As quick as it was here, it is gone. Another fun, freaky, and fascinating year for the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. I have stated endless times this is one of my all-time favorite film festivals and this year definitely furthered that thought. It doesn’t ever feel like spooky season until BHFF comes around, I just get very sad when it’s over. The final three features I watched range from a social media star who must overcome odds she never thought imaginable, a dark family drama with a surprising amount of blood, and something I could only really think to refer to as Newer French Extremity.
Influencer, written by Tesh Guttikonda and Kurtis David Harder, directed by Kurtis David Harder
It’s always fun to try and guess what the next big subgenre craze is going to be. Post 9/11 we had the zombie phase, which probably fed into America’s post-attack xenophobia, while the slashers of the ’70s and ’80s took gender roles/stereotypes and the idea of good v. bad to the big screen. One of the world’s biggest aspiring occupations seems to be content creator, it just so happens to be one of horror’s biggest topics. There is probably a good chance this subgenre will become tiring sooner rather than later, and I have a feeling Influencer will be set right around the middle of this craze.
Social media influencer Madison (Emily Tennant) embarks on a trip to Thailand by herself, as her boyfriend Ryan (Rory J. Saper) backed out last minute. After being annoyed at a bar by Rupert (Paul Spurrier) Madison meets CW (Cassandra Naud) a charismatic badass with a take no prisoners attitude. Madison and CW spend the next few days having unabashed fun and enjoying this trip, that is until something more insidious breaches the horizon. More thriller than horror and more good than bad, Influencer takes a not-so-original idea and breathes some new life into it.
Influencer is a beautiful film. I mean, when you are mainly filming in five-star resorts and McMansions, how can it not look beautiful? The beauty that arises in this film is strictly aesthetic though. While the direction was not bad, the camera work is very plain. Not saying a film has to reinvent the wheel with its camera work, it’s just there really isn’t anything interesting done with the camera itself. I hate to use the word ‘fun,’ but there are really no ‘fun’ shots in this film. Sure there are some tracking shots, and the camera moves with the actors occasionally, there’s just really nothing to the camera work to help further the story or the characters.
There are some solid twists and turns in Guttikonda and Harder’s script, but even a wandering eye would be able to pick up on the majority of them. Dialogue and camera work aside, Influencer hinges on the fantastic performances of Emily Tennant, Cassandra Naud, and Sara Canning. With a feeling of A Perfect Getaway meets Black Mirror, Influencer takes an interesting direction through the second third of the film but slightly changes course for a more grounded idea. As an idea this film works spectacularly, I just think it left a bit to be desired for.
That being said, without giving it away too much, the antagonist of this film is in my top 20 horror antagonists. The work they go through just to continue living this lavish lifestyle they have is quite interesting. Granted it’s quite unbelievable, considering GPS and phone tracking capabilities, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough for an hour and a half you will find an entertaining psychological thriller. I don’t think this film will land on tons of top 10 lists, but I think it succeeds at being a good date night film, or at the very least a fun horror marathon group watch.
Flowing, story by Jacopo Del Giudice, written by Jacopo Del Giudice, Paolo Strippoli, and Gustavo Hernández, directed by Paolo Strippoli
What happens when the sewer slime from Ghostbusters 2 causes people to act on their fear and anger? You get quite the fascinating dark family drama Flowing. Rome has a problem on its hands, and it’s not the insane amount of rain they are getting in just a few days, it’s what happens during. The rain is causing this odd almost cosmic entity goo in the sewers to emit a toxic fume that is causing the residents of Rome to violently act on their fears, repressions, and anger. When a family who is dealing with the recent loss of their matriarch inhales these fumes things just might get a little hairy.
I know the term elevated horror has a fairly negative connotation to it, but I think it has an important place in film history. While a hell of a lot of elevated horror films are quite pretentious and act overly intellectual, it’s refreshing to find a film that can have the emotional appeal and character-driven qualities of an elevated horror film but still be grounded and accessible. Thomas (Fabrizio Rongione) has the difficult job of dealing with his son Enrico (Francesco Gheghi) who blames him for his mother’s death, while also trying to help and rehabilitate his daughter Barbara (Aurora Menenti) who is wheelchair-bound after the accident.
When making a film that follows this trajectory of wavering on the line between dark family drama and horror, you really have to have a solid mix of character development as well as scares. At no point does Flowing not feel like a horror film, but the horror finds a way to take the backseat when it needs to. The overarching atmosphere of this film looms dark and heavy over our characters, almost making the viewer feel like they are part of this broken family.
The outcome of Flowing provides a less nihilistic feel than I thought it was going to go, and I think viewers will find comfort in having a resolution that falls into an optimistic feel. At no point does this three-writer script feel overwritten or unclear in the direction it wants to head. The writers find a way to produce a clear and concise voice throughout the runtime. It probably helps that one of the writers directed the film. With a dip of the toe into experimental horror, Flowing finds a way to not just frighten the audience but also provides an emotionally charged story that will be talked about for days after your viewing.
Megalomaniac, written and directed by Karim Ouelhaj
What can I say that Sean Parker hasn’t said already? If New Belgium Extremism was a subgenre, this would be at the top of the list. Martha (Eline Schumacher) and her brother Felix (Benjamin Ramon) have quite a relationship. Their father is the infamous Butcher of Mons, a real-life Belgian serial killer from the mid-90s. After his disappearance, Felix is left to take care of his sister in every aspect of her life. Martha is a janitor who is subjected to sexual assault at work day in and day out. After quite some time Martha enacts a plan with her brother to take care of everyone who has assaulted her.
This is one dark ass film. A good portion of the beginning is incredibly misogynistic, and I was quite worried it would stay that way. Thankfully, there is a break from it but it completes its runtime with that feeling still looming heavily overhead. What I find most impressive about this film is how they take an aspect that failed in Martyrs and finds a way to make it work. Rather than retconning that idea like in Martyrs, Megalomaniac works a heavy psychological/supernatural element into it and it never feels forced.
Megalomaniac is an extreme film. It is ultraviolence. It feels very unsafe and left me feeling unsettled and gutted throughout my entire viewing experience. This is not torture porn by any means, but rather the physical and sexual assaults that happen throughout the story, and with all the characters, aim to move the story along. Unlike a torture porn movie, there is actual character development alongside the violence.
The directing style of Megalomaniac is different, and by no mean typical of films of this ilk. There seems to be a real care and understanding behind what a film like this can be. Granted this film will piss a lot of people off, but I think a film like this is important to watch. Brutal films can be artistically charged, there can be that healthy mix of extreme violence with beautiful camera work and acting. Out of every film I have viewed for Brooklyn Horror Film Festival I think this is one of the better ones to go in blind to. That being said, if you want a much more in-depth review definitely check out Sean’s brilliant review.
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