Film

Reviews and posts related to films and movies. Mostly in english.

Chrysalis (USA, 2014)

Three people in a dark room, one holds a flashligh into the face of another.

Still from Chrysalis, 2014.

I found this one on DVD at a second hand shop with the title The Living Dead, which happens to be the title used for the UK DVD release. Took me a bit of searching around the net to find that. It is also known as Battle of the living dead in some regions it seems.

In any case, I did not have great hopes for it, but thought it could bring a bit of the old zombie havoc entertainment. Much to my positive surprise it was fairly low on the zombies, and more on the inter-personal relationship between the main characters. It turned out to be a pretty interesting film after all.

We follow Penelope and Josh as they journey through a ruined city on the search for food and other survivors years after a cataclysmic event that caused a lot of people to become infected with some strange virus turning them into zombies. When they encounter another susrvivor, Abira, their little world changes dramatically.

It’s the dynamic between these three characters that give the film it’s drive and nerve, and in my opinion turns it into something more interesting than a general zombie movie.

Häxan (Sweden, 1922)

The devil strangling a woman in the night fog. Still from Häxan

Still from Häxan, 1922.

My first meeting with this amazing piece of film history was at a screening at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo at the All Ears festival in 2003. The screening was accompanied by live improvised music by some of Norways most interesting experimental musicians at the time. Needless to say, this was a cinematic experience outside of the ordinary.

But the film holds up very well on it’s own as well. I have seen it numerous times since this first meeting with the film.

It is an early attempt at what we today would call a documentary. Beginning with plaques, illustrations and tableaus depicting what it claims is a medieval world view, and easing it’s way into superstition around witches and witchcraft. This part is charming enough, but the real gold comes when it flips into staged scenes where actors play out the witches workshop, the witch sabbath (complete with the devil played by the director Benjamin Christensen himself), and of course a tentative witch trial.

The reenacted scenes are surprisingly well done. Not only is the staged setup elaborate and well done, but the performances of the actors are well beyond what is common for films of the time. The version I have from the Criterion Collection is also beautifully tinted in brownish red or blue depending on the scenes atmosphere.

As a documentary it may not have much value today, if it ever had, but as a quaint and entertaining piece of early film history Häxan is gold. Definitely worth watching!

Antiviral (Canada, 2012)

A man with a thermometer in his mouth before a white wall.

Caleb Landry Jones as Syd Match in Antiviral (2012)

This is one of those films that I was a bit anxious to watch. I’m a big fan of some of David Cronenbergs work, so getting to know he has a son that also is a film director I had to check out some of his work too.

I don’t know why I haven’t known about Brandon Cronenberg before. His debut film, Antiviral was released in 2012, and has completely passed me by for some reason.

And a strong debut it is!

Pathfinder (Norway, 1987)

sami boy aiming straigt at the viewer with a bow and arrow.

Still from Pathfinder (1987).

Pathfinder (Norwegian title: Veiviseren, Sami title: Ofelaš) remains one of Norways absolute best films throughout the times. I can’t say for sure how many times I have seen it, but every now and again I just have to pick it back up and watch it again.

Everything works in this film. An engaging story, magnificent winter landscape and an unlikely hero. If there’s anything that reduces the impression, it must be that the enemies in the film (the Tsjuds) appears to be without any human emotions or empathy. They don’t seem to have any motivation outside of being evil. But then again, they are so completely evil that it works out fine in any case.

If you have not yet seen this gem of Scandinavian cinema, I do urge you to do so. And if you have seen it, it’s probably time to watch it again.

The Curse of La Llorona (USA, 2019)

A dark interior with a ghost in the corner.

Still from The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

This could have been a good movie, and while it starts out quite well, it quickly falls into an all too predictable pattern of clichés and jump scares. The film is a spinoff from the Conjuring franchise, and feels like it’s more about keeping the franchise alive than to tell a good story.

The visuals are good, but again the film falls into the traps of showing the monster too much, and exagerated cgi use. I feel that takes away some of the suspense and intensity a film like this neeeds.

The underlying story is interesting though, but deserves a better script and would probably suit a latin american production much better.

Gothika (USA, 2003)

Woman in front of doors with 'Not Alone' written in blood

Still from Gothika (USA, 2003).

This is one of those films I watched when it first was released, and I remember liking it, but didn’t remember anything of the story. So finding it in a second hand store, I brought it home for a rewatch.

Gothika is a somewhat rare bird. It is produced like a straight thriller with both a cast and a budget you would not normally associate with a horror film. At least not in 2003. Except it features a rather disturbing ghost/posession type story which at least in my mind puts it clearly in the horror genre.

With that out of the way, Gothica holds up very well. It’s a creepy and still quite disturbing film. A well told story blending the ghost and horror elements into a more real world story of power, abuse and corruption.

Beasts Clawing At Straws (South Korea, 2020)

Man looking with surprise at bag in car trunk

Still from Beasts Clawing At Straws.

Beast Clawing At Straws set in the world of hardboiled underground criminals, a sauna worker struggling to make enda meet, his wife, mother, not so innocent daughter and a not so hardboiled customs officer with a money problem. While not a highly original movie, it is well made and the story feels captivating and entertaining from the start.

I enjoyed it.

It is available for purchase as a DRM free download from Artsploitation at Vimeo.

Killungard (Norway, 2018)

Nina-Shanett Arntsen in Killungard

Nina-Shanett Arntsen as Anniken in Killungard (2018).

The norwegian underground scene for horror films is growing. Killungard is just one of many proofs of this fact. The director Magne Steinsvoll has also been involved in Christmas Cruelty (2013) together with Per-Ingvar Tomren. This time he’s on his own, but delivers a solid and haunting ghost story set in the north western part of Norway.

