Sunday, January 30

Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review


As much as I love watching movies on the big screen with an audience, I was thrilled Sundance Film Festival was a virtual film festival this year. It provided the opportunity for a wider range of people to see these outstanding independent films and allowed me to partake in one of the film festivals I’ve longed to be a part of.

Even better was the fact that six, yes, SIX!, films in the horror genre were directed by women. I was over the moon and knew right away I had to watch them all.

I was able to view five of the six due to my work schedule and was blown away at the creativity, beautiful film making techniques, unique stories and microscopic look into issues so many women face today.

I had film hangover after watching each one of them. 

Now my only wish is that each one gets picked up for the big screen so main stream audiences can relish these fantastic films and take part in the one thing that was missing from my experience – the post-cocktail film discussion with other moviegoers.

In no particular order as I’m having a hard time choosing a favorite, here are the five films I watched at Sundance Film Festival 2022:


FRESH

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Director: Mimi Cave

Writer: Lauryn Kahn

Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs

Do yourself a favor and go into this one as blind as possible. It will allow you to be even more shocked at the reveal in the second act of the film. With outstanding acting by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan as well as a killer soundtrack, this film will fit nicely on a shelf next to AMERICAN PSYCHO.

Sundance Synopsis: Frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates, Noa takes a chance by giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve after a produce-section meet-cute at the grocery store. During a subsequent date at a local bar, sassy banter gives way to a chemistry-laden hookup, and a smitten Noa dares to hope that she might have actually found a real connection with the dashing cosmetic surgeon. She accepts Steve’s invitation to an impromptu weekend getaway, only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites.

FRESH is an intoxicating ride, nesting a penetrating thriller about the perils women face on the modern dating scene within a ferocious allegory for the commodification of their bodies. 


WATCHER

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Writer/Director: Chloe Okuno

Writer: Zack Ford

Starring: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman

Never underestimate a woman’s intuition. This film may feel familiar but the commentary around women’s self-doubt, loneliness, and buried aggression towards the patriarchy breathes fresh life into this familiar tale.

Sundance Synopsis: Julia joins her husband when he relocates to his family’s native Romania for a new job. Having recently abandoned her acting career, she finds herself frequently alone and unoccupied. One night, people-watching from her picture window, she spots a vague figure in an adjacent building, who seems to be looking back at her. Soon after, while alone at a local movie theater, Julia’s sense of being watched intensifies, and she becomes certain she’s being followed — could it be the same unknown neighbor? Meanwhile, a serial killer known as The Spider stalks the city.

Beneath the tension of Okuno’s hypnotic auteur vision, WATCHER is an elegantly simple depiction of one woman calculating in real time whether to trust her own sense of peril. 


NANNY

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Writer/Director: Nikyatu Jusu

Starring: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic category, NANNY opens your eyes to the world of immigrant workers and the exploitation they are frequently at the other end of. With supernatural elements from West African folklore, this beautiful film leaves a long-lasting impression.

Sundance Synopsis: Aisha, an undocumented Senegalese immigrant, lands a job as a nanny of a wealthy Manhattan couple. While she easily wins the affection of their young daughter Rose, she becomes a pawn in the couple’s facade of a marriage. The mother is as controlling as the dad is disillusioned and woke. Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind in Senegal, Aisha hopes her new job will afford her the chance to bring him to the U.S. and share in the life she is piecing together. But as his arrival approaches, a supernatural presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality.

NANNY is a singular genre all its own, with horrors specifically drawn from Aisha’s life and legacy.


HATCHING

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Director: Hanna Bergholm

Writer: Ilja Rautsi

Starring: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkila, Jani Volanen

When I saw the still for HATCHING, it reminded me of one my favorite childhood book's "The Mysterious Tadpole." I knew I was going love this film right away. HATCHING is a fascinating portrait of the nature of maternal instinct, family connections and the various stages of emotion a young girl goes through during her vehement tween years. It’s coming-of-age body horror at its finest.

Sundance Synopsis: Tinja’s mother showcases their family’s existence on her popular blog “Lovely Everyday Life” as a brightly hued domestic idyll set amid manicured suburban perfection. Beneath the impeccable veneer, though, friendless tween gymnast Tinja is struggling, spending most of her time striving to please her image-obsessed mom and appease her shrilly obnoxious little brother. After finding a wounded bird in the woods, she brings its strange egg home, nestles it in her bed, and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges, christened Alli, becomes Tinja’s closest friend, surrogate child, and living nightmare in this tremendously twisted coming-of-age body horror film.  

HATCHING is a pointedly satirical feature debut that constantly surprises.


PIGGY

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Writer/director: Carlota Pereda

Starring: Laura Galán, Carmen Machi, Claudia Salas

Every adolescent girl should be required to watch this film. As a female viewer, it triggers so many emotions – anger, pity, self-reflection, camaraderie – just to name a few. Out of all the films I viewed, this was an unexpected gem that I want to see grow wings and fly.

Sundance Synopsis: With the summer sun beating down on her rural Spanish town, Sara hides away in her parent’s butcher shop. A teenager whose excess weight makes her the target of incessant bullying, she flees a clique of capricious girls who torment her at the town pool, only to stumble upon them being brutally kidnapped by a stranger, who drives off with them in his van. When the police begin asking questions, Sara keeps quiet. Intrigued by the stranger — an interest that’s mutual — she’s torn between revealing the truth and protecting the man who saved her.    

A skillfully crafted genre film, encrusted in plenty of blood by the time it reaches its crescendo, PIGGY is also a reflective, deeply personal small-town morality tale. 




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