I had planned to wind up MMC!‘s coverage of the Chattanooga Film Festival with an imagined Arrow Video edition of Ryan Prows’s Lowlife (2017) but no sooner had I done my research and began writing did Shout! Factory announce a Blu-ray edition of the film slated for release on August 7. I’m usually pretty stoked to cross any film off my list of potential MMC! subjects as their circulation is far more gratifying than writing about them here, but I’m a little disappointed not to discuss Lowlife at greater length. I have stumped for Lowlife a fair amount already so let’s instead spend some time with three of Prows’s earlier shorts films, all of which seem to be working through some of the themes and concerns at play in Lowlife and all of which should be included as special features on the upcoming Blu-ray edition.
In case you’ve forgotten, here is a quick refresher on Lowlife taken from the film’s press kit.
When a simple organ harvesting caper goes awry, a twist of fate unites three of society’s forgotten and ignored: EL MONSTRUO, a disgraced Mexican wrestler working as hired muscle for a local crime boss. CRYSTAL, a recovering addict desperate enough to arrange a black market kidney transplant to save her husband’s life. And RANDY, a loveable two-strike convict fresh out of prison, cursed with a full-face swastika tattoo and a best friend guilting him into some hair-brained kidnapping scheme.
As the sordid lives of these small-time criminals collide, they must fight tooth and nail to save a pregnant woman from a certain, and surely gruesome, death.
SHE CAN’T SPEAK. SHE CAN’T SCREAM. SHE CAN’T BEG FOR MERCY.
Working on a low-budget horror film in Russia, Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina), a mute American makeup artist, witnesses a brutal murder on a movie-set, however her claims are doubted by her friends and by Moscow police. Still, the killers know the truth and the instructions received from their underworld boss is clear: no witnesses. So begins a night of terror for Billy as she struggles to save her own life and trust a KGB agent (Oleg Yankovskiy) who claims to be her saviour.
Anthony Waller’s Mute Witness is an expertly made thriller comparable to the classic suspense of Alfred Hitchcock and Wait Until Dark and the contemporary shocks of Brian de Palma and Silence of the Lambs. Watch it and be left speechless.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand-new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
- Audio commentary with writer-director Anthony Waller
- Speaking Up, new interview with actress Marina Zudina
- Bearing Witness, new interviews with actors Fay Ripley and Evan Richards
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Steven Jay Schneider
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).
Criterion Collection devotees should love The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders (2013), a SNL short film by Rhys Thomas. Originally called simply New Horror Trailer, Thomas’ film is a brilliant parody of Wes Anderson‘s distinctive aesthetic reset in the creepy home invasion horror subgenre. This tale of “handmade horror” is the quintessential “homemade bicycle made of antique tuba parts” (thank you Amy Poehler), being so faithful to Anderson’s kitschy style and tone that it might be true if it weren’t a joke. For those looking to unpack Anderson’s particular look and how it is reproduced, we highly recommend Alex Buono’s “How We Did It” blog post which provides exceptional insight on the short film’s making.
MMC! returns to its program of seasonably appropriate short films with Maarten Groen’s Arrêt Pipi (2015), a gialli-inspired commission by VPRO, a Dutch public broadcaster. Sarah (Bo Maerten) and Bram (Benjamin Moen) stop to use a gas station restroom in the woods of Wallonia and find themselves fighting for their lives. This slickly made short is inspired by the urban legend of Aka Manto, a ghost that haunts Japanese washrooms by offering visitors red or blue toilet paper with deadly effect. Arrêt Pipi had a dark, absurdist humour that invigorates its spot-on exercise in genre with a welcome sense of play and vitality.
The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival closed with a massive final day that included five feature films, five shorts, and screenings of the films participating in the Festival’s 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge. SFFF closed the four day run with a trio of Asian films – the Mo Brothers’ Headshot (2015), Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan (2016), and Kôji Shiraishi’s Sadako vs. Kayako (2016) – that were collected to thrill audience members and get their communal adrenaline pumping. These efforts seemed to prove successful, but the best of Day 4 was found elsewhere and the final day offered some welcome surprises along the way.