Fest Track On Sirk TV Film Review: INIT!ATION [Screamfest 2020 – Virtual]

The progression of college-based ideas in terms of the horror tropes have run the gamut but as many genre films have shown as of late, it is the harm of social media and bad postings that scare many, more so younger than old. Whether it be the dark narcissism of “Spree” at Sundance earlier this year to the earliest form of it 6 or so years ago with “King Kelly” at SxSW, the texture is about identifying and moving with the idea of what the main protagonist is experiencing. Lindsay LeVenchy plays Ellery, who is enjoying college and playing the party game as much as she can while keeping her girls safe as a leader at her sorority without sacrificing the fun to be had. it is an interesting approach which is a nice change in terms of cognizance of drunken behavior on both sides of the fence. However, as often happens in these movies, events go awry. What is interesting as this subset of the genre continues to grow is the aspect of showing the phone actions on screen as an extension of identity. When said event happens. Ellery is at a crossroads because the action taken could have been committed by her brother who is part of. While the story and plot points initially moves the narrative towards an idea of genetic mutation, it settles for something more grounded while still keeping the audience still in the dark about who the vigilante is, as it is motivated by a single signal of an exclamation point in a post. The idea of this trigger is not as clear as it should be but the misdirects in terms of religious imagery and motivations ae well played. The actions of said killer do have a pattern to them but the path of the movie is more about assumptions then initiations in the fraternities or sororities. While the pacing is effective, the stakes and emotional resonance never quite takes full hold in a way that it could have.

C

By Tim Wassberg

Fest Track On Sirk TV Film Review: BLOODTHIRSTY [Fantastic Fest 2020 – Virtual]

The transformation of identity is an interesting construct depends on the character being played. The wants, needs, intentions and eventual goals of said characters can be changed by perceptions…and feeling of course. In “Bloodthirsty” (playing as part of Fantastic Fest 2020), director Amelia Moses reteams with her “Bleed With Me” lead Lauren Beatty for a different kind of film. The tone is different but the mood has certain similarities. In “Bleed With Me” it was how the relationship between two women evolved but kept motivations more quiet as well as their true nature. That film ended in a specific way while still maintaining it genre structure. With “Bloodthirsty” music enters into the mix in a specific way. In certain reasoning, it almost overtakes the story when some more specific underlying score structures especially between the two forces facing off might have been more mood structuring thereby allowing the songs themselves to have perhaps more power. That said, at one point, the music clicks when the title song is sang. It is bewitching and intoxicating but used almost as a set-up piece when its theme could be the entire motivation for the story. Moses makes certain choices and they are entirely natural to her storytelling. The relationship again (like in “Bleed With Me”) between the two women in the story is telling and yet the man who invites her up to this house to record music has textured motivations as well. In not giving anything away, the tension builds while not allowing the characters to go too wild except at certain moments. The music has a gothic Billie Elish tinge which is part of its allure. However, with the talent Moses has and the evolution of her muse in Beatty, it will be interesting to see how her visions evolve as her budgets grow. “Bloodthirsty” is a fun seductive parable which moves in beautiful directions yet does not quite reach the apogees it could have though some of its paths are undelible.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Fest Track On Sirk TV Film Review: QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC [Fantastic Fest 2020 – Virtual]

Finding unique horror and genre voices has always been an interesting progression of Fantastic Fest. The same can be said of Shudder who is distributing “Queen Of Black Magic”, one of the featured films in the virtual edition of FF being held this year. “Queen” continues the progression of filmmakers like Dain Said and Joko Anwar over the past couple years including “Impetigore” (directed by Anwar) that played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (and always acquired by Shudder). This new entry, like that previous one, is heavily based in Indonesian lore but tries to balance less into the notion of blood family as that one did, but more one of consequence. Unlike “Impetigore” which buried itself inside the jungles with lurid fire imagery based in the requisite mythology, “Queen” moves more into the realm of Black Magic corrugated around a house, in this case an orphanage where bad things happened. The build up is nicely accomplished building to a fever pitch that is not for the squeamish. Still the antagonist’s reasoning is sound and her eventual reckoning against those who would do her harm is direct and personified. Unlike a movie say like “Hostel”, “Queen” relies on a variation on a house of horrors motif which would be an interesting parallel to “The Shining” if those demons were more murderous instead of psychological. That said, Anwar and director Kimo Stamboel know the themes they are running for and bring out the way each character is thinking without getting too bogged down in plot mechanics or over-characterization. The film moves but also balances out in its texture in almost a parable type progression. One scene has a girl raised at the orphanage telling the son of one of the guests about the legend of a lady who died in the house. It uses the texture and irony of old ghost stories while still understanding that despite having all the technology, all that can be taken away to silence. The particular use of a video player segment is exceptionally done while giving harks out to everything from “Poltergeist” to “The Ring”. Again the Indonesian renaissance of horror continues to show that these filmmakers are not afraid to take risks but also integrate essences of local mythology without losing track of its audience, whether Western or Eastern.

B

By Tim Wassberg