The Presence

Tom Provost’ stunning film – ‘The Presence’

The paranormal – with all its weirdness and curiosities – finally took a boost with writer-director Tom Provost’ stunning film – “The Presence” – making its way October 4, 2011, to a DVD box near you.

Provost simply invented something new in the paranormal movie genre and made 87 minutes of pure fun and adventure in this darkly romantic feature film.

All the basics are there – and more – as we cross a foggy lake to our remote cabin destination complete with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Translation: The characters use hastily-lit lanterns after dark and must walk to a creepy outhouse in a wooded patch behind the cabin for late-night bathroom breaks.

Now I don’t want to shock you before you’ve inserted the disc into your flat screen, but there’s no dialogue in the first 25 minutes. And surprisingly, it’s not missed while we’re introduced to a young woman apparently on retreat and to a very quiet, wide-eyed, handsome male spirit inside the cabin who’s politely curious about the new tenant from “the other side.”

What surprised and trapped me in that first half-hour was the methodical badgering of intense quality in every corner of the screen. It’s kind of like what Provost kept out of the film that enlarged the story and made it remarkable.

While the trip across a foggy lake set spooky in motion, even the opening credits were incredibly interesting to watch. And without all that talking – we’re guessing Hollywood was not paying by the word on this one – your mind is saturated with the visual and the sound of haunting. The cabin itself is a portrait of lost time. The lighting incredibly natural. And the sounds and music we hear tell a story in itself in a way other storytellers failed while they “blablablaed” you to death with sick details and corny scare tactics.

Provost decided instead to leave no stone unturned and to simply treat the audience as innocently sophisticated – but once you step inside the Provost world – he tears you apart with cinematic tools Hitchcock-style. 

The cast is an ensemble-style unit that fits perfectly inside this paranormal landscape.

Mira Sorvino is “the woman” we meet right up front – a Harvard grad who majored in Chinese – who first appeared as Laura in the 1993 independent gangster film, “Amongst Friends,” appearing alongside Dad, Michael Sorvino; then in an Oscar-winning award as Best Supporting Actress in the 1995 Wood Allen film, “Mighty Aphrodite.” Sorvino brings unrelenting character strength to the film while blending well with all the cinematic tools Provost tosses out. It’s a performance you may well recall in movement rather than dialogue in a film where tense might be better defined by a stare.

Shane West shares those early moments with Sorvino as the “ghost” whose routine seems to be pure curiosity like he’s a teenage boy peaking through window blinds at some late-night female attraction. The Louisiana-born actor was first seen in ABC’s successful “Once and Again” series in 54 episodes between 1999 and 2002; but you may also catch this guy writing and playing guitar in his band, Average Jo. 

Enter Oregon-born Justin Kirk – the actual setting for the film – just as Provost is introducing dialogue – a gifted stage actor who brings his own personal intensity to this remote place. Kirk may prove to be your choice for the film’s stand-out performer as his character is allowed to ask all those questions the audience is screaming for. But Kirk never runs off with this important tool; instead seamlessly blending that emotion with the other cast and allowing the story to roll along in Provost’s devilish way.

Tony Curran is the “man in black” – born in Glasgow, Scottland, UK – whose character swings the mood and intensity of this film in almost a mildly comical way – well, evil comical – allowing new emotions to spew from the spiritual side. Just when you thought you had the film figured out – Curran is the curve ball leading you to play ball Provost’s way where the paranormal is suddenly alive and dead all at the same time.

Additional performances are brought to you by Muse Watson, another stage actor who moved to film and has appeared in 51 feature movies – and plays Mr. Browman, the kindly older gentleman who operates a boating service on the lake; and DeobiaOparei, “the Woodsman,” whose role may surprise you as the story winds down.

The story of “The Presence” is a simple blending of the past meeting the future – a seamless bond between cinematic tools – where sound and lighting, crew and cast, titles and props, all got it right and shared the experience instead of any one element out-shining the other. Provost created a film that is both timeless and enduring.

So slide that DVD in. Turn off the lights. And sit back for a thrill. Highly recommended. We only hope Provost has no time to read this review and is instead out making another film. Watch the trailer.

Riveting evidence pushes boundaries of reality: Marden-Stoner book blends personal testimony and theories

Kathleen Marden is the Dr. Ruth Westheimer of alien abduction. Packed neatly into this manuscript, Marden and co-author Denise Stoner take us up close with the latest on abduction data wonderfully weaved into the story of two American women plagued with unusual interruptions in their daily routine from sources unknown. The authors professionally question themselves along the journey as they poke and prod beyond the main witnesses revealing compelling physical and testimonial evidence that a non-human intelligence might be visiting, borrowing, probing and returning multiple humans worldwide on a regular basis. They admit that more questions than answers are raised, but then allow the reader this unusual glimpse into how the two women discovered and are dealing with a very real problem of unusual proportions.

