Saturday, 6 March 2021

Glasgow FrightFest: 'The Woman with Leopard Shoes', 'The Old Ways', 'Run Hide Fight'

 The Woman with Leopard Shoes

Writer & Director: Alexis Bruchon

2020, France

There’s the gialloesque title, a crime plan set-up and a jazz-spy music that raises expectations of a playful crime-film homage. But what we have is more of an Escape Room scenario: he’s stuck in the room with a dead body so how does he avoid detection and get out using just cell phones and letters that he finds?

The black-and-white helps up the stylishness, and it’s fun just watching the burglar figuring things out. Clues are clearly laid out with other people conveyed only by voice, texts and footwear. It follows films like ‘Bait’ and ‘Sator’ in its wholly homemade quality – it’s a family affair with brother Paul Bruchon as the burglar and filmed in parent’s house, etc, and just look at the credits: mostly just Alexis Bruchon, including the music. Another triumph of vision and good writing over resources. Normally this would be short film stuff, but at 80 minutes, ‘The Woman with Leopard Shoes’ stays fun and engrossing throughout. There's fun in watching obvious talent play out.

The Old Ways

Christopher Alender

Writer: Mrcos Gabreil

2020, USA

It starts with a decent shocker and then we’re with a seemingly kidnapped woman who reacts to her situation as if she’s pissed off that she hasn’t been given the right coffee order, as if everything is an affront to her American privilege. And this is our protagonist And she will be way until she goes native and appropriates the Mexican demon-fighting powers. And no matter what ravages she undergoes, she always looks pretty. It's a chamber piece where they are trying to exorcise her of a demon, which surely offers great potential, but aside from being nicely filmed and a decent demon design, there’s not enough here to elevate it above the obvious and predictable.  


Writer & Director: Kyle Rankin

2020, USA

Zoe (Isabel May) is a troubled teenager, angry and combative after her mother’s death from cancer. All she needs to exorcise her demons and anger is a school shooting where she can vent and use her all-American hunting skills.  

Again, I went into this not having read anything, but the opening scene had all the cues that this was going to be an action-revenge story and that she was going to kick ass. And it was, although far less crude than that. And because I didn’t know what events were leading to, perhaps I got the full benefit of the patient build-up and clues being laid. As soon as the guy dropped the bag in reception, then I knew it was going to be a high school massacre scenario.

In his Q&A, director Kyle Rankin takes a deliberate potshot at Gus Van Sant’s ‘Elephant’, not understanding why that “arty” perspective would be better than this approach, following a young gal trying to fight back. Understandably, he seems a little ticked at the negative responses, but that was always going to happen with this subject. My answer is that ‘Run Hide Fight’ follows movie logic, follows the expected trajectory once all the pieces are in place and is more along the lines of wish-fulfilment. It has a verbose lead bad guy, typical of movie villains, for example, a dig at social media, etc. Van Sant’s approach is far more troubling for being ethereal and objective: they go in, they kill, it disturbs and feels truthful. It’s about the unfathomableness of the event.

For what it’s worth, ‘Run Hunt Fight’ is the least upsetting school shooting film that I’ve seen. Alan Jones calls it “ ‘Die Hard’ in a high school”, and this flippancy is far more on the ball. Of course, there’s room for both Van Sant’s and Rankin’s approach, and that which resonates more will depend on the individual’s taste. Although Kyle Rankin hopes ‘Run Hunt Fight’ opens up conversation on the subject, there is nothing in it that questions firearm laws or mental health treatment, although these are touched upon. In fact, it comes close to the argument that only a good firearm owner can stop a bad shooter. It’s Zoe’s story, which leaves other victims somewhat cannon fodder for her self-actualisation. If you were looking for something a little less arty but no less troubling, there is Mikael Håfström’s ‘Evil’; if you’re looking for exploitation than there’s Miike ‘Lesson in Evil’.

What ‘Run Hide Fight’ does have is an excellent central performance from Isabel May, some nice relationship interplay, a decent portrayal of its school geography, and consistent tension. It’s well paced, performed and entertaining. It makes good use of surrealist touches like a fight in room full of balloons and a slippery corridor and it’s a shame there isn’t more of this cleverness. As it is, this highly inflammatory and emotive subject is given as a backdrop for one girl’s coming-of-age and resolved with a punchline that was set up in the first act, for which apparently there will be no consequences.

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