Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 11.Feb.13
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Brandon Cronenberg
prd Niv Fichman
with Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell, Wendy Crewson, Douglas Smith, Joe Pingue, Nicholas Campbell, Sheila McCarthy, James Cade, Nenna Abuwa, Reid Morgan, Lara Jean Chorostecki
jones and gadon release US Sep.12 ff,
Can 13.Oct.12, UK 1.Feb.13 12/Canada Alliance 1h48


Antiviral A clever satire about the ludicrous excesses of celebrity culture, this inventive film maintains an enigmatic, creepy tone that folds the medical yuckiness of David Cronenberg (father of writer-director Brandon) into a more elusive Lynchian red-curtain odyssey. But while it's enjoyably unsettling, the story never really resonates.

At the futuristic Lucas Clinic, a young patient (Smith) purchases a celebrity's STD, as if he got it from superstar Hannah Geist (Gadon) himself. The clinician who administers it is Syd (Jones), who has also infected himself with the virus that turns out to be killing Hannah. Now everyone seems to be after him to get it, and if he wants to survive he needs to figure out what this virus is. But as he searches, he stumbles into what looks like a major conspiracy involving his clinic's rival (Crewson).

The idea that fans would want to experience the illnesses of their favourite stars is eerily believable, like a logical extension reality TV or Twitter. It's certainly not difficult to imagine a superfan who'd want to share their idol's cold. But it doesn't stop with viruses: in a grisly cannibalistic twist, there's also a butcher (Pingue) who sells meat cloned from celebrity cells. And there are also skin-grafts and attempts to help fans follow their stars into the afterlife.

Cronenberg directs this with an eye for gleaming, white surfaces. Colour is used sparingly, which makes the film feel understated and thoroughly unnerving. And the way it's shot and edited is witty and provocative. And there are also freak-out hallucinations, gruesome side effects and more squirm-inducing injections than you can count. On the other hand, the film's pacing is rather glacial and we never know why Syd has got himself into this mess so it's impossible to identify with him.

That said, the acting is raw and natural. Jones helps us feel Syd's fragility even if we never understand his dilemma. His deteriorating physicality sits in striking contrast to the all-white surfaces. Other characters are more vaguely defined, adding important story elements without becoming people we understand on any level. Although it's nice to see McDowell (as Hannah's doctor) in a role that doesn't involve scene-chewing. And this certainly marks the filmmaker as another Cronenberg to watch.

15 themes, grisliness, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Jennifer Lynch
prd Rhonda Baker, David Buelow, Lee Nelson
with Vincent D'Onofrio, Eamon Farren, Evan Bird, Julia Ormond, Conor Leslie, Jake Weber, Gina Philips, Daniel Maslany, Benjamin DeWalt, Lyndon Bray, Michael Maslany, Kate Herriot
farren and d'onofrio release US 2.Oct.12,
UK 1.Feb.13
12/Canada Anchor Bay 1h34

Chained Stylish and contained, this grim thriller pushes our buttons by playing around with a nasty topic, as a boy seems to befriend his abusive kidnapper. But the film isn't as complicated as that, copping out on a more provocative approach. Instead, filmmaker Lynch uses ugly misogynist violence to make sure we're uncomfortable.

On a sunny afternoon, Sarah (Ormond) and her young son (Bird) are kidnapped by creepy taxi driver Bob (D'Onofrio) and taken to his isolated home. The boy listens in horror as his mother is murdered, then Bob chains him up as a slave he calls Rabbit. Years pass and Rabbit (now Farren) comes of age, so Bob lets him study physiology and teaches him his "trade", giving him small freedoms and bringing home a girl (Leslie) for Rabbit's use. But has Rabbit taken on Bob's murderous instincts or is he plotting something else?

There are a lot of interesting things going on here, so the psychological tension between Bob and Rabbit is intriguing even if it never quite makes logical sense. Thankfully, most of Bob's horrific torture and murder takes place off-screen, while flashbacks of his own brutal childhood are so choppy that we have only a hazy idea of the abuse he suffered. Even so, this makes the tender moments between Bob and Rabbit both intensely creepy and eerily touching.

D'Onofrio never plays Bob as a psychopath. There's clearly something horrifically unhinged about this man, but he approaches everything with a fierce lucidity, controlling the variables slightly beyond believability. Why Rabbit never manages to escape over so many years isn't explained, but Farren gives him an undernourished fragility that catches our sympathies and helps us understand why feels that Bob is the only family he has.

Some plot turns in the final act push credibility out of the picture, but the film has a nagging theatricality that implies a deeper theme is at work. So it's strange that the plot's Stockholm Syndrome premise is never explored. Instead, Lynch focusses on making the setting as freaky as possible, with women who are hapless victims and authorities who are clearly useless at solving crimes. But something about all of this gets under the skin to shock us to the core. So horror fans shouldn't miss it.

