James Pemberton’s review of Grimmfest: Sunday, October 8th, 2017
– By James Pemberton
RABBIT (Dir- Luke Shanahan, AUSTRALIA, 2017)
A medical student Maude (Adelaide Clemens) collapses one day and suffers vivid dreams that point to her missing twin sister, still being alive. She returns to her native home in Australia and soon sets out to retrace her steps, leading her to a sinister community that holds more secrets and soon takes particular interest in Maude.
Shanahan’s film is a taut and stylishly made psychological thriller that is both strongly performed and compellingly paced. It revels in jaunting the viewer with its unfolding plot, starting with vivid dream sequences that post clues early on and eventually ending up at a sinister secret group who conduct strange experiments on twins who they have captured. It does lead to some confusion throughout and requires the viewer to stay focused particularly in the latter part of the film and yes some predictability does start to show towards the end. However viewers will be rewarded with a sharp and jarring head fuck of a film that constructs itself through a complex narrative as well as leading the central character into underground community, which certainly does have some strange coincidences with the secret society of MARTYRS (a comparison made in the Grimmfest guide) but without that films brutality. It is also boasted by a brilliant strong performance from Clemens (in dual roles) and also Veerle Baetens as the overly friendly caravan park guest who welcomes Maude, only to reveal a far more darker and sinister character in the films second half.
DAVE MADE A MAZE (Dir- Bill Waterson, USA, 2017)
Slacker and would be artist Dave (Nick Thune) builds a maze one afternoon. When his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns home Dave is trapped in the maze which has grown in size and is now full of monsters and traps. Annie has to launch a rescue mission heading into Dave’s creation even though he wont destroy something he has started as this project is a labour of love for him that demands completion.
A mish-mash of adventure, bizarre sci-fi and slacker comedy DAVE MADE A MAZE is an entertaining and fun ride that certainly boasts the visual production style of something that would be created by Michel Gondry. It looks brilliant with a set design that probably used a ton of cardboard certainly making you wonder if the film-makers got a deal sorted with some cardboard box manufacturer. There are also some funny sequences including a part where the cast turn into cardboard puppets in one area of the maze and there’s also a fantastically awkward inclusion of one of Dave’s friends documenting the journey through the maze for his own film. Whilst the charm is evident even at 81 minutes long the film soon starts to drag towards the mid point and it seems a pretty one note movie in many respects and could have done with adding maybe more of a focus on our central character’s frustration with being creative whilst realising modern life’s normal pitfalls of work and responsibility’s have impeded some of his artistic impulses. Still as a nice offbeat comedy it has a particularly offbeat charm that will certainly see the film gain credence to become a future cult classic.
Before DAVE MADE A MAZE we where treated to the short CALL OF CHARLIE (Dir- Nick Spooner) a daft and funny horror comedy in which an elder god from the world of Lovecraft is set up with a date by his best friends at a dinner party.
M.F.A (Dir- Natalia Leite, USA, 2017)
Shy art student Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is struggling to find her ‘art’ and creative outlet in her class. At the same time at a party another student in her class forces himself upon her and rapes her. Noelle confronts this student and accidentally kills him. Yet rather than feel any remorse over her attacker’s death she soon starts to seek out other male students who have committed rape and gotten away with the crime and begins to dispatch them off as well. This in turn also allows Noelle to start developing and creating her own ‘art’ in class that soon gets noticed, whilst at the same time authority’s are soon starting to close in on her post educational vigilante work.
M.F.A is a very topical spin on the rape revenge thriller. Taking the often uncomfortable subject of campus rape, which is still a strong issue, the film spins this into its narrative in following our heroine Noelle (a fantastic performance form Clint Eastwood’s daughter Francesca a star in her own making) whose journey we follow from meek quiet student to vengeful killer meeting out justice on men who think they can get away with their crimes. It tackles the unfortunate and often horrible situation of women forced to be humiliated even told to hush and be quiet about their attacks by campus officials who are more concerned about avoiding publicity. Admittedly aside from the obvious fantasy element the film has in our central character killing off rapists, it remains pretty realistic in its depiction of the threats faced by women on campus. It never descends into exploitation territory and admittedly the initial sequence of Noelle’s attack is hard to watch but its necessary in pushing our heroine to explore and act out her vengeful nature as well as discovering her own true artistic vision. A timely and superbly made thriller that offers an interesting genre specific take on an uncomfortable topic that certainly needs to be seen by a wider audience.
