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White God aka Feher Isten (2014) DVD Review

wg1White God aka ‘Feher Isten’ (2014)

UK DVD Release Date: 3rd August 2015

Director: Kornel Mondruczo

Producer: Viktoria Petranyi

Starring: Zsofia Psotto, Sandor Zsoter, Lilli Horvath, Luke / Body as “Hagen”

Runtime: 117 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Released through Metrodome Distribution

“Everything terrible is something that needs our love.”

So the first frame of ‘White God’ tells us, effectively setting the theme of the piece – the creatures we find under our stewardship look to us for physical and emotional sustenance in return for whatever assistance or companionship they provide, and this film from ‘Delta’ and ‘Tender Son’ director Kornel Mondruczo ponders how badly the worm may possibly turn should we not ‘treat as we would be treated’.

This Hungarian-Swedish-German co-production centres around 13 year old Lili (Psotto) and her beloved dog Hagen, a faithful Lab / Shar Pei cross breed who unfortunately finds himself living in a time when Hungary has begun imposing a new dog ownership law that outlaws the keeping of mixed breed mutts, levying a heavy fine on anyone found housing one. Lili’s father Daniel is dead against having Hagen in his apartment, which Lili is reluctantly staying in whilst her mother is away on business. The two clash over the matter and despite Lili’s obvious devotion to her canine pal, Daniel eventually sets Hagen loose on a nearby motorway.

wg2Distraught, Lili searches tirelessly for him, little knowing that he is to be passed fleetingly through a handful of new masters, all planning to use him for their own ends – and so begins the animal’s transformation from softie to savage, a process which the viewer can only hope will be reversed by the eventual return to his young mistress.

‘White God’ in many ways follows the themes of other animal-centred horror classics such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Cujo’ – the menace of the ever-increasing ‘pack’ of stray dogs Hagen befriends and the metamorphosis of Hagen over time will put viewers in mind of both, but the film is not as gore-heavy as it could easily have let itself be and although tense moments are there, the overall feel is understated rather than overblown.

The acting is of a good quality too, with newcomer Zsofia Psotto giving a passive yet powerful performance in the lead role, and indeed the canine interaction is something to behold. Mondruczo’s action shots of all the (many!) dogs are brilliantly done, most notably when the pack escapes the animal shelter and brings chaos upon the city, and kudos must be given to the animal handlers involved as the action involving the four-legged actors is convincingly choreographed and presented.

Whilst Psotto engages the viewer through Lili’s struggles with teen isolation, there are moments of real tension and some outrage at Hagen’s situation as he is physically modified, tormented and ultimately brutalised within the distinctly ugly underworld of illegal dog-fighting – incidentally, as one might imagine, this one is a tough watch for any dog lovers out there (although there is nothing too graphic shown)!

wg3On the other hand, it’s also maybe not one for any canine-phobic viewers – Hagen and his comrades as one force are rather unsettling and there is some bloody comeuppance for the humans who have abused them. However, if you’re someone to whom neither of the above apply then you should find ‘White God’ a worthy watch – visually it’s very enjoyable (the final frame is a beauty) and the acting and direction showcase a high level of talent, with hopefully more of the same to come from both, overall serving up an intriguing and memorable film for the horror enthusiast and general film buff alike.

7/10

The Falling (2014) DVD Review

falling1The Falling (2014)

102 mins

Directed by Carol Morley

Starring Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Florence Pugh

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release 24th August 2015 from Metrodome

1969. Somewhere in the English countryside a group of girls have a lot of growing up to do in the confines of a strict and structured all Girls School. Charismatic and intense Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh) along with troubled Lydia (Maisie Williams, TV’s Game of Thrones) are the closest of friends. After a tragedy strikes, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out threatening the school and the girls friendship.

Director Carol Morley’s last effort, the dreary documentary ‘Dreams Of A Life’ left me cold. With documentaries I can pretty much engage with any topic however weird and wonderful, but Dreams Of A Life (a story of a young women dying in her flat and not being noticed as missing for many years) had me hooked, but the film left me bored. Going into The Falling I was optimistic maybe that director Morley could work better magic with a script and narrative structure rather than talking heads.

