A stylish supernatural shocker that has been a hit at film festivals around the world. Argentina’s MEMORY OF THE DEAD boasts some terrifying FX setpieces bathed in a candy-colored visual palette that makes Mario Bava’s gothic classics look monochromatic by comparison. Following the sudden death of her husband, Alicia assembles all his friends at a vast country manor for a reading of his final letter. But Alicia also has other plans in mind – helping her husband return from the grave with a spell that will put all of the gathered guests in mortal danger. Scary, hysterical and packed with mind-boggling visuals, MEMORY OF THE DEAD is the cinematic equivalent of a funhouse ride.
A different kind of American independent horror film, the hypnotic TOAD ROAD, presented by Elijah Wood and his SpectreVision production company, unfolds like a hallucinatory cross between the sexual candor of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, and the backwoods creep-out of The Blair Witch Project. Young James kills time with his small town druggie friends, engaging in excessive chemical intake, until he meets sweet new arrival Sara. But just as James wants to abandon the narcotics life, Sara wants him to take her further into mind-altering experimentation…and she also wants him to introduce her to the sinister local legend of Toad Road, a spot deep in the forest that is apparently home to the Seven Gates of Hell. Writer-director Jason Banker’s debut is a unique fusion of documentary-like realism, and otherworldly, haunting rural terror. Unlike any other film you’ll see this year, TOAD ROAD is a mesmerizing trip.
An unconventional coming-of-age tale, ANIMALS is an intoxicating blend of fantasy and cold reality. Seventeen-year-old high-schooler Pol has stubbornly extended his childhood, aided in no small measure by his opinionated, drums-playing, English-speaking pet teddy bear, Deerhoof. But when he meets alluring new student Icari, the safety of Pol’s innocent imagination crumbles as he experiences his first pangs of love and sexual longing. But what will happen to Deerhoof in this new world and can Pol accept his new-found feelings? Co-starring Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock) as his perceptive teacher, this fresh, inventive take on first love is funny, often bizarre and tragically intense.
Horror anthologies might be everywhere these days, but the Korean entry Horror Stories raises the bar with four terrifying stories (and a nail-biting wraparound tale), each one chilling enough to be its own feature. If you thought this was going to be a tame collection of teen-friendly “ghost girl” stories – think again. Horror Stories goes right for the jugular with non-stop splatter, intense shocks and riveting suspense. A high school girl is abducted and forced by a psycho to tell him the scariest tales she knows.
“Don’t Answer the Door” finds a little brother and sister home alone at night and under siege.
“Endless Flight” has a serial killer escaping police custody in the middle of an otherwise empty flight.
“Secret Recipe” serves up a wildly macabre fairy tale about two jealous stepsisters who take plastic surgery to nightmarish extremes.
“Ambulance on the Death Zone” is a claustrophobic zombie shocker with a paramedic and a mother at a standoff over her possibly infected young daughter.
An international genre festival success from Sitges to Fantasia, this is one of the best Korean horror films in years and has been called “one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies of the 21st century”. (horror-movies.ca)
This Swedish homage to Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead (1982) is a bloody, scary tale of demonic possession. A group of naive young people find their carefree weekend in an isolated country house unhinged when one of them accidentally unleashes a mysterious and murderous creature trapped in the basement. As the demon begins to attack the couples, the blood-dredged body count mounts and with it, more creatures out for a taste of human flesh, freshly killed. The dazed young men and women soon mount their own desperate counter-attack, an attack that includes decapitations, dismemberment, spurting blood, flailing axes and the kind of gore one does associate with Swedish cinema!
A hypnotic, erotic and riveting film that transcends any perceived limitations of the science fiction genre, Vanishing Waves is one of the year’s most provocative international films. Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) is a researcher who volunteers for a sensory deprivation experiment attempting to communicate with Aurora (Jurga Jutaite), a young comatose woman. The experiment takes an unexpected twist when the two meet in their mutually altered forms of consciousness. Soon, their psychic meetings turn into a romantic, sexually charged relationship set against the backdrop of surreal dreamscapes created by their collective minds. To protect their newfound bond, Lukas hides his findings from the researchers. But, will his deception doom their relationship?
This searing coming-of-age teen drama follows two suburban girls – from vastly different backgrounds – who both become ensnared in the Neo-Nazi youth movement. Twenty-year-old Marisa is a hardcore believer, a semi-skinhead whose body is adorned with Nazi tattoos. Fourteen-year-old Svenja is a sheltered, spoiled, straight-A student who becomes fascinated with the group because of her Neo-Nazi boyfriend. They begin as adversaries, but soon become best friends, though their loyalty to each other is shaken when Marisa decides she wants to leave the group. Like American History X and Romper Stomper, Combat Girls is extremely dynamic, powerful filmmaking.
