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The Fourth Annual After Dark Film Festival

Grace
Directed by Paul Solet
USA/85 MINUTES

Though it boasts as irresistible and compelling a premise as one could imagine, Grace suffers from an overtly clinical, egregiously weird approach that ultimately negates its positive attributes - as writer/director Paul Solet's decision to emphasize style over substance essentially strips the proceedings of its authenticity (ie it's as though Solet has taken a horror-movie nightmare sequence and expanded it to feature length). The storyline follows Jordan Ladd's Madeline Matheson as she inexplicably chooses to carry her unborn child to term even though it died during a brutal car crash, with the remainder of the proceedings primarily detailing Madeline's efforts at caring for the child after it emerges from her womb very much alive. The seemingly can't-miss nature of the movie's set-up ensures that the deliberately paced opening half hour is relatively easy to stomach, as Solet admittedly does a nice job of establishing the off-kilter universe within which the various characters reside. And although Ladd's superb performance initially proves instrumental in grounding the proceedings, it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the film's almost pervasive lack of believable/plausible attributes - with the sporadic inclusion of eye-rollingly quirky elements only exacerbating this feeling (ie Madeline's mother-in-law, in anticipation of taking custody of the child, attempts to replenish her supply of milk by forcing her husband to nuzzle her breast). There subsequently reaches a point at which one can't help but throw one's arms up in frustration, as the film inevitably abandons any pretense of attempting to frighten the viewer and essentially succumbs to its aggressively surreal atmosphere (ie if David Lynch and David Cronenberg got together to make a film, it might just resemble Grace - which, depending on one's feelings towards the two filmmakers' distinctive sensibilities, ensures that the movie ultimately comes off as a love-it-or-hate-it proposition).

out of


Dead Snow
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
NORWAY/90 MINUTES

There's little doubt that for the majority of its running time, Dead Snow comes off as a disappointingly tedious endeavor that's hardly able to live up to its seemingly foolproof premise (ie several medical students are attacked by Nazi zombies during a ski vacation). Director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola initially emphasizes the fun-loving exploits of the protagonists to an almost absurd degree, with the inherently dull nature of their ongoing shenanigans exacerbated by a pervasive lack of character development (ie there's never a point at which these people don't come off as typical horror-movie victims). It's consequently not surprising to note that the viewer's patience is seriously tested for much of Dead Snow's opening hour, as Wirkola's failure to break up the film's more overtly uneventful stretches with even brief instances of gore proves disastrous. The low-rent atmosphere remains problematic until the aforementioned zombie Nazis finally make their move against our hapless heroes, with their initial attack - which is as impressively violent as one might've hoped - paving the way for a relentlessly brutal third act that essentially compensates for the ineffectiveness of everything preceding it. Wirkola's obvious affinity for the splatter flicks of yore is reflected in the gleefully over-the-top manner in which humans and zombies alike are dispatched, and - judging by the otherwise unimpressive production values - it's certainly clear that the majority of the film's budget has been funneled into the bloody special effects. The end result is an effort that probably would've been better off as a 15 minute short, although gorehounds will undoubtedly be willing to overlook the movie's various flaws once the admittedly stellar third act rolls around.

out of