AUTUMN BLOOD

(DVD and Digital; ARC ENTERTAINMENT/DREAMRUNNER PICTURES/MOUNTAIN FILMS (99 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

Autumn Blood 2D flat

AUTUMN BLOOD is a very quiet, almost pastoral movie, filled with moments of unbelievable brutality, violence and pain. Beautifully filmed in the mountains around Tirol, Austria, the scenery is breathtaking and there is a sense that we may be watching a story set in the untamed wild west of the United States; the only things visible to place the movie in modern times are the vehicles, farm machinery and weaponry. The opening sequence of the film sets the stage as, six years earlier, a farming family’s lives are shattered when the father is killed by the mayor of the nearby village. The inference from what happens prior is that the mayor either raped the mother or they were having an affair. At any rate, the father is dead, leaving the mother to care for her two young children.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Sophie Lowe, Maximilian Harnisch) (publicity still)

The movie shifts to the mother and her now sixteen year old daughter (played with an innocence that seems almost too real to be acting, by Sophie Lowe, an ethereal, waifish beauty who may be best known for her role as Alice in the television series, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND) and ten year old son (Maximilian Harnisch), who hasn’t spoken a word since witnessing his father’s death. There’s a gentleness and a sense of idyllic contentment, or maybe it’s resignation to their lots in life… whatever it is, the mother does her best to give the children a good life.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Gustaf Skarsgard, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

The girl’s innocence is probably best displayed as she swims/bathes in a secluded pond; she lays, drying on the rocks, completely at one with her surroundings. As she lay there one morning, dreaming, a hunter (the mayor’s son, played by Samuel Vauramo) breaks her reverie. Totally unaffected and unashamed, she doesn’t try to cover herself. It isn’t until the man grabs her and bends in to kiss her that she begins to understand his intentions and tries to fight him off. Beaten and bloody, the girl eventually makes her way home. She is met by her brother who helps her into their house, where more heartache awaits. As the boy was doing chores around the farm and while the girl was being brutalized, their mother had finally succumbed to the loneliness (or guilt, as there are several clues that she was, in fact, somehow involved with the mayor), ending her own life (at least, that’s how I read the scene). As the girl cleanses her wounds and tries to wash away the rape, she makes the decision to quietly bury their mother and keep her death a secret so that she and her brother wouldn’t be taken from their home and, possibly, separated.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Peter Stormare, Sophie Lowe) (publicity still)

On a trip into town, the girl, still showing signs of the beating she took, is waited on by a caring banker who grows suspicious and calls a social worker to check on the family situation. The girl also encounters the mayor (a steely-eyed Peter Stormare) in the local church, as well as being intimidated by the town butcher (played with a sense of monstrous depravity by Gustaf Skarsgard), the hunter and another friend. Later that night, the three men pay the children a visit, threatening to kill the boy and, once again, forcing themselves upon the girl. The mayor suspects his son and the others are, at the very least, up to no good and, possibly, in far more trouble than he has the power to get them out of.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Samuel Vauramo, Peter Stormare) (publicity still)

Now knowing of the mayor’s suspicions, the three decide to kill the only witnesses to their crimes. As the girl and her brother try to allude their would-be executioners, the film takes on a disturbing DELIVERENCE quality. Amidst the scenic backdrop of the Austrian countryside, the three stalk the siblings for the final third of the movie. As is always the case in such chase scenes, the villains are dispatched, one in a fairly standard fashion, the other two in less obvious ways. The chase sequence, which encompasses two days, is chilling, thrilling and nicely staged. I do, however, question the need for the girl to doff her clothing once she finds a suitable hiding place for the night; it just seems incongruous and more than a bit exploitive. If you’re paying close attention all the way through AUTUMN BLOOD, the final scene offers a little hint as to the relationship between the mother and the mayor and… I ain’t sayin’ no more. You’re going to have to connect the dots yourself.

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

AUTUMN BLOOD (Tim Morten Uhlenbrock, Gustaf Skarsgard, Samuel Vauramo) (publicity still)

As mentioned, the movie has some nudity, violence and two brutal rape scenes, so it has an R rating, though it seems that most teens (say, 12 and over) wouldn’t be too shocked or permanently damaged if they watched it, depending on their sensitivity to such things. I originally felt that the rapes would be dealbreakers for a majority of viewers but, the overall quality of the story eventually won me over. By the way, about those rape and nude scenes… Sophie Lowe was 21 years old when the film began shooting so, everything was above board and legal.


