There are quite a number of scary films on the radar in time for Halloween including the latest HALLOWEEN ENDS which opens this week (not reviewed as this reviewer was sick with the flu during the press screening.)
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Im Westen nichts Neues)(Germany 2022) ****
Directed by Edward Berger
The anti-war film to end all anti-war films? ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is the second film based on Erich Maria Remarque’s renowned 1929 German novel Im Westen nichts Neues after the Lewis Milestone 1930 classic that won the Oscar for Best Picture and the Delbert Mann TV movie in 1970. The new 2022 version shows more distinctly the German version with a German cast and crew and filmed largely in German. It is equally powerful in depicting the futility of war showing time and again it is the people in power that make horrible decisions involving the lives of millions of innocent men.
The film is set during the first world war in 1917 (also the title of another British war film). It’s 1917 and wartime in Germany, as Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) lies about his age so that he can enlist alongside his friends — all of them very young men filled with romanticized, patriotic notions. The last film that dealt with the romanticized and patriotic notions of war is Peter Jackson’s unforgettable and brilliant documentary THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD (2018).
The horrors of war can be seen from the dangling limbs from the trees after bodies are flung into the air after mortar bombs. Paul himself is forced in hand-to-hand combat to brutally stab a fellow German soldier before discovering a photo in the wallet of the German's wife and daughter. His muddied face constantly displays the disbelief and horrors of the trenches. These are unforgettable images made even more horrific by the grinding soundtrack heard throughout the film. The only ‘happy’ segment is the one where a group of German soldiers feats on a goose that had been stolen from a French farmer, who shoots at the thieves as they are running away, as he shouts “Krauts!”
The cast is comprised of largely if relatively unknown young German actors with the exception of a cameo by Daniel Brühl who plays a German minister.
The cinematography of James Friend is nothing short of stunning, the only thing missing appearing to be the rats that were shown in Same Mendes in 1917.
There are clearly no winners in world wars. Even more scary is that the third one might be a nuclear one that might have even graver consequences.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and is having a limited theatrical run, currently playing at the Bell TIFF Lightbox before opening on Netflix October the 28th.
THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW(USA 2022) ***
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
A teenage girl, Sydney (Priah Ferguson from STRANGER THINGS) who accidentally releases an ancient and mischievous spirit on Halloween which causes decorations to come alive and wreak havoc, must team up with the last person she'd want to in order to save their town - her father (Marlon Wayans).
The film begins with the family travelling in the car with the father and mother (Kelly Rowland) singing the Ray Charles song “Hit the Road Jack”, very loudly and somewhat badly setting the stage of what to expect in this original (if one can call this derivative comedy) Netflix Halloween comedy horror movie. The family is moving from Brooklyn to the sleepy town of Bridge Hollow - supposedly the safest small town in the U.S. that according to father, smells of apples - till of course the ghouls come alive. Syd hates the move, and on the scale of 1 to 10, accruing to mother, the dislike is unmeasurable. Sad also learns of the curse and that her family has moved into a haunted house, the old Hawthorne house where a medium had died in the past. Yes, the jokes are ok, Wayans is relatively lively and funny but THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW is more a film catered for the family younger kids as the comedy is lame and the scares just scary enough. Note that the film has no swearing so at least the filmmaker knows their target audience.
The film is more funny than scary and includes some family issues which is kind of boring for the non-family audiences that unfortunately contains some sentimental elements.
THE CURSE OF BRIDGE HOLLOW is a pleasant enough family watch and is given a fair and not a poor rating as it succeeds at what it is aimed to be, a comedy horror for the family, an entertaining but somewhat bland one.
FALCON LAKE (Canada 2022) ***1/2
Directed by Charlotte Le Bon
Canadian actor Charlotte Le Bon’s directorial debut, FALCON LAKE based on Bastien Vivès’s graphic novel, is part summertime coming-of-age story and part eerie gothic film that follows the one lazy summer of a 14-year old by, Bastien (Joseph Engel).
When the film opens, Bastien arrives with his little brother Titi (Thomas Laperrière) and his mom Violette (Monia Chokri) at a lakeside cottage in rural Quebec to spend time with Violette’s BFF Louise (Karine Gonthier-Hyndman) and her 16-year-old daughter Chloé (Sara Montpetit). When Titi and Chloe have to sleep in the same room with Bastine, trouble arises. One wonders why the parents do not think about these things.
