The second annual Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (Brooklyn, New York), which ran October 12–15, featured a stunning selection of feature-length and short films from around the world. Here is my second and final installment of my That’s Not Current coverage of BHFF.
Argentinian shocker Clementina combines the supernatural with the real-life horrors of domestic abuse. As the film opens, Juana (Cecilia Cartasegna in a riveting performance) has just been beaten so badly by her husband Mateo (Emiliano Carrazzone) that he caused her to have a miscarriage. He has disappeared so as not to be picked up by the authorities, and as Juana recovers in the large fixer-upper home into which they had just moved, she fears with every strange sound she hears that he has returned. Soon, though, she begins to wonder whether the noises and other odd occurrences in the house are because of a ghostly presence or a product of her fragile psychological state. Neighbor Olga (Susana Varela) is a comfort to her and reassures her that the strange phenomena are nothing to worry about. When Mateo makes his eventual return, Clementina takes a turn from the gloomy and eerie to the brutal and confrontational, with scenes of torture guaranteed to make viewers cringe. Director Jimena Monteoliva, who cowrote the screenplay with Diego Fleischer, invests the film with a decided sense of dread, but a few scenes and character decisions may leave some viewers scratching their heads about why certain events happen as late as they do. Cartasegna is outstanding as a vulnerable woman who slowly finds a certain inner strength, and Carrazzone gives a frightening turn, displaying an unpredictable type of evil that lurks just beneath the surface, ready to boil over at any point.
France/Canada/U.S.A. coproduction Game of Death makes the odd choice of introducing nothing but unlikable characters who made the first 10 minutes of this 73-minute film a total slog for me. I wasn’t sure whether co-directors/co-writers Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace and co-writer Edouard H. Bond (Philip Kalin-Hajdu receives an “adapted by” credit, as well) were satirizing millennials or presenting the characters with straight-faced realism. The titular board game is introduced after a long party scene with drugs, alcohol, and clothed sex. The group of friends must kill 24 people within short time limits or their own heads will explode, one by one. Naturally, no one takes the game’s instructions seriously until the first casualty occurs, and then panic sets in, along with ethical and moral questions having to do with the importance of self-preservation. The characterization generally improves after this, as some of the friends coldly calculate which strangers would be best to kill off, and others try in vain to figure out a way around this new, diabolical fate. The special effects crew proves itself to be a talented lot, as copious amounts of blood, viscera, and other body parts splatter everywhere. Most of these effects are practical, though some occasional CGI work is obvious. Game of Death feels like a demo reel for its effects artists that might have worked better as a short film, but the unappealing characters may play better to other viewers.
In case you missed it, part one of my BHFF coverage for That’s Not Current is here.