18 themes, violence, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Do Elephants Pray?
dir Paul Hills
scr Jonnie Hurn
prd Paul Hills, Jonnie Hurn
with Jonnie Hurn, Julie Dray, Marc Warren, Rosie Fellner, Grace Vallorani, John Last, Jean-Baptiste Puech, Abi Titmuss, Cassandra French, Dougal Porteous, Marina Jankovic, Daniel Nussbaumer
hurn and dray release UK 1.Feb.13
10/UK 1h45
Do Elephants Pray? The spiritual journey at the core of this film is just about enough to hold our interest, even as the tone veers unevenly through comedy, drama and romance. But none of this is properly developed, and the movie is never as insightful as the filmmakers think it is.

London ad exec Callum (Hurn) is on a quest for meaning in his life when he meets the mysterious, free-spirited Malika (Dray), a welcome distraction from his current task to sell a cranberry alco-pop. Frankly, he'll do anything to get away from his brutish colleague Marrlen (Warren), so he doesn't protest too much when Malika drags him off on a camping trip to France. Even though it jeopardises his job by letting Marrlen get the upper hand back home.

The film is nicely shot and edited except when the story shifts into the ad agency's offices, where it looks rather garishly low-budget and the dialog descends into inane banter that makes us wonder how this company stays in business. Frankly, Warren is too good at making Marrlen into a hot-headed lout for us to believe he works in a creative job. Meanwhile, Malika is so cartoonishly wacky that she seems to be a figment of Callum's imagination, like his fever-dreams of running naked through a forest to do tai chi by a lake.

Indeed, actor-screenwriter Hurn is the only character in the film who feels even remotely realistic. Although while his pensive, inquisitive personality is rather dull and uninteresting, even when Malika finally coaxes him into lowering his guard. More cliched is the way she weans him from his mobile phone, helps him quit smoking and ruins his hand-made shoes. She's also so arrogant and demanding that we lose interest in any developing romance.

What isn't clear is whether this is meant to be a comical romp or a more thoughtful exploration of spiritual ideas. The film meanders into both slapstick (like the seasick ferry journey) and horror (a nightmarish trip on mushrooms), but Malika turns Callum's spiritual quest into little more than lust. And for all its philosophical musings (see the title), this overlong movie doesn't really have much to say beyond urging us to get out of our busy routines.

15 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Sammy’s Great Escape
3.5/5   Sammy’s Avonturen 2
dir Vincent Kesteloot, Ben Stassen
scr Domonic Paris
prd Gina Gallo, Mimi Maynard, Domonic Paris, Ben Stassen, Caroline Van Iseghem
voices Billy Unger, Carlos McCullers II, Isabelle Fuhrman, Pat Carroll, Joe Thomas, Dino Andrade, Cinda Adams, Chris Andrew Ciulla, Willie James Warren, Michael Sun Lee, Douglas Ryan Roth, Wesley Johnny
jimbo and the eels
release Bel 15.Aug.12,
UK 15.Feb.13
12/Belgium StudioCanal 1h32
sammy's great escape This sequel to 2010's A Turtle's Tale stands on its own as a bonkers action adventure. The script is simplistic, and the animation isn't hugely original, but it makes up for that with a pacey story, wacky humour and an aggressive use of 3D that lifts much of the action right out of the screen.

Turtles Sammy and Ray are helping their hatchling grandchildren get to the sea when they're captured in a net along with babies Ella and Ricky. They're taken to a mammoth undersea aquarium in Dubai and put on display with a range of colourful creatures, including the Lulu, a lobster with split-personality, and Jimbo, a blobfish who's expert at playing (and maybe being) dead. The aquarium is ruled by mafioso seahorse Big D, who enforces his will with two hench-eels. But the pressing issue is how they're going to get out of here.

Produced in Belgium, the film is mercifully free of Hollywood sheen, so everything feels slightly out of control. Characters have jaggedly outrageous personalities, and the filmmakers aren't afraid to play with ethnic stereotypes, pushing the boundaries of political correctness. All of this gives the movie a dangerous edge even with such a predictable plot. It also adds interest to an animation design that looks rather corny.

That said, the movie is packed with big personalities and running gags that keep us chuckling. Kids might be annoyed by dialog-heavy scenes, but they'll love the frightening moments such as a memorably terrifying set piece in which two slithery barracudas chase little Ricky and Ella. As usual, it's the smaller roles that are the most memorable: Jimbo and Lulu steal most scenes with their ridiculous antics. As do a pair of loved-up Latino hogfish.

The story also has some gentle messages that never get preachy, even with pointed comments on polluting the oceans, blindly following flawed leaders and the importance of encouraging others to never give up. And there's also a rather sharp depiction of how the food chain works. You might pause to look over your shoulder next time you're eating sushi or lobster.

U themes, some violence
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall