Pahanhautoja [Hatching] (2022)

Pahanhautoja
Director: Hanna Bergholm
Writer: Hanna Bergholm, Ilja Rautsi
Cast: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila, Ida Määttänen
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7./8.5.2022

Plot:
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) grows up in what seems to be the perfect family. Her mother (Sophia Heikkilä) is an influencer who very carefully curates the family’s image to keep up this image of perfection. Her father (Jani Volanen) is not that present, but plays along. And her little brother Matias (Oiva Ollila) always tries to get the better of Tinja. When Tinja finds an egg in the forst, she decides to hatch it. Only it keeps growing. And when Tinja, an aspiring gymnast, fails to meet her mother’s expectations, trouble seems inevitable.

Hatching gives us a great set-up and a really interesting central metaphor, but it doesn’t quite come togethere. With the idea, I feel like we could have dug a little deeper and discovered a little more. Maybe even a sense of humor. As is, it feels a little like it’s missing the final oomph.

The film poster showing Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) in silhouette against a floral background. She is cradling a large egg that glows red.
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X (2022)

X
Director: Ti West
Writer: Ti West
Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, James Gaylyn, Simon Prast
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Plot:
Wayne (Martin Henderson) has rented a guest house on a remote farm and gathered his girlfriend Maxine (Mia Goth), stripper Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), vet Jackson (Kid Cudi) camera man RJ (Owen Campbell) and RJ’s girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega). Together they plan on shooting a farm-themed porno. Of course, the old farmer (Stephen Ure) can’t know about that part. But his frail wife Pearl gets wind of it. And that turns out to be much more dangerous for them than they could ever anticipate.

X was okay, but not exactly great. I liked the first part, but the second part left me pretty cold. There is a bit of nice meta commentary, but I was hoping for a little more.

The film poster showing Maxine (Mia Goth) holding an axe, behind a big wooden X.
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Barbaque [Some Like It Rare] (2021)

Barbaque
Director: Fabrice Eboué
Writer: Fabrice Eboué, Vincent Solignac
Cast: Fabrice Eboué, Marina Foïs, Jean-François Cayrey, Lisa Do Couto Texeira, Virginie Hocq, Victor Meutelet, Stéphane Soo Mongo
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Content Note: fatmisia

Plot:
Vincent (Fabrice Eboué) and Sophie (Marina Foïs) run a small butcher shop together, and things have been slow. It seems inevitable that they will have to close soon and bow to the pressures of bigger stores. Their marriage seems equally doomed to fail. And then their store is attacked by vegan activists to boot. When they just happen to pass one of the activists as he cycles along the road, Vincent loses it – and kills him. Next thing you know, the two are selling the vegan’s meat. And this might just be the thing to safe the store and the marriage, both. If only it wasn’t so hard to get.

Some Like It Rare is a funny film, although not every joke works equally and sometimes, it kicks down a little. Overall, I did have fun with it, though.

The film poster showing Vincent (Fabrice Eboué) and Sophie (Marina Foïs) posed over a fat body like hunters with their trophy. Vincent is holding a gun.
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Freaks Out (2021)

Freaks Out
Director: Gabriele Mainetti
Writer: Nicola Guaglianone, Gabriele Mainetti
Cast: Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini, Giorgio Tirabassi, Max Mazzotta, Franz Rogowski
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Content Note: sexual assault, sexism, (critical treatment of) ableism, medical experiments

Plot:
1943 in Italy. Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi) runs a circus with his four artists Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria) and Mario (Giancarlo Martini) – who actually all have supernatural powers that fuel their performances. The five try their best to stay out of the Nazis’ way, though there is the Circus Berlin stationed in Rome – supposedly the best circus in the world, headed by Franz (Franz Rogowski), a pianist with 12 fingers. Franz has superpowers of his own: he has seen the future and knows that it doesn’t look good for the Nazis. He is convinced that he has to find four superpowered people to prevent the Nazis from losing and he will do anything to find them.

