Watching these films is like reading an issue of the publication sponsoring the festival, Diabolique Magazine — a haunted hayride through a host of fantastic and frightening wonders.
The festival is screening 41 films between tonight and Saturday. Below here are reviews of two feature films kicking off the festival tonight and tomorrow and the three best short films playing Saturday.
Screening Thursday, Sept. 18:
★★★★ (out of five)
Alexia Rasmussen stars as a quiet young woman who suffers a miscarriage after a brutal attack. In a support group for mourning mothers, she finds herself tangled up with two fellow grieving parents (Alexa Havins and Joe Swanberg) who grow angry and violent after the death of their son. Director Zack Parker pulls viewers down a rabbit hole full of thorny twists, turns, and poignant looks at the pains of parenthood. Although it’s being marketed as a pregnancy thriller in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, Proxy defies genre expectations. Parker will present the film Thursday, Sept. 18 at 9:30 p.m. For more on Parker and Proxy, check out this story.
Screening Friday, Sept. 19:
The House of the Devil (2009)
Set in the ’80s, this low-budget horror flick follows a cash-strapped college student on a strange babysitting job that coincides with a lunar eclipse. Dimly lit and dreamily faded — as if filmed through a nostalgic haze — House is an engaging echo of the horror films released during the era in which it takes place. With her feathered hair blowing in the autumn breeze, lead actress Jocelin Donahue recalls the babysitters in John Carpenter’s Halloween, and writer-director Ti West mirrors that master of slow-burn suspense. The House of the Devil is the last film showing in the Ti West screening block on Friday, Sept. 19. It starts at 11:59 p.m.
The Top Three Best Short Films, Screening Saturday, Sept. 20:
Dead Hearts (2014)
A quirky, tender, bizarrely beautiful love story. This utterly enchanting Canadian short revolves around a young mortician who falls in love with a blind girl — a pair as peculiar as Harold and Maude. With its droll narration, picture-book production design, and macabre subject matter, the film's style is like Wes Anderson meets Tim Burton. Familiar yet fresh, morbid yet sweet, this short is a darkly romantic gem.
This film does in 15 minutes what last year’s lost-in-space drama Gravity does in an hour-and-a-half. Entity follows an astronaut ejected from the cockpit of her failed spacecraft and drifting through deep space. The film is an arresting spectacle. Illustrating the unsettling immensity of the universe, Entity demands to be seen on the big screen. Evoking intense awe and dread, this French short may be the festival’s best film.
The Pride of Strathmoor (2014)
The scariest selection in the festival. A darkly dazzling fever dream of a film, it sets extracts from a Georgia pastor's journal to hypnotic, haunting animation. Set in 1927, the film visualizes the racism and paranoia stirring in the dark heart of the south. Like Ralph Steadman's political cartoons, it brings the seedy underbelly of America to vivid, vicious life. Don't miss this one on the big screen. Warning: the film contains footage which may induce seizures.
Click here for the full schedule of films, and stay tuned for more reviews.