Fantasia Festival 2020: Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Time of Moulting (Fellwechselzeit, 2020)

Director (and writer): Sabrina Mertens

Cast: Freya Kreutzkam, Miriam Schiweck, Zelda Espenschied, Bernd Wolf

Germany in the 1970s. Stephanie is a lively child, enjoys board games, playdates with neighbours, and holidays with the family. But her life takes an increasing turn towards isolation at the hands of her absent, temperamental father and a mentally unstable, often bedridden mother trapped in world of her own making. Something is quietly rotting away under the surface of familial life, and soon, the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years… bringing aging, clutter, decay, but no future in sight. Strange rituals abound and the outhouse – where the family keeps their boxes of memories and secrets – exerts a growing influence. So Stephanie retreats into a dark world of barbaric fantasies… – Fantasia Festival

Time of Moulting is a German drama film set in a series of still shots and moving interactions between the family over the span of two different age of the main girl Stephanie. The first is where she is a little girl and dealing with her family especially the bond with her mother while it jumps forward to the second part when she is a teenager in the vicinity of her home every single day and the change the grows in her.

Time of Moulting feels a little like a abstract character study of Stephanie. At the same time, its a film that is very experimental and slow-paced and requires a lot of reading between the lines as well as being incredibly patient to decipher all the is going on. There isn’t a lot of dialogue or interaction and its all watching some odd moments go on with Stephanie and the little things that carry from one scene to the next while also having other scenes as she interacts with her father who doesn’t really care too much and sits around watching TV a lot and her mother who is mostly unwell. The film takes place in the one setting of their home and the outhouse surrounded with clutter and mess as well as their cat.

The impression of Time of Moulting truly depends on how much of the abstract story it wants to tell is delivered to the audience. For myself, there is merit in the way it chooses to film it from the color tone of each setting to the different items that Stephanie uses even up to her scenes from a child to teenager where she starts doing some rather questionable things and making some odd decisions. It all moves straight to an even more abstract ending that almost doesn’t answer of the oddities from before and wraps up with ambiguity. Suffice to say that I’m not the audience meant for this film as the merit of the moments doesn’t add up to be greater than the shock of the ending and what might have happened leaves too many questions still in the air. Perhaps its one meant for discussion and would be interesting to see how others interpret this film, for myself, its on the same level as a previous movie that I had reviewed called La Version Nouvelle (review) which has a lot of similarities in how the film is executed even if the story is a completely different one.

I’m sure that there are people with deeper power of connection that might appreciate this movie for what its trying to present. There are some shocking moments that Stephanie does and the ending does have that sudden moment of revelation at one part that is fun. The cat parts throughout also was very fun (but when are cats not fun to see in movies) but this movie is a gloomy slow-paced story focused on a young girl going through some personal and psychological change which matches to the title of Moulting but what is “Moulting”? I have a lot of different theories right now but nothing that feels like I have a concrete answer because its a little too ambiguous and abstract for my own preference. However, if you do like these sort of experimental movie experiences, this is one to check out.

Double Feature: The Lodgers (2017) & Luz (2018)

Welcome to the next double feature as we continue with the alphabet and head into our L selections! The first is an Irish gothic horror called The Lodgers and the second is a German (and Spanish) supernatural horror film. Let’s check it out!

The Lodgers (2017)

the lodgers

Director: Brian O’Malley

Cast: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley, Deirdre O’Kane, Moe Dunford, Roisin Murphy

1920, rural Ireland. Anglo Irish twins Rachel and Edward share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Each night, the property becomes the domain of a sinister presence (The Lodgers) which enforces three rules upon the twins: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. When troubled war veteran Sean returns to the nearby village, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules set out by The Lodgers. – IMDB

The Lodgers is a gloomy sort of film. Its filmed with a dark atmosphere and lingers in a mysterious air as the story of The Lodgers, their rules and these twins’ stories are gradually revealed of why they are bond to the house and what is expected of them. The story does take a nice pace in revealing it and maintains a rather creepy vibe especially in the first half when its laying out the story and the mysterious vibe with the crumbling estate and what the predicament of the twins and the lodgers. Its in the second half when things start unfolding that it starts feeling like it loses a little of its steam since the twist is revealed in a fairly obvious way by that point and its easy to understand where the twist is. To be fair, its actually one of the scenes of the female lead seeing the figures of her parents in the lake that seem to repeat itself one time too many.

The Lodgers falls under one of the issues where the “monster” aka The Lodgers reveal is where it renders the horror element lesser than when it was a mystery.  While that is the case, the whole underwater scene is shot so nicely of where the lodgers reside and who they are. There’s something very fantastically creepy about the deep underwater darkness and its captured so well.

Other than that, there are essentially three main characters here. The female lead Rachel (Charlotte Vega), her twin brother Edward (Bill Milner) and Rachel’s suitor Sean (Eugene Simon). There are a few other supporting cast that help further set up the story and the mystery surrounding the twins and their estate. The three main leads do create a nice dynamic especially watching the interaction between the twins as well as between Rachel and Sean.

The Lodgers do have a few tropes and such but somehow it does have this very chilling and ominous feeling throughout. Its twist is revealed gradually but is rather easy to find the hints to what its trying to build towards by probably the middle of the movie. There are some unique elements to the story that definitely deserve a watch especially with its estate setting being used from inside the house to the grounds as well as having a great cinematography.

