Historically the Edinburgh International Film Festival has not been renowned for giving horror movies much love. However, that seems to have changed in recent times with more and more horror (and genre efforts generally) sneaking their way into the program. Something that we here at New Horror Express is a heartening development.
The only unfortunate thing being that we did not get to
catch all this year’s horror efforts missing out on German zombie flick “Ever
After (Endzeit)” and Aussie slasher “The Furies” both of which seem to be well
received by critics and audiences alike. Here however is a quick round-up of
some the films we did manage to catch over the course of the festival:
Eight years after the original actress Pollyanna McIntosh
returns to one of her role as The Woman. This time, however, that character
takes a back seat with the main focus being Darlin (Lauryn Canny) whom we
presume is The Woman’s teenage daughter.
A character we first see dropped off by at a hospital bloody
and naked where she is subsequently taken in to care by a Catholic orphanage
for girls where she is to be “civilised.”
This change of character focus is far from the only
difference as McIntosh as well as starring takes over the reins from Lucky McKee
as both writer and director for this effort. Also, those expecting this
follow-up to simply follow the blueprint of the original are in for a shock as
“Darlin'” is a markedly different beast.
First off Mcintosh has decided to lean into the comedy much
more than its nastier predecessor. Also, this is a way more empathetic and
humane film than “The Woman.” Sure, initially Darlin is every bit as
feral as The Woman, but there is also a real sweetness to the character, and
you empathise with her plight at the care home. Here, of course, there are
similarities with the movie asking the same questions about supposed civilised
society. There is a far more religious satire bent to this here though.
The film’s anti-religious satire element though does not
really work as all of the pictures targets are too on-the-nose. On top of which
Brian Batt’s Bishop character is so cartoonishly evil, you feel the only thing
he is missing is a moustache to twirl.
Away from the religious stuff and occasionally clunky
script, there is a lot to like particularly Canny’s excellent central
performance. Also, there are some wonderfully darkly comedic set-pieces, and it
is very handsomely shot film it’s sun-dappled look giving it a real fairy tale
feel. Plus, Mcintosh’s rousing feminist finale is sure to put a smile on your
face. All in all, a worthy companion piece to “The Woman” and a solid
start to McIntosh’s directorial career.
In her debut feature director, Emma Tammi delivers an
impressively heady brew in this gothic horror western.
The story focuses on Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) a tough 19th
Century frontierswoman who, due to tragic circumstances, finds herself alone in
an isolated ranch. Over the course of the films running time, she descends into
madness. Or does she? Maybe she is, in fact, being menaced by supernatural
forces. We are not sure as like many things in the movie, it is left somewhat
Some of it ends up being a little too opaque as the
non-linear flashback-heavy narrative can be hard to track of and proves
downright frustrating at times. These frustrations however never threaten to
topple proceedings as the film hinges on atmosphere far more than on narrative.
Moreover, what an atmosphere it is as Tammi creates an effectively oppressive
mood to the piece.
The most obvious comparison in terms of mood here is “The
Witch,” another slice of Americana folk horror. Funnily, even share the fact
that both feature an evil goat (although the one featured is not quite Black
Philip). Much like that picture every aspect here is made to unsettle and give
a sense of isolation from the sound design with the constantly howling wind of
the title to the beautifully shot evocative use of the Western frontier
The mood may be impressive, but the movie really sings as an
incredible performance by Gerard matches it. She is given a difficult task as
she is the only presence on screen for the bulk of the film. However, it is a
task she is more than up to equally convincing as the hardened survivor we
first encounter, and the mentally fractured figure she becomes by the end.
Also, despite the fact, this is mainly a slow-burn
psychological thriller Tammi manages to throw a couple of genuine jump scares
here and there. The jumps made more effective by being genuinely unexpected,
unlike in so many mainstream horrors about things that go bump in the night.
“The Wind,” despite its narrative flaws, is an excellent
mood piece which may frustrate some but is sure to be lapped up by lovers of
intelligent indie horror. It also marks Tammi as a major new horror talent, and
it will be fascinating to see what she does next.
