Two Lovers and a Bear (2017)

I love the novels of Jack London where there’s sure to be snow, whiskey, white fanged husky dogs and other Alaskan treasures. Nature “bites” in this film where we have a couple trying to fight back their demons in this harsh place. Is it a romance? Well, lets examine that too.

Enter Hemingway, Melville, London … you will like what’s being served at this table. We’ve heard of nature being our indifferent enemy but what to do when that enemy is our own nature. We have not yet begun that process in film and literature, but it’s here in this film … along with a few others through the years.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
R | 1h 36min | Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (USA)

Set in a small town near the North Pole where roads lead to nowhere, the story follows Roman (DeHaan) and Lucy (Maslany), two burning souls who come together to make a leap for life and inner peace.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Tatiana Maslany, Gordon Pinsent
I almost always love the film when the director also wrote the film. In this case it is Kim Nguyen doing both artistic roles. My hat goes off to him, and I assume he wears a hat also because like me, he is shaved bald. (Gotta love the brother!). I don’t know much about him other than he is known for this and two other films and he is a Canadian: War Witch (2012), Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) and The Marsh (2002). I would put stock in him because this film is something quite different than we are used to seeing. Human v Nature/Human v Self. It’s a gritty psychological drama and God forbid IMDB plot keywords would let us toil in ignorance of these features:

“Plot Keywords: sex on table | sex scene | topless female nudity | female nudity”

Yes, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, bares her breasts. That’s the easy part of nature no one is too worried about.

All these facts plus the plot basically is two lovers at the North Pole in a barely functioning town. Why they are there is not explicitly mentioned, at least not as much as the breasts are displayed. 😉 There is something about an abusive father in her past and he … likes the drink and he likes the hard drink. Sometimes you gotta just go “right now.” Other times maybe your demons are better dealt with by a heater. This couple is fraught with demons and they decide it’s time to go into the snow, into the storm but not without the help of a very helpful? bear. Dane DeHaan seems to like him. BTW DeHaan is there and does a good job as such. Not much more is needed from the, I wonder if he even likes the White Stripes.

This is no family movie. It’s also not a sweet romance, unless you think of Moby Dick as romantic. Having said that, there is a lot to think about romance here, maybe how “not” to support a lover with baggage. For a gritty tale of love? turmoil and t*** on a table, I do recommend.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire, 2019 – ★★★


Don’t believe the hype. Yes there is nudity, so there’s that. Unlike many people I know online giving glowing reviews I…

do not think it’s the best film of 2019
think the camera angles and long shots are the best features
I don’t get the lesbian love story that of course had girl on girl sex scenes. (Whodathunkit?) Perhaps I am being rustic but it could have been told better, more subtly. Just me.

Once again fell for the hype around a French movie w subtitles.

You can safely miss this one.

Come to Daddy, 2019 – ★★★


IMDB gives this as the storyline: Norval’s life has been, to put it lightly, difficult. Currently living home with his mother, the troubled young man is coming off alcohol-related struggles. So when he receives an unexpected letter from his estranged father requesting a visit, Norval catches a bus up to his dad’s secluded and scenic waterfront home. Maybe reconnecting with his father will give Norval the emotional fulfillment he’s been lacking. Before long, though, he notices something off about his dad, an uneasy feeling triggered by inappropriate comments and a possible over-dependence on booze. Norval quickly realizes that his hope of father/son bonding is doomed. Instead of a family reunion, he finds himself in a waking nightmare.

Elijah Wood alone is a major reason to watch this film. He wins for worst haircut and neck tattoo in an ensemble but we all like watching him, so if you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch. If you have seen it, you may agree or disagree with my take. Please leave a comment explaining what you liked or disliked about my review. I have multiple places you can reach me:, Riley on Film my Facebook Page, or Riley on Film on Twitter. To divide up my many thoughts on this film, I offer this: This film works as a horror because of its 1) director, 2) star quality, and 3) well-placed hardcore violence that is borderline comical (because it’s so graphic).

First, the director Ant Timpson. As a horror fan you will recognize the movies he’s made: “Turbo Kid” and “Housebound” to name just 2. I think the big actors in this probably took the role because of this avant garde director. He knocked the ball out of the park with this one. There is usually a comedic element to his films but they are intense and often scary (I don’t know how scary I would rate Turbo Kid but it’s graphic). So now that you know the director is established and talented, let’s look at the stars in this film.

Who can think of Elijah Wood as any character other than Frodo Baggins? I sure can’t. He plunges earthward though in this film, showing he has the chops to do much more. I hope we see him in more horror. In 2012 he starred in “Maniac” which holds its own with fans as a solid slasher horror. Let’s hope he keeps on the horror tip. But he’s not the only star quality in this film.

