Final Girls Berlin 2021 review: ‘Time Of Moulting’ (Fellwechselzeit) will take patience.

TIME OF MOULTING

In a small town in 1970s West Germany, Stephanie is an intelligent and lively child living an insular life with her parents. She senses that something is wrong in her family, something that cannot be put into words, and she pushes against it where she can. Unspoken maladies lurk beneath the surface of everyday life and insidiously seeps into who she is. Neither she nor her parents have contact with others, and she falls into a symbiotic relationship with her mentally unstable mother Sybille. Sybille has never really left her own childhood behind and lives a life amidst objects and shadows of the past. Stephanie’s father offers neither support, love, nor normalcy. Stephanie withdraws more and more into herself and the passing years bring only ageing, but no future with them. Stephanie flees early from her life’s narrowness and hopelessness into an inner world of dark fantasies, which are nourished by traces of the past. Fellwechselzeit is a heavily atmospheric and harrowing portrait of the ways in which oppressive and repressed family dynamics can influence and infect the lives of younger generations– not tangible, not namable, but inexorable. Inner abysses form the only escape route for an undernourished soul.

You have to stick with filmmaker Sabrina Mertens‘ style choice here. TIME OF MOULTING is one of the most intentional slow-burn films establishing the cyclical nature of mental illness I’ve ever seen outside of a documentary. As the camera sits and watches these drawn-out, often silent scenes, we get a small peek inside the world of a family that has chosen isolation. The film does a 10-year time jump only to find our young protagonist worse off than before. She has been simmering in the childhood of her mother and is acting out with self-harm and increasingly violent drawings and fantasies. This film is not for everyone. You have to have the patience to make it to the end. The visual impact of Time of Moulting is massive. We hear over and over that the family cat has urinated on the furniture. We see each room accumulate more garbage/objects. Stephanie’s fascination with her grandfather’s slaughterhouse tools will make you so uncomfortable you will feel it on your bones. Performances are outstanding. This film challenges the audience to its breaking point.

DIRECTED BY SABRINA MERTENS, GERMANY, 2020

Starring Zelda Espenschied and Miriam Schiweck

Shudder Original review: ‘HUNTED’ proves the big, bad wolf is real.

HUNTED

Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker and comic artist Vincent Paronnaud (co-director of Cannes Jury Prize and Academy Award nominee PERSEPOLIS), HUNTED is an exhilaratingly ferocious take on survival horror that blends primal violence with grindhouse pleasure in a predator-prey riff on Little Red Riding Hood. The film follows Eve (Lucie Debay), a woman who encounters a seemingly charming man at a bar, only to uncover his true sociopathic nature, sparking a dire, life-or-death chase through the wilderness. A Shudder Original Film.

Little Red Riding Hood becomes snuff film bait. HUNTED is a survival horror with a fairytale familiarity. The scariest part of this film is the fact that’s it’s completely plausible. There’s a reason women are told to park under street lights and carry their keys between their fingers. We are not allowed to lulled into a false sense of security because then we become targets. But buyer beware, when animal instinct drives survival, don’t f*ck with a woman. Writer/director Vincent Paronnaud understands this dynamic. This is made abundantly clear in the most glorious ways.

While being absolutely terrifying, HUNTED is beautiful to watch. Wooded landscapes look like a magical fairytale as they surround Eve in the quiet moments. That’s the false sense of security subconsciously. It’s pure genius. The visual juxtaposition throughout of wild and innocent animals alongside our leading lady, Eve, is a striking metaphor. Her wardrobe of an iconic red coat and hoodie says all you need to know as she is hunted by the biggest, baddest wolf I’ve ever seen. He is grossly manipulative emotionally and ceaselessly violent. He’s an incel with the balls to back it up. When we meet the classic Huntsman character we’re offered another twist in the plot. I literally went from exclaiming, “Oh, hell yes!” to, “Oh, shit,” in minutes. Performances from every single cast member are outstanding. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. The last third of HUNTED is unhinged. It’s absolutely unpredictable and a complete WTF. SHUDDER’s audience is going to go nuts during the final scene. It’s a visceral satisfaction.

