Triaphilia


You never know what you’ll find in an old steamer trunk.

(2021) Horror (LAS Productions) Kenny Ledee, Chelsea Rose Barreto, Vincent Caprio, Suzanne Johnson, Ashley Laessig, Jenn Nobile, Esra Ozgun, Rink Patel, Katie Raulerson, Saniye Reyhan, Kurt Slter, Julia Wyrzuc, Mary Zaroura, Kurt Slater, Tony Murphy, Daniela Favaloro. Directed by Joshua Nelson

 

The wisdom goes that the easiest kind of movie to make is a horror movie. That is about as far from the truth as it gets. Horror films are relatively inexpensive to make (which is why studios love them so much) but they are damned hard to get right. Making a good scare requires as much forethought and planning as any CGI, and when not done properly, can lead to a horror movie that isn’t scary. A lot of tyro filmmakers go into horror films with that attitude and make tepid films that please nobody. That is not always the case, however.

Triaphilia is a horror anthology film with three short stories linked together by an antiques and curios store called The Anointed Cherub, which might give you a clue as to who the proprietor (Ledee) really is. He caters to the customer, giving them what they need, although not necessarily what they want. All of his wares come with a real dark side to them.

The first story brings Sal (Patel), who is meeting his girlfriend Karen’s (Raulerson) parents for the first time and he hopes to impress them by bringing them a gift, although she is of the opinion that he would be much better served buying something for her instead. The proprietor convinces Sal to purchase an antique mirror. You can probably see where this is going, as mirrors rarely merely show a reflection in horror movies.

The second story has a trio of fun-loving girls – Bonnie (Laessig), Jeanine (Wyrzuc) and Ruby (Zazoura) – buy an urn that purportedly has the ashes of a serial killer in them. That’s all good for grins and giggles until the deceased killer’s wife (Ozgun) wants her hubby’s ashes back – and she’s not about to take no for an answer.

The final story revolves around Susan (Nobile), a grieving mom who was always a little off but her beloved son Franklin’s death has really sent her around the bend. Her friends Zoe (Barreto) and Ronnie (Reyhan) volunteer to help her store Franklin’s things and at the Anointed Cherub they find a big steamer trunk for the purpose. However, as it turns out, the trunk isn’t exactly empty.

None of the stories are groundbreaking, but they don’t have to be. The third story has the most depth to it and the first the most humor. What matters in a movie like this is that the stories are executed properly, and on that matter the jury is unfortunately out. From a technical standpoint, the movie excels in several ways; the cinematography is absolutely first-rate, so kudos to Michael Zayac in that regard. The gore effects are all practical and while fairly low-budget, are at least competently done.

Where the movie is less successful is in the performances; the acting feels flat and lifeless in a lot of places. One reason for that may be the dialogue which often doesn’t sound like real people talking so much as what looks good on a written script. One of the sins often committed by screenwriters (particularly those that are relatively new to it) is that they fail to actually speak the dialogue out loud before committing it to the script. That often helps make the dialogue sound more natural and less like a book on tape. Also, too many of the characters are shallow and none-too-bright. A little more variety could have been useful, particularly in the female characters. The two actors who fare best is Ledee, who seems to be having the most fun with his role, and Nobile who gives her part equal pathos and WTF-ness.

By no means is this a truly bad movie – I’ve seen plenty of those to know what one looks like – but making movies is a learning experience and that’s what’s happening here. There’s enough that is worthwhile to take a look, so long as you don’t set the bar too high for it. I didn’t feel compelled to switch the movie off, so it held my interest as it is likely to hold yours. There are plenty of movies that don’t even make it that far.

The movie is currently unavailable to screen, but is set to be available in the last quarter of the year on Amazon and other streaming services.

REASONS TO SEE: The cinematography is extremely strong.
REASONS TO AVOID: The acting is flat and the characters for the most part not terribly well-written.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence (some of it bloody) and profanity, including sexual references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although the film defines triaphilia as the “fear of death coming in threes,” the Latin words actually translate to “love of things that come in threes” and refers more to the belief that things occur in threes rather than a fear of it.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/5/21: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Needful Things
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
The Sleepless Unknown

NIghtingale (HBO)


Happy wife, happy life.

