Tag Archives: Netflix Originals

Earthquake Bird (Wash Westmoreland, 2019)

A few minutes into Earthquake Bird, Alicia Vikander’s Lucy Fly is shown translating an English-language film into Japanese for what we soon learn has been her job in Tokyo for a number of years. The film in question is Black Rain, Ridley Scott’s cross-cultural action movie in which Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia play New York City cops escorting a Yakuza member back to Japan for extradition.

It’s a cute nod given that Scott Free Productions is one of the companies behind this Netflix-distributed film, and that Black Rain opened in 1989, the year in which Earthquake Bird is set. But the reference ends up backfiring. While the general consensus on Scott’s film remains largely negative, not least due to its use of Asian stereotypes, many of its detractors have nonetheless pointed to the director’s stylistic excesses as a positive. By contrast, Wash Westmoreland’s adaptation of Susanna Jones’ 2001 novel is a pedestrian thriller lacking any zest or flair…

Full review for Little White Lies

Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber on Blumhouse’s ‘Cam’ and being sex-work positive

A multiple prize-winner at this year’s prestigious Fantasia Festival, the Blumhouse-produced Cam, now available on Netflix UK, is one of 2018’s most interesting horror films for numerous reasons.

First of all, the film, set in the world of webcam shows, is among the most sex work-positive fiction features to date from any genre, and a crucial pop culture asset in a time when sex workers worldwide are under threat, thanks to livelihood-threatening legislation from various governments.

Secondly, Cam is one of the few films with sex work at its centre that’s actually written by a former sex worker. Debut screenwriter and producer Isa Mazzei had a similar camming career to that of the film’s protagonist, Alice (online alias Lola, played by the spellbinding Madeline Brewer of The Handmaid’s Tale).

Thirdly, although the film is directed by Daniel Goldhaber (his debut feature), it is credited as ‘A film by Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber’. Despite taking on specific roles (Mazzei is the sole screenwriter), the pair are adamant Cam is a 100 per cent joint vision, making it a particularly fascinating case study in a climate where who gets to tell what stories is under more scrutiny than ever.

Cam follows Alice, who makes a living as a camgirl on a popular chatroom site, but withholds sharing the details of her career with her mother (Melora Walters) – until she cracks the top 50 ranking of the platform’s performers. Around the time she does, she suddenly finds she’s been locked out of her account. Someone else is broadcasting from it, though: a doppelgänger of Alice/Lola, who veers into content that goes beyond the rules Alice had set for herself. In a bitter twist, the imposter Lola’s shows help her channel become one of the most popular on the site. With the exception of a fan who seems strangely attuned to what’s going on, no one seems able to help Alice stop Lola, forcing her down a path of creative and eventually violent improvisations.

While they were in London for the film’s UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, we sat down with Mazzei and Goldhaber for a fascinating, extensive conversation concerning, among other things, what their film says about our relationship to technology, making such a sex work-positive movie, working with Blumhouse and their thoughts on Jason Blum’s recent comments about women in horror filmmaking, the curious influence of documentarian Frederick Wiseman on the film’s storytelling, working with star Madeline Brewer and how to successfully collaborate with people to empower underrepresented voices, creating a new cinematic language to tell their horror tale, and their unique partnership that dismisses traditional notions of auteur theory…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Samantha Robinson on Netflix’s ‘Cam’, ‘The Love Witch’, social media, and ‘Paris, Texas’

Set in the world of a specific type of sex work, Netflix’s Blumhouse-produced horror Cam offers plenty of food for thought alongside its unsettling thrills. Written by former camgirl Isa Mazzei and directed by Daniel Goldhaber, the film sees a rising star camgirl, Lola (real name Alice, played by Madeline Brewer), locked out of her account, after it has been taken over by a mysterious entity that looks exactly like her and is near-constantly broadcasting. No one can tell the difference and it seems nothing can be done about this supernatural occurrence. In its portrayal of an identity theft nightmare, the film taps into and escalates real fears for the social media generation.

Although Alice is the centrepiece of the film – one of two, if you count her digital doppelgänger – there are plenty of memorable supporting characters. One of these is a young woman we only get to know as PrincessX, a camgirl rival of sorts to Lola, played by Samantha Robinson, currently best known for her breakthrough lead role in Anna Biller’s The Love Witch.

We met Robinson in London for a discussion of what drew her to the film’s material, the lack of a male gaze in the film thanks to its unique co-vision, what Cam says about our relationship to technology, how her career’s changed since The Love Witch, and her love of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas informing a new creative project.