Killungard is a good old fashioned gjost story without relying on fancy effects. The suspense is driven by the story, the performance of the actors and the visuals. Especially Nina-Shanett Arntsen is a perfect casting for the role as Anniken. Where effects has been used, they are done subtly and with great effect. A few nods to other classics of the genre has also found it’s way into the film.

I first watched an early version of the film at the Ramasksik Horror Film Festival in 2018. The DVD version that is out now has been recut and tuned a bit, and is a much tighter and coherent film than what was presented then.

All in all a great and at times creepy ghost horror story. Recommended! Go support your local independent film maker today!

signed cover of Killungard DVD

Support the underground film scene, and you can also get a nice signed DVD to show off!

Pet Sematary (USA, 1989)

angry child with scalpel

Gage (Miko Hughes) is getting angry. Still from Pet Sematary (1989).

I read Pet Sematary, the novel, when I was 15 or so, and really liked it at the time. Somehow, I never got sround to see the film when it came out a few years later. So when I recently found a restored version on BluRay at a discount, I figured now was as good time as any.

This is a film without any surprises — even if you have not read the novel. Once the first milestone of the plot is reached, the rest comes exactly as expected. What it does well is the way it builds up the tension. Not rushing it, but not too slow either. It feels like a decent adaptation of the novel as far as I can remember.

Where the film shows it’s age is in the performances of the cast. Stiff dialogue and a bit exagerated performances make this an interesting study of the genre and period. However it does less to make the film feel beleivable or frightening. The sole exception is the small kid (Gage, played by Miko Hughes) who does an amazing role. Especially at the end.

The film was remade in 2019, but I have not seen this version. From the trailer it looks like a much more slick and less interesting production. Younger audiences will probably prefer it though.

iHuman (Norway, 2019)

iHUMAN poster

iHUMAN poster

The Norwegian documentary iHuman explores the current state of artificial intelligence by letting some of the formative people in the business speak more or less freely. Both the people who work on AI, and sees the technology in a positive light, and the sceptics and those wary of it. Together they paint a fairly bleak picture of what is ahead.

Dead by Dawn 2018

Dead By Dawn logo.

In April this year a group of friends organized a trip to the Dead By Dawn horror film festival in Edinburg. This was a new festival to me, even though it has been going strong for 25 whole years already! Landing in Edinburgh the day before the festival, we got to see a bit of the city, and did the mandatory intake of Haggis and Whisky. Nice town, and by the look of it, a perfect location for a horror film festival.

Ramaskrik 2016

One of the attractions this year was the screening of Howl from an old train car at Oppdal station.

This report from the Ramaskrik Horror Film Festival of 2016 has taken way too long to finish. My apologies for that. We’re now only a about a month and a half away from the next Ramaskrik, which I’m very much forwards to it! Anyways here is my report from four days dedicated in full to horror films, beers and socializing with other horror fans.

Huset (The house)

Poster for Huset.

Norwegian horror films are getting some attention, and there’s no reason Huset should not get it’s share too. A brand new horror film from Reinert Kiil, which at least I know best from the low budget slashers Hora (Whore) and Inside the Whore. Even though low budget, they were enjoyable films and gave promise of a director that could do interesting things given more resources.

The Devil's Hand

The Devil’s Hand from 2014 (not to be confused with the film with the same title from 1961) sets a nice atmosphere, but never becomes scary nor very exciting. The plot seems pretty obvious throughout the entire movie, but the ending lifts it up a notch. Not a bad movie, it has some interesting elements, and the setting is beleivable. Still I think it will fall a bit inbetween chairs for the horror fans.

Clowne

Clowne

Clowne is something as rare as the pilot for a TV series produced by a a crew of Norwegian high-school students. Don’t let that discourage you, this is really well made and very well produced!

I am Divine

I am Divine cover image.

Divine has always been a fascinating figure. Here’s a great documentary going beyond the over the top, sleazy drag queen image most of us associate with her, and shows a glimpse of the human behind the image.

Available on Vimeo On Demand, recommended!

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter cover image

Kumiko is a disilutioned office worker from Tokyo that one day sets out on a journey to find a treasure she is convinced exists in America. She has seen so in a movie, it is her destiny.

Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle cover image

Hal Hartley is an american independent filmmaker who has done a number of films. His latest film Ned Rifle (2014) is the third film about the characters and story begun with Henry Fool (1997). I have sadly not seen the second film, Fay Grim (2006) yet, but it does not seem like that’s a requirement either. The films stand well on their own.

Peter Greenaway: The Baby of Mâcon

The Baby of Mâcon poster. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

There’s film, and there’s film by Peter Greenaway.

I’ve been a fan of this extraordinary film maker from the first time I saw The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. So I was sligthly surprised when I found a new film directed by the master that I didn’t know about. The Baby of Mâcon is far from new, but not one of his most well known films. Released in 1993, it stired some controversy and was refused distribution in the USA. That pretty much sealed its fate as an underground classic.

Among the Living (Aux yeux des vivants)

Among the Living cover image

After seeing (and loving) Livide I had some hopes for Among the Living (Original title: “Aux yeux des vivants”) from the same directors. It’s not a bad movie, but far from the masterpiece that Livide was. It never really manages to build up to a scare, even though it quite obviously tries to. The filming is nice, and the movie is well produced without really fulfilling it’s potential.

Ida

Ida cover image.

Ida is a really beautiful, slowpaced film from Poland. It’s filmed entirely in black and white, uses a minimum of dialogue, and gives the actors time to convey the films dark story mostly through their emotions. Definitely worth watching!