The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

The Dark and the Wicked
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Xander Berkeley, Lynn Andrews, Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Tom Nowicki
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2020
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Plot:
Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) have returned home to their parents’ farm in the middle of nowhere where their father is dying. As he gets weaker by the day, something around the farm seems to get stronger – something dark and twisted that soon seems to take over the farm and the family, becoming ever more threatening.

The Dark and the Wicked annoyed me from, basically, the first minute and we never got past that, the film and I. The longer it went on, the more annoyed I was.

The film poster showing an upside down cross in red brushstokes on a black background. A windmill can be seen inside the cross.
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Come True (2020)

Come True
Director: Anthony Scott Burns
Writer: Anthony Scott Burns
Cast: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Carlee Ryski, Christopher Heatherington, Chantal Perron, Tedra Rogers
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2019
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Plot:
Haunted by her nightmares, Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) has real problems sleeping and she really doesn’t want to sleep at home anymore. When she finds out about a sleep study, she hopes to have found the solution to her problem: she has a place to sleep and somebody to watch over her to make sure that she is alright. But the study doesn’t go at all as Sarah expects and her nightmares are getting more threatening every night. They even start to bleed into reality.

Come True is a prime example of a film that is doing really well until it shoots itself in the foot without any reason and then chucks itself off a bridge for good measure. I have rarely seen a film that destroys itself so thoroughly after a good start.

The film poster showing a girl's face, slightly distorted as if on video, one eye covered by an eye patch.

[SPOILERS]

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Laura Hasn’t Slept (2020)

Laura Hasn’t Slept
Director: Parker Finn
Writer: Parker Finn
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Lew Temple
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2020

Plot:
Laura (Caitlin Stasey) is seeing her therapist (Lew Temple) because she keeps having the same dream. Or nightmare really. She can barely sleep anymore and she wants to know what she can do about it.

Laura Hasn’t Slept is an effective short film with a great lead in Caitlin Stasey. Especially the first part, before we meet the monster, absolutely had me. Even though the special effects for the monster itself weren’t that great, though, the film could build from that strong first part enough that the last scare that I could even see coming, still really jolted me. A very satisfying watch.

The film poster showing the drawing of 7 pairs of eyes with the pupils rolling progressively more up until only the white is showing.

Fanxiao [Detention] (2019)

Fanxiao
Director: John Hsu
Writer: Shih-Keng Chien, Lyra Fu, John Hsu
Based on: the game of the same name
Cast: Gingle Wang, Meng-Po Fu, Jing-Hua Tseng, Cecilia Choi, Hung Chang Chu, Yue-Ti Liu,
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2020
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Plot:
It’s 1962 and Taiwan is under strict martial law. Fang (Gingle Wang) and Wei (Jing-Hua Tseng) wake up in their school campus, but something bad is going on. The campus is abandoned, decrepit and monsters are roaming the halls. It seems all tied to the secret book club run by teachers Mr Chang (Meng-Po Fu) and Ms Yin (Cecilia Choi) where Wei and others read censored literature. Apparently the police caught up with them and that is very bad indeed.

Fanxiao is a visually distinct, political film that knows how to use the horror genre to tell its challenging narrative. I was really impressed with it.

The film poster showing Fang (Gingle Wang) holding a candle in a dark school hallway littered with paper.
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Perempuan Tanah Jahanam [Impetigore] (2019)

Perempuan Tanah Jahanam
Director: Joko Anwar
Writer: Joko Anwar
Cast: Tara Basro, Ario Bayu, Marissa Anita, Christine Hakim
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2020
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Plot:
Maya (Tara Basro) and her best friend Dini (Marissa Anita) are both toll both attendants, struggling to just get by. After Maya is attacked on the job by a stranger who calls her by another name, they decide to change work and try to open a clothing store. But things don’t really get better. Until Maya uncovers some information prompted by her attacker that makes her realize that she might have a big inheritance in the country waiting for her. Maya and Dini pack their bags to figure everything out. But when they arrive in the village, things turn decidedly strange.

Impetigore has very strong elements, but a story that was absolutely confusing for me. Maybe I just lacked cultural context, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, so the film mostly left me with questions, and not really in a good way.

