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Cinepocalypse 2018 preview

June 22, 2018



Cinepocalypse is back at the Music Box Theatre from June 21-28, offering a wide range of genre films from all over the world. It’s a festival that has become the Midwest’s largest gathering of horror and fantasy and more – and the festival’s organizers are thrilled to have “Doctor Strange” director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill as Co-Presidents of their 2018 Feature Film Jury. The sheer variety of selections that are packed into the lineup is impressive, ranging from recent to cult classic films that will find new life in the most majestic theater houses in Chicago.

Alongside the previously-announced Derrickson and Cargill, the festival is deeply proud to welcome back writer-director Lana Wachowski, who will host a special screening of her debut 1996 neo-noir film “Bound”. In case you didn’t know, Wachowski, along with her sister Lilly, helmed the “Matrix” movies, as well as “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas” and created the acclaimed Netflix series “Sense8”, which concludes this month.

A Lifetime Achievement Award will be given out to is the legendary Ernest R. Dickerson, a renowned cinematographer and director. He’ll be on hand to introduce and discuss two of this films, 1992’s gang drama “Juice” starring Tupac and 1995’s “Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight” with Billy Zane, both of which will be presented in 35mm. Dickerson started his career as a Director of Photography on John Sayles’ “Brother from Another Planet” (1984) and George A. Romero’s “Tales from the Darkside” television series (1985) before lensing the first five films from director Spike Lee. He went on to direct a long list of television episodes, including “Under the Dome”, “Dexter”, and “The Walking Dead”.

The festival will close out with a 30th anniversary screening of one of the most iconic cult films of all time, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” with directors, the Chiodo Brothers, in attendance! Also joining the festival this year is director Stephen Hopkins (“Predator 2” and “The Ghost and the Darkness”), who will host a special 25th anniversary screening of his phenomenal Chicago-shot thriller, “Judgment Night” and comedian Jonah Ray (Netflix’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000”), who will appear on the first-ever live recording of Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg‘s acclaimed, nostalgia-fueled podcast, “80s All Over.”

Ticket info can be found at the Music Box Theatre’s site, where you’ll find the rest of this year’s incredible selection of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and action representing the latest and greatest in genre cinema from around the globe.

Below are capsule reviews of the film’s I’ve seen so far and hopefully I’ll be able to get to see more….



HEAVY TRIP (2018) 
***Midwest Premiere***
(Finland/ 92 min.)

Apparently, there’s a metalhead scene in Northern Finland – and why not? If you’re from that area, then maybe you already knew that and nothing in “Heavy Trip” will surprise you. At the very least you’ll definitely recognize a few more things than someone approaching this quirky comedy with a dash of semi-sweetness. The movie is like a broader version of “The Commitments”, yet without the natural charm of that classic. The story follows a quartet of friends and wanna-be heavy metal rockers in a small village, whose insecure lead singer Toro (Johannes Holopainen) suffers from stage fright and shyness when it comes to approaching the girl at the local flower shop, Miia (Minka Kuustonen), a source of encouragement.  When Toro and his bandmates unexpectedly meet a heavy metal concert programmer (Rune Temte), he becomes obsessed with getting his band, Impaled Rektum, their first gig at a outdoor music festival in nearby Norway. While the humor tries too hard at times, the supporting characters and rural setting make up for the laughs that don’t land, plus there’s enough thrown in during the third act to make this an admirable feature-length directorial debut for co-directors Juuso Laatio and Jukka Vidgren. (92 min./Finnish with English subtitles)

RATING: **1/2



***Midwest Premiere***
(USA/70 min.)

Less of a documentary on the famous funny man and more of a look at the random encounters he’s had with people off camera. Co-writer/director Tommy Avallone searches to make something out of internet blurbs of Bill Murray sightings – where the actor interacts with people at a wedding, takes part in a kickball game or winds up singing karaoke with a group of strangers – and most of those random encounters are fun and funny, but Avallone’s earnestness and drummed-up zeal come across as pretentious and phony. Using talking head clips from the likes of Peter Farrelly and Joel Murray, as well as cell-phone video footage from those who witnessed an unannounced Murray moment (with a dash of awkward re-enactments), Avallone tries to make something out of a forced urban legend and project a message of living-in-the-moment life lessons. Just looking at Bill Murray can crack you up and his self-effacing charm is undeniable, but I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world a documentary was made about these stories. I mean, it’s clear why, but it just winds up being a flimsy endeavor. One can’t help but wonder if the supposed magic of random and unexpected encounters with Murray is deflated when there’s a deliberate focus on them.




