VHYes (2019)

VHYes
Director: Jack Henry Robbins
Writer: Nunzio Randazzo, Jack Henry Robbins
Cast: Mason McNulty, Rahm Braslaw, Jake Head, Christian Drerup, Kerri Kenney, Mark Proksch, Thomas Lennon, Courtney Pauroso, Charlyne Yi, Madeline Zima, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 20.9.2020
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Plot:
Ralph (Mason McNulty) gets a VHS recorder for Christmas. He grabs the next tape he finds – unfortunately, apparently, his parents’ (Jake Head, Christian Drerup) wedding tape – and starts recording whatever he finds of interest, from his adventures with his best friend Josh (Rahm Braslaw) to the usually forbidden to him late night TV – where he learns about a haunted house in town.

VHYes is a beautiful love letter to TV of the 80s, and VHS, managing a unique blend of funny and unsettling that I absolutely loved. I think it was one of my favorites of this year’s festival.

The film poster showing a VHS tape with "Ralph's Tape" written on it, as well as a collage of various film characters.
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Fried Barry (2020)

Fried Barry
Director: Ryan Kruger
Writer: Ryan Kruger
Cast: Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Brett Williams
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2020
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Content Note: transmisia, misogyny

Plot:
Barry (Gary Green) is an addict, an abuser and an all-around unpleasant human being. The aliens who abduct him don’t care about that, though. They do their experiments and take over his body – and then return to earth to experience what human life has to offer: sex, drugs and violence.

Fried Barry did not work for me. It’s the kind of comedy that is filled to the brim with offensiveness that is disguised as humor and is probably super-proud of being “politically incorrect”. I did not care for it.

The film poster showing Barry (Gary Green) looking at his hands with big eyes.
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Ich-chi (2020)

Ich-chi
Director: Kostas Marsan
Writer: Oleg Bogatov, Konstantin Danilov, Pavel Poluichik, Artem Zolotarev
Cast: Borislav Stepanov, Marina Vasilyeva, Ilya Yakovlev, Matrena Kornilova, Ilyana Pavlova, Dmitry Mikhailov, Sasha Andreev
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2020
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Plot:
Aysen (Borislav Stepanov) lives with his parents (Matrena Kornilova, Dmitry Mikhailov) on their remote farm in Yakutia. They live rather quiet lives, mostly busy with tending the lands. Aysen’s brother Timir (Ilya Yakovlev) on the other hand moved to the city and got married to Lisa (Marina Vasilyeva). When Timir, Lisa and their son Michil (Sasha Andreev) come to visit, things become tense. And once night breaks, everything becomes very strange.

Ich-chi is an interesting film that gave me a glimpse into a world I was barely aware of existing. Unfortunately, the last third got a little too confusing – and simply too dark. But it was unusual enough that it is definitely still worth seeing.

The film poster showing a Shaman with a drum, fire behind her.
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Primal (2019)

Primal (the first four episodes)
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Writer: Genndy Tartakovsky, Darrick Bachman, Bryan Andrews, David Krentz, Don Shank
Cast: Aaron LaPlante
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2020
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Plot:
After caveman Spear (Aaron LaPlante) loses his entire family to dinosaurs, he finds a T-Rex and her babies. At first he tries to attack, but while he is there, the dinosaurs who killed his family show up again and kill the T-Rex’s babies, too. After that, Spear and the T-Rex team up to face the dangers of their lives together.

Primal got a bit too much for me. Maybe my impression would have been different if I hadn’t seen four episodes back to back, but rather spread out, but ultimately it was just grunting and killing. I didn’t care for it.

The poster showing Spear riding the T-Rex as they fight monkeys.
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12 Hour Shift (2020)

12 Hour Shift
Director: Brea Grant
Writer: Brea Grant
Cast: Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth, Mick Foley, Kit Williamson, Nikea Gamby-Turner, Tara Perry, Brooke Seguin, David Arquette
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 19.9.2020
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Plot:
Mandy (Angela Bettis) is on night shift at the hospital. As a nurse, her work is taxing and doesn’t pay very well, so she found herself a side hustle, together with her colleague Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner). They make sure that organs find their way to the black market via Mandy’s cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth) who is responsible for the delivery. But when one of their packages goes missing, Regina and Mandy both have to scramble to find a replacement – as if the normal night shift at the hospital wasn’t enough work already.

12 Hour Shift was announced as a very political film and while there is a certain criticism of the pressures nurses are under, it was less political than I expected from the announcements. But it was definitely more fun.

