Saturday, November 3, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: If your skin doesn't crawl, it's on too tight!

He’s Out There (2018): I’m not usually someone beating movies with the morality club, but when a film like Quinn Lasher’s He’s Out There comes around and mostly wants to base its suspense on various “children in danger” tropes, and never uses this as anything but an intensely cheap way to try and get to its audience, it really deserves to be clubbed with it. I’m not even against films exploiting the automatic sympathy most audiences will have for children, but there really needs to be a reason to use this particular element as enthusiastically as this thing does. Otherwise, it’s just a cheap and unpleasant evening without much of a point. Apart from decent lead performances by Yvonne Strahoski and the kid actresses Anna and Abigail Pniowsky, there’s little else to recommend the film – it certainly has one of the uglier colour schemes I’ve seen in quite some time, and a script that’s not just heavy on the child exploitation angle but also on all grown-ups acting exclusively like “it’s in the script” horror movie characters.

Powwow Highway (1989): Jonathan Wacks’s (UK produced!) film about two Cheyenne (A Martinez and Gary Farmer) going on a road trip to get the sister of one of them out of custody is a bit of a mixed bag. Shot and told in a very typical late 80s indie style, it fluctuates between a somewhat abstracted (the director certainly isn’t a Native American) anger about the way the US were still treating people they’d beaten and betrayed again and again, some very generic odd couple friendship stuff, and moments that actually remind more of Burt Reynolds movies than anything else (only the characters’ car is crap). It’s not a terribly coherent and concise film, even as road movies go, losing any prospect of actually thinking any of its potential themes through early on and mostly getting by on Wacks’s generally solid filmmaking and the performances of Martinez and Farmer. The film also doesn’t seem to want to face the fact that nothing its characters do in the end will change anything about them or their lives at all, badly selling empty gestures as something profound.

Welcome the Stranger (2018): Finishing up this trio is this one directed by Justin Kelly. A sister (Abbey Lee) suddenly appears at the house of her brother (Caleb Landry Jones) whom she hasn’t seen for ages. Incestuous tension rises and both siblings are plagued by visions and dreams. Some time, the brother’s girlfriend (Riley Keough) appears, though she might be a figment of his imagination, or the projection of something; or the sister might try to bring him to share her own delusions. Apparently, closeness between siblings isn’t what it’s generally made out to be.

The film is obviously influenced by David Lynch, but there’s also more than just a suggestion of Ingmar Bergman in his least realistic mode. However, unlike with Lynch, the film’s various strangenesses never add up to a feeling of real disquiet, and where Bergman’s use of symbolism and the weird is incisive and sharp yet still ambiguous, Kelly’s film never really dives that deep.

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