All posts by Gregory J. Smalley (366weirdmovies)

Gregory J. Smalley founded 366 Weird Movies in 2008 and has served as editor-in-chief since that time. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and his film writing has appeared online in Pop Matters and The Spool.


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DIRECTED BY: Kelley Kali

FEATURING: Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Shannon Woodward, Shein Mompremier

PLOT: A young art curator who is having mysterious blackouts and confused memories meets a potential girlfriend who seems too good to be true.

Still from Jagged Mind (2023)

COMMENTS: Billie is a stunning, smart, lithe second-generation Haitian with a chic job at an upscale art gallery. Her periodic blackouts and memory lapses—which she suspects may be a result of very early onset Alzheimer’s—must make her a pain to be around; that’s the only possible explanation as to how she could have any problem landing, and keeping, a high-class girlfriend. She does have minor but unexplained sores on her thigh, and she does tend to go into a fugue state whenever a voodoo priest accosts her while jogging, but other than that, she’s a prize. So thinks Alex, who comes on to her with a smooth, practiced approach, buying Billie a glass of expensive wine when she spots her alone at a Little Haiti bar—multiple times, because Billie never remembers their last meeting. Is Alex merely taking advantage of Billie’s neurological condition, or is something even more sinister going on?

The fractured first act grabs your attention for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of Jagged Mind‘s runtime, but unfortunately, the script doesn’t capitalize on this strong setup. Let’s face it, Groundhog Day was three decades ago, and the “time loop” plot device is now approaching the point of cliché. It takes some real inspiration to find a new angle on it, and Jagged Mind isn’t up to the challenge. One major problem is that the movie drops in its twist at an awkward juncture, about midway through, meaning there is no guesswork left for the final act. People hoping for a twisty psychological thriller will find that the mystery resolves too quickly, while the opening is too baffling for those expecting a popcorny horror-thriller. Furthermore, the mechanics of the plot device are illogical: for one thing, it’s not satisfactorily explained why Billie, specifically, must solve the paradox herself rather than, say, the apparently competent voodoo priest. It gets less satisfying the longer it goes on.

Having said that, while it’s not exactly good, Jagged Mind is nowhere near as bad as its 4.3 rating on IMDb might suggest. The script is weak, but the film is made quite competently, with the cinematography (capturing Miami’s neon glow and Little Haiti’s colorful charm), the editing, and Woodward’s villainous turn coming close to being standouts. The central relationship is presented believably, and it addresses serious issues. The sapphic element is sexy but not exploitative; lesbians should enjoy seeing themselves as central characters in a horror movie, but straights will not feel alienated (or titillated) in any way. There’s a lot of promise here that doesn’t get capitalized on, but Jagged Mind is a workmanlike entry that fits into its value-added free-on-Hulu slot: the kind of thing you can watch on an impulse and not feel cheated (which you might if you paid good money for it). It’s the kind of movie you might watch once, then catch again later because you’ve totally forgotten you saw it.


“Presenting a potentially fractious relationship by way of a fractured narrative, the story and technique of Jagged Mind are much more intriguing on a theoretical level than they are in practice. “–Mark Dujsik, Mark Reviews Movies (contemporaneous)


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Astrakan can be rented on-demand.

DIRECTED BY: David Depesseville

FEATURING: Mirko Giannini, Jehnny Beth, Théo Costa-Marini, Lorine Delin, Bastien Bouillon

PLOT: An orphan boy struggles to adapt to life with his foster family.

Still from Astrakan (2022)

COMMENTS: We never would have picked Astrakan, a French drama about a foster child, for coverage on a weird movie site if we hadn’t read that the ending took a sever swerve into the surreal. I hereby inform the reader that, if you stick out 90 minutes of ultra-realism, you will be rewarded at the end with an intoxicated 10 minute digestif. That ending, an aggressive montage of sometimes disturbing and reconfigured memories, presumably distorted under sketchy amateur hypnosis, provides a dreamlike nightcap to a litany of childhood sorrows. If you are strictly searching for a weird movie, you may want to abstain; but if you enjoy solemn, impressionistic art-house dramas with a tart finish of strangeness, Astrakan may be for you.

Astarkan delivers its drama matter-of-factly, as a series of slice-of-life scenes that often omit key context. Like many child actors, Samuul (Mirko Giannini) underplays most of his scenes, which in this case fortuitously serves his character. His blank face and slow, deliberate movements mask his inner thoughts, appropriate for a script that withholds information and forces us to draw our own conclusions. Samuel is psychologically, and physically, constipated. He writes down secrets and buries them in hidden places. Samuel’s abuse is clearly signaled, but not extensively detailed; we aren’t privy to its severity, although at one point we know his foster mother fears that the bruises on his thigh may get him taken away by the state. That mom, played by Jehnny Beth with a troubled sense of economic reality struggling with maternal instinct, does grow attached to Samuel—but not quite attached enough to provide him the minimal protection he would need to thrive. But his foster parents do provide him with a home, gymnastics lessons, a ski trip, a bit of dear pocket money, and occasional scraps of tenderness—and who will take care of Samuel, if not them? The foster system is an imperfect compromise, but what is the alternative?

