Upurga (2021) – DNF

Director: Ugis Olte
Writer: Ugis Olte, Bojana Babic, Lucas Abrahão
Cast: Igors Selegovskis, Inga Tropa, Reinis Boters, Rihards Sniegs, Elvita Ragovska, Morten Traavik
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5./6.5.2022

Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) works in an outdoor store. His sister Eva (Inga Tropa) is an actress who is planning to shoot a commercial with her boyfriend Oskars (Reinis Boters) behind the camera, Matiass (Rihards Sniegs) starring alongside her and Mara (Elvita Ragovska) directing – though everything is supposed to look like Eva and Matiass were alone in the wild. When Andrejs learns that they actually plan to go to Upurga to kayak without any guide, he is appalled – and offers his services. So the five go to the river together. But strange things soon start happening.

Upurga does a good job setting up its mystery and then not such a great job with keeping the tension or unraveling the story. Ultimately, I fell asleep and missed the last third or so, but I can’t say I regret not finishing the film.

The film poster showing an upsode down image of water. In the water we can see a female silhouette. Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) runs along the watershore, upside down as well.
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Luzifer (2021)

Director: Peter Brunner
Writer: Peter Brunner
Cast: Susanne Jensen, Franz Rogowski, Monika Hinterhuber, Theo Blaickner
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: ableism/cripping up, abuse

Maria (Susanne Jensen) lives off the grid in the mountains with her son Johannes (Franz Rogowski) who has a learning disability. They spend their days mostly quietly and calmly with a lot of prayer and Johannes’ birds of prey. But their idyllic existence is threatened when plans are made to create a skiing area around them – and the developers are desperate to buy their land, unwilling to accept that Maria won’t sell. An evil is coming for Maria and Johannes.

My history with Peter Brunner movies isn’t without its issues, but I have liked his films increasingly more – and Luzifer is probably the one I liked the most so far. It doesn’t always work, but it is definitely engaging.

The film poster showing Maria (Susanne Jensen) sitting on Johannes' (Franz Rogowski) shoulders. Both have their arms spread wide. Behind them is a mountain.
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De uskyldige [The Innocents] (2021)

De uskyldige
Director: Eskil Vogt
Writer: Eskil Vogt
Cast: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne
Seen on: 14.4.2022

Content Note: ableism, racism, animal abuse and death

Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), her autistic sister Anna (Alba Brynsmo Ramstad) and their parents (Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit) just moved into a giant apartment complex. Ida is not particularly happy about it, or the attention her parents pay her sister who she likes to hurt, convinced that Anna doesn’t feel pain because she can’t express it. When Ida sets out to explore her new home, she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf) with whom she shares her cruel streak. Ben also appears to have special powers, able to move a bottle cap by thought alone. And Ben isn’t the only one there with powers, it seems. There is also Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) who has a telepathic connection with Anna. The four set out to explore their abilities, but things start to spiral out of control.

De uskyldige is a tense and atmospheric film with excellent performances by the children, but also a couple of pretty problematic tropes and an ending that was a bit of a let-down.

The film poster showing Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) lying on a tire swing looking up, only that the swing rack and the ground are above her.
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Cargo (2017)

Director: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Writer: Yolanda Ramke
Cast: Martin Freeman, Simone Landers, Susie Porter, Bruce R. Carter, Kris McQuade, Natasha Wanganeen, David Gulpilil, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorius
Seen on: 4.12.2021

Content Note: (mention of) rape, (critical treatment of) racism

Andy (Martin Freeman), his wife Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby Rosie are one of the few unaffected survivors of a pandemic that turned most of humanity into zombies. They survived by staying on their houseboat and far away from others. But then the rest of the world catches up to them and Andy finds himself alone with Rosie – and infected. Now he is on a tight deadline. If he doesn’t find somebody to take care of Rosie within 48 hours, she is doomed. In his search, he crosses path with teenager Thoomi (Simone Landers) who is trying to protect her family in her own way.

Cargo is an entertaining zombie movie that sticks more with the drama than with the horror. It does have a couple of pacing issues, but overall it’s a good watch.

The film poster showing Andy (Martin Freeman) walking through the outback with a baby on his back. He is holding a machete and behind him are three zombies in the distance.
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Night Teeth (2021)

Night Teeth
Director: Adam Randall
Writer: Brent Dillon
Cast: Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, Raúl Castillo, Alfie Allen, Marlene Forte, Ash Santos, Nandy Martin, Jaren Mitchell, Megan Fox, Alexander Ludwig
Seen on: 20.11.2021

Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is in college where he isn’t exactly popular. At home, too, he kind of falls behind his older brother Jay (Raúl Castillo) who runs a limousine service. What Benny doesn’t know is that Jay also doubles as a vampire hunter, although there has been a truce with the vampires for a while. When Benny gets the opportunity to help Jay out and be a driver for a night, he thinks at first that he won the lottery when Zoe (Lucy Fry) and Blaire (Debby Ryan) get in the car. But he soon finds himself deeply entangled in their vampire business for the night. And who knows if he will get out of it alive.

Night Teeth is okay. It’s pretty much your standard fare of vampire politics with a dash of male wish fulfillment. It profits from Lendeborg Jr.’s and Ryan’s charm, but ultimately it doesn’t surpass fine.