Luz (2018)

luz

Director (and writer): Tilman Singer

Cast: Luana Velis, Johannes Benecke, Jan Bluthardt, Lilli Lorenz, Julia Riedler, Nadja Stubiger

Luz, a young cabdriver, drags herself into the brightly lit entrance of a run-down police station. A demonic entity follows her, determined to finally be close to the woman it loves. – IMDB

The best way to describe Luz is probably “odd” and “bizarre”. The whole setup of the movie has this old film filter over its scenes. At the same time, its incredibly psychological. Visually, it uses a lot of close-up shots as well as still shots to capture the moments and emphasize an uneasiness in the scene. It fluctuates between what is reality and hypnotic dimension especially for the character of Luz. There are so many little details set up to bring in a lot of intrigue (and maybe get lost a little in this whole possession) of what is actually happening in the room and what is happening in Luz’s mind. Its all done in such a unique style that adds so much to the story itself.

I do have to say that what works for Luz for some viewers might be what doesn’t work at the same time. Its a strange experience watch and one that challenges piecing together the different parts of the story line especially at the beginning as the events seem to blend together and connecting the characters. As it works towards the finales, the characters and the possession element and the hypnosis world and reality all easily can become this confusing to follow story. For some this confusion might be quite the fun ride. For myself, that ride was unique and as things started to slot back into place, the execution is key to where it all stands out at its best from the cinematography to its use of sounds.

Luz is a hard film to talk about it. Its quite the horror experience on a psychological level and takes a unique approach to the whole possession premise right from start to beginning.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these films? Thoughts?

Halloween Double Feature: Blue My Mind (2017) & Boar (2017)

DOUBLEFEATURE (71)

Things are not easy for this Halloween marathon because a lot of the films that I’ve chosen seem to have not quite turned out to be conventional horror which is the risk of trying to go into a movie blind. The first choice here, Blue My Mind is definitely not in the conventional horror and is the one that I debated to swap out but there was a certain level of “horror” here that I’ll talk about more (its really categorized as drama-fantasy but Wikipedia calls it a coming of age/horror, so you decide). Second film here is Boar. A last minute change to the original pairing so that we can get some creature feature going on in this marathon as well as some definite horror film.

Let’s check it out!

Blue My Mind (2017)

blue my mind

Director (and co-writer): Lisa Bruhlmann

Cast: Luna Wedler, Zoe Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller, Georg Scharegg, Lou Haltinner, Yael Meier, David Oberholzer

A seemingly normal teenage girl faces overwhelming body transformations that put her existence into question. – IMDB

Final decision to add Blue My Mind in went into the complete belief that the transformation/body horror elements of Blue My Mind and even the coming of age realization and unknown transformation in this character for Mia is a horrific one. Sure, its more along the fantasy drama category for a lot of people but there were definitely levels of the fear of the unknown going on here. A lot of the unknowns here from why this happens to Mia remains mostly a question throughout. While there are lot of unanswered questions, the focus of the situation is honestly watching Mia transform all starting from the very scary first period that takes her onto a journey of trying to numb her pain by drugs and alcohol and then slowly coming to accept it.

Blue My Mind is odd and sometimes the teenage angst gets really annoying. The film is a rather slow burn as well so the first part takes it rather easy and gives time for Mia to change and try to make friends with the popular trouble-making students. There’s a lot of silly teenage decisions and the transformation to fit in this new environment as well as all the rebellious things she does at home along with the inner change all blends together. It really starts getting under the skin as the movie goes further along because her character is developed so well. The theme of body transformation and mermaids and such are so underused that this movie is a rare one to see. It might be able to be executed better with less of the teen angst and rebellion but overall, its one that does make us think.

Boar (2017)

Boar

Director (& writer): Chris Sun

Cast: Bill Moseley, Nathan Jones, John Jaratt, Steve Bisley, Roger Ward, Hugh Sheridan, Chris Haywood, Simone Buchanan

In the harsh, yet beautiful Australian outback lives a beast, an animal of staggering size, with a ruthless, driving need for blood and destruction. It cares for none, defends its territory with brutal force, and kills with a raw, animalistic savagery unlike any have seen before. – IMDB

Nothing says horror like a creature feature which usually has a good dose of cheese as well as a lot of horrified chases and screaming. I’ve never watched a boar be the center of a creature feature so figured it would be a nice one to add to this horror marathon line-up. While there were some issues here and there with acting and some computer effects as well as some other parts that didn’t quite make sense or just felt very been there done that with bad decision making and such, Boar actually was a fun time and it had a lot to do with making a decent second half of the film that went to quite a fun ending sequence.

Boar is pretty much about a giant rhino-sized (as they described in the movie) killer boar that terrorizes the Australian outback town full of farmers and workers. Its goes around hitting farms and then campers and moving right along to eventually go up against a family coming out to visit the brother, Bernie (Nathan Jones). While his acting isn’t anything to call home about or maybe it is because its overacting that kind of works for this role and is expected, he does have quite the hulking presence here making him the rock that stands between the boar and his family. At the same time, bar owner Sasha (Melissa Tkautz) who goes out looking for his father who has gone missing is quite the tough lady here as well.

Which brings in an issue with the film being that every mainstream character from Bernie’s family (sister, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend) are really hard to watch because its so cringeworthy. Then you have these bad dialogues all around. When its just the boar doing its thing, its actually quite good especially in the beginning as it only reveals part of this boar or from a distance and then shows all the different ways it is offing its victims and the rampage it goes on. It gets pretty intense even if the boar has some fairly cheesy shots, as it gets further on and some of these deaths are pretty gory and disgusting. There are some really crazy bits here as it gets closer and closer to the end or I guess you can call it the final showdown.

Boar isn’t great. The beginning takes a little long dealing with this cringey characters in their crappy dialogue but it has some redeeming points when it works through the creature feature bits, which is really what matters, right? There’s not a lot of Boar creature features so this point alone is worth a watch. Not to mention a death scene here that reminds me so much of Deep Blue Sea and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters death scene. Love it!

That’s it for this Halloween double feature #3!
Have you seen either of these films? If so, thoughts? If not, are they on your radar?