Sunday, November 23, 2014

Theatre Fantastique (2014)

Oh joy, up-and-coming young indie filmmaker Ansel Faraj has again been struck by the delusion that he can adapt things! Forgive my anger, but with his Doctor Mabuse films, this schmuck has done serious harm to the franchise! Mabuse films are extremely, absurdly infrequent, so when the first in twenty-four, technically fifty, years are dreadful and unfaithful betrayals to the source material, then you can see that I would be quick to anger and frustration, especially when Faraj's follow-up project, web series Theatre Fantastique, is so bad too!...

The Madness of Roderick Usher

Sickly Roderick Usher is in his gloomy home, awaiting an undertaker to take his deceased sister away...

This is a pretty uneventful short. It's a bad adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, as it doesn't cover all the story's bases, thus leaving the plot both lacking and unexplained. I guess Faraj must have found Christopher Pennock sitting in an armchair in a nightrobe more irresistible than a real plot!

The look and set design of this short are lousy! The only real set is a darkly lit room with a few curtains, while everything else is terrible green screens, and embarrassing photoshop CGI. This is so cheap that the film can't even be bothered to show the sky by shooting the camera at it! Neither is an actual doorway used for a doorway! Jesus, Faraj, I get that you probably only had ten bucks to make this film, but believe me when I say it costs zip to film clouds, and someone walking into a doorway!

Ansel Faraj's obsession with dark green-lit rooms is back again here, no matter how little sense it makes. If there's no light in the room save for a single candelabra, then where the hell is the bathing green light coming from?!

The direction here is meh, while the editing is passable for the most part. For the most part! There's a painfully obvious re-use of a scene from the beginning at the end.

Christopher Pennock is decent here. The guy can be a good actor, even if his overacting does get the better of him sometimes (such as it did badly in Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar). Elyse Ashton, who I've spoken positively of in the past, is sort-of wasted here. She makes for a decent physical presence, but gets practically zero dialogue. And finally, J.R. Cox is dull. He's an ok actor, but he lacks presence.

Nosferatu: Beyond Death

That title card is made with the airbrush tool on Microsoft Paint! How frakkin' cheap can ya be? Was it seriously too taxing to make a real title card?! My loathing for these shorts aside, I'm at least respectful enough to consider them real films, so Faraj, why don't you actually put some damn effort into your projects!

This movie is basically a seven minute vampire bloodletting fetish video. There's no plot, and there's little-to-no dialogue! Oddly enough, there are a couple of dialogue exchanges, but they're muted out. I suppose that's because the film is striving to evoke a silent film feel for the film. This would make sense if the film wasn't 1, in colour, 2, in HD, and 3, lacking in intertitles!

After the four-and-a-half minute mark, we get actual dialogue, and a scene in black and white (though not in a belated attempt to evoke silent films). What little excuse there is for a plot is next to nothing, and the small smatterings of dialogue are as vapid as they are fleeting. As for the adaptation aspect, this short comes across like something made by someone who has never seen Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, and has only looked it up on Google Images.

The make-up for Nosferatu is decent, but despite the effort that went into putting it together, the short has him do nothing but bite a woman for the short's entire runtime! What a waste!

The rest of the effects are horrid. Actors don't match up to scale with the outside locations the green screens are projecting, there's a vampire flying scene worse than the one in Die Hard Dracula, and worse, there's castle CGI so bad that the Nintendo-era opening from Castlevania 64 looks better! And then there's the inside of the castle, which looks more akin to a friggin hotel room!

A Descent into a Maelstrom

Ugh, let's start of with the fact that this short has almost nothing to do with the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. That was about a shipwrecked mariner's desperate struggle in a raging ocean. There were no zombie ghosts present, of the aquatic variety or not!

After the relatively grounded first couple of minutes, the plot to this short gives into chaos almost immediately, and when it finally stops, we're delivered an abrupt and cliched twist ending, that has nothing to do with the Poe story. Worse still is that the short has the balls to have the lead quote Poe's 'Dream within a dream' poem verse, as if quoting Edgar Allen Poe will somehow magically make this movie relate to him.

The writing, when not a total entropic mess, is repetitive like crazy!

Jackson Gutierrez is a passable actor, but the repetition in the beginning and ending really screws over his performance. Christopher Pennock lets his overacting side loose for this short, and the result is exactly what you'd expect-Bad! And finally, Kelsey Hewlett (another Faraj regular I've spoken of positively before) is wasted. At least I'm sure she had fun being a sea wraith, even if the short did nothing with the concept besides point the camera at her while she cackled evilly.