HUNTED premieres on Shudder January 14th in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand

Shudder Original review: ‘Anything for Jackson,’ the devil is in the details.

Anything For Jackson

After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnap his pregnant patient with the intentions of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.

The energy that this film has from the get-go is outstanding. It’s dark and disturbing and throws your understanding of morality out of whack. But it’s the nonchalance of it all that will keep you watching. Unlike creepy couples like Mommy and Daddy from The People Under The Stairs or Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Henry and Audrey are simply so casual about everything they are about to do it’s all the more bizarre. After they perform what they believe to be a soul transference, things really go off the rails. Something has gone awry. Their grandson is not the only thing to come into their home. The arrival of a gaggle of seriously disturbing ghosts throws all their confidence out the window. Things do not go well for Audrey and Henry going forward. The devil does not care to be used. The things that appear to everyone in the house are more and more terrifying as the fallout continues. It is ceaselessly upsetting.

Performances from our three leads are outstanding. Konstantina Mantelos as young mother Shannon is the final girl we need to balance out the insanity. Her ingenuity and believable vulnerability is sheer perfection. The terror she experiences is visceral. Helped along by the ghastly practical fx and brilliant performances by the actors playing these tortured souls. The contortionist stylings of one, in particular, gave me full-body chills. The chemistry between Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings is simply magic. You believe they’ve been married for decades without a thought. They are charming in their sincerity even if their acts are atrocious.

The structure of the story roots you deep into the drama. You’re genuinely invested in everyone. Upon a second viewing, and as a Mom myself, I understand the lengths each character is going to protect their loved one. It makes the stakes so much higher. The writing and editing are top-notch. The complexity is unreal. This was a carefully crafted piece of work. If you can get me with a jump scare after 40 years of watching horror films, well done. Anything For Jackson got me… and held me down.

You will never see what’s coming from one beat to the next. Anything For Jackson will undoubtedly entertain the hell out of Shudder subscribers. They continue to kill it with their content. Anything For Jackson takes your heart and your head and mangles them both. It’s one of the year’s best genre films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON premieres on Shudder December 3rd in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

Nightstream 2020 review: ‘An Unquiet Grave’ digs deep into grief.

A year after losing his wife in a car crash, Jamie convinces her sister, Ava, to return with him to the site of the accident and help him perform a strange ritual. But as the night wears on, it becomes clear that he has darker intentions.

As someone who understands grief, An Unquiet Grave hit me on a much deeper level. But, on the other hand, as a horror and occult fan, I understand that bringing back the dead never goes as planned. Would I wish nothing more than to bring back my loved one? Yes. Do I understand what a terrible fucking idea it would be to attempt such a thing? Also, Yes. The same cannot be said about our leading man, Jaimie. He misses his wife so much he’s willing to lie to her twin sister in order to feel her again. Poor Ava is in the dark in more ways than one. She is not going to sit idly by in any form or fashion.

In the beginning, the outstanding atmospheric score lulls you into a sense of safety all while letting you know something is amiss. As the film progresses, it is its own character, always lurking, and most certainly representing what we cannot see. The majority of the film takes place in the dark, which in itself leads to unsettling thoughts. I was constantly seeking things just out of frame or in the background. Bravo to the sound editors, as well. I got goosebumps with each deliberately placed effect. Jacob A. Ware is phenomenal as Jaime. You absolutely understand where he is coming from but ultimately are equal parts terrified of him and furious with him. Christine Nyland, who also co-wrote the script with director Terence Krey, gives a breathtaking performance. Her emotional nuance from beat to beat is stunning. She and Ware are brilliantly paired. There is the perfect amount of uncomfortable tension, making An Unquiet Grave a visceral watch. Krey has cultivated the complexities of grief in a truly upsetting but engrossing film. It will stick with Nighstream 2020 audiences for longer than they’re comfortable with.

AN UNQUIET GRAVE

World Premiere
USA | 2020 | 72 Min.
Dir. Terence Krey

Nightstream 2020 review: ‘Dinner in America’ is the tits.