Stephen McHattie is becoming known for a lot of Typecast roles. This is for good reason because I plays the scary old emaciated man role well! He is the DJ in the indie horror modern classic “Pontypool.” He’s great in that and delivers a class act performance as what I will call “the original dad” in “Come to Daddy (Gordon). His gravelly voice and visage make the scenes come alive with suspense and horror. All that is prior to “the fork scene” where a Thai actor is emasculated with the rustic utensil. This is one of the most violent kill scenes I’ve encountered in recent years. I suppose a worse one is done with a straight razor down Brian Cranston’s character’s arm in “Drive.” But I digress. But that brings me to the third viable element in this film: the well-placed violence.

In addition to the soon-to-be-famous fork killing, there is a partial decapitation that should have audiences squirming. IMDB labels this a comedy as well as a horror but I think that would only apply to the black comedy label. These are brutal kills. They’d fit in the context of the story though.

In conclusion, I hope you see and agree with me these three attributes make the film a must see for horror fans. I gave it a 6/10. Where it lost points were in the long spaces between kills and other milestones of the plot which were lagging a bit. It could have had more exposition of the characters of it could have just been shorter. I would still make it required watching for my class on Horror (If I ever teach one).

Girl on the Third Floor, 2019 – ★★★


IMDB is being harsh to this film giving it a 4/10. I really liked it! I gave it a 6/10. I thought the house was creepy, the story was just so so but it worked for me, keeping me repelled and attracted in equal measure.

You can listen to my full podcast review at and watch my review on Youtube

Below is an unedited word for word transcript of an audio recording. It is included just for meta purposes. There are no corrections or punctuation additions.

Okay, this film is called the girl on the third floor and I really liked this movie it didn’t do very well with the critics on Internet Movie Database it’s sitting on a 4 out of 10 but I really liked it and I think they’re being a little bit too classic story is you have Don Koch who was played by C Punk who is somebody I wasn’t familiar with but apparently he’s an MMA award-winning medal winning fighter I don’t really follow that sport so I don’t know him but as I was watching it I could tell that he was probably established in something else before he became an actor because his body was covered with tattoos but he’s trying to renovate a rundown mansion with a sordid history for his growing family only to learn that the house has other directors is Travis Stevens and he’s known mostly as a producer he was the producer of Buster’s mal Hart which I haven’t seen but it appears to be a horror movie so I think I need to see that especially since I like this film that Travis Stephens directed but Travis Stephens is mostly a producer let me read some of these credits maybe you’ve heard of them mohawk that was an awesome horror movie Busters mal Hart I just mentioned 68 kill xxxx 24 by 36 a movie about movie posters that sounds fine we are still here that’s a horror movie starry eyes I really like that horror movie as well so he’s done a lot of stuff cheap thrills was an amazing kind of horror suspense gore big ass spider the Thompsons the aggression scale what fun we were having zombie diaries – so he’s done let’s look at a few of the cast I’ve already mentioned CM Punk let me just leap read his little blip because I think he’s quite interesting how he came from MMA to actually be in a horror movie Philip Jack Brooks better known by the ring name CM Punk is an American mixed martial artist comic book writer and former professional wrestler he’s best known for his time in WWE where he’s recognized as the sixth longest reigning WWE Champion of all time Punk began his professional wrestling career on the American independent circuit and it goes on and on it lists a lot of accolades he did a good job and I enjoy take a look at the plot first a deeply flawed ex lawyer named Don Koch seeking a new start in life purchases a rundown old house in the suburbs of Chicago with the intent of fixing it up to provide himself and his pregnant wife Liz a new life away from the city he moves into the home ahead of her along with his dog Cooper determined to begin renovating without professional help he learns through his neighbors that the house has a sordid past and begins experimenting supernatural events within the home and it is kind of creepy because there’s this one very attractive actress who keeps coming up to talk to him while he’s working on things seemingly flirting with him but you don’t really get that for a while but when she starts full-on just asking to sleep with him he can’t resist so this is actually a major flaw in this character because he keeps communicating back with his wife who is pregnant about nine months pregnant and he’s insisting upon doing the work there all by himself so you think he’s kind of the man with all the tattoos and everything which is when I knew he probably wasn’t just a regular actor but maybe a crossover person somebody like Henry Rollins because actors don’t generally tattoo their whole body well sure enough I was correct and it’s a sea Punk who we’ve talked about who was a WWE nearly every detail at dawn attempts to change within the house appears to be haunted and bleeds when touched the house leaks oily fluid from every pipe marbles appear randomly as a signal for the supernatural and the bedroom ceiling collapses revealing a viewing platform in the Attic and a room covered with child’s paintings Don’s neighbor Ellie a pastor at the nearby Church warns him to leave but he persists she doesn’t give him any details though that’s a little odd I think we were wanting a little detail there when she paid him a visit she doesn’t do it she also drinks bourbon which is a little odd for a pastor his second neighbor Sarah begins coming over and flirts with him until dawn gives in and cheats on his wife yes he does you knew that was coming but he insists it will not happen again unfortunately the girl that he cheated with is not really a girl at all she’s kind of a ghost or a zombie or something in the supernatural realm so he’s really got himself in it this time showing the renovating difficulties to Liz over the phone she insists that dawn enlist help Don invites his friend Milo a fellow lawyer to help with the renovation Sarah shows up again and Milo sees dawn threatening her Milo discovers Dawn’s affair but before he can tell Liz he’s strangely Encounter Sarah in the basement she hits him in the face with a hammer and as Milo tries to escape he sees another woman a grotesque combination of mangled human face and teeth crudely stitched together named the nymph in the credits and this very creepy I’ll call it a creature but it’s actually a beautiful woman’s body with this creature face and the teeth sticking out it’s just so nasty and gross and actually pretty well done for a horror film because that’s the kind of stuff you want right well as he’s cheating on his wife this horrifying face with the teeth and everything in the grotesquerie all the yucky stuff it just keeps showing up on the face of the woman who is writing him and having sex with him when Liz thinks she sees another person in the cameras background Don changes the locks and installed security cameras Ellie drops by again to check on Don with another veiled warning about the houses history that night Sara lures Cooper downstairs and Don wakes up the next morning to find his poor dog stuffed dead in the dryer calling the police does not help since there’s no evidence against Sara furious Don kills Sarah to conceal his affair and hides the body behind brick in the basement he then drills the walls and inserts a camera inside trying to find the source of leaking blood to his horror he finds a head with blonde hair which giggles and disappears stuff like that works it is a little bit centered on seapunk as the star but every scene is very creepy very dark this house is like an old mansion it actually apparently was an old whorehouse hundreds of years before but it’s a very cool house with a lot of velvety walls and things like that so it’s very creepy as you’re going through the story so from there you see a lot of stuff happened and you don’t see much development of seapunk you don’t see much development of anybody it’s just a standard haunted house with a lot of sex thrown in and some violence as well and so I think that’s probably why it didn’t score as well but I didn’t look at that stuff as much as I did the creepiness of it and I really like creepy horror movies so this one definitely made the grade four creepy with me I think it’s probably one of the worst endings you could have given it but I’ll go ahead and discuss it even though I’m not focusing on what I didn’t like because there’s a lot here not to like that’s why I got low scores but if you just want a creepy film that takes you on a journey and kind of a mystery then this is this is a good film and if you’ve already seen it then leave me a comment and just tell me what you thought of it maybe I’m off-base maybe you think different go ahead and leave me a comment in the end the ending that is so wonderful not six months later Liz having given birth to her daughter is still living in the house when she lays the baby down for a nap Dawn’s smiling face appears in the ventilation shaft he drops marbles into his daughter’s crib and whispers that’s my girl really kind of a dumb ending but I like it how they incorporated the marbles although they never really explained the marbles what marbles have to do with an old hundred-year whorehouse I don’t know but the marbles play into it a lot and they get under his skin and they like go all around his body and he has to cut them all out it’s pretty gross pretty bloody but again not very realistic because if you’re gonna cut stuff out of your jugular vein you’re gonna die and he actually doesn’t die so I will mention these three female actors that really did a good job Sara Brooks was played Sara Yates the same name Alissa Dowling played Sadie and Karen would itch played Ellie Mueller and I thought that those three did a really good job they’re very well cast they worked well with seapunk although seapunk didn’t really interact with too many people in this film he’s mostly just working on the house before he sort of disappears from sight so I gave this film a 6 out of 10 which is a lot better than the four out of 10 the Internet Movie Database currently gives it I think it’s worth watching.