Opening shots remind me of the opening shots of (the far superior) Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, where the shot looks like a famous painting. Colourful trees weep into crystal clears rivers with no ripples in sight, with river and trees merging into one. If I could take a screenshot and hang it on my wall, I would certainly do that. Morley goes for the same aesthetic choice and it works well, sucking you into the autumnal nooks and crannies of the girls school.

falling2Whether its 1969 or 2015 people go through the same problems, none more so than the teenager. We have all been one and can understand the problems most go through on film. Having never been a teenage girl I found it a little difficult getting to know the characters. What they were going through as girls I have never been through. The periods and the bodily changes kept me at a distance but not so much where I disengaged completely.

The overall tone of the film is very ethereal, stagy and poetic. The way the script reads (sample line – “Millions of people have babies, and its life and life only”) stagy and the cadence the girls speak in is very play based, with clipped English tones and enunciation. The film almost comes across in parts like a Kate Bush music video with weird body movements and songs.

Over the last few weeks I’ve watched a fair few movies and one thing my ear always picks up on is the soundtrack, whether it be the score or the original songs within a film. The Falling has original music and songs performed by Tracy Thorn, (who hit it big with the 90’s band Everything But The Girl) The songs fit in with the overall tone of the film with the girls even singing some of the songs within the films on instruments such as the xylophone, which is different to see in films.

One thing portrayed that we don’t necessarily all go through is a death in our youth. If you have been lucky enough not to have a loved one or friend pass away when you are young maybe you will feel this film is less resonant, but maybe revisiting this film in the distant future you may get more out of it then rather than now.

falling3I’m happy to say I liked The Falling, thankfully a lot more than director Morley’s last film, Dreams Of A Life, catch it on Amazon Instant/Netflix, which is where I saw it. The running time is sufficient, not feeling too short (which can befall low budget films) or overly long. The acting is strong especially from Maisie Williams, as you would expect after being in an HBO series for 5 seasons. I look forward to what comes from Carol Morley next especially if it is a narrative film rather than a documentary.

6/10

Short Sharp Shock #19 I Love Sarah Jane (2008)

Short Sharp Shock banner no boltWelcome to UK Horror Scene’s Short Sharp Shock. This is where we will feature a short film each week for your viewing pleasure. Short films are the foundation of Horror, it is where many of the established directors cut their teeth . The amount of quality short films out there is incredible and it is our pleasure to choose you a new one each week that we think will blow you away. So every Friday we will give you ‘Something for the Weekend’ and issue your weekly Short,Sharp,Shock! Enjoy!

I Love Sarah Jane (2008)

Director – Spencer Susser

Writers – David Michôd, Spencer Susser

Starring – Brad Ashby, Mia Wasikowska, Vladimir Matovic

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1157658/

Runtime – 14 Minutes

Jimbo is 13 and can think of only one girl — Sarah Jane. And no matter what stands in his way-bullies, violence, chaos, or zombies-nothing will stop him from finding a way into her world.

Marshland (2014) Review

Marshland posterMarshland (La Isla Minima) 2014

Director: Alberto Rodriguez

Starring: Javier Gutierrez, Raul Arevalo, Maria Varod, Perico Cervantes, Jesus Corroza

Limited UK Cinema Release from Aug 7th

UK DVD Release 14th September from Altitude Films

“That’s my knife.”

1980 Spain is the backdrop for the gritty police procedural Marshland. Gorgeously shot and tightly plotted this is a film to watch and savor. Dark, brutal and intriguingly political, Marshland is probably best appreciated by those with some knowledge of Spain’s history. I admit I had to pause the movie to go read Spain’s wiki page before returning to the film. Spain 1980 was a time of transition and some upheaval. Only a few years after the death of the dictator Franco and two years from the completion of the new Bourbon restoration. The sins of Franco’s era still loom large and the democracy is still fragile. Still with me? Let’s proceed to the review, I promise this pays off.

Two police officers, politically vocal Pedro (Arevelo) and the older sanguine Juan (Gutierrez) arrive in (according to the synopsis) Spain’s deep south, where two girls have gone missing. Pedro landed such an out-of-the-way assignment because he wrote a letter to the newspaper criticizing an (army?) General. He’s vocally democratic and his convictions have landed him what is basically a water logged middle-of-nowhere. Less is known about Juan, though as the movie unfolds his shady past as part of Franco’s Gestapo (the movie’s words not mine- I know next to nothing about Spain and am sorry for it) is revealed to Pedro. Juan is dying of what is probably prostate cancer and he’s just trying to keep his head down and do his job until the end comes.

Marshland 1The case of the two missing girls becomes a murder investigation when their bodies are found in the marshes. Then the murder investigation morphs into a hunt for a serial killer as Pedro and Juan discover more victims who also ‘disappeared’ and turned up dead. Though most of those deaths were written off as accidents or suicide. Complicating the investigation are the small town’s secrets, cruelty, and corruption.

Juan and Pedro carry on in the face of drug dealers, politics, and dishonesty. They don’t like each other very much, a situation which isn’t remedied by the end. Pedro is tightlipped and serious. Juan, charming and occasionally brutal. Apparently the police in 1980 Spain could do just about ANYTHING they wanted. Marshland in a noir film of the highest caliber. The brooding nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the beauty of the cinematography and the desolation of the setting. The sundrenched empty marshes give way to pockets of agriculture and humanity, but they are a wild place. Unnavigable without a guide and full of short-cuts and secrets. The rich birdlife of the marshes are used as a metaphor for Juan’s impending death and a reminder of his past.

The performances are amazing. The entire production is topnotch and fans of detective shows will want to watch this one. There is not a lot of gore, one user on IMDb compared it to Se7en, but Marshland is nowhere near as over-the-top. But it is restrained and richly nuanced. I would class it more with all the unrelentingly Swedish/Norwegian crime dramas and their imports like “The Killing” (in the US).

Marshland 3I’m not 100% sure on this, but Spain seems to be having a bit of a film renaissance lately. Putting out taught and riveting thrillers and horror , no matter what your stance on REC3… Add this one to your “watch list”.

Kudos for: OMG! Birds!!

Lesson learned: Learn more about Spain.

8/10

Natalie’s Lose Lose (2012) Review

nll1Natalie’s Lose Lose (USA, 2012)

Dir: Eric Williford

Starring: Danielle Adams, Marian Liddel, Jose Rosete

95Forty Productions

For more info please check – https://www.facebook.com/95Forty

Plot: Natalie (Danielle Adams) awakens to find herself strapped to a chair in a dingy room. A woman dressed in a latex dress and a pink glittery gas mask silently watches over her. There’s a intercom on the wall. A mysterious voice begins to interrogate Natalie. The voice claims to be part of an anti-terrorist organisation and Natalie is a suspected domestic terrorist. Natalie denies everything, and the voice and his gas masked assistant begin to show their unsavoury tactics for extracting information. Can Natalie free herself and save those she cares about?

Natalie’s Lose Lose is the first feature length film by writer director Eric Williford so I’d like to start off with the positives about this film. It’s a very well shot film, professional and stylish. It does plenty with it’s budget,focusing the majority of the film with two on-screen actors in a single room. It’s a combination that worked when Saw did it back in the day when the Torture Porn sub-genre graced our cinema screens.

nll2Unlike the torture films of the past, Natalie’s Lose Lose is a largely bloodless film. While film’s like Hostel relished in the physical torture by cutting Achilles tendons and bathing in blood, this film chooses to go down the mental torture route instead. Natalie is constantly threatened with the murders of her loved ones. Her torturers parade around surveillance photos and videos to prove just how much they know about Natalie. They probe her about the intimate details of her love life, and about her job. The Voice comes across as self-righteous when it’s revealed that Natalie is in a poly-amorous relationship with her boyfriend and another girl, two potential victims if she doesn’t come clean about the domestic terrorist cell that they claim she’s a part of. As Natalie fails to cooperate, the people she care about suffer. The suffering however happens mostly off-screen so the full nastiness of it doesn’t really reach the audience.

The thing about torture films is that the audience should be living vicariously through at least one character. Either you’re thinking how you would deal with the torture if it was you strapped to the chair or there’s the blend of self-righteous, vigilante, catharsis of being in the torturer’s shoes. Natalie’s Lose Lose is supposed to make you sympathise with Natalie, but Natalie spends the whole time arguing with her captives in a “Is that all you got?” level of arrogance. She’s supposed to be a bad ass the whole time. She doesn’t show much in the way of vulnerability so there’s no real reason to sympathise. She seems more bored than scared. If you’re living vicariously through a bored person you’re going to feel bored.

nll3Natalie’s Lose Lose could have used a bit more threat. Natalie doesn’t feel like she’s in danger for the majority of the film because if she dies The Voice doesn’t get answers and the film ends. She doesn’t seem to care too much about her loved ones and there doesn’t seem to be anyway for her to win. While the film is well shot and there’s some great acting from Danielle Adams, it feels like the plot of a short film stretched out to a feature. A good start for Williford, yet not quite as entertaining as I hoped it would be.

5/10