Two Thrillers from Mongrel Media
Dante 01 (April 17/10)
Set within a distant future, Dante 01 details the chaos that ensues aboard a space station/jail following the arrival of Lambert Wilson's curiously silent Saint-Georges - as the mysterious new prisoner ultimately has a more pronounced impact on his surroundings than anyone could have anticipated. Before it devolves into an incoherent mess, Dante 01 comes off as a promising outer-space thriller that boasts some seriously impressive sets and computer-generated special effects - with director Marc Caro's decision to bathe the film in darkness initially proving an effective complement to the off-kilter, pervasively sinister storyline. The novelty of the movie's admittedly captivating locale wears off after about 10 minutes, however, with Caro's infuriating reluctance to offer up instances of either exposition or character development inevitably transforming Dante 01 into an aggressively unwatchable exercise in tedium. It's consequently not surprising to note that Caro's progressively avant-garde sensibilities end up permeating every aspect of the proceedings, with the unintelligible nature of the movie's various relationships and encounters ultimately paling in comparison to the laughably baffling finale - with the end result a terminally dull sci-fi effort that's essentially the very definition of an ambitious misfire.
Surviving Crooked Lake (May 28/10)
As inevitably becomes clear, Surviving Crooked Lake is one of those well-intentioned, micro-budgeted indies that is ultimately unable to justify its very existence - as the film suffers from a lack of both plot and character development that inevitably proves disastrous. The thin storyline follows four teenage friends (Alysha Aubin's Alysha, Candice Mausner's Candice, Morgan McCunn's Morgan, and Stephannie Richardson's Steph) as they embark on a camping trip with Steph's older brother (Guy Yarkoni's Jonah), with trouble ensuing as Jonah dies in a freak accident and the girls are forced to find their own way home. The familiarity of its premise is the least of Surviving Crooked Lake's problems, as the movie kicks off with unintelligible voice-over narration from Richardson and only gets worse from there. Filmmakers Sascha Drews, Matthew Miller, and Ezra Krybus' ongoing difficulties at infusing the movie's protagonists with distinguishing characteristics is exacerbated by the uniformly amateurish performances and eye-rollingly trite instances of seemingly improvised dialogue, which effectively ensures that the four teens remain utterly interchangeable for the duration of the increasingly interminable running time. There's consequently never a point at which the viewer is able to work up the slightest bit of sympathy for the plight of the various characters, and it goes without saying that the mostly dialogue-free third act, revolving around Steph's solo exploits, is about as anticlimactic as one could possibly envision. Surviving Crooked Lake's one saving grace is its admittedly impressive cinematography, as the movie's visuals effectively mirror the rather drastic changes in tone (ie the dreamy, summertime feel of the opening gives way to a decidedly ominous vibe as the story turns darker) - yet this is hardly enough to save what is otherwise a meandering and seriously tedious piece of work.