One of the scariest things about cults is that they can form right under our noses. Cult leaders need to psychologically isolate their followers in order to maintain control, but they don’t have to keep everyone on a remote island in order to do so. Still, perhaps the best way to illustrate the intense psychological control that cult leaders achieve is to tell a story about a cult that’s geographically isolated from the real world. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how a deeply disturbed man could earn the trust and respect of a whole community of devout followers is to confine that man and his followers to a remote location that seems to exist in a universe of its own. In Nikias Chryssos’s A Pure Place, a sickeningly imaginative film that he wrote with Lars Henning Jung, the entire population of a remote Greek island is under the spell of a charming and charismatic leader named Fust (Sam Louwyck). This deeply disturbed (but powerful) man is utterly obsessed with cleanliness, and he’s positioned himself as a savior who will lead the people to a pure place that’s free from man’s worst enemy: dirt. In addition to following Fust, the community also worships Hygeia, the Greek goddess of cleanliness. The cult is intense and otherworldly, so separated from the real world that Fust’s twisted desires have become the only law. The one thing connecting this mysterious island to the outside world is the product that Fust’s followers make in his factory: soap.
Part Expressionist Melodrama and Part Campy Horror, “The Attachment Diaries (El Apego)” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma and Mental Health Issues [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Content/trigger warning: The Attachment Diaries deals with sexual assault, self-harm, mental illness, and abortion. These subjects are also briefly discussed in the review below.
The Attachment Diaries is a difficult movie for two reasons. First, it focuses on a handful of difficult topics (including abortion, which has just become more relevant than ever in the United States), and it presents those topics in a blunt and, at times, irreverent way. Second, it’s difficult because it asks us to think about imperfect people in imperfect situations. The film appeals to very raw and carnal emotions, asking viewers to indulge in the thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to think and feel. It’s a good thing that The Attachment Diaries is so masterfully shot, because it may take several viewings to make sense of it.
Inception (2010) may be one of the most well-known movies about dreams from the last 20 years, but the indie masterpiece Strawberry Mansion is by far one of the most creative and enchanting. From the minds of co-writers and directors Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley, Strawberry Mansion tells a story about love, imagination, and the importance of dreams, exploring these themes in a rich fantasy world that emulates the sci-fi classics of the VHS era. With a limited budget and a very specific vision for what they wanted to create, Birney and Audley worked for years to make Strawberry Mansion happen. Their years of dedication most definitely paid off, and they succeeded in making a breathtaking and unforgettable movie that transports viewers back to a time when actors in animal costumes was the peak of sci-fi / fantasy production design. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2021 and went on to screen at the Fantasia International Film Festival later that year. Starting June 21, 2022, Strawberry Mansion will be available on Blu-ray and DVD for fantasy lovers everywhere to add to their home video collections.
A House Divided: As Various Viewpoints Fight for Dominance in “House of Gucci,” Lady Gaga’s Immersive Performance Is Lost in the Shuffle
Money. Family. Power. Betrayal. Scandal. Murder. When the trailer for House of Gucci dropped in the summer of 2021, it promised all this and more. The ambitious film was set to bring one of the most infamous scandals in the history of fashion to life, complete with all the glitz, glam, and drama that only Hollywood can achieve. And if the subject matter alone wasn’t enough, the all-star cast garnered immediate attention from the masses. The ensemble would be led by none other than Lady Gaga, with supporting roles filled by Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, and crime-drama veteran, Al Pacino. To top it all off, Ridley Scott would direct. The theatrical release came and went in November, and you can now watch the Gucci drama unfold from the comfort of your home on Blu-ray, DVD, or digital. But does House of Gucci live up to expectations? What’s behind all the decadent style that’s so evident in the trailer? Does every second of the two-hour, thirty-eight-minute movie captivate and dazzle audiences as much as the trailer did? It’s a tall order to fill. House of Gucci needed more than a luxurious production design to tell the story of Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious woman who married into the Gucci family and later coordinated the murder of her ex-husband, Maurizio.
Enjoy a little “Respect” When You Get Home — The Anticipated Aretha Franklin Biopic Starring Jennifer Hudson Is Now Available
Great performers like Aretha Franklin are remembered for much more than their God-given talents. They’re also remembered for their ability to connect with their audience. A good performer will practice and train for years to master their craft, but a great performer will draw on their life experiences to add meaning and depth to their music. Aretha Franklin certainly lived through a full range of human experiences, and she had plenty to share with her audience. So, when Jennifer Hudson took on the challenge of portraying the Queen of Soul in Respect, she did everything she could to capture Aretha’s spirit in a genuine and honoring manner. This fun, flashy, and entertaining musical biopic directed by Liesl Tommy is now available to own on digital, Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray/ DVD combo pack includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes that give us a brief look at the work that went into making the movie.
