It’s Day 2 of Grimmfest, so here’s our reviews of the features screening today –
Hotel Poseidon has a German expressionist style with its long and drawn out sweeping of what seems like a derelict hotel.
We follow Dave, one of the owners of the hotel as he struggles to survive in what feels like a manifestation of depression.
Make no mistake about it, Hotel Poseidon is not a happy and joyous film in the slightest, it is at times truly bizarre but refreshingly original and should be commended for its all or nothing approach.
The set design is truly incredible, so much so that the hotel itself feels like a character on its own.
Hotel Poseidon feels like a waking fever dream which is extremely unsettling at times. A surreal and unsettling character study.
Night at the Eagle Inn
By David Dent
After his last movie, the rom-com ‘Weekenders’, director Erik Bloomquist returns to the temporal melon twisting themes of ‘Ten Minutes to Midnight’ from 2020.
Sarah Moss (Amelia Dudley) and her ultra-snarky gay twin Spencer (Taylor Turner) are on a mission. They’ve left Philadelphia and arrived at an out of the way hotel near the Canadian border; it’s the same hotel where their mother and father tragically perished on the night of the twins’ births.
Greeted by the hotel’s rather unctuous Night Manager (a brilliant performance from Greg Schweers) who tells them, despite the hotel seeming to be empty, that there’s only one room available, first impressions aren’t good; “it’s like Norman Rockwell fucked the Crypt Keeper” is Spencer’s wry observation of their host.
Later, while Spencer gets to know hunky handyman and factotum Dean (Beau Minniear), upstairs Sarah becomes absorbed by the static on the TV (even when the plug has been pulled out) and sees strange things on the screen. “Something in the atmosphere feels off” they conclude, and as they realise why the hotel is empty and what really happened to their parents, they’d be dead right.
While some have mentioned the haunted hotel vibes of ‘The Shining’ in this movie its quirky, darkly humorous feel reminded me of Ti West’s 2011 flick ‘The Innkeepers’. Like most of Bloomquists’s movies it doesn’t outstay its welcome; the light comedic touch would probably wear in a longer film. But its humour is deceptive; there’s some disturbing imagery on display here and Schweers’ unhinged performance keeps things very spiky. Good stuff.
Jeremiah Kipp’s Slapface takes the idea of the imaginary friend and takes it to complete new and chilling levels.
In the opening reel we see a pair of brothers playing a game of happy slap, but it turns out this game could have deadly consequences if anyone messes with younger brother Lucas.
After the loss of the boys mother off-screen it is left to older sibling Tom to look after him but he has found a coping method at the bottom of a bottle.
We find out that Lucas has either befriended or manifested a hag-like creature which lives in the nearby woods which seems to be getting more wild and the story develops. The design for this monster is truly incredible and is worth checking out the film alone for.
Slapface is very much about the ideas that crossed the minds of children and teenagers without thinking about the consequences.
The two central performances from Lucas and Tom are fantastic and really drive the film forward until a truly gut-wrenching finale. A harrowing but essential watch.
Not one for the squeamish, Forgiveness follows three women who wake up in a hospital with different disabilities, who must find a way to escape.
The story is broken into three chapters as we see each story develop from the individual’s perspective, often with convergence with the others.
This hospital isn’t your run of the mill practice with some truly bizarre characters navigating its halls with breadcrumbs sprinkled to its potential true purpose.
The imagery in Forgiveness will be hard to shake and we get to a point where it feels like a straight forward resolution has been thrown out the window.
A unique experience.
By David Dent
Richard Bates Jr’s latest feature is a distinct change of pace for the director of such tortured delights as ‘Excision’ (2012) and 2019’s ‘Tone-Deaf’.
Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a witch; by day he runs a not flourishing bird bath business, but by night with his wife Willow (Angela Sarafyan), a Wiccan high priestess, he runs a new-agey coven in California. The pair enjoy an idyllic life, dispensing couple counselling advice to their gently dysfunctional coven members.
