To wrap up my Fantasia International Film Festival coverage, I wanted to provide four capsule reviews of a handful of other genre titles I caught while in Montreal. You can find full reviews of nine other horror films via our Fantasia hub right here. (I also caught Midnight Swim – a genre film with some great performances and a modicum of mystery, but it wasn’t really horror.) I want to thank Mitch Davis and his Fantasia team for welcoming me this year.
Writer-director Brian Steere’s indie feature is hindered by pacing and some lackluster performances, still, there’s something here. The ambition is palpable, screaming for a somewhat larger budget and better talent in front of the camera.
The core idea is interesting and the story Steere spins keeps you guessing, but as a whole it just doesn’t work. The film concerns a couple who move into a new home. They’ve got a weirdo neighbor next door that sets Nicole (the wife) on edge. When she witnesses this creep murder a teenage boy in the woods, Nicole is thrust into a nightmarish scenario you definitely won’t see coming.
Steere keeps the film contained to the couple’s property (you ultimately find out why) and there are some good twists in store for its viewer. Still, there are some unintentionally hilarious moments (there’s an axe throw that really needs to be cut out). Animosity shows Steere’s got promise.
CLOSER TO GOD
This is a contemporary, slow burning Frankenstein tale set in the world of genetic cloning. And it’s one that doesn’t pull any punches, as evident in the opening credits in which we see a needle sliding into the forehead of a newborn child.
Writer-director Billy Senese – making his feature debut – introduces us to Victor Reed, a scientist who reveals to the world that he has cloned a human. Naturally, this sets off an ethical debate and while Senese does show the impact Reed’s actions have had on the world – through news footage that may be a bit overly used – his concern is the turmoil that’s occurring within the Reed household.
Baby Elizabeth (the clone) is Victor’s primary concern and his wife and children are feeling some distance. The caregivers that live in a separate house on his property have their own problems with Victor as well. It seems Elizabeth isn’t the first time he’s attempted to clone a human being and these caregivers are strapped with watching over a previous experiment who is a bit unhinged.
Closer to God features some remarkable performances, namely from Jeremy Childs as Victor. Senese has a great eye and while he might rely a few too many flashbacks to dish some backstory, this is a very good indie effort that’s worth checking out. I guarantee you there’s one moment where you’ll be picking your jaw up off of the floor.
Ryan Larsen reviewed this in-depth for Shock earlier (read his thoughts on the film here), but I wanted to briefly weigh in myself on a film that defied my expectations.
This is a movie that takes place entirely a teenage girl’s computer desktop and it’s surprisingly effective. Other films used this narrative device in the past, but they were perhaps overly ambitious and only complicated their stories drawing questions of logic from their audience. Cybernatural keeps it real simple: A group of friends in a Skype session are haunted by the ghost of fellow student they bullied via a video that leaked onto the Internet. Information, character motivations, backstory is all executed via dialogue, private chat rooms, Wikipedia entries, YouTube videos and Facebook profile details.
It’s all pretty cohesive, puts “character” first and the scares work rather well.
I’m just going to be blunt and say this is a terrible, terrible movie. It’s unfocused, ugly and amateur. Don’t be fooled by the logline’s potential which concerns a husband and wife who are forced to barricade themselves in their apartment during an apparent viral outbreak.
The film is very much that, but director Maude Michaud asks you to spend what feels like two hours with two atrocious human beings. Dys- thinks it’s being profound when we watch a woman perform an abortion with a coat hanger but this is film school-level silliness. The characters are all over the map as well. One moment, the husband is talking about how he’s shocked that so many people turn to religion for answers, yet in the next scene he’s reading quotes from the bible while his wife is tied to a chair.
I honestly have no idea how this one found its way into Fantasia, but if it every has the luck of finding distribution, stay very, very, very far away from it.