FOUND.

(XLRATOR MEDIA/FORBIDDEN FILMS (103 minutes/Unrated); produced 2012, released 2014)

FOUND

My brother keeps a human head in his closet.” When a movie begins with a line like that, you just know that you’re in for a laugh riot… or, one of the most deeply disturbing stories you’re ever likely to see. FOUND. is based on a novella by Todd Rigney, the coming of age, innocence lost story of seventh grader Marty, who discovers that his older brother is a serial killer. As Marty narrates, we learn that, maybe, the creepiest aspect of the whole thing is that brother Steve is the only person in Marty’s life who really cares about him and looks out for him. Well… there is one other thing that kinda came out of the blue and hit me like a hammer, not “creepy” in the strictest sense of the word, but unsettling, nonetheless. More about that later, though.

FOUND. (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

FOUND. (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

Marty (portrayed by Gavin Brown) is pretty much your standard issue twelve year old, into comic books and horror movies. He’s quiet and unassertive, not yet into girls. All of these things are like beacons to the school bully, a bigger kid who has problems with authority (and pretty much everybody that doesn’t bow down or cower in fear when he confronts them) and may have been held back a year or two due to his disciplinary problems. The first time we get a look at Marcus (belligerently played by Eddie Jackson), he flips off the teacher and is shocked – shocked, I tell you! – that she has the audacity to punish him. The scenario sets up a confrontation between Marty and Marcus and, later, Marty and his best friend, David (Alex Kogin). Both scenes add to Marty’s misery, alienating him even more. The episode with David quickly devolves as he aggressively starts to verbally abuse Marty during a sleepover. Marty finds himself questioning his life and wondering if he could do what Steve does, wondering if all of the abuse will make him a killer, too. Once Steve (Ethan Philbeck) discovers that his brother knows what he does late at night, even that relationship begins to fray.

FOUND. (Gavin Brown) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

FOUND. (Gavin Brown) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

There is a scene between the brothers that is emotional and heart-warming and, oddly enough, the scene that introduces a reason for Steve’s actions. Marty asks him, “Why?” and it’s then that we learn the murders are racially motivated. It’s not exactly out of the blue, because the kids’ father uses a racial epithet early on in the story but, still, it just seems a little… gratuitous. After that bombshell, Steve makes it known that if Marty tells their father or anyone else, he would take care of them. “What about me?” asks Marty. “I would never hurt you, Marty.” As the story progresses, we are also privy to the brothers’ home life, why Steve does what he does and why Marty is the sensitive, quiet one. From that point forward, FOUND. spirals toward one of the most brutally disturbing endings ever put on film.

FOUND. (Gavin Brown) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

FOUND. (Gavin Brown) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

Marty’s love of horror movies is exploited in the sleepover scene with David, as the two borrow a couple of… shall we call them “art house” movies? One is called HEADLESS, apparently the impetus – surprise, surprise – for Steve’s murderous proclivities; the other, DEEP DWELLERS, comes off as a schlocky monster movie with (intentionally) bad acting. Neither is particularly well-done, but then that’s the whole point; these “movies-within-the-movie” are there, more than anything, to move the plot along. As unbelievably gory (and borderline unwatchable) as HEADLESS is, it’s almost like a bad car wreck: You just can’t look away. There are full versions of both of these “movies” as part of the special features.

FOUND. (Ethan Philbeck) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

FOUND. (Ethan Philbeck) (photo courtesy of: XLRATOR MEDIA)

This movie (and the HEADLESS short, in particular) is not for the weak-at-heart or the easily offended and, it definitely isn’t intended for anyone under the age of, say, seventeen (yeah, kids, it really is that graphic!). However, anyone older than that who enjoy their horror flicks more on the psychological tip (and you aren’t one of those delicate types that are easily upset with sexually graphic gore), FOUND. is, ultimately, one of the best genre entries you’re likely to see this year. But… be warned: “Stuff like this can really warp a person.”