Dramarama (2020)

Director: Jonathan Wysocki
Writer: Jonathan Wysocki
Cast: Nick Pugliese, Anna Grace Barlow, Nico Greetham, Megan Suri, Danielle Kay, Zak Henri
Part of: Transition International Queer Minorities Film Festival
Seen on: 30.1.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

It’s 1994. Gene (Nick Pugliese) has been friends with Ally (Danielle Kay), Oscar (Nico Greetham), Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) and Claire (Megan Suri) for pretty much all of high school, brought together by their love for all things dramatic, though all in different ways. Now high school is over and everyone but Gene is preparing to leave town for college. Rose has invited them all for a Victorian Murder Mystery / farewell party and Gene is dreading it a little bit as he hopes to finally come out to the group, and is very doubtful that his Christian friends will accept it easily. But when the final clue to the mystery goes missing and pizza is delivered by older, and way cooler high school drop-out JD (Zak Henri) who stirs up some resentments within the group, things become a little more dramatic than anticipated.

Dramarama is a funny and extremely sweet film that doesn’t work like your usual coming out film – and I loved that. As I loved the entire film.

The film poster showing Oscar (Nico Greetham) dressed up as Sherlock Holmes, Claire (Megan Suri) dressed up as Alice, Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) dressed up as Miss Havisham, Ally (Danielle Kay) dressed up as Mina Harker and Gene (Nick Pugliese) dressed up as Doctor Jekyll.
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Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu, Jake Manley, Julien Marlon Samani, Nicola Peltz
Seen on: 2.1.2022

After a brutal break-up, Sloane (Emma Roberts) is alone for Christmas, a fact that her family will never let her forget, trying to set her up anyway they can. When Sloane’s more free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) suggest that she should just get herself a holidate, a guy to keep her company during the holiday parties, to escape the hassle, Sloane is hesitant at first. But then she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) who is equally fed up with dating around the holidays. They agree to try holidating for New Year’s, and since it works out rather well, they agree to continue until they have something better. But maybe there is nothing better for them than each other.

Holidate is a cute film with a few good moments, but both Sloane and Jackson remained a little too bland to make the film really memorable.

The film poster showing Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) with uncertain faical expressions standing next to a Christmas tree.
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Totul nu va fi bine [Everything Will Not Be Fine] (2020)

Totul nu va fi bine
Director: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Writer: Helena Maksyom, Adrian Pirvu
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2021

Just before Adrian Pirvu was born, his mother traveled from Romania to Ukraine on a business trip. Unfortunately that was just when the nuclear accident in Chernobyl struck, exposing both his mother and Adrian to radiation. As a result, Adrian almost lost his eyesight entirely. Doctors were able to save one eye, though. Now an adult, Adrian starts looking for people who are suffering similarly from long-term effects of the disaster. He finds Ukranian Helena Maksyom whose spine causes her problems and chronic pain. As they work on the documentary together, tracing Chernobyl’s lasting effects, the two fall in love.

Totul nu va fi bine is an usual film, and a surprisingly personal one. While it is a bit of a pity that the actual Chernobyl disaster takes a backseat to the relationship of the two filmmakers, there is something precious about the resulting film.

The film poster showing the top of a high-rise with two people walking along it, but the image is turned 90 degrees. There is also a smaller image of Helena Maksyom and Adrian Pirvu cuddled together.
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Supernova (2020)

Director: Harry Macqueen
Writer: Harry Macqueen
Cast: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter MacQueen
Seen on: 8.11.2021

Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) are setting off on a road trip together, towards a concert Sam will be giving, the first in a long time. On the way there, they are determined to visit important places and people of their life together. Since Tusker was diagnosed with dementia and is lapsing more and more, their trip is something like a farewell tour, too.

Supernova is a beautiful and sad film with great performances and a devastating soundtrack (thank you, Keaton Henson). It should not be missed.