The direction here is bad! I'm aware that the film's middle section is meant to be chaotic, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a jumbled, eye-straining mess. Especially irresponsible is the flashing at the start, which is sure to be uncomfortable for anyone with epilepsy (and that is the second GODDAMN time that I've had to give an epilepsy warning for one of Ansel Faraj's movies!).

The effects are nothing. The mise en scene is again a small dark room. Surprisingly, however, there's extremely little green screen work here! The film still looks like cheap garbage, but it at least looks like real cheap garbage!

Another bad effect is a brief shot of the ocean's depths. With it's immobile fish, and the friggin' visible window, it looks like a still image of a museum exhibit trying and failing to pass itself of as the ocean!

The Happy Home of the Murderous Mahones

Wow, this sure is a sudden detour for Theatre Fantastique! We've suddenly gone from ooky Gothic tales to a suburban American black comedy!

As this short actually has a plot, I can actually give it a summary! An old married couple are at each-other's throats, literally. Intent on murdering one another, things are complicated when they accidentally kill a visiting church member...

The plot here is bare and over too quickly, with no surprises in its ending. There are also some annoying aspects, like-Why do the couple want to kill each-other? Never explained. Also, they keep getting interrupted by a neighbour friend as they're trying to dispose of a body, and this is presented as a big deal, even though this problem could be easily solved. Just tell her you can't see her now, and to come back another time! It's not that difficult!

There's nothing worse than an unfunny comedy, and thankfully this short isn't quite that bad. Don't get me wrong, it's not funny, but it's merely boring, rather than absolutely wretched and unwatchable.

This movie's sense of humour is very poor, and it seems to be hoping that the situation alone can carry the humour throughout, along with a load of swearing, as if that will make the movie funny, rather than merely immature.

The acting isn't that great, but it's not terrible either. As for Ansel Faraj regular Nathan Wilson, he isn't that good, but due to his 'aw shucks' type character, there's at least life in his performance, unlike other roles I've seen him in.

This is the second-best entry in Theatre Fantastique, courtesy of it actually having a plot, and not having terrible effects (that is to say, it doesn't have any to begin with). It's still crap, though, and its story and tone are incredibly ill-fitting for this series.

Madame LaSoeur

This is by far the best short in this series. At sixteen minutes long rather than seven or eleven, it's long enough to develop its plot, and the story is, *GASP*, actually decently written! It's even got a neat twist! Sure, it's a bit cliche, but not painfully so, and it wasn't really obvious!

Unfortunately the atmosphere to this movie is what drags it down. Part of it is good, but the constant 'scary face' jump-scare flashes aren't frightening, but rather annoying! Also not so good is the end of the conclusion, which didn't make much sense. I guess demons are just untrustworthy dicks.

The actors in this short awesomely includes both Kelsey Hewlett, and Kelly Erin Decker! Woohoo! Of course, also in the cast are Christopher Pennock, Jerry Lacy, and other Faraj regular Derek Mobraaten to weigh things down. Thankfully, the latter three, as well as Lara Parker, act decently, and while Lacy's delivery sometimes stumbles, he's not bad.

Kelly Erin Decker is stylish as the titular spiritualist, and acts well. Kelsey Hewlett is this short's villain, but that doesn't mean she's utilized a lot. She's incredibly wasted, to the point that I feel really bad for her. We don't even really see her, as basically all of her appearances are brief transparent flashes.

The effects here are quite decent, and there's little-to-no use of all-encompassing green screens!

This short isn't great by any means, but it's a more than serviceable way to kill a quarter of an hour! I recommend it!


This is a pretty rotten set of shorts! The adaptations are barely middling to dreadful, the acting ranges from decent to mildly annoying, the direction is oftentimes not-so-good, and the effects are completely embarrassing! It's especially annoying when you consider other extremely low-budget TV shows and movies. Classic Doctor Who, The Final Sacrifice, Lo, and many other things I could name all had extremely minimal budgets, and oftentimes Who was barely allowed just one take to film in because money was so tight, but they pulled through to provide its audience with a visually appealing production, with its decent, albeit sometimes laughable, effects. Classic Doctor Who did use green screens here and there, but never for whole locations (bar one episode) all the time, and when they were used-and I can't stress this next point enough-they didn't FUCKING glitch out! Ansel, dude, get your goddamn green screens fixed! So yeah, the effects in Classic Who were sometimes bad, and sometimes hilarious, but they were always really there, and they never fell apart on screen!

There's one episode left of Theatre Fantastique, and it comes out on December the 5th, so I'll watch and review it then. Until then, this collection of Theatre Fantastique shorts is listed on its Youtube and Vimeo home as Season 1. Please God let there not be a Season 2!...

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