Our Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition coverage continues with reviews from features screening on Day 3.
What do you get when you cross Cujo with Burning Bright and throw in some impossible odds? Well that would be Jose Luis Montesinos’ Ropes.
A disabled daughter moves back in with her father and his dogs in a house that has been adjusted to help her get around and be as independent as possible. What they didn’t bargain on was the father having an accident whilst one of the dogs is bitten by a rabid bat.
From here the stakes are raised to nigh on impossible levels as the girl must try to keep the dog at bay whilst attempting to get help. It is quite refreshing to see more disability representation in horror, with Paula del Rio’s performance really capturing the anxiety and depression that some people can feel following a life changing accident. Couple this with a terrifying rabid dog and you have a recipe for tension filled rollercoaster.
We feel every bit of anguish or disappointment when things go awry and when her situation improves just slightly we want to punch the air. Ropes also balances the emotional beats perfectly and at times can be utterly heartbreaking.
You won’t be able to take your eyes off this one.
The Oak Room
Sometimes all you need is a good old-fashioned noir tale with a really compelling story and that’s what we get with The Oak Room.
During a raging snowstorm a drifter comes home to a remote Canadian town and visits an old bar with old debts to settle. R.J Mitte, who some will recognise from Breaking Bad is our central character Steve who returns after the death of his father.
Like many noir tales he may or may not be a reliable storyteller and as the plot evolves it is important to remember the little details as they could become important later. The Oak Room is very much a thinking man’s film with a layered story where everything is not what it seems.
When things do go south the violence is quite jarring but after some nerve shredding tension it is good to have some release.
The Oak Room is a compelling feature which will keep you gripped until its final reel.
The Deep Ones by David Dent
Ferrin’s movie – and note the inclusion of the author in the title, just so you know – finds a middle aged couple, Alex (Gina La Piana) and Finnish Petri (Johann Urb) travelling to the California coast for a week in a beachside Airbnb; the couple are getting over Alex’s recent miscarriage, and are here to get re-connected again. Apartment owners Russel (Robert Miano) and pregnant Ingrid (Silvia Spross) welcome the pair and explain about the Solar Beach community that grow their own food and make their own wine. When they’re left on their own Alex and Petri do a little re-connecting, but their lovemaking is spied on courtesy of a hidden camera.
The following day, with Alex feeling unwell, Russel and Ingrid invite Petri onto their boat, and after plying him with marijuana and hypnotising him, Alex participates in a weird ritual that involves sucking on a tentacle that appears from Ingrid’s lady parts. After this a more docile Petri becomes ‘one of them’: a rift gradually opens up between Alex and her husband, and the arrival of Alex’s sarcastic friend Deb (Jackie Debatin) only serves to highlight the weirdness of the community, which they encounter at a party. But the Solar Beach residents answer to a higher fishy power, and Alex begins to fear for her life.
In Lovecraft lore, the ‘Deep Ones’ are an ocean-dwelling race, with an affinity for mating with humans. Sounds familiar? Well readers may have seen the 1980 movie ‘Humanoids from the Deep’, which covered pretty much the same ground, although without the Lovecraft context. And honestly, despite the credit of Hengi Hawk as the ‘R’Lyehian Dialogue Coach’ – which does at least show commitment to the cause – throwing in random references to Dagon and Cthulhu don’t really make this one a major contribution to the writer’s cinematic canon.
‘The Deep Ones’ scores higher in its quirky cast of characters. Russel has an oily, slightly creepy quality (like a more over the top Terence Stamp) and visiting doctor, the trans Dr Gene Rayburn (Timothy Muskatell) has an overbearing bedside manner which is the opposite of comforting. I liked Alex’s friend Deb too, although her withering assessment of the community ensures that she’s bound to be an early doors figure. “I’ve been to Burning Man twice, but these people go way beyond…” she concludes after attending the party.
Ultimately, ‘The Deep Ones’ sets itself up well but then doesn’t really know where to go with it. The threat from the community is pretty much announced in the first twenty minutes, and with a small budget there was never going to be a final reel set piece. It’s a watchable enough film, but not much more.
While the religious healer gone awry may be a story that has been told many times, The Unhealer offers a very different on this age old tale.
We start with Lance Henriksen’s healer who cures a woman of her constant back pain. This is noticed by the mother of a teenager who has an eating disorder. She offers to pay the healer to cure her boy and help him live a normal life; although as you can probably guess things don’t go as planned.
While Reed’s ailments appear to be cured, he has also acquired an almost supernatural power which inflicts his pain on the person doing it; which is handy considering he is constantly being bullied.
The main message here is that great power comes with great responsibility but obviously in hands that don’t really understand it, it can be dangerous. The violence at times is extremely jarring but give The Unhealer a sinister edge, its just a shame Henriksen’s character didn’t stick around longer as his foul mouthed rants were very amusing.
Although it feels slightly drawn out, The Unhealer does raises its stakes in the finale, these sort of stories never really end well. Ultimately this is about choices and their consequences. The film is entertaining enough but could be tainted on repeat viewings.
An Ideal Host
A lot of couples have that idea in their head that once you finally get a place together you should invite your old friends around for dinner and drinks.
In this case Liz and Jackson get some unexpected visitors and chaos and comedy ensue. What starts out as a hilarious comedy descends into a perfect mixture of violence and laughs as old friends dig up old wounds for our own amusement.
When An Ideal Host makes its turn towards horror it is initially quite shocking but by the finale of the film you will certainly feel like you have gone on a transformative journey.
Without giving too much away, there are echoes of John Carpenter’s The Thing, but instead of in the snow this is based in the middle of nowhere in Australia. We get hints of a wider mythology which the writers were clearly going for and we get just enough without overloading the viewer.
For a film that is only 85 minutes long it does a phenomenal job of world building and this is mainly due to the razor sharp script, which is both brutal and funny in equal measure. It also manages to hit some real emotional beats with an unexpected finale that some viewers could be shocked by.
An Ideal Host maybe one of the best horror comedies of the last decade.
Get your tickets for screenings at Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition here.