Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Movie reviews - Goddess of Love(2015) The Demolisher (2015) Angst (1983)

I've been on a horror kick recently (to be fair I've been on a horror kick my whole life) and I'm compelled to speak on the movies I watched in the past few days. Enjoy!

Goddess of Love (2015) directed by John Knautz -

I really enjoyed this movie. It follows a woman as she becomes progressively unhinged over a romantic obsession.It's filled with surreal hallucinatory images that inject some of the horror and reflect her internal mental state, and I do love surrealism. It does a wonderful job of building a tone of tension and dread, a palpable feeling of the menace she exudes as a woman spurned. She's also sympathetic to an extent, depending on your ability to relate to that situation of feeling a strong romantic connection to someone only to watch them pull away. There are shades of misogyny, since the film could be used to support the case that women are crazy... especially beautiful women. But there's allusions to a traumatic failed opportunity to become a world class ballerina in her past that help show that it's not all women, she's a special case with clear mental issues. The way the film portrays her irritation at certain sounds and noises felt especially inspired. I couldn't help but imagine it as a possible future for the lead character from Black Swan.

The Demolisher (2015) Gabriel Carrer -

This one I didn't like. As much as I try to enjoy every film, I saw so much wasted potential here. Right away I was turned off by how the film failed to build any attachment to the main characters or develop their motivations. It was clear that something had broken the women this man loved and he was out for revenge, but it felt so reliant on tropes and cliches meant to tug our heartstrings. At first I thought she was diabetic, when he rushes to aid her in giving her a shot, but this just seemed like a shorthand to show he took care of someone, a shortcut to making him sympathetic. And visual shorthands are a great thing to do in movies, but then there was such long periods of awkwardly unnatural silence, and meaningless stylistic slow motion shots that conveyed no information and held no significance. It felt like someone had learned about film making from watching a bunch of  80s movies in the ilk of John Carpenter while the films were muted, absorbing the visual aesthetics while lacking in any understanding of plot structure or character development. 

The character motivations become more insubstantial as the movie goes on. The main turning point in his character is when (spoilers ahead: skip to Angst to avoid them) he sees a girl at a movie, then later at a pawn shop talking to a goon he is following. From this he assumes that she's following him, she knows his identity, and he has to kill her. Yes, the point is meant to be that he's lost control in his search for vengeance, but it's too thin to even support that. Then there's a long chase scene with some Michael Myers esque moments where he's walking slow and she's running as fast as she can, and despite her huge head start and a plenitude of directions she could go or places to hide, he still manages to find her, a convention that has always strained my suspension of disbelief. 

Even more randomly than his realization that he has to kill this person who is completely unrelated to the rest of the plot, he suddenly has another change of heart and spares her. It felt inexplicable to me that at no point during all of this do they exchange a single word. I kept waiting for her to scream, "Who are you? What do you want?" Instead she runs, fights back, gets beaten up, runs more, until his mysterious change of heart, all without a speck of dialogue. At the end there's a speech she gives about her realization that she can survive anything life can throw at her thanks to her ordeal, which falls flat since she kind of failed completely and only made it out alive because he let her live (for no apparent reason). It's too bad because despite all this the film feels like it really has some meat in terms of aesthetic and general concept, and most of the flaws in execution seem like they could have been solved by working on bettering the script a bit more, and actually applying the aesthetic properly to suit the needs of the story. Fiction first, right?

Angst (1983) directed by Gerald Kargl. -

An extremely well shot film from Austria. The technical engineering that went into a lot of shots made me think about how so much of art is dependent on access to technology, whether by having money or ingenuity of engineering to pull it off on your own. It follows a killer released from prison who immediately goes about killing again. He narrates the whole thing in a calm voice akin to an NPR commentator. There's a juxtaposition of onscreen violence combined with his descriptions of his disturbed childhood, a born sadist. His sadism appears to be utterly compulsive, he jerks around like a puppet pulled on strings, a starved beast sniffing out blood. Despite how evocative the camera is, mirroring the energetic frenzy of the killer in parts, the perfection of camera movements in prediction of on screen action creates a detached feeling along with the chilled voice-over, resulting in a cold document of extreme lack of empathy. There's no plot or mystery to distract you, stripped down beyond cliches, just a man committing murders. Really well shot murders.

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