Director Emily Harris’s debut feature is the latest
retelling of Sheridan Le ‘Fanu’s 19th Century vampire novel (which predates
Bram ‘Stoker’s Dracula). However, while it is a tale that may have been told
several times before it has probably never been told quite like this as Harris
has chosen to put the supernatural elements on the back burner focusing her
attention instead on the central lesbian love story.
Before we get to the love story though the plot’s initial
focus is on the daily life of Lara (Hannah Rae) who lives a cosseted life
confined mainly to her father Mr. ‘Bauer’s (Greg Wise) mansion while being left
under the stern tutelage of Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). Fontaine along with
teaching Lara needlepoint and the like also forces to carry out tasks using her
right hand as the left is seen to be sinful. Her strictly routined life is
thrown for a loop though by arrival of the mysterious Carmilla (Devrim Lingnau)
who is taken by Mr. Bauer after being injured in a carriage crash.
It is at this point the picture kicks into gear as while
well-acted the story feels quite languorous in the beginning. The same could be
said for plot overall as it feels a bit thin at times. Not to mention the
coming-of-age love story is not absorbing it is, and both Rae and Lingnau give
touching, vulnerable performances, but the viewer is continuously kept at
‘arm’s length, and there are parts which feel dramatically inert. Which is
particularly frustrating as it is clearly an intelligently made film with real
things to say about female empowerment and people’s rush to persecute the
While there may be some quibbles in the story and pacing
department, there can be no such complaints when it comes to the look of the
movie. As nearly every scene looks beautiful and it easy to see that director
Harris comes from a fine art background given how meticulously composed each
and every shot is. You could easily frame any number of the candle-lit
interiors or loving shots of nature here.
“Carmilla” is undoubtedly an interesting version
of the material but one that could have been a whole lot better if only it
dared to inject a bit of the full-bloodied melodrama it steadfastly sidesteps.
The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch while not known for his genre output he has
actually tried out various genres be it Western (Dead Man) or Action (Ghost
Dog) and this is the second time he has tried out the horror after 2013’s
hypnotic vampire effort “Only Lovers Left Alive.”
Granted none of these were straight ahead genre efforts and
were all done in a dry, laconically paced style that Jarmusch has built his
reputation upon. So does he similarly subvert the zom-com with this? Not
Sure there are elements that seem in keeping with the
director’s style particularly Adam Driver and Bill Murray’s deadpanning cops,
Officer Ronnie and Chief Cliff, who are the first to be aware of the zombie
menace who descend on Centreville. Also, Tilda Swinton Scottish-accented
samurai wielding funeral director Zelda feels like a very Jarmusch touch, but
much of the rest of the film feels very familiar from several other zombie
Like many a zombie movie, the main seems to be satirical
with zombies roaming about staring at their phones or returning to favourite
shops or in case of Iggy Pop’s zombie desperately searching for coffee. In what
is a funny cameo. All of this consumerist satire stuff is fine when done well,
but here it feels too heavy-handed, and you can’t help feel Romero did this all
better forty years ago.
A feeling compounded by the frequent references to Romero
amongst the myriad other movie references, some of which feel forced.
Particularly a random conversation about the layout of the Bates Motel.
Similarly, some of the meta-humour feels shoehorned in although some of is
pretty humorous particularly in the opening where Murray is trying to place the
song on the radio and Driver informs him it’s the theme song.
Most of this makes it sound like this is an effort to be
avoided, but that would be unfair. As for all the films flaws, there is also a
breezy likability to proceedings, and while there might not be belly laughs,
there is still chuckles throughout. Certainly, Murray and Driver bounce off
well together, and Swinton gives a committedly demented performance. The rest
of all-star cast from Tom Waits to Steve Buscemi to Danny Glover to Chloe
Sevigny generally acquit themselves well too.
Plus you will be humming the theme song for days.
“The Dead Don’t Die,” in the end, maybe a middling
Jarmusch effort but it still manages to be an amiable zom-com that probably
doesn’t the shellacking it received in some quarters.
“The Dead Don’t Die” will be released in the UK on 12th July