A.J. Bowen

The Sacrament

Look, I’m not one to brag, but I’ve hugged A.J. Bowen. Of course tens of thousands of people could make the same claim, but how many of them managed this feat shortly after giving his latest film a C+ review grade at last year’s Fantastic Fest? Any fear I had falling into his arms melted away when I realized he bore no ill will my way and instead was a funny, smart and personable guy. It probably helped that he knew my opinion carries little to no weight, but still. I guess what I’m saying is I’m now one degree away from hugging Amy Seimetz, and that’s not too shabby. Anyway, The Sacrament. Writer/director Ti West has made several feature films now, and while his love of genre and intentionally methodical pacing has remained steady across most of them he’s made a noticeable shift with his newest one away from the supernatural and into the evils of the real world. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s an entertaining and tense-enough watch where the parts are somewhat better than the whole. The film is newly released to Blu-ray this week, and one of the disc’s special features is a fun and informative commentary track featuring West, Bowen and Seimetz. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for The Sacrament.

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ff the sacrament

The past is no guarantee of the future, but it’s often a fairly good guide. A new film from Ti West, for example, offers the soft promise of an unhurried pace and escalating terror as evidenced by his two previous movies, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers. Past films about cults offer a similar road map to where future ones will go, and while there are far more than two on the topic they seem to be split pretty evenly between two destinations. Some say the world will end with guns and Kool-Aid, others say with sacrifices to the gods. VICE is a journalism outfit known for breaking the stories that other outlets pass by out of fear or worries over ratings, but their latest story finds Sam (A.J. Bowen) and his cameraman Jake (Joe Swanberg) tagging along with a photographer friend named Patrick (Kentucker Audley) who’s concerned with his sister Caroline’s (Amy Seimetz) welfare. She’s joined a cult that recently transplanted itself outside of the U.S., and Patrick wants to confirm her safety and extricate her if necessary. The trio arrive, and while things seem calm and relatively normal at first it’s not long before the truth comes calling. The Sacrament is well made in many regards, but it’s also sadly predictable and somewhat pointless. And thanks to its format choice, that of an actual episode of VICE, it’s irritatingly distracting too.

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sxsw_yourenext

Editor’s note: Rob’s review of You’re Next originally ran during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theatrical release. It’s become pretty fashionable these days for people to retroactively bash movies that enjoyed honest and deserved praise upon release. Wes Craven’s Scream has received such a backlash in recent years, as both a lesser movie and a less influential one, and it’s fairly inexplicable. Sure it has some issues, but the movie remains a fun, scary and smart take on the slasher genre that has rarely (if ever) been duplicated. But it also came out seventeen years ago. You’re Next aims to enjoy the same prestige by giving the genre a real kick in the ass with thrills, chills and a fresh take on it all, but while it misses the mark in some important areas it comes far closer than most. And bottom line? It’s a fun and bloody good time at the movies.

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review grow up tony

Coming-of-age films are often centered around something big like death or sex, but most people grow up with hurdles built on somewhat lesser obstacles. Tony Phillips (Tony Vespe) is one such person. His high school years are winding down, his friends are moving on and his mother is reminding him that college life is right around the corner, but the challenge facing him right this minute is his absolute love for all things Halloween. Writer/director/wunderkind Emily Hagins is a twenty-year-old filmmaker who made her first feature at the age of 12 and scored a nationwide distribution deal with her last film, My Sucky Teen Romance. Her new movie, Grow Up, Tony Phillips, once again presents a casual, charming and youth-centric world, but she makes some important steps forward in her professional growth too. Unfortunately though it’s a bit of a “one step forward, one step back” situation.

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sxsw anticipated

In Grow Up, Tony Phillips, a young man (Tony Vespe) has to face a senior year of high school where everyone has moved on from the hobbies of the past while he’s still hopelessly in love with Halloween and all its trapping. His hip older cousin (A.J. Bowen) swings into town and takes Tony under his wing but the costume-making teen has to face his own changing world. This is the fourth film from Emily Hagins, the director who’s been making films since she was 12 years old. The production (who, full disclosure, I’m friends with) has now put together a trailer with the movie heading up to SXSW for its premiere on Tuesday. Check it out for yourself:

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Why Watch? To its credit, Craigslist has plenty of warnings. Watch out for scams, people who demand that you wire money and terrifying things living inside the free chair you just snagged from a kind stranger. Drew Daywalt and his nightmarish visions are no stranger to this column. Neither is A.J. Bowen, who co-stars in this quick story of a young woman (Kaylee Score) just off the boat in Los Angeles trying to outfit her apartment with some gratis furniture. The result is a keen display of horror construction and special make-up effects. There’s a slightly indulgent jump scare just before the conclusion, but otherwise, it’s about as clean and effective as a scare can get. Plus, there’s a twisted creativity behind the horrifying truth of the chair. This short might do for sitting in your living room what Jaws did for hanging around with Roy Scheider. Hat tip to reader Andrew F. for suggesting it. What will it cost? Around 20 minutes. Skip Work. Watch More Short Films.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? It’s been an A.J.  Bowen-heavy week, and that’s as it should be. The indie horror staple has proven again and again that he’s got acting chops (as well as literal chops whenever he’s handed an ax), and in Drew Daywalt‘s newest flick, he and Ed Ackerman get to play a little “Who’s on First?” without all the pesky name confusion and baseball. The pair play two friends driving down a long stretch of road having just committed a heinous act of violence. Talking their way through the situation, they have to rationalize their actions and plan a dinner menu. Those looking for blood-splatter and gore won’t be satisfied here. This is purely cerebral, and the joy is watching the chemistry between the two actors as they try to figure out what to do with the…thing…that they’ve killed. It’s a nice reminder that two people talking can still be imaginative, entertaining and transportational – even if their particular Dinner with Andre is serving a seriously exotic first course. What will it cost you? Only 4 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Rites of Spring

In the indie horror flick Rites of Spring, some kidnappers snag a rich kid and then hides out in an abandoned building. Unfortunately for them, it’s the most dangerous spot they could have picked because there’s something monstrous waiting to take its yearly sacrifice. From writer/director Padraig Reynolds, it stars A.J. Bowen, Katherine Randolph, and Anessa Ramsey. Check out the trailer for yourself. It’s a good reminder that stealing children might be a bad idea.

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A young woman slinks downstairs in her underwear to fix another drink, recover from some bad sex and turn on some music. The secluded house far away from any city limit sign offers a perfect opportunity to crank of the volume without any close neighbors calling the cops. When her sugar daddy finds her dead body, he’ll also find a message for him scrawled on the sliding glass doors in blood. Thus begins You’re Next. This blood-splattered couple is just the appetizer though. The real focus of the film is a neighboring family that puts the “fun” back in “constantly bitching.” Paul Davison (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (the legendary Barbara Crampton) are father and mother to the brood. Drake (Joe Swanberg) is the ass-kissing mess stuffed into a turtle neck, Aimee (Amy Seimetz) is the perpetual Daddy’s Girl even in her adulthood, Felix (Nicholas Tucci) is the disaffected middle child of history, and Crispian (A.J. Bowen) is the ridiculously-named good son who acts as our entryway into a night that’s meant to celebrate 35 of marriage but will be invaded by figures in animal masks who only mean harm.

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published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-


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