The film poster showing Sam (Colin Firth) with his arm around Tusker (Stanley Tucci) as they stand on the shore of a lake.
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Horse Girl (2020)

Horse Girl
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie
Cast: Alison Brie, Molly Shannon, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, John Ortiz, Lauren Weedman, Hazel Armenante, Jake Picking, Toby Huss, Robin Tunney, Matthew Gray Gubler
Seen on: 3.11.2021

Content Note: cripping up

Sarah (Alison Brie) lives a very quiet life. She works at an arts and craft store with Joan (Molly Shannon) and very much likes crafts herself. She lives with a roommate, Nikki (Debby Ryan), who keeps inviting her to go out a little more, but she rather stays home to watch a supernatural TV show about Agatha (Robin Tunney) and Darren (Matthew Gray Gubler). In her time off, she likes to visit a horse that used to be hers. But Sarah finds herself having strange dreams and zoning out more and more. There is something going on that she just can’t grasp.

Horse Girl is a very well-made film that is serious beneath its soft appearance and its sense of humor. With a fantastic performance by Brie, we get a character study that packs a punch after a soft beginning.

The film poster showing an ultra close-up of Sarah (Alison Brie) .
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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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Violation (2020)

Director: Dusty Mancinelli, Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Writer: Dusty Mancinelli, Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Cast: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 1.10.2021

Content Note: rape

A while ago, Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) and her husband Caleb (Obi Abili) spent some time with Miriam’s sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and Greta’s husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) whom Miriam has known since they were kids. The relationship between the sisters hasn’t always been easy and the meeting between them is supposed to be a fresh start. Since things between Miriam and Caleb have been icy for a while, Miriam also hopes for a fresh start with him as well. But things turn out quite differently for Miriam, leaving her shaken to her core and desperate.

Violation is not an easy film. It’s not easily digested and it works better on an intellectual level than on an entertainment level. But that’s kind of the point as it questions how rape-revenge movies usually work.

The film poster showing Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) screaming in the rain.
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Boys from County Hell (2020)

Boys from County Hell
Director: Chris Baugh
Writer: Chris Baugh, Brendan Mullin
Cast: Jack Rowan, Nigel O’Neill, Louisa Harland, Michael Hough, John Lynch, Fra Fee, Morgan C. Jones, Andrea Irvine, Robert Strange
Part of: surprise movie at the SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 30.9.2021

Eugene (Jack Rowan) is a rather aimless young man who spends most of his time avoiding working for his father Francie (Nigel O’Neill), and drinking with his best friend William (Fra Fee) and William’s girlfriend Claire (Louisa Harland). Every once in a while, a tourist comes along that they can tell about the local vampire legend that inspired even Bram Stoker and show the mysterious cairn where said vampire is supposedly laid to rest – a nice change of pace. But when the cairn stands in the way of the newly planned highway, things become strange and bloody quickly.

Boys from County Hell was the festival’s surprise movie and when they announced it, all they said was that it’s less than 90 minutes and a comedy. “Just what I needed,” I thought, but unfortunately the film doesn’t quite work.

The film poster showing the main characters and an excavator inside the shape of a vampire head.
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Teddy (2020)

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

Content Note: sexualized harrassment

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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Hunter Hunter (2020)

Hunter Hunter
Director: Shawn Linden
Writer: Shawn Linden
Cast: Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Devon Sawa, Nick Stahl, Gabriel Daniels, Lauren Cochrane
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.9.2021

Joseph (Devon Sawa), Anne (Camille Sullivan) and their daughter Renee (Summer H. Howell) live off the grid, in the middle of the forest, getting by as trappers, selling the furs of the animals they catch. When they realize that a wolf is in the area, they are highly alerted, though. Anne is worried for Renee in particular, as they believe it’s a rogue wolf who is likely to attack them and who, at the very least, is a danger to their already slim livelihood. So Joseph sets out to catch the wolf.

I have rarely watched a film that left me with such a strong urge to drink something like this movie. And I actually do mean that as a compliment. It’s depressing and tense and highly effective.

The film poster showing a howling wolf, painted with white color on a black background. in front of it the silhouette of a man, and in front of that Anne (Camille Sullivan), rifle in hand.
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