Welcome to Heave’s SXSW 2012 coverage! We’ll be covering SXFilm through next weekend (3/17), and SXMusic starting this Wednesday! Your intrepid film critics will be:
AD – Amy Dittmeier
DM – Dominick Mayer
CO – Chris Osterndorf
Based on the Northern European legend of the “huldra” (a beautiful creature of the forest), Thale is a lean, reasonably effective bit of minimalist genre cinema that continues the recent Norwegian tradition of repurposing folklore for a mix of scares and genuine mirth. Elvis (Erland Nervold), a perpetually nauseous crime scene cleaner, and his unflappable partner Leo (Jon Sigve Skard) find themselves dealing head-on with an inexplicable situation when they find a beautiful girl (Silje Reinamo) in a darkened basement, the seeming victim of a long-term science experiment. As they wait for backup, Elvis’ curiosity begins to unspool the mystery of this girl.
Director Aleksander Nordaas isn’t exactly subtle with the foreshadowing, and it doesn’t take a sharp eye to know precisely where Thale is headed from about twenty minutes in. Although the bits of CGI throughout are well done for such a low-budget vehicle, they come at the expense of the film’s early slow-burning tension, which disappears around the time that it becomes apparent things with the mystery girl are not as they seem. At 77 minutes, though, Thale doesn’t overstay its welcome, and there are enough genuinely intriguing moments (and a gateway into some fascinating regional legends) to keep things wholly watchable. DM
The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have done their best to stay as tight-lipped as possible regarding The Cabin in the Woods. The film’s long-delayed release has also helped to shroud it in an air of mystery. Surprisingly, Cabin is the rare film that is 100% worth waiting for, and lives up to almost all of the hype. Far be it for me to spoil any of the secrecy here, but suffice it to say that when a fan described it as “the last horror movie ever” last night, he wasn’t far off. Seriously, get excited, because this thing will fuck your shit up. CO
God Bless America
Frank (Joel Murray) has been whittled down to zero by the America he’s forced to wake up in every morning. He’s terminally ill, can’t sleep because of his idiotic neighbors, has just been fired from his job for trying to act on a crush and comes home to interminable, endless prattle on television. Not until Frank sticks a gun in his mouth does he realize that, instead of taking his own life, he’ll clean up the trash of the world, Travis Bickle-style. Joined by a precociously foulmouthed teenager named Roxie (Tara Lynne Barr), Frank sets out on a journey to fix America by murdering reality stars, hypocrites, fearmongering political news figures and anybody who gets in his way in the process.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s first two features, Sleeping Dogs Lie and World’s Greatest Dad, dealt respectively with bestiality and the canonization of the dead in a way that was humane and sweet no matter how dark they went. God Bless America, by comparison, is like that friend who opines about how everybody in the world sucks and culture is so much better in other countries, condemning you for your enjoyment of the occasional reality show. Less a screenplay than a series of hyper-articulate monologues about the erosion of U.S. culture, strung together with road movie cliches, America doesn’t want us to consider the morality of its sociopathic protagonists’ methods. We’re supposed to consider Frank and Roxie our Howard Beales (Murray and Barr are so damn great it almost works), but they’re less characters than mouthpieces for Goldthwait’s wrath. God Bless America isn’t a very good movie, but it’s a fine manifesto. DM
Just Like Being There
Rock posters have been a recent obsession of mine, and watching this documentary made me fall in love with the medium even more. Just Like Being There explores the boutique poster community for music and film, focusing on the strong Midwestern presence these artists have and the poster festival Flatstock. Director Scout Shannon does an excellent job of connecting the poster artist community with the musicians and movies that they’re immortalizing. As an observer, I love original artwork for concerts, but hearing members of Tokyo Police Club, Archer of Loaf, and the Thermals speaking out their love for the posters that hang on our walls gives them way more emotional impact. It makes the argument that a rock poster is a memory that should revive an image of the show that you saw, and Just Like Being There is almost like a live-action poster connecting the show to the image.
The film showcases some amazing artists, such as Daniel Danger and Jay Ryan, who use a variety of different techniques, and through their process you see how complex and physical screenprinting can be. Shannon briefly brings up the burgeoning movie poster community through Austin’s MONDO, whose artists are still strongly connected to Flatstock, but since the community is still growing the segment leaves you wanting more. The doc reaches out to music nerds and movie geeks alike, bringing the two cultures together through the magic of one poster. AD
[REC] 3: Genesis
Those who loved the first two installments of the [REC] series may just want to avoid [REC] 3: Genesis altogether. Less a found footage jump scare marathon than an old-style, blackly hilarious throwback, Genesis follows the ill-fated wedding of Koldo (Diego Martin) and Clara (Leticia Dolera). At a lush mansion, the genuinely loving couple sees their perfect day interrupted by the outbreak of a zombie-like virus transmitted by bites. The [REC] series has always benefitted from its willingness to move in strange directions, but Paco Plaza (co-director of the first two films, solo here) adds a generous dose of Sam Raimi-esque moments of gallows comedy to the equally generous bloodshed and the terrifying religious imagery. At the film’s core is a fantastic performance from Dolera and a very good one from Martin; the romance subplot, usually perfunctory in zombie movies, is legitimately moving and proves that the couple that slays together stays together. DM