I’ve been a huge fan of Alice Lowe’s ever since I watched Ben Wheatley’s sadistically dark comedy Sightseers, and for her latest project, Prevenge, the UK actress not only directs, but also wrote the script and went into production on the project while she was more than seven months pregnant.
First-time feature filmmaker Dominic Bridges’ dark comedy Two Pigeons recently enjoyed its world premiere at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival.
While in Austin at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, I had the opportunity to catch up with a variety of folks responsible for the modern cult classic Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which celebrated its 10th anniversary with several screenings as part of the fest’s midnight lineup. Those on hand for the interview included co-writer/director Scott Glosserman, co-writer/producer David J. Stieve, star Nathan Baesel, and co-star Ben Pace.
Trent Haaga has spent more than 15 years establishing himself in the realm of indie filmmaking. An esteemed graduate of Troma University, where he got his start as the writer on Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger 4, Haaga also penned Deadgirl and Cheap Thrills (and numerous other projects), and has made appearances in over 50 films to date. While Chop, a 2011 micro-budget horror comedy that has been grossly overlooked, may have been Haaga’s first-ever time in the director’s seat, it’s with his follow-up effort, 68 Kill, that he cements himself as a filmmaking force of nature who continues to build a strong foundation as a purveyor of cult cinema.
It was a busy year for me at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, as I had the opportunity to watch 16 films (17, including the 10th anniversary screening of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon). Here are my thoughts on the final three films that I had a chance to see while in Austin: Like Me, Game of Death, and The Honor Farm.
While stuntman-turned-director David Leitch may be best known for his work on John Wick (and he’s also been tapped to helm the upcoming Deadpool 2), throughout his career he’s specialized in delivering all kinds of incredible action sequences for nearly 20 years. So while it may be easy to connect (on paper) the recent hit actioner starring Keanu Reeves and Leitch’s latest, Atomic Blonde, featuring the always badass Charlize Theron destroying bad guys all over Germany in the late 1980s, the latter confidently and brazenly goes all out, raising the bar for action movies and proving once again that blondes really do get to have all the fun.
During the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, I had the opportunity to check out several movies on the fringe of the horror genre, including M.F.A., Assholes, and Two Pigeons, and you can read my thoughts on all three films right here:
Genre favorite Joe Lynch gives corporate culture a double middle finger with his most recent project, Mayhem, an action-fueled social satire that ambitiously provides viewers with a wish fulfillment scenario: what if you had a free pass to act out your wildest, most perverse urges, simply because you no longer had any control over your own impulses? In this scenario, Lynch goes for broke and then some, as Mayhem is truly his most ambitious effort to date, offering up a ridiculously fun Thunderdome-esque situation where chaos ensues and nothing is off limits.
Ben Wheatley has been one of my favorite indie filmmakers over the last few years, with his consistently stellar and thought-provoking work on projects like Kill List, A Field in England, High-Rise, his contribution to The ABCs of Death anthology, as well as Sightseers, his dark comedy that’s one of my very favorite movies from the last five years. So from the get-go, once I heard about Free Fire, and the talent that Wheatley would be working with on his explosive actioner, I was admittedly 110% on board, sight unseen.
And, thankfully, Wheatley’s satirical send-up of society’s obsession with guns lived up to my lofty expectations (and then some), as he takes the one of the things we love most about action movies—the shootout scene—and stretches it into a hilariously violent character piece that’s as relentlessly paced as it is relentlessly funny.
In M.F.A., director Natalia Leite and writer/co-star Leah McKendrick effectively rip into the complexities of rape culture, specifically on college campuses, with their revenge thriller about an art student (Francesca Eastwood) whose frustrations mount when her school won’t do anything to help her after she’s attacked. Once Eastwood’s character, Noelle, realizes that she’s not the only who has suffered an injustice, she sets out to right the wrongs against herself and her fellow female classmates, taking out one abuser at a time.
With Madre, writer/director Aaron Burns explores the dangers of dismissing maternal instincts with a cautionary tale that’s part psychological thriller, part body horror, and 100% unnerving to watch.
Set in Perth, Australia, during December of 1987, it’s evident from Hounds of Love’s very first moments—a stunning slow-motion sequence of teenagers playing volleyball while a pair of onlookers watch from a distance—that writer/director Ben Young isn’t interested in giving us yet another horrific kidnapping thriller that relies on shocking violence or tortuous gore.
A haunting, neon-soaked fever dream that tackles the dangers of viral media and loneliness, first-time director Robert Mockler’s drama, Like Me, was unlike anything else I saw during the 2017 SXSW Film Festival, and features brilliant performances from Addison Timlin as Kiya and indie filmmaking icon Larry Fessenden as a man she kidnaps on her crime-fueled journey.
For his feature film debut, UK director Joe Martin brazenly takes on the class divide of Britain in Us and Them, his crime thriller that follows a frustrated young man named Danny, played by Jack Roth, who takes out his anger on the wealthy and elite members of society by kidnapping a well-to-do family, which doesn’t go exactly as he planned.
Anyone who has spent countless hours stuck in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting, listening to their fellow employees prattle on about nonsense will find a lot to relate to in Greg McLean’s The Belko Experiment, which takes the notion of office politics to explosive and viciously entertaining levels where no one is safe.