Marden was immersed into the alien abduction arena by birth – aunt and uncle Betty and Barney Hill are icons in the subject area based on their widely told 1961encounter along a lonely stretch of New Hampshire highway. Books and films have described their incredible story. Marden followed with the 2007 release of Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World’s First Documented Alien Abduction (New Page Books) with co-author Stanton T. Friedman.
Stoner has gone on to investigate UFOs with MUFON first as a Florida State Section Director and Chief Investigator and currently as Florida Assistant Director of Abduction Studies.

The idea of alien abduction is taken to a new level in this latest work where the boundaries of reality are pushed along with riveting evidence suggesting multiple perspectives are required for a complete analysis. The authors bring both hard and soft evidence to the table and wonder how we relate it all together. The evidence is there, they suggest, but we move cautiously forward in the analysis while we question every step.

The witness realty that investigators continue to battle suggests we are dealing with a non-human intelligence. The rest of the story is conjecture until more of the puzzle is brought to the table. The most frightening reality is that we ignore the evidence that something must be studied at all.
The two main characters in this new work – including co-author Denise Stoner – are individuals who have experienced alien abduction over many years and both have rich testimony to reveal.
The work includes a visual tone where the reader is allowed even the smallest details along the way that paint an elaborate living set. We get the feeling from the beginning that these are good people from hard working families who did not choose their circumstances.

They in fact were plucked from their reality and seemingly moved about in space and time in ways no one can quite understand. As readers, we stand with the authors in awe of this awkward moment in human history where multiple witnesses seem to tell similar stories of capture and removal and probing and then a return to the human setting.

Marden is humble despite her extensive professional background, merely stating the known facts and seamlessly matching circumstances with a larger group from the Marden-Stoner “Commonalities Among Abduction Experiencers” study. For the reader new to both alien abduction and UFOs, the authors offer an easily digestible review of how UFOs have been studied by the U.S. that is widely seen to have moved from a public gallery to a secret, underground phase without public comment.

The authors are clear that multiple theories abound inside and outside the scientific community. To even admit these experiences are real just to begin to study them is equivalent to opening up a Pandora’s Box of problems. While Americans were wide-eyed on UFOs early on in the 20th Century, the subject quickly moved to a mockery where good witnesses feared both ridicule and losing their professional stature.

While the authors advise readers on the positive and negative merits of hypnosis, the use of hypnotic session dialogue brings us up close and personal with the witness. The case descriptions and backgrounds included are clear and well presented, but hearing the witness speak specifically about the encounter is chilling.

The Alien Abduction Files: The Most Startling Cases of Human-Alien Contact Ever Reported by Kathleen Marden and Denise Stoner is a well blended story of intensive investigation and well gathered evidence – including multiple alternate non-alien theories. The story closes with several more witnesses’ stories told more succinctly to reinforce the simple idea that mankind is somehow being personally invaded in ways and for reasons not yet understood.

The Dressmaker, film review

Recommending Director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker now at Amazon Prime starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth and Judy Davis. (2016, 119 min)

Kind of a mystery-thriller sort with a strong comic sense wrapped in whodunnit characters. Winslet is the headstrong Tilly Dunnage removed from a small Australian outback town at age 10 after she’s accused of murdering a schoolyard boy. Her single mother Molly (Davis) remained in town to rot alone in a filthy cabin. Tilly wound up in Paris and earned her reputation in fashion design. The film tells the story of her return to check on mom and understand her accusers when she has no memory of anything murderous.

None of the town’s odd characters – and they are all odd in some fashion – are a match for Tilly. The film’s unique fun is somehow a combination of carefully drawn weirdness and lit emotions. Somewhere at the film’s stretched seams is this bulging drive to right the wrongs of so long ago. Highly recommend.

Film Review: Don’t Look Up

Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Don’t Look Up’


It’s official. In 2022 I’m making myself available to script consult with Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep – exclusively. This decision came after watching them as two stars (of many) in the just-released-on-Netflix film “Don’t Look Up.”

What a mess.

Understood the message about climate change, the Streep character was Trump and the world cares more about soap opera garbage than staying alive. The problem was clearly the script.

These incredible film actors somehow suffered through it despite comic genius moments like Streep’s character told how she will die some day. The baffling and gory-sounding ending was resolved in the film’s last two lines. Score. But that’s as good as it gets.

The film feels like someone simply applied a slapstick-like coating on the dialogue with no depth, rhythm or reason. Adults were cast into toddler roles. The 1970s called and wanted their plot back. You get it.

The problem was right there all along in plain sight in the script. One only had to read the script to see where the dumpster fires were. And they still made the movie.

With all of that going on, I still recommend watching the film. I’d watch Streep in a pocket-dial video in the fog if it was released. She’s President and the always-manipulating achiever where make-up and ratings are more important than planet-ending scenarios. Streep will not let you down. DiCaprio is strangely his normal brilliant self at the same time his dialogue and direction are flat and spineless.

So, Streep and DiCaprio – lunch again at The Flamingo in Santa Rosa? Remember the room fire in 2016? I still suspect it was Downey Jr. who started that. He sent me a box of cigars. And I still have the Pope’s clock we snatched from his office on that 2012 project in Rome. Good times. Let me read your scripts before you do. Same rates from the 90s projects. I’m not greedy. This won’t happen again.