Friday, August 12

Bodies Bodies Bodies Review

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Dir: Halina Reijn

Starring: Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg, Myha'la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson

1h 35m

In director Halina Reijn's devious "Bodies Bodies Bodies," a group of early twenty-somethings prepares for a heavy evening of drugs and alcohol during a hurricane party at a lavish mansion. The entitled rich kids display zero worries as the weather shifts aggressively, posing one of them to scream confidently into the face of the storm, asking, "is that all you got…". As the evening progresses, past traumas are exposed, and identities are challenged. To cool heated tempers, the group decides to play a game, a murder mystery whodunit that turns into a complete nightmare. 

"Bodies Bodies Bodies" plays its comedy and horror tropes with precision balance, allowing the film to weave unsuspecting traps of suspense and dig deeper into its satire with ease. It's fun watching the young people devolve as the niceties fade, sweet sentiments turn foul, secrets are revealed, and trust is betrayed without remorse. As the social order falls to pieces as the storm rages, the body count rises, and the remaining friends must survive the night. 

The narrative, a slasher design that audiences, especially horror fans, have seen many times over, rarely tries to scare the viewer. Instead, the operative driving emotion for the film is uneasy suspense crafted strictly between the character dynamics of the group. The composition of the characters is razor sharp; each composes a unique emotional quality that plays well during the heights of a party vibe and in the depths of a house of horrors. Instead of a killer wielding a knife and chasing after people down long hallways, the group wanders throughout the house throwing accusations and insults that cut deeper than any butcher knife. There are moments when the film stumbles off its effectively structured flow of horror and comedy; as the film shifts into more substantial horror/thriller elements, the rhythm of satire and suspense turns into a one-note repetition of scary movie trappings. Still, it's barely noticeable because of the performances from the talented group of actors. 

The cast of "Bodies Bodies Bodies" play a significant factor in keeping the shifts in tone from becoming too cartoonish with its dramatic swings or feeling overly familiar even when it's evident that the slasher features have been exhausted. The performances have a sense of improvisation, a looseness with its heavily influenced Gen Z dialogue, and a naturalistic quality that makes the tears, screams, laughs, and panics move in harmony. 

Maria Bakalova plays Bee, the newcomer to the tight-knit friends whose cautious nature turns suspicious. Amandla Stenberg, playing the recovering addict Sophie, is a ray of glowing optimism, a renewed soul brought back into the fold of toxic friendships that fed her addictive compulsions. Rachel Sennott, who has some of the best one-liners in the film, and Myha'la Herrold, who is fantastic as the untrusting best friend, both play their roles with pitch-perfect success. 

Director Halina Reijn takes a simple slasher structure and bolsters it high with interesting characters accompanied by excellent performances. Where "Bodies Bodies Bodies" might have faltered due to its self-awareness, it instead uses the character's connection to media, identity, and social politics to its benefit in the construction of a hierarchy that, when put under distress, crumbles with ingenious satire and amusing suspense. 

Monte's Rating

3.50 out of 5.00

Saturday, August 6

Sissy Q and A

 SISSY Q&A with Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes

In SISSY, childhood trauma comes back with vengeance. After over a decade apart, pre-teen best friends Cecilia and Emma run into each other at the pharmacy. Emma is delighted to catch up with her bestie “Sissy” and quickly invites her to her bachelorette weekend getaway in the Australian outback.

SISSY is a nice blend of horror/comedy with satirical messaging around social media and some damn good practical effects and kill scenes.

Writers/directors Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes chatted with me virtually about their second feature film that recently screened at Fantasia International Film Festival 2022.

Theresa Dillon (TD) - What was your inspiration for creating this film? 

Hannah Barlow (HB) - I think there are lots of things. There’s the childhood bullying aspect, which is personal. There’s the toxic consequences of us all being engaged with social media as a generation. That’s our kind of intellectual social commentary, and that’s where the satire comes in. And then there’s also the road trip, almost the core element, which stems from our last film (FOR NOW) which was a $25,000 road trip movie we shot in seven days that was completely improvised. 

So when that came out, we did some screenings and received some feedback that if we turned that film into a slasher at the midpoint, it would have had some commercial success. And so that kind of inspired us.

Kane Senes (KS) - When you’ve only got like 25K to make a film, and seven days to shoot it, genre works quite well for that. I think it's the only way to do it really well. 