The film poster showing Mandy's (Angela Bettis) eyes, her face covered in blood.
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Schlaf [Sleep] (2020)

Schlaf
Director: Michael Venus
Writer: Thomas Friedrich, Michael Venus
Cast: Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Sandra Hüller, August Schmölzer, Marion Kracht, Agata Buzek, Max Hubacher, Martina Schöne-Radunski
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 18.9.2020
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Plot:
Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) lives with her mother Marlene (Sandra Hüller), a flight attendant who struggles with sleep issues – or rather, she struggles with her dreams. Marlene is convinced that her recurring dreams are pointing her towards a real place and she thinks she has found it. Unbeknownst to Mona, she makes her way to the giant hotel in the middle of nowhere that she believes is the place she is dreaming about. But it doesn’t take long and Marlene suffers a full-blown break-down. Mona comes after her and tries to figure out what is going on with Marlene and her dreams. And something is definitely going on.

Schlaf is an excellent film that moves nicely between dream/nightmare logic and political commentary. It’s a pretty wild ride that took me in completely.

The film poster showing a blond woman in a red dress with her back to the camera in a forest so dark, it's almost entirely black.
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Breaking Surface (2020)

Breaking Surface
Director: Joachim Hedén
Writer: Joachim Hedén
Cast: Moa Gammel, Madeleine Martin, Trine Wiggen
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 18.9.2020
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Plot:
Ida (Moa Gammel) and Tuva (Madeleine Martin) are getting ready to go diving together with ther mother Anne (Trine Wiggen). Unfortunately, Anne becomes ill and can’t dive, so the two sisters set out on their own to the place they chose for their winter dive. Things are going well until Tuva is trapped on the ocean floor by falling rocks and Ida has to make sure that she gets out before her air runs out.

Breaking Surface is a tense thriller that feels very realistic. I watched the film breathlessly (no pun intended) and now I’ll probably never go diving ever.

The film poster showing close-ups of Tuva (Madeleine Martin) and Ida (Moa Gammel) as well as the two in diving suits underwater.
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Relic (2020)

Relic
Director: Natalie Erika James
Writer: Natalie Erika James, Christian White
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote, Jeremy Stanford, Chris Bunton
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 17.9.2020
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Plot:
Kay (Emily Mortimer) and her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) make their way to Kay’s mother’s Edna (Robyn Nevin) house. They haven’t been able to reach her for a while and knowing that her memory isn’t what it used to be, they are very worried. And for good reason: Edna is missing. Fortunately, she returns after a few days but she can’t say where she has been. Instead she keeps mentioning that somebody is trying to get into the house. And soon Sam and Kay realize that there is something weird going on indeed.

Relic is a beautiful allegory on dementia and how it affects the entire family. Even though it is not to be taken literally, it is very realistic in that portrayal, reaching a touching emotional truth that is rare.

The film poster showing Edna (Robyn Nevin), Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) standing like a family portrait. Black mold is in the corner of the picture.
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Om det oändliga [About Endlessness] (2019)

Om det oändliga
Director: Roy Andersson
Writer: Roy Andersson
Cast: Bengt Bergius, Anja Broms, Tatiana Delaunay, Jan-Eje Ferling, Thore Flygel, Lotta Forsberg, Göran Holm, Stefan Karlsson, Martin Serner
Seen on: 16.9.2020

Plot:
A sequence of moments, some trivial, some monumental, accompanied by ironic and earnest ruminations about the vulnerability and humanity of life itself.

About Endlessness is a strange film and one that isn’t easily summarized (as you may have guessed from my “plot description”). It’s probably not a film for a casual viewer and how much you will get out of it will probably vary widely – I’m not sure about it myself. But it is definitely an interesting film and with its short runtime, it is pretty much perfect to just give it a try and see what it does for you.

The film poster showing a man and a woman hugging tight as they fly over the city.
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The Photograph (2020)

The Photograph
Director: Stella Meghie
Writer: Stella Meghie
Cast: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Y’lan Noel, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Rob Morgan, Chelsea Peretti, Courtney B. Vance
Seen on: 16.9.2020

Plot:
Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) is a journalist who has been working on a story for a while. When he interviews Isaac (Rob Morgan), a photograph catches his eye in Isaac’s home. Taken by a young photographer, Christine Eames (Chanté Adams) who was obviously very important to Isaac in the past (Y’lan Noel), Michael becomes interested in Christine’s life. But Christine passed away, so instead, Michael finds her daughter Mae (Issa Rae) who works as a curator in a museum. As they both rediscover her mother’s work and her past, the two are drawn to each other more and more.

I expected The Photograph to be a sappy love story and it is certainly that but it didn’t touch me quite as much as it should have.

The film poster showing Mae (Isaa Rae) and Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) pressing their foreheads together. The image is black and white.
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