Natalie’s Lose Lose (2012) Review

nll1Natalie’s Lose Lose (USA, 2012)

Dir: Eric Williford

Starring: Danielle Adams, Marian Liddel, Jose Rosete

95Forty Productions

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Plot: Natalie (Danielle Adams) awakens to find herself strapped to a chair in a dingy room. A woman dressed in a latex dress and a pink glittery gas mask silently watches over her. There’s a intercom on the wall. A mysterious voice begins to interrogate Natalie. The voice claims to be part of an anti-terrorist organisation and Natalie is a suspected domestic terrorist. Natalie denies everything, and the voice and his gas masked assistant begin to show their unsavoury tactics for extracting information. Can Natalie free herself and save those she cares about?

Natalie’s Lose Lose is the first feature length film by writer director Eric Williford so I’d like to start off with the positives about this film. It’s a very well shot film, professional and stylish. It does plenty with it’s budget,focusing the majority of the film with two on-screen actors in a single room. It’s a combination that worked when Saw did it back in the day when the Torture Porn sub-genre graced our cinema screens.

nll2Unlike the torture films of the past, Natalie’s Lose Lose is a largely bloodless film. While film’s like Hostel relished in the physical torture by cutting Achilles tendons and bathing in blood, this film chooses to go down the mental torture route instead. Natalie is constantly threatened with the murders of her loved ones. Her torturers parade around surveillance photos and videos to prove just how much they know about Natalie. They probe her about the intimate details of her love life, and about her job. The Voice comes across as self-righteous when it’s revealed that Natalie is in a poly-amorous relationship with her boyfriend and another girl, two potential victims if she doesn’t come clean about the domestic terrorist cell that they claim she’s a part of. As Natalie fails to cooperate, the people she care about suffer. The suffering however happens mostly off-screen so the full nastiness of it doesn’t really reach the audience.

The thing about torture films is that the audience should be living vicariously through at least one character. Either you’re thinking how you would deal with the torture if it was you strapped to the chair or there’s the blend of self-righteous, vigilante, catharsis of being in the torturer’s shoes. Natalie’s Lose Lose is supposed to make you sympathise with Natalie, but Natalie spends the whole time arguing with her captives in a “Is that all you got?” level of arrogance. She’s supposed to be a bad ass the whole time. She doesn’t show much in the way of vulnerability so there’s no real reason to sympathise. She seems more bored than scared. If you’re living vicariously through a bored person you’re going to feel bored.

nll3Natalie’s Lose Lose could have used a bit more threat. Natalie doesn’t feel like she’s in danger for the majority of the film because if she dies The Voice doesn’t get answers and the film ends. She doesn’t seem to care too much about her loved ones and there doesn’t seem to be anyway for her to win. While the film is well shot and there’s some great acting from Danielle Adams, it feels like the plot of a short film stretched out to a feature. A good start for Williford, yet not quite as entertaining as I hoped it would be.

5/10

Bikini Mayhem (2015) Review

bikinimayhem1Bikini Mayhem (2015)

Director: Eric Williford

Starring: Cori Collins, Katie O., Jody Taylor, Glen Roberts, Daniel Florenzano

95Forty Productions

All She Wanted Was To Be A Model!

College student Ivy Winters (Cori Collins) wants nothing more than to become a professional model. What she does not know is how hard she’ll have to work to get what she wants. After Ivy and new found friend Toni (Katie O.) botch up their opportunity to make it big by getting wasted at a prestigious party, the scramble to maintain fame becomes an exercise in depravity. Naivety has no place in a world where everyone is looking for the next best thing and sometimes dreams become nightmares.

What’s a good horror film without a bit of female flesh to force the blood to pump harder and mind to race in excitement? Movies from the 70s and 80s knew how to entice their viewers with scenes of playful seduction and suggested sex. There is something to be said about the draw of lust and violence, an animal urge to bear witness to primitive impulse and uninhibited acts. Unfortunately, Bikini Mayhem’s end does not justify the means to get there.
Although an old theme, the obsession of fame and fortune for young, aspiring stars is still relevant, and, unless independent artists suddenly change places with what’s popular, inadvertently changing the definition of popular forever, a theme that will never go away.

bikinimayhem2What Eric Williford does right with the film is to address some of the shady, seedy acts that must be committed along the road to popularity in order to maintain any sense of success. Drug abuse and sexual exploitation are consistent throughout the film, even though Ivy never truly seems to delve much deeper than softcore fetishes or slightly humiliating photo shoots. More focus on her descent into desperation and less suggestive photo ops may have given Bikini Mayhem a stronger horror vibe overall.

As to be expected (but not always true) with low budget films, the actors never quite hit a necessary connection with the audience in order to truly invest viewers in not only the characters, but the plot as well. Despite amateur acting skills, I felt that the actors had a great time filming Bikini Mayhem, and therefore feel that the point of the film was not to make a cinematic masterpiece, but to enjoy creating something trashy and entertaining. In addition, the slightly electronic soundtrack is reminiscent of 80’s synth and gives several scenes a much needed boost of energy, but the overall sound quality is rough, especially lacking clarity during times when the scenes are shot from a distance or the actors have their backs turned to the camera.

Even when Ivy is faced with uneven odds, she never seems to feel as though her life is getting worse, but instead offers up tired, bored expressions or indifferent sighs. The hyper-sexualized model and actor/actress lifestyle should be a dark, terrifying place for someone that has never been there before, and even after a bit of experience has been earned an even more intense journey through rejection and body image expectations. This concept is hinted at throughout the film, but never fully realized. Recent genre film Starry Eyes offers a similar spin from a much grimmer perspective and with a stronger spiral into acceptance of what the protagonist must become to survive.

bikinimayhem3As a horror film, Bikini Mayhem falls short of what it promises. Though the heart and enjoyment behind making a film is apparent, it never quite lives up to the catchy, slasher vibe of the poster. I was entertained while watching it, perhaps more by the curvy ladies posing seductively for almost the entire running time than by the story or end game, and as a fan of all things horror recommend this if only for the sake of saying that you’ve seen it or to entertain a bit of your inner pervert. Bikini Mayhem is sexy but restrained in a world where extremes are the desired norm.

5/10

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