Happy wife, happy life.

(2015) Drama (HBO) David Oyelowo, Barlow Jacobs, Heather Storm. Directed by Elliott Lester

It isn’t often that we here at Cinema365 review movies made for television, even for HBO, perhaps the most prestigious maker of television movies. While ’tis true that Nightingale got a limited and minuscule theatrical release both here and abroad, this movie, which continues to play on the cable giant and is also available on such streaming/downloading services like Amazon Prime, iTunes and Vudu, demands attention.

Peter Snowden (Oyelowo) has just done a very bad thing. He has brutally murdered his mother. She is a Bible-thumping, domineering woman who constantly treats her son, who served in the Army in the Middle East, as a child, refusing to allow him to invite an army buddy, Edward, over for dinner. That appears to be the last straw.

Except that Peter isn’t what you’d call the most reliable witness. He has anger issues, is a pathological liar and clearly delusional. He is falling apart and his matricidal actions have sent him spinning further out of control down the darkest path a man can take.

This is a one-man show, depicting Peter within the confines of his home. He records video blog segments, speaks to his sister on his cellphone and at times attempts to wheedle Edward into coming over, generally speaking to Edward’s wife Gloria who doesn’t want Peter within a hundred miles of her husband (and for good reason).

To Peter, Edward is more than a friend – “I would do anything for that man,” he declares and judging by his level of obsession towards him we can believe it. As the movie progresses we discover that Peter’s fondness for Edward may go beyond Army buddies; there is certainly some romantic and even sexual overtones that are never overtly stated, but are clearly there.

What makes this film work is Oyelowo’s brilliant performance. Snubbed by Oscar for his work in Selma which by all rights he should have gotten at least a nomination for, he has been at last embraced by Emmy for which he has justifiably received a nomination. We are put in a fairly confined space with Oyelowo and he has to hold our interest for 90 minutes essentially all by himself, and he does so superbly. There is a great deal of nuance, from the fits of rage, the moments of sadness and loneliness, and the calm near the end when events are spiraling towards their inevitable conclusion.

Of course, it’s not just a crazy war veteran talking to himself, although there are moments of that. We hear him trying to deflect concern of his sister and his mother’s friends from church who all want to know where she is; their increasing suspicions drive Peter further around the bend. Besides the phone conversations, he talks to a folding mirror in which his reflection is refracted into three separate images, an overt symbol of his splintering mind, and often he addresses his dead mother as if she is still with him. At other times he feels crushing guilt for what he has done.

This is an emotional roller coaster ride, the intensity of which might catch some by surprise and others may be too much to handle. The filmmakers pull no punches; they make no judgment on Peter (and in fact at times we feel sympathy for him) but only present his deeds and his words for review. Certainly we recoil in horror at what he does to his own mother (thankfully, all off-screen) and at his attitudes towards those who would keep him away from Edward who more and more seems to resemble some sort of life preserver to his psyche which is clearly going under.

This is very much like watching a car accident; you’re horrified but you can’t look away. If I have a quibble with the movie, it is that at times it is more acting exercise than film, but the acting is so extraordinary that you can forgive the movie its flaws.

We have reviewed documentaries that HBO has created, and this and other films have shown an increasing willingness from HBO to exhibit their films in theaters, which of course is an entirely different experience than seeing their films at home. This is a movie that works perfectly well on the home screen and in fact, that may be a better medium for a film like this. Regardless, Oyelowo’s performance is worth viewing all by itself; it is one of the finest you will see in a theater or at home this year.

REASONS TO GO: An exceptional, Emmy-nominated performance by Oyelowo. Realistic and intense.
REASONS TO STAY: More acting exercise than movie.
FAMILY VALUES: Adult themes. Some foul language.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Very loosely based on a case that occurred in Illinois.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/9/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 81% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: ‘night, Mother
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: Trainwreck