Mayhem

There are few better locations to watch horror movies than in the iconic hotel that was featured in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, and the inaugural Overlook Film Festival, which I wrote about in great detail, took full advantage of this. Along with some possible classics (you can read my review of It Comes At Night right now and a full review of Hounds of Love is coming) I spent much of my time there watching movie after movie, and was pleased by the variety of genre films on hand.

Let’s take a look at what I saw, in order that I watched them!

Stephanie

Stephanie

Directed by Akiva Goldsman

The latest entry in the “creepy kid” subgenre, Stephanie is a mess of a film, one that tries to be many things and fails at most of them.

Stephanie is a little kid who’s living all by herself. Her parents are gone, her brother is lying dead in his bed, and there’s an invisible monster prowling that she can only escape by hiding. We know that the world is in chaos, but don’t know what’s happened. Stephanie has survived on her own by eating various preserves her parents have jarred, and it’s here that the film is its strongest. Young Shree Crooks is a terrific young actor and nearly carries the film by herself, but placing the burden of a story on a child’s shoulders is generally a bad idea.

Then, her parents return. In this world thrown into chaos, they try to take care of her by making her smoothies, pancakes, and bubble baths. They pick oranges from their convenient and massive backyard orchard, stressing about the clearly horrible state of the world. As they try and figure out how to stop the monster, the dad starts building a fence around the house and the mom talks to Stephanie to figure out how she survived on her own.

It’s bookended by an absolutely bizarre and totally pointless story set in the near future, in which two scientists look back at what Stephanie was up to by watching the movie we end up watching, which makes less sense the more you think about it.

There’s almost too many dumb moments in this film to note. The parents get their news from a TV channel called “UR NEWS” that spells out exactly what is happening. In one scene, in one cut, people prep to perform impromptu brain surgery. If the sound in the screening hadn’t been turned up so loud that the numerous jump scares landed regardless of effect, it wouldn’t move you at all. This is a very weird, disjoined effort.

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10

The Bad Batch

The Bad Batch

Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

It’s the future. Possibly.

People are being sent to live in the desert once they’re no longer considered civilized enough to live in society, and various post-apocalyptic tribes have formed. Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) learns this the hard way as she crosses over onto the sands, only to be immediately picked up by a marauding pack of cannibals.

Soon, she has been freed of both an arm and a leg, both of which were undoubtedly made into delicious meals, but she doesn’t take it sitting down. She manages to escape and make her way to a community called Comfort, which is the opposite of the hellish landscape the cannibals inhabit and becomes her home. But the need for revenge is strong, and Arlen soon opts to get back at those who wronged her, ending up with a kid in the process.

After they are separated, she seeks to track her daughter down, getting the help of a wasteland hobo played by Jim Carey, a cannibal played by Aquaman himself Jason Momoa, and Keanu Reeves, as the leader of a harem. After Amirpour’s fantastic debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, I don’t think anyone expected her to get this much star power in her film, nor to do such strange things with them, but here we are.

The Bad Batch feels like a dream, a series of hazy events that make no sense and don’t fully gel, pausing occasionally to show off a music video. It brought to mind Southland Tales and it will probably generate a similar response – take of that what you will. It’s also the only film I know of that features an Ace of Base song on the soundtrack followed immediately by Die Antwoord.

/Film Rating: 4.5 out of 10

MFA

M.F.A.

Directed by Natalia Leite

M.F.A. reminded me a lot of Ms. 45, which isn’t really a fair comparison. Ms. 45 is a straight-up exploitation movie, but one with a surprisingly feminist beat. It concerns a mute New Yorker who is raped twice in one day and loses her mind, grabbing a gun off the last attacker and making him pay. She then takes her vengeance out on every sleazy man in the city, and being that is New York City we’re talking about (in the ’70s, no less), she has plenty of targets.

M.F.A. has a similar premise on its sleeve, but it’s really concerned with the current rape culture that’s consumed our society. It actively deals with how women are often ignored or slandered for coming forward with accusations, and how college athletes seem to get away with their crimes, their actions shrugged off with comments like “boys will be boys.”

The film stars Francesca Eastwood as Noelle, an artist going for her MFA who is raped by a fellow student when she attends his party. Her best friend cautions Noelle that no one will believe her and sure enough, when Noelle brings it up with the school, she is immediately questioned: how much did she have to drink, did she explicitly say no, etc. After getting a text from the rapist, who seems to think nothing happened (even though it’s tearing her life apart), she heads over to his apartment to confront him. One thing leads to another and she pushes him off a railing to his death.

Now that Noelle has had a taste of revenge, her art improves, as she starts pouring more of herself into it. She also starts looking online for other cases like hers, and things start to get a bit more extreme. It all leads up to an incredibly satisfying finale. This is a smart, confident thriller.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Continue Reading Overlook Film Festival Reviews >>

Pages: 1 2 3Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

About the Author