AFM 2010 Wrap-Up! The Sights! The Sounds! The Scares!
THE INCITE MILL
Hideo (Ring) Nakata returns for this Japanese riff on Ten Little Indians. A group of volunteers agree to be part of a psychological experiment and are shuttled to a quasi-futuristic place called “Paranoia House.” Locked inside for seven days (heh) and watched by an armed robot (!), the group quickly find themselves in a “Clue”-style murder mystery when one of them winds up dead.
Ever since his 2002 J-horror masterpiece Dark Water, Nakata’s output hasn’t exactly been stellar, and while The Incite Mill isn’t a complete return to form, it’s still an entertaining little death game flick. There are plenty of unexpected moments and the cool setting is enough to keep you on edge.
Nakata’s direction is almost too subdued for the slasher elements, but the story moves along at a nice clip and could almost pass for a flick right outta the 1980’s.
3 1/2 out of 5
In 1940 the entire population of a small New Hampshire town mysteriously walked up a mountain trail and disappeared. Only one survivor stumbled out of the woods, recounting stories of chaos and death before going batshit insane. In the present day a team of history buffs, filmmakers and psychologists find the coordinates of the trail and proceed on a long expedition to find out what happened to the lost civilization. Naturally things don’t work out too well for them.
If this sounds like typical Blair Witch-ian horror fare, believe me; it isn’t. YellowBrickRoad is a deeply unsettling, well crafted experience that makes for one of the best independent horror films in the last several years! Strong performances and killer minimalist direction from Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland make for an experience that slowly invades your psyche along with the deteriorating mental state of the characters. This is one of those rare indie gems that makes the most of its meager budget and showcases some major upcoming talent. Keep your eyes out for this one!
4 1/2 out of 5
THE TROLL HUNTER
This latest found footage movie comes from Norway and follows three documentary students who set out to investigate bear poaching, inadvertently stumbling upon a very different kind of hunter. Following him into the mountains on multiple “troll hunts,” the filmmakers discover that these giant ravenous creatures are the Norwegian government’s greatest cover-up and seek to document as much of their activity as possible.
There’s a lot of humor and destruction on display in The Troll Hunter, but quite a bit of it seems very culturally specific. The trolls look absolutely incredible, and when they wreak havoc (particularly in the last 10 minutes), this film is amazing. But way too much of the movie is spent on the road, which makes for a good scenic view of Norway but not the crazy romp the filmmakers are going for. By now the found footage angle feels really played out, and this film could’ve really benefited from a more traditional narrative approach.
2 1/2 out of 5
The latest Spanish horror flick from Filmax is a good old-fashioned home invasion flick. The victims are a wealthy family of three who are held hostage when several masked men break into their house for a late night robbery. At first they only appear interested in money, but paranoia and unexpected guests cause the inevitable downward spiral and a major fight for survival.
For a worn-out subgenre, Kidnapped still manages to deliver a heart-stopping experience. Using one-take long shots and the occasional split-screen, director Miguel Ángel Vivas’ style is clearly influenced by Irreversible, and he uses many of the same techniques to ratchet up the tension.
Even though it doesn’t break any new ground, the hyper-realistic execution has enough suspense and unexpected twists to rattle you to the core.
4 out of 5