Tag Archives: Kristina Buozyte

CAPSULE: THE ABCS OF DEATH 2 (2014)

Weirdest!(segment D)

DIRECTED BY: , Julian Barratt, Robert Boocheck, Alejandro Brugués, , , , Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martínez Moreno, Erik Matti, , , Chris Nash, , Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, , Dennison Ramalho, , Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Sôichi Umezawa

FEATURING: Too many actors to list individually, and no one appears onscreen for long enough to qualify as “featured”

PLOT: 26 more short horror films about death, each inspired by an assigned letter of the alphabet.

Still from The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Only one out of these 26 films might qualify on its own merits as a candidate for the List of the Weirdest Movies Ever Made, which is not a favorable enough ratio to consider this anthology a contender.

COMMENTS: The original ABCs of Death was a somewhat successful reinvigoration of the horror anthology genre, benefiting from the novelty of the ultra-short short format. The sequel is more of the same, with a mostly second-tier (in terms of name recognition, not talent) slate of directors alphabetizing horror’s latest cemetery. One obvious improvement from the previous installment; there are hardly any toilet-themed scares here (the scat-horror fad thankfully played out in 2013). Fewer of the episodes qualify as astoundingly weird, but we’ll give you the rundown on what to watch out for.

First off, in the not-so-weird category, we have to mention neophyte director Rob Boochek’s “M is for Masticate,” winner of the fan-submission contest, whose entry (featuring a paunchy rampaging madman in stained underwear) amounts to a dumb and arguably dated joke—but one that made me laugh out loud at its perfectly-timed, abrupt punchline. Even better is Hajime Ohata’s “O is for Ochlocracy,” a clever Japanese entry which actually finds a new spin on the vastly overdone zomcom genre.

On to the weird scorecard. ‘s “P is for P-P-P Scary!,”  is a tribute to early talkies, with three hillbilly Bowery Boys in absurd makeup and stereotypical striped prison garb cowering their way through a nameless void. It’s probably the most universally loathed segment of the film, and it’s easy to see why; Rohal’s highly personal and peculiar brand of awkward surreal comedy is an acquired taste that has yet to be acquired by almost anyone. It certainly won’t appeal to the average horror fan. The anthology ends with a weird, if relatively weak, flurry, with the action-figure inspired “W is for Wish,” the strange but inconsequential “X is for Xylophone” (which at least features Béatrice Dalle, ABC2‘s biggest star), the surreal special effects spectacle “Y is for Youth,” and the absurd pregnancy fable “Z is for Zygote.” There are a few other bizarre entries scattered about the alphabet. and Bruno Samper’s “K is for Knell” is audiovisually apocalyptic but abstract and hard to connect with.  ‘s much anticipated (by us) entry is quality, but nothing unexpected. Two scribbly lovers kiss each other to death, like a gorier version of one of his 1980s MTV shorts. “G is for Grandad” is an unclassifiable surprise tale of bizarre inter-generational rivalry from the previously unknown Jim Hosking. “Grandad” was noteworthy enough that the director parlayed this calling card into a feature film (titled The Greasy Strangler), to be released by cult-film specialist Drafthouse Films next year.

The most noteworthy episode—weird or not—is stop-motion specialist ‘s “D is for Deloused.” Technically impressive, it is also thoroughly surreal, taking place in a dirty lilac operating room full of bleeding men, scurrying cockroaches, and arm-sucking larvae with dual-headed clowns inside them. Nightmares don’t come much more terrifyingly irrational than this one, with a protagonist birthed from a corpse and commanded to “pay for life.” “Deloused” is the best thing in ABCs of Death 2, and it makes us long to see what the slow-working Morgan would do with a long-form project.