I mean there’s amazing genre films that get made for no money as well. But we didn’t know how to do it, that’s for sure. It was a testing ground to see if we could work together and we love working together and wanted to do it again. So we decided to do it in more of a conventional sense. We wrote a proper screenplay, we went and got it funded, and made a movie in a kind of tried and tested way as opposed to the very kind of experimental nature. So now we feel like we’re onto something and that’s what we’re going to look to keep doing moving forward.

TD - Your film has a nice blend of slasher and a playful light-heartedness. Were there any horror films that influenced you to go this route in the creative process?

KS - We kind of approached it as a combination of Y2K, late 90’s, coming of age type comedies.

HB - Our main goal was in vain of BRIDESMAIDS or CROSSROADS. CROSSROADS most people write off, but I think, was a core film of that generation.

KS - And also MURIEL'S WEDDING which is an iconic Australian movie. I remember there’s comedy but it’s actually a very dark film and when we really looked at it, we just kind of thought “Well, what if you kind of snapped and killed all your friends?” 

And that led us to a slasher because we wanted to make something in the horror space.

There’s a great thing you can do with horror, which is quite unique and that you can’t really do with any other genre, which is to approach a topic and really attack it in an over-the-top way. 

In drama that comes across as unrealistic and it takes you out of the viewing experiences. As an audience member in horror, that’s what you want. You want to be shocked. You want to be disturbed. You want to be really entertained. 

That was a fun playground to play in as a filmmaker because anything goes and from the horror side of things, it was movies like CARRIE, that is probably the greatest kind and first of its kind in terms of getting revenge on the bully.

And so it was CARRIE, it was SINGLE WHITE FEMALE in terms of the female would kind of toxic female relationship and also all the 60’s and 70’s giallos, slashers in general, and just our love of 90’s filmmaking aesthetic. 

HB - And DEATH BECOMES HER sort of tone,

KS - Yeah, the kind of horror comedy tone from DEATH BECOMES HER. Horror comedy was something we wanted to do and when you really look at it, there’s not a lot them.

TD - No, that's a really hard area to break out in. 

KS - Yeah and those are often our favorite film experiences as a viewer because they’re just so entertaining.

HB - And GET OUT changed the game. It just reminded us that we can meld genres. 

KS - Yeah. Which Tarantino has made a career off doing that. It’s just really fun to mash up genres and really feel anything goes. 

TD - You touch pretty hard on our current influencer culture in SISSY. What is your current view on influencers and what would you want viewers walking away thinking?

HB - We think it’s a double-edged sword. You know for millennials, Gen Z, it’s a legitimate profession. I have friends who are influencers in their own ways. I think that it's just sad really. Like you’re commodifying your life to these conglomerates or companies benefit, and it’s exhausting. And I think it has a huge impact on people’s mental health, but it’s also not helping us as people who are absorbing what they’re profiting. 

I think it’s proven now that social media is bad for your mental health. Physiologically, and psychologically, we are now starting to think in eight second bytes, which is really bad for our brain cell memory, especially TikTok. 

But it’s also an incredible tool to connect with people across the world. Like we’re always meeting people at festivals and starting friendships and we’re able to maintain those friendships and build them because of Instagram.

KS - Technology is leading us right rather than the other way around. It’s exponentially moving at a rate that we can’t keep up with. Across the board, technology is kind of forcing us to evolve at a rate that we’re not naturally ready to do. That’s where a lot of the negative aspects of social media come from. 

It’s a swinging pendulum moment we’re kind of in the middle of right now. It’s a big seismic shift in terms of technology and our online lives and we're getting more and more detached from nature and from natural rhythms.

HB - Our personalities are homogenizing. Individualism is kind of disappearing. I think it’s the Kardashian effect, and for women, our self-worth and self-perception is becoming distant. It’s just really scary. 

TD - Your special effects are on point. What scene or kill was the most difficult to film or figure out how to film?

KS - I would say the roadside one where Fran gets it.

TD - Yeah, I wasn't expecting that one. I was like, Oh, shit.

KS - We had to make a mold of her head and obviously the mold had to be made in advance, but you also have to think about what position that she’s going to be in on the day that you film it. And you have to reverse engineer the whole thing.

