Wilczyca [She-Wolf] (1983)

Wilczyca
Director: Marek Piestrak
Writer: Jerzy Gieraltowski, Marek Piestrak
Cast: Krzysztof Jasinski, Iwona Bielska, Stanislaw Brejdygant, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Henryk Machalica, Leon Niemczyk, Jerzy Prazmowski, Hanna Stankówna
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 29.9.2021
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Content Note: abortion

Plot:
Kacper (Krzysztof Jasinski) returns home from war to find his wife Maryna (Iwona Bielska) dying after a botched arbortion of a child that wasn’t his. And not only that, it appears that in his absence, Maryna has started to dabble in the dark arts. And she’s not about to make things easy for Kacper, either. As she dies, she curses him. Kacper’s brother (Jerzy Prazmowski) urges Kacper to make sure that Maryna can’t rise from her grave. After the deed is done, Kacper leaves to stay with a friend, Count Ludwik (Stanislaw Brejdygant). Once there, Kacper realizes that something is up with the Countess Julia (Iwona Bielska).

Wilczyca has interesting moments for sure, but it also has lengths and a very unlikeable protagonist, leaving me with only middling feelings about it.

The film poster showing the painting of a woman, half her face a skull. Behind her is a wolf, below and smaller a man.
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Coming Home in the Dark (2021)

Coming Home in the Dark
Director: James Ashcroft
Writer: James Ashcroft, Eli Kent
Based on: Owen Marshall‘s short story
Cast: Erik Thomson, Daniel Gillies, Matthias Luafutu, Miriama McDowell, Billy Paratene, Frankie Paratene
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 29.9.2021
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Plot:
Hoaggie (Erik Thomson), his wife Jill (Miriama McDowell) and their children Maika (Billy Paratene) and Jordan (Frankie Paratene) are taking a little road trip together. Their fun and bickering, though, is interrupted when Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) and Tubs (Matthias Luafutu) show up as the family picnics. The two men are armed and dangerous and nothing will be the same after the encounter.

Coming Home in the Dark finished off the trilogy of hopelessness that was the SLASH program this evening (the other two films in this unofficial trilogy were Hunter Hunter and Teddy). Of the three films, it was the weakest. It simply gave us nothing to hold on to.

The film poster showing Mandrake (Daniel Gillies) holding a shotgun in front of a red-tinted sky and a car standing in a field.
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Teddy (2020)

Teddy
Director: Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma
Writer: Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma
Cast: Anthony Bajon, Christine Gautier, Ludovic Torrent, Guillaume Mattera, Jean-Michel Ricart, Alain Boitel, Noémie Lvovsky
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 28.9.2021
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Content Note: sexualized harrassment

Plot:
Teddy (Anthony Bajon) is widely considered the bad apple of his small village. He dreams big, but his reality is pretty small. Living with elderly relatives he has to care for, he works at a massage parlor where his employer Ghislaine (Noémie Lvovsky) is too touchy. More often than not, Teddy gets into fights. Not even his girlfriend Rebecca’s (Christine Gautier) parents like him, but at least Rebecca does. And then Teddy gets scratched by some creature and his life gets even worse.

Teddy starts as a whole lot of fun, but soon takes a turn towards darkness that I found unsatisfying and a little shoddily handled. But until then, I liked it a lot.

The film poster showing Teddy (Anthony Bajon) standing in front of a yellow curtain. There is a werewolf paw pushing through the curtain and laying on his shoulder.
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A Pure Place (2021)

A Pure Place
Director: Nikias Chryssos
Writer: Nikias Chryssos, Lars Henning Jung
Cast: Sam Louwyck, Greta Bohacek, Claude Heinrich, Daniel Sträßer, Daniel Fripan, Wolfgang Czeczor, Lena Lauzemis, Mariella Josephine Aumann
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2021
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Content Note: (critical treatment of) white supremacy, fascism and cults

Plot:
When they were very small, Irina (Greta Bohacek) and her brother Paul (Claude Heinrich) came into the care of soap producer Fust (Sam Louwyck). That means, they started working in his factory and learned to revere him like a god, always hoping to be pretty and clean enough to make it from below (the factory) to above (his mansion). And it seems that Irina finally gets her chance at a turn in the light when Fust grows tired of one of his followers. Only that this means that Irina has to leave Paul behind.

A Pure Place starts off well enough, with building up the whole setting as a thinly veiled allegory for white supremacy. But then it gets lost in its own story, seems to turn in circles and never reaches a satisfying conclusion. Plus, there were some really problematic elements with regards to Irina and the male gaze that ruined the film for me a little.

The film poster, drawn comic-style, showing Irina (Greta Bohacek) as a greek statue with a snake and a goblet. Behind her we can see Fust (Sam Louwyck), his arms spread wide and his congregation with soap around their necks, some wearing hooded robes. In front of Irina we can see Siegfried (Daniel Sträßer) self-flagellating.
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Gaia (2021)

Gaia
Director: Jaco Bouwer
Writer: Tertius Kapp
Cast: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2021
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Plot:
Gabi (Monique Rockman) and Winston (Anthony Oseyemi) are forest rangers, sent out to check on wildlife cameras. What should be a routine mission starts to go sideways when Gabi walks into a trap and is injured. The trap was set by Barend (Carel Nel) and his son Stefan (Alex van Dyk), but it is unclear what or who they were hunting with it. In any case, Gabi finds herself at their mercy – but it may very well be that they are not a threat. There is something dangerous in the forest, though.

