Tag Archives: Shudder premiere

Brotherly Love

Slapface

by Hope Madden

Abuse is easy to confuse with a complicated form of love, especially if you’re a child. For the feature length expansion of his 2018 short Slapface, writer/director Jeremiah Kipp complicates his tale of grief and rage with these confusing notions of abuse.

He relies mainly on the unexpected bond between Lucas (August Maturo, exceptional) and a monster sometimes called the Virago Witch (Lukas Hassel, reprising his role from the short). Lucas lost his parents in a car accident and grieves deeply for his mother. He lives just off the woods with his older brother Tom (Mike Manning, who also produces).

Tom’s new girlfriend Anna (Libe Barer) is concerned about the way the siblings live. The only other companionship Lucas has is a trio of bullies. One of those bullies, Moriah (Mirabelle Lee) is willing to be Lucas’s girlfriend as long as he keeps it secret.

In this way, Kipp layers his original tale of grief with conflicting emotional baggage. It’s to his credit, and the endless benefit of his film, that the filmmaker never tidies up these emotional storylines. In fact, it is Lucas’s confusion over the characters who seem to both love and harm him that creates his greatest turmoil.

The monster becomes a remedy of sorts to this internal conflict. The larger-than-life, terrifying presence works much the way that the monster in J.A. Bayona’s 2016 treasure A Monster Calls works. The beast allows Lucas to process the complicated reasons for his pain.

Kipp’s film trades in Bayona’s melancholy magic for something more brutal. But Hassel and Maturo find sincere tenderness in their time together onscreen, which makes the horror even more heartbreaking.

Not every performance is as strong, but Kipp’s ensemble finds nuance in characters that help the film compel more than just terror.

Devil In the Details

Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist

by George Wolf

Most of the time, limiting a documentary to only one point of view is not a winning strategy. You want balance, with a scope wide enough to deliver more than just an agenda-laden screed.

Leap of Faith doesn’t worry about all that. If your aim is to take a deep dive into the filming of The Exorcist, and director William Friedkin agrees to a lengthy interview, well, that’s that.

Sure, you could probably find someone to argue Friedkin didn’t craft one of the greatest horror films in history, but do we really need to give idiots any more screen time this year?

In just the last three years, director Alexandre O. Phillippe has deconstructed horror classics Alien (Memory: The Origins of Alien) and Psycho (78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene) to fascinating effect. Leap of Faith makes it a trifecta of terror, thanks to a film icon who also proves himself an endlessly engaging storyteller in front of the camera.

If it’s true every interview needs at least one good story to be worth the time, Phillippe’s visit with Friedkin is a pound for pound champ. The stories here – from Jason Miller taking the Father Karras role away from Stacy Keach to Friedkin’s battle with legendary composer Bernard Herrman over the score – keep you hanging on every word.

Strangely, though, the conversation never does get around to Linda Blair at all – not her casting, her performance, or the complexities of directing a teenage actress in such extreme subject matter. Even with all the compelling content here, it’s a noticeable omission.

But more than an indispensable guide through the making of a classic, Leap of Faith shines a wonderfully illuminating light on Friedkin’s creative process. Yes, Billy clearly likes him some Billy, but at 85 years old now, it’s hard to blame him.

Whether or not Phillippe knew what he was getting when first he sat down with Friedkin, the game plan no doubt materialized pretty quickly. Keep him talking, trim the fat, and then splice in the appropriate clips at the perfect time.

Leap of Faith might be a one man show, but when the show is The Exorcist and the man is William Friedkin, it feels like enough.

Skin Trade

Impetigore

by George Wolf

In a remote Indonesian village, a garden of small headstones marks the effectiveness of a Shaman’s curse. Newborn after newborn dies, the one survivor growing to endure a mysterious, painful existence.

Creepy, right?

Shudder’s Impetigore scores some definite points there, which help to offset a narrative often hampered by convenience and confusion.

Maya (Tara Basro) and Dini (Marissa Anita) are best friends trying to make a go of it in the city. With no family to speak of, they scrape by with menial jobs while dreaming of a better future.

Though raised by her aunt, Maya learns of a spacious home left behind by her wealthy parents. Maya could very well lay claim to this valuable property through inheritance, so she and Dini make their way to the remote village, unaware of the curse and their place in it.

Writer/director Joko Anwar (Satan’s Slaves), an Indonesian genre veteran, seems to know he’s got some solid benchmarks here while not worrying too much about the strength of what binds them together.

Dialogue can range from awkward to WTF-worthy, amid a few convenient plot turns and one humdinger of extended curse explanation that strains coherence.

But when Anwar hits his creepy marks, Impetigore can leave one. The atmospheric isolation in the village feels authentic, and once blood begins letting, the tension is well-paced, bolstered with some satisfying visual payoffs.

There will be eyerolls, but if you’re keeping score, also enough frightful eyebrow-raising to make Impetigore a winning dive into twisted family values.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RfEwT2LI2M

Muted Fury

The Furies

by Brandon Thomas

Horror and social commentary are synonymous with one another. Fifty years ago, Night of the Living Dead tapped into America’s anxiety about the Vietnam War. 1978’s Dawn of the Dead used the zombie apocalypse to attack consumerism. More recently, Jordan Peele’s Get Out looked to horror to comment on race in America. These are all top-shelf examples of horror tackling social issues. 

Of course, not everyone can be George Romero or Jordan Peele. The new Shudder exclusive, The Furies—screening as part of Australia’s Monster Fest in October before its release in Australian cinemas from November 7—is a stark example of that.

After being kidnapped right off the street, Kayla wakes up in a coffin-sized box somewhere in the Australian outback. Before she can get her bearings, she finds herself hunted by someone wearing a horrific mask. As Kayla makes her way through this hellscape of murder to find a friend, she and the other hunted girls start to succumb to their form of savagery.

The Furies starts strong with a visually impressive prologue. Director Tony D’Aquino gets everything on the screen – from production design to some top-notch gore effects. Visually, the movie is a feast. 

Content-wise?

It’s a tonally confused mess.

There’s a weak attempt at commenting on women’s treatment in horror. When these characters aren’t being hunted down by armed slashers, they’re assigned another one of these ghouls as a protector. On paper this sounds like a novel idea: “Women are either fodder or in need of protection in these movies!” Unfortunately, D’Aquino never does anything more than set those ideas up.

Complicating things more is the way these women are written as merely paper-thin caricatures. They run, scream and die. Rinse, repeat. Kayla’s journey of “discovery” has the depth of a red Solo cup. Instead of looking inward at her own darkness and allowing that to come through in the performance, the movie settles for wearing a dark hoodie and saying tough things while handling a taser.

The messy ideas continue into the movie’s overall tone. The horror elements are strong, but there are also some half-realized sci-fi threads peppered about. Instead of exploring these nuggets in any meaningful way, D’Aquino treats them like the first episode of a network series to be explored later.

Despite some impressive visual sleight of hand with excellent cinematography and practical gore effects, The Furies can’t overcome the inherent shallowness of its story and execution.