staircases, and hallways. As they attempt to find a way out, they discover there are far worse things in this house to be afraid of. Newcomer Jack Dignan’s direction and extremely clever editing take an otherwise unspectacular location and turn it into a labyrinthine hell, which is further elevated by Kaitlyn Boyé’s amazing performance, creating a piece of liminal horror that’s destined to be a found footage classic.

TAHOE JOE 2: THE NEVADA BIGFOOT CONSPIRACY (2024, USA, dir. Dillon Brown, Michael Rock)

WORLD PREMIERE — If you’re not keeping an eye on HorrorDadz productions, you’re missing out on some of the most driven, passionate, and talented new players in the in-world camera space. Tahoe Joe 2: The Nevada Bigfoot Conspiracy follows the film that Dread Central called “One of 2022’s Best Bigfoot Movies.” This time, Michael Rock and Dillon Brown return to the Tahoe wilderness, trekking through snowy mountain trails to find a young woman who went missing while seeking the elusive Tahoe Joe, Lake Tahoe’s very own version of bigfoot. Tahoe Joe 2 takes everything that made the first film a success and adds new layers of action, intrigue, and a sprawling conspiracy that’s almost sure to be continued in Brown and Rock’s future Cryptid-verse of films. 

IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS (2023, USA, dir. Rachel Kempf, Nick Toti)

When a married couple (filmmakers Rachel Kempf, Nick Toti as themselves) purchase a rundown duplex in rural Missouri to be the set of their next horror film, they are delighted by the layers of graffiti and debris. Nick’s production of a documentary about their project and the entertaining dynamic between himself, Rachel, and her longtime bestie Christian gets sidetracked when strangers begin standing completely still outside their new home, silently staring at the house. 

An energetic mix of archival DIY horror, first-person faux documentary, and found footage, It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This maxes out the potential of its deceptively straightforward setting. It’s paradoxically a slow burn and a joyous romp, a warning and a love letter, a memory and a mystery. Nick’s observation in the film, “The more you look the more you see,” captures the heart of found footage horror, and dang if that doesn’t say it all.

CUDDLY TOYS (2022, USA, dir. Kansas Bowling)

Recent graduate of teen-life university, Professor Kansas Bowling presents a shocking exposé about the lives of teenage girls, presented as a series of fictional vignettes and real documentary interviews.

Shot on 16mm, Cuddly Toys offers a satirical take on teenage life, using a faux-academic presentation style reminiscent of vintage mondo films or 1960s educational PSAs. Filmmaker Kansas Bowling (Once Upon a Time in HollywoodVerotika), appearing as “Professor Kansas Bowling,” blends real-life interviews with exaggerated recreations to highlight the challenges faced by teenage girls — and while the film’s content may be provocative, it serves a deeper purpose in critiquing societal issues such as sexual assault and misogyny within teenage subcultures. Through its unique approach, Cuddly Toys prompts viewers to reflect on the authenticity of its portrayal and the complexities of young women’s experiences.

PROJECT EERIE (2023, USA, dir. Ricky Umberger)

Jesse and Jacob Warner livestream their escalating teenage antics on Halloween night of the year 2020 as they disobey lockdown, destroy jack o’lanterns, and break into a government facility to steal a DVD. The contents of this disc contain everything from Bigfoot hunters to a lost astronaut — and Jesse & Jacob have been missing ever since.This is their final broadcast. The newest found footage horror film from Ricky Umberger, who mastered choreographing in-world camera scares in his nightmare inducing Fear Footage series, Project Eerie marks his return to the anthology format. The Unnamed Footage Festival is proud to present the West Coast theatrical premiere of the director’s cut of Project Eerie for what might be its final public screening ever! 

HAUNTED ULSTER LIVE (2023, Ireland, dir. Dominic O’Neill)

US THEATRICAL PREMIERE  On Halloween night 1998, TV veteran Gerry Burns, teams up with popular children’s presenter Michelle Kelly to investigate poltergeist activity in a haunted house in Belfast. A seance causes the broadcast to descend into chaos and the two presenters must face their greatest fears on live TV. Haunted Ulster Live continues in the great tradition of WNUF Halloween Special (UFF1) and Ghostwatch’s live TV broadcast gone wrong aesthetic – but this time we’re in Northern Ireland and we promise you will not be able to predict the wild places this gripping story goes.

