Horror films are often most effective when they reflect the viewers innermost fears back onto them. While fantastical villains like Freddy Krueger infiltrate the cinematic imagination, it is the monsters that capture the fears of the times that are the most fascinating. In Berkshire County there are two types of monsters roaming around, but identifying which one is more dangerous is the tricky part. The first are the conventional knife wielding masked individuals that are common in slasher films. Their methods may be crude, but they wear their bloodlust on their sleeves. The second is more sinister in its method of operations and can be found in high schools across North America…and most likely the world.

It is the latter whose actions ultimately carry the most weight, from a psychological perspective at least, in Audrey Cummings directorial debut Berkshire County. Taking place on Halloween, Berkshire County focuses on Kylie Winters (Alysa King), a teenager girl whose day has been so hellish that insane killers are the least of her problems. After discovering that an intimate moment with a fellow student, Marcus (Aaron Chartrand), at a party was both videotaped without her knowledge and posted online, Kylie finds herself the target of verbal and physical harassment from her peers. Worst of all Marcus does not seem remotely concerned about the damage his actions have caused. Finding no support from her own mother, who chastises her for getting into the predicament in the first place, Kylie wants nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry the night away. Unfortunately for Kylie, she is already committed to a babysitting gig in posh, but secluded, Berkshire County.

At first the job seems simple enough: entertain the two children, Phoebe (Madison Ferguson) and Sam (Cristophe Gallander), put them to bed at the right time, and hand out candy to any kids that may show up at the door. Things take a dark turn for Kylie when a young trick-or treater, (Leo Pady), shows up accompanied by two mask wearing adults. As the masked individuals attempt to break into the isolated house, and with only a police operator named Roberta (Samora Smallwood) on the phone to help her, Kylie must do everything she can to survive the night.

Coming in a year where online bullying, via cell phone videos, has been a hot button issue in Canada and the world, Audrey Cummings’ film feels extremely timely. By playing up the notion that monsters are not found in the closet but in high school, Cummings adds a rich layer to the film. The fact that Kylie’s mind is focused on the ramifications of Marcus’ video more than the burly knife wielding criminal in the pig mask is quite telling. In many ways it is the social commentary regarding the online violation of young women, and the slut shaming that comes with it, that resonates more than the traditional slasher tropes the film employs.

Showing much promise as a director, Cummings effortlessly generates a nice sense of dread throughout the piece. The pig masks her villains use give You’re Next’s animal masks a run for their money in the cool, but disturbing department. Cummings does occasionally fall into the comfortable rhythm of convention a bit too much, especially in regards to the film’s seemingly multiple endings, but her ability to capture the pulse of what is terrorizing to modern teenage girls in undeniable.

Though Berkshire County does not shine much light on the killer’s history, which is a shame because it could have added a unique facet to the film, Cummings does get a lot out of her cast. Alysa King gives an effective performance in the lead role. She brings just the right amount of vulnerability needed to make Kylie’s plight compelling. Her transformation from fragile naive teen to a strong heroine feels natural. It also helps to have the likes of Aaron Chartrand providing a truly slimy performance as the arrogant Marcus. Chartrand is so convincing that one cannot help but pray that he gets some sort of comeuppance before the final credits role.

Berkshire County may not revolutionize the slasher genre, but it has a lot more to say from a social relevance perspective than many of its peers. Audrey Cummings displays much prowess as a director. She crafts a film that entertains while providing a little food for thought at the same time. Cummings effectively highlights that the real terror for teenage girls does not come in the form of mask wearing villains, but rather in cell phone carrying boys that prowl in plain sight.

Friday, November 28, 7 PM & 9:45 PM, Carlton Cinema



As festival programmer of the 2014 A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet Film Festival, Dr Dean Bertram highlights an emerging trend amongst the modern horror narrative – the strong female protagonist. The days of the screeching ‘final girl’, destined to survive because of her virtuous nature and moral fortitude, are fading into the anachronistic ether if the films of the 2014 event are any indication. Bertram’s favoured female horror lead could be the Devil’s descendant, an avenging rape victim or a mysterious young newlywed; even the ‘final girl’ archetypes that populate his programme travel unfamiliar and frightening fresh paths. SCREEN-SPACE profiles a selection of the women who carry the torch (and knife and gun and axe…) for their gender in Bertram's modern horror compendium, which starts tonight in Sydney's inner city…

Granted, Audrey Cumming’s feature debut is positively dripping in overplayed horror tropes – the surly babysitter finding her inner warrior while fending off home invaders in a remote mansion (see last years’ You’re Next, for example). But the film has hit big with festival audiences who have responded to Alysa King’s portrayal of the put-upon au pair Kylie, the actress (pictured, right) finding deeper layers and more recognisably human traits in her character just as the film begins to ramp up the tension. King has that ‘everygirl’ essence which has made memorable the great slasher film babysitters of generations past – Carol Kane in When a Stranger Calls; Jocelin Donahue in The House of the Devil; and, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.
BERKSHIRE COUNTY screens Thursday, November 27.

Milton actress finding success in movie industry

Milton actress finding success in movie industry  Photo courtesy of Narrow Edge Productions.   Milton’s Alysa King (right) plays the role of a babysitter in a scene with Madison Ferguson out of the thriller film Berkshire County.

Milton actress finding success in movie industry

Photo courtesy of Narrow Edge Productions.

