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Maniac Landscapes

Maniac Landscapes is a hypnotic dream. One could even call it a beautiful nightmare. Windows serve as portals through which ethereal sources of light and energy feed the flowering pants below. These life forms snake toward the light, their buds opening dramatically. Streams and drops of liquid fall from an unseen source. Shades of red, pink, blue and purple are set against an infinite black landscape. In the background we hear ghostly sounds that are indistinguishable and haunting. The scene shifts when a skeleton appears, reconciling life with the concept of death. 

Maniac Landscapes is a 7-1/2 minute short film written, directed, edited and animated by Matthew Wade with sound design by Jacob Kinch. It is co-produced by Wade and Sara Lynch. Their short Eyes at the Specter Glass recently premiered at Slamdance (check out my review here). Wade describes the film with the following synopsis:

“As disembodied cries move through the rooms of a house, their emotional intensity provokes a reanimation of the dead, cosmic shifts, and the manipulations of time and place.”

Inspiration came to Wade from a series of dreams which he then interpreted into this this film. He gives it “a kind of dream logic in its final presentation.” It’s quite a surreal experience, as was Eyes at the Specter Glass and I’m looking forward to more from this innovative filmmaker.

If the events in the film were from my own dream, I’d interpret them as representations of the creative forces within us. The light, the liquid and the sounds are all sources of inspiration and the plants would symbolize the growth of ideas and the formation of our creative endeavors into their final artistic form. The skeleton’s presence would be thematic of how we take from past creations and breathe new life into them.

Maniac Landscapes premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival as part of their Best Animated Short competition line-up. It’s also part of the upcoming Alchemy Film and Arts Festival that takes place in Scotland next month.

Slamdance: Slip Road

A man drives down a slip road into the woods. With him inside the vehicle is a mysterious creature. They exchange no words. The car stops when the man encounters children, all dressed in white, who proceed bang on the car from the outside. Once they disappear, he makes his way through a group of adults who are partying in front of a bonfire. The creature is waiting on the other side of a muddy pond. It’s time for the man to fulfill his end of the bargain with the creature and continue his journey.

Slip Road is an ominous and mysterious short film that begs the viewer to extrapolate their own meaning from the series of events in the story. I saw the film as a metaphor for creation and sacrifice. The slip road and the children represent a birth. It’s also the first sacrifice the man must make. He must ignore the children, and the prospect of being a father. He then makes his way through the party but choses not to participate. When he brings a sacrificial offering to the creature, a baby wrapped in a white blanket, the creature drowns him and another version of the man appears. To me this represented more sacrifice. The man must abandon the party life if he wants to fulfill his end of the bargain with the creature and become a creator. I also reinterpreted the whole film as the abandonment of one way of living in order make way for another.

Slip Road was written, produced and directed by Australian filmmaker Raphael Dubois. It stars Izaak Love as the man ‘Wendell’ and Sohaib Zaman as the creature. There is no dialogue but some powerful yet quiet performances from the two stars. It’s beautifully shot with stunning imagery. I was very excited to see this after watching the trailer and it was even more mysterious than I expected.

Slip Road premiered at Slamdance 25 as part of the Anarchy Shorts series.

Slamdance: Eyes at the Specter Glass

Eyes at the Specter Glass: A Cosmic Horror is a visual and auditory experience that requires your patience, your passivity and your attention. Set in the cosmos, this short film is composed of shifting and moving shapes that start off in black and white and then morph into beautiful blues, pinks and purples. If I were ever abducted by aliens, I can only imagine it would look, sound and feel a little like this. This film envelopes you in darkness, light and sound. There is no overstimulation here. Everything is gradual and paced to allow you to soak everything in. 

This 11-1/2 minute short film is directed, animated and scored by Matthew Wade with music mastering by Jacob Kinch. According to Wade, Eyes at the Specter Glass is about the “perception of reality and how we catalog life events through memory, bias and time.” The macrocosm of the universe is told through the perspective of the individual. 

Eyes at the Specter Glass is an experience worth your while if you allow yourself to submit to it. I could see this film as an installation at a museum, as long as it could be viewed in an enclosed space. 

Eyes at the Specter Glass premiered at Slamdance 25.

TIFF Review: Assassination Nation

assassinationnation

by Raquel Stecher

Assassination Nation
dir. Sam Levinson
starring: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Joel McHale, Bella Thorne, Bill Skarsgard, Maude Apatow

“You had it coming, America.”

When a movie starts with a preview of trigger warnings you know you’ll be in for a wild ride. Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation was one of my most anticipated films of TIFF and it delivered on many fronts. This modern take on the Salem witch trials is dark, twisted, raunchy and violent. It follows the story of four teens as they navigate their senior year with all the peer pressure that comes with it but kicked up several notches when key members of the community get hacked. Led by Odessa Young, the four young women including Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra, the town of Salem begins to spiral out of control and they become the target of the community’s blood thirsty need for their brand of justice. On the surface this might seem like another scary movie to watch on Halloween but on a deeper level it delivers some cutting critiques about modern day society. It explores peer pressure, the sexualization of young women, toxic masculinity, privacy, doxxing, public shaming, mob mentally, misplaced righteousness and distrust of authority. And if you’re like me and shy away from horror films, this one has some violence but there is so much to enjoy from the visual imagery, costumes, lighting cinematography, typography that makes it well worth the gory scenes. I loved the female empowerment message and found myself pumping my fist in the air and cheering the protagonists on. Assassination Nation is not one to miss.

Neon releases Assassination Nation in theatres on September 21st.

I attended a special press screening of Assassination Nation at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

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