I enjoyed Freaks Out for the most part. It is marred by the male gaze, but it’s entertaining and manages to combine comedy and Nazi horrors in a good way.

The film poster showing the four "freaks" in their performance poses, as well as Franz (Franz Rogowski) wearing a Nazi robe.
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Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Evan Whitten, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Craig Robinson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Plot:
Mona (Jeon Jong-seo) has been locked away in a psychiatric facility because she has special powers – she can control others with her mind. But now she is finally able to escape and makes her way to the next city, New Orleans. Unused to dealing with the world, she stands out. When she meets stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson) and Bonnie realizes what she is capable of, she takes her under her wing and together, they start a more or less new life.

So far, I didn’t really like Amirpour’s movies, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon that is a film that is a) not as obsessed with style as her other features and b) doesn’t take itself all that seriously. That means, it’s a film that has room for heart – and that’s just what I like to see.

Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) pressing against the window of a diner.
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Inexorable (2021)

Inexorable
Director: Fabrice du Welz
Writer: Joséphine Darcy Hopkins, Aurélien Molas, Fabrice du Welz
Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde, Mélanie Doutey, Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Janaina Halloy, Anaël Snoek, Jackie Berroyer, Sam Louwyck
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Content Note: misogyny, animal death/cruelty, incest

Plot:
Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an author, supposed to be working on his next book that has been a long time coming. Together with his publisher and wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) and their daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy), they decide to withdraw to Jeanne’s family estate in the country for a bit of calm. Shortly after their arrival, Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) turns up, bringing back the family dog that ran off. Quickly, Gloria finds a place in their home as a housekeeper and friend to Lucie. But her presence has an unsettling effect on the family.

Inexorable had me rolling my eyes so much because it is, on the one hand, boringly familiar, and on the other hand, enragingly misogynistic.

The film poster showing Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) and Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) grabbing each other by the throat in a sexy way. He is turning around in suspicion. Behind them we see Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) on the staircase in the distance.
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Upurga (2021) – DNF

Upurga
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

Plot:
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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Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Writer: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr.
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5.5.2022

Plot:
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) run a laundromat together, a business that has made it possible for them to raise their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) but that hasn’t been going that well and that is currently being audited by IRS. A fact that Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong) isn’t allowed to know. But Evelyn and Waymond have to take him with them to the appointment with their auditor Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). On the way there, Waymond starts behaving strangely though, giving weird instructions to Evelyn and finally telling her that he is from a parallel universe and the multiverse needs Evelyn to save it. Evelyn would rather not, but there is no escaping Jobu Tupaki.

I had extremely high expectations for this film. Not just because everything about it looked great, but also because I loved Swiss Army Man so very much. That, of course, also made me worried, because we all know how hard sophomore works have it when the first one is simply magical. In any case, I need not have worried. Everything Everywhere All at Once is an absolute delight.

The very colorful filmposter showing drawings of characters, various symbols and a whole lot of googly eyes arranged in a psychedelic circle.
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Kung Fu Zohra (2022)

Kung Fu Zohra
Director: Mabrouk El Mechri
Writer: Mabrouk El Mechri
Cast: Sabrina Ouazani, Ramzy Bedia, Eye Haidara, Tien Shue, Lina Hachani
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5.5.2022

Content Note: domestic violence

Plot:
When Zohra (Sabrina Ouazani) meets Omar (Ramzy Bedia), they connect over a shared love for kung fu movies. It doesn’t take long until they are married and Zohra finds herself in a new city with a new job and a new friend in Binta (Eye Haidara). But after a rather smooth start, things get bumpy. Omar starts hitting Zohra and she finds herself unable to leave him. Instead she finds strength in training her fighting skills.

Kung Fu Zohra is probably the funniest film about domestic violence in existence, combining a martial arts comedy with astute commentary on DV – a combination that shouldn’t work but does somehow.

The film poster showing Zohra (Sabrina Ouazani) in a fighting pose wearing a red kimono-like shirt with an arab letter on the back.
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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
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Plot:
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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