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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 1.Sep.23

Apocalypse Clown  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
Apocalypse Clown
dir George Kane
prd Morgan Bushe, James Dean
scr Shane O'Brien, James Walmsley, Demian Fox, George Kane
with David Earl, Natalie Palamides, Amy De Bhrun, Fionn Foley, Ivan Kaye, Tadhg Murphy, Shane O'Brien, James Walmsley, Barry McGovern, Erin McGathy, Pollyanna McIntosh, Tony Cantwell
release US 1.Sep.23
23/Ireland 1h42

Is it streaming?

foley, earl and palamides
A nutty Irish comedy with end-of-the-world vibes, this brightly coloured movie is amusingly trashy and ridiculous. The dialog is packed with every corny clown pun imaginable, plus constant references to pop culture. Director George Kane keeps the pace snappy, charging colourfully into each absurd situation. Actual laughs are rare, but the satirical approach is smart and silly, with just about enough resonance to keep us entertained.
In Dublin, the hangdog Bobo (Earl) has decided to give up his clown career and win back his ex, the hotheaded journalist Jenny (De Bhrun), who is desperate to cover something important for a change. Then after the messy funeral of an iconic clown teacher (McGovern), a massive solar flare causes society to collapse. Bobo and Jenny find themselves wandering the countryside with scary clown Funzo (Palamides), philosophical Pepe (Foley) and egomaniac Alphonso (Kaye). The group takes refuge with a group of hippie festival-goers, and a drunken Jenny challenges Bobo to a clown-off with Alphonso.
Hilariously, news media had been predicting impending disaster, but everyone prefers frivolous pieces about things like, well, clowns. There are a couple of angry buskers (O'Brien and Walmsley) chasing Funzo, who finds violence hilarious until it's real. Eventually, they meet a former boyband member (Murphy) who has a conspiracy theory about this, so Jenny prepares a momentous TV report. But there are all kinds of obstacles to overcome. And everyone will need to figure out who they really are.

All of this is absurd and relentlessly wacky, although the gags are only occasionally funny. Characters raise some sympathy as they stick to their schtick, even if no one else gets it. "The heart can't be wrong," says Pepe, "can it?" The actors are remarkably committed to these roles as people whose entire identity is entangled with the character they play. At one point, they make an attempt to return to who they were before they were clowns, with no success.

Stated at the beginning, the point here is that we need to learn to laugh at God instead of cursing him. And there's the question of whether the world actually needs clowns. These losers are addicted to adulation from the crowd, and they don't care who gets a custard pie in the face as long as someone does. So even if the premise is badly stretched in the final act, it's still goofy enough to hold the interest, especially as these offbeat performers discover the power in being themselves.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 31.Aug.23

Cold Meat  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Cold Meat
dir Sebastien Drouin
scr Sebastien Drouin, James Kermack, Andrew Desmond
prd James Barton-Steel, James Kermack, Julien Loeffler, Jana Phillips, Shayne Putzlocher, Jessica Gaube
with Allen Leech, Nina Bergman, Yan Tual, James Barton-Steel, Sydney Hendricks, William Kuklis, Riley Banzer, Gil Botelho, Kat Fullerton
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/UK 1h30


Is it streaming?

Tightly contained within a snowbound car, this edgy thriller hinges around a battle of wills between two people who really don't want to be trapped together. Director Sebastien Drouin cleverly expands the visual palette with external scene-setting cinematography, back-story flashbacks and some deranged nightmares, so the film plays intensely on various layers. And even if it's slightly half-hearted, the nod to Native American folklore creates a powerful undercurrent.
As a blizzard descends on the Colorado Rockies, David (Leech) stops for food in a diner, taking on violent thug Vince (Tual) when he threatens the waitress. Back on the road, Vince pursues David, who he get lost and crashes into a snow bank. Trapped in the middle of nowhere, he also gets injured looking for help. And then there's the woman (Bergman) tied up in his boot, who manages to escape and turn the tables on him. She might be more dangerous than the local legend about a soul-consuming spirit living in these woods.
For a story in which almost everything happens inside a car that's being quickly buried in snow, this is a remarkably expansive movie. Continual shots of the landscape remind us just how far these people are from anybody else. And cutaways offer key elements from each person's life, augmenting the dialog to reveal glimpses and tantalising hints about what these people have been up to before arriving here. There are various surprises along the way, right up to the film's final shot.

Essentially a two-hander between Leech and Bergman, the film finds considerable tension in their shifting dynamic, most notably as she makes discoveries about him. Leech plays David as an intelligent, kind man with a very, very dark secret. His well-spoken dialog conceals his grisly impulses, many of which are thankfully left to our imagination. And Bergman is terrific as the single mother opposite him, steely and unflinching, with an internalised resilience that's inspiring.

Both of these people have been crushed by awful circumstances in their childhood, and she's the one who notes that their past pain isn't an excuse for their present behaviour. Some of this is lost in whispered dialog, and the script deploys the folkloric story element without adding much meaning, so the impact feels muted. But at least it adds a touch of context to the bigger picture. And the way the story ends is witty and satisfying.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Aug.23 frf

The Moor  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5
The Moor
dir Chris Cronin
scr Paul Thomas
prd Pawel Pracz, Paul Thomas, Chris Cronin
with Sophia La Porta, David Edward-Robertson, Elizabeth Dormer-Phillips, Mark Peachey, Vicki Hackett, Bernard Hill, Billie Suggett, Dexter Sol Ansell, Duggal Ram, Mia Vore, Trevor Dwyer-Lynch, Leela Rose Rowland
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/UK 1h59


Is it streaming?

The Moor
With an earthy, documentary style, this often unnerving thriller revisits a missing-children case through the eyes of people who have a lingering connection to it. Although the film is far too long, director Chris Cronin has a terrific sense of the English countryside, mixing wide-scale landscapes and gritty handheld urgency. So while the pacing is a bit choppy, the vivid central characters add a strong emotional kick.
In Yorkshire, it's been 25 years since a number of children went missing, and Claire (La Porta) is still haunted by the loss of childhood friend Danny (Ansell). His still-hopeful father Bill (Edward-Robertson) wants her to talk about the case on her podcast because the culprit, who never confessed, is due for release from prison. Claire meets with Liz (Hackett), who knows the moors and is still searching, then goes through documentary footage and consults Thornley (Hill), who was involved in the search back in the day. Then they decided to consult psychic Eleanor (Dormer-Phillips).
Finding someone on the vast moor is almost impossible, especially a quarter century later. A subtly churning underscore adds menacing moodiness, in addition to the usual loud noises, jump scares and freaky dream sequences. Then of course when the paranormal investigation begins, things head in a more bonkers direction. Swirling mists and standing stones add to the mystical atmosphere, but the story feels badly drawn out, and it's not easy to maintain interest.

Performances are internalised and honest, further developing the film's naturalistic vibe, which is heightened by dramatic turns in the plot. La Porta has a grounded sensibility as Claire, who maintains a clear head even as her past haunts her. Edward-Robinson and Peachey, as another man close to the case, bring a desperation to their roles that's compelling. And Dormer-Phillips manages to make Eleanor come across as a true believer rather than the usual soothsaying diva.

At the centre of the film is a community that has never been able to heal due to this unfinished case, forced to live with the fact that their children are most likely dead. The hope that they hold is fragile; for these parents, their children are still out there on the moor somewhere. So these investigations continually hint that something bigger is going on here. Tighter story editing would have made this meandering and repetitive movie a much more riveting thriller. But its more internalised touches hold the interest, and it's a nice reminder that some things don't make sense.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 26.Aug.23

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