Jen ( played by Matilda Lutz) travels to a remote estate expecting to have some fun with her boyfriend — only to have things go horrifically wrong when his two creepy friends arrive.
Generally, I’m a little wary of rape revenge storylines — which tend to be exploitative about the rape itself. But this movie handles the moment in an interesting way. When Jen is about to be assaulted, the other friend walks through the door — the camera follows him as he draws out of the room and closes the door behind him. Essentially, we become witness to his complicity, doing nothing to stop what’s happening and seeing him turn up the noise on the TV to avoid hearing the sounds of the attack. One of the things the movie does really well, in this way, is show how quickly these men closed ranks to protect each other. Even her boyfriend, takes the side of his friends, offering to pay her off instead of help her.
What follows is Jen’s escape into the desert and fight for survival as the three men attempt to hunt her down and silence her. The movie is not perfect, having some logical flaws her and there — but it it extremely tense as it unfolds with some solid surprises, not so much in the what, but the how. With its cool style, slick music, and copious amounts of bloodshed and violence, Revenge is a wicked flick.
Things Withered is a brilliant collection of short horror stories, in which Susie Maloney plays on the anxieties of everyday life to deliver horrifying chills. Whether it’s the need to hold onto a job, unfortunate deaths in the neighborhood, or competition between friends, the drive of each story is grounded in human beings with their own frustrations so that by the time things get really weird, the reader is already on edge.
Take, for example, “The Audit,” in which a young woman faces a growing mountain of paperwork as she attempts to prepare for being audited by the IRS. Taxes are an ordinary kind of fear, but the story manages to build an increasing tension through the escalating mountain of papers that need to be addressed combined with the indifference of the people around her.
In “Petty Zoo,” a mother and her son are stationed in a line of families waiting to get into a mall petting zoo that is more than an hour late from opening. The growing anger and annoyance of the parents, who are caught between their desperation to keep their children happy and their their own desire to leave is the vivid center point — at least until things go terribly, terribly wrong.
Another kind of anxiety is offered up in “Poor David, or, The Possibility of Coincidence in Situations of Multiple Occurrences.” David has the misfortune of finding the dead body of his girlfriend’s aunt, a traumatic experience that’s quickly compounded by the discovery of another body. There is nothing suspicious about these deaths, all due to natural circumstances — and yet it seems to be David’s misfortune to discover them. The story beautifully portrays his escalating anxiety, which makes it difficult for him to function in the world. And yet, it’s also about his relationship with Myra and how the two of them continue to build a life together through this trauma.
“Reclamation on the Forrest Floor” also deals with relationships, in this case between two girlfriend and the brutal outcome of their ongoing competition with each other. The story opens with murder and evolves into a stunningly written body horror as the consequences of that act reveal themselves.
Some of my favorite stories in the collection, are those that features older women as their protagonists. “The Last Living Summer” is a story of three little old ladies in continue on in a beach town that has emptied out since all their neighbors abandoned the place in the face of a strange, unsettling apocalypse. It’s a story with such melancholy beauty.
In “The Neighborhood, or, To the Devil with You,” a woman who has lived on the same block well into her old age relates the history of her neighborhood, which carries a series of tragedies. With it’s meandering style and “times have changed” tone, the story balances between the events being simply the horrifying misfortunes of an ordinary or all part of some larger, sinister design.
On the whole, Things Withers is a phenomenal collection of stories — highly recommended.
What It’s About: Adam Peiper begins to experience strange changes as he works stuffing envelopes in a strange factory.
Why I Like It: Although set in a single room, the short implies a larger dystopian world in which efficiency is the prime objective no matter the human cost. The purpose of Adam Peiper’s mindless task of licking envelopes and filing them away is irrelevant to the objective. His task becomes even more onerous and desperate as his body begins to horrifically change. These initial changes grow to be increasingly horrifying as they continue, all brilliantly portrayed through well executed physical effects.
Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, The Lure (Córki Dancingu) is a musical horror mermaid story, in which two sisters — Silver and Golden — journey out of the ocean to join a disco troupe in 1980s Poland. As they join the cabaret and explore the human world, Silver becomes fascinated with the bassist and begins to fall in love, much to the disdain of Golden, who has more interest in consuming men than loving them.
This is such a wonderfully strange movie. While it hits the same story beats as a more traditional version of “The Little Mermaid,” The Lure expands the story in surprising and beautiful ways. For example, the relationship between the sisters is powerful, as their love for each other is clear even through their disagreements. They hardly speak to each other (or at all) in the presence of humans, but have a secret silent form of communication demonstrated through movement and internal aquatic sounds that illustrates their deeper relationship and desires.
I also can’t help but be delighted by the mermaids’ tales themselves, which are huge and almost ugly in their eel-like weight. At the same time, the tails beautiful in how they curl around the room and drape over the sides of bathtubs. It’s a brilliant decision on the part of the director and crew to go with something beyond the curvaceous, pretty tails seen in most mermaid movies.
The music, too, is something wonderful. Musicals are hit and miss for me, especially when the songs don’t resonate. But most of the music in this is haunting and lovely, reflecting the siren call of the mermaids. Apparently, the actors performed all the songs live on the set, so what we see in the movie was what was recorded that day (whichis something I learned from April Wolfe and Skye Borgman’s great conversation on the Switchblade Sisters podcast).
There is so much that this movie offers — a coming of age story, a dive into Polish dance clubs in the 80s, sister relationships, and disco music — all centered on a story about mermaids. It’s fantastic.
What It’s About: Two high school best friends decide to kill one of their boyfriends.
Why I Like It: Sure it focuses on two self-centered cheerleaders, who are also sometimes ditzy — but you also have two girls who support each other. Plus, the dry wit is fantastic and I love black humor. This one delighted me. I’ve seen it compared to another black comedy that came out recently, Tragedy Girls , which I haven’t seen yet. If these are indeed similar, then that movie just jumped up my list.