Here’s a roundup of our reactions to horror and horror-adjacent movies we caught at the wonderful Sundance 2023:
Infinity Pool (Brandon Cronenberg)
Come on in, the water’s… depersonalising.
Brandon Cronenberg channels JG Ballard, in this tale of a couple’s holiday at a gated resort somewhere in the “developing world” that becomes a depersonalising descent into psychedelic/psychotic hell. Dashes of everything from Clockwork Orange to The Prestige, and I even (maybe) caught a quick reference to The Fly. Mia Goth is demonically babyish. I loved it!
Note: this was the full NC-17 cut playing at Sundance, not the R-rated cut produced for the US cinema release. The main difference seems to be that we saw Alexander Skarsgård’s stunt-penis.
Run Rabbit Run (Daina Reid)
Sarah (the always-wonderful Sarah Snook) is a fertility doctor with an enigmatically troubled past. When she is notices the increasingly strange behavior of her small daughter Mia, she must confront the spectre of her domineering mother. But that’s not the only ghost from her past…
I think this is a little underrated by some other reviewers. Yes, it is derivative and tries to get by mainly on vibes and symbolism, and it takes half the movie before it is explicit about its needlessly obfuscated plot… and yes that soundtrack is just doing too much… but for all that it’s pretty engrossing and deliciously creepy. And of course casting Snook goes a long way. Definitely one to watch.
Run Rabbit Run is coming soon to Netflix!
Onyx The Fortuitous And the Talisman of Souls (Andrew Bowser)
Onyx is the creation of Andrew Bowser, writing producing, directing and starring as his own Youtube creation now unleashed at feature length. Onyx is an awkward black magic nerd who lives with his mum (Barbara Crampton). When he joins a group of fellow occultists to attend a dark ritual at the mansion of their idol, Bartok (Jeffery Coombes), things start to go awry. Suspecting Bartok of harbouring nefarious intentions, Onyx is suddenly immersed in a world of monsters, mystery, and mayhem.
Onyx communicates through a serious of strangulated cod-theatrical line readings that suggest a weird personality disorder. Bowser’s divisively styled (for many, almost unlistenable) central performance initially threatened to render this film borderline unwatchable for me, but once you acclimatise to it you can enjoy the other aspects of the production. This is perhaps most likely to appeal to fans of King Knight and Psycho Goreman, (it has winsomely cartoonish practical effects & puppets). It didn’t really earn the Beetlejuice ripoff (sorry, “homage”) ending though.
Listen out for the Child’s Play, Evil Dead and Day The Earth Stood Still references in the various characters’ incantations.
Divinity (Eddie Alcazar)
Two mysterious brothers abduct a mogul during his quest for immortality. Meanwhile, a seductive woman helps them launch a journey of self-discovery.
The first two thirds of this were pretty terrible – a real mismatch between a very camp (if unclear) plot and a very pretentious humourless execution. The payoff is pretty good though – I gasped and laughed a few times at the final stretch. So, not the write-off it seemed at first.
Sorcery (Christopher Murray)
Chiloé Island, 1880. Rosa Raín is a Huilliche girl who, after the murder of her father at the hands of German settlers, seeks justice with Mateo, leader of an organization of sorcerers called “La Recta Provincia”.
On this surface, this is very much my kind of thing, and the overall arc of it is clear enough, but… on a moment-by-moment basis I found it borderline incoherent. Ultimately this was too elliptical for me. The lead actress, Valentina Veliz, is very good though – I’d be interested to see her in future projects.
Beyond these three films we also heard excellent things about Talk to Me and Birth Rebirth – look for our reviews coming soon!