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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Popcorn Frights 2021 Capsule Reviews: Psychedelic Nightmare ‘Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes’ and More

Another Popcorn Frights Film Festival winds down, bringing a hybrid model that offered in-person screenings, including a sneak peek of The Night House and a slew of curated online programming. Through their virtual showing and Q&A for the short film “Mask of the Evil Apparition,” the event even broke the news that Alex Proyas is developing a new Dark City series.

Here’s a round-up of some of Popcorn Frights’ feature offerings this year.


Ditched

In writer/director Christopher Donaldson’s feature debut, a prison transfer goes awry after crashing in the forest. Trapped in a ditch with murderers and injured colleagues, a paramedic realizes they’re not alone out there. It becomes a fight to live as the survivors face off against an unseen force stalking the woods. Ditched embraces gel lighting, ensuring a vibrantly colorful forest setting and gorgeous neon shots, even if it doesn’t quite make sense for this premise. Donaldson peels back the layers here, revealing a less supernatural presence and one more rooted in vigilantism. While not wholly satisfying on a narrative level, the gory moments deliver.


The Accursed

Decades ago, Hana (Yancy Butler) made a choice rooted in selfishness, an act of betrayal that spurned a vicious curse upon her bloodline. Now, her son’s wedding gathers her estranged family on that same spot where it all began, awakening a vengeful spirit and unleashing the curse in earnest. Writers/Directors Elizabeta Vidovic and Kathryn Michelle draw from Eastern European folklore for their supernatural slasher of sorts but struggle to get us invested in characters we never really get to know. It begins with a betrayal turned tragedy that leaves us rooting for the vengeful spirit, whom we also never get to know.


Take Back the Night

Co-writer Emma Fitzpatrick (The Collection) stars as Jane Doe, a social media influencer with a spotty past that finds herself a victim of a violent monster attack. That she’d just come from a party, where she partook in numerous vices makes her account untrustworthy in the eyes of her friends, family, followers, and the authorities. Jane starts to question her memories until the monster returns for her. Co-writer and director Gia Elliot creates a not-so-thinly veiled allegory for sexual assault survivors and their post-assault trauma. It’s when the story focuses solely on Jane where the film is at its most interesting. Rough creature VFX and design and some third act choices are detracting.


Offseason

A woman returns home to tend to her mother’s vandalized grave, just as a storm hits the coastal town and traps her in a bizarre nightmare. Mickey Keating’s latest captures the same atmospheric, small-town gone wrong vibe as the likes of Dead & Buried or Messiah of Evil. Its emphasis on atmosphere and mood over story means that those who prefer easy, concise explanations will be disappointed. For others, though, it’s a moody little gem that reels you in, especially with performances from Jocelin Donahue, Jeremy Gardner, and the scene-stealing Richard Brake. It’s a Gothic nightmare full of mystery and dread, with a bit of cosmic horror, too.


Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes

An unhappy woman and her irritable husband have just inherited a rundown mansion, but reality and time cease to hold meaning the longer they stay and realize something is amiss with the place. Kevin Kopacka directs a sumptuous visual feast, channeling the likes of Mario Bava and capturing a psychedelic, ‘70s Italian occult aesthetic. What begins as a bizarre, disjointed movie that favors style over coherent story quickly gives way to something far more unexpected and more extensive in scope. In other words, it’s a gorgeous, ethereal movie full of surprising twists that deftly shift genres. This gem was easily a fest highlight.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3678953/popcorn-frights-2021-capsule-reviews-psychedelic-nightmare-dawn-breaks-behind-eyes/

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