The writer-director Kyle Butenhoff wastes no time explaining his film’s central dastardly deed: Molly (Dana Mackin) poisons the meal she makes one wintry night for her husband, Charlie (Butenhoff), for whom she’s been harboring deep resentments. The trouble is her food wasn’t spiked strongly enough, leaving Charlie sick, not dead. Molly can’t bring herself to suffocate him, so her co-conspirator and lover, Victoria (Hermione Lynch), comes over to finish the job. That’s when Molly’s brother, Austin (Zach Tinker, excellent) shows up, and the film starts leveling up head-snapping twists before a bloody and delirious finish.
Butenhoff’s wickedly-crafted, single-location thriller unfolds with all the sinister intimacy of an Agatha Christie drama but shot through with perverse revenge-seeking calculations. (This movie would knock ‘em dead onstage.) Far from being opportunistic or exploitative, Butenhoff convincingly weaves together coming out stories — of being abused, and of being a lesbian — that make his film a surprisingly compassionate nail-biter.
‘Where the Devil Roams’
They’re at it again in their latest, set in the Depression Era, where they play a killer clan: Seven (John Adams), a war veteran with PTSD; Maggie (Poser), his bloodthirsty wife; and their daughter, Eve (Zelda Adams), who doesn’t speak but carefully studies her family’s every slaughter. (All three are credited with writing and directing.) Part of the carnival circuit, the family travels a snowy landscape in their jalopy, killing people along the way seemingly for sport, but also, perhaps, as part of a morbid quest for immortality.
The film’s philosophical questions are cryptically asserted, something about Gnosticism and the origins of evil. But who cares when there’s such a strong, anachronistic, metalhead style, like an extra-gory Marilyn Manson video. Poser and John Adams’s costumes are ratty but ravishing, and Trey Lindsay’s special visual effects are puke-inducingly effective.
‘Trunk: Locked In’
Last year one of the most outrageous movies I recommended was a German comedy-thriller about a man trapped in a well-trafficked porta-potty. I’m back with a German single-location setup, but this time a woman is trapped in the trunk of a car, and there’s nothing funny about it. It still may make you gag.
Malina (Sina Martens) wakes up disoriented in a trunk with no idea how she got there, until she replays a video that shows how she and her boyfriend (Artjom Gilz), were assaulted by an unknown assailant (Poal Cairo). As she hemorrhages blood from a massive gash on her body, Malina pieces together that she was kidnapped as part of an organ trafficking ring, and the car is speeding to her doom.
The film’s writer, director and editor, Marc Schiesser, masterfully swoops the camera across every inch and through just about every little crack and slot in the titular vehicular death trap. (The cinematographers are Daniel Ernst and Tui Lohf.) Martens’s quivering lips and panicked eyes are focused on in extreme close-up when the camera isn’t otherwise in overdrive. If you can stomach claustrophobia, drowning and getting cozy with a corpse, stick with the film through its final twist. It’s worth the ick.
I knew I was in for a trip when the director Barnaby Clay opened his film with a close-up of a dirt-smeared toddler gnawing on a severed adult finger. The rest of the movie, while not quite a trip — a sadistic staycation is more like it — is a solid folk horror-survival thriller that explores what it means to have, and lose, sexual self-determination.
After getting lost in the desert while photographing an eclipse, Wyndham (Scott Haze) happens upon a feral-looking kid who leads him to a cabin at the bottom of a majestic cliff. There, a young woman, Alina (Kate Lyn Sheil), lets Wyndham stay the night, even though he’s desperate to get home. In the morning, the ladder Wyndham climbed down is missing bottom rungs, and worse, a gang of demented tweens and teens peer over the cliff, tormenting him and setting in motion the rest of film’s fiendish cat-and-mouse game. Fans of the evil kid movie “Who Can Kill a Child?” and the psychos-in-the-wild thriller “The Hills Have Eyes” will appreciate Clay’s admiration for old-school exploitation depravity.
The premise of Lars Janssen’s found footage ghost story is as absurd as it is deliciously sinister: A bachelorette party gets trapped inside a World War II bunker complex where they fight off the spectral Nazis and assorted demons who lurk among the wet, dark halls.
Abigail (Alexandera Rhiana Rowe) and Ella (Maaike Tol) are out celebrating their upcoming wedding with female friends who are recording the festivities as a wedding gift. When a cabby kicks one of the women out for puking, they find themselves in a deserted part of town where, drunk and stupid, they decide to check out the bunker. Once inside, they fail to find a way out, and instead encounter creepy mannequins and a brightly-lit exhibition of Nazi memorabilia. Then, in a drama-accelerating moment that made my skin crawl, a phone in a display case rings.
As much as I enjoyed watching these poor bachelorettes run screaming from grotesque creatures and Nazi tormentors, the real star of the film is the location: The German Underground Hospital, an actual ward during the German occupation of the Channel Islands.