A rebellious teenager’s relentless exploration of her newfound sexuality is this theme to this bold and very explicit drama. Fourteen-year-old Jasna (the mesmerizing Isidora Simojonivic) lives in a dreary Belgrade suburb with her critically ill father and a nagging mother, so she flees with her gang of friends into a world of drug and alcohol-filled parties, always recording the debauchery in clips on her cell phone. She seeks comfort through her thuggish boyfriend, but he treats her as nothing more than a roughed-up sexual plaything, and as her loneliness mounts, Jasna finds herself unable to control her desires…or her life. Winner of the Tiger Award for Best Film at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the film has generated controversy all over the world (and has been banned in Russia) for its raw, graphic sexuality among the teenage cast. Like a Serbian take on Larry Clark’s Kids, CLIP is courageous, uncompromising filmmaking and marks an extraordinary debut for its gifted writer-director Maja Milos.
Sacha Polak’s debut feature is a frank and explicit look at carnal desire that is told from a distinctly female perspective. She paints an erotically charged portrait of a woman whose casual sexual encounters mask a loneliness and a craving for intimacy. Hemel (Hannah Hoekstra) is a young woman who drifts through a series of anonymous one-night stands and seems only close to her father. When he finds himself a girlfriend, Hemel’s jealousy puts her on the emotional edge. An emotionally and physically raw study of sexuality that is nothing less than mesmerizing.
An intense drama of an adolescent adrift in an uncaring world, BULLET COLLECTOR is the powerful debut of Russian director Alexander Vartanov. A unique and visually striking work, the film examines the traumas of a wide-eyed 14-year-old boy, struggling to cope with a terrible home life dominated by an angry mother and a stepfather who can’t stand the sight of him. His school routine is plagued by brutal attacks from bullies, and his life becomes even more nightmarish after he is sent to a hellish reform school. Losing himself in an elaborate fantasy world where he is loved by a beautiful girlfriend and able to defeat his oppressors, the boy finds the reality of his situation continually shocking him back to a very different life. But is he actually just a timid teen destined for abuse, or will he gain the strength to fight off his attackers? Recalling the world of Antoine Doinel in Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, this unsettling, moody masterwork updates that classic by giving it a distinctly Russian flavor, proving that Vartanov is an international filmmaking talent to watch.
Based on director Gu Su-yeon’s semi-autobiographical novel, HARD ROMANTICKER is a spectacularly violent gangster movie that delivers its story with equal amounts of style and carnage. Dripping James Dean-like cool, bleach blond Gu (Shota Matsuda) is a young, cocky Korean-Japanese hoodlum living in Japan. When someone “accidentally” kills the grandmother of a ruthless rival thug, Gu soon finds himself on the receiving end as he becomes the target for bloody, even deadly, revenge. And it doesn’t help that the police are on his tail as well. What’s a snarly, cigarette-puffing thug to do? With tons of ultra-violence, rampaging youths and nihilistic retribution, HARD ROMANTICKER is a sort of a modern-day A Clockwork Orange — yakuza style!
Quirky, laugh-out-loud funny and totally unpredictable, this action-packed Finnish road movie is an absolute charmer. Set in the dark, snow covered and frozen landscape of northern Finland, the story starts in a completely normal fashion: a young woman named Inari get frustrated that her good-for-nothing boyfriend Janne won’t even get off his ass to buy the only thing she wants: a TV cable box. So she makes an ultimatum: either a converter box by morning or she’s moving out. This propels Janne, along with his two hapless and equally lazy friends, out of the house and into a series of increasingly crazy misadventures, all in the quest of getting that elusive cable box. They soon encounter gun-shooting Russians, some very mean reindeer, Inari’s vengeful former boyfriend, a watery oasis filled with topless water polo-playing beauties, and a naked run through the snow. All the while the police are on their heels. Reminiscent of the wacky characters that seem to inhabit Aki Kaurismäki films, this comedy, filmed at breakneck speed, is an absolute delight.
As much of an anti-Bollywood film as one could imagine, revolutionary filmmaker Q’s Gandu (Hindi slang for asshole) is a deliriously frantic, music-infused look at one poor young man and his dreams of becoming a rap star. Excitable Gandu lives in Kolkata. Poor, he survives by stealing spare change from his mother’s sleazy lover. Gandu lives to be a rapper, and finds a comrade-in-song with another young man, the Bruce Lee-loving Rickshaw. Together they sing, drink, do drugs, wander the city and collectively dream of success. When Gandu wins big in the lottery all his dreams seem to come true. Or do they? Told in fragmented scenes with pulsating music, the film is surreal, wild, weird, unpredictable, and sexually graphic, Gandu is a startlingly bold and wildly entertaining example of new Indian filmmaking, and which ironically is banned in India.
One of the most controversial horror films ever to emerge from Latin America, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is 21st century grindhouse horror cinema at its most shocking.
Deep in the Chilean countryside, Ana and Anny live with their deformed brother and are subject to their father’s perverse and sadistic whims. After a dispute with the police leaves a wake of death and mutilation, they flee and find refuge in a remote cabin hidden from society. Meanwhile, a crime lord, convinced they have stolen the massive stash of drugs their father was hiding, sends a violent pack of thugs to find them.
Based on a bizarre true story and not for the faint of heart, HIDDEN IN THE WOODS (currently being remade in the U.S.) features extreme violence, prostitution, sexual assault, buckets of blood and even cannibalism.