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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [July 7, 2015]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] Horror art films can be lovely but obtuse, full of technical tricky that draws attention to itself at the expense of story-telling, leaving viewers unclear as to what's real, what's imagined, what's a dream, what's symbolic. I viewed Another three times before I understood how most of its scenes fit into the whole. This film is like a puzzle with pieces missing and no image on the box to guide one. Watching it is like shuffling the available pieces, trying to determine what the picture is supposed to be.
The story concerns a young woman, Jordyn (Paulie Rojas, aka Paulie Redding), whose body is fated to be taken over by her ancestor, a witch (Maria Olsen). Taken over rather than possessed, because once the witch's soul transfers into Jordyn's body, Jordyn's soul will either be pushed out or cease to exist (the details are unclear). The women in Jordyn's family have thus suffered for generations. The witches (there are two) attain immortality by rebirthing into their younger descendants.
"I chose the title Another in reference to the curse that Jordyn lives under," writer/director Jason Bognacki told the Hollywood Investigator. "The mystery begins with Jordyn discovering that she may have a dark twin who is living a parallel life. What she discovers is a worse fate. The title Another also references the hopeless life loop that Jordyn's blood line is trapped in. The females in her family are born for the purpose of playing host and vessel to a demon."
A demon, not a witch? Yet one of the demons, Jordyn's Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe), became a nun to try and break the cycle. She wants the evil to end. That she can convert faiths suggests that she is mortal (a witch and not a demon). But okay. Horror films do at times alter the rules. Even more so horror art films. And her attempt to save her demonic soul by becoming a nun has precedent. In the 2004 TV movie version of Frankenstein, an artificial man tried to attain a soul by becoming a priest.
Another carries genetic bits and pieces from other horror films. The evil demon's M.O. of socially isolating Jordyn through a "dark twin" (so as to psychically weaken her for eventual takeover) is a method common to dopplegangers, if not to demons. That a demon can take over a body to the extent that the victim ceases even to exist recalls the Antichrist in Lost Souls. And in Eternal Evil "strong souls" (for lack of a better term) sought immortality by migrating from older to younger bodies.
Another boasts much technical trickery. Extreme slow-motion. Extreme camera angles. Spatially ambiguous pans linking different locations. Bognacki's meticulous cinematography (he also served as DP) is both compelling and annoying. His beautifully composed and lit shots enhance some equally arresting set decor and architecture. Yet at times his images confuse rather than clarify events.
Upon my first viewing, I thought Another had been shot in Europe. Only after research did I learn that it was shot in Los Angeles, a city I did not recognize on screen despite my having lived here these past 28 years. Bognacki's cinematography depicts the heavily filmed L.A. so that it appears fresh and unrecognizable -- a difficult feat.
Most film fans are familiar with New York City's subway system, but how many will recognize the above station in Los Angeles? (How many Angelinos even know we have a subway?) I thought the station was in Europe, but it's in L.A.'s Koreatown. It's one of Another's many eerily composed shots. The extreme wide frame and lonely staging highlights Jordyn's vulnerability. It's a shot that evokes a similar extreme wide frame in Dario Argento's Inferno (below).
Despite its micro-budget (Bognacki says about $30,000, which he personally financed), Another is not a guerrilla film. "Our shoots were permitted and insured," says Bognacki. "Fees are generally lower if you can get in and out quickly, and have little to no crew.
"We ended up redressing an apartment multiple different ways to create a few of the sets, namely Jordyn's apartment (above), and the witches lair. We were lucky enough to get permission to shoot at a great house in the Pasadena area for Aunt Ruth's home."
Bognacki calls Another a "modern giallo" and "neo-giallo." I consider that inaccurate, because his film is supernatural horror, whereas giallo generally refers to crime/suspense films. But Bognacki means giallo as style rather than genre. "The style and dreamy nightmarish atmospheres were something we felt was missing in films today. We wanted to bring a bit of that back."
Bognacki's desire to "bring back" giallo imparts a retro sensibility to Another. Jordyn arrives home to find her boyfriend (David Landry) playing a video game on a modern widescreen TV -- yet the game itself appears to be some variation of Pong (initially released in 1972).
Playing his usual visual trickery, Bognacki then cuts from a shot of the TV screen, to a shot of the boyfriend from the TV screen's point of view.
This gimmick evokes Intruder, a 1989 slasher film boasting similar visual playfulness. Consider the above shot of actress Renée Estevez, seen from the telephone's point of view. (Does anyone still remember rotary dials?)
Adding to the creepiness of Jordyn's encounter with her boyfriend is the sound of the video game's monotonous, electronic ponging. There's something about that sound. Director Giulio Paradisi used that sound to similar effect in his 1979 Italian film, The Visitor. Actress Joanne Nail arrives to what she thought was her empty home, only to be greeted by a sound of ponging. She warily searches through her house, finding her devil daughter (above) playing a pong-like video game in the living room. (Does anyone still remember projection TV screens?)
Curiously, the actresses portraying Another's two demons -- Nancy Wolfe and Maria Olsen -- appear together in Live-In Fear, another 2014 horror film. "I'm not aware of Live-In Fear," says Bognacki. "I do know Maria and Nancy are close friends. I was really surprised to find out that Another was the first film they shared scenes opposite of one another."
Despite its visual beauty, Another is a film more to be appreciated than enjoyed -- appreciated for the artistry in the telling, rather than enjoyed for the tale told. Its confusingly surreal sights and sounds are initially mesmerizing, but grow wearisome long before the film ends. Its images carry much promise, but the slight story doesn't deliver. I was bored despite the film's brevity -- about 70 minutes, not including credits. Still, I kept returning to the film, compelled to make sense of it.
He studied graphic design at New York's Syracuse University. "I was always making experimental films. After graduation I moved to Los Angeles. My first film, Loma Lynda: Episode II, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Another is my first narrative feature length film. We've sold many of the foreign rights and look to reveal our domestic release plan very soon."
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