THE COLDNESS (2023, USA, dir. Gustavo Sampaio)

A retired detective from New Jersey (Paul Purducci) lands in Los Angeles. It’s no vacation for this grizzled dick: a woman’s bizarre death parallels the cold case that has obsessed him for a quarter century. Filming his investigation, the detective’s journey evolves from simple forensics into something darker, occult-ier, and more personal than could be anticipated. Anchored by an instantly iconic lead performance by co-writer Paul Purducci, The Coldness is a chilling tale of one man’s search for all the answers. —  Star Paul Parducci and Director Gustavo Sampaio in attendance for a Q&A

JEFFREY’S HELL (2024, USA , dir. Aaron Irons)

Filmmaker Aaron Irons has been missing for almost a year now and all that was left behind was his camera. His prior film, Chest (2022, UFF5 Virtual), explored the rich folklore, myths, and history of an area in the Appalachian region of Tennessee called “Jeffrey’s Hell” through the lens of a found footage horror narrative. The forest is a large region, spanning multiple states and containing over sixty thousand square miles of wilderness — plenty of space for someone to disappear. 

Jeffrey’s Hell explores the way unrealized aspirations and memories of the past can haunt us via a dark descent into a mysterious cave where he sees the fabric of his reality begin to come apart at the seams. Filmed over the course of a year while solo caving and hiking, Irons plays himself, giving this story a claustrophobic personal edge that exposes both his fears and regrets. —  Aaron Irons in attendance for a Q&A


TRASH HUMPERS (2009, USA, dir Harmony Korine)

15TH ANNIVERSARY 35MM SCREENING – Late at night in the city and suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee, a gang of elderly ne’er-do-wells walk the streets behaving bizarrely and committing crimes. MAKE IT! MAKE IT! DON’T FAKE IT! What’s their goal? Where did they come from? Why are they doing these things? This is their footage. Shot on VHS, edited on VCRs, and inspired by sights he saw as a kid growing up in Tennessee, transgressive artist Harmony Korine’s 2009’s depraved found footage film Trash Humpers is a look at the dark side of americana and about exactly what it says on the package: humping trash. Celebrate the 15th anniversary of this sociopathic classic with a 35mm repertory screening of the film. 

IN MEMORIUM (2005, USA, dir. Amanda Gusack)

Before Paranormal Activity popularized the use of static cameras in found footage, there was Amanda Gusack’s In Memorium, a terrifying exploration of grief and family inheritance. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Dennis decides to capture the final months of his life via cameras mounted throughout a rental he moves into with his girlfriend Lily. But the cameras begin to capture strange goings on around the house, which leads to the uncovering of a dark secret.

In Memorium has been almost lost to time, a forgotten yet crucial piece of found footage directed by a woman (a rarity even today). Encapsulating the creativity of filmmaking in the early 2000s, and the early iterations of what would become common found footage techniques, Gusack deserves recognition for her work within the genre space and we’re excited to acknowledge that with this screening. In Memorium is a prescient exploration of generational trauma in the horror genre and an essential Analog Horror artifact — now newly preserved by Bleeding Skull.



BADGE HOLDER ONLY SPECIAL EVENT! A sneak peek at a brand-new version of The Outwaters! — Often in found footage horror, the images we view are presented as evidence in a case, but the greater narrative stops there. UFF is bringing Banfitch’s cosmic horror masterpiece back to the festival for a badge holder only sneak peek of a new iteration of The Outwaters that transforms it into an entirely different viewing experience. Now the visuals are paired with the observations of two investigators, Detective Stacey and Detective Nolan, reviewing the footage, trying to uncover what really happened and how the existence of this footage is even possible. — Robbie Banfitch in attendance for a Q&A 


Join us for an introduction to the world of analog horror, a format born in the depths of YouTube that also mimics the VHS aesthetics of the 80s and 90s. This isn’t your mom’s found footage, this is your little Gen Z cousin’s found footage. While both exclusively digital and mimetically vintage, analog horror can be deeply unsettling, crafting an uncanny and grainy vision of reality narrated by mechanical voices and broadcast alarms. Perhaps you’ve already had a taste of analog horror, discovering series like “The Mandela Catalogue” chopped up on TikTok or Instagram. Also playfully called PowerPoint horror, analog horror is the way of the future for in-world camera media, and we’re excited to take you through the wild and glitchy with a shorts block including titles like “Mystery Flesh Pit National Park“, “The Williams Tapes“, “Vita Carnis“, and several of the works from popular analog horror channel Local 58.

—  Local 58 creator Kris Straub will be in attendance for a Q&A following the block, moderated by Dread Central’s editor-in-chief Mary Beth McAndrews.


