Dinner in America
CS Interview: Star Kyle Gallner talks punk comedy Dinner in America Just in time for the coming-of-age dark comedy’s debut at the virtual film festival Nightstream, ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with star Kyle Gallner (Scream 5) to discuss his work in the highly-acclaimed Dinner in America! RELATED: Nightstream Reviews: Dinner in America, Bloody Hell & More! Gallner’s connection to Dinner in America is a “weird, long story” that goes back at least four years, with the 33-year-old actor having originally read the script years prior to actually signing on for the film but feeling he wasn’t quite right for the project at the time and letting the script sit for a while until reuniting with two collaborators involved reminded him of the project. “I was in the middle of filming a TV show and I had a brand new baby and everything was so crazy that I actually only read the first couple pages, and then, like, I had to stop and then forgot about it,” Gallner recalled. “Then cut to a couple years later, I’m in Romania filming another movie with J-P, the guy who shot Dinner in America, and he started talking about this movie that fell apart, and when he was describing it, it sounded really familiar. He told me the name, and I was like, ‘I think I got sent that script like two years ago or three years ago.’ I looked at my email and sure enough, I actually still had it, so I finally read the script and I fell in love with the script and I ended up asking my reps to set up a Skype with Adam. We ended up talking for two or three hours and kind of high fives over FaceTime, then, you know, two or three months later, I was in Detroit, but it was like a four-year journey or something like that [laughs].” In getting to the heart of his punk rocker Simon, Gallner found some of his biggest creative challenges came from trying to figure out the “physicality” of Simon and “the way he walks and the way he moves and the way he talks,” having a few key inspirations for his performance. “My goal physically was I kind of wanted like old school, like young Henry Rollins type of thing, that like beat, lean and mean kind of — and even his mentality, I mean, Rollins’s mentality is, you know, very forward and aggressive,” Gallner described. “I listened to a lot of like Dead Kennedys and like Agent Orange and Bad Brains, and I pretty much just made a big punk playlist and would just listen to that on repeat. You know, watch old punk videos and hardcore videos and see just how the way these people moves, especially when they perform. What I got really lucky with was the band Disco Assault, who did the music for PSYOPS, they’re a punk band out of Windsor. They actually played a show in Detroit while we were there and they invited me up to perform with them. So I was able to actually play live before we did, and seeing where my band actually performs, and that was really helpful, too. Then just sort of having that turned-up-to-11 mentality for the entire time was really exhausting. It was it was hard to keep that going. So as it was just remembering, you know, kind of who he was and always staying in that in that mindset and always pushing it and pushing it and pushing it, like Simon’s kind of like a shark. He never stops moving forwards, you know, so he can’t really slow down, so it was really just kind of coming up with that stuff. You know, the punk world and the hardcore world and stuff isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with that’s kind of like a scene that I grew up in, so I knew those people, I knew that world. So I at least had a good foundation to start from, but, you know, it was just kind of fine tuning it from there.” The Veronica Mars alum chuckled as he looks back at the show with Disco Assault, revealing he doesn’t have any experience with the instruments Simon plays in the film, having “kind of picked up guitar” but wouldn’t call himself “an accomplished musician by any means.” “All I had to do was sing man, all I had to do was shout it out,” Gallner laughed. “It was a lot of fun. Seventeen year old me was psyched. I mean, shit man, 33-year-old me was psyched.” Though turning to the punk world for inspirations for his character, Gallner noted that writer/director Adam Rehmeier’s script was “incredibly specific” for what he wanted from his characters scene to scene, not allowing for much “real improv” or “veering away from the script,” but found it to be really nice. “It gave us a really solid foundation to, you know, start from,” Gallner expressed. “Then Adam just really trusted us, you know, we did the work, we got on phone calls and talked about character and, you know, discussed sort of our ideas, and Adam would send us playlists of music. We actually got to go out there about two weeks early and we recorded all the music