Milton’s Alysa King (right) plays the role of a babysitter in a scene with Madison Ferguson out of the thriller film Berkshire County.

Milton Canadian Champion
By  Julie Slack

Wearing fishnet stockings and combat boots, Alysa King didn’t feel awkward at all going into a Toronto Starbucks for her morning caffeine fix.

In fact, it was just another day in the busy Miltonian’s life. The young actress who’s making a name for herself in the Hollywood movie scene, was dressed for an upcoming photography shoot, one of several pots she’s stirring as she continues her acting career.

Professionally, she said, she’s been at it for three years, but she’s been “acting her whole life.”

Her parents, who also call Milton home, got her involved when she was a baby. At the time, King, 28, said she was modelling and acting for a number of companies, including K-Mart, Sears and Chrysler.

Later, she participated in every school play at Our Lady of Victory and did a number of musicals with Milton Youth Theatre Productions, including the lead role in the non-profit organizations first-ever show, Dracula Spectacula.

Now, she’s the main character of the award-winning film directed by Audrey Cummings called Berkshire County. Filmed in Toronto, the film is a thriller about a teenaged babysitter (played by King) who must go beyond what she ever thought capable in order to survive a home invasion on Halloween night.

King said it was an honour to be cast as the main character in a film directed by Cummings. She said the director is well-known in the Canadian film industry and some of her short films have been featured in the Toronto International Film Festival.

It was a role King said she was lucky to land considering there were some 200 young women who auditioned.

Earlier this month, the film premiered in Los Angeles at the horror film festival Shriekfest and it took home the Grand Jury Award of ‘Best Horror.’ It was up against 1,000 submissions.

“This is especially notable because it is the first time a female director has ever won this award,” King said. “Also it’s the first time a Canadian film has won since 2007.”

Berkshire County will be screened at several upcoming horror festivals worldwide, including the New York Horror Film Festival and the Razor Reel Fantastic Film Festival in Bruges, Belgium.

It’s slated to make a theatrical release in Canada in early 2015.

King, who went on to graduate from Sheridan College’s theatre program, then Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Arts in drama and English and a Bachelor of Education, is excited for the film’s local release. She rhymed off several backgrounders to the film that make it extra special to her. She actually slept inside the mansion where it was filmed for most of the shoot because the days were so long and strenuous.

King said the film was shot completely out of sequence, so it was challenging.

“I was constantly shifting emotional states throughout the day,” she said. “It also made it hard to keep track of continuity.”

Fortunately, she pulled it off and laughs about the coincidence that took place during the premier of the film, which has several visual references to horror film The Shining. While staying in Hollywood, she was in room number 217 — the same room number made famous in The Shining.

She said Berkshire County will be in at least nine other festivals, including Costa Rica, Barcelona and New York, where she hopes to get a chance to meet famed horror director Tim Burton, who will be accepting an award.

King said she enjoys all genres of movie and is also a huge fan of science fiction.

“I love acting, love getting to be a different person, living in someone else’s shoes,” she said, noting Berkshire County is the biggest film she’s worked on. “It’s neat because it’s not only the biggest film, it’s that I’m in 95 per cent of it…I pretty much carry the movie.

“It’s really challenging, but really fun,” she added. “I like any work though,” noting she’s done romantic comedies and even musicals, since she’s also a singer.

She’s also involved in a personal project, “a back-burner project, sort of a one-woman theatre show that’s been my labour of love.”

A graduate of Bishop Reding Secondary School, King works on her project whenever she has a chance. It’s about her personal relationship with her father, who has a rare form of dementia called frontal temporal dementia, that leaves him totally unable to care for himself. She said she was very close to her father when she was growing up. Money raised by that project when completed will go to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, she said.

She’s also part of Toronto’s Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament acting as Princess Catalina.

And, when she’s at home, she said she dresses up as a princess for kids’ birthday parties. Her “side-job,” Once Upon a Party, sees her wear various costumes to entertain children at their parties.

King invites people to visit her facebook page at Alysa C. King, or follow her on twitter @alysaking, or go to keep up to date on her career.

Original Article:

PLAYBACK ONLINE: Audrey Cummings' Berkshire County wins top prize at Shriekfest

Berkshire Country, the debut feature film from Canadian director Audrey Cummings, has picked up the Grand Jury Prize for best horror feature film at Shriekfest.

The win marked the first time the horror festival’s 14-year history that a film directed by a woman won the Grand Jury Prize. Berkshire Country was awarded top prize earlier this week following the film’s world premiere at the LA-based festival.

Berkshire County tells the story of a teen girl whose night of babysitting at an isolated country home takes a turn for the worse after a small boy in a pig mask appears at the door looking for candy.

The film stars Alysa King, Samora Smallwood, Bart Rochon, Aaron Chartrand and Robert Nolan. Cummings also served as a producer on the film, along with Bruno Marino. Berkshire County was written by Chris Gamble, and executive produced by David Miller and Tony Wosk.

The film is distributed in Canada by A71 Entertainment, and has not yet been sold internationally. Upcoming festivals that Berkshire County is set to screen at include Phoenix Fearcon, the Freak Show Horror Festival in Orlando and the Razor Reel Flanders Film Festival in Bruges.

Tags: A71 Entertainment, Audrey Cummings, Berkshire County, Bruno Marino, David Miller, Shriekfest, Tony Wosk


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