IR Film Review: 31 [Sundance 2016]

31_8054The aspect of horror and how spectacle fits into the undeniable formula is the thought process that Rob Zombie can always skew but play with. With the new structure of the studios, it is harder and harder to make the film you want. It either has to be huge, undeniably indie or have an angel investor. Or you can do the crowdfunding approach. It worked for Zach Braff…and it definitely takes you back to your roots but it begs the question: what do the investors get in return? Usually with a lot of these approaches, there is a ton of gimmicks in playing to the crowd. You got to have a hook. What “31” has to its strength is a blessing of characters (more on the villain side) that keep it moving. The problem is that the backing superstructure is pretty weak. Now granted, most of the people seeing this film are not going to be looking at that. The one thing that Zombie can definitely do is set a scene. The ending of “Devil’s Rejects” optimizing the song “Freebird” is over the top and exhilarating on many levels. Here, both the beginning and ending have bookends that really set tone, both with music and editing. Zombie’s use of freeze frame is an art and always harkens his films back to the Grindhouse circuit. After the screening, he did make reference to growing up in carnivals among the carnies so that notion of a gypsy existence very much rings true here. Sheri Moon Zombie gets the female vigilante role and busts it out, going for gold. You know she feels safe to do whatever is necessary and she goes for it. The dialogue is what it is since it is working towards an end game. It is more for the theatricality of it then anything else. The revelation of the movie is Richard Brake who plays Doom31_5313head. You’ve seen him in a ton of films and music videos as well as “Game Of Thrones”. He is the movie. His character has little motivation but his sheer presence, intelligence and physicality simply pummels off the screen. This character is doing a job, albeit a violent one, but he loves it. Every time he is on screen, nothing else can dominate it. You can build a new horror franchise off this character. No masks. Pure and simple. The weak spot is the meaning per se of the game itself. Malcolm McDowell, a longtime favorite of Zombie’s, takes on a maniacal role but the chemistry on it is not quite right. He gambles with two older ladies on the results of the game but their inclusion seems neither motivated or essential. The sequences essentially take you out of the movie. The other villain including a murderous midget dressed up like Hitler, two maniacal brothers with chainsaws and a girl/boy team that is all about beauty and the beast by way of a maniacal mix of “The Munsters” and the nihilists from ” The Big Lebowski” is interesting but despite an inkling doesn’t make a story connection. There is a small one with “beauty” but it is never really optimized. Again, the movie doesn’t necessarily need to be that deep. On one side you have a powerful villain presence and some good style but on the other side a fairly weak backbone in terms of concept. But the element of it balances a bit and ending is still pretty bad ass.

C+

By Tim Wassberg

 

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IR Film Review: ANTIBIRTH [Sundance 2016]

Antibirth4When you look at the structure of teen angst and rebellion, it is always interesting to look at the progression of both Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny. I saw Natasha at one of the first parties I attended at Sundance in a private house around 1997 partying with Eddie Furlong. Chloe I originally ran into when she had that infamous run of publicity with Vincent Gallo and “The Brown Bunny”. What these two girls have always known how to do is take risks though neither has truly broken out into mainstream fame. Sevigny has had more success due to the HBO fuel of “Big Love”.

Antibirth3In the new movie “Antibirth” which premieredin Sundance’s Midnight section, there is a possibility for sure but the hand of director Danny Perez is truly not steady enough to balance the tone and make it both horrifying and riveting. How it begins definitely has potential. These two bad ass chicks who are self destructive in their own personal kind of way almost have the necessity of “Thelma & Louise” for a new misshapen generation. The chemistry is palpable. These girls could do some damage if they really wanted to. The background of a desolate wasteland (obviously the tax rebate heaven Michigan in the winter) specifically help situations. Actually too much profanity and incessant drug use (specifically by Lyonne) dull the situation. It would have been better if she went harder (and did less…say heroin). It would become a signal of almost nihilism and a point of no return.

Antibirth2However as soon as the film passes its 1/3 point, it has shifted to become focused on Lyonne who is trying but not controlled enough. Sevigny is better but she disappears literally for most of the movie. The revelation as Lyonne becomes pregnant and starts to transition into the movie’s twist could even feel more isolating if it was shot better and honestly, stayed with a less fantastical. It takes on an almost carnie tone. “Antibirth” has a possibility of hard core sci fi that could have truly transcended optimizing the right score. The last five minutes starts to show that and a wider narrative idea but it is squandered, as though the director thought “this is cool” but wandered too much. It’s too bad because his leading ladies were undeniably up for the challenge, just not used to the point they should have. Their car banter is a small glimpse into what might have been.

D

By Tim Wassberg