The eternal quest for quality genre films can lead us into some very, very strange places. Scouring the globe for the unseen horror film can be an exhilarating, albeit, daunting task. Lucky for us, there are companies that are making the search less painful. Over the past 5 or so years, Synapse Films, Severin Films, Magnet Releasing, Vicious Circle/Breaking Glass Pictures, and a handful of others have secured the rights to releasing some of the best foreign and domestic releases the horror community has to offer. Joining the ranks of this impressive stable is IFC Midnight.
While the average person is familiar with IFC as a network, the genre film world has been blessed with their Midnight imprint’s slate of releases. Films from all across the globe are getting dressed to the nine’s by these fine people and keeping the horror pulse racing. Previous releases such as Enter The Void, The Human Centipede, and Pontypool were covered right here on ye’ olde Blood Sprayer with great fanfare. Currently, some of the year’s most talked about/buzz-worthy pictures (Super, Stake Land, Acolytes) amongst our sect are available On Demand through various satellite providers. For those of you who are looking for more of what IFC Midnight has to offer, a myriad of incredible releases can be purchased on DVD. I can attest to this, as I’ve become a huge fan and consumer of their product. Here’s a few options I’d recommend to the bloody cinephile…
Valhalla Rising: Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Pusher Trilogy) may not realize it, but he’s created what is soon to become a beloved cult film. Valhalla Rising is the story of One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen aka my new hero), a feared prisoner who lives his life fighting to the death for the amusement of his captors. After One Eye’s bloody escape, he and his child caretaker take up with a band of warriors who are headed to the Crusades. On their way to end the Christian reign, the group encounters the insanity of the New World. In their efforts to avoid the onslaught of savages (who stalk them), it becomes less and less clear what will become of their existence. The universe skews and One Eye’s purpose on this planet is unveiled in cacophonous bursts of violence and unearthly hallucinations.
At a time when I was feeling a bit underwhelmed by the films that were making their way into my field of vision, Valhalla Rising was a much-needed punch in the mouth. It is not horror in the traditional sense of the word, but like Gaspar Noe and Alejandro Jodorowsky before him, Refn presents the foibles of humanity in such catastrophic ways that there’s only one word to describe them: Horrific. The film is littered with moments of hallucinatory chaos, bursts of explicit violence, and a silence that can make the most sound of minds uneasy. Many films have been made about this period in history, but never this powerful. Valhalla Rising is in the running for my favorite film of the year.
The Horde: Worst case scenario: Closing in on the hideout of murderous criminals who killed one of your partners in law enforcement, the world is on fire, and the living dead are on a rampage. This is the fate dealt to a small band of people who are having to fight their way out of a high-rise in Paris. Some of them criminals, some of them cops-all of them potential targets for these blood-thirsty predators. Is it possible to make it out of the building alive, let alone as a team?
The Horde is reminiscent of the modern-day zombie tale. Lots of nods to 28 Days Later are peppered throughout, but the Romero lore is present as well. Instead of going the Dawn of the Dead road, directors Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher decided to draw from the Day of the Dead. There truly are no good guys here. Mainly a group of people who are equally despicable, no matter what side of the law they lie on. The gore comes in truckloads and the bodies drop everywhere. Mass chaos is the name of the game and we’re the lucky spectators. The French continue to impress, no matter how worn the territory may be.
Primal: Six friends pack up for what will be a beautiful camping trip. Sure, it’s in the Outback, full of rough terrain, scorching weather, and god knows what else…but, still they’re all together and looking to enjoy the times. Unfortunately, things never go the way a group of unsuspecting young people would want them to in this world we call horror. A foreboding evil lurks just around the bend that will cause friendships (and people) to be torn to pieces. Director Josh Reed gives you another reason to keep your ass at home and stay out of the woods!
Australia is responsible for a lot of kick ass stuff: Guy Pearce, Radio Birdman, Nick Cave, a handful of non-Foster’s beers, koalas, and Ozploitation. Primal is a return to those great days of gonzo cinema from the Land Down Under. There’s all the blood and guts you need to make you giggle and the characters are ALL going at 1000 mph. The chaos is what makes it all sublime, though. THIS is what makes it purely Australian. Josh Reed is a director I want more from and I want it now. Primal is a party flick for our maladjusted community. I insist you get a case of beer, your buddies, and have a great experience in the Outback!
Left Bank: Marie, a professional runner, has been put on the injured reserve due to an infection that must be dealt with. Going against her usual prudish judgement, she moves into her new boyfriend’s apartment on the outskirts of Antwerp. Quickly, perfection turns to destruction. There sex life goes into extreme directions, her body begins to change and some evil secrets are revealed about the perfect little apartment they live in. This is not your average apartment building and the people entering into her life are not your average humans. Something ominous, ancient, and evil is beneath the ground they stand on and wants to be reborn.
I’d read about this film prior to it’s release and by all accounts was pretty excited to see it. It didn’t disappoint. Personally, I thought it would’ve had a stronger showing stateside due to the success of Let The Right One In, but one can never tell how the American market will react. Left Bank is a shockingly good debut from it’s writer/director Pieter Van Hees. Van Hees has clearly done his fair share of Polanski studies, as the film drips of atmosphere. The color, set pieces, and location all lend to the creepiness of the story. Lead Actress Eline Kuppens turns out a beautiful performance as Marie, as well. As Marie is affected by the evil “presence”, Kuppens evolves herself in what was one of the best performances I’ve seen in quite some time. Left Bank leaves you feeling unsettled and fucked with. If this is the face of modern horror from the international community, then consider yourselves lucky.
Over the next month, we’re bound to find out about the many acquisitions IFC made at Cannes. As you’re waiting, check out the list of films above and support the indie market by seeing more IFC Midnight releases via On Demand. For more details on these releases and others, visit:
Tags: Blood, Blood Sprayer, Cannes, Day of the Dead, Enter the Void, Gore, Horror, IFC Films, Indie, Let the Right One In, On Demand, Ozploitation, Pontypool, Romero, Severin Films, Synapse Films, The human Centipede, Valhalla Rising, Vicious Circle/Breaking Glass Pictures, Violence, zombie