How do I describe a film that has yet to subconsciously worm its way into my future nightmares?
Thirty years in the making, Mad God is a bravura piece of stop-motion-animation filmmaking written, directed and produced by the legendary Phil Tippett (he of Star Wars and Jurassic Park fame). It’s very light on plot but heavy on symbolism, as many experimental films are: a soldier-like figure enters a world of grotesque monsters and their subjugates. That might sound simple enough but the striking, grim, utterly repellent imagery is anything but. Don’t eat while you watch this.
Chamber pieces as horror are a match usually made in heaven and, while I did enjoy this on balance, it left me wanting a bit more substance. But perhaps those are the trappings of a mood piece.
The Bloodhound, directed by Patrick Picard, follows Francis (Liam Aiken), who pays a visit to his friend JP (Joe Adler) who’s become a bit of a recluse in his wealthy family’s home. On the premises is his sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) who only rarely makes an appearance other than in apparent dreams to tell Francis that, if he stays, he’s going to die ‘with the rest of us’….
I love seeing movies from countries for the first time, especially if it’s a country I’ve never visited before. So now I can cross “Watch a film from Kazakhstan” off my list, and I think I’m spoiled by the moments of brilliance in this horror comedy gem.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It, directed by Yernar Nurgaliev, does admittedly start off as a bit WIFE BAD: Dastan (Daniyar Alshinov) is starting to get sick of his nagging pregnant wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) who is about to pop and, frankly, I don’t blame her for being a tad irritable since pregnancy is never some fucking walk in the park and should be given the immense respect and reverence it deserves (especially if someone is choosing to carry your kid). With questionable timing, Dastan decides to go on a fishing trip with his mates as one last hurrah, even though Zhanna’s almost ready to give birth.
But that’s fine from a storytelling standpoint so we can laugh guiltlessly at the subsequent unfortunate events that befall the group: First, none of these fucking morons knows the first thing about fishing (one of them hooks their own ear and practically cleaves it in two); then they witness a gang murder; then, while they’re running from that, a one-eyed survivalist starts hunting them all down in increasingly gruesome ways.
The only thing I knew about this film was that a) I’d been dying to see this since I missed out on it at Fright Fest and b) It was going to break my heart. Which still feels heavy the day after seeing this.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (though the original title is Vuelven, meaning ‘They Come Back’), directed by Issa López, follows Estrella (Paola Lara), a young girl who lives in a deprived part of Mexico City. Her mother has been missing, and it’s fairly likely that it’s the doing of the local cartel that regularly kidnaps and kills adults and children. But Estrella still holds out hope that her mother will come back. However, after days of no food, she calls upon Él Shine (Juan Ramón López), a boy even younger than her but who has his own little street gang – with kids even younger than him – all of whom are homeless orphans from the cartel abductions. She asks to join their camp for food and protection, but Shine sets a dangerous task in order before he will allow it.
I’m kind of a sucker for non-English-language comedy horrors, and tend to be fairly forgiving of middling quality because of the easygoing nature of the subgenre. Thus, I watched Teddy, a French somewhat-farce directed by Ludovic Boukherma and Zouran Boukherma.
The film follows Teddy (Anthony Bajon), a 19-year-old boy who lives with relatives in a shack in the French Pyrenees. He’s a school dropout who temps as a massage therapist and is devoted to his school-age girlfriend (she’s a senior, so likely only a year younger than him), Rebecca (Christine Gauthier). It’s a fabulously dull, dead-end portrait of rural French life except for the apparent wolf that’s been attacking the local sheep population. Unluckily for Teddy, the wolf seems to have evolved its appetite and, after a brief bitey encounter with said wolf, our titular teen suddenly finds, amid he’s waking up from blackouts and growing hair in some very odd places…
Shamefully, I’ve only seen one of Bong Joon Ho’s works: Parasite. But at least I saw it in the cinema and gleefully rooted for it to win all of the awards (especially that groundbreaking Oscar for Best Picture). I’d heard of this but when I did initially had to do a double-take. The guy from Parasite directed…a monster movie?
And I’m so glad he did, because I’ve never seen anything like it.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a decent slasher and I was also shamelessly tempted by this one because I’m still in the hermit phase of covid living during which I use movies and TV as travelogues. So a Spanish production set in Venice during the Carnival (bringing back my memories of the exact same place and time, good and bad) was an easy pick for me.
Venciafrenia, directed by Álex de la Iglesia, follows a group of young Spanish partygoers on a trip to Venice before Isa (Ingrid García Jonsson) gets married. Everyone’s excited, rambunctious, annoying, obnoxious and very, very drunk and very, very loud (much like us lousy Brits on holiday) to the quiet chagrin of the locals around them, a topical issue in real life these last few years as Venice has been besieged by so many tourists that the city is practically crumbling in punishment. The group crashes a party they previously turned down and booze it up big time in a palatial nightclub setting, and all is well until the next morning, amid hangovers, the Isa discovers her brother is missing…
Edit: Wrote this all out last night and forgot to hit publish. I’m an idiot.
My enjoyment of this was enhanced by watching it (virtually) with two dear, far-off friends – both of whom had seen this before. One of them mentioned afterwards that they wished they could go back and watch it again for the first time and, since I went into this knowing nothing, I won’t spoil a thing in this post, either.
Werewolves Within, directed by Josh Ruben (and written by Mishna Wolff [WOLF!]), is based on a video game of the same name and stars Sam Robinson as Finn, a forest ranger who arrives at his new post in Beaverfield, a small town way up in what looks like the far north-east of the US. Despite the wintry chill, he’s greeted warmly by mailperson Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), who gives him a brief overview of the town and facilitates walk-by introductions with the place’s assorted inhabitants. They are…a colourful bunch. Though not literally. One instantly glorious thing about this film is how deliciously honest it is about how redneck and non-progressive such picturesque locales truly are. My pink-haired, leftist, brown-kid-of-Muslim-immigrants arse would not do well there. Though I am truly enamoured with snow.
Finn arrives at the inn where he’s staying and meets, among other residents, a businessman called Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall) who’s trying to convince (re: pay off) everyone in the town to support an incoming pipeline, and the inn’s owner Jeanine Sherman (Catherine Curtin), who opposes it, along with a guest, Dr Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson), an environmentalist. For the most part the crackpot collection of oddballs is mostly harmless but, once a heavy storm rolls through, the power generators conk out and a mauled corpse is found, fingers start pointing and deep-seated tensions boil to the surface