and we hung out all the time and had all these conversations about the movie and character and things like that. So by the time we got there, we were really just ready to go.” One of the brightest points of the production for Gallner came in developing the rapport with co-star Emily Skeggs (The Miseducation of Cameron Post), finding her to be a “really special” and “incredibly talented” person who was “so open and welcoming” to work with that made every scene smoother for the duo. “We really made a point to spend a lot of time together, you know, get to know each other, but also we built this trust where we have to do a lot of kind of strange and intimate stuff and there’s things all over the board that we build a trust that we knew we could push it with each other,” Gallner explained. “We didn’t have to sit there and ask a million questions or, you know, we got to the point where we didn’t have to be like, ‘Is this OK, is this ok, is this ok?’ It was more just we would look at each other and be like, ‘Do your thing.’ So being able to have that trust in another person and then have that trust in you really allows you to take it to where you need to go. This movie operates at a really bizarre, elevated, you know, place. It’s a strange world that Adam has built, so you can’t play it at 90 percent. You really have to be in it 110 percent or a film like this doesn’t work. So I was really fortunate to have a partner like Emily to allow me to really just go as far as I needed to go and then push it even further, you know, and we allowed each other to do that for each other. I mean, it was it was pretty special in that way.” RELATED: CS Interview: Writer/Director/Star Jim Cummings on The Wolf of Snow Hollow Written and directed by Adam Rehmeier (Jonas), the film follows an on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band as they unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America’s decaying Midwestern suburbs. Alongside Gallner and Skeggs, the cast for the film includes Brittany Sheets, Pat Healy (The Pale Door), Griffin Gluck (Locke & Key), Mary Lynn Rajskub (The Tomorrow War), Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and Hannah Marks (Daniel Isn’t Real).
Nightstream Reviews: Dinner in America, Bloody Hell & more! Though some of the best genre film festivals may have been axed for the year due to the global situation, Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, North Bend, Overlook and Popcorn Frights partnered up to bring us Nightstream, a new virtual festival full of exciting titles in everything from the horror to thriller to comedy worlds and ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to check out some of the films in its catalogue. Check out our reviews for the films below! RELATED: [Beyond Fest] Synchronic Review: A Mesmerizing Albeit Heavy-Handed Trip Dinner in America Written & Directed by: Adam Rehmeier Starring: Kyle Gallner, Emily Skeggs, Brittany Sheets, Pat Healy, Griffin Gluck, Mary Lynn Rajskub Rating: 9/10 The punk film genre is one that’s been mostly dead or waiting for the right film to come along and give it a jolt of fresh energy to bring it back to life and after a variety of misguided attempts over the past 20-plus years since James Merendino’s incredible SLC Punk!, Adam Rehmeier is ready to answer the call with Dinner in America and delivers a kinetic, energetic and outright joyous ride. The film follows a punk rock singer seeking an escape and a young woman obsessed with his band who unexpectedly cross paths and begin a journey together across America’s vast deteriorating suburbs. While the plot itself may play out somewhat routine for the coming-of-age genre, there’s a really nice unpredictability that comes from Kyle Gallner’s Simon and Emily Skeggs’ Patty that allows the viewer to still find themselves questioning just what’s coming next in the story of their lives. The two wholly own their characters and bring such an incredible power to depicting the wildly different yet intimately similar personas that is breathtaking to watch, with Gallner truly looking and acting the part of an on-again-off-again addict punk musician with a few wires loose in his head and Skeggs delivers on every cringeworthy and gut-busting moment of her awkward burgeoning punk. With a mostly consistent pace, appropriately quick editing, solid humor and stellar lead performances, Dinner in America is inarguably the best punk film since the Matthew Lillard-starring cult classic. Bloody Hell Directed by: Ailster Grierson; Written by: Robert Benjamin Starring: Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser, Ashlee Lollback Rating: 9/10 Let’s be honest here, you’re probably a bit weird if you DON’T talk to yourself in some capacity, but what if this extended to seeing a dual version of yourself and having a