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Bart Mastronardi (#110 of 2)

The Hell She Knows: An Interview with Contact’s Zoë Daelman Chlanda

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The Hell She Knows: An Interview with Contact’s Zoë Daelman Chlanda
The Hell She Knows: An Interview with Contact’s Zoë Daelman Chlanda

What does it mean to connect with another human being? How fragile is one’s grasp on sanity, and self? Is it our families who give us our core identity, or do we find that elsewhere? What is the price that must be paid in even looking for answers to these questions? Director Jeremiah Kipp’s latest film, the 10-minute long Contact lives in the disturbing (nightmarish) atmosphere of these realities, the space between knowledge and wisdom, the abyss between making a youthful mistake and tragedy. Produced by Alan Rowe Kelly and Bart Mastronardi, and shot by Dominick Sivilli in beautiful black and white, Contact is a compressed journey of horror and revelation, with a core of emptiness, the echoing aloneness of Self, that jolts the audience at the finish, reverberating.

A pair of young lovers, high on each other and their love, decide to take a mysterious drug they procure somewhere in the underbelly of New York City. The drug trip goes bad, and the horror here is actual and gory (what is real, what is hallucination? and who can even know when you are tripping?), as well as psychological. The goal of the drug trip, for the lovers, was to connect in a new and intense way. They get more than they bargained for, although in a way they get exactly what they were seeking, and that is more horrifying than anything else. Be careful what you wish for. They wanted to connect, right? In a terrifying scene, they do. Literally. Contact depicts a loss of identity, the rupturing of trust, and the shattering of youthful hopes. Kipp’s gift is in the depths to which he is willing to go, and the specificity in which he films his story. It is clear, yet mysterious at the same time. There is very little dialogue. The story is told in images, one flowing to the other, and through the cuts, evocative and simple, an entire world opens.

Birth Is Always Painful: An Interview with Vindication Writer-Director Bart Mastronardi

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Birth Is Always Painful: An Interview with Vindication Writer-Director Bart Mastronardi
Birth Is Always Painful: An Interview with Vindication Writer-Director Bart Mastronardi

Though the premise might sound like something out of Jacob’s Ladder, filmmaker Bart Mastronardi’s psychological horror film Vindication owes more to the complex mythologies of Clive Barker novels. When troubled young man Nicolas Bertram (Keith Fraser) attempts suicide by cutting his wrists, some larger force won’t allow him to die—and mysterious benefactors in the form of ghostly shades and blind seers lead him towards his destiny—which takes a turn towards the monstrous. Unlike films where the protagonist discovers he’s a ghost, or has a flash-memory at the moment of his death, Vindication has a prevailing interest in life’s bounty, told in the form of a birth story. In this case, it’s the birth of a monster, with the idea of “monster” standing in for whatever you choose to read into it: something other, something superhuman, something magical, or something uniquely alone in the universe.

Made over the course of three years, Vindication is a labor of love project that reshuffles the traditional ideas of the horror film. Mastronardi’s influences range from Greek tragedy to 1980s slasher flicks, but he never treats the film as a highbrow/lowbrow pastiche. There’s a genuine interest in the horrors drawn from classical texts and the epic qualities found in low-budget gore films. His painterly visual sensibility, composing images with bold impressionistic color schemes and unfamiliar angles, gives a poetic touch to a film made for almost no money in a genre most audiences don’t look to for substance, only shock. That said, the horror audience has embraced Vindication because its emotion-driven terror hasn’t been seen a million times before—making it reminiscent of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm, which was made under similar circumstances and whose bizarre, otherworldly and borderline surreal imaginative qualities spawned a loyal cult audience.