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3/26/2009

Film & Video

FFF: Midnight Movies: Short Films and Features

 

The Blindness of the Woods (3 Stars) Is it surprising that Swedish erotica is just as dark and cold as all other things Nordic? No, but the fact that it’s done with actors in body socks sure is. Also included with the film are several 15-second interstitials that just had to be shown on their own: Creature of the Woods, Sexxxy Lumberjack and Fly to Freedom.

Justin Strout

Deadgirl (3 Stars) Sometimes the best ideas come from the worst films, especially in the recent milieu of indie horror. Two high-school virgins go exploring in an abandoned mental institution one night and discover a chained-up naked woman who looks dead but isn’t. Appallingly, one of the boys decides to lose his virginity to the woman. When he conveys this story to his friend later, he tells how she began fighting back, clawing and biting wildly. He hit her – a lot. A typical indie horror (or even drama) film would end here. Of course he killed her and of course they have to cover it up or face the consequences. The twist? She didn’t die, despite the friend trying to kill her over and over again. It’s a delicious turn of story that’s unfortunately mostly wasted on the stiff (pardon the pun) performances and meandering ending.

Justin Strout

An Evening With Mike and Jessica (2 Stars) We all know couples like this. We avoid them in real life. So why would that be any different because they’re two-dimensional and burned onto celluloid? It’s not. Props, though, for the use of “ri-cock-ulous.”

Justin Strout

Fuckin’ Old Bitch (1 Star) The longest three minutes of my life. This is why our country really doesn’t need Missouri.

Justin Strout

The Horribly Slow Murderer With the Extremely Inefficient Weapon (3 Stars) You know how an unfunny joke repeated enough times can become funny and then go back again? This film manages to make that trip several times.

Justin Strout

I Live in the Woods (5 Stars) An angry white hillbilly cares so little about right or wrong that he kills God with his boot for even suggesting such a thing exists. And that’s awesome.

Justin Strout

The Lutheran (5 Stars) Possibly the finest and certainly the broadest short of the festival, this one-act-length comedy brings us a pastor (Sam Raimi player Dan Hicks) who has become so acerbic and nihilistic that his sermons are must-see, train-wreck curiosities for his flock. When a series of misfortunes lead him to a decision to save his town, he’s forced to acknowledge his tiny heart. A note to the major studios: Let director Brad Bosley do a mainstream feature now. Better yet, let him adapt this one. His style is that of Terry Zwigoff’s adopted little brother.

Justin Strout

Massage (1 Star) Farts are funny. Not for eight minutes straight.

Justin Strout

Necromance (2 Stars) You know who doesn’t like spoken-word poetry? Among many others, the makers of this short, who apparently desire with such vigor the form to die that they’ve made it as unappealing as it gets in this story of elaborately complicated masturbation.

Justin Strout

Pellet Gunn (4 Stars) Am I high or is Whole Foods selling human heads by way of a time-space continuum? A friendly reminder that the Midnight Shorts program is not to be experienced above the influence.

Justin Strout

Seventh Moon (4 Stars) An elemental, meat-and-potatoes horror film from the co-creator of The Blair Witch Project, Seventh Moon further confirms three things: writer-director Eduardo Sánchez has his mojo back after years in direct-to-video purgatory; feral-looking humans in makeup still trump CGI baddies any day; and elaborate, gotcha dream sequences are still bullshit. In the film, Amy Smart plays the newlywed of a drunken jagweed. She follows him to Hong Kong for their honeymoon, but their trip unfortunately coincides with a local myth about a “seventh moon,” in which the dead return to feast. By refusing to play the torture-porn game, Sánchez instead leans on the fundamental aspect of thrillers: fear of the unknown as a driving, life-affirming force.

Justin Strout

The Shit Chronicles IV (3 Stars) The latest in a series of two-minute pencil-drawn shorts featuring various tales of human excrement: in this case, how it relates to singer Bonnie Tyler. As always, it’s the strangest blink of an eye at the fest.

Justin Strout

Squeezebox! (3 Stars) Throughout the ’90s, downtown Manhattan club Squeezebox was a safe haven for GLBT performers and partygoers who also happened to identify with the punk mentality. This affectionate documentary collects testimonials from former attendees John Waters, Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell, and singers Antony Hegarty and Jesse Malin, interspersed with archival footage of the club’s drag queen rockers, who were more than willing to throw down with misbehaving frat boys. These ladies have the blood of the Stonewall riots coursing through their veins, and it’s telling that the club’s seven-year run coincided almost exactly with Rudy Giuliani’s two-term mayoral quest to “clean up” New York. “You’re going to be living in a strip mall,” says one drag queen presciently. Rock thrives in the face of tyranny, and to watch the two opposing sides of the morality battle go at each other – maybe even complete each other – makes up for the lack of dramatic push to the rose-colored nostalgia.

Justin Strout

U-Turn (1 Star) Are 12-year-old future serial killers allowed into this screening? If so … success!

Justin Strout

Unbelievable 4 (5 Stars) I finally understand what kind of ’80s music video George W. imagines his life to be. While they perform “The Final Countdown” onstage (with keytars), Bush, Cheney, Condi and Rumsfeld are on a Matrix-themed race to the finish. Of what, you ask? Exactly. Note to filmmakers: YouTube this immediately and you’re gods.

Justin Strout

film@orlandoweekly.com
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