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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Sex Spook Terror

Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Published Thursday April 2, 05:59 pm
The ‚ÄúD‚ÄĚ in this paranormal STD stands for ‚Äúdeath‚ÄĚ

 IT FOLLOWS

Coming Soon

4/5

It’s been a dark time for discerning horror fans. Zombies have been co-opted by the boring mainstream, vampires became super-lame and the genre’s most popular titles might as well be titled Loud Noises and Loud Noises 2: Louder Noises.

But there’s still hope for horror. Young filmmakers who grew up watching and learning from movies by John Carpenter, William Friedkin and Stanley Kubrick are making alternatives to what the industry is trying to pass off as scary. Films like The Babadook, The Guest, Honeymoon and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night have both chills and substance, and they’re not re-using plots we’ve seen a thousand times.

And they’re doing it on minimal budgets, with very little blood and gore.

You could make a good case that It Follows is the best of the bunch. This STD allegory uses the relentlessness of evil to startling effect.

Jay (rising scream queen Maika Monroe) is a pretty 18-year-old haunted by a sexually transmitted spook. The spirit in question is an unrelenting force that can adopt any shape, and it’s out to get her. The only thing going for her is speed (the evil spirit moves slowly) and the possibility of passing the disease along. But in the end it’s clear she’s just postponing the inevitable. Whatever that’s going to be.

It Follows’ compelling premise is executed deftly and even lands the ending, which is where most of these clever flicks falter. And the attention to detail is remarkable — every corner of the frame is used. Since most of the time we don’t know what the ghoul looks like, we’re always on edge. And when we do see it, IT’S NOT BETTER.

Halloween’s influence is all over the place. Teenage and adult worlds seldom connect and there’s no expectation that grown-ups can solve anything. The few times we see someone’s parents, they’re either irrelevant or useless.

It Follows also has a synth-heavy score that riffs on Carpenter’s classic Halloween theme while having a personality of its own.

Sex is a major element in the film but It Follows’ youths approach it tentatively, which adds another layer of realism. Jay is forced to separate her emotions from the act, causing major chaos in her psyche. At the opposite end, teenage boys have no problem risking death as long as they can “get some.” Like in real life, the characters seem terrified of adulthood — yet circumstances are pushing them in that direction and shaping their personalities.

Unlike real life, there’s an evil sex spook.

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover) takes full advantage of Detroit’s ghost town look, amplifying Jay’s isolation. Mitchell sticks to the rules he creates and offers few answers, which is refreshing.

It Follows is the rare movie that’s caught on solely through word-of-mouth. Now it’s poised to reach a much bigger audience. Hopefully it will arrive here soon.

Expect a sequel, although there’s a lot to live up to.

 

BOYCHOIR

Broadway

3/5

Dustin Hoffman may not be the box office draw he used to be, but there’s something comforting about his presence on screen. Lately, the 77-year-old has leaned towards grandfatherly roles that take advantage of that feeling, although not of his considerable acting chops.

Hoffman gets some of his edge back in Boychoir, a well-crafted family drama by Québec filmmaker Francois Girard (The Red Violin). The film revolves around Justin Bieber lookalike Stet (Garrett Wareing), an 11-year-old rebel with the voice of an angel.

Following the death of his mother, Stet’s rich but absent dad shoves him into the American Boychoir School, an exclusive establishment that’s not above accepting generous donations as qualification for admission. Stet’s instructors recognize his innate talent early, but they also see him as trouble — and he can’t read music.

Rather than being taken under someone’s wing as you might expect, Stet realizes his success or failure is pretty much all on him. He slowly gains the attention of both crusty choirmaster Carvelle (Hoffman) and Draco Malfoy-esque classmate Devon, who’s not willing to share the spotlight.

The movie goes through familiar beats of a high school drama, with episodes of bullying, a life-changing epiphany, the big competition and the triumph of the outsider. Yet Boychoir also offers a couple of surprises — like the school staff, which includes sharp-tongued Eddie Izzard and beleaguered Kathy Bates, and an epilogue that puts the film in a different light.

Probably the most frustrating part of Boychoir is the fact that it introduces a really interesting concept — the fleeting nature of talent — but fails to develop it fully. The high vocal pitch the kids reach is bound to disappear as they mature, so singing isn’t a career option for most of them. Yet, as Carvelle puts it, they have a responsibility to make the most of their gift while they have it, as there’s no bigger sin than wasting a talent.

As morals go, that’s not a bad one at all. If only Girard had done more with it.

 

WOMAN IN GOLD

Cineplex

2.5/5

In 1998, Austria introduced new legislation to deal with the restitution of artwork stolen during the country’s annexation by Nazi Germany. The measure was mainly a public relations move, but it did open the door for dozen of claims to be made on pieces that are considered national treasures.

The most emblematic of these demands was made by Maria Altmann, an Austrian expat whose family lost five Gustav Klimt paintings, including the masterpiece “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” (which was in fact a portrait of Maria’s aunt), to Nazi looters. Following the war, the paintings eventually became the main attraction at the Austrian State Gallery.

Woman in Gold follows Maria (Helen Mirren) and her lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) as they battle the Austrian government for ownership of the paintings. The legal face-off is combined with flashbacks of a just-married Maria watching powerlessly as the Nazis wreak havoc on her family and on the Jewish community in Vienna as a whole.

At times Woman in Gold has a paint-by-numbers (ha!) feel, but the film’s approach mostly serves the story properly. Mirren gives her character tremendous poise, while Tatiana Maslany (as the young and naïve Maria shown in the flashbacks) provides a wonderful counterpoint. Reynolds, on the other hand, draws the short straw. He’s fine as the lawyer who’s in way over his head, but his own subplot (the personal sacrifices he has to make to pursue the case) adds nothing.

Director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) brings in a few famous friends for cameos, but fails to make the story fluid enough for the audience to get lost in it. Woman in Gold avoids grey areas even when some discussion would have been welcome, although I imagine less domestic drama and more international law would have been an unpopular idea with the studio execs.

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