A punk rocker arsonist on the run (Kyle Gallner, Veronica Mars) and his number one fan embark on a series of misadventures through suburbia, finding unexpected love along the way in this absolutely electric, thoroughly anarchic, misfit stoner rom-com you didn’t know you needed.

You are all the way into this film from the opening shot. It is unapologetically in your face and does not let up. The cast is phenomenal. Performances are just shy of over the top and that’s why they are so damn good. The soundtrack is unreal with a bass that gets pounded into your psyche and it’s magic. The plot takes a hard left turn 40 minutes in and it is glorious. Writer/director Adam Carter Rehmeier has a cult classic on his hands. I’m calling it now. Dinner In America is a punk rock joyride you will not see coming.

Kyle Fucking Gallner. Ladies and gentlemen, he plays one of the most engaging assholes of all time. I could not take my eyes off of him. His intense aggression pushes the bonkers narrative forward like a freight train. His dialogue is incredibly offensive yet you’re so intrigued by what motivates him. He is smooth as hell and there’s so much more going on than meets the eye. Emily Skeggs is the perfect foil for him. She is quirky and amazing. She challenges Simon’s preconceived notions of power and relationships. It’s a dynamite performance. They are perhaps the most unlikely pair and yet they are sweetly perfect.

There is a surprising commentary about being an individual. It’s absolutely beautiful. Dinner In America is a real standout in this year’s Nightstream 2020. When the music takes over, you completely give in. I will be singing “Watermelon” forever. It’s different, it’s cool, it’s kick-ass. You’ll love it. I can easily say it’s in my Top 10 list for the year.

DINNER IN AMERICA

United States | 2020 | 106 Min.
Dir. Adam Carter Rehmeier

NightStream 2020 capsule review: ‘Lucky’ is biting social commentary in horror form.

A suburban woman fights to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night. When she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.

Nightstream 2020 audiences have undoubtedly heard about Lucky by now. Absolutely killing to on the festival circuit under the keen direction from Natasha Kermani it is not to be missed. Screenwriter/star Brea Grant has crafted a whip-smart script that is both a clever takedown of patriarchal bullshit and a scary as hell genre film. She is outstanding, essentially playing every woman ever. It’s perfectly timed in a week when “I’m Speaking” is being emblazoned onto merch thanks to Kamala Harris. The terror comes from the fact that it is more a woman’s reality than it is fiction. With great fight choreography and engrossing editing, Lucky is the feminist horror anthem we need right now. You’ll want to go back and watch it over and over to catch all the nuance. It’s simply fantastic and that has nothing to do with luck.

U.S. Premiere
United States | 2020 | 81 Min.
Dir. Natasha Kermani

A Shudder Original Film

Nightstream 2020 review: ‘Bloody Hell’ is delicious horror you can sink your teeth into.

In this relentlessly energetic, pitch-black horror-comedy, an ex-bank robber fleeing the country after a video of him goes viral, heads to Helsinki only to find there’s something in store for him there that is much more difficult to escape.

After 8 years in prison, and in an attempt to escape his newfound public notoriety, Rex flees to Finland. But the locals have something else in mind for him. Kidnapped from the airport, he is strung up in a basement like a piece of meat. Why is he there? What the hell is coming next? Is now the best time to start a relationship? What’s for dinner?

The action is relentless. The editing is pure awesome. The bizarre clues left along the way like breadcrumbs are genius. Ben O’Toole as Rex is outstanding. He gets to play multiple roles in this fast-paced, post heist thrill ride. We get a peek of what’s inside his head as his inner thoughts manifest as an entirely different side of his personality. It’s a brilliant, award-worthy performance.

The script is hilarious and ridiculously intriguing. It will be impossible to get bored as the plot goes barreling along. The crazy just keeps coming and it’s highlighted by a great score and absolutely nuts practical fx. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the beginnings of some franchise fun. Bloody Hell is a genre-bending descent into weird and wonderful. For Nightstream 2020 audiences, it’s a perfect fit.

North American Premiere
Australia, USA | 2020 | 95 Min.
Dir. Alister Grierson