conversation with them while trying to escape a murderous family. That’s what Alister Grierson and Robert Benjamin explore in their wild, bloody and outright hilarious thriller Bloody Hell, which centers on Rex Coen, a man recently released from prison after his attempt at thwarting a bank robbery goes wrong and as he flees his country in search of a new life, he finds himself trapped in a much more shocking situation he has limited time to escape. Alright, Hollywood, time to listen up because Ben O’Toole is officially done sitting on the sidelines and needs to be cast in more leading roles going forward after this film because he is given the chance to show he can carry a 95-minute movie almost entirely on his back and he absolutely kills it. Whether he’s simultaneously panicking over his situation and calculating how to escape it or laughing at his own jokes or debating whether to throw a table at invasive paparazzi, O’Toole brilliantly taps into the manic and smart-ass nature of Rex and displays so much charisma that the film was already such a thrill hanging on his figuring out a leave from his new imprisonment before we start to learn the reasons behind it. Mixed with a delightfully offbeat tone in its Helsinki setting and solid direction from Grierson, Bloody Hell may not inherently break new ground in its genre but it goes a long way to try with its central gimmick further elevated by a stellar performance from O’Toole. Detention Directed by: John Hsu; Written by: John Hsu, Fu Kai-ling, Chien Shi-keng Starring: Gingle Wang, Fu Meng-po, Tseng Ching-hua, Cecilia Choi, Hung Chang Chu, Hsia Ching-ting, Jessie Chang Rating: 6/10 Video game adaptations are notorious for being the most hit-or-miss genre in the film world, delivering highs such as Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog to the lows of the Resident Evil franchise and Uwe Boll filmography, and now Red Candle Games’ Detention is getting its screen due and it falls fairly square in the middle of the best and worst of the bunch. Set in 1962 during Taiwan’s White Terror period, two students are trapped at their hillside high school at night, while trying to escape and find their missing teacher, they encounter ghosts and the dark truth of their fate. The side-scrolling video game was a fairly fresh breath of air in the horror gaming genre, delivering a heartbreaking and moving story through its disjointed narrative but this structure unfortunately isn’t carried over to the film adaptation, which instead settles for a pretty routine and mostly predictable series of events. There was a real air of mystery as to the nature of why the characters of the game are suffering from their disturbing situation, but the film’s opening minutes tries far too hard to establish certain elements of the characters and story that it loses the fun of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and makes it easy for audiences to figure out what’s to come. This all being said, the film does get a number of things right translating the game to screen, including some of its more terrifying imagery and monsters, moody setting and tragic true ending, all adding up to a relatively enjoyable adaptation still miles above most other entries in the genre. RELATED: CS Reviews Fantastic Fest 2020: The Stylist, How to Deter a Robber, Possessor & Bloodthirsty Survival Skills Written & Directed by: Quinn Armstrong Starring: Stacy Keach, Vayu O’Donnell, Spencer Garrett, Ericka Kreutz Rating: 8/10 In a time in which so much of Hollywood is looking to take their stories back to the analog days of the ’80s and ’90s, the film and TV worlds are becoming a bit too over-saturated with similar nostalgia-heavy projects relying on old genre tropes and while Quinn Armstrong’s meta-heavy Survival Skills may be a tad too ambitious for its own good, it is one hell of a blend of old and new school filmmaking. Structured as a lost police training VHS tape from the ’80s, the film follows the “fictional” character of Jim, the ideal police academy graduate who becomes self-aware and disillusioned with his training after encountering a troubling domestic abuse case and takes matters into his own hands. The story is nothing really new for the police genre, a rookie police officer descending into a mental hell early into the job, but the way the film handles it through its decidedly meta narrative, chock full of menacing fourth wall breaks from Stacy Keach even as he tries to keep on his human resource-demanded smile. It’s an energetic, offbeat and thoroughly compelling ride whose only shortcomings arise in some of its more far-fetched self-aware sensibilities. Come True Written & Directed by: Anthony Scott Burns Starring: Landon Liboiron, Julia Sarah Stone, Tedra Jones, Carlee Ryski, Christopher Heatherington Rating: 8/10 Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street shook audiences to their core as they realized they couldn’t trust their own dreams to keep them safe from evil and while plenty of films in the years since have toyed with the concept of dreams and hallucinations crossing into the real world, none have done so to great terrifying or intriguing effect as Anthony Scott Burns’ Come True. The film centers on a teenage runaway as she takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams. Given his prior work on other ethereal films such as Netflix’s In The Tall Grass and Our House, Burns continues to display a strong grip on the feast of dark imagery behind the camera, with the dreamscapes on display proving to be some of the most beautiful every put to film that, despite obviously being fake locations, feel incredibly practical and mesmerizing to be a part of. The story itself is where the flaws are generally on display, with some of its more ambiguous elements, especially its ending, feeling a little too convoluted and others feeling odd or borderline gross, namely the relationship that forms between the 30-something mad scientist behind the experiment and the supposedly 18-year-old runaway whose reasons for leaving are never expounded upon enough. 32 Malasaña Street Directed by: Albert Pintó; Written by: Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, David Orea, Salvador S. Molina Starring: Begoña Vargas, Iván Marcos, Bea Segura, Sergio Castellanos, José Luis de Madariaga, Javier Botet Rating: 6/10 A film touting itself as the Spanish answer to The Conjuring comes with a high bar to reach and a few expectations for its story and scares and much like many genre films in the wake of James Wan’s masterful horror pic, the film goes through a number of motions to set up jump scares and an emotional family drama but can’t quite find the right balance of either to set themselves apart amongst the bunch. The Olmedo family gets more than they bargained for when they move into a suspiciously low-priced apartment in Madrid, circa 1976, and quickly find themselves in a living nightmare. Reportedly based on a true story, the film takes a relatively grounded approach to its series of events, from turning to the police as a child goes missing to losing jobs as caring for family members can only go so far in the eyes of an employer before they must cut the chord. There’s some odd bits of relationship issues amongst the family, namely the rebellious eldest daughter claiming the patriarch is not her father before quickly turning it around halfway through the film, and despite spending plenty of time introducing who these characters are and their personalities, none are really that interesting or entirely likable to get audiences to completely care about them. The scares themselves prove to also be very hit or miss, with Albert Pintó doing an effective enough job of keeping the atmosphere moody and lighting dim to try and effectively set up scares but also utilizes the same formula time and again of turn the camera away, bring it back for something there, rinse and repeat, and it loses its luster really quick and frequently doesn’t even work the first time. RELATED: [Beyond Fest] Saint Maud Review: A Masterwork in Religious Psychological Horror Honeydew Written & Directed by: Devereux Milburn; Co-Story by: Dan Kennedy Starring: Sawyer Spielberg, Malin Barr, Barbara Kingsley, Stephen D’Ambrose, Jamie Bradley Rating: 4/10 Over 45 years later and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre still proves to be one of the most chillingly effective rural South horror films in the genre’s history and though many have tried to reach the same success to varying degrees over the years, most have fallen well short of the mark and Devereux Milburn’s Honeydew proves to be another lackluster effort. Strange cravings and hallucinations befall a young couple after seeking shelter in the home of an aging farmer and her peculiar son. The lead characters of the film are actually a breath of fresh air for the genre as a whole, being twentysomethings on a cross-country trip for something that will be meaningful for their lives rather than simply for the partying and debauchery, and once they’re introduced to Barbara Kingsley’s Karen, the tension is certainly ratcheted up to levels of hallucinatory oddity and absurdity, but the problem is that it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere and instead wants to revel in its bizarre nature. If executed with more overall originality and far less predictability, this goal could’ve been great, but instead it comes across as a gross and generic offspring of Texas Chainsaw and Midsommar that never quite reaches its ambitious goals. Lucky Directed by: Natasha Kermani; Written by: Brea Grant Starring: Brea Grant, Hunter C. Smith, Dhruv