Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, July 6, 2012

November Son (2008)

... aka: October Moon 2
... aka: October Moon 2: November Son
... aka: November Sun

Directed by:
Jason Paul Collum

There are so many horrible homemade horror movies being released these days that most people are understandably discouraged about checking out films they've never heard of before. Can't say that I blame them since most of these are awful, amateurish excuses to showcase cheap gore effects and brain dead comedy. Trying to find something else is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and that's why I personally feel that writer / director Jason Paul Collum is one of the more promising directors working in independent horror today. His films are wholly centered around the characters. They deal with how secrets, repression and past demons can come back to haunt people. They deal with prejudice and homophobia, and how traditional small town morals and values can destroy families, relationships and lives. The events that transpire in his films often have a rippling effect that touches even the secondary characters who inhabit the stifling small Midwest town where his films are set.

November Son is a follow up to 2005's OCTOBER MOON. If you plan on watching November, I strongly recommend viewing the other beforehand since events and characters from the first spill into the second.

The film opens with Jake (Jeff Dylan Graham) - whose boyfriend Corin (Sean Michael Lambrecht) fell victim to sexually repressed and mentally unstable Elliot (Jerod Howard) in the previous film - hanging himself. With the apartment now vacant, Eli (Sacha Sacket), who has just moved from Hollywood to the same small Wisconsin town, rents out the place and almost immediately finds himself entangled in Corin's past life and past relationships. His gay friendly "fruit fly" landlord Maggie (Darcey Vanderhoef) - a best friend of Jake's - instantly takes to him and decides to take it upon himself to show him around. Eli ends up getting a job as a photographer with a local magazine run by repressed Emily Hamilton (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD's Judith O'Dea), Elliot's spinster mother, whose unflinchingly negative attitude toward her son's sexuality in the first film was a chief ingredient to the tragedy that ensued. Eli's controlling and very negative father George (Lloyd Pedersen) shows up in town, and starts dating Corin's former coworker Nancy (Brinke Stevens). Eli's estranged mother Hillary (Debbie Rochon) and Elliot's former fiancé Marti (Tina Ona Paukstelis) also pop in to add extra complications. Eventually, strange things begin to happen and characters start disappearing one by one.

Sound complicated? It IS complicated. There's enough going on here to fuel a daytime soap for about a month. There seems to be a recurring theme about redemption here. Emotionally-unstable Emily is at the point of unraveling at any moment, but seems to want redemption for the way she treated her son by taking Eli under her wing. Hillary seems to want redemption for never being there when her son needed her, though she all but refuses to accept her son's sexuality. And Eli himself wants a fresh start by running away from his former life (and the problems he was facing) in California.

The film is far from perfect. It's extremely talky, which personally doesn't bother me a whole lot, but still much can be said in ways that don't need to be delivered via dialogue. The ending - which unveils surprises about several key characters - is also something of a mess. As I noticed with October Moon, the dramatic aspects that fill the majority of the film are far better staged, written and presented than the action / terror-oriented scenes at the conclusion, which are a bit sloppy. The acting is pretty spotty throughout, but most of the major roles are adequately performed. O'Dea is outstanding in her role (which is more fleshed out than it was in the first film) and this is easily the best film role she's had to date. Famous Scream Queen Stevens had made a career in the 80s and 90s by doing T&A heavy horror, but shows she's more than up to task playing non-exploitative character parts nowadays. Vanderhoef, Robyn Griggs (in a minor role as Emily's blonde, busty, cleavage-sporting secretary) and a couple of others are bright additions to the cast. Sacket, all white smiles, blue eyes and sculpted abs, was OK but lacked the necessary gravitas to pull off the role he was given, though he was tolerable for the most part (especially considering this is his first film). He also contributes an excellent song to the soundtrack that makes one suspect that his music career is also worth checking out.


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