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

Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives   Wo das Böse Wohnt
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Home Sweet Home: Where Evil Lives
dir-scr Thomas Sieben
prd Benedikt Bollhoff, Max Frauenknecht, Constanze Guttmann, Friederich Oetker
with Nilam Farooq, Justus von Dohnanyi, David Kross, Olga von Luckwald, Anton Fatoni Schneider, Karl Schaper
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/Germany 1h24


Is it streaming?

Filmed in one elaborate take, this German horror thriller becomes increasingly bonkers as night falls in real time. It's adeptly directed by Thomas Sieben and powered by an astonishing performance from Nilam Farooq. Because the expert camerawork by Daniel Gottschalk maintains her point-of-view so skilfully, the fact that many plot elements remain enigmatic only adds to the freak-out. And the filmmakers have several cool tricks up their sleeves.
A very pregnant Maria (Farooq) is settling into her gorgeous new country home, waiting for husband Viktor (Kross) to finish work. The house has been in Viktor's family for generations, passed down from his doctor father Wilhelm (von Dohnanyi). But strange noises increase as darkness falls, leading her to a secret basement room full of artefacts from Germany's horrific genocide in early 1900s Africa. Fearing for her health, Maria calls for help, and Wilhelm comes round, followed by her friend Holly (von Luckwald) and neighbour Mike (Schneider). But Maria isn't ready to hear the truth.
It's ambitious to tell this kind of story in a single take, as it includes glimpses of the supernatural, a chilling history lesson, freaky visions and quite a lot of terrifying violence. But Sieben orchestrates this in a way that keeps the entire situation almost eerily grounded. Maria doesn't quite see the ghostly apparitions that we witness on-screen, so she continually tries to rationalise flickering lights and bumps in the night, blaming it on hormones. Then the script begins to reveal its intentions, as Germany's violent past demands atonement.

With her enormous belly, Farooq is instantly sympathetic, raising our concern as she becomes increasingly agitated. Her reactions to everything that happens and everything she discovers are bracingly realistic, revealing a clear-thinking young woman who clearly has no intention of taking what's coming without a fight. This essentially turns her into a reluctant hero, an admirable figure we genuinely root for. And everyone around her feels equally authentic, with their own motives adding wonderfully to a deliberately off-kilter atmosphere.

With its sins-of-the-father themes, the film actually finds some new things to say about the fallout from colonialism, pointing a finger at the generations that continue to enjoy benefits from centuries of looting while refusing to acknowledge the guilt of their forebears. Yes, there is a need to look forward, but only if we stop pretending that that we don't know what got us here. And while it's certainly entertaining, perhaps this film's grisly solution is a step too far.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 28.Aug.23 frf

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir Konstantinos Koutsoliotas
scr Konstantinos Koutsoliotas, Elizabeth E Schuch
prd Lilette Botasi, Dimitris Hatzivogiatzis
with Davide Tucci, Daphne Alexander, Apollon Bollas, Nicolas Bravos, Stelios Dimopoulos, Maria-Nefele Douka, Meletis Georgiadis, Igor Gorewicz, Constantin Symsiris, Christos Callow, Christos Kontogeorgis, Efi Papatheodorou
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/Greece 1h52


Is it streaming?

alexander and tucci
Enjoyably offbeat, this Greek action-fantasy infuses a present-day legend with a witty sense of humour and a surreal queer sensibility. A large ensemble cast has fun creating a collection of hilariously quirky characters, while filmmaker Konstantinos Koutsoliotas skilfully builds a growing sense of ominous menace before the gore starts to flow. And swirly dreamlike sequences, which ripple with inventive effects and makeup, add to the mythical sensibilities.
In a Greek port, visiting sailor musician William (Tucci) flirts with waitress Aliki (Alexander) while he searches for his long-lost father (Georgiadis). He finds him as a member of a local band, while artist Naris (Symsiris) spots the handsome William and immediately wants to paint him. But the elderly are having premonitions, as earthquakes reveal a new island and people start walking hypnotically into the sea. Then monsters emerge from the mist. "Is this a Greek thing," William asks after a gruesome attack. And now it's up to this ragtag group to defend the coastline.
Scenes are packed with muscled men and straight-talking women who are going about their everyday lives when chaos breaks out. Shirtless hunk Alexis (Bravos) entertains crowds with his dancing and poses for Naris' sexy religious paintings. Gangster Nikos (Dimopoulos) is threatening tavern owner Pantelis (Callow), father of Marianna (Douka), who has been fixed up with cute nice guy Manos (Bollas). A tattooed bodybuilder (Gorewicz) practices with his sword. Around them, the creatures have an old-school look, with tentacles rendered using both puppetry and clever digital effects. They're also terrifying.

