In this week’s globe-trotting round of fringe VOD releases, aliens impregnate a woman in Chile, a man takes a road trip with a corpse in Ireland, and a serial killer recruits an apprentice in Australia.
Embryo (VOD April 6): This micro-budget Chilean horror movie opens with title cards explaining the history of a mountain that is supposedly the site of numerous alien encounters, although the movie is far too incoherent to construct a convincing conspiracy. Instead, director Patricio Valladares presents a rudimentary plot about a woman attacked and impregnated by unseen aliens while camping on the mountain. The alien fetus inside her gives Evelyn (Romina Perazzo) a hunger for human flesh, which is depicted via some particularly shoddy gore effects (and listless performances from the victims). Embryo takes lengthy detours for other loosely connected alien stories, clumsily attempting to tie them together via a detective character and a rush of news-anchor exposition. None of it makes any sense, and the tangents sometimes feel like Valladares is just using whatever footage he happened to have on hand to get the movie to feature length (there are extensive home movies of one family’s trip to London, where nothing alien-related happens). Grade: D
The Slaughterhouse Killer (VOD and DVD April 6): This grimy Australian horror film’s greatest asset is lead actor Craig Ingham, who plays the title character. Unfortunately, Ingham is often the meager film’s only asset. Ingham brings his imposing bulk and menacing presence (dude is huge) to the role of Box, a weird loner who works in a slaughterhouse in rural Australia. Box loves his job, and he’s eager to become a mentor to new employee Nathan (James Mason), a recent parolee. Box teaches Nathan about slaughtering pigs, and then he teaches Nathan about slaughtering people, which is Box’s true passion. Ingham is often mesmerizing to watch, but the other characters are barely sketched out, and the plot never comes together. The limited production values keep most of the violence offscreen, and scenes are alternately overlit or underlit, with a muddy sound mix that often drowns out the dialogue with ambient noise. Ingham is legitimately scary, but the movie never lives up to his performance. Grade: C+
Giants Being Lonely (VOD April 6): The debut feature from writer and director Grear Patterson starts out as a low-key naturalistic drama before taking some unexpected turns, leading up to a ridiculously incongruous final shot. Before that hilariously jarring moment, though, Giants Being Lonely is largely tedious and aimless, following rival pitchers on a small-town high school baseball team. Star pitcher Bobby (Jack Irving) lives in a rundown trailer with his alcoholic dad, while second-stringer Adam (Ben Irving) is subject to constant abuse at home from his father, the team’s coach. The Irvings are real-life brothers, which makes the characters tough to tell apart for much of the running time, as Patterson runs them through vaguely Terrence Malick-esque lyrical amblings, with minimal dialogue. There’s so little to the characters that the movie’s swerve into dark intensity feels completely unearned, in addition to poorly executed. Patterson evokes a hazy mood of adolescent indolence, and then turns it into something lurid and false. Grade: C-
Sugar Daddy (VOD April 6; select theaters April 9): Writer/star Kelly McCormack creates an impressive showcase for herself in this drama about a struggling musician who turns to a sugar baby dating site to make ends meet. Darren (McCormack) moved to Toronto to pursue her dreams of making it in the music business, but her latest achievement is getting fired from a catering job. She finds renewed excitement and inspiration in becoming a sugar baby, even as it sometimes makes her question her self-worth and elicits condescending commentary from her friends. McCormack and director Wendy Morgan aren’t judgmental about sex work, instead exploring how it can both empower and demean this specific volatile young woman. Morgan, a music video veteran, intersperses abstract music video-style interludes with the grounded drama, delving deeply into Darren’s psyche and creativity. At times the movie recalls a scrappy Canadian take on The Girlfriend Experience, with the multi-talented McCormack (who also sings Darren’s original songs) as its mesmerizing anchor. Grade: B+
The Last Right (VOD and select theaters April 9): Poor Daniel Murphy (Michiel Huisman). He’s a high-powered New York City lawyer who travels to rural Ireland for his mother’s funeral, so obviously he’s powerless against the quirky forces aligned to show him how much better life would be if he quit his job and became a small-town family man. The contrivances start on the transatlantic plane ride, where Daniel befriends his elderly seatmate, who dies during the flight. A few wacky misunderstandings later, and Daniel is on a road trip to bring the man’s remains back to his ancestral home. Daniel is joined by his autistic teenage brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley) and random local hanger-on Mary Sullivan (Niamh Algar), the requisite love interest. Louis’ condition varies according to the needs of the plot, and writer-director Aoife Crehan throws in enough overwrought reveals for several Hallmark movies. Brian Cox and Colm Meaney show up in small parts, but even their talents aren’t enough to overcome the blarney. Grade: C-