Giles Edwards sat down with co-directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper to discuss their science fiction opus, and to get some recommendations for good places to grab a bite in Vilnius and Montpelier, France.
Capsule review is near the bottom of the page here.
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I’m a get deep like Gilles Cousteau—
“Gilles Cousteau could never get this low.”
My experience with queer cinema grows as Addison Heimann tells his story of seemingly got-it-all-together young Will whose bipolar mother dips back into his life after a ten year absence. Heimann’s story adopts an unsettling aesthetic, with its mirroring shots and recurrence of sinister man-wolves. But there is humour, too, much of it during the many encounters Will endures with increasingly specialized hospital staff, beginning with the spot-on bro nurse, “NP Chazz”, who is the first to reassure him, “It’s amazing what the human mind can do to the body.” Also keep an eye out for the knee-slapping reference to Patrick Swayze’s Ghost (our protagonist here is a potter, you see, and his demons wish to encourage his craft while they break his mind). As a character (and mental breakdown) study, Hypochondriac fits the bill nicely, but at times feels like so much sound and fury, signifying less than I might have preferred. Still, the closing scene, wherein the hospitalized Will takes comfort from his boyfriend and gives comfort to one of his inner demons, makes for both a serious and sweet finale.
Hypochondriac is in limited release in Alamo Drafthouses starting tomorrow (July 29).
Detective vs. Sleuths
Madness continues in this rather-nearly-weird movie. Call it, a police procedural comedy thriller with “Chinese characteristics”. Detective (well, more precisely, ex-cop posing as detective) Jun Lee went a bit off kilter some years ago after witnessing a demon appear at a crime scene. Having lost his badge, he has set up shop beneath an overpass, conversing with murdered murderers (yes) he imagines while overseeing his self-made, and entirely unofficial, bureau of botched cases. The guy’s a genius, you see, and even beyond his run-in with a demon there’s a Butcher / Demon Cop case that has been bugging him for two decades. Jun Lee has inspired a group of ruthless vigilantes, and their extra-judicial revenge on perps who got away lands Jun Lee in a new and manic mess.
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.
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. Todd Rohal‘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. Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s “K is for Knell” is audiovisually apocalyptic but abstract and hard to connect with. Bill Plympton‘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 Robert Morgan‘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).