Astrakan was shot on film in rural France; the bright blue skies and verdant fields of its pastoral setting contrast with the troubled darkness of Samuel’s existence. In keeping with the hardcore realism, the story is told with no non-diegetic music, until Bach’s “Agnus Dei” (“lamb of God”) comes in at the finale. Although it’s not explained within the movie, the movie’s title comes from the pelts of an exotic breed of black sheep, which must be killed when young, before their wool loses its dark color.


“Having established his skills and careful competence over 90-odd minutes, Depesseville then elects to showcase different facets of his talent in what amounts to an extended, dreamlike, impressionistic coda…”–Neil young, Screen Daily (festival screening)


La vaca que cantó una canción hacia el futuro

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DIRECTED BY: Francisca Alegria

FEATURING: Leonor Varela, Mía Maestro, Alfredo Castro, Enzo Ferrada

PLOT: When her father is hospitalized from shock after her long-dead mother appears to him, Cecilia returns to her family’s dairy farm to care for him.

Still from The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future (2022)

COMMENTS: Fans of cows singing songs will surely be satisfied with The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future; the bovines croon quite well, although it is up for debate just how far into the future their tunes echo. The rest of us will at least be willing to hear the movie out: it contains much intriguing strangeness, while also held back a bit by a tangled thicket of themes and the sometimes underwhelming familial drama.

The film begins with a shot of a mouse corpse that leads to a long pan over a forest floor to a riverbank where a carpet of beached fishes sing a song about death. This is followed by the appearance of Magdalena, who arises from the water wearing a motorcycle helmet and walks silently into town. We then turn our attention to Cecilia, a single mom doctor raising two children. We meet the elder, Tomás, trying on women’s clothes and discussing a vintage newspaper article about a woman who committed suicide by riding her motorcycle into the river. Cecilia rushes to her father’s side after he collapses from shock after catching a glimpse of what he believes to be his long-dead wife, looking just as she did the day she died. Cecilia and her children settle in at the family’s dairy farm, where her brother Bernardo attempts to revive the herd’s failing fortunes while the patriarch complains about his effort. Also on site is superstitious stepmom Felicia, the first to directly interact with silent revenant Magdalena, who gradually reveals herself to the others. Meanwhile, the cows get loose at night, while back in town people stage protests, blaming a local pulp plant’s pollution for the plague of dead fish.

I’ve tagged this movie as magical realism—it’s a rule that we must do so for any moderately strange movie hailing from south of the U.S. border—but at times, Cow feints towards actual surrealism. If Magdalena’s strange and unexplained return from the dead was the only thing going on here, Cow probably could be confined to the realm of magical realism; but the magic here extends beyond the realistic. There are, of course, the choirs of singing fish and cattle. There is Magdalena’s strange relationship with technology: she’s obsessed with cellphones and her mere presence turns on microwaves. A mysterious wound appears on Cecilia’s head, quickly healed and never explained. The zombie mom briefly takes up with a lesbian motorcycle gang. So, despite a primary focus on drama, things do get weird.

But The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future arguably attempts to deal with too many themes at once. The family dynamics are the primary focus, with the mystery of Magdalena’s death and return illuminating and catalyzing the interplay between the others. Ecological collapse forms the background: the deaths of fish, the disappearance of bee colonies, a sickness affecting the cattle herd.  There’s a nod to issues of how conservative Latino societies deal with LGBTQ members, and even a critique of industrial dairy farming practices. But, although everything connects, to a large extent, spreading all of these concerns over the course of a 90 minute movie means that each one gets short shrift: we never uncover the source of the river’s pollution, Tomás’ transgenderism subplot feels imported from a different movie, etc. Furthermore, the big family secret is not weighty or surprising enough to justify its delayed reveal; it’s delivered in a single sentence. Still, Cow works out well in the end, generating an optimistic feeling of rejuvenation and resurrection. The postmortem resolution of Cecila and Magdalena’s relationship loosely parallels the notion that there is still time for us to atone for our sins against the environment.


“Rife with evocative symbolism, Chilean director Francisca Alegria’s feature debut is an audacious, surrealistic expression of acute ecological distress and various ideas pertaining to contemporary agita.”–Kat Sachs, Chicago Reader (contemporaneous)