2017 marks the first year for Cinepocalypse, the new incarnation of what used to be known as the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival that had its home in Rosemont, IL. Held at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre, Cinepocalypse highlights new genre films and retro screenings curated by special guests. The festival runs from November 2-9.
The day started not with a movie, but with a live recording of an episode of the podcast Eric Roberts is the Fucking Man with very special guest Eric Roberts. Roberts is a great storyteller and it was just pure fun to watch co-hosts Doug and Liam geek out in the presence of one of their favorite actors. I will update this post with a link to the episode when it is posted. In the meantime, you can read Paul Freitag-Fey’s excellent write up of the recording.
After the podcast, Roberts stuck around for a 35mm screening of Larry Cohen’s (who was also on hand for a joint Q&A with Roberts after the film) super fun action/mystery/comedy THE AMBULANCE. The movie is a pure blast of joy with an entertaining, over-the-top performance from Roberts as a comic book artist who gets drawn into a conspiracy involving a sinister ambulance that picks people up but never gets them to a hospital. I wrote an in-depth review of the film a few years back and my opinion hasn’t changed since then, so I will just link to that review and move on to what has so far been my favorite new film at the festival.
It would be very easy (and lazy) to look at SNOWFLAKE as simply another post-Tarantino game of spot the movie references. But writer Arend Remmers and director Adolfo Kolmerer find ways to transcend its homage-heavy style and give characters layers and touching emotional arcs amidst a plot that feels like Charlie Kaufman writing a movie for Guy Ritchie.
In a Berlin that is in heightened chaos due to crime and a rising fascist nationalism movement, Tan (Erkan Acar) and Javid (Reza Brojerdi), two trigger-happy criminals, kill several people in a restaurant before stealing a car. In the backseat of the car, they discover a portion of a screenplay that spells out, word-for-word, their dialogue and actions from the previous scene. Understandably freaked out, they track down the writer, who turns out to be a dentist—named Arend, after the writer of the film—(Alexander Schubert) dabbling in screenwriting for fun.
Arend is just as shocked to meet Tan and Javid (two men he assumed were characters he made up) as they are to discover they are either fictional characters or real people being controlled by dentist writing on his laptop. Tan and Javid are distraught to find in one of Arend’s drafts that there is a young woman named Eliana (Xenia Assenza) who is traveling the world with her bodyguard Carson (David Masterson), hiring various psychopaths and bounty hunters to find and kill the duo.
That plot set up is only the tip of the iceberg as Remmers and Kolmerer keep spinning the film in wider and wider circles to incorporate an angel, a man who believes he is God, and a self-styled superhero. Is it overly ambitious and self-indulgent? At times. Is it entertaining as hell? Absolutely.
While at least half of the entertainment value comes from the highly stylized direction, energy, and nifty script, SNOWFLAKE is more than just a slick, clever surface. The filmmakers have a lot of affection for Tan, Javid, Eliana, and Arend, deepening the bonds between the killers, those hunting them, and the man who may or may not have invented them—allowing for actual emotional beats that touched me more than I expected.
SNOWFLAKE may go on for about ten minutes too long and get just a little too clever for its own good at times, but I loved it. It feels like the first real discovery of this year’s Cinepocalypse and I can’t wait to see what Kolmerer and Remmers do next.
I was really looking forward to catching THE CRESCENT because it is the new feature from director Seth A. Smith. Smith made I AM COMING TO PARIS TO KILL YOU, one of my favorite short films of the last few years, so I was excited to see what he had up his sleeve.
Beth (Danika Vandersteen) is a young widow who is left to raise her toddler-age son Lowen (Woodrow Graves) on her own. Numbed from grief, she takes Lowen and retreats to her mother’s empty vacation home on a secluded stretch of beach along the Atlantic. Living alone with a fussy toddler and trying to work through her grief by creating art prints through marbling are already taking their toll on Beth before a creepy old man named Joseph (Terrance Murray) starts popping up on the beach near their house, showing interest in Lowen. Add to that odd noises in the night that sound like a foghorn mixed with a banshee wail and a melancholy young girl named Sam (Britt Loder) who issues vague warnings about dead people in the area not wanting to stay dead, and you have the makings of a classic horror film.
Smith does a good job of mixing his semi-surrealistic style with the traditional narrative crafted by screenwriter Darcy Spidle. Beth’s marbling projects provide plenty of opportunities to use as transitions that are more visually interesting than most low-budget horror films are able to pull off and thematically fit into where the film eventually goes of worlds mixing together.
I wish I could say that Smith sticks the landing after a solid first hour (and a gutsy twist halfway through that made me feel like I was about to see something I had never seen before in a horror film), but the third act of THE CRESCENT is a bit of a mess. Smith wraps up the film and then continues on for an unnecessary ten-minute epilogue that deflates much of the tension.
But that extended ending does not fully detract from everything that came before it. The overwhelming tone of dread that comes from grief and a jaw-dropping sequence in the middle of the film make THE CRESCENT worth seeing when it receives distribution.
–Matt Wedge (@MovieNerdMatt)
Tags: Adolfo Kolmerer, Alexander Schubert, Arend Remmers, Britt Loder, Charlie Kaufman, Chicago, Cinepocalypse, Danika Vandersteen, Darcy Spidle, David Masterson, Eric Roberts, Eric Roberts Is The Fucking Man, Erkan Acar, Film Festivals, Guy Ritchie, I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You, Larry Cohen, Music Box Theatre, Quentin Tarantino, Reza Brojerdi, Seth A. Smith, Snowflake, Terrance Murray, The Ambulance, The Crescent, Woodrow Graves, Xenia Assenza