Films I Neglected To Review: House HuntedBy Peter Sobczynski
Posted 12/02/16 12:16:55
Please enjoy short reviews of "Abattoir," "The Eyes of My Mother" and "Things to Come"
Considering all the horror favorites that it borrows from wholesale, I suppose it makes sense that "Abattoir" would be about a house constructed from elements taken from other scenes of mayhem. The conceit has a certain wacko charm to it, I suppose, but director Darren Lynn Bousman, the auteur of such deathless classics as the camp horror musical "Repo: The Genetic Opera," the lame remake of "Mother's Day" and more "Saw" sequels than any one person should have attached to their name, cannot figure out anything to do with it. Outside of a slightly stylized look in the opening scenes that serves as a reminder of this story's graphic novel origins, the whole thing unfolds in the most predictable manner imaginable (right down to trucking in Lin Shaye to play the half sweet/half crazy old woman who explains most of the convoluted backstory--in other words, the typical Lin Shaye part) leading up to a "shocking" ending that proves to be anything but that. Throw in some genuinely awful performances from the three leads and a complete lack of the kind of suspense, atmosphere or creative gore that one normally associates with a successful horror movie and you have a film that deserves to be stuck up in a dusty corner of a rarely visited attic where it can be quickly and decisively forgotten.
Like "Abattoir," "The Eyes of My Mother" is a film that has clearly been inspired by any number of earlier horror titles--the cult classic "May" will immediately spring to mind--but unlike "Abattoir," Pesce uses those inspirations as a jumping-off point for what proves to be his own decidedly singular vision. Instead, he gives viewers a smart and spare narrative that slowly and inexorably builds a sense of tension and dread throughout, a striking visual style (including beautiful black & white cinematography by ) that adds to the mood and an alternately frightening and moving central performance by Magalhaes as the older Francesca. In her hands, Francesca is a deeply deranged and disturbed woman but thanks to her nuanced performance, we also feel a certain degree of sympathy for the character and a sadness over how events out of her hands transformed her from the sweet girl from the opening scenes to the figure of quiet and implacable terror in the later ones. "The Eyes of My Mother" will almost certainly prove to be the most divisive film of its type to come around since "The Witch"--gorehounds may find it to be too slow and moody for their tastes while art house buffs may be put off by the moments of extreme violence and bloodshed (which are only partially muted by the b&w cinematography) but those who find themselves in between those two extremes are likely to find it to be a genuinely striking genre exercise that they won't be able to shake for quite some time after watching it.
At first glance, "Things to Come" may sound pretty familiar--the kind of storyline that Hollywood trots out once in a while when they feel pressured to make a movie starring a woman over 40--but as it proceeds, it soon becomes obvious that Hansen-Love has given viewers something far smarter and probing than the usual melodrama. As Nathalie undergoes her various trials as her circumstances change, Hansen-Love observes the proceedings in a quiet and formally restrained manner that never tries to push the buttons of audiences in order to get an easy reaction from them. Likewise, Huppert plays her character in a calm and cool manner that allows her to register all the ups and downs and emotional extremes that she goes through without ever going over the top into mere histrionics--if there is a shock to be had in her performance, it is in the fact that, after devoting a large part of her career to playing highly dysfunctional people, she is just as capable of playing a perfectly normal person and making them just as fascinating as her more celebrated creations. It is just too bad that "Things to Come" is coming out so soon after the release of "Elle" because it is almost certainly doomed to be lost in the wake of that career-topping turn--if that movie doesn't exist, Huppert's performance here is the one that people would be talking about as being worthy of an Oscar nomination.
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