The Boston Underground Film Festival has returned to the historic Brattle Theatre for 2017! Billed as a “celebration of the bizarre and insane” and featuring “uncompromising, unflinching film/video,” the festival has earned a reputation for screening a wide variety of films from underground horror to top-tier documentary. This year’s lineup, running from March 22nd to the 26th, is no exception.
PREVENGE (UK, dir. Alice Lowe)
Widowed Ruth (writer/director Alice Lowe) is seven months pregnant, and on top of the stresses of single motherhood she has a unique problem: her fetus demands that she kill people. Between visits to her concerned midwife (Jo Hartley), Ruth fills out her baby book with plans and details of her murders. As her due date draws near, can Ruth complete the baby’s diabolical plan before she gives birth? PREVENGE would be an impressive directorial debut for anybody, but considering Lowe was actually seven months pregnant when she shot the film (in just 11 days!), it’s nothing short of incredible. She gives a fantastic lead performance, helping guide the film through some sharp tonal shifts between disarmingly honest poignancy and humor with tension and sudden violence. PREVENGE sits comfortably next to Lowe’s turn in Ben Wheatley’s SIGHTSEERS as another excellent performance from an exciting talent in the genre.
Following its screening at BUFF, PREVENGE is now available on streaming video service Shudder and is playing limited theatrical dates starting March 24th in New York and Los Angeles.
HOUNDS OF LOVE (Australia, dir. Ben Young)
John (Stephen Curry) and Evelyn (Emma Booth) live in a quiet Australian suburb in the late 1980s where they have made a habit of kidnapping and killing young women as part of their sexual routine. One evening they pick up Vicki (Ashleigh Cummings) just a few blocks away from her mother’s house as she sneaks out to a party. Over the next several days, Ashleigh observes the couple’s relationship and desperately tries to figure out how to use what she learns to escape while her estranged parents attempt to convince the police to do anything to help bring Vicki home. HOUNDS OF LOVE covers some very dark and familiar territory, but it does so with an uncommon artistry. Writer/director Ben Young has crafted a technically impressive horror show, impeccably shot by cinematographer Michael McDermott. Curry is terrifying as John and Booth is scary and heartbreaking by turns, the couple leading a solid cast. This is some extremely dark territory, but its technical merits elevate HOUNDS OF LOVE above its contemporaries even if they don’t necessarily make it any easier to watch.
A DARK SONG (Ireland, dir. Liam Gavin)
Sophia (Catherine Walker) enlists occultist Joseph (Steve Oram) to assist her in an extremely difficult and protracted magick ritual, one that will take months and which requires the two of them to stay inside a house together for its entirety. Joseph balks when they meet, but when Sophia reveals her true intentions for wanting to perform the ritual, he reluctantly agrees. As they seal themselves inside the house and begin the rites, reality seems to break down and the nature of their relationship fluctuates dangerously as the fragile nature of their progress is constantly threatened by forces they cannot comprehend. A DARK SONG is a claustrophobic drama in horror finery. Walker and Oram are the only people on-screen for nearly its entire running time, and they’re both excellent in a pair of emotionally and physically demanding roles. Debut feature writer/director Liam Gavin has crafted something truly unique here. There are countless films about the occult, but I can’t recall any others quite like this.
68 KILL (USA, dir. Trent Haaga)
Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) lives in a trailer park with his girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord), but she wants more. One day while turning a trick at the home of a local creep, Liza learns he has $68,000 stashed in a safe and enlists Chip to help steal it. Although she reassures him no one will get hurt, by the end of the night there are multiple bodies and a young woman named Violet (Alisha Boe) in the trunk of Liza’s car. In very short order, Chip learns he has been living on the very edge of some very nasty goings-on, and before the night is out he’ll be deeper in the middle of it than he could have imagined. Trent Haaga’s previous directorial outing was the pitch-black comedy CHOP, and some of his previous writing credits include CHEAP THRILLS, DEADGIRL, and CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV. In other words, it’s not surprising that 68 KILL delights in gleeful misanthropy, playing out as an outlandishly cartoonish satire of film noir conventions: Chip is the hapless sucker roped into trouble by the lure of sex, but this kind of trouble is on a whole different level than what was waiting for Fred MacMurray in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. This means that the film traffics in some all-too-familiar female stereotypes, although neither Chip nor any of the other men in the film come out looking any better and the cast—especially McCord as the ultimate “crazy girlfriend” and Sheila Vand as the menacing ringleader of a group of rednecks—all look like they’re having the time of their lives. It’s gruesome, offensive, and mean-spirited, but if you’re in the right frame of mind you might have a blast with 68 KILL.
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Tags: Alice Lowe, Alisha Boe, AnnaLynne McCord, Australia, Ben Young, Boston, Boston Underground Film Festival, Brattle Theatre, Catherine Walker, Emma Booth, Film Festivals, Horror, Ireland, Jo Hartley, Liam Gavin, Matthew Gray Gubler, Michael McDermott, Sheila Vand, Stephen Curry, Steve Oram, The UK, Trent Haaga