Monday, 26 October 2020

Frightfest Halloween day 5: 'Lucky', 'Slaxx', 'Scavenger', 'The Nights Before Christmas'

 SCAVENGER - Carroña

Directors: Luciana Garraza & Eric Fleitas

2020, Argentina

Writers: Sheila Fentana, Luciana Garraza & Eric Fleitas

Set in a post-apocalyptic world… no land for vegetarians … ‘Mad Max’ with misogyny turned way up. A woman (Nayla Churruarin) – an assassin and organ-trader –  with a near-permanent grimace goes on a mission of revenge on the gang that massacred her family, with lots of rape and degradation. But it’s not the kind of film asking for any validation. The nihilism is total, the exploitation is nasty rather than fun, but this Argentine film must surely win an award for the scuzziest aesthetic ever. 


Director: Elza Kephart

2020, Canada

Writers; Patricia Gomex & Elza Kephart

“When a possessed pair of jeans begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, it is up to Libby, an idealistic young salesclerk, to stop its bloody rampage.” But this IMDB summary misses the vital ingredient that the jeans are out for revenge for the abuses of Indian sweatshops. It’s broad in its satire – director Elsa Kephart herself says it isn’t subtle - so although the jeans being able to hypnotise its victims with logos and the corporate nonsense-mantras are acute, the manager willing to do anything for promotion doesn’t hold any surprises. Perhaps it’s best melding of the ridiculous and meaningful is the Bhangra-dancing slacks then turns out to have relevance. The film occasionally struggles to reconcile these twin poles of the silly and the political, but both sides score points along the way.


Director: Nathasha Kermani

2020, USA

Writer: Brea Grant

I am a sucker for failure-of-reality genre, and this fits that. She says, “There’s man outside!” And husband replies, “Yeah, he comes every night to kill us,” in a tired this-is-routine way. And from there, a seemingly supernatural daily recurrence of slasher danger defines her life. But Brea Grant’s script (I was a big fan of her ’12 Hour Shift’) is after bigger game as allegory takes hold and squeezes until, with the final reveal, there’s a deep-rooted sadness. It’s the horror of being unmoored of certainty in yourself: “I don’t know the rules,” she says at one point. The general tone of misogyny and gaslighting is baked into experience and encounters with authority and people rather than any meanness or cruelty on any individual’s part. And that’s perhaps the slyest, most subtle trick of Grant’s script, so that there really isn’t any recognisable villain to pin this on: it’s there but not quite obvious; it’s a lifelong experience. The horror of That’s-Just-The-Way-It-Is. The move from straightforward plot to being trapped in allegory is not something that is often successful, but ‘Lucky’ pulls it off and grips right to that final reveal … and the inevitability is what’s sad.

The Nights Before Christmas

Director: Paul Tanter

Writers: Paul Tanter and Sean Phillips

A wannabe Joker storyline – teeth; a hysterical homicidal pig-tailed sidekick; crazy games; totally "unpredictable" psycho – but there’s no wit or satire here, just a lot of empty madman pontificating and police procedural hokum. 

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