 And because of the way we did it, in a more traditional sense, the actor had to lay there. And then you’d cut away and then you’d cut back to just the dummy head getting squashed. But we wanted to have the actor’s face live and within the same shot, have that head squash so we had to kind of line up the actor with the fake head.

HB - That fake head was amazing. 

KS - Larry Van Duynhoven, he’s like the Tom Savini of Australia. He’s just doing all the practical effects and all the genre movies in Australia. And we were very lucky to get him and his guys and because he was able to help explain how to pull off that kind of thing. 

And then also Seth Larney, he really was kind of adamant that we tried to get it all in the one shot. And I think really made the shot. 

And similarly with the body going off the cliff, to not necessarily cut away to inserts of bones crunching, which might have been more graphic, but if you can hold it in one shot, to figure out how to bounce that body off rocks. Both were really good examples of just having a practical effects guy, and then also your VFX guy and then figuring out a way where we can use both tools to kind of make the impossible shots. 

That’s the advantage of VFX. Even though we like to do as many things practically in the camera as we can, the addition of VFX supplements. The practical effects just help kind of add that element of impossibility to it.

TD - We’ve only got time for one more question so any last words for the mean girls and bullies out there?

HB - Yeah, I think beware of the consequences of your actions, but also as much I think kids bully and we get bullied, we have to believe in radical self-responsibility. So as much as no one deserves to get picked on, it’s also your job as an individual to clear your own brooding. I think there’s that message that I can hold on to victimizing myself forever from my childhood bullying, but it’s not helping them and it’s not helping me. 

KS - You can’t control what other people say or do to you. You can only control your reaction to it and how you respond. And that’s on us. And I think we live in a very self-victimizing society. And you know, yes, it would be great if bullying was a thing of the past. But reality is, it's never going to be. But at least we can control how it affects us and practice mindfulness in that sense.

Tuesday, August 2

Fantasia International Film Festival Compulsus Review


Written/Directed by Tara Thorne

Fantasia International Film Festival

Sadly, it’s time to close the curtain on Fantasia International Film Festival 2022. But not without one last film review! And this film, COMPULSUS, was a powerful closer for my screenings.

COMPULSUS is currently being dubbed “the queer PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” but while on the surface it’s any easy comparison (and one Tara Thorne has embraced), COMPULSUS is a very different story of #MeToo vigilantism.

We are introduced to our protagonist, Wally, at a poetry reading. She is reading aloud her latest work, under bright technicolor lighting, and you can tell she’s on the precipice of something big. 

She wraps up and enjoys some beer with her platonic girlfriends where they start to talk about their love lives, frustrations over men and their behavior, and a hot restaurateur in town who has garnered a reputation for sexual abuse.

Next time we see Wally, she is arguing with her sister over the phone – who is clearly giving off vibes of abuse by her husband. Wally is blind to the signs as she her mind quickly gets preoccupied with her new love interest, Lou, a woman who is fearful of being consumed by Wally.

In fact, after one date, Lou breaks things off only to run into Wally as she takes down a man in the street for being a known rapist. Lou tells her to finish him off and they begin a campaign together to take down all bad men.

For Wally, she never had anything happen to her but she feels compelled to do something. Lou wants to help but also keep Wally safe from the law and consequences.

By the time we hit the third act of the film, Wally delivers one the of most profound poems that hits the mark on how many women are feeling in today’s world. And we continue on a roller coaster ride until the climax and final poem is performed by breaking the fourth wall and is delivered by the full all-women cast.

The writing of this film was extremely well thought out and felt very personal. Between the poems written by Sue Goyette and the genuine lines of fury, frustration, care and love from all the female characters and then the common, unsolicited lines from the men, you feel a part of this film. It’s so real. 

And my personal favorite trait of this film – and the main way it stands out from PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN – Thorne deliberately bleeped out all the men’s names and you never any of the men’s faces. You only hear their unwanted advances and see their jean jacket/hoody combo – mostly from the back.

She took away the opportunity for the audience to develop any compassion for the men in this film.

Much like how the patriarchy has continually taken away from women and erased them.

This is a deep take on the #MeToo movement and I hope it get legs and walks all over the men holding women back from telling stories like this.

4.0 out of 5.0

The festival may be over but I have some interviews coming soon, including a  Q&A with director Tara Thorne!