The Reckoning (2020)

The Reckoning
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Edward Evers-Swindell, Charlotte Kirk, Neil Marshall
Cast: Charlotte Kirk, Joe Anderson, Sean Pertwee, Ian Whyte, Steven Waddington, Rick Warden, Emma Holzer, Mark Ryan
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2020
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Content Note: suicide, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Plot:
1665. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) are happily married to Joseph (Joe Anderson) and they have a beautiful baby. Even though their life is hard, they are doing pretty well. Until Joseph catches the plague. Fearing that he will condemn his wife and child to death as well, he commits suicide. Grace struggles to pay rent and when she also declines to sleep with her landlord to make up for the lost payment, he (Steven Waddington) accuses her of witchcraft instead. Grace is imprisoned and has to face the famous witch hunter Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) in a battle for her life.

The Reckoning really did not work for me and that despite the fact that it was obviously oriented towards feminism (even though it doesn’t quite hit the mark here). It was exhausting any way too long.

The film poster showing a leafless tree silhouetted against the night sky, a rope can be seen hanging from it.
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Nouvelle Saveur [Haute Cuisine] (2019)

Nouvelle Saveur
Director: Merryl Roche
Writer: Merryl Roche
Cast: Joséphine Japy, Sébastien Houbani, Philippe Résimont, Serge Dupuy
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival (winner of the Short Film Prize)
Seen on: 26.9.2020

Plot:
Marie (Joséphine Japy) got the coveted spot in the prize-winning kitchen of Bruno Mercier (Philippe Résimont), but she struggles to find her place there and reach the expected quality to advance in her position. That she has to compete against everybody else there, especially Thomas (Sébastien Houbani) who has been there longer, doesn’t help either. But one night she cuts herself – and it appears that her blood is the ingredient that was missing in her cooking so far.

I have to admit that I usually snub short films – if I have to choose between watching short films and watching a feature, I will go for the feature in like 99% of cases. So I always like that they show the winner of the Short Film Prize together with the closing film of the SLASH festival, although I have no idea what the competition was like overall. In any case, Nouvelle Saveur was well made and good to watch, although I thought that the idea wasn’t all that revolutionary or fresh. Generally it was a rather conventional short – not bad at all, very well executed, but lacking that special ingredient, that spark that would make it really stand out.

The film poster showing Marie (Joséphine Japy) in cooking clothes.

Slaxx (2020)

Slaxx
Director: Elza Kephart
Writer: Patricia Gomez, Elza Kephart
Cast: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Kenny Wong, Tianna Nori, Erica Anderson, Stephen Bogaert, Jonathan Emond
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Plot:
Libby (Romane Denis) is excited to start her job at the trendiest, most fashionable clothing store in existence – and just before their new line of jeans is set to be revealed. It is a special night indeed as the staff prepares the store for the new line after it closed. Not only does the owner of the franchise, Harold Landsgrove (Stephen Bogaert) drop by for a visit, they are also expecting influencer Peyton Jules (Erica Anderson) who will get an exclusive look at the new pants to stream to her followers. But when it turns out that the new pants are out for blood, things take an unexpected turn.

Slaxx had a difficult position in the day’s schedule as the fourth film of a quadruple feature – but it had no problems to keep my attention at all. I really enjoyed it – both the absurd premise and the serious core behind that silliness.

The film poster showing a butt in a pair of jeans.
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Scare Package (2019)

Scare Package
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Scare Package is a great anthology that takes on horror tropes and ridicules them with a whole lot of love and a great sense of humor. The various segments all bring something else to the table and yet all fit together, creating the feeling of a unified film more than many other anthology movies manage. It really is very well done overall.

The film poster showing a drawing of a disembodied hand picking out a video tape from a shelf of tapes. The cover of the video tape shows that same hand picking up that same video tape and so on.

More about each of the segments after the jump.

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Saint Maud (2019)

Saint Maud
Director: Rose Glass
Writer: Rose Glass
Cast: Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Knight, Lily Frazer
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2020
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Content Note: saneism

Plot:
Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a nurse who works with dying patients at their homes. She just got a new case – actor Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). Maud goes about her work quietly and diligently, but when Amanda takes an interest in Maud’s religious beliefs, pious Maud sees it as a sign that she is supposed to save Amanda’s soul. With Amanda’s death quickly approaching, there is an urgency to that mission that Maud can’t escape.

Saint Maud is an atmospheric film with great performances. Your mileage will probably vary on the religious themes, but I thought that the film handles them very well.

The film poster showing Maud (Morfydd Clark) her arms spread wide, wearing a w hite sheet and a big cross around her neck in front of a completely white background.
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Jumbo (2020)

Jumbo
Director: Zoé Wittock
Writer: Zoé Wittock
Cast: Noémie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon, Sam Louwyck, Tracy Dossou
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2020
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Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism, cripping up (debatable)

Plot:
Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) divides her time between her home where she lives with her mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot), and the amusement park where she works. She loves carousels, ferris wheels and the other attractions in the park and she loves building models of them. This year, the park bought a new ride and Jeanne feels incredibly drawn to it. She nicknames it Jumbo – and Jumbo even starts to communicate with her. Soon their relationship becomes even more intense.