Within this fantastical atmosphere, performances are remarkably grounded, so the actors are able to find vivid resonance in their connections with each other. Tucci's engaging William longs to reconnect with his father, whose memory is fading. William's connection with Alexander's thoughtful, charming Aliki is enjoyable to watch. Douka's Marianna kicks into action, fiercely protective of her batty Granny (Papatheodorou). And as the soulful Naris, Symsiris gets the most emotional moments.

Because there are so many story threads, there are all kinds of themes swirling around in this film, including yearnings for love, settling issues from the past and coping with regret. All of these are echoed in the monsters that emerge to ravage this community, while the various plots also feature references to mythological tales. The effects work is impressive and very effective. Although as it heads into the over-extended climactic battle, the film gets more than a little messy. Even so, we can't help cheering for this unlikely group of outcasts.

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

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir-scr Quarxx
prd Isabelle Guenezan, Sandra Ianigro, Martine Melloul
with Hugo Dillon, Arben Bajraktaraj, Manon Maindivide, Ophelia Kolb, Carl Laforet, Sidwell Weber, Jerome Paquatte
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/France 1h35


Is it streaming?

bajraktaraj and dillon
Essentially three shorts woven together thematically, this relentlessly grisly and devastatingly bleak movie explores the afterlife through the eyes of three people whose sins have condemned them. Yes, it's all very Catholic in its take on right and wrong, and French writer-director Quarxx wallows in this simplistic morality while having a lot of fun with elaborate sets, makeup and gore. It's also expertly shot, edited and acted.
After crashing on an isolated mountain road, driver Nathan (Dillon) meets biker Daniel (Bajraktaraj), and they realise they're dead. With snow falling, they see a gleaming white door and ominous red gate. Because of his past actions, Nathan is ushered through the gates. There he finds a smoky battlefield strewn with bodies. One belongs to young Nina (Maindivide), who went on a murderous rampage with her friendly monster Tony (Laforet). Another is Linda (Kolb), who unnervingly failed to accept the death of her daughter (Weber). And now Nathan has to face his own eternal torment.
Structured around Nathan's odyssey, a framing story that's extended in the opening and closing sequences, the film cuts away to reveal the chain of events that brought Nina and Linda to this place. Each sequence is designed lushly, with its own vibe. Sharp cinematography, effects and editing combine to make the stories fascinating, involving and ultimately harrowing. But the main emotion we feel here is aching sadness, as each of these people faces a desolate eternity, and they're so damaged that it's not necessarily what they deserve.

Performances have a deep emotionality, as actors explore motivations and reactions. At the centre, Dillon is naturalistic as Nathan, a sympathetic figure who doesn't certainly isn't due the agonies of hell for mercifully ending his terminally ill wife's life. Manon's Nina is more of a proper demon child, but she manages to layer in some childish innocence amid her outrageously privileged criminality. And Kolb brings huge emotions to Julia's ordeal, offering an unusual portrayal of denial as a mother who can't accept her own failures.

These deeper ideas make the film involving even as it all feels somewhat random and meandering. The three stories have some referential links between them, but offer very different angles on the central idea of paying hellish penalties for the peccadillos we commit during our lives. And it's this moralistic element, which is perhaps deliberately incendiary, as it were, that leaves the film feeling unnecessarily grim in the end. Still, as a provocation, Quarxx has made something memorably surreal.

cert 18 themes, language, violence 26.Aug.23 frf

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