We also tried to get any information at all about her experience working on Quentin Tarantino’s next movie. Tried…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018)

From Jodorowsky’s Dune to a film about Tim Burton’s cancelled Superman, documentaries about movies that never got made have proved a popular prospect over recent years. Sandi Tan’s energetic Shirkers, ostensibly an entry in this subgenre, differs for a few reasons.

Firstly, it’s directed by the helmer of the original film it concerns, which shares the same name. Secondly, it’s about an independent Singapore-made film the world never got to see, rather than a Hollywood property. Finally, and most crucially, the original Shirkers was actually completed. The reason it was never released is because one strange individual involved in production stole all of the film’s materials once the 1992 shoot had wrapped…

Full review for Little White Lies

The sex work-positive horror written by a former camgirl

Acquired by Netflix after winning two awards at the 2018 Fantasia Festival, psychological horror Cam is one of the few films concerning sex work that’s written by a former sex worker. The film’s co-author, Isa Mazzei, had a camming career similar to that of the film’s protagonist for roughly two years –minus the supernatural happenings, we’re told…

Full feature for Little White Lies

Matt Palmer talks ‘Calibre’, elevated genre and releasing an indie thriller on Netflix

If Calibre’s plot of two life-long friends fighting for their lives in an isolated country setting after a hunting trip gone wrong might seem a little familiar, the nuances to how the plot escalates are anything but. The debut feature from writer-director Matt Palmer, the Scottish Highlands-based thriller stars Jack Lowden and Martin McCann, and is one of the most scarily tense films – that’s not explicitly a horror movie – that we’ve seen for quite some time. (You can read our review of the movie here.)

Ahead of its global launch on Netflix this weekend, we spoke to Palmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where the movie premiered, before winning the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film – the first Netflix Original to win this prestigious prize. We talk about the influence of Deliverance and Wake in Fright, discussions of ‘elevated genre’, rising star Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), and the benefits of Netflix distributing the film…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Calibre (Matt Palmer, 2018)

Writer-director Matt Palmer delivers an exciting and unbearably tense calling card with debut feature Calibre, a Scottish thriller influenced by the likes of Deliverance, Wake in Fright and Southern Comfort

Full review for VODzilla.co

The Open House (Matt Angel/Suzanne Coote, 2018)

Horror movies are popular for first time filmmakers for many reasons. One is that the genre is well suited to low budgets; in many of the best horrors, a little goes a long way. Another reason may be that horror, particularly via sub-genres like the slasher or home invasion thriller, is more prone to template-based filmmaking than most other genres. If you’re just looking to show that you can write and direct something, anything, it’s ostensibly easier to produce a horror movie that hits expected genre beats than it is to, say, write a comedy that actually makes people laugh.

Bringing to the screen a horror movie that simply resembles a horror movie seems to have been the sole mission statement behind The Open House, the feature debut of directors Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote. It’s a Netflix Original without an ounce of originality…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Tramps (Adam Leon, 2016)

Back in 2012, American director Adam Leon made his feature debut with Gimme the Loot, which concerned two graffiti artists looking to tag an iconic landmark as revenge against a rival gang, but needing to raise $500 prior to pulling off their grand scheme. A shaggy two-hander caper that was short and sweet, Gimme the Loot was a film that thrived on the chemistry of its two young leads and an evocation of a side of New York City rarely given much attention in contemporary cinema. It recalled much of the spirit of early Richard Linklater and lighter Jean-Luc Godard fare, as well as the humanist, music-heavy films of the late Jonathan Demme, the latter of whom lent the US release of Gimme the Loot a “Jonathan Demme Presents” credit to help it out.

A few years on, Leon is back with Tramps, under the Netflix Originals banner, which concerns a very different pair of young protagonists, but is a film of a similar mould – a romp through upstate and city-based New York that’s thin on narrative, but high on energy. The caper plot this time around involves a briefcase swap deal that goes wrong, the full specifics of which are so vague as to be inconsequential; Tramps is more about the mischief of the matter than the danger. One’s mileage may vary as to how important that lack of, uh, importance is, but details such as what’s actually in the briefcase, or where it’s from, are besides the point for the tone Leon (who co-wrote the film) is going for…

Full review for VODzilla.co

The Discovery (Charlie McDowell, 2017)

Off the back of his generally well-received feature debut, 2014’s The One I Love, writer-director Charlie McDowell obtained full support from Netflix for his follow-up film. The Discovery (co-written with Justin Lader) is similarly concerned with sci-fi flirtations for a high-concept premise, although the tonal register is much less preppy than The One I Love, which was infused with a comedic streak alongside its darker explorations. The Discovery is dour for almost all of its running time, and the disappointing thing to, er, discover by its end is that it’s not really worth trudging through…

Full review for VODzilla.co