Unreleased in the U.S.A.
Contrary to what many have claimed, the horror genre is one of considerable breadth. For proof check out the following seven films, which include a surreal provocation, a streetwise indie, a twisted black comedy, a couple true crime dramas and an animated epic. All are quite remarkable, yet for all their qualities none of these films have been released in the U.S. (outside the festival circuit).
Itís a sad fact that quite a few films I like remain unreleased on these shores, and are probably destined to remain that way. Having reluctantly given up on flogging undeservedly obscure efforts like Valeri Fokinís METAMORPHOSIS (2002) and Vladimir Vitkinís X,Y (2004), Iíll concentrate on more recent films that might still have a chance at being seen in America (although given the sorry state of U.S. film distribution that chance is a mighty slim one).
First up is SURVIVING LIFE (THEORY AND
PRACTICE) [PREZIT SVUJ ZIVOT (TEORIE A PRAXE)] from 2010, an amazing
surreal feature from the incomparable Jan Svankmajor. The film
represents Svankmajorís take on dreams and psychiatry, with a working
stiff finding his waking life overtaken by subconscious desires and
My second pick emerges from here in the USA:
2010ís vigilante-themed indie BOY WONDER. Itís been written off
by some as a low budget DEATH WISH wannabe, and in many respects thatís
just what it is. It does, however, boast a richly layered approach, and
a mighty impressive lead turn by Caleb Steinmeyer. He plays a college
student who as a child witnessed the murder of his mother, which has
tormented him ever since. He takes to staking the streets of NYC at
night, beating the shit out of and even killing various predators while
attending college during the day--but, as you might guess, the violence
inevitably spills over into the guyís ďnormalĒ life.
2009ís NORMAL [ANGELS GONE] is a
provocative and disturbing Czech docudrama that probes the crimes of
Peter Kurten, the so-called ďVampire of DusseldorfĒ who terrorized
Germany in the years 1929-31. Adapted from the 1991 play by Anthony Neilson, NORMAL centers on a naive
attorney (Pavel Gajdos) who attempts to defend the incarcerated Kurten
(Milan Knazko). Interviewing the disarmingly intelligent and charismatic
Kurten, the attorney finds his already fragile psyche coming unglued as
he grapples with issues of crime, punishment and the slippery
demarcation between madness and normality--issues that remain subjects
of debate today. The protagonist also gets a bit overly chummy with the
killerís wife, with decidedly ugly consequences.
5150 ELMíS WAY [5150, RUE DES ORMES]
was the finest Canadian horror film of 2009 (after
a consistently shocking and suspenseful chiller that plays like a
particularly demented variant on
THE STEPFATHER. The French Canadian
novelist/screenwriter Patrick Senecal and director Eric Tessier
previously collaborated on the impressive
EVIL WORDS back in 2002, and 5150 ELMíS
WAY is even stronger.
The French UN LAC (2008), from
Philippe Grandrieux (of SOMBRE and LA VIE NOUVELLE), isnít really
horror, but it is one of the most haunting and evocative films
Iíve seen recently. It takes place in a dark, windswept forest where a
possibly schizophrenic young man lives with his family. The young man
has incestuous longings for his sister, which makes it all the more
vexing to him when an intruder appears in their midst and romances her.
The French-Canadian POLYTECHNIQUE
(2009) is as powerful a dramatization as can be expected of the December
6, 1989 Montreal Massacre, in which 14 female engineering students were
killed by a misogynistic psychopath. Director Dennis Villeneuve
(MAELSTROM) recounts the minutiae of the tragedy in measured and
disturbingly realistic fashion, with the overriding stylistic element
being a disarmingly relaxed silence that effectively counterpoints the
bloodshed. Another striking choice is the employment of three distinct
points of view: the killer (about whom we learn little outside the fact
that he blames womankind for all his problems), a guy with a hopeless
crush one of the psychopathís intended victims, and the latter, an
ambitious young woman who haltingly attempts to get on with her life
after narrowly surviving the massacre.
Finally we have another film that emerges
from here in the U.S.: John Berginís multi-award winning animated wonder
FROM INSIDE (2008), about a nightmarish train ride through a
surreal post-apocalyptic landscape undertaken by a traumatized pregnant
woman. The basis was Berginís 1993 graphic novel, which was quite
remarkable. So too is this film, which closely replicates the bookís
narrative and visuals yet has a powerfully brooding aura thatís very
much its own. Plus, Berginís old fashioned hand-drawn animation is
undeniably striking, and a welcome change from the expensive CGI
cartoons that are the vogue these days.