“Knocking” Takes Its Time Building Suspense, but Cecilia Milocco’s Steady Performance Will Keep You Hooked
If you’ve spent any time living in an apartment building or a dorm, you’ve probably had a few run-ins with noisy neighbors. It takes guts to knock on a stranger’s door and ask them to keep it down. Depending on what kind of noise you hear, you might even opt to skip the awkward conversation and call the police. But what happens when nobody else can hear what you’re hearing? What do you do when someone is calling out to you for help and the police don’t believe you? Who can you turn to when your neighbors think you’re having a psychotic break? In Frida Kempff’s psychological thriller, Knocking, a woman named Molly (Cecilia Milocco) becomes suspicious of the men in her apartment building when she hears persistent knocking and crying coming from the floor above her at night. No one else can hear it, and no one is interested in helping her solve the mystery. But Molly knows what she heard, and she’ll stop at nothing to help the unknown woman on the other side of her ceiling.
Discover New Life in “All the Moons (Todas las Lunas),” an Enchanting and Bittersweet Vampire Fantasy [Fantasia International Film Festival]
No country’s literature or filmography is short of romance stories. If a writer tells you they’re working on a piece about love, you’ll probably assume they’re talking about romantic love. We live in a culture that prioritizes romance and marriage, and it’s easy to forget that other types of love can be just as fulfilling. When Igor Legarreta and Jon Sagalá wrote a screenplay about a girl searching for love in her doomed existence as an immortal vampire, they decided not to turn their bloodsucker story into a romance. In All the Moons, which screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in August, the young heroine discovers meaning in her wretched existence not from a romantic relationship, but from the love of a lonely man who becomes the parent she never had. Legarreta and Sagalá undertook a great challenge in choosing to write a vampire movie (at this point, what hasn’t already been done with vampires?), however, they made the most of this fantasy/horror sub-genre by exploring parent/child relationships and the question of consent in matters of life and death. The final product, directed by Legarreta, is an enchanting fantasy that wraps the joy, wonder, and melancholy of an entire lifetime into a single feature-length film.
Undeniable Cast Chemistry Shines Bright Against the Dark Forces at Play in “When I Consume You” [Fantasia International Film Festival]
Do your worst childhood fears ever come back to haunt you? Does it feel like the monsters in your closet never left? Most of us outgrow our fear of shadows, monsters, and the dark, and we can now keep the closest door open at night and venture down the dark basement staircase with ease. But for Daphne and Wilson Shaw (Libby Ewing and Evan Dumouchel), the lead characters in Perry Blackshear’s When I Consume You, the haunting presence that plagued their childhood never left them alone. As the brother and sister grapple with the struggles of adulthood, a slew of mental health issues, and the lasting effects of a bad home life, they’re also haunted by a relentless stalker who has been watching them with malevolent yellow eyes since they were kids. After years of living in fear, Daphne and Wilson decide it’s high time to seek revenge.
“Be careful what you wish for, be certain what you pray for:” Religious intentions are put on trial in “The Righteous” [Fantasia International Film Festival]
If you’re into Southern Gothic literature, you’ll go nuts over Mark O’Brien’s feature directorial debut, The Righteous, which screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival earlier this month. Granted, it was filmed in Canada and not the American South, but it sure does capture the dread, madness, religious anxiety, supernatural freakishness, and overall darkness of the genre. The Righteous tells the tale of ex-priest Frederic (Henry Czerny) and his wife, Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk), who are trying to make sense of their lives after they lose their only daughter. The couple’s mourning process comes to a halt one night when a stranger, Aaron (Mark O’Brien), shows up outside their home with a sprained ankle. Aside from his irreverent vocabulary and general secretiveness, Aaron is a harmless, mild-mannered kid. However, his presence casts a haunting shadow over Frederic and Ethel’s household, a shadow that will change their lives forever.
“Hellbender” shows off one family’s filmmaking talents but falls flat under the weight of its poorly developed plot and dialogue. [Fantasia International Film Festival]
From Rosemary’s Baby to False Positive, Psycho to Mommie Dearest, motherhood and the horror genre are a match made in heaven. The labyrinth of psycho-socio-political issues surrounding motherhood, pregnancy, and the mother-child relationship has truly found its home in horror cinema. One of the horror flicks showing at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Hellbender, is not only about motherhood, but also stars a real-life mother-daughter duo. In fact, Hellbender was written, directed, shot, edited, scored, and produced by the four members of the Adams/Poser family: John Adams, Toby Poser and their two daughters, Lulu and Zelda Adams. All four family members also make an appearance in this occult horror film, with Zelda and Toby taking the lead roles. The family filmmaking feat is incredibly impressive, and Hellbender’s high production value showcases the family’s talents and creativity. Unfortunately, however, one little filmmaking misstep can bring a movie crashing down. In this case, that one misstep is the dialogue. While Hellbender is otherwise horrifically beautiful, the script and plot development leave much to be desired.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."