Bastine and Chloe create a strong bond of friendship. Bastien is beguiled by Chloé’s moodiness and relative worldliness. Though their difference in age feels immense, Chloé is charmed by Bastien and invites him along to parties. There are also other boys and a few girls around Falcon Lake which means teen parties galore - with possible drinking, drugs (only joints shown in the film) and sex (implied). Chloe is a naughty one also enjoys terrorizing him with tales of the child who mysteriously died in the very part of Falcon Lake where she insists Bastien go swimming. At one point she washes him while both are in the same bath tub. Chloe is a trouble maker for sure and Bastien is the poor victim who actually enjoys the company and being tagged along. It is rumoured that the child’s ghost still haunts these waters.
It is not stated in the film but it can be seen that Bastien is falling in love with Chloe from his jealous looks and behaviour. An incident results that causes Bastien to answer one of the boys, Oliver, with a lie that spreads causing Chloe to shun Bastien as a result.
Two wonderful, innocent and honest performances from the two young leads Montpetit and Engel as Chloe and Bastien.
Nothing much else happens but need not. FALCON LAKE is beautifully photographed with haunting music. One can enjoy the film FALCON LAKE as lazily as just resting and rejuvenating by a lake beach. FALCO NAKE premiered in Cannes to generally positive reviews and it is not difficult to see why.
THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD (UK 2021)
Directed by Martin Owen
THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD is billed as a modern fairytale—except with zombies. Oliver is a handsome wide-eyed innocently looking boy. Oliver wanted friends in the worst way - and that is how he got them. When the sheltered and unsocialized Oliver is tasked with making new friends after the sudden and devastating death of his mother, he decides that digging a few up (literally) from the local graveyard might be his best bet. However, when he awakens the morning after his excavating escapades, he discovers that his newly acquired friends have mysteriously come to life overnight, launching them all into a series of misadventures as they try to keep their secret safe from neighbours, classmates and social workers alike.
As Oliver is constantly bullied and ridiculed, one cannot wait for the tormentors to get their comeuppance. Perhaps not in just a grisly way as in Brian De Palma’s classic CARRIE.
The film has a period setting. Though the time is not specified, one can assume that it is the 60’s when the film is set, from the vintage cars, clothes and film's colour scheme. The setting also gives the story a surrealistic feel - a sort of fairy tale setting. which suits the film's purpose.
The film’ setting is the fictitious British seaside town called Hubris, as seen on the big Welcome sign as a car enters the town. The word Hubris is associated with the human personality of over-confidence and pride. In the film, however, Hubris indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of the boy's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities.
The film could have done away with the whole lot of corny ‘dead’ jokes. “Mitch is dying to see you.” Or when Oliver asks Mitch what happens if he is caught going out… “I can play dead,” comes Mitch’s answer.
Though the film is a fantasy, there is no reason given for the corpses that Oliver had dug up to come alive. Or why would they form his immediate family? A simple excuse or reason could have easily been thought up. Another problem is the reason Oliver believes in resurrecting all the corpses. He is old enough to know tat these things do not happen. The film’s conclusion ties everything together.
One wonders the location of the film. The locale is a beautiful and serene seaside town with a nice long beach and calm sea. It is assumed that it is a British location.
Flaws aside, THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD still succeeds as a feel-good teen movie as everyone loves to see the underdog make good, despite all odds.
It is also difficult not to like a film that is dedicated to the memory of the puppy that is featured in the film.
THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD premiered at the 22nd Annual Screamfest Horror Film Festival on October 12. The Well Go USA Entertainment release hits theatres October 14 and on digital October 18.
PLAN A (Israel/Germany 2022) ***
Directed by Doron Paz and Yoav Paz
“Just because the war is over, it does not mean we can’t kill Jews anymore.” says a German man who, the audience assumes, has taken over the house of a returning Jew, after the German has struck the Jew’s head with the butt of his rifle. The German’s wife and son look on. This is the beginning scene of PLAN A. It is clear that the earth of the audience is sought, at the injustice done on the Jews. The voiceover can also be heard: “What if your entire family has been killed…. you parents and children. All killed for no reason. What would you do?” The film obviously asks the same question to the audience of this controversial film. This opening segment is the most effective one in the film, a scene that is revisited once more later on in the film.
