Review: Nightstream’s first day serves up screams

Review: Nightstream Day 1 serves up screams

"The Doorman," "It Cuts Deep" and "Hunted" among the horror flicks to open the virtual film festival.
Published: October 9, 2020
"The Doorman" (2020) film poster.

Eighteen different horror films brought frights and frowns to thrill fans with Thursday night’s start to the Nightstream Film Festival. The festival will continue throughout the rest of the weekend, with over 25 more films showing. The NewsHouse will be providing daily recaps and reviews through Monday.

Hunted 

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Vincent Paronnaud’s Hunted is a psychological thriller with a unique take on the role of “the final girl.” This beautifully shot film brings the audience on a wild ride as it follows Eve from the end of a terrible day at work, to the beginning of an even worse predicament.

The film opens with a mother telling her son a tale of a young woman being saved by the wolves in a forest when a self-proclaimed religious prophet chooses to sacrifice her as food for his followers. Perhaps this tale is a twist on Red Riding Hood, which seems to be acknowledged with Eve’s red coat later on. Eventually, Eve is introduced after her hard day at work, where she ends up at a bar and meets a charming man. As things get steamy in his car, she is surprised when his friend, who he claimed was his brother, joins them behind the wheel and drives off. After the kidnapping, attempted rape, and attempted murder of Eve, which occurs multiple times throughout this film, Eve ends up in a forest in an effort to escape.

The role of the final girl has evolved as long as horror movies have existed. Unlike traditional final girls, such as the studious and chaste Laurie Strode from Halloween, Eve is looser and more promiscuous, going as far as to cheat on her boyfriend with the man she met at the bar. She is also unlike any final girl in popular horror movies because of how she acts at the end, which is incredibly refreshing. Unlike the typical ending where the final girl barely escapes the killer, such as Sally Hardesty did in Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Eve goes from frightened and alone to furious and dangerous. Lucie Debay, who plays Eve, does a fantastic job at showing Eve’s character arch, especially at this point because of the visible change of her facial expressions from terrified to enraged, and with Eve’s evolution from running away to running towards her captor.

Hunted never ceases to shock and thrill with each new turn it takes. Though the guy – which is his credited name – is completely disgusting, his use of dark humor, like when he jokes about men in porn, makes it slightly harder to hate him. Arieh Worthalter, who plays the guy, does an exceptional job at his performance as a manipulative psychopath.

– Emily Johnson

The Doorman

An exchange about zodiac signs and ex relationships before a fight to the death sounds like an interesting premise, but like most elements of The Doorman (2020), fails in its delivery.

Ruby Rose stars as Ali, an ex-marine who has taken up a job working as a doorman in a luxury New York condo. After her first day on the job, she returns to the building for Easter dinner with her brother-in-law and his kids — who just happen to live in the building. This dinner quickly spirals as a band of violent criminals, led by Victor Dubois (Jean Reno) and Borz (Askel Hennie), attempt to steal priceless works of art hidden in the walls. The movie’s remaining hour becomes Ali killing each criminal as they, idiotically, come looking for her one by one.

The Doorman is nothing new. The ex-soldier seeking redemption saves the day and repairs their familial relations along the way.

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, The Doorman lacks the slasher gore of his previous movies – opting for quick cuts away and blood splatters on walls instead of the severed heads butchered bodies in his carnage-filled The Midnight Meat Train (2008).

The first half-hour is jam-packed with blatant exposition and attempts to make us care about Ali and her family. The movie even throws a last-ditch effort to make us care about the criminals by tying this art to it previously being stolen by the Nazi’s and that this is an attempt at correcting those crimes in their messed up criminal minds.

The setting of a hotel under construction allows for fight scenes that straddle the line between parkour and hand to hand. Beyond this, the fights feel cheap and unoriginal — electrocution in a pool and suffocation via plastic sheet is nothing new. The final battle between Ali and Borz is perhaps the most unrealistic of them all – they each unload a full magazine of bullets less than six feet from each other and somehow miss every shot.

Rose delivers a decent performance, but with special effects, cinematography, and a plot that leaves the audience wanting more, there is no chance of this movie reaching the cult-like status she may have hoped for when signing on.

– Mackenzie Snell

It Cuts Deep

A figure dressed in coveralls enters a bedroom where a teenage couple is making out. Startled, the young man says “We’re just studying!” There’s a machete, and screaming, and blood. Suffice it to say the couple is kaput — sex means certain death, this is a horror movie after all.

That’s the cold open to writer/director Nicholas Santos’ It Cuts Deep, a movie that wears its influences on its sleeve — the killer is a clear nod to Michael Myers and other slasher icons, and elsewhere the film lovingly lifts moments directly from The Shining. And while its competing tones of vintage horror and indie comedy sometimes manage to mesh into a unique vibe, too often Santos’ ideas fall flat in this thinly plotted, meandering debut.

After the bloody opening, we follow Sam (Charles Gould), a schlubby hipster afraid of commitment, and his girlfriend Ashley (Quinn Jackson), eager to settle down and have kids, as they visit Sam’s parent’s home for Christmas vacation. Santos focuses tightly on the divide between these two — Sam is a loveable goofball type, making jokes and deflecting Ashely’s attempt at having one of those “state of the union” relationship talks.

On a run, Ashley catches the eye of a brutish landscaper (John Anderson) — dressed in coveralls he smiles at her with an ominous grin. Later, when Sam and Ashley are having breakfast at the local diner, the same man appears, this time accosting the couple as they eat. The mysterious figure turns out to be Sam’s old friend Nolan; they go way back, he explains, even though Sam has never mentioned his name to Ashley.

What history the men have remains veiled until the film’s finale, but Sam believes Nolan is aiming to steal Ashley from him. Nolan “conveniently” runs into Sam and Ashley as they shop, and later he shows up at their house unannounced for dinner — Anderson’s weirdly charming performance gives It Cuts Deep some much-needed life. Whenever he’s around, the jokes land just so, and his manic, wide-eyed smile adds the creepiness that Owen Evan’s intrusive synth score tries, but fails to do.

Too much time is spent convincing us to sympathize with Gould’s Sam who is, by all accounts, a pretty unlikeable guy. It doesn’t help that the script’s loose, improvised tone lends Gould’s dialogue the quality of bad standup material. And in a film that asks the audience to constantly shift allegiances, it’s unfortunate that Santos sketches his three leads in such broadly comic strokes.

But by the time It Cuts Deep reaches it’s weird, bloody conclusion, Santos has doubled down on his vision and surprisingly manages to make some of it work. And while films like Baghead and Creep have toed this comic-horror line before, and to better effect, It Cuts Deep pulls off enough laughs and mini-shocks to satisfy entry into the genre. It’s too bad, then, that so much of the movie is best summed up by a line from early in the film: “You’re not funny.”

– Matthew Nerber

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