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)