Welcome to the fourth edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s a Chicago International Film Festival Edition! The Chicago International Film Festival is going on right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching three films already, so I figured I’d pass along my mini-reviews for these films.
*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*
Director: Daniel Castro Zimbron
Writers: Daniel Castro Zimbron, Denis Languerand, David Pablos
Cast: Brontis Jodorowsky, Aliocha Sotnikoff, Camila Robertson Glennie, Fernando Alvarez Rebeil, Meraqui Pradis, and Alejandro Villeli
Synopsis: A family tries to survive a mysterious beast outside their cabin home. However, the youngest son doesn’t think the beast is their only problem.
The synopsis probably won’t do much for many, but there is a lot more to The Darkness, original title Las Tinieblas, The film is most set within the cabin that belongs to the central characters in the film in father Gustavo (Jodorowsky), oldest son Marcos (Alvarez Rebeil), youngest son Argel (Sotnikoff) and even younger daughter Luciana (Robertson Glennie). The film opens giving us the sense of the world. Gustavo is keeping his children safe from the mysterious The Beast outside in the forest which brings a fog with it. One day, Gustavo and Marcos go out into the woods, but only Gustavo comes back saying The Beast took him. Argel can’t let it go and wants to go looking for his brother, but his father forbids from going out in the woods by himself.
The film works on some levels, mostly the eeriness and the tone. The idea of these characters trying to survive whatever it outside the house adds a lot of tension, and when the Beast roams outside the house, it really is terrifying. Especially since the family boards up the windows so the Beast doesn’t see them in the house, and the screen is only filled with either pure darkness or a lantern.
The film does move a little slow, and it gets caught up in its own mysterious for a while, but what keeps the film going in Argel actor Aliocha Sotnikoff, who according to director Daniel Castro Zimbron during a Q&A after the film, this is his first film, along with Camila Robertson Glennie, who plays Luciana, which amazed all of us in the theater because they were very good, and you would think they’ve been doing so for a while.
All in all, The Darkness will not be for everyone. The film does move rather slow at times, and while it takes a while to figure out what the theme is, The Darkness is a nice art film with some great visuals.
3 out of 5
The Eyes of My Mother
Director: Nicolas Pesce
Writers: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Kika Magalhaes, Diana Agostini, Paul Nazak, Will Brill, Clara Wong, Flora Diaz, and Joey Curtis-Green
Synopsis: A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life.
The Eyes of My Mother isn’t that long of a film, but it sure makes a statement in its runtime. The film is also shot in black-and-white which makes it a little more eerie and a tad more disturbing when the horror shots come into play. Not only that, it leads to some amazing shots that are truly eye-popping.
The Eyes of My Mother follows Francisca (Magalhaes), who witnessed her mother being brutally murdered in their home by a stranger (Brill) at a young age. The event left a mark on her as she grows up – in the same house no less – and what follows a dark trip into her life.
The film is potentially one of those films that I would say, the less you know the better your experience will probably be. Although I will say the film will not be for everyone. It’s not even that the film is too gory or even has too many jump scares (the film actually doesn’t have jump scares), it’s just that the film acts a lot like an art film at times, and doesn’t rely on musical cues or anything like that. The film is actually broken into three parts that spans years and each tell their own little different story that makes the film – at times – move smoothly.
The Eyes of My Mother rests on the shoulders of Kika Magalhaes, who does a fantastic job of keeping you invested, even though her actions aren’t the best, but also has a look to her that doesn’t make you scared of her, it also makes you feel sorry for her in some regard. Diana Agostini, who plays her mother, only has a limited amount of screen time at the beginning of the film, but her performance is felt throughout the film thanks to Kika.
All in all, The Eyes of My Mother is filled with great shots by cinematographer Zach Kuperstein, and director Nicolas Pesce does a great job with his star Kika Magalhaes to bring all of us down a deep dark and twisted path of what I’ve seen, and somewhat agree, a horror fable.
The Eyes of My Mother
3.5 out of 5
Director: Antonio Campos
Writer: Craig Shilowich
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, and John Cullum
Synopsis: The story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck.
This is one will be hard to talk about, spoiler wise, considering this is a real event that happen. So if you don’t want to know anything about the film and Christine Chubbuck’s life, then don’t read this review. However, I’ll say that the film is great and has amazing performances by the cast.
Christine follows Christine Chubbuck (Hall), who works at a low-rating news station in Sarasota, Florida during the 70s. Christine wants to prove herself that she can do more than what she is doing now – although she does like what’s she’s doing – but her boss and station manager Michael (Letts) wants to push the “if it bleeds it leads” campaign. Christine doesn’t like the idea, but can’t really do anything about it. However, Christine has more personal issues going on. She has a crush on her co-worker and lead anchor George (C. Hall), health problems that her mother (Smith-Cameron) keeps bringing up, and not being able to really connect with her co-workers like Jean (Dizzia) and Steve (Simons). All of it builds up to the fateful day of July 15th, when Christine decides to commit suicide with a handgun, live on the air.
Christine is only a version of the real-life story of Christine Chubbuck, but it’s one that is very good, and is held together by the great cast. However, the film belongs to Rebecca Hall, who handles the situation fairly well. She doesn’t play Christine as just a woman with mental issues, and that’s it. We see her crack jokes and have a fun sense of humor, but she does break down with everything going on around her. In the more deeper dramatic senses, it reminded me how much I love Rebecca Hall, because she absolutely nails those scenes. You do feel for Christine, especially one scene in particular near the end of the – not the shooting herself scene by the way.
When it comes to the depression angle of the film, it’s not a movie that will give you the definitive answer of depression. This is one case, and we only get a certain block of the story. We know there is a previous event that we don’t see, so you get the idea that Christine isn’t well before the final act of the film. The film also slows down a for a bit before the final act which takes a lot of steam the film had, but not enough to takes away everything good it setup.
All in all, Christine isn’t all the way perfect, and while the cast is great, Rebecca Hall is the reason this film is a must-see. Christine Chubbuck’s story is one that should be told, and while Christine isn’t the definite story for her, it is a good one that should go on your radar.
4.5 out of 5