On November 11th 2004, 14-year-old Conrad Cliff jackhammered into the water main at The Royal Galleria near Belmont, California. Twenty-three people drowned. Three people were electrocuted in the arcade. Two people were fatally bitten by a hammerhead shark that escaped from the mall’s aquarium. And the teenager responsible was never found. Blair Van Auken was with Contad at the mall that day but refused to speak about the incident for 18 years. Until now. 

MallWalk is an investigative journalism podcast that can be heard on all major podcast platforms. UFF is proud to present a live, multimedia performance of selections from MallWalk. Hear parts of the story told by Blair Van Auken himself, along with other readers and performers, set to music, visuals, and have your questions about this incident answered in person. This one-time only experience is not to be missed.

Individual tickets will go on sale via FilmFreeway on March 4th – badges are available right now! Get your tickets here: https://filmfreeway.com/UnnamedFootageFestival/tickets

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The Trailer for ‘The Strangers: Chapter 1’ Arrives Online Tomorrow; Check Out the New Poster Now

The first installment in a brand new reboot trilogy from Lionsgate and director Renny HarlinThe Strangers: Chapter 1 is coming soon, and we’ve got new poster art today.

Additionally, we’ve learned that the official trailer for The Strangers: Chapter 1 will debut online tomorrow, March 1. As always, you’ll find it here on BD the second it’s available.

The new movie – which features a fresh tagline inspired by the original home invasion classic: “They don’t need a reason” – has been dated for theatrical release on May 17, 2024.

The Strangers: Chapter 1 is said to be something of a remake of the original 2008 movie, while its sequels – Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 – will blaze a new path from there.

Madelaine Petsch (“Riverdale”), Froy Gutierrez (Hocus Pocus 2), Rachel Shenton (The Silent Child), Ema Horvath (“Rings of Power”) and Gabe Basso (Hillbilly Elegy) star.

Based on the original 2008 cult horror franchise, the project features Petsch, who drives cross-country with her longtime boyfriend (Gutierrez) to begin a new life in the Pacific Northwest. When their car breaks down in Venus, Oregon, they’re forced to spend the night in a secluded Airbnb, where they are terrorized from dusk till dawn by three masked strangers.

Renny Harlin (CliffhangerDeep Blue SeaDie Hard 2) is directing from a script by Alan R. Cohen and Alan Freedland (The Freak BrothersDue Date). Lionsgate will distribute worldwide.

The Strangers began in 2008 with Bryan Bertino’s original home invasion horror movie, a terrifying film that introduced three masked killers who returned 10 years later with The Strangers: Prey at Night in 2018. The first film took place in a remote house in the woods while the sequel brought the murderous Man in the Mask, Dollface and Pinup Girl into a trailer park.

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‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey II’ Coming to Theaters in March from Fathom Events

Rhys Frake-Waterfield’s Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey II promises to be bigger, better and bloodier than the first film, and we’ve now been provided with a release date.

Fathom Events will bring Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey II to theaters nationwide beginning March 26. The catch? It’s playing for only three days: March 26, 27 and 28.

Tickets can be purchased online at Fathom Events or at participating theater box offices. For a complete list of locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters are subject to change).

Frake-Waterfield had teased the upcoming sequel last year, “This time Pooh and friends will be leaving the 100 Acre Wood to take their fight to the quiet community of Ashdown!”

Here’s the official synopsis:

“Deep within the 100-Acre-Wood, a destructive rage grows as Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl, and Tigger find their home and their lives endangered after Christopher Robin revealed their existence. Not wanting to live in the shadows any longer, the group decides to take the fight to the town of Ashdown, home of Christopher Robin, leaving a bloody trail of death and mayhem in their wake. Winnie and his savage friends will show everyone that they are deadlier, stronger, and smarter than anyone could ever imagine and get their revenge on Christopher Robin, once and for all.”

The cast for Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 includes Tallulah EvansScott Chambers (Doctor Jekyll) as Christopher Robin, Ryan Oliva (Seasoning House) as Winnie-the-Pooh, and Peter DeSouza-Feighoney (The Pope’s Exorcist) as Young Pooh.

Matt Leslie (Summer of 84) wrote the screenplay for the slasher sequel.

We’ve also been told that the upcoming sequel will crack Jagged Edge’s public domain horror universe wide open, teasing upcoming PinocchioBambi and Peter Pan-based horror movies.

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Lifetime’s ‘Lonely Crime Fanatic’ Lacks Perspective on Our Obsession with True Crime [Review]

It’s always interesting when horror films and thrillers market themselves using the “Based on true events” tagline, then dissect – or sometimes even criticize – the audiences’ interest in the material.

Lifetime’s new original film Lonely Crime Fanatic opens with the cliché phrase before launching into the story of a recently separated woman who falls for a true crime podcaster. The twist? The man is homicidally intent on turning her into the subject of his next episode.

The film opens with a nightmare as Ashley (Brenna Skalski) dreams of her husband Paul (David Hurt) attacking her in their home. The couple has only recently separated, and Ashley is dragging her feet on securing a divorce lawyer. Instead she’s occupying her time boxing up his stuff, running, and dabbling in her latest “project”: listening to true crime podcasts.

Over the course of the film, her black best friend Lily (Alexandria Ponce) repeatedly admonishes Ashley for using these projects as distractions. Apparently Ashley has a habit of throwing herself into temporary activities, like knitting, rather than doing what she actually needs to do.

Lily is both friend and foe for Ashley’s current obsession. While the bestie cautions Ashley to stop consuming true crime before bed, she also recommends a new title: “Unsolved Files” by David Bryant (Ian Reier Michaels).

Ashley soon learns from a YouTube interview that David is a former federal investigator and criminal profiler turned author and podcaster.

In an effort to cheer herself up, Ashley buys a ticket to David’s book signing, where they meet in person and hit it off. In short order they begin dating and, in exchange for letting her visit his studio, he begins pumping her for information about her struggles with Paul.

That’s when things get stalker-y.

Lonely Crime Fanatic Lifetime

The script, from Bryan Lucas, is simultaneously too serious and too ridiculous; Lonely Crime Fanatic wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Its biggest flaw is that the film seems utterly unclear what, if anything, it is trying to say about women’s obsession with true crime.

Typically in these films, there’s a relatively clear division between good characters and bad ones. Unlike Tall, Dark, and Dangerous, which offered no pretense that its villain was trustworthy, Lonely Crime Fanatic initially suggests that Paul is the abusive and possibly dangerous threat, before confirming he’s just a womanizing lothario; clean cut, straight acting David is the true psychopath.

This initial attempt to morally muddy the film’s male characters is interesting, but as Lonely Crime Fanatic continues, Lucas’ script loses its focus. Is the take-away that Ashley’s interest in true crime is to blame for getting her into this predicament? That every man is a threat? Particularly ironic is the film’s resolution: not only is it too quick/too pat, but the suggestion that society has a responsibility not to turn survivors into celebrities (via things like podcasts and books) is completely undercut by the fact that Ashley is literally saying this on a podcast.

Confused screenplay aside, director Kaila York has fun staging the cat and mouse mind games in the film’s early to middle sections. Michaels’ performance as the antagonist isn’t very showy until David becomes completely unhinged for the finale, but watching the podcaster make copies of Ashley’s keys, plant microphones all over her house, and even leave Paul’s sunglasses and a knife lying around is creepy fun.

As per usual, there’s the requisite filing of the restraining order, an ineffectual police interview, and breakdowns from Ashley as she tries to cope with the stalking. Skalski does her best to make Ashley an interesting protagonist, but unfortunately the character is a relatively stock damsel in distress.

Overall, Lonely Crime Fanatic is watchable, but it’s not particularly innovative or memorable. Lucas’ confused screenplay, particularly the rushed climax and unsatisfying denouement, ends things on a low note, although fans of Lifetime films will find familiar comfort in Ashley’s true crime interests and her struggle.

This is fine, but it could have been better.

Lonely Crime Fanatic airs Thursday, February 29 (8pm EST) on Lifetime.

3 skulls out of 5

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‘Things Will Be Different’ – Watch Intriguing First Clip from Sci-fi Thriller Produced by Benson & Moorhead

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Spring, The Endless) are the producers of upcoming sci-fi thriller Things Will Be Different, and a first look has debuted online this week.

We learned back in 2022 that Benson and Moorhead’s Rustic Films inked a deal with V Channels and XYZ Films for a slate of 10 low-budget genre movies the duo will produce, and it looks like Things Will Be Different is one of those projects. Variety shared the sneak peek clip this afternoon, noting that the film is world premiering at the SXSW Film Festival on March 11.

Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy star in Things Will Be Different. They play siblings Joseph and Sidney, who are on the run from the law at the start of the film…

“The mysterious farmhouse they are staying in inexplicably transports them through time. While attempting to return to their present, a cryptic force emerges and traps them on a strange plot of land, giving them a deathly ultimatum in order to escape.”

Michael Felker makes his feature directing debut with Things Will Be Different.

XYZ Films is handling North American sales.

The post ‘Things Will Be Different’ – Watch Intriguing First Clip from Sci-fi Thriller Produced by Benson & Moorhead appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.

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