BORLEY RECTORY (Dir- Ashley Thorpe, UK, 2017)
BORLEY RECTORY is a combination of supernatural thriller and documentary that follows the story’s revolving around one of the most haunted houses in Britain and the investigations led by Harry Price, who as well as being a paranormal investigator and devising methods to track haunted locations was also easily adept at being a showman.
Made over the course of six years BORLEY RECTORY has obviously been a keen and personal project for its director Thorpe and as he mentioned in the q and a proceeding the film, the detail he put in to recreating the Borley Rectory house itself is evident from watching this short but visually creative take on what could have otherwise been a straightforwardly made supernatural thriller. Stylishly this is very well made and designed and looks great, even from the opening credits there’s a sense of the past made all the more evident with the film being made to look like an old black and white picture. Whilst I admire Thorpe for going with this technique which looked fantastic on a big screen, part of me wonders whether it would be beneficial to even explore the mystery surrounding Borley in a portmanteau style film. At the end the piece we get explanations of what happened to the real character’s being portrayed and this would make for an interesting series of films even a TV series as the history is more and more outlandish of what happened to the previous occupants of the haunted house in their later years. Even Harry Price would make an interesting subject in a stand alone film himself. A unique take on a well renowned haunting and its obvious from the creation that Thorpe has put a lot of his own time and effort into crafting and respecting his subject.
Before BORLEY RECTORY was the short NIMMER (Dir, Lieven Vanhove) which looked visually brilliant but didn’t really have anything else that especially made it significant or a story that was interesting and came off feeling like a long music video.
MOHAWK (Dir- Ted Geoghegan, USA, 2017)
During the war of independence an Indian Mohawk woman, Oak (Kaniehtiio Horn) is forced, along with her two lovers, a Mohawk brave and a British Army officer to battle a small group of American Army soldiers who are out for vengeance.
Admittedly this was a stand out from the rest of the festival in respects to that it doesn’t really follow a path that suggests it is going to be out and out horror. Yet Geoghegan, whose previous film WE ARE STILL HERE was an interesting update of ghost story which had a Fulci influence throughout, still injects a spiritual element into the film with Oak’s visions of a half monster half human warrior-being that will become evident in the films final part and which acts as a clear manifestation of the undead vengeful spirit. It is obvious that the film has a modest budget, thanks in part to its woodland setting and small cast, yet it works in a way to generate and isolate the action and also focus on the character’s. Like last years BONE TOMAHAWK there are scenes of brutal violence throughout, showing that the Western genre can be just as brutal and horrific as horror and more evidently this is based around actual history as well, as the film does remind us of the horrific treatment of native American Indians by colonial Americans. This is well made solid film-making, with a fantastic central performance from Horn as the central character who establishes a strong female and ruthless warrior. Special mention should go to Ezra Buzzington as the nasty out of control Colonel leading his platoon and also Jon Huber (who is also WWE wrestler Luke Harper) as one of the soldiers.
ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES (Dir- Dominic Brunt, UK, 2017)
Two teenagers and their mother are forced to break into a country manor to steal a document top secret significance and encounter the rich and powerful engaged in weird sexual fetishes and plotting monstrous plans for the rest of normal society.
Crass, vulgar, trashy, gory and crude are the best words to describe Brunt’s film. After scoring with two decent genre flicks in the intense BEFORE DAWN and equally intense BAIT he descends into more absurd horror comedy mode which both pokes fun at the depraved rich and lambasts their vulgar and nasty power grabbing ambitions as they literally shit on the rest of society. Its not subtle in any way and at times the humour is very hit and miss, sometimes even poorly written and suffering from some poor sound recording especially in the films opening scenes. But once you get past that, this isn’t going to be or needs to be taken seriously it slowly starts to sink in with some absurd and gleefully nasty scenes with the required over the top gore. It reminded me very much of a Troma film, but the ones not directed by Lloyd Kaufman, like RABID GRANNIES, films which pitched in with a decent title but quite often never lived up to expectations. There’s a sense of appreciation in this film in that it knows that its not going to be liked by everyone and that’s true but for a final film for the festival its a silly, enjoyable and if at times meandering picture. Just cant really picture Charlie Chuck being a powerful authority figure at all though.