***Midwest Premiere***
(Indonesia/107 min.)

This horror flick from Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar was not only a hit in 2017, it was the best-selling Indonesian film of the year and it went on to win several awards at festivals. I believe it – and I’m surprised I do. The title is admittedly cheesy (it’s called “Pengabi Setan” in Indonesia), so I was a little suspect going in. All I knew going in was that it was a remake of a 1981 Indonesian film of the same name which I had never heard of, a fact which piqued my curiosity. If it’s warranting a remake then it’s either really bad or really good. Whatever the original is, I found myself completely riveted by this remake from start to finish.

The story follows 22 year-old Rini (Tara Basro), who lives with her father (Bront Palarae) and ill mother (Ayu Laksmi), as she looks after her three younger brothers, Tony (Endy Arfian) age 18, Bondi (Nasar Anuz) age 10 and Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat) who is about to turn 7 in three days, all of whom reside in a rundown house outside of Jakarta with their wheelchair-bound grandmother (Elly D. Luthan). Due to the mother’s condition, she remains bed-ridden and often mute, communicated with the ringing of a bell. When she suddenly dies after being ill for three years, her four children are left in the house alone as the father is off to tend to financial affairs. Then the bell rings and let’s just say things start to take a frightening and horrific turn for the worst. Apparitions appear and the mother’s unknown ties to the titular character is uncovered, revealing a nefarious destiny for the family. It doesn’t help that there are figures that have risen from the nearby cemetery and are now surrounding the house.

There is an affective creepiness permeating throughout “Satan’s Slaves” that is downright unsettling. At times its subtle and feels like its simmering under the surface, and then there are crescendo moments that result in legit jump-scares. The film resembles “Hereditary” in some ways and often supersedes that film in the fright department. Anwar, who also wrote the screenplay (updating original writer/director, Sisworo Guatama Putra) offers characters who are engaging and thankfully ones who steer clear from idiot decisions, which is rare for this genre. The way in which the story unfolds, with appropriate hints and reveals, is compelling and wholly fascinating. It’s definitely worth checking out on the big screen. (In Javanese with English subtitles)

RATING: ***1/2



COP BABY (2017)
***North American premiere***
(Russia/90 min.)

And now for something thoroughly unexpected –  a family film that revolves around a cop magically being transferred into the body of a newborn baby. Say what? You have to see it to believe it. Well, you don’t have to, but the darkly comic Russian film, “Cop Baby”, from writer AndreyZolotarev and director Alexander Andrushenko, is definitely one of the most original and ridiculous movies I’ve seen in a while. After Major Igor Chromov goes undercover in the slammer for a year in order to get close to the local triads, his operation goes south when a mysterious fortune teller places a curse on him that sends him inside a baby’s body. Obviously, things get weird and with the policeman thrown by his physical limitations, he must ride life out for a year as he “develops” under the care of lovey-dovey adoptive parents. Once he’s able to speak, walk and hold his bladder, Khromov sets out to track down a crime boss into the dark underworld with the help of his adoptive father Oleg, who is also a policeman. Admittedly, the storyline is hard to accept and, at times, a challenge to follow, but I remained gobsmacked throughout and would often just shake my head in disbelief. I think I need to recommend this mashup of “Boss Baby” and “Lethal Weapon”, just so I know someone else has seen it and I can talk this out with someone else.



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Cinepocalypse 2018’s stunning poster is from legendary album artist Ed Repka. The creative director of NECA, Ed is best-known for creating the cover art to Megadeth’s “Peace Sells But Who’s Buying” and “Rust in Peace”. To celebrate his incredible contributions to the world of heavy metal, the festival is releasing its 2018 guide as a collectible 7″ vinyl sleeve, with their lineup information inside the pocket.



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