Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: CRAWL | GAYBY
MANIAC + Franck Khalfoun Q&A
< <
I N D I E S > >
last update 10.Mar.13
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Paul China
prd Brian J Breheny, Benjamin China
with George Shevtsov, Georgina Haig, Paul Holmes, Lauren Dillon, Catherine Miller, Lynda Stoner, Paul Bryant, John Rees-Osborne, Andy Barclay, Bob Newman, William Garvey, Baz McAlister
release Aus Nov.11 bff,
US 1.Sep.12, UK 22.Feb.13
11/Australia 1h20

fright fest
Crawl There are several points during this quietly atmospheric thriller when people crawl across the ground for various reasons. But that's about as deep as this film goes: its gimmicky freak-out thrills might get our pulses racing, but they're all contrived by the filmmaker to do just that. And there's nothing under the surface to make it particularly meaningful.

In a backwoods Australian town, Marilyn (Haig) works in a seedy bar with her friends Holly and Annie (Dillon and Miller). Their sleazy boss Slim (Holmes) has hired a Croatian cowboy hitman (Shevtsov) to settle a debt with an old friend, but things take a blackly comical twist when the cowboy stumbles into Marilyn's big romantic night with her soon-to-be fiance (Barclay). Suddenly both Slim's plan and the cowboy's twisted counterplot converge on poor Marilyn, alone in her rambling country house.

Writer-director China has clearly watched the Coen brothers' films in minute detail, drawing elements specifically from Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men into this movie, along with a very heavy dose of Kubrick's The Shining. But as well-executed as these stylish touches are, there's not really anything else going on here. We watch because it's intriguing, not involving. The characters are paper-thin, and the situations all feel utterly random, set up only so they look very cool.

And yes, the film is extremely well-made, shot and edited with considerable skill, with set-pieces that continually catch us off guard. The script is minimalistic; most scenes play out in utter silence in places that are fully lit. This puts us on edge even if we don't really care what happens to these vacuous characters. Christopher Gordon's musical score adds to the overall effect by continually harking back to Bernard Hermann, although it's thankfully deployed only when absolutely necessary.

In other words, while there is nothing to this film, and it will likely bore horror fans with its languorous pacing and extended set-ups, it's still a terrific calling card for writer-director China and his twin-brother producer Benjamin. They show great confidence as filmmakers, and we can only hope that their next script has rather a lot more originality than this one.

15 themes, language, grisly violence, drugs
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Jonathan Lisecki
prd Amy Hobby, Anne Hubbell
with Jenn Harris, Matthew Wilkas, Mike Doyle, Jonathan Lisecki, Jack Ferver, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Louis Cancelmi, Adam Driver, Alycia Delmore, Dule Hill, Charlie Barnett, Alex Karpovsky
murphy and reynor release US 12.Oct.12, UK 11.Mar.13
12/US 1h29

See also the original short:
Gayby (2010)
Gayby In adapting his 2010 short into a feature, writer-director Lisecki maintains the smart, funny tone, bringing the characters to life by dropping astute observations into every conversation. And while the feature-length plot is forced into a standard film-school structure, the characters keep us laughing while gently exploring deeper issues.

Matt (Wilkas) is caught off-guard when his oldest friend Jenn (Harris) texts him to suggest that they have a baby together. Living in New York, Jenn has given up finding the perfect man, so reminds her gay pal of a deal they once made. He agrees to go along with it, even though she wants to conceive the natural way. Meanwhile, he's barely starting to get over a break-up. So when he meets a sexy single dad (Doyle) and Jenn has a fling with a painter (Cancelmi), the complications threaten to derail their plan.

Harris and Wilkas have strong chemistry that makes their relationship believable, which is no mean feat. And their banter sizzles with the kind of witty wordplay old friends develop over the years. Although all of the lively side characters talk like this too, which hints at an overwritten script. But is so snappy that we don't really mind. Lisecki fills the screen with people who would be cliches in most movies, pushing things further by having not one but two queeny best pals: Lisecki himself plays Matt's sissy-bear buddy, while Ferver gleefully steals scenes as Jenn's yoga-teacher colleague.

There are also a number of side plots, including Jenn's childless sister (Hollyman), who's trying to adopt an African baby. Adding another childbearing theme may feel contrived, but it provides rich fodder for the jaggedly amusing conversations along the way. And the depiction of Manhattan metrosexuality is telling without ever becoming hackneyed or preachy. Indeed, the film has a cool, sexy vibe that knows when to abandon the goofiness and get sweaty.

