Cinepocalypse Review: ‘The Swerve’ Is a Harrowing Look at the Horrors of A Mental Breakdown

I am dead inside.

The Swerve is horrifying. It is not because of a bloodthirsty serial killer, massive monster, or enraged spirit. It is because of its portrayal of desperation, mental health, and despair. It is a film that digs into the deepest fears that live within the subconscious and put them on screen, which is more terrifying than any paranormal entity.

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Cinepocalypse Review: ‘The Mute’ is Pagan Horror with a Heavy Dose of Atmosphere

We’re all familiar with the white savior narrative, especially in stories about colonialism. These stories usually center on a white man traveling to a strange land to somehow save its natives. In the case of The Mute, its Christian knights who wish to save the pagans from their god-less religion. While it is a film with a rather predictable and common story, and frankly not much new to say about colonialism or forced religious conversion, The Mute utilizes gorgeous cinematography and set pieces to make it stand out in a crowd.

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Overlook Film Festival 2019: Horror-Comedy ‘Porno’ Gives a Whole New Meaning to Ball Busting

Everyone has a story about how they learned about sex. Whether it was a traumatic conversation with your red-faced parents or an awkward lesson given by your health teacher, learning about sex is never easy or enjoyable. In Keola Racela’s horror-comedy, Porno, a group of naive Christian teens get their sex education in a rather unique way: from a murderous succubus they accidentally summon in a movie theatre.

In a quiet, Christian town, four teens, and a self-proclaimed straight-edge burnout, spend their evenings working at a movie theatre, serving popcorn to townspeople heading to see Encino Man or A League of Their Own. But at the last customer leaves, the doors are locked as this group of misfits can settle in to watch a free movie. On this particular Friday night, their viewing is delayed by a strange old man who breaks into the theatre and reveals a hidden porno theatre in the basement.

As they investigate the porn-filled basement, they discover a mysterious film canister to serve as their Friday night viewing party. The film is threaded through the projector, the lights are turned off, and the film starts rolling. What seems like an avant-garde European art film turns out to be a method for summoning a succubus from hell. The teens must then face their deepest sexual desires when trying to fight the sexual creature, which is no easy task when you’ve avoided your sexuality for your entire life. Along the way, sacrifices are made, blood is spilt, and balls are literally busted.

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Overlook Film Festival 2019: Imaginary Friends Aren’t So Fun Anymore in ‘Z’

Imaginary friends are a common part of childhood. Kids use figments of their imagination to create their own fantastical realities, usually to cope with bullying, troubles at home, or just to escape somewhere new for a little while. But in Brandon Christensen’s newest film, Z, imaginary friends are something much more sinister and violent.

Eight-year-old Josh Parsons (Jett Klyne) has made a new friend. His name is Z, he loves 2% milk, and no one can see him except Josh. At first, his parents, Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy) and Kevin (Sean Rogerson), pay Z little mind; he’s just an imaginary friend that will disappear with time. That is, until Josh begins acting out in school. He becomes aggressive, yelling at and hitting his classmates. Z’s presence begins infiltrating their home and Beth begins to realize that Z may not just be in Josh’s head. As is horror tradition, the father thinks he is acting ridiculous and wants to brush off any strange behavior as part of growing up.

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Overlook Film Festival 2019: ‘Knives and Skin’ is a Dreamy, Bizarre Trip into a World of Grief

“I don’t like when you do that.”

“What?”

“Touch me.”

Media is rife with teen crime dramas. From Riverdale to 13 Reasons Why, these shows and films are always melodramatic, trying to capitalize on pubescent turbulence. They try to depict the world of teenagers with some kind of reality, as if to connect with a young audiences. However, in Jennifer Reeder’s newest film, Knives and Skin, she paints the world of teenagers as a surreal, anachronistic experience that resembles a dream about to turn into a nightmare, set somewhere between the 1980s and now. But even in this dreamy world that seems to exist in another reality, Reeder still portrays issues of sexuality, consent, and trauma with more care than most teenage films.

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Interview: ‘The Ranger’ Director Jenn Wexler Talks Punk Rock, Final Girls, and Posers

Jenn Wexler’s feature film debut, The Ranger, is a punk rock slasher that pits city-slicker punks against a nature-loving park ranger with a taste for blood. It is a film that emanates beautiful chaos, set to a screaming soundtrack that makes the film feel both timeless and so quintessentially 80s. It is unlike any slasher you’ve seen (read our review). Wexler took the time to speak with me about her first feature film, growing up in the punk rock community, and translating that experience into a horror movie.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Much Ado About Cinema: Why did you want to make a slasher about punk and punk rock?

Jenn Wexler: So the idea of these punks that go up against this park ranger was originally the idea of my co-writer. We were in college together, we majored in screenwriting, and this was his senior screenplay. We didn’t know what to do with it at the time. But we workshopped all of our ideas in class and I became so attracted to the idea of punks vs a park ranger because just within that there was so much about rebellion versus authority. There’s so much you can do visually with that. Also, when I was a teenager, I used to go to a lot of punk shows. I grew up in this suburban town and I didn’t feel like I fit in at school, but I did feel like I fit in when I went to these shows. I already had this history with that world, so there was always something about this idea that I was attracted to.

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‘Tater Tot & Patton’ is a Beautiful Piece of Quiet Cinema About Healing and Connection

On-screen intergenerational clashes, especially those between millennials and the older generation, are a dime a dozen. In a play for laughs, the two groups clash over texting, social media, money, and avocados. But in Andrew Kightlinger’s new film, Tater Tot & Patton, both generations are portrayed with nuance and care, coming together in an attempt to understand, heal, and grieve. Sure, there is a little bit of cheesy millennial dialogue (“hardcore cringe”) but this is not a film that tries to poke fun at either group. Rather, it shows the individual struggles and strengths that go unnoticed due to assumptions about age and gender.

Tater Tot & Patton takes place on a ranch in South Dakota, run by Erwin (Bates Wilder). He spends his days keeping up the land, caring for cattle, and drinking beer after beer. But his quiet routine is interrupted when his niece, Andie (Jessica Rothe), comes to stay with him from L.A. in lieu of going to rehab. She is the image of a stereotypical spoiled millennial, demanding the wifi password, refusing to eat meat, and groaning at minor inconveniences. But as soon as these character traits are introduced, they are wiped away in the name of giving her more depth. Erwin gets a similar treatment, never seeming like a stereotypical redneck or country boy, but rather a sympathetic character in the throes of grief. As Andie spends more time with her uncle, they each learn more about each other and realize how much they need one another to heal their respective traumas.

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