Stanley Film Festival: Day 2, Goodnight Mommy, The Invitation, The Hallow, and Itchy-O

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I’m sitting here, technically on day 3 of the Stanley Film Festival. The Chiller Lounge at The Stanley Hotel is bustling with journalists, bloggers, and the people who doled out extra cash for the top tier passes. The drinks are free, the snacks are plentiful, and the mood is high. It might be the finest place I’ve ever been able to blog from. I could get used to this.

I’ve taken to sitting at the back of the theater. My favorite part of horror in a group is watching the audience squirm, scream, then break into inappropriate laughter. This place is filled with horror veterans, so you can tell when a film is working or putting people to sleep.

Ahem. You are here for movies, not to hear about how comfortable a lavish hotel’s couches are. Let’s get to it.

Goodnight Mommy

The Austrian flick Goodnight Mommy is a strange and disturbing journey. A mother comes back from having plastic surgery, greeting her twin boys who view her skeptically. Her formerly loving and cool demeanor has turned hateful at the boys’ expense. She singles them out, only making food for one, paying attention to one, and isolating the second son.

This film sags in the middle and then turns into a complete torturous nightmare. Never let kids have crazy glue. Or hissing cockroaches.

The movie left a mark on me, but I still don’t know if I liked it. Watching the movie, even surrounded by others was an isolating experience. I can’t say I felt sick afterward, but I felt a lingering hollowness. This movie is not for the faint of heart. This isn’t to say it is bad, but it definitely isn’t one I look forward to seeing again. I would have to be in a particular mindset for that.

The Invitation

I love a good cult movie. We’ve reviewed several on the podcast. Children of Sorrow, The Sacrament, and I’m sure there have been others. There is something alluring and so very fitting for horror about brainwashed cultists trying to lure people in. Maybe it’s why I enjoyed Going Clear (both book and HBO documentary) so much.

The Invitation is a moody and dark film set in Los Angeles. The low lighting and calm but rising paranoia make for a fascinating and pungent aesthetic. It honestly felt like a David Fincher film. Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, Aeon Flux) should be applauded for having the patience and discipline to make this a mysterious and memorable movie.

It isn’t my favorite cult movie of all time, but it was a worthy centerpiece for the film festival. It is methodical, rife with paranoid tension, and delivers with a powerful ending. John Carrol Lynch is often cast as a gentle giant, but he is truly menacing in this one.

In the end it is a movie about loss, and that takes a very skilled hand to not be hackey. Fans of the slow burn will be talking about this one when it hits theaters.

The Hallow

It’s time for some Irish creature horror. The Hallow takes an old (possibly created for this movie) fairy tale about a dying forest, a family just trying to get by, and some absolutely spectacular practical effects.The hallow are ancient creatures who steal children and seem to breed by cordyceps style fungal growth. This body snatching fungus twists people and things into incredible and sinister creatures.

I absolutely needed this movie in my life. After watching two slow burn movies I needed something to bring the fire back. This movie absolutely delivered. After around the 30 minute mark the action blows up and you are in for a wild ride.

The characters are all likable, understandable. While this movie is at its base survival horror, it goes a bit deeper. I would absolutely recommend this movie for creature feature fans.

Itchy-0

itchyo bandIt’s getting late but I decide I’m going to take a last walk through of the hotel and see if any mischief is afoot. There are cultists and ankhs around for the ‘immersive horror game’ after all.

When I step through the doors I hear it. There is a rumbling in the floor. Furious lights and sound and people in black suits blasting improvised instruments. It feels like the entire hotel is shaking.

I walk into the ballroom and instantly wonder if the beer I was given might have been spiked. The room was filled with women dancing in black garb, masked  men on the stage pound into war drums bigger than themselves. Lights are flashing, fog is rolling in, and the sheer ferocity of this carnal music beats its way into my soul.

I’ve seen some good concerts, but absolutely nothing matched this 32 person marching band from hell. Itchy-O is an experience, and whatever you find online will not measure up to the absolute insanity of their concert. I watched them summon a primal side out of the most stoic and straight laced people. There were journalists jumping up and down with thousand dollar cameras flapping in the night.

Sadly, I couldn’t capture very many good pictures of this. It was too dark, too much action. All I have to say is you absolutely need to see them if they ever come to your town.

Wrap Up

This festival continues to bring amazing movies and absolutely stunning side attractions. Settled in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, you walk out of a theater filled with grim horror and are greeted by snow-capped mountains and a minor throng of horror fans. The movies are carefully curated and I haven’t seen a bad one yet. More to come as I enter day 3 of the Stanley Film Festival. So far, I would take this festival over Comic Con any day.

5 thoughts on “Stanley Film Festival: Day 2, Goodnight Mommy, The Invitation, The Hallow, and Itchy-O

  1. “The hallow are ancient creatures who steal children and seem to breed by cordyceps style fungal growth.” Awesome. Awhile back I wrote a flash fiction trilogy featuring that method of reproduction. And now cordyceps will be in my book…

  2. Man, I was really looking forward to The Invitation, but I just ended up disappointed. The writing/dialogue was laughably, embarrassingly bad. The final act was really great, but sitting through an hour and 15 minutes of cringe-worthy of film wasn’t enough to make it worth it.

    If you haven’t seen Coherence, it’s similar to this. A group of friends gather for a dinner party in a LA home. Except that movie is so much better.

    • I’ll have to check that one out. I thought there were moments of wooden dialogue but it also felt like how cultists would talk. The main character had some moments where he blew up and I thought that was well written. The conversation about everyone being polite comes to mind, but that was third act.

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