The 20th edition of the Dances With Films Festival wrapped last week, and here’s a quick look at three of the films that screened as part of their lineup. For more information about this yearly indie film fest, be sure to head over to the official website at danceswithfilms.com.
review by: Mynt Marsellus
Devil’s Whisper is a moderately effective religious horror movie that could have benefited from a larger practical effects budget and some courage to really go for the scary cinematic. The film follows a teenager named Alex (Luca Oriel) and his family shortly after the death of his grandmother. In her belongings, Alex finds a crucifix that belonged to his grandfather and shortly thereafter ghosties start to appear.
The dialogue is corny and the filmmaking is nothing revolutionary, but the emotions are surprisingly genuine. I found myself being more moved scene to scene than I was expecting. The acting – particularly from Alex’s father, Marcos (Marcos A. Ferraez), and priest Fr. Cutler (Rick Ravanello) – give the film the emotional heft it needs to exceed its clichéd premise.
The real problem for the film is in its horror genre elements. The jump scares don’t work very well, and bringing the film out of the psychological realm and into the physical would have made the film’s themes all the more effective. Another case of the need for practical effects in horror. All in all, I may be a sucker for religious-themed horror films, but Devil’s Whisper is mostly effective for what it is.
review by: Mynt Marsellus
Espionage Tonight is a surprisingly tight little satire that takes the concerning intersection between political news and reality television literally. A reality television show about spies is put into production, wherein audiences can go on missions to see the seedy world that informs government policy, but of course not all of the show is “reality.” Putting into question how much of the media we consume is carefully disguised propaganda, the film comically explores just how far media companies and the government could go to construct a world view that is favorable to them.
The ensemble cast (including Joe Hursley, Greg Davis Jr., Ganna Bogdan and Sean Astin among many others) do their best with the material, but there is an overwhelming sense that the film is trying too hard. It has a number of those moments where you know you have just heard a joke and know the joke is kind of clever but you never actually laugh. With that in mind, I wouldn’t advise people away from seeing the film, just a caution that it’s not as funny or as poignant as it seems to want to be.
review by: Adam Patterson
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for feature narrative and the Industry Choice Award, Lliam Worthington’sOne Less God is a dramatic retelling of the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai in 2008 that left 166 people dead over a four-day-long siege.
While the film focuses its efforts on the men and women attempting to survive, it frequently cuts to two of the men perpetrating the attack in an attempt to humanize them, and, oddly, to add small bits of humor, none of which fit within the confines of the narrative.
Though the bookends of the film are well shot, the over-the-top narration sets the tone for what will become an over-acted, melodramatic slog that seems to have its heart in the right place but doesn’t know how to properly deliver this harrowing true story.
Fold in some very questionable effects work and you get a film that’s over two hours long but ends up feeling like a made-for-TV movie that’s more disaster flick than a raw, unflinching look at one of the worst terror attacks to ever hit India.