The film poster in black, white and red, showing Zoe's (Lucy Fry) and Blaire's (Debby Ryan) bloodied fangs. Below those, Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is standing in front of a car and the city skyline.
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Blood & Donuts (1995)

Blood & Donuts
Director: Holly Dale
Writer: Andrew Rai Berzins
Cast: Gordon Currie, Louis Ferreira, Helene Clarkson, Fiona Reid, Frank Moore, Hadley Kay, David Cronenberg
Seen on: 24.10.2021

When a wayward golf ball hits Boya’s (Gordon Currie) sleeping place, the vampire awakes from his 25 year slumber and decides to see what humanity has been up to. He hails a cab, driven by Earl (Louis Ferreira) who has a habit of getting into trouble. As Boya gets settled into the present day, Rita (Fiona Reid) who he used to see 25 years ago, feels their connection re-awakening. Meanwhile, Boya saves Earl from local thugs, and as a thank you, Earl brings him to the donut shop he frequents. There, Boya meets Molly (Helene Clarkson) and sparks fly. But fitting into this world as a vampire is not that easily done.

Blood & Donuts is not great, but it does have a kind of low budget and a little dusty charm that makes it rather endearing, even if not everything about it works.

The film poster showing Boya (Gordon Currie) sitting in a bathtub, a razor in hand.
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Cursed (2005)

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson
Cast: Christina Ricci, Jesse Eisenberg, Joshua Jackson, Judy Greer, Portia de Rossi, Shannon Elizabeth, Mya, Milo Ventimiglia, Nick Offerman, Scott Baio, Lance Bass, Derek Mears
Seen on: 10.10.2021

Content Note: (kinda critical treatment of) homomisia

Ellie (Christina Ricci) and her brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) have been a tight team ever since their parents died. But after a car accident in the woods, where they appear to have hit something, things change for them. Or rather, they themselves change. Jimmy is convinced that they are werewolves now, which Ellie can do nothing but scoff at. And yet, there is something to his theory. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore in any case – and since Ellie has no interest in living her life as a werewolf, something needs to be done.

Cursed is okay. I have seen worse films, but I have also seen much better. To be honest, the most fun I had was to see everybody who pops up in the film as I wasn’t aware of the cast before seeing it.

The film poster showing an almost black and white image of Ellie's (Christina Ricci) face. Her right eye is glowing red, her left eye can't be seen as the image is torn as if scratched by a giant claw.
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Werewolves Within (2021)

Werewolves Within
Director: Josh Ruben
Writer: Mishna Wolff
Based on: the video game
Cast: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillén, Rebecca Henderson, Cheyenne Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Glenn Fleshler, Patrick M. Walsh, Anni Krueger
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 3.10.2021

Finn (Sam Richardson) is a ranger who was just transferred to Beaverfield, middle of nowhere. When Finn arrives, there appears only one thing that is happening in the town: a new gas pipeline is supposed to be built right through it and the town is very divided about it. As Finn tries to get his bearings in the city with the help of postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub), he discovers some strange things that seem to point towards a werewolf. With an on-coming snow storm to boot, Finn barely knows what’s happening and what he can do.

Werewolves Within is a very entertaining horror comedy and it was just the right film to close out the SLASH Film Festival for me this year, leaving me with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

The film poster showing Finn (Sam Richardson) in the middle of all the film's characters, a full moon shining behind them.
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We Need to Do Something (2021)

We Need to Do Something
Director: Sean King O’Grady
Writer: Max Booth III
Based on: his novella
Cast: Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis, John James Cronin, Ozzy Osbourne
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 3.10.2021

Content Note: homomisia, stalking, harrassment

As a storm is about to hit, Diane (Vinessa Shaw), Robert (Pat Healy) and their children Melissa (Sierra McCormick) and Bobby (John James Cronin) take shelter in the family bathroom. Things are a little tense between them, and that’s not just because of the storm. When the storm seems to have abated, they find that they are trapped in the bathroom, though. And the longer they wait for rescue, the more fraught things become. Especially since Melissa is convinced that hse and her girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis) may have had something to do with the storm in the first place.

I liked how things kick off in the film and there is one really excellent scene, but other than that it’s not more than okay – until the end when the explanation for events ruined the entire thing for me.

The film poster showing an eye with smudged make-up opened very wide. The image is bathed in red light.


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Frank & Zed (2020)

Frank & Zed
Director: Jesse Blanchard
Writer: Jesse Blanchard
Cast: Jerry Bell Jr., Aaron Booth, Randolph F. Christen,Chris Henry, Johnny Huang, Brian McKann, Jonathan McLain, Timothy Morse, Sam A. Mowry, Steve Overton, Daniel Rhovan, Jason Ropp, Mandy Stockholm
Part of: Secret Society Screening at the SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 3.10.2021

Frank and Zed are the sole remaining inhabitants of a castle that is slowly falling apart, and strictly speaking, they aren’t even alive. But they do have their routines that ensure their continued existence. In a nearby village, rumors and myths about the castle abound and prove fertile ground for a magistrate to satisfy his power urges, leading the villagers, as well as Frank and Zed into the prophesied Orgy of Blood.

I have to admit that watching puppets in a gore film (what the director dubbed puppetcore) is a fun idea and the execution was very impressive. Narratively, though, the film is a little thin, leaving the impression that there is not much to it apart from the puppetcore idea.

The film poster showing Frank holding an axe and a decapitated head, and Zed holding his own decapitated head with the brain sticking out.
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