Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition – Day 2 Feature reviews

Our coverage of Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition continues with our roundup of the features screening on Day 2.

The Special

I think its safe to say that you won’t see a film like The Special at any film festival this year. B. Harrison Smith’s feature is a blend of black humour, body horror and bizarre drama.

Suspecting his wife of infidelity, Jerry follows his friend down a dark rabbit hole into a horror landscape of addiction.

The Special also takes on harsh subjects such as abortion and addiction and while lighthearted at times, can also be quite visceral when the chips are down.

This is another example of truly amazing practical effects, with one sequence in particular which harks back to a golden age of movies like The Thing and The Fly.

The Special feels like it takes place in its own reality, you just need to strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Read our interview with The Special director B. Harrison Smith.


Unearth takes on the gritty world of rural farming and fracking in a slow burn which ramps up in its final third.

“Unearth” follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are strained when one of them chooses to lease their land to an oil and gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something long dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth’s surface is released. 

With a superb performance as Adrienne Barbeau, Unearth is masterful at providing a breadcrumb trail that could go in a number of directions. We have hints of self-harm, family tensions, money woes plus something else entirely.

Unearth is another example of super practical effects which, without spoilers, are some of the most unique put to screen in some time.

Read our interview with Unearth directors John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies.

They Reach by David Dent

The inspiration of ‘Stranger Things’, which fetishised a period of time – the 1980s – before most of its target audience were born, is all over Dall’s debut feature. But the director, born in 1986, has decided to set his film even further back.

It’s 1979 (although a brief prologue covers events ten years earlier) and the Daniels family are recovering from the shock of the death of their teenage son. While mum and dad are separately traumatised, daughter Jessica (Mary Madaline Roe) is left to cope on her own, her only friends being overweight Sam (Morgan Chandler) who – of course has a crush on Jess – and food obsessed Cheddar (Eden Campbell). When Jess visits a local junk shop, she comes away with a load of rubbish which she hopes will aid her school science project. Among the stuff is an old reel to reel tape recorder, which we’ve already seen in the 1969 prologue where it was involved in the exorcism of a young boy, whose chest is marked with a strange sign. Fiddling around with the machine, Jess cuts her hand, and her blood drips on to the recorder. This sets off a train of events including a resurrected demon, a series of deaths and the need for a sacrificial victim.

Dall’s film is almost entirely centred on the trio of young people; any adults present are mainly two dimensional authority figures, with the exception of stern librarian by day and white witch by night Marybeth Moonstar (a superb turn from Steffanie Foster Gustafson) who aids the trio in understanding what they’re dealing with. The problem is that I’m not really the target audience for this kind of thing, where the thrill is less about the story – it’s pretty paper thin – than identifying with the socially outcast friends. Although as a teen movie the F-bombs are let off with surprising frequency and the gore is occasionally a little on the heavy side

But where the movie scores is its look: Dall chucks everything into the mix to get that 70s vibe. Chopper-style bikes, gas guzzling autos, Polaroid cameras; they’re all present and correct, and the time stands still town of Enumclaw, Washington is used as a location. Even the soundtrack is pastiche; instead of using original sounds from the period (for which rights would probably have been cost prohibitive), the director has used faux retro 70s bands like ‘Smokey Brights, ‘Hobosexual’ and ‘Prom Queen.’ Don’t get me wrong, it works, but I could have done with more horror and less attention to detail.

Get your tickets for Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition.

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