Now that Fantastic Fest has concluded its week-long in-person screenings, audiences that couldn’t make it to Austin have a great opportunity to see many of the films that were shown via the virtual portion of festival that runs through October 11. A week wasn’t nearly long enough for this voracious fan to take in all the content that I wanted to see so I’m glad to have the extra days to watch (and review for you!) several more. Expect one more batch after this but do visit HERE for all the information on how you can sign up to stream four of these titles (and more!) for yourself! Don’t delay, though, some films are only available for a limited amount of time!
I wasn’t surprised in the least to find out that KNOCKING was based on a minor novella from one of Sweden’s celebrated crime novelists (Johan Theorin). It has all the standard set-ups and expected tricks of a quick read you’d burn through in one sitting over a cup of coffee. While the premise and resolution are nothing revolutionary, it’s how first-time feature director Frida Kempff and star Cecilia Milocco take the material and mold it to Milocco’s intense performance that make this one crackle and pop. As a woman recently released from a mental health facility living on her own in a new apartment, Milocco leaves enough room at the outset for her character to have somewhere to go once she begins to hear strange knocking noises in her unit. Are these sounds in her mind, a cruel bit of torture to remind her of a past tragedy when she wasn’t paying attention? Or are they attempts by someone in her building reaching out for her help? At 78 minutes, the answer is actually held out longer than you might think, and, to its credit, it comes on top of a dandy stylistic choice by Kempff giving the audience something else of importance to focus on. Ends perfectly where it should.
Alone With You
Watching ALONE WITH YOU late at night all by yourself is maybe not the most advisable thing, especially if you’re prone to let your mind play tricks on you. A solid example of how to keep your artistic mind churning at high speed during the pandemic, the writing/directing team of Justin Brooks and Emily Bennett (who also stars) have produced a nifty little thriller that isn’t short on surprise. In a comfortable NYC first floor apartment, Charlie (Bennett) eagerly awaits the return of her photographer girlfriend Simone (Emma Myles) on their anniversary. Simone’s late though, and the longer Charlie waits the more their apartment starts to feel more confining, eventually trapping her inside with a growing sense of dread…and Emma’s creepy mannequins in the basement covered in sheets. The mannequins really got me here and why Charlie left the sheets on them is the one thing I definitely kept yelling at the screen each time she ventured into the basement. Establishing mood and sustaining suspense is difficult so credit goes to Brooks and Bennett because they clearly know what they’re doing. At 83 minutes, the film still feels a tad long and without the material to totally justify that length…but hey, horror legend Barbara Crampton makes a cameo and with that, all is forgiven.
In 2009, Noomi Rapace was the star of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films in Sweden and when that first chapter debuted in the U.S. many filmmakers were desperate to work with her. Sadly, I don’t think any movie she’s made since has truly capitalized on what she brought to her breakthrough work but those feelings changed almost the moment she came onscreen in director Tommy Wirkola’s THE TRIP. As Lisa, the bleached-blonde actress wife mediocre director Lars (Aksel Hennie) intends to murder during a weekend trip to his family cabin, Rapace sinks her teeth into the part and has a grand time doing it. To say more about this wildly bonkers film would be greatly unfair to you because the less known about it going in, the better. All you really need to know is that Lars plans to off Lisa but nothing can prepare either of them for what’s really in store for their weekend in the woods. Wirkola’s film is insanely gory and often wickedly funny from start to stop. It also disappointingly has stench of homophobia to it that absolutely should be called out as lazy in 2021, for me it ultimately doesn’t mean THE TRIP should be cancelled.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
Perhaps this comes off as a bit harsh, but I have to imagine that some directors and screenwriters would watch Junta Yamaguchi’s BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES and question how much they are challenging themselves as filmmakers. Written by Makoto Ueda, the concept of this one is so carefully configured that I doubt it was an easy sell without detailed drawings with arrows pointing in all different directions. Ostensibly presented as filmed in one-shot with an iPhone, a café owner finds that a monitor in his shop can see two minutes into the future and is linked to another monitor upstairs. After going several rounds figuring out how this works (mostly for dumb-dumbs like me who need it explained more than twice) and picking up a few friends along the way, the group figures out a way to make the monitors a mirror that can see without limit…but in doing so they also see that danger is coming their way. This is a 70-minute thrill packed with fun and it’s no wonder every film festival is snapping this one up – it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Hate to say it, but I can totally see this getting an American remake within the next two years…if only we had a monitor that could see in the future, so we’d know if it was half as good as the originality of this.
She Will (Note: Not available through FF @ Home)
Often the best kind of horror side effect is the cold tingle that slowly creeps up your spine, starting at your lower back and traveling up up up through every vertebra until it reaches the base of your skull. SHE WILL had barely begun but a shiver went through me, almost as an early reaction to the eerie and elegantly spooky delights director and co-writer Charlotte Colbert would deliver during the course of the next 95 minutes. Faded actress Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) travels to a wellness retreat with her nurse (Kota Eberhardt) to recuperate after undergoing a double mastectomy. Heart brittle and body broken, Ghent is angry at everything, especially at the director (Malcolm McDowell) who made her famous and is now trying to do the same for another young, vulnerable girl. Arriving to find the set-up much different than she imagined, Ghent is however entranced by the land which is fertilized with the ashes of women burned as witches in the early 1700’s. Almost instantly, her health starts to improve, right around the same time gelatinous mud oozes from the ground (and out of her) and then…things get stranger. Colbert and co-writer Kitty Percy give a script with a #MeToo bent a supernatural twist and lay it at the altar of Krige who does phenomenal work. There’s just no describing the contributions the actress makes to the success of this film, which is all-together handsomely made in production and sound as it is. One of the very best films I’ve seen in any festival so far this year and absolutely a favorite of Fantastic Fest.
That “stench of homophobia” in The Trip only led to one of the funniest scenes in recent memory. Woke critics and their soul-sucking lack of a sense of humor are going to kill film criticism — not to mention great comedy.
Hardly “woke”…maybe a little bleary eyed but I still enjoyed the film quite a lot! Sounds like you did too — I’m glad!