Established May 2010.

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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Twin Cities Film Fest: WINTER IN THE BLOOD, TRUTH OR DARE

This is my first year attending the 2013 Twin Cities Film Fest, and it has been a fun experience thus far. I have seen six films so far all ranging from big studio releases like Nebraska to smaller local films. I have been able sit in on a few Q&As with the directors and stars, attended some mixers, and met some new film buffs and bloggers. Here are two mini-reviews for some of the films I have seen so far. Nebraska still stands as my number one pick so far. Unfortunately, that review will have to wait a few weeks.

Director: Alex and Andrew Smith
Starring: Chaske Spencer, David Morse, Lily Gladstone, Saginaw Grant

Chaska Spencer may only be known for his role as Sam in the Twilight movies. For the audience at the premiere of Winter in the Blood at the Twin Cities Film Fest, we got to see him in a whole new light. Virgil (Spencer) wakes up bruised and hung over in the Montana plains. He returns home to find that his wife has left him and taken his treasured gun with him. His road to retrieving it and getting his wife back is met with self-discovery and inward reflection. He meets a drifter known as “Airplane Man”, a barmaid, and two other mysterious men in suits. All four of these people may be real or just figments of his drunken stupor. Memories of his brother rush back to him and the acknowledgement that he is only half Native American are constant struggles he cannot seem to cope with along the way.

After the screening, there was a Q&A with director Alex Smith and Chaska Spencer. Smith and his brother Andrew co-directed the movie after having a long love of the book by James Welch. It was a story they kept coming back to, and knew they wanted to put it on the big screen. Spencer was looking to do some heavier material and meatier characters to take on after the success of Twilight. He gives quite a wonderful performance as the character battles his identity and place in life. The film got a wonderful response and applause from the audience. There was quite an appreciation for bringing a Native American story to the bring screen as we do not get many stories about this specific culture and history. I couldn’t agree more. I went in not knowing a whole lot about the movie and came out with a deeper appreciation than I would have expected.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Director: Jessica Cameron
Starring: Ryan Kiser, Shelby Stehlin, Brandon Van Vliet, Heather Dorff, Devanny Pinn

A group of six friends known as “The Truth or Daredevils” have become internet sensations after their viral videos of an adult version of the childhood game “Truth or Dare” become a huge success. Derik (Kiser) is their Number 1 fan and is appalled to find out their latest video was faked. He decides to take matters into his own hands by breaking into the filming of their latest video. He takes them all hostage and makes them play the game according to his rules all the while recording it and uploading to their site. The game progresses into a horrific shockfest of blood, guts, mutilation, disturbing images, and unbelievable “truths”.

This is the directorial debut for Jessica Cameron who also co-wrote the screenplay and stars as one of the Daredevils. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, I actually thought it was going to be a clever little homage to the horror genre. It felt like a mix of Scream and Saw, and while “torture porn” isn’t my horror sub-genre of choice I was intrigued for a little bit. When Derik takes over the game and makes each of the daredevils start revealing “truths” about themselves, I started rolling my eyes. When the friends have to choose between the truths and the brutally violent “dares”, there was no way out for any of them. Just when you think they’ve gone too far, the next dare goes even further. I don’t normally try to give spoilers, but here you go: the dares range from ripping someone’s kidney out, aborting a baby, removing a cancerous testicle, etc… It was just vile, disgusting, horrendous, and frankly, degrading. I could not find any artistic merit it to it either. Was there a satirical edge to it that I missed? It wasn't even campy or over-the-top in a Rob Zombie or Tarantino sort of way. To top it off, I didn't see what the point of the movie was supposed to be. Was it just to shock people? Was it to make them feel sick to their stomach? Were they just trying to see how far they could go? Normally I would be up for such a challenge, but this was just absurd.

RATING: 1/2* (.5 out of 5 stars)

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