But into their blissful existence enters a voice from Thorn’s past, via an email from Alexandra (Swati Kapila), and an invitation to a school reunion. For, and much to Willow’s rage (mainly because she had such a tough time at school) it turns out that Thorn has a dark past: as Thornton (his real name), he was voted ‘most likely to succeed’ in his class, participated in school government and even excelled at…Lacrosse.
Willow’s almost Morticia Addams like disdain for Thorn’s wholesome past is echoed in the coven, who feel betrayed, and banish him. Thorn has no choice but to attend the reunion and face the music over what he has become.
Bates’s mild comedy is best seen as a gentle ribbing of west coast new age cults and their members than anything broadly horrific or dramatic; and it’s strongest when it stays with the cult and their fractious ways. Thorn and Willow are a rather unengaging pair and it’s left to Barbara Crampton, as Thorn’s spiteful mother Ruth, and Ray Wise in a guest spot as everyone’s favourite magician, Merlin, to provide some much needed liveliness to the proceedings.
‘King Night’ is only ever gently funny and at times I found the humour rather strained. It’s also not as winsome as it would like to be, nor as arch as I’d have preferred. There are some nice little touches of animation but on the while I found the movie rather a lukewarm affair.
By David Dent
As the title of Pierre Tsigaridis’ debut feature suggests, this movie does feature two witches, in two separate but slightly overlapping stories. In the first chapter, ‘The Boogeywoman’, Sarah (Belle Adams) is pregnant and haunted by visions of a witch. Her disbelieving partner Simon (Ian Michaels) thinks it’s her hormones talking, but we know her follower is the real deal because we see her casting a spell over a photograph of Sarah in the woods.
Simon and Sarah head out to stay with his equally cynical friend Dustin (Tim Fox). Dustin has a girlfriend, Melissa (Dina Silva) who is a natural healer and thinks she can help Sarah. “Let’s bust out the board” she suggests, but a dabble with Ouija seems to trigger a series of increasingly violent visions which have damaging effects on all four friends, threatening Sarah’s pregnancy.
In the second chapter, ‘Masha’, a young woman presents as rather unbalanced. When we first meet her, in bed with a guy she’s picked up, she asks “am I special?” and then starts to strangle him. Her older housemate Rachel (Kristina Klebe) thinks that Masha is “lost and weird”, and when Masha tells her that her grandmother is a witch who will pass her gifts on to the odd young woman when granny snuffs it, she’s convinced. But Masha has designs on Rachel’s perceived perfect life, and when her gran does die, things start getting really out of hand.
There are hints throughout ‘Two Witches’ of a slightly tongue in cheek poke at the patriarchy (the men in the movie are all pretty unreconstructed) but the women don’t exactly emerge as models of positive power either. There are quite a few scenes of older women gurning for shock effect, initially shocking but diluted through overuse, amid a gradual ramping up of nastiness.
The movie doesn’t all work, and falls apart a bit towards the end, but there are some good performances here, although I’d have liked more story and less atmospherics. ‘To be continued,’ states an end credit, and a further instalment could be interesting.
When a driver picks up a twenty-something girl he gets more than he bargained for, with a night of bloody chaos.
Even if you haven’t read the synopsis, you are kind of waiting for the sh*t to hit in the fan in Night Drive. Leads Sophie Dallah and A.J Bowen (You’re Next) have excellent on-screen chemistry and really play with the age disparity between the two which is played for some laughs.
As things get a bit crazier Night Drive does hint at a more fantastical turn which will have you interpreting the film in a very different way. This plot device does help when the film feels like it grinds to a halt.
Dallah is in her element when she is being quippy and taking no crap from anyone, and really steals the show.
While you may always think these stories never have happy endings, Night Drive goes for an alternative approach that will certainly garner some fans.
The Sadness & Val reviews to come