Tag: maria olsen

The Bone Box

The Bone Box (2020)
★★ / ★★★★

Luke Genton’s “The Bone Box” shows nothing we haven’t already seen before. Yet it might be worth seeing for what it is able to accomplish under a limited budget. The story unfolds in a two-story house right next to a cemetery, owned by the widow Aunt Florence (Maria Olsen), and scares come in the form of ghosts making themselves known to the guilt-ridden Tom (Gareth Koorzen), a gambling addict neck-deep in debt who decided to dig graves and steal from the dead for funds. A woman named Elodie (Michelle Krusiec), who works at the cemetery, is his co-conspirator.

Every other scene involves a paranormal encounter. It ranges from unsettling (a painting of Aunt Florence’s house with a black figure slowly approaching the front door) and overtly creepy (a bicycle bell ringing downstairs) to downright ridiculous (a bride who kills herself in a bathtub). Given the limited number of rooms, it’s quite astonishing how the writer-director is able to move from one set piece to another with a rhythm and flow. It is breathless at times but never flashy.

But not all ghosts are meant for scares. Tom is still grieving over his wife’s death due to cancer. This is the aspect of the screenplay that the story could have done without. I found the flashbacks and imaginings to be cloying and sentimental. It exists solely as Tom’s trigger to get into gambling. Remove this portion of the story and Tom remains the same character: greedy, desperate, possibly on the verge of losing his mind.

There are a few inspired images. Most of us have encountered scenes from other horror movies involving a mannequin moving on its own. But the mannequin encounter here pushes it a bit further in that the editing is so swift and skillful that it becomes difficult to tell whether the veiled figure is simply a dummy or a performer. We know it is going to move. That’s not the punchline. It is a manner of when. Another involves a shadow wearing a hat engulfing the silhouette of our protagonist. When I am thunderstruck with terrific images like these, it made me wonder what else Genton could have accomplished given a larger budget.

The dialogue could have used a bit of work. Expository lines should have been excised altogether; leaving them makes it difficult to listen to. We get the impression we are being told rather than being inspired to listen and feel deeply. I do, however, appreciate exchanges like Tom and Aunt Florence discussing their connection in terms of loved ones they’ve lost and how such deaths have changed the course of how they continued to live their lives. Genton is correct to introduce moments of pause from time to time so that we form a connection with the characters and to build tension. After all, we know there are spirits in the house.

Clearly, “The Bone Box” is not without potential. I admired it for its willingness to tell a focused and engaging ghost story even though the final act is as generic as it comes (ghosts appearing all at once—bad cosmetics and all—and the main character’s descent to madness which comes across so, so busy). It is for horror fans with an open mind who couldn’t care less whether a movie looks like it was made with $100,000 or a hundred times that. It’s about the execution.

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Astraeus Pictures is holding an audition for their latest film called “The Silver Scream.” Sarah (Alex Essoe), an aspiring actress who waitresses during her day job, hopes to snag the lead role and so she attends the casting. The audition does not go well, but when one of the casting directors (Maria Olsen) catches her throwing a fit in a nearby restroom, Sarah is invited back to the room and is asked to repeat her tantrum. She does so, reluctantly, and becomes the frontrunner for lead actress.

Written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, “Starry Eyes” establishes a somewhat entertaining story about a woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her dreams of Hollywood but it loses its way about halfway through. Eventually, not one person is worth rooting for and we are saturated with violence. Notice that the violence is more gruesome when the target is a woman.

It has a taste for the bizarre. The first third almost feels Lynch-ian in that the camera commands a level of obtuse magnetism when something weird is going on. The protagonist has a habit of punishing herself when things do not go her way or as she had expected. The framing during those moments is very tight; we are seeing what we are not supposed to be seeing which makes the material compelling. Why is this woman the way she is and will her proclivity for self-punishment get her to the top?

The picture is not very good at answering questions. Abstraeus Pictures is not what it appears to be but the script provides no background as to who the members are and what they hope to achieve in the long run. Instead, a lot of distraction is provided—like Sarah’s inner and outer transformation. While the makeup is quite impressive, especially during the scene when her finger nails are coming off, the visual disgust does not propel the story forward. It is a static horror film.

It can be argued that horror films have an innate appeal because they are almost always about good versus evil. Here, although supporting characters are introduced, including Sarah’s friends, not one of them is special or worth getting to know further. At times they are not even likable. They are nice to Sarah’s face but when her back is turned, gossip spreads like wildfire. We are not given a good reason why Sarah continues to be around them.

“Starry Eyes” shows potential in the beginning but ends up being a flat horror film. One of the problems is its failure to embrace the extreme or several extremes. I wished that the filmmakers had taken inspiration from David Cronenberg’s early career and really went for it. Because if neither the dialogue nor its story is a forté then everything else should be heightened to try to make up for what is lacking.