Starring Elizabeth Debicki, Javier Godino, David James
Directed by Heidi Lee Douglas, Arantxa Echevarria and 5 others
Boasting a lineup of some of the best short films canvassing a wide array of genres (horror, comedy, and drama to name a few), Etheria Film Night has become a launching pad for budding female filmmakers, and some of the products to come out of this event have been remarkably solid. This brings us to my latest review of 7 From Etheria, and at the risk of my fat fingers cramping up from typing a septet of names, trust me when I tell you this collaboration is indeed a memorable one… however (cue ominous music)…
The film boasts a robust 7-piece core, and since there’s no wraparound story, we get tossed head-first into the fire with the first tale, which is about a couple of scientists who come into possession of an alien-like goo that has been captured from space, then mistakenly falls into the hands of one of the scientist’s daughters, who’s partying her buns off at a snowy rave. Needless to say, the after-effects of ingesting this stuff is extremely hazardous to whoever comes in contact with the user. A nice way to jet off of the starting blocks here, and I was genuinely impressed with the cinematography in this one.
Next up is an odder-than-odd quickie about a woman who longs to gain back some past glory from her gelatin-wrestling heyday (no, I’m not kidding). It’s very odd, very misplaced, and just an overall drop-off from such a strong opening presentation.
The third short is about a mother and her blind son, who are trying to survive amidst an apocalyptic backdrop – ultimately surprising, but the payoff left me scratching the skin off of my skull.
Story number four is a white-knuckled thriller about a woman whose quiet evening with her cat is interrupted by a man who claims that someone has broken into his upstairs apartment – a very creepy set of occurrences are to follow, and this one will have you wondering just who’s telling the truth here. One of the film’s best productions, top to bottom.
The fifth entry is about a woman who is attempting to further progress the time-travel theorem put forth by Kurt Godel in 1949, and if you needed a nap, this is the short in which to rest your eyes – talk about stomping on the brakes.
The sixth entry – which follows a female penal colony in the early 1800’s and a convicted woman’s chilling stretch on her “guardian’s” property – somewhat reminded me of The Witch, complete with a cute little lamb thrown in for evil measure (tiny bit of sarcasm). Not a bad way to kill around twenty minutes; but this one, like a few others tossed into the mix, is one of those displays that needs much more time to amply expand into what could be a decent full-length production.
The final yarn is one that could be one of those instances that befalls anyone in today’s society – the threat of a carjacking and its crippling after-effects. This one is simple, to the point, and ultimately shocking – hands down my favorite out of all the short films collected for this entire movie.
Overall, 7 From Etheria won’t blow anyone away with its random assortment of mini-showcases, but it still should set into motion some already promising careers that look to be on the rise. Aside from the consistently up-and-down pacing of the shorts, I can at least recommend this as a one-time viewing and am already looking forward to next year’s submissions.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE
Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.
What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!
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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic
Directed by William Friedkin
Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.
It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.
The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?
In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.
Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.
Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.
Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!
As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.
See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.
Tribeca 2018: The Dark Review – Atmospheric Zombie Horror Done Different
Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols
Written by Justin P. Lange
Directed by Justin P. Lange
The zombie subgenre often goes through waves where it focuses on one aspect that changes the status quo before overdoing it completely. Romero’s slow shuffling zombies were the norm until we got fast moving zombies with Return of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later. There was even a period where we had smarter zombies, like in Fido and Warm Bodies. Now it seems like we’re about to enter an era where the undead are meant to elicit emotion, making us feel for those who have no feelings themselves. Such is the case with Justin P. Lange’s The Dark.
The film follows Mina (Alexander), a young woman who was murdered and stalks the forest that saw her demise. Anytime some unfortunate soul enters her area, they are quickly dispatched and become her feast. But when she stumbles across a young boy named Alex (Nichols) in the back of a car who shows signs of clear and horrifying abuse, she can’t bring herself to do away with him. Rather, she becomes his protector while trying to protect her own little world. As police and locals search for Alex to help bring him home, their own growing relationship seems to be changing Mina in ways she never thought possible.
Stylishly shot by cinematographer Klemens Hufnagl (The Eremites, Macondo), The Dark lives and breathes along with the forest in which it spends the majority of its time. The film feels very natural, as though no artificial lighting was used and we are brought into the world in which these characters live. Steel blue washes over the screen as dusk turns into night while light and dark contrast during the day. The only visuals that didn’t play well were Mina’s undead look and Alex’s scarred eyes, which were both distracting but possible to be overlooked.
Both Alexander and Nichols performed well enough, although the film spent too much time on the first two acts of their story, their combative phase and then the period where they build trust, leaving them scrambling at the end to show that they not only trust but are reliant upon each other. Alex finds trust in Mina after his horrific ordeal while Mina’s choice to protect and guide him sees her humanity slowly coming back.
Where the film goes awry is that it doesn’t know how to convey its message. We learn that Mina’s death was the result of a sexual assault by her mother’s boyfriend, who can barely look Mina in the eyes, turns violent. Alex’s captor is also a man of violence but that’s mixed with weakness and timidity. This is a theme throughout the movie, where the adults are wicked and/or self-serving and it’s only these teenagers, who certainly have endured a fair share of suffering, can be seen as worthy of empathy and understanding.
Also present and enough to stay in the back of my mind while watching The Dark were the strange and inconsistent ways it handled time. We learn that Mina’s death was several years, possibly more than a decade, prior to where we see her now. But when presented with an iPhone, she first doesn’t know that it has a history of previously made calls and then, without anyone explaining it, she knows exactly how to use it. Meanwhile, Alex’s scars on his eyes, which the movie hints were done by his kidnapper, suggest that he’s been held captive for months if not longer but the the opening of the movie suggests that it’s been a few weeks, at most. While not overly distracting, these are certainly issues that pop out.
These faults aside, The Dark is still effective and emotionally charged. With enough kills to satisfy the bloodthirsty, it will certainly have an audience who love films about the undead but are craving something with a different taste.
Poignant and original, The Dark is not without its flaws. But it sure does know that horror doesn’t have to be solely of the flesh. It can just as easily be horror of the heart.
- FlixtheCat You're very kind.
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