Saturday, December 1, 2018

Three Films Make A Post: It's too late for exorcism!

Sick for Toys (2018): David Del Rio’s horror film with a streak of very black humour is certainly a great demonstration reel for two of its actors. Camille Montgomery solves the not exactly easy job to bring a character to life that is at once childish, childlike, childishly sadistic and over-sexual, while Jon Paul Burkhart portrays a much more self-knowing kind of movie crazy person, a guy who clearly knows how ill he and his sister are yet can’t help to enable her and himself. On the plot side, there’s a nicely realized protagonist shift in the middle, and an atrocious ending that just doesn’t work as a part of the film that came before at all. As a whole, the film left me with the feeling that it’s just not quite there; there are quite a few good ideas, quite a few moments when things come together well, but things never truly cohere to form an actual whole.

Terribly Happy aka Frygtelig lykkelig (2008): This Danish black comedy/mystery directed by Henrik Ruben Genz about a cop finding himself demoted to a provincial village after a violent incident and/or nervous breakdown and having to cope with the horrifying culture of unhealthy closeness and hypocrisy of the place while getting involved in the dubious affairs of dubious people and losing the little mental stability he still had in the process does come together rather better than Del Rio’s film. This is very much a film setting out to portray the corruption under the surface not just of supposedly idyllic country life but also under the skin of everyone who pretends to be a decent upstanding person everywhere; with a side dish of hell is other people, especially if other people won’t ever let you leave the soul-destroying way of life they decide to be the proper one. Jakob Cedergren’s lead performance is rather spectacular, showing all the absurdity of the film’s situation, all the crap his character is just ignoring about himself, all his destructive and self-destructive urges while making it look easy.

Down a Dark Hall (2018): On the visual side, Rodrigo Cortés’s adaptation of a Lois Duncan novel about a group of teenage girls sent to a very peculiar and very exclusive boarding school where very weird things are going on, is a feast of contemporary gothic, not just using fantastic sets and locations right out of a gothic novel but also the older actors in the cast as mood-building props to great effect. The acting’s pretty snazzy, too, in an artificial and somewhat big way, but then the characters are rather artificial too, so this approach is only fitting.

The whole pretty moodiness of the affair is dragged down by a script that apparently imagines the audience to be impressively stupid, treating things as revelations even the mildly addled will have figured out long before the protagonists do, and wasting some perfectly good ideas concerning the poisonous character of the concept of “genius” and the possession by spirits on a much too obvious series of plot devices. Which really is a shame, for there’s quite a bit in here that should work on a metaphorical or mood level; unfortunately, the film never realizes mood and metaphor are its strengths and emphasises plotting, its weakest point, over mood again and again for little reason and certainly little gain.

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