Films I Neglected To Review:By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/20/19 00:31:57
Please enjoy short reviews of "Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse," "Little Woods" and "Wild Nights with Emily."
Gorehounds looking for the usual array of jolts will most likely not get a lot out of ''Hagazussa''--it is an example of slow-burn cinema that isn't really interested in telling a conventional story as it is in creating and establishing a mood of unease and dread that viewers can almost literally feel in their bones throughout. In that regard, the film is an undeniable success. This is a dark and deeply despairing work that merges elements of ancient folklore with a decidedly offbeat visual style that is further enhanced by a creepy-as-hell score by avant-garde rock trio MMD. And while the film refuses to traffic in the kind of cheap jump scares that are seen far too often in horror films these days, that does not mean that Feigefeld is skimpy in regards to the shocks--there are some genuinely disturbing bits of imagery throughout and at least one scene that is so grotesque that anyone electing to go see it should not make any dinner plans for afterwards. Though some of it may be a little too stomach-churning for some viewers, ''Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse'' is a solid piece of filmmaking and announces Lukas Feigegeld as a name to keep an eye on in the future.
Nia DaCosta’s film is a hymn to the countless anguishes befalling the poor and desperate in the mode of such films as ''Frozen River,'' ''Winter's Bone'' and the Dardenne Brothers joint of your choice. While this film is certainly as depressing and foreboding as those films, there is something about the miseries that it doles out that come across as pure soap opera than neo-realism. The storyline never quite feels as authentic as it clearly wants to be and when the obstacles pop up during Ollie's path to start a new life, they feel like something that a screenwriter might throw into the mix than something borne out of real life. (With all of her conveniently ill-timed screw-ups, Deb in particular feels more like a contrivance than a character throughout.) The only aspect of the film that does come across as convincing is the performance by Tessa Thompson as Ollie. Her part is just as awkwardly written as everyone else's, especially in the contortions that it puts itself into so that Ollie can effortlessly slide back into her former life of crime without running the risk that the audience might think less of her as a result, but Thompson manages to ground it in enough of a sense of reality that viewers still have a rooting interest in her long after they have given up on the rest.
The concept of Madeline Olnek's film is intriguing enough and to see the juxtaposition between the familiar historical record and the reality behind it (while constantly reminding viewers that this corrective is not necessarily an exact depiction of these events either) is amusing for a little while. The trouble, however, is that once it establishes its conceit, the film doesn’t really have anyplace else to go and after a while, the whole thing plays like an episode of ''Drunk History'' that runs three times longer than usual while containing maybe half the normal number of laughs. As Emily Dickinson, Molly Shannon may not seem like the most obvious bit of casting but she does do a very good job of bringing this new take on the writer to life without letting it become merely a spoof and Susan Ziegler and Amy Seimetz are also good as, respectively, her lover in life and antagonist in death. These performances help but despite their efforts, the film never quite comes together as a whole and while I suppose I prefer its offbeat reality vs. fiction deconstruction than the usual stuffy biopic platitudes, ''Wild Nights with Emily'' doesn’t leave you with anything other than the desire to perhaps take another look at Dickinson's own work to see how it reads in the wake of these new revelations.
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