Overall, my judgment is that this sequel is less essential than the interesting-but-inessential original. Only Morgan’s segment rates as a must-catch for weirdophiles, while the first collection had three exceedingly bizarre entries to catch your eye. Overall, the uneven effect is about the same (although full disclosure requires me to report that most critics preferred this second installment, concluding that this crop of directors learned from the mistakes of their trailblazing predecessors).

and were announced as directors for this project, but pulled out before completing their shorts. There are currently no active plans for a third installment (the makers say that rampant piracy makes it difficult to recoup their investment).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“There are a few standouts, though viewers’ appetites will differ enough that it’s unlikely any sort of consensus will form on which two or three make the entire experience worthwhile. From a critical standpoint, Robert Morgan’s stop-motion ‘Deloused’ does Kafka proud, commercial director Jim Hosking’s ‘Granddad’ wins the weirdness prize, Vincenzo Natali’s ‘Utopia’ proves hauntingly evocative, and Jerome Sable’s sick p.o.v.-style ‘Vacation’ would be right at home in one of the ‘V/H/S’ horror anthologies.”–Peter Debruge, Variety (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: VANISHING WAVES (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Kristina Buozyte

FEATURING: Marius Jampolskis, Jurga Jutaite

PLOT: A scientist experimenting with a technology to allow people to enter the minds of others finds himself in ethical dilemma when he falls in love with his test subject: a young woman trapped in a coma.

Still from Vanishing Waves (2012)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Kristina Buozyte (and her co-writer and “Creative Director” Bruno Samper) are names to keep an eye on. However, Vanishing Waves, a slightly trippier (but much sexier) variation on Inception, comes up short of making the List of the Best Weird Movies: it’s weirdness is just an accent for its science fiction conceit.

COMMENTS: Made for about 1.5 million dollars, but looking much more expensive, Vanishing Waves is a literal head-trip that explores what it might be like to travel into someone else’s mind. With fractal effects morphing out of diffused white light and neural maps that twinkle like celestial bodies in the void, overlaid with a cellular geometry, the visuals portraying the boundary between one consciousness and another reminded me of a grayscale version of Enter the Void. Once inside the mind of the other, however, scientist Lukas finds coma victim Aurora’s interior life to be a series of tableaux based on the real world, including a paradisaical beach, an empty opera house, and a wooden home that takes on an M.C. Escher by way of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari architecture. What Lukas sees inside Aurora’s head is clearly made of dreams, as when they observe a strange blue insect eating a pile of tiny globes, which it then excretes from its hindquarters encased in a gelatinous casing. This is a strange image of primitive sexual biology, and Aurora—who doesn’t speak, the verbal portions of her mind clamped down in the grips of her coma—has little more than the primal urges of sex left on her mind. Her first act on encountering Lukas swimming in the infinite ocean of her consciousness is to passionately soul kiss the stranger, an act which, predictably, gets Lukas hooked and wanting more. The sleeping Aurora has no idea who Lukas is, and in her brain-damaged fugue state cannot imagine—at least at first—the existence of any other consciousness besides hers and his. Inside her mind is a perfect guilt-free, consequence-free world of erotic abandon, and we can understand why Lukas doesn’t explain the full depth of his discoveries to his fellow scientists, even if we don’t endorse his acts. The early couplings are playful, childlike and primal, an attitude reinforced by their infantile reactions to the dishes at an elaborate imaginary feast: they splash each other with soup and wine and spit the half-chewed blackberries onto their faces, savoring texture of the food against their skin as much as its flavor. As Aurora starts to slowly and instinctively rebuild her memories, their sexual Eden unravels. A dark, mysterious third party is glimpsed lurking in the shadows of Aurora’s mind, and, in the movie’s centerpiece sequence, an orgy of writhing, faceless bodies turns from a wet dream to a nightmare. When you get down to it, Lukas is a 21st century cyber-rapist, penetrating his victim’s mind, with the coma serving the same function as a roofie snuck into a drink. However much Lukas is obsessed with Aurora, this is not a what society normally views as a solid basis for a mature relationship. Can the pair form a meaningful mind-to-mind connection under these bizarre circumstances? And, given Aurora’s low-brain-activity condition, does she have any other practical suitors? These questions are left to the viewer to decide.

Specialty releaser Artsploitation Films views Vanishing Waves as the brightest jewel in their catalog, and presents it in an elaborate 2-disc set. There is no commentary track but there are both written and filmed interviews, a hidden (that is, unlabeled) slide show, and a “making of” video. The two extra-special extras are the film’s complete soundtrack and the entirety of Kristina Buozyte’s début film, The Collectress, a drama about a woman who has to film herself engaging in increasingly risky behavior because she can only feel emotions when watching them on video.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…derivative to a fault—but a deserved midnight-movie cult following is all but assured.”–David Fear, Time Out New York (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Tally Isham, who said it had “very good moments of dream-like weirdness.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)