Uday Singh, Kausar Mohammed, Kristina Klebe Rating: 7.5/10 Since its inception, the horror genre has been a home to both those looking to deliver chilling tales to its audiences as well as those looking to tell symbolic stories of the human experience from a diverse crowd of creative talent and with her writing/starring effort Lucky, Brea Grant has certainly tapped into a real terror women face every day and the result is a mostly effective treat. Grant stars as a self-help author who struggles to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night and when she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands. From the opening moments to the final credits, Grant’s central character is an endlessly likable heroine, from her subtle sense of humor to crafty ability to fight against her mysterious attacker, and the 38-year-old 12 Hour Shift writer/director also does a fantastic job in the role of allowing audiences to empathize with her and her situation. The film is also rather elevated thanks to its skillful use of the tropes of the home invasion and semi-time looping genres, delivering a number of stylishly shot and thrillingly-paced sequences, but the film’s biggest highlight also brings out its biggest flaw: the nature of the attacker. The identity and thematic symbolism of the attacker is one certainly well-rooted in the real world and in theory is a brilliant concept, but there are moments in the film preceding the revelation that almost make the reveal itself feel somewhat redundant for this theme, something that’s been on display so frequently and more effectively subtly that the ending feels more like a heavy-handed dose of message-delivering than an eye-opening relation. The Night Written & Directed by: Kourosh Ahari; Story by: Milad Jarmooz Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Kathreen Khavari, Elester Latham, George Maguire Rating: 8/10 Hotels are generally supposed to be a nice reprieve for people from the troubles of their home and work lives, giving them a chance to put all responsibilities in the hands of others while they treat themselves to leisure for a short time, but what happens when this turns on you and uses all of your darkest secrets against you? That’s the concept behind Kourosh Ahari’s The Night, a faster-paced and contemporary psychological horror akin to Stephen King’s The Shining, and it’s one that is brought to life in mostly chilling fashion. An Iranian couple living in the US become trapped inside a hotel when insidious events force them to face the secrets that have come between them, in a night that never ends. The story for the film feels very familiar, almost blending Stanley Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of King’s novel and The Vicious Brothers’ Grave Encounters, and though the secrets themselves are actually shocking for the characters, they’re unfortunately a little too predictable for genre enthusiasts and more attentive viewers. Despite this, however, the performances from Shahab Hosseini and Kathreen Khavari are truly powerful and the atmosphere and pacing is very well-executed, with an ending sure to leave audiences’ jaw dropped. RELATED: [Beyond Fest] The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review: Subversive, Offbeat & Quietly Thrilling The Doorman Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura; Written by: Lior Chefetz, Joe Swanson, Harry Winer; Story by: Greg Williams, Mat McAllester Starring: Ruby Rose, Jean Reno, Louis Mandylor, Rupert Evans, Askel Hennie, David Sakurai Rating: 2/10 Click here to rent or purchase The Doorman! Die Hard clones are pretty unsurprising for the action genre 30 years later, but what makes so many of them forgivable, most notably the Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx-starring White House Down, is that they at least have a sense of humor with their protagonist(s), but unfortunately Ryuhei Kitamura’s The Doorman is missing this key ingredient. A former Marine turned doorman battles mercenaries intent on destroying her apartment building to retrieve precious artwork hidden in the walls. The story borrows from a number of generic action thrillers over the years alongside Die Hard, even fellow clone Skyscraper, the characters are not only uninterestingly written but also blandly performed and the action, the one thing a film like this needs to get right, is limply executed. One of the worst things this film has going for it is the semi-incestuous bond between Ruby Rose’s Ali and her nephew Max, with the teenager, whose performer can’t act to save his literal life, creepily walking in on Ali as she changes into more battle-friendly clothes and gives her really gross and weird looks throughout that may have been an attempt at humor, but is really just another reason to want to turn it off early.