Tag Archives: Indie Reviews. Indie. Movie Lounge. Reviews.

Review: Hand of Glory (2012)

Directed by: Stuart Wahlin
Written by: Stuart Wahlin
Genre: Drama / Horror / Thriller
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: March 25th, 2012.
Starring: Heather Dorff. Darren Marlar. Justin R. Romine. Michael Schmid. Brian Kramer. Joe DeBartolo.

Plot: Lonely delivery falls uses a mystical relic known as the Hand of Glory to win the affections of the woman he loves and make all his dreams possible, but soon discovers everything comes with a price.

Synopsis: Lonely delivery man Joseph falls in love with an alcoholic prostitute named Karen, who frequents one of the stops along his route. Though they soon become friends, Joseph is unable to figure out what makes the very-guarded Karen tick. While Karen drowns the sorrows of her mysterious past, keeping him at bay, Joseph remains committed to winning her affection, resorting to extreme measures in his search for the key to her heart. Embarking on a dark journey with a mystical relic -a ‘Hand of Glory,’ whose legend purports the ability to unlock any door- Joseph soon discovers that such feats come at a dire price.

Review: 7/10

My Thoughts: Love is a tricky thing. It can be a powerful driving force that lifts you up high, or derails you off the tracks. Love makes you do things, terrible things you never imagine was possible. But as the old saying goes; the heart wants what it wants, and it’ll do anything to get it. In his directorial debut, actor, writer and director Stuart Wahlin brings us HAND OF GLORY, a dark drama about Joseph, a lonely delivery man (Marlar) who falls for an alcoholic prostitute named Karen (Dorff). Karen has made it crystal clear that a romantic relationship will never be in the cards. However, Joseph refuses to give up on getting the girl of his desire and will stop at nothing until he wins her affection. Sounds innocent and a little sweet right? Well you’d be right if Joseph didn’t turn to dabbling in the use of a mystical relic known as the Hand of Glory, which is clouded by strange and dark properties that come with most unfortunate price.

I had no idea what I would be walking into prior to viewing hand of glory other than the fact it’s filmmaker managed to lock down the details about the film tighter than Fort Knox. So with that in mind, I sat down to watch this film with an open mind and absolutely no expectations. The only thing I could do at this point was prepare, prepare for the unknown and more importantly, prepare for the worst possible scenario… that it would turn out to be a big disappointment. Fortunately the film did not turn out as the disappointment I feared, but instead a rather interesting look into the darkness that dwells within. The plot itself was quite intriguing; I was very pleased at the notion that Wahlin was able to keep me, as a viewer, questioning what would happen next, believe me that is indeed a rarity for someone like me. Though the film did suffer from some obvious flaws, like sound issues and noticeable dubbing (which I have no problem tolerating.) However, there are a few instances in the film where it became quite noticeable which I could not ignore, however that I can somewhat forgive and let live this particular flaw, seeing that many films both indie and mainstream seem to suffer from these types of common hiccups from time to time.

As for “gore” value, for a film that uses a severed hand on its poster, the movie wasn’t as gory as I originally thought it would be. Was it eerie? Yes! Was it dark and somewhat disturbing? You bet your apple bottom it was! But overly bloody it was not. Now with that being said, one of the qualities I enjoyed a great deal about hand of glory was the scenery and setting; from Karen’s apartment to the bar beneath it, the elements of each location in the film were well played to the elements that brought on an atmospheric tone for the cinematography. From Joseph creeping through the keyhole, to a scene in which I cannot detail without giving away major spoilers, everything about it had a shade of gloom and gray to it, and it worked so perfectly, but more importantly, the most memorable aspect about Hand of Glory was the fact it managed to throw in a twist towards the end that I did not see coming, and whether this revelation was a positive or a negative, the fact I did not see this twist coming from a mile away was indeed enjoying.

As for the acting: this is where the film really shines in glory! Heather Dorff’s performance as Karen was breath taking to say the least; her character was literally oozing with such raw emotion that felt natural and organic for the setting, much like her performance in “What They Say.” You felt Heather’s pain and hurt suffice from deep down inside and understood why she is the way she is. Darren Marlar did a fantastic job in the role of Joseph. He pulled off the lonely obsessive delivery man without a hitch, not to mention very believable as a total creeper. Justin R. Romine delivered a fine performance as the ex pimp, in my opinion, off-screen Justin naturally doesn’t come off as the intimidating type, however this was not the case in hand of glory as he pulled it off quite well which was both enjoying and surprising to see him as the violent aggressor type. Also I want to point out that Michael Schmid, Brian Kramer, Joe DeBartolo, Richard Bunch and the rest of the supporting cast did fairly good as well.

Final Say: Hand of Glory was quite the little film; though it had its flaws, it still managed to do what it intended to do. I recommend it!

Review: The Secret Friend (2010)

Directed by: Flavio Alves
Written by: João Silvério Trevisan (short story), Flavio Alves (screenplay)
Genre: Short / Comedy / Drama
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: June 27, 2010
Starring: Viola Harris, Siobhan Fallon, Jerry Jaffe, Richard Scott, Beau Hauser, Melvin Shrebnick.

Plot: A reclusive, elderly widow, living alone in the city, begins a mysterious friendship with a silent caller.

Review: 8/10

The Story is about: A reclusive, elderly widow, Anna Marshall, lives in quiet desperation following her husband’s death until she begins receiving daily phone calls from a silent stranger. At first Anna finds the calls intrusive, but as the calls continue unabated Anna finds herself waiting for her phone to ring with growing anticipation prompting her to reach out to her silent prankster. An odd and mysterious friendship evolves between the two as Anna shares her life experiences with startling honesty. Empty days are given new hope, but when the calls abruptly end a devastated Anna is compelled to surprising action to fill the unbearable void.

My Thoughts: Rarely do we see a truthful depiction of the lonely senior lifestyle, because society willingness to casts aside seniors from the general public comes all too easily because once they’ve reached the end of their usefulness suddenly no one would bother to give two shakes about what happens next.

For example; If you were to go to any one of the countless fast-food joins or malls open before the morning rush in my neck of the woods, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a flock of elderly folk gathered in vast numbers, no this is not because they enjoy the scenery or the cheaply processed cuisine, they gather because they’ve come to cherish one of the most important things in life, companionship. In a world of technology and life driving by in the fast lane, we often enough find ourselves disjointed by that which makes us human. A connection, it’s what the elderly yearn for and what many of us have chosen to isolate ourselves from.

Director Flavio Alves’s short film “The Secret Friend” shows us just how important the human connection is essential to the soul especially in the dark times of our lives. There are very few short films out there that have sparked much praise by me, but when they do its message speaks volume and never fails to lose itself in the grand scheme of things. With that being said, The Secret Friend does just that by connecting to viewers through delivering a touching story about lost, loneliness and finding yourself through it all. The situation that the main character, Anna Marshall (Harris) is in is sadly something everyone will go through in one point or another in their life. Losing someone close to us is never easy, nor is it something we can simply recover from.

But unlike Anna Marshall, most people have family and friends to help them deal with the damning situation. But what if you had no one to help you move on with your life? No family, no friends, just yourself with no one to lean on. How could you possible overcome the grief that’s stricken you? The sad truth to this is there are people like that out there, it’s a terrible thought truth be told and you can’t help but wonder what keeps people like that going each and every day, what inner strength they must have. For Anna, it was a mysterious caller that winds up becoming her savior in a desperate time of seclusion without ever saying so much as a word. Though the caller never speaks, he lets her know of his presences by breathing into the speaker so that she knows he’s there.

I know some of you are probably thinking this sounds perversely sick, and maybe a little weird. Well be that as it may, actually seeing it on film is entirely a different story, and it turns out to be touching, and at times cute in that, dare I say it, chivalrous manner. Admittedly when I first heard of this film, I did not think too much about it, especially after learning it was a short. Because in all honesty, attempting to tell a story such as this in a short is extremely hard, not entirely impossible, but difficult at best due to its complexity. But Flavio makes it possible with amity and grace, through his directing style the film delivers a respectful pay it forward message that will no doubt earn the respect of many.

As for the acting: the acting is quite remarkable, despite the limit of actors in this, the film felt full with a sense of contentedness. Actress Viola Harris, whom has been working in the business for nearly 60 years, delvers a marvelous performance which is both touching and heartbreaking. The talented Siobhan Fallon who, in my opinion, is incredibly underappreciated in the business is much more deserving for her outstanding work throughout the years, gives a fantastic performance in her supportive role. Also Richard Scott, Beau Hauser and Melvin Shrebnick give fine performances in their minor roles. And even though we barely hear him other than heavy breathing, Jerry Jaffe does great as the secret friend.

Final Say: The Secret Friend was probably one of the best shorts I’ve seen in recent years. It was an incredible multilayered film of emotion; you can’t help but feel touched for the main character while at the sometime experiencing a few genuine moments of humor. Director Flavio Alves hit’s the hammer on the nail with The Secret Friend. Highly Recommended!

Review: Second Star (2011)

Reviewed By: Kelsey Zukowski
Starring: Stephanie Sylvester, Troy Zitzelberger, Brittany Collins, Heather Dorff
Directed By: Derek Quint

Grade: B

Second Star is a short film about a homeless woman on New Year’s Eve. We follow her throughout the night as the lines between reality, fantasy, and past are blurred. It was inspired by J.M. Barrie’s book, “Peter Pan” as well as old and modern ghost legends.

Director, Derek Quint, follows a guerilla film style for a very realistic opening. For someone living in Chicago, it’s something you witness nearly every day, but are rarely a part of the way it is shown to us here. Once the party begins I liked how drastically the tone and atmosphere changed. The noticeable difference takes us in to a surreal cycle of events. We can’t be completely sure what’s real and what’s not, much like our protagonist who is scared and lost in the world she finds herself in.

The exploration of fiction and reality is among my favorite themes that can be explored through film. It’s the perfect medium to do so since film itself could be considered the blurring of fiction and reality. It’s not real, but is encompassed around reality; part of the reason film exists as a intelligent art form. Second Star takes advantage of this exploration and experiments with this character’s psyche.

The director even says he isn’t completely sure what happens, how it ends, or what is reality and what is fiction. This really emphasis the importance of the experience of Second Star; it really doesn’t matter what happens because the film is about something much larger. It’s up to you to decide what that is.