In the end, the plot's wacky gyrations undermine the natural issues raised by the dialog and characters. This also kind of transforms the film into a silly rom-com rather than a more interesting exploration of changing ideas about family and parenthood. But the characters are so vividly written and played that we can't help but identify with them, especially with their messy reactions and not-so-quiet desperation for companionship.

15 themes, language, sexuality, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Franck Khalfoun
scr Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
prd Alexandre Aja, Thomas Langmann, Gregory Levasseur, William Lustig
with Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, America Olivo, Joshua De La Garza, Megan Duffy, Liane Balaban, Jan Broberg, Morgane Slemp, Genevieve Alexandra, Sammi Rotibi, Dan Hunter, Ron Reznik
bishop release US Oct.12 ciff,
UK 15.Mar.13
12/US 1h29

fright fest
Maniac French horror filmmakers Khalfoun, Aja and Levasseur remake the 1980 gore-fest as a point-of-view movie that has little discernible point. Like most mindless shockers, its main reason to exist seems to be the graphic violence, which is strung together with a very thin plot. Fortunately, the filmmaking is inventive enough to hold our interest.

Frank (Wood) lives in a mannequin shop where he's surrounded by memories of his slutty mother (Olivo). Totally unhinged, he prowls around after women, cornering them and scalping them, using their hair to recreate them in mannequin form. Then he meets French photographer Anna (Arnezeder), and starts to act like a normal man for a change. At least when he's with her. But can he ever live a normal life if his murderous urges won't leave him?

Shot completely through Frank's eyes, except a couple of odd shots during murders, the film includes his fantasies, delusions and flashbacks, which add to the lurid tone. And Khalfoun deploys his camera in intriguing ways, using long takes and seamless make-up and digital effects to create some serious grisliness. This focus on the violence itself harks back to 80s-style nasties. Especially since all of the brutality is aimed at women.

Since everything is seen through Frank's perspective, Wood's performance exists mainly in breathy dialog, as he talks to himself and his victims. And we see him in a variety of mirrors as well. Even so, no one else really registers. We certainly never have a clue what Anna sees in him other than a source for mannequins for her gallery exhibition. It's inexplicable why she befriends him or why she would ever phone him in a moment of need.

But then this isn't a movie about narrative coherence, thematic depth or character motivation. It's just a collection of increasingly gruesome killings designed to make us feel sick to our stomachs. There isn't a hint of suspense in the entire film, nothing that makes us jump and certainly nothing that remotely engages our sympathies. But there is plenty that makes us cringe from the screen in revulsion. Which for some viewers is the highest form of a recommendation.

18 themes, strong violence, language, sexuality, drugs

“I wanted the
audience to
feel trapped
in his body.”

9.Mar.68 • Paris

P2Switchblade Romance

I N T E R V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E

khalfoun Shadows was invited to send 10 questions to Franck Khalfoun, who has collaborated with fellow French filmmakers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur on Maniac and P2 (both of which Khalfoun directed), as well as Piranha 3D and Switchblade Romance (aka High Tension). He's a skilled filmmaker, although his answers reveal that he's not the chattiest man in the business...

What's your working process with Alexandre and Gregory? How do you come up with ideas? And decide who's directing?
Ideas are shared freely without apprehension. That is key. The director is chosen based on the project and the filmmaker's strengths and sensibilities.

What was the main idea behind this remake?
Touching a new generation with a classic slasher/horror tale.

How did you come to cast Elijah Wood as a killer?
I think it's the last thing you'd expect. That's what everybody says when they learn their neighbor is a serial killer.

Why did you opt for point-of-view camerawork?
I wanted the audience to feel trapped in his body. The cinema plays a big part in that concept since you are stuck in your seat forced to experience the events with little control over the outcome. Much like Frank is stuck in his body. You are therefore at the same time complicit and repulsed. Therein lies the horror.

So why are a couple of shots not from Frank's perspective?
These are either dreams or out of body experiences that many killers have talked about having.

What were the technical challenges of shooting this way? And of the long, elaborate takes?
Many. It takes specific rigging and detailed and precise blocking.

Is there a message, or is it just clever way to scare the audience?
Since the beginning of cinema, the goal has always been to share an experience or a point of view with the audience.

How was it to shoot a film in Los Angeles?
21 days.

Was it a deliberate decision to look for L.A. locations that we don't see often on film?
That is often the case when making any movie. Finding new cinematic places that represent the characters or story of the film.

What's next for you?
I think I'm going to have breakfast now.

back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < I N D I E S > >

© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall