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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We Need to Do Something (2021)

We Need to Do Something
Director: Sean King O’Grady
Writer: Max Booth III
Based on: his novella
Cast: Sierra McCormick, Vinessa Shaw, Pat Healy, Lisette Alexis, John James Cronin, Ozzy Osbourne
Part of: SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 3.10.2021
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Content Note: homomisia, stalking, harrassment

Plot:
As a storm is about to hit, Diane (Vinessa Shaw), Robert (Pat Healy) and their children Melissa (Sierra McCormick) and Bobby (John James Cronin) take shelter in the family bathroom. Things are a little tense between them, and that’s not just because of the storm. When the storm seems to have abated, they find that they are trapped in the bathroom, though. And the longer they wait for rescue, the more fraught things become. Especially since Melissa is convinced that hse and her girlfriend Amy (Lisette Alexis) may have had something to do with the storm in the first place.

I liked how things kick off in the film and there is one really excellent scene, but other than that it’s not more than okay – until the end when the explanation for events ruined the entire thing for me.

The film poster showing an eye with smudged make-up opened very wide. The image is bathed in red light.

[SPOILERS]

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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
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Plot:
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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Shine 3D (2011)

Shine
Director: Jesse Blanchard
Writer: Jesse Blanchard
Part of: Secret Society Screening at the SLASH Film Festival
Seen on: 3.10.2021
[Just a quick note: I saw the 2D version of this film.]

Plot:
A dark stage. A barber shop quartett. A cone of light. And outside that light, something is lurking.

Shine is the first “puppetcore” project by Blanchard: a gorey horror comedy made entirely with puppets. And I loved both the narrative concept and the idea behind puppetcore. The short is entirely charming and very funny, and was the perfect intro for seeing Blanchard’s first feature lenght puppetcore movie, Frank & Zed.

A puppet barber shop quartett performing. They are all holding hats in their hands, one of the hats has a bite taken out of it.