The film poster showing Maya's (Tara Basro) face, only instead of her eyes are two upside down heads.
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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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Los Que Vuelven [The Returned] (2019)

Los Que Vuelven
Director: Laura Casabe
Writer: Laura Casabe, Lisandro Colaberardino, Paulo Soria
Cast: Lali Gonzalez, María Soldi, Alberto Ajaka, Edgardo Castro, Javier Drolas
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2020
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Content Note: [critical treatment of] racism, colonialism

Plot:
On a maté plantation in the middle of nowhere at the beginning of the 20th century, Julia (María Soldi) should have a good life as she is married to the plantation owner, Mariano (Alberto Ajaka) and she is raisind a sweet son. But something about the relationship they have with the boy is off. And some of the plantation workers, pretty much slaves, come back down from the mountain in a weird trance and calling for a child. Maybe there is something to the stories about the Guaraní goddess Iguazú who is said to live in the mountains. And it is somehow all connected to Kerana (Lali Gonzalez) who used to work on the plantation.

Los Que Vuelven is an interesting and atmospheric look at colonialism in Argentina, but it might be a little too nice to white women and it did get a little too muddled towards the end. Still, it’s definitely worth watching and discussing.

The film poster showing a woman's profile superimposed over a misty forest.
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Av: The Hunt (2020)

Av: The Hunt
Director: Emre Akay
Writer: Emre Akay, Deniz Cuylan
Cast: Billur Melis Koç, Ahmet Rifat Sungar, Emre Yetim, Adam Bay
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2020
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Content Note: sexualized violence, domestic violence, misogyny, “honor killings”/femicide

Plot:
Ayse (Billur Melis Koç) has a lover, who is not only caring and in love with her, but also her safe place away from her abusive husband Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar). But when her affair is discovered, Sedat as well as Ayse’s entire family band together to see justice done. And in this case, it means killing Ayse to restore the family’s honor. So Ayse runs, but that’s easier said than done.

Av: The Hunt covers an important topic and makes some excellent points about the systematic nature of those so-called “honor killings”. At the same time, it starts off stronger than it continues and the ending left me unsatisfied.

The film poster showing Ayse's (Billur Melis Koç) running silhouette against the sunset.
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Pelikanblut [Pelican Blood] (2019)

Pelikanblut
Director: Katrin Gebbe
Writer: Katrin Gebbe
Cast: Nina Hoss, Katerina Lipovska, Adelia-Constance Ocleppo, Murathan Muslu, Yana Marinova
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 20.9.2020
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Plot:
Wiebke (Nina Hoss) runs a horse stable where she trains police horses. She lives with her adoptive daughter Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Ocleppo) and things are going really well. Since everything is so harmonic and business is taking up, Wiebke decides that she wants to adopt another a girl. As a single mother, she has to go to Bulgaria – as she already did with Nicolina. She and Nicolina find Raya (Katerina Lipovska) there and take her home. But with Raya, Wiebke may have gotten more than she bargained for.

Pelikanblut is an excellently made that speaks a lot of truth about adoption and traumatization, but uses it, unfortunately, to push the sacrificing mother image a little too hard. Still, most of it was so extremely good that I’m willing to forgive even the parts I strongly disagreed with.

The film poster showing Wiebke (Nina Hoss) carrying Raya (Katerina Lipovska) as if she was a baby.

[SPOILERS. They are vague, but may still take too much away.]

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She Dies Tomorrow (2020)

She Dies Tomorrow
Director: Amy Seimetz
Writer: Amy Seimetz
Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Katie Aselton, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe, Jennifer Kim, Josh Lucas, Adam Wingard, Michelle Rodriguez, Olivia Taylor Dudley
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 20.9.2020
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Plot:
Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) is convinced that she is going to die tomorrow. This knowledge leaves her a mess. When she tries to tell her friend Jane (Jane Adams) about it, Jane seems to get infected by Amy’s knowledge and grows convinced herself that she will die, too. And no matter who they tell about it, the knowledge just spreads, opening emotional abysses.

She Dies Tomorrow takes the age-old question of “what would you do if you knew that you’ll die tomorrow?” and gives a sobering, slightly depressing, but not unrealistic answer. I thought that it was an interesting one, but the film is a little uneven.

The film poster showing several faces superimposed over each other in blue, red and pink coloring, creating a distorted effect.
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