One of the things I have learned covering independent films is that you do not need a big budget to make something entertaining. Passion, creativity and a group of talented individuals is sometimes all it takes. A prime example of this is Sujewa Ekanayake’s Cosmic Disco Detective Rene and the Mystery of Immortal Time Travelers, a sequel to his wonderful The Secret Society for Slow Romance.
In Cosmic Disco Detective Rene, we catch up with the couple from the first film, Rene and Allyson. Rene is a detective who tunes into the music of the cosmos to help him solve his investigations. You can guess what that music sounds like from the title. Allyson realizes the freedoms she now has as a filmmaker and has a hard time deciding which project she should work on first, while helping Rene with his secret plan to make the world a better place for all. Rene is soon hired by Ithihasaya to investigate the possible presence of Immortal Time Travelers. He needs to determine if they are messing with our time line and if they pose a threat to the human race. And that is just for starters.
This is a delightfully fun and well written indie comedy that was as unpredictable as the first film. It is minimalistic filmmaking at its finest. Ekanayake gives us characters who are highly amusing thanks to the entire cast’s performance. Rene is played by Ekanayake with subtle charm and improved delivery from the first film. It always seemed like Rene was amused, regardless of the situation, thanks to the corner of his lips that curled into a subtle smile. The segments with Rene recording his audio notes are particularly funny because of the subjects he talks about. Even the scenes where it was just two people trading lines of dialog were charming. Alia Lorae returns as Allyson, my favorite character from the first movie as well as in this one. Many of her scenes reminded me of a poet at open mic night in a beatnik cafe. You learn alot about her while she records her own notes about which project she should work on, her relationship with Rene, and the state of things in general. Genoveva Rossi plays the role of Ithihasaya. You can tell she is having a lot of fun with the character. There is also a character named Chitrapati, a theater owner and film critic, who interviews Rene. This was a character I wanted to get to know more about thanks to the performance of Natalie Osborne.
Like the first film, the city of New York is also a character. There are a variety of shots of random locations that are interspersed between the scenes of dialog. Some are beautiful, static shots while others are more abstract, quick takes. Some shots are intentionally out of focus or unsteady. All help convey the energy New York City is known for while also serving as a unique creative expression of the director’s love for the town. He also plays with time, with some scenes being played in reverse. This is sometimes very evident and sometimes subtle. It is a simple yet effective way to sell the idea that there may be time travelers somewhere messing with things. The music adds to the energy and helps solidify the film’s identity. Above all else the vibe of the story is always upbeat. We do not see our happy couple have a fight or people’s lives being threatened. It is positively charming.
Cosmic Disco Detective Rene and the Mystery of Immortal Time Travelers is not going to be for everyone. It is an artsy film in all aspects, but this is not a negative. You can feel the honesty in the story and there are some truly laugh out loud moments, if you get what Sujewa is laying down. While it may leave mainstream audiences scratching their heads, for those seeking something entertaining, up beat and different, this one's for you, especially if you enjoyed the first film. Whoever said there is no creativity left in cinema isn’t looking in the right places.
When someone is going to hypnotherapy, there is a certain level of trust placed in the therapist. Now what if that therapist is possessed by a demonic force looking to take advantage of the situation? This is just one of the ideas explored in “Evil Lurks”, a new indie horror film from director Aaron Hawkins and Chris Shern.
Kimberly suffered a great loss in her life and has been overcome with grief ever since. She seeks the help of a hypnotherapist named Harold. Harold is quickly drawn to her, and he suggests a private therapy session, which she agrees to. Little does she know that her therapist is possessed by a malevolent force known as the “Ssh Man” who appears every 15 years on the blood moon. After being viciously sexually assaulted, Kimberly is sent to the psychiatric hospital where she gives birth to a daughter, Erica. Fifteen years after her birth, the Ssh Man is once again roaming the earth, this time looking for his offspring. Kimberly, knowing that her daughter is in danger, gathers all of her strength to track down Erica and protect her before the “Ssh Man” discovers Erica’s location.
What “Evil Lurks” may lack in budget it makes up for in spirit, creativity and talent. Hawkins and Shern tell a story that covers the subject of grief, loss, foster parenting, and trust. The idea of the “Ssh Man” is chilling and executed well. I loved the concept, and the portrayal was legitimately scary thanks to the performance of Chris Shern. Harold flips between charismatic hypnotist to possessed madman like a light switch. He sells the evil, elevating some of the more extreme scenes. Amanda Winston’s Kimberly is a very sympathetic character. Winston makes you feel her frustration and sadness as she deals with all of the trauma she has experienced. You get the feeling there is something more than just the horrors she’s faced at the hands of the “Ssh Man”. Kimberly’s daughter, Erica, is played by Savannah Mae. I thought she did great as a young woman caught up in something so dark. There was a good mother-daughter chemistry between her and Winston.
It is always interesting to see how a filmmaker will handle extreme abuse scenes. Some show everything, some keep things more to the imagination with quick cuts and obscure camera angles. Hawkins and Shern do a little bit of both. The camera does not shy away from the abuse, giving weight to what is happening, but it does not feel exploitative. Props to both Winston and Shern for how they handled difficult scenes.
“Evil Lurks” feels overambitious when it comes to the visual effects. There are a number of scenes where Kimberly is in a nightmare world. These scenes are where the smaller budget is most evident. The compositing of the green screen is apparent in some spots but Winston still does an excellent job in selling the idea that she is in an otherworldly place. I loved what they were going for and I wish they would have had a bigger budget to pull these sections off better. The dialog audio is also muddled in a few scenes.
The subject of grief, separation, and loss have been a popular subject in horror the last couple years. Some have handled these subjects well while others have stumbled. Evil Lurks is in the middle of this group. While some of the production elements could have been better, it is the direction and performances that make it a worthwhile watch.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.