Dark Whispers, Volume 1 (2019) [Final Girls Berlin Festival]

Megan Riakos’s anthology “Dark Whispers” touts itself as a horror film with tales directed solely by women. The last film “XX” that explored the concept was a swing a miss, so I had my doubts this time. Thankfully “Dark Whispers, Volume 1” is a very good anthology with some outstanding horror shorts that often feels episodic like “Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.” The gallery of female filmmakers on display here are all sharp storytellers, and bring something new and unique to the table that frighten while also evoking genuine emotions every now and then.

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Swallow (2019) [Final Girls Berlin Festival]

Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s “Swallow” is one of the most bizarre but important dramatic thrillers of the year. It’s a movie about important ideas involving self mutilation, the expectations of women in modern society and how one horrible act can change the way that we live our lives. I was originally drawn to “Swallow” because of the titillating trailer featuring Haley Bennett, but “Swallow” is so much more than an endurance test for our gag reflexes. It’s a very complex and often times heartbreaking look at a woman dealing with the pressures of life and her imperfections in unusual methods.

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Shorts Round Up of the Week: Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2020 Shorts Block 4: #MeToo [Final Girls Berlin Festival]

This year we were once again lucky enough to cover the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, and though we came on a bit late, we were able to catch a shorts film block from the festival as well as some features! This year the shorts block was solid, and I took on the #MeToo shorts block. This list of short films covers the topics of sexual assault, rape, toxic masculinity the like.

The gallery of genre entries was great once again and I loved the substance these directors brought to film.

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The Lodge (2020)

It’s hard to talk about “The Lodge” without giving away too much, but it manages to be more of a haunting drama in the end, than a horror movie about the supernatural. What Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz do is examine the horrors of pure grief and how it can unravel us mentally, and keep us always on the brink of breaking and submitting to pure disturbing madness. “The Lodge” is sure to keep audiences talking, mainly for its incredibly beautiful production design, and absolutely meticulous direction that will draw parallels to “Hereditary.”

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Doctor Sleep (2019) [Blu-Ray/Digital]

Mike Flanagan has managed to become one of the most recurring auteurs for Stephen King’s adaptations, and “Doctor Sleep” is a particularly heavy undertaking. Even for the now seasoned filmmaker, “Doctor Sleep” is a tough artistic task that has to appeal to general audiences, while also tying in to Stanley Kubrick’s original masterpiece, and appeasing King, who went through every length to ensure “Doctor Sleep” was detached from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. It’s a shame the movie didn’t quite click with audiences and grab higher numbers, as it’s easily my favorite film of 2019, bar none.

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Jasper Mall (2020) [Slamdance Film Festival 2020]

When Victor Gruen invented the mall, it’s explained that he envisioned them being small metropolitans allowing people to commune and live. They became tax shelters and giant symbols of American consumerism until finally suffering slow deaths in the aughts. “Jasper Mall” is a somber and engaging tale of one of the last dying mega malls in America that is suffering a slow, painful death and is resuscitated, ironically, by the loyalty of its patrons and the sense of community that’s attracted to what was once a pantheon of consumerism.

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