Three From Grimmfest Easter 2022: Bring Out the Fear, the Family, and Ghosts of the Ozarks

Bring Out the Fear image courtesy of Weird Pretty Pictures | The Family courtesy of APL Films | and Ghosts of the Ozarks courtesy of XYZ Films

Because so many films were playing at Grimmfest Easter 2022, we decided to write abbreviated reviews for a few in order to get to them all. Below are Riley Wade and Sean Parker‘s brief thoughts on three films from the weekend festival.

Bring Out The Fear

Originally premiering at Frightfest US, the latest feature from Richard Waters, Bring Out The Fear, is a breakup story set in a vast, impossible forest. When Dan and Rosie, a couple on the verge of breakup, venture out into the woods for a much-needed picnic, an ill-timed proposal from Dan leads to the expansion of the woodland into an unending labyrinthine place.

A couple cuddles under a blanket in a woodsy setting in Bring Out The Fear
Bring Out the Fear | Image courtesy of Weird Pretty Pictures

The result is a frustratingly predictable allegory with a flimsy script, neither original nor truly engaging, and woefully devoid of scares. It’s an inoffensive little experiment that feels aping of other, better films like Ben Wheatley’s terrific In The Earth or The Blair Witch Project, but while those films thrive in their settings, Bring Out The Fear trips and stumbles head-first into the overwrought gratuitous metaphor.

There are moments of greatness, a couple of decent scares, a few delicate scenes between the couple as they listen to music or argue ferociously, and some drop-dead gorgeous camera work and montage footage that really show the toxic beauty of this hellish place (indeed, the film’s best moments and setpieces rely on that mastery of the visual form), but not even that can save the film from being an aggravating slog—even with a scant 80-minute runtime. The majority of the scares are *not* the aforementioned great use of cinematography and video editing, but rather laugh-out-loud inept: shoddily edited loud, deep growls and spooky whispers, shocking the audience with a whole lot of nothing as the camera writhes fitfully at the sky, or toward our cookie-cutter characters’ gurning faces. It is, frankly, exhausting, and absolutely not in the way the filmmakers want of me, but instead hamfisted and cheap, saying and doing a whole lot of nothing while trying to convince us this story, this relationship, is worth saving.

Bring Out the Fear is playing as part of Grimmfest Easter 2022 in the UK, and the film will also appear as part of the virtual festival.

— Riley Wade

The Family

It may just be me, but I could simply not get into The Family. The film pitches itself as a slow-burn horror drama with the aesthetic of The Witch, a film I both love and loathe in a way, and movies like The Family may be the reason for that. Robert Eggers’ film was always likely to inspire more dread-filled operas of varying magnitude, but The Family wants so badly to be The Witch that the focus rarely shifts from the atmospheric discomfort and works toward a familiar twist that isn’t even slightly disguised and bears a resemblance so strong to another film that I can’t mention it without spoiling this one.  

Caleb stands holding an ax and rolling his eyes next to Father in The Family
The Family | Image courtesy of APL Films

The Family is a period film about a group of farmers living in a clearing surrounded by woods. The children work all day under the tyrannical rule of their father (Nigel Bennett), and at the start of the film, we watch as one falls to the ground from exhaustion. Elijah’s (Onyx Spark) overexertion leads to his disappearance, resulting in a shift of faith Caleb (Benjamin Charles Watson) has in his father and the cultish religious principles he’s been forced into believing as a child. Caleb is coming of age, readying to marry his sister Abigail (Jenna Warren), when a new young girl, Mary (Keana Lyn), emerges from the woods. 

Creating a rift between father, son, and religion is a clever story element. There comes a time in every child’s life when they start questioning the faith their parents raised them to believe. The challenge that rises between Father and Caleb is palpable, leading to inevitable violence: the cost of Machiavellian rule (instilling fear instead of love) in any context. Having lived with a father who was very “my way or the highway,” inscrutable and egotistical, this was my favorite part of the movie. It results in a stronger bond between The Family’s siblings, who, in the end, come together in a very big way. 

The acting is spectacular. Each character knows their role and delivers on it, particularly Watson and Warren, who embody their roles with unparalleled depth against a vivaciously sinister Bennett. One character I wish had received more time was the complex Mother (Toni Ellwand) character, who has a Grace Zabriskie kind of vibe about her. She curiously allows these events to unfold without obstacle, gaslights her children and has some perplexing views on what gender roles should be. The character just seemed like a goldmine of subversive phobias that I wish we got to unpack. 

The excellent film score will strongly be remembered when considering the action sequences of the film’s climax. While some of the less tempered stretches of drama for the music again feel heavily inspired by The Witch, the film’s conclusion extraordinarily bellows the film’s excitement. The audio mix itself is another story, and that may simply be the result of the screener I watched, but I had a hard time hearing the dialogue except during the parts where people were yelling.  

Maybe, the film itself is better than some of my criticism. I think many will hate The Family’s ending too, but find themselves liking elements, as I did, of the characters, action, and drama. I recognize director Dan Slater’s movie as being not meant for me. Perhaps parts of it just hit a little too close to home. Whatever the reason, there’s plenty to appreciate from it, and I still think it will find an audience that enjoys it. 

The Family played as part of Grimmfest Easter 2022. The film will also appear as part of the virtual festival. The Family will continue to tour festivals worldwide throughout 2022. 

— Sean Parker   

Ghosts of the Ozarks

Beginning Ghosts of the Ozarks, I felt what I was getting into wasn’t going to be polished or refined. The film begins with Thomas Hobson, playing a young doctor James McCune, traveling to a small town where his uncle Matthew (Phil Morris) had become the mayor in a post-civil war Missouri. The premise is rife with tense sentiment as a foreboding man arrives at James’ campfire. The setup is in the film’s favor, yet the atmosphere never reaches the threatening potential the story imbues on the scene. After James’ campfire visitor arrives, the scene becomes dense with a thick red fog filled with monsters that drives James to run straight to the town’s gates as his unwelcomed guest has the tables turned. 

James stands covered in blood fixing his cuff in Ghosts Of The Ozarks, playing as part of Grimmfest Easter 2022
Ghosts of the Ozarks | Image courtesy of XYZ Films

It’s a hell of an opening and a very powerful one from a story perspective. However, this is one example of many I could use from the film to tell you what to expect. Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long do what they can with what they have. What they have is a fantastic story written by Long with Tara Perry and Sean Anthony Davis and a great cast that includes the notable talents of Tim Blake Nelson, Angela Bettis, and David Arquette, as well as 12 Hour Shift’s Tara Perry and the aforementioned Hobson and Morris. Set pieces are well crafted, the scope of the design is incredible, and the music is quite good when used. 

Staunchly about a town in the center of the United States creating a utopia through fear during a very divided era of American history, Ghosts of the Ozarks is an extremely captivating film from a story perspective. The insight into how people perceive their governments and how certain practices don’t benefit all people feels particularly apt in today’s society. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t come together to reach that level. The movie felt captured on film and told without a specific definitive vision, especially in a post-production sense. Scenes without music or background are uncomfortably silent, making the viewer realize how thin the atmosphere is. Once that happens, there’s an instant disconnect in the experience. Furthermore, the cinematography is a bit of a mess, making the film feel like you’re watching a stage play rather than a larger production.  

I absolutely loved Ghosts of the Ozarks’ story, which pulled me in and desperately made me want to know how the film would end. As much as my eyes were glued to the screen, my subconscious had this one from the start.  The limitations of the film’s budget leave us with a mish-mash of The Village, The Wicker Man, and Batman Begins. Ghosts of the Ozarks has a lot going for it from a socially conscious level, and there’s a lot of resonance in the film’s metaphors. If you’re scrolling through your streaming options, I think this could be worth watching. The horror-western genre may be growing, but movies are still few and far between. Ghosts of the Ozarks lands squarely in the middle for me, but I would like to see what Glass and Long will do next. I hope they learn from their experience working on this film and hone their craft with more dynamics of subtlety and shock rather than a straight linear approach.  

Ghosts of the Ozarks is playing as part of Grimmfest Easter 2022 in the UK, and the film will also appear as part of the virtual festival. The US can currently stream Ghosts of the Ozarks through most VOD services. 

— Sean Parker   

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Written by Horror Obsessive

This article was written either by a Guest Author or by an assortment of Horror Obsessive staff.

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