PLAN A is based on a true story - the audience is informed. PLAN A is based on the incredible true story of the “Avengers,” a group of Jewish vigilantes, men and woman, who after surviving the holocaust are vowing to avenge the death of their people by poisoning the water supplies in German cities and to kill six million Germans, one for every Jew slaughtered by the Nazis – “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” In reality, there exists a Plan B and Plan C.
The trouble with the plan is the fallout from the poisoning. There will be innocent people who will be poisoned and die and children. The Jews would therefore be just as guilty and not much better than the Nazis. The plans also come into other problems, like securing the tasteless, colourless and odourless, thus undetectable poison for the water.
The film spends a lot of time on the individual characters of the story, which is not as interesting and dwarfs the main matter at hand. One is already sympathetic to the plight of the Jews but the film keeps hammering the point, with a lot of the film’s dialogue reminding the audience of the concentration camps. There is one good point brought out by a charter in the film: “There are so many of you prisoners in the camps, in the long lines that outnumber the Germans. How come you Jews never go to do anything but just follow the lines to the gas chamber.”
The film is in English and a German/Israel co-production though the film’s dialogue is often muffled. The atmosphere and dim mood of the period piece look convincing enough.
If after viewing the film, one wishes more information on the subject after whetting the appetite, here is where it can be sought, check out: 'An eye for an eye': The Jews who sought to poison six million Germans to avenge the Holocaust - Israel News - haaretz.com.
PLAN A achieves its purpose of reminding the world of the horror of the killing of innocent Jews in the concentration camps and that the only true revenge is to show the enemy that an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is not the way to go.
SHE WILL (UK 2021) **
Directed by Charlotte Colbert
Written by Kitty Percy and Charlotte Colbert, SHE WILL is a horror psychological drama that follows its main character, an aging actress Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige), as she deals with her troubled past. After a double mastectomy surgery, she goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). The camera follows the cog-wheeled train as it cuts through the Scottish hills, a beautiful sight. She discovers that the process of such surgery opens up questions about her very existence, leading her to start to question and confront past traumas.
Veronica is at first quite the bitch to her nurse who seems to have endless patience with her employer. Ultimately, the two develop an unlikely bond as mysterious forces give Veronica the power to enact revenge within her dreams.
The film has two stars in cameos Malcolm McDowell as Hathbourne and Rupert Everett who are not given enough to do to show off their star talent.
This is basically all that can be said about the plot and story. The film progresses at a pondering pace, with mudded sub plots (who cares if Hathbourne is knighted or Desi goes on by herself up and about town?) though the visuals, astounding that they may be, do not help much in keeping the audience’s attention.
SHE WILL is available this week to watch on Shudder, the horror streaming service.
UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS (USA 2022) ***
Directed by Juan Felipe Julita
UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS is arguably the strangest film to open this year. It follows two society misfits as they embark on a road trip for even stranger and separate reasons.
The film opens with banging on the door. as a lady, Winona (Sarah Hay) speaks to the person, Peter (Matthew August Jeffers) who opens it. Peter is a LP. Little Person stands for the correct term for someone born with dwarfism. Winona has a proposal. She will pay him a sum of money if he would let her drive his car to a specified location. “I don’t know you and I don’t like you.” Peter shouts. Needless to say, they end up as strange companions on the road trip after stealing a car, in a comically charged scene.
It is soon revealed that Peter is gay and Winona works as a sex-worker. The film is an intense one with the two characters themselves being always intense and fired up. Peter describes himself as a circle within a circle within a circle. Peter says he is college educated, a homosexual and has a body that is not set up to the standard frame. In addition he is balding and prone to sickness. Thus one can see the reason Peter is always angry.
They have to travel to Canada where an (UFO) abduction is. to take place They take a route off the beaten path in order to enter Canada, illegally.
The film features songs by queer iconic musician Perfume Genius and a standout analog synthesizer soundtrack by Sebastian Zuleta.
UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS premiered at 2022 Inside Out, also winning awards this summer at Frameline and Outfest LBGTQ+ film festivals, and screened at Fantastic Fest 2022 and Sitges. NewFest marks the film’s NY State premiere. An in-person NYC screening for Unidentified Objects will take place on October 19 at Nitehawk Prospect Park during NewFest: The New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Virtual streaming options are also available from October 13 to October 25.