Jumbo is one of the sweetest, most romantic films I’ve seen in a long while (well, together with Dinner in America) and I’m here for this trend of unusual love stories being where the romance lives. Jumbo is well done in any case and hit me right in the feels.

The film poster showing a woman's face in profile, the back of her head a ferris wheel.
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Andâ yua beddo [Under Your Bed] (2019)

Andâ yua beddo
Director: Mari Asato
Writer: Mari Asato
Based on: Kei Ôishi’s novel
Cast: Kengo Kôra, Kanako Nishikawa, Ken’ichi Abe, Yûgo Mikawa, Ryôsuke Miyake
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2020
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Content Note: stalking, domestic violence, abuse, rape

Plot:
Mitsui (Kengo Kôra) leads a lonely life and seems to be generally entirely forgettable – most of the people around him barely remember having met him. There was only Chihiro (Kanako Nishikawa), long ago, who went on a date with him and actually seemed to care for him. Mitsui tracks her down and quickly becomes obsessed with her again. When watching her from afar isn’t enough for him anymore, he starts to hide in her apartment – and becomes a witness to the abusive relationship Chihiro has with her husband (Ken’ichi Abe).

Andâ yua beddo might as well be called The Incel Movie because it absolutely, perfectly fits with the narrative that incels like to tell themselves and the world. And if that wasn’t enough to steer clear of it, it’s also repetitive and simply exhausting.

The film poster showing Mitsui (Kengo Kôra) lying under Chihiro's (Kanako Nishikawa) bed, watching her legs walk past.

[SPOILERS]

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Hunted (2020)

Hunted
Director: Vincent Paronnaud
Writer: Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet, David H. Pickering
Cast: Lucie Debay, Arieh Worthalter, Ciaran O’Brien
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2020
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Plot:
Eve (Lucie Debay) had a shitty day at work in a city she doesnt really know. So she decides to get a drink at the local bar. After a guy hits on her and doesn’t take no for an answer, another guy (Arieh Worthalter) swoops in and gets rid of him. He is charming and self-deprecating and they are having such a good time, that Eve decides to get in a car with him and his brother (Ciaran O’Brien). It is there that things quickly turn bad and she realizes that he may not be a good guy after all. Frantic to get away from him, she soon finds herself in mortal danger. But Eve is a fighter.

Hunted starts really strong, but the longer it goes on, the more it falls apart, leaving me with a decidedly mediocre impression overall.

The film poster showing Eve's (Lucie Debay) face in super close-up as she lies under a floor or in a box that's all red.
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Happy Face (2018)

Happy Face
Director: Alexandre Franchi
Writer: Joelle Bourjolly, Alexandre Franchi
Cast: Robin L’Houmeau, Debbie Lynch-White, Dean Perseo, David Roche, E.R. Ruiz, Alison Midstokke, Noémie Kocher
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2020
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Content Note: (critical treatment of) lookism, pedophilia

Plot:
Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) is struggling with his mother’s cancer diagnosis that leaves her in need of care, which he mostly provides. Most of all he struggles with the fact that he feels disgusted with her. He hopes to combat this by joining a self-help group for disfigured people led by Vanessa (Debbie Lynch-White). Where but there can he learn to be less shallow? So he decides to pretend to be disfigured himself. That plan, though, doesn’t work like he intended at all.

I was intrigued by the concept behind Happy Face and the fact that they cast a lot of actually disfigured people in the film. And it certainly tackles a difficult topic with care. Ultimately, though, it all revolves too much about Stan and what he can learn in this situation.

the film poster showing a face made of a collage of various newspaper cutouts
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Amulet (2020)

Amulet
Director: Romola Garai
Writer: Romola Garai
Cast: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Anah Ruddin, Angeliki Papoulia
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2020
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Content Note: rape, (trans-)misogyny

Plot:
Tomas (Alex Secareanu) used to be a soldier, but he fled the war and his country and ended up in London where he barely scrapes by, working illegally and living on the streets. After a particular bout of bad luck, Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) finds him and she is determined to find a new life for him. She suggests that he should move in with Magda (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother (Anah Ruddin). Their house is falling apart around them and Magda is overwhelmed with the care of her mother, so Sister Claire finds the situation to the advantage of everyone involved. And Tomas does settle into the new life, especially since he takes to Magda. A lot. But he also starts to suspect that there is more to the story and her mother.

Amulet starts promising, but the more it revealed, the less it made sense to me. And even more than that: the less I liked it.

The film poster showing a nun, her habit turning into batlike wings.

[SPOILERS]

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