Becky (2020)

Becky
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Writer: Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye
Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel, Isaiah Rockcliffe, Ryan McDonald, James McDougall
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2020
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Plot:
Jeff (Joel McHale) takes his daughter Becky (Lulu Wilson) and their dogs to their lake house where they used to spend all their holidays before Becky’s mother died. But Jeff has also invited his new girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe) – much to Becky’s horror. She is not ready for her father to move on and prepares to make the stay at the house miserable for everyone. But everything changes when escaped convict Dominick (Kevin James) shows up at their house with his cronies, looking for something he left there many years earlier. When Dominick makes sure that everyone knows that his threats are for real, Becky takes up the fight.

Becky is basically Home Alone, but Home Alone with a whole lot of blood and violence. That is to say: it is a whole lot of fun and definitely not for kids. It was the last film of the 10-day festival for me, so I saw it when I was rather tired already, but it definitely managed to keep me engaged and entertained. Absolutely a nice ending of the festival.

The film poster showing Becky (Lulu Wilson), blood splatter all over her face.
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Alone (2020)

Alone
Director: John Hyams
Writer: Mattias Olsson
Cast: Jules Willcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald, Jonathan Rosenthal
Part of: secret society screening at the SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2020
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Plot:
After losing her husband, Jessica (Jules Willcox) is driving across the country by herself – she’s moving, ready for a new start. But first she has to get through the long drive on her own. And that turns out to be more difficult than she thought when a creepy man (Marc Menchaca) starts to follow her. In fact, he seems to be hunting her and despite her safeguards, he manages to capture her. But Jessica still has some fight left in her.

After Av: The Hunt and Hunted, Alone completed the trifecta of SLASH movies where a woman gets hunted by one or more men in the woods and has to fight for her survival. Of the three films, Alone is probably the most consistent in quality, but probably also the one that attempts the least.

The film poster showing the view from a driver's seat in a lone car at night. In the rearview mirror we can see a woman's eye opened wide and headlights of the car behind her.
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The Reckoning (2020)

The Reckoning
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Edward Evers-Swindell, Charlotte Kirk, Neil Marshall
Cast: Charlotte Kirk, Joe Anderson, Sean Pertwee, Ian Whyte, Steven Waddington, Rick Warden, Emma Holzer, Mark Ryan
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2020
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Content Note: suicide, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Plot:
1665. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) are happily married to Joseph (Joe Anderson) and they have a beautiful baby. Even though their life is hard, they are doing pretty well. Until Joseph catches the plague. Fearing that he will condemn his wife and child to death as well, he commits suicide. Grace struggles to pay rent and when she also declines to sleep with her landlord to make up for the lost payment, he (Steven Waddington) accuses her of witchcraft instead. Grace is imprisoned and has to face the famous witch hunter Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) in a battle for her life.

The Reckoning really did not work for me and that despite the fact that it was obviously oriented towards feminism (even though it doesn’t quite hit the mark here). It was exhausting any way too long.

The film poster showing a leafless tree silhouetted against the night sky, a rope can be seen hanging from it.
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Spree (2020)

Spree
Director: Eugene Kotlyarenko
Writer: Eugene Kotlyarenko, Gene McHugh
Cast: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Frankie Grande, Lala Kent
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Plot:
Kurt (Joe Keery) has been recording himself since he was just a kid, and broadcasting his life to the world. The only thing is – he barely managed to build a following and is far from achieving his dream of becoming internet famous. He earns his living as a rideshare driver and has come up with a new plan to go viral and finally attract the attention he so depserately craves. And if people have to die for his fame, so be it.

At the risk of being the kind of thrill-seeking audience that the social media/viral culture produces – the very culture that Spree would like to criticize – I have to say that the film unfortunately left me pretty bored.

The film poster showing Kurt in the driver seat of his car, looking towards the backseat. A bloody handprint can be seen on the back of the seat.
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Nouvelle Saveur [Haute Cuisine] (2019)

Nouvelle Saveur
Director: Merryl Roche
Writer: Merryl Roche
Cast: Joséphine Japy, Sébastien Houbani, Philippe Résimont, Serge Dupuy
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival (winner of the Short Film Prize)
Seen on: 26.9.2020

Plot:
Marie (Joséphine Japy) got the coveted spot in the prize-winning kitchen of Bruno Mercier (Philippe Résimont), but she struggles to find her place there and reach the expected quality to advance in her position. That she has to compete against everybody else there, especially Thomas (Sébastien Houbani) who has been there longer, doesn’t help either. But one night she cuts herself – and it appears that her blood is the ingredient that was missing in her cooking so far.

I have to admit that I usually snub short films – if I have to choose between watching short films and watching a feature, I will go for the feature in like 99% of cases. So I always like that they show the winner of the Short Film Prize together with the closing film of the SLASH festival, although I have no idea what the competition was like overall. In any case, Nouvelle Saveur was well made and good to watch, although I thought that the idea wasn’t all that revolutionary or fresh. Generally it was a rather conventional short – not bad at all, very well executed, but lacking that special ingredient, that spark that would make it really stand out.

The film poster showing Marie (Joséphine Japy) in cooking clothes.

Das schaurige Haus [The Creepy House] (2020)

Das schaurige Haus
Director: Daniel Prochaska
Writer: Marcel Kawentel, Timo Lombeck
Based on: Martina Wildner‘s novel [German]
Cast: Leon Orlandianyi, Marii Weichsler, Lars Bitterlich, Benno Rosskopf, Julia Koschitz, Michael Pink, Inge Maux
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Plot:
Hendrik (Leon Orlandianyi) and his little brother Eddie (Benno Rosskopf) move with their mother (Julia Koschitz) from Germany to Carinthia in the south of Austria. Their mother is a geologist who will study caves in the area. Hendrik is less thrilled about having to leave all his friends behind. And as soon as they move in the house, strange things start to happen with Eddie. Hendrik meets local kids Ida (Marii Weichsler) and Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) who tell him of the legends surrounding the house. Together the kids start to investigate.

Das schaurige Haus is a pretty perfect example for a kids’ horror film: it is always aimed at kids without being patronizing, funny, and it manages to be creepy in the right dose. Even though I’m not a kid anymore, I enjoyed it as well.

The film poster showing the four kids Ida (Marii Weichsler), Hendrik ( Leon Orlandianyi), Eddie (Benno Rosskopf) and Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) with flashlamps. Below them is an old house, everything is shrouded in fog.
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Slaxx (2020)

Slaxx
Director: Elza Kephart
Writer: Patricia Gomez, Elza Kephart
Cast: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Kenny Wong, Tianna Nori, Erica Anderson, Stephen Bogaert, Jonathan Emond
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Plot:
Libby (Romane Denis) is excited to start her job at the trendiest, most fashionable clothing store in existence – and just before their new line of jeans is set to be revealed. It is a special night indeed as the staff prepares the store for the new line after it closed. Not only does the owner of the franchise, Harold Landsgrove (Stephen Bogaert) drop by for a visit, they are also expecting influencer Peyton Jules (Erica Anderson) who will get an exclusive look at the new pants to stream to her followers. But when it turns out that the new pants are out for blood, things take an unexpected turn.

Slaxx had a difficult position in the day’s schedule as the fourth film of a quadruple feature – but it had no problems to keep my attention at all. I really enjoyed it – both the absurd premise and the serious core behind that silliness.

The film poster showing a butt in a pair of jeans.
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#ShakespearesShitstorm (2020)

#ShakespearesShitstorm
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Writer: Brandon Bassham
Based on: William Shakespeare‘s The Tempest
Cast: Lloyd Kaufman, Erin Patrick Miller, Abraham Sparrow, Kate McGarrigle, Amanda Flowers, Debbie Rochon, Zoë Geltman, Dylan Greenberg, Frazer Brown, Monique Dupree, Teresa Hui, Ahkai Franklin
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Content Note: racism, sexism, ableism

Plot:
Prospero (Lloyd Kaufman) and his sister Antoinette (Lloyd Kaufman) were working together to make the world a better place with their scientific achievements. But when Prospero realizes that Antoinette’s motives aren’t quite as noble, he took his blind daughter Miranda (Kate McGarrigle) and fled to Tromaville. Now Antoinette and her cronies are on a cruise and Prospero has a plan: he feeds laxatives to the whales around them and the ensuing literal shit storm brings them all to Tromaville.

#ShakespearesShitstorm is the Troma take on Shakespeare’s Tempest, plus the evil of pharmaceutical companies and, for some reason, the evil of “woke culture”. I know that Troma movies aren’t my thing and I probably would have skipped it entirely if it hadn’t been the third film in a quadruple feature, but that last part – the dig at social activism – really made me hate the film.

The film poster showing a drawing of Prospero (Lloyd Kaufman) holding a skull in his hand that is running with green goo. There are several TV screens showing stills from the film.
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Scare Package (2019)

Scare Package
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Scare Package is a great anthology that takes on horror tropes and ridicules them with a whole lot of love and a great sense of humor. The various segments all bring something else to the table and yet all fit together, creating the feeling of a unified film more than many other anthology movies manage. It really is very well done overall.

The film poster showing a drawing of a disembodied hand picking out a video tape from a shelf of tapes. The cover of the video tape shows that same hand picking up that same video tape and so on.

More about each of the segments after the jump.

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Bakuretsu mashin shôjo – bâsuto mashin gâru [Rise of the Machine Girls] (2019)

Bakuretsu mashin shôjo – bâsuto mashin gâru
Director: Yûki Kobayashi
Writer: Yûki Kobayashi, Jun Tsugita
Based on: characters created by Noboru Iguchi for The Machine Girl
Cast: Himena Tsukimiya, Kanon Hanakage, Tak Sakaguchi, Toshie Negishi, Rie Kitahara
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Content Note: sexism, ableism

Plot:
Ami (Himena Tsukimiya) and her sister Yoshie (Kanon Hanakage) struggle to get along. They earn their living by performing acrobatics together, hoping to stave of having to sell more body parts to Dharma Corp. What Ami doesn’t know is that after hourse, Yoshie exchanges her prosthetic arm for a machine gun and fights for justice on the streets. When assassin Tetsuya (Tak Sakaguchi) comes to watch their show around the same time that Yoshie’s campaign starts to strike very close to the heart of Dharma Corp, things start to become dangerous for all of them.

Rise of the Machine Girls makes a very clear case for one thing: movies of its kind seem to have run their course. This particular subgenre (I will dub it “out of control Japanese movies” for now) is in dire need of fresh material. Or at least Rise of the Machine Girls is.

The film poster showing the main characters, all armed, in front of a bright pink background.
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