As part of my ongoing series, Horror at Film Festivals, let’s take a trip down under to Australia for the Melbourne International Film Festival. The world isn’t just about Cannes and Sundance, now is it?
The Melbourne International Film Festival is chock full of horror spanning a wide range of tastes from the gory to the eerie to the downright weird. From August 3rd to August 20th, the film industry will gather in Melbourne to toast the latest crop of inventive and important films, and horror films part of the schedule.
As a festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival aims to show the global audience all manner of “curated and unforgettable screen experiences.” The major Australian film festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival is also one of the oldest film festivals in the world, showcasing films since 1952. It has a decidedly different flavor to its film lineup, focusing on daring, a little risky, slightly off-kilter independent films.
To that end, the Melbourne International Film Festival has showcased works by horror icons Dario Argento, David Cronenberg, and David Lynch, among many. More recently, the Melbourne International Film Festival screened such horror films as Housebound, Train to Busan, and What We Do in the Shadows.
The lineup for 2017 is exciting! Melbourne International Film Festival has one of the most extensive slates of indie horror I’ve seen at a major festival. I can’t wait until I can see these in America!
I won’t lie, I was ready to be disappointed by Alien: Covenant.
When I finally walked into it, I did so with low expectations and gratitude that my ticket was free. An ardent fan of both Alien and Aliens, I’m still sore about how disappointing Prometheus turned out to be. I was hopeful that Alien: Covenant would be different, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I thought I’d learned my lesson about managing expectations.
So imagine my surprise and delight when Alien: Covenant turned out to be thrilling, scary, and downright thoughtful. Alien: Covenant, thankfully, broke new ground instead of rehashing Prometheus and took meaningful steps towards giving us the same kind of gruesome and disturbing space horror epics we all know and love.
Woohoo! June horror movies are here! There’s a lot this month, so strap in and buckle up because there’s wide array of films. There’s different subgenres, different levels of quality, and different levels of WTF-ness.
I need to apologize as well, because I’ve been traveling the last few days, which delayed my normal blog post schedule. Basically, I was traveling and boozing it up. Consequently, I wrote a lot of this in the Houston airport after drinking several glasses of overpriced wine (#noregrets). I am truly a Hemingway fan and wrote drunk and edited sober.
Can I just say that this was very fun to edit this? It was a challenge.
But anyway! Here’s your June Horror Movie list! You didn’t miss much from my post being late. Ooops!
***Mild Spoilers for The Vegetarian***
A core component of any good horror story is the characters’ apprehension of harm. Most of the time, the dread manifests as physical pain or violent death. Other times there are more abstract, existential ways of experiencing harm—a terrifying realization of past sins, slowly slipping into insanity, or losing one’s soul to a demonic entity. While physical pain will always be a powerful part of any scary story, an existential threat grabs me in a way most other types of horror don’t, probably because I have more to lose from an existential threat.
A realization that shakes a person to his core is, well, horrifying. It’s terrifying. Take the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus, who realized he had unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Or The Orphanage, where protagonist Laura realized she was the one responsible for the slow death of her adopted son. Bodily harm is awful and painful, but an earth-shattering existential realization can destroy the very idea of who a person thinks she is.
It can be extremely psychologically tortuous to deal with something like that, to be confronted with our mistakes and the lies we tell ourselves. People go to great lengths to preserve the reality they wish to see, even at the expense of themselves and others.
It’s destructive on a profound level, even more so if I am responsible for the obliteration of my sense of self.
The idea of self-destruction, of an unsettling, dark urge to protect oneself, of refusal, of stubborn persistence, is what fascinated me about The Vegetarian. It’s a novel about confrontation, about purposeful “self-destruction.”
The Tribeca Film Festival starts tomorrow! The film festival circuit is in full swing and Tribeca is the latest prestigious stop. And I’m going to tell you all about the featured horror films.
Tribeca may not be Cannes, but in its relatively short existence, Tribeca has proven itself a formidable and important film festival. Founded in 2002 by producer Jane Rosenthal, renowned actor Robert De Niro, and real estate mogul Craig Hatkoff, Tribeca has made a name for itself as a festival dedicated to presenting discerning and innovative filmmaking. More than the Cannes Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca is about independent films over “prestige studio movies.”
This year, there’s a great mix of various horror subgenres, from serial killer movies to artistic slashers to psychological horror, with loads of films falling between those categories or smashing through them. I have a feeling that some of these feature and short films will go on to generate plenty of buzz. Hopefully, we will see general releases of some of these. I’m particularly excited about Hounds of Love, Psychopaths, and Retouch.
Well, we’re in the full film festival swing of things, which means that there is an exciting new crop of horror movies up for distribution rights! But this also means that, as far as a wide-release calendar goes, there isn’t much to see this April.
In fact, while this month’s slate of horror movies is refreshingly inventive, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to see these outside of major movie markets like New York and Los Angeles. I’m particularly sad about scrounging for a screening of sci-fi existential body horror flick The Void, praying for a showing of the macabre and witchy A Dark Song, and wishing for a chance to see Voice from the Stone, despite my misgivings.
However, many of these movies will be available on VOD shortly after their limited runs, so you won’t have to wait so long!
*Beware, here be spoilers*
The tense political environment right now has me thinking a lot about my identity as an American. I was born and raised here. I’m fairly patriotic. I studied the law and our nation’s history in part to better understand the rules that underlie our Americanness.
And when I think of myself as an American, I think about our rights and the defense of our liberties. I think of working together with those who have different viewpoints. I think of respect and tolerance, because Americans are supposed to hold those values in esteem. I also think, “It’s easy to be American when things are going well.”
What happens if this all falls apart?
We Americans treasure our autonomy. Look at the Bill of Rights. Look at the Constitution. These are the rules by which the government protects our rights and with which the people limit the government. We have all said we agree to abide by this rulebook to preserve everyone’s pursuit of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (within reason). Do we mean it?
*Mild spoilers for A Cure for Wellness*
Some horror movies are simply transcendent. Such films function on multiple planes and deliver on every level of filmmaking—acting, writing, editing, cinematography, and direction. They are frightening and entertaining stories that craft pointed arguments about the human condition and, well, scary shit. Those films add to our understanding of the dark places where we dare not tread.
Other films aspire to those same heights, and while this group of films strives to execute on every filmmaking aspect, they fall short. It might be that the acting or editing was merely “good” instead of great.” It might be that the cinematography was astonishing, but something else was poorly done and the film couldn’t recover. I think it’s kind of tragic when a promising movie fails to coalesce into a truly great film.
I’m sorry to say that a Cure for wellness falls into that latter category. Although it was an entertaining movie with a lot to offer, I cannot call this movie a success. An original effort with stunning visuals and a great cast, A Cure for Wellness lacked firm story foundations. Had it the script been better, A Cure for Wellness could have been a real stunner of a movie.