Rabid, 2019 – ★★ Text


I was really let down. The Soska Sisters are proving they are more about their “gory” reputation than actually making horror movies. At first, it had potential with me. The idea of a young beautiful woman disfigured in a car wreck and her coming back to normal through a vampire method was indeed intriguing. There is a little gore when they show her face but after that it becomes drama, and I mean drama. The Soska Sisters showed up twice in the time I was watching and before the time at which I said no thank you and turned it off.

Saddling the Cronenberg horse didn’t work for them this time. I still hope to see more from them. My advice is, less cameos, more time at the storyboard table creating an epic horror film. There isn’t even any gore really in this. I am sorry to say, I give this one a 2/10, the original is miles higher and better.

Jacob’s Ladder (2019)

This film entrances the viewer through colors and filters but falls short of the original’s impact. I did find the film enjoyable, just in a different way.  Jacob Singer (Michael Ealy) is a medical officer in the Afghanistan war. For those who recall 911, these wars followed in response to terrorism. It is a war even millennials can probably  recall. But that is the only updated theme from the original. This new film is its own animal, that’s for sure. Many reviewers have noted it wanders far off from the original but that doesn’t mean it was bad to wander. He seems responsible and strong which are clearly needed in this hell of a place. Events transpire that send him home but he can’t shake the fact that he saw his dying (or dead) brother before leaving the war for home. It’s evident how much horror is in war but it seems something more intense is afoot, Jacob’s mental health or a drug it’s not quite clear.

(Read the rest of this review at Horror News Net along with my other published horror reviews)