TIFF Reviews: Halloween Edition
Scary Movies From the Toronto International Film Festival
Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Clive Owen stars as a father with an extremely close (almost creepily so) relationship with his daughter, but it turns out they share more than familial affection as past secrets come to light… There are two interconnected stories here (one taking place in Mexico, and that half of the film is in Spanish) but the way that the two are connected is so painfully obvious from very near the start of the film, that when the big reveal finally comes, it can induce little else but eye-rolling.
There are a couple tense moments scattered throughout the film, but the titular intruder functions most effectively as a human enemy, and when we see him enveloped in bad CG and flitting about, he loses all sense of menace. The ultimate explanation for the supernatural events feels thin and the film ends with a final sequence so cinematically juvenile, it is difficult to remember anything else that came before it.
Directed by: Eduardo Sánchez
I can understand why Eduardo Sánchez might be really upset when he sees the popularity of the recent ‘found footage’ films. As a pioneer of of the genre, he doesn’t get a lot of credit for his trailblazing The Blair Witch Project. I’m sure he is particularly frustrated when he sees the critical and commercial success of the Paranormal Activity films, and realizes they probably would not exist if not for him and his Blair Witch co-director.
All that does NOT excuse the shameless Paranormal Activity rip-off that is Lovely Molly. The film opens with a sequence taken directly from the first Paranormal Activity (at least in one of the 36 versions of PA floating around out there) and it does little to differentiate itself afterward. Characters, scenes, even sound effects are all lifted from PA, but without the slow-building narrative arc and rising terror that came from Paranormal Activity and its sequel.
Every year I see probably five or six straight-to-Netflix, zero-budget, ‘found footage’ horror movies capitalizing on whatever is trending at the moment. Lovely Molly is as bad, if not worse, than any of them.
Directed by: Mary Harron
Everyone associated with The Moth Diaries is capable of doing great work, but somehow the movie is a trite and inexplicable mess.
Taking substantial liberties with its acclaimed source, this vampire-infused coming-of-age story doesn’t seem to realize there’s ever been one made before. It trots out the coming-of-age tropes one after another, with heavy-handed allegory that makes Ginger Snaps look like The Prestige, yet all the while remaining blissfully ignorant of its own derivativeness.
Directed by: Alexandre Courtes
A rock band working as cooks in an asylum for the criminally insane gets trapped in the building with the inmates running free.
The band members are generally quite unlikable, and devoid of any significant personality traits, so its hard to care about them as they run through the halls of the asylum getting picked off one by one by classic crazy-person stereotypes.
Beyond the obvious holes in logic that I have long come to accept in a film such as this, the final reveal is completely nonsensical, and an utter betrayal of the audience.
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
A washed-up writer arrives to do a book signing at a hardware store in a Twin Peaks-esque burg… and then things get weird.
Twixt is a fascinating and weird tale that includes vampires, serial killers, ghosts, Edgar Allan Poe, emo kids… the list goes on. There is a little bit of everything in this movie (including a few minutes of 3-D) and even if every experiment in it isn’t a resounding success, the film as a whole has a kind of daring brilliance that is a very special thing.
Parts of the film are inspired by the real-life death of Coppola’s son, and one scene in particular is absolutely cringe-inducing if you know the details of that tragedy… Its hard to imagine Coppola being willing to share something like that on film, but it feels oddly appropriate in this film that is as much about story-telling as it is about the story itself.
Val Kilmer does his best work in years, and Elle Fanning is virtually perfect as a creepy teenage girl/ghost/vampire that is endearing, but at the same time kind of terrifying. Her place in the over- arching narrative is withheld until the very end, and the film brings its characters together in a satisfying conclusion that mocks its own finality.
Scary, funny, clever and dark, this is one of Francis Ford Coppola’s best films, which is by no means light praise.