Monday, 12 October 2020

Grimmfest Day 5: 'Death Ranch', 'Urubú', 'Fried Barry', 'Ten Minutes to Midnight', 'Revenge Ride'



  • Director and screenwriter - Charlie Steeds

·        2020, USA

 A blaxploitation homage where the homaging provides a pass for some retrograde exploitation as well as some modern ultraviolence. In passing, there are so many homages now that I wonder where nostalgic cinema will be given twenty years time? Homages to homages?

On the run and holed up in a disused barn, three black characters find themselves under siege by a small army of KKK animals. Charlie Steeds’ film is a crude, righteous and ultraviolent unapologetic revenge fantasy, with funky music and a subtext about bettering yourself. Of course, it’s all informed by a very contemporary anger and awareness: in the Q&A Black Lives Matter came up in the first question, and Grimmfest’s Miriam Draeger brought up the word “integrity” in regards to ‘Death Ranch’: that wouldn’t  be the first word I’d associate with it (it’s an unapologetic revenge fantasy, after all) but it’s sure nice to have worthy zombies at the end of the retribution.

Although the film makes them cannibals too, there isn’t really any need for elaboration – i.e. a prolonged prerequisite torture scene as justification – because the redeemability is inbuilt to the KKK. When director-writer Charlie Steed chose the defining line calling the KKK “dumb cunts” as justification for all the silliness, etc, it’s obvious that he knew exactly what he was doing. When Steed spoke of how hard this was to get greenlit, and how the Q&A panel discussed how rare it is, comparatively, to have the KKK as an obvious villain, it’s obvious we shouldn’t take this for granted.

 There are other pluses too, such as the vulnerability in Dieandre Teagle’s performance (he takes punishment that no one could get up and kick ass from, but he doesn’t forget to wince, limp and look tired from his injuries) and Faith Monique written as more than just as sexy love interest (she’s a caring sister).



  • Director - Alejandro Ibáñez
  • Screenwriters - Carlos Bianchi, Alejandra Heredia, Alejandro Ibáñez
  • 2019, Spain

 So I went into this completely blind, thinking it might be a creature-feature in an exotic location. The set-up is long, with a photographer going into the Amazon to hunt a picture of a rarely seen, mysterious bird. The music swells with majesty over the aerial shot of the river and forest: Arturo Díez Boscovich’s score is deliberately old-school to create a ‘70s feel. And then, of course, things get odd and dangerous. As we got deeper in, I was thinking of ‘Vinyan’. And then, of course, it became obvious what this was. And if I didn’t recognise it, a character says the name outright, which was a moment of unintentional humour.


Of course, had I read Grimmfest’s blurb, I would have been forewarned: “Writer-Director Alejandro Ibáñez Nauta, is the son of Narciso  Ibáñez Serrador, and describes this as a “tribute” to his father's work. A ferocious, visceral reimagining of Serrador's most famous – and notorious – film, WHO COULD KILL A CHILD?” So if anyone can get away with having that line spoken out loud, it is surely him.

The central pull is going to be the exceptional location work, out in the jungle under undeniably taxing conditions. Ibáñez spoke of how they had to improvise according the weather and conditions. The central agenda of ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’ is that children are so abominably treated historically that the whole adult world is guilty by association, and that’s why the youngsters turn vengeful. ‘Urubú’ follows that line of thinking, and nothing has truly changed: there are still plenty of appalling and heart-breaking statistics to be had.

It’s beautifully constructed and intriguing enough, although one could argue that the jungle setting mitigates some of the sinister familiarity of the children. But this is posed as just the start of a larger picture and the jungle provides a different kind of mystery and panic, as well as alluding to those Italian Seventies exploitation pictures, etc. (And it is notably better than Makinov’s ‘Come Out and Play’ (2012).)

And I’m going for the piranha death, even if it is offscreen.



·        Director & Screenwriter - Ryan Kruger

·        2020, South Africa

Scumbag Barry is abducted and replaced by what seems to be an exploratory alien who is dropped into a multitude of crazy and/or sleazy South African scenarios. Or maybe it’s the alien’s holiday? We never know.

 Filmed without a script, ‘Fried Barry’ has elements of ‘Under the Skin’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Starman’, and ‘Being There’. I say ‘Being There’ because Barry is a blank slate that people and the scenarios impose their expectations upon. It’s crazed, kinetic, unpredictable, darkly funny and just skating around on the possibilities with no agenda other than to be thoroughly entertaining. Which it is. The abduction and experimentation/cloning sequence is trippy and a highlight. Gary Green – who has experience as an extra – has such a distinctive face and his expressions are treats in themselves: he won Best Actor at Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival. It’s beautifully filmed: Gareth Place won Best Cinematography at RapidLion Film Festival. It’s crazed, impressive, unpredictable and dynamic right the way through. And an obvious instantaneous cult hit.


  • Director – Erik Bloomquist
  • Screenwriters – Erik Bloomquist, Carson Bloomquist

Another character study using genre to address the personal. ’10 Minutes to Midnight’ uses vampirism to interrogate one woman’s confrontation with aging and potential obsolescence. Genre staunch Caroline Williams is Amy, a veteran rock DJ facing her last night on the job, being replaced with someone younger and turning up already with puncture wounds on her neck. The film relies on symbolism, surrealism, 80s veneer and folding in on itself to convey Amy’s difficulty with dealing with this phase of her life, as played out as a transformation into a vampire. Williams is great and the genre-bending and mind-games wavering in effectiveness.


  • Director - Melanie Aitkenhead
  • Screenwriter - Timothy Durham

An old school biker girl revenge flick with fine performances and capturing of a sub-culture. The girl bikers are all survivors of abuse and are triggered when another girl is the victim of being drugged and gang-raped by frat boys. The school covers up and the women feel betrayed: it feels relevant, post-#MeToo. It’s one of those revenge flicks that wants to dwell equally on the consequences: Trigga (the marvellous Pollyanna McIntosh) can’t let go of her trauma, has never been properly treated for it, giving further layers of tragedy. The film makes sure it is evident that in all of this, it’s always the innocents that ultimately pay the cost. There are no real winners.

It hits all the obvious beats, but it’s well played and looks good.


No comments: