Van Dieman's Land (Jonathan Auf Der Heide)
This slow-riding Australian import was a polite (if cannibalism can be "polite") way to ease into a week that often gets erratic. Bad boys from the UK are sent to a prisoner's work camp somewhere on the edge of the end of the world. Open water vistas bring to mind the endings of Apocalypse Now! and The Mosquito Coast. While Van Dieman's Land isn't great, the ambitions of it's creators are admirable. A Q&A afterwards revealed that the film was made "with zero money". Now, while that may just mean zero "private" funding, the footage and performances captured by this ragtag group of art