IFC's January '11 Releases
Inhale (January 25/11)
Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Inhale follows a wealthy couple (Dermot Mulroney's Paul and Diane Kruger's Diane) as they're forced to turn to the black market after their attempts at legally finding a lung donor for their dying child prove fruitless - with the film primarily detailing Paul's ongoing (and increasingly perilous) efforts at tracking down a shady Mexican figure who may or may not be able to provide a new lung. It's an inherently compelling premise that initially seems as though it's going to be employed to middling effect, as Kormákur offers up an almost excessively deliberate opening half hour that's compounded by ostentatiously gritty visuals and the disorienting (and, at the outset, confusing) bent of Walter Doty and John Claflin's time-shifting screenplay. The repetitive midsection - which primarily consists of scene after scene of Mulroney's character walking into dangerous situations - does give way to an admittedly engrossing third act, however, with the inclusion of an absolutely jaw-dropping ending effortlessly elevating Inhale to must-see territory. (It's the kind of finale that's sure to provoke arguments and discussions among viewers long after the credits have finished rolling.) There is, as a result, little doubt that Inhale is ultimately a far more resonant piece of work than one might have suspected at the outset, which effectively cements its place as an uneven thriller that benefits substantially from its stunner of a conclusion.
Primal (January 25/11)
Primal follows six friends as they arrive at a desolate forest to study some ancient cave paintings, with trouble ensuing as one of the group becomes infected by some sort of ancient (and thoroughly malevolent) entity. Filmmaker Josh Reed has infused Primal with a slow-going sensibility that is, at the outset, not quite as problematic as one might've feared, with the promising nature of the film's setup initially compensating for the presence of several less-than-enthralling elements (including an assortment of uniformly underdeveloped and one dimensional characters). It's only as the movie progresses that one's interest begins to wane, as writer/director Reed places an increasingly prominent emphasis on the protagonists' thoroughly tedious squabbles and arguments - which prevents the viewer from working up any sympathy for the group's admittedly gruesome plight. The uninvolving vibe is compounded by Reed's reliance on needlessly ostentatious visual tricks during the film's action-oriented sequences, with the inherent excitement of such moments drained by shaky camerawork and an overuse of slow motion. (And this is to say nothing of the pervasive darkness within which much of the movie unfolds.) By the time the over-the-top yet utterly dull finale rolls around, Primal has established itself as a disappointingly uneven horror effort that wears out its welcome to an almost astonishing degree.