Gaia worked pretty well for me – for the most part. I did have a couple of issues with it, but overall I liked it.

The film poster showing Gabi (Monique Rockman) from her shoulders up, her head dissolving into mushrooms.
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Leptirica [She-Butterfly] (1973)

Leptirica
Director: Djordje Kadijevic
Writer: Djordje Kadijevic
Based on: Milovan Glisic’ short story Posle devedeset godina
Cast: Mirjana Nikolic, Petar Bozovic, Slobodan ‘Cica’ Perovic, Vasja Stankovic, Aleksandar Stojkovic, Tanasije Uzunovic, Ivan Djurdjevic, Bogoljub Petrovic
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021
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Plot:
A small town in the middle of nowhere is facing a problem: their millers keep dying, murdered, as they suspect, by a mysterious creature that seems to have ties to the village itself. Without a miller, there is no flour and without flour, the village is soon bound to starve. The men of the village think they have found a solution, though. As they look for the creature, they ask Strahinja (Petar Bozovic) to take over as miller. He is poor and needs something to prove himself so he may marry Radojka (Mirjana Nikolic), so Strahinja accepts. But the search for the creature is difficult and Strahinja may be in more danger than he realizes.

I really enjoyed Leptirica, especially because it gives us a very different take on a creature that is often referred to as a vampire (I’d argue, it’s something else entirely). Understandably a classic.

The film poster showing the film title as if written with wooden planks. A butterfly is impaled on the "T" and a moon dangles on a string from the "C". There is a skull in the moon, and below the moon, there is a village.
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Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Jakob’s Wife
Director: Travis Stevens
Writer: Mark Steensland, Kathy Charles, Travis Stevens
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind, Mark Kelly, Robert Rusler, Jay DeVon Johnson, C.M. Punk
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021
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Plot:
Anne (Barbara Crampton) has always been the good wife to Minister Jakob (Larry Fessenden). Over the years, she has shrunk herself more and more to fit into the role better and better. When her first love Tom (Robert Rusler) comes back to town and they meet, Anne feels first stirrings of her hunger for life again. But it isn’t until she and Tom are attacked, that her hunger turns very real – and very bloody.

Jakob’s Wife starts well enough, but loses steam right when it should be picking it up, leaving a lackluster feeling behind.

The film poster showing Jakob (Larry Fessenden) reading in a bible and Anne (Barbara Crampton) praying next to him in a startling red dress. Behind them is a chruch, and in the sky we can see a half-transparent face of a vampire.
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Titane [Titanium] (2021)

Titane
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Julia Ducournau, Jacques Akchoti, Jean-Christophe Bouzy
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh, Mara Cisse, Marin Judas, Diong-Kéba Tacu, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2021
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Content Note: sexualized violence

Plot:
Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a dancer, working at car shows and the like. She is tough, tattooed and shows off a big scar she has on her skull from a car accident. Her roughness is not just exterior. When she is assaulted by a fan, she doesn’t hesitate to stab him. But when her colleague Justine (Garance Marillier) also tries to get closer to her, Alexia has the same reaction though. And it’s neither her first, nor her last killing – and she desperately needs an exit strategy. That presents itself in an unusual option.

Titane is not an easy film, and I had to sleep over it to really get to an opinion about it – but ultimately, I really liked it. It is a wild, refractory, aesthetic film that is certainly worth watching and then discussing a lot.

The film poster showing Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) pushing back her hair to reveal a large, snail-shaped scar behind her ear.
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Buddies (1985)

Buddies
Director: Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
Writer: Arthur J. Bressan Jr.
Cast: Geoff Edholm, David Schachter, Billy Lux
Seen on: 21.9.2021

Plot:
David (David Schachter) is a typesetter. Inspired by the book about the AIDS crisis that he is currently laying out, and as a gay man, he decided to volunteer as an AIDS buddy – a visitor for one of the many gay men who are dying alone and abandoned in a hospital. He is assigned to visit Robert (Geoff Edholm). Taken aback at first by Robert’s attempts to be humorous and have high spirits in his desperate situation, the two men quickly become close regardless.

Buddies was maybe the first film shot about the AIDS crisis. Shot while it was still raging pretty much unchecked, there is an urgency to this low-budget production that is hard to escape and that reminds us of how long this period lasted and how many people died. But there is also a strength there, a celebration of gay love that is absolutely beautiful.

The film poster showing David (David Schachter) with an arm around Robert (Geoff Edholm).
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Una mujer fantástica [A Fantastic Woman] (2017)

Una mujer fantástica
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Trinidad González, Néstor Cantillana
Seen on: 20.9.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Plot:
Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) have been dating for a while, and despite their considerable age difference, they are very happy. In fact, Marina is just moving in with Orlando. When Orlando suddenly dies, Marina’s world suddenly shatters. On top of her lover dying, she has to also deal with Orlando’s family who can’t accept Marina and the fact that she is trans.

Una mujer fantástica is an intense film about transmisia and the resilience that trans people have to develop in the face of it. Except survival, it has not much space for positivity though.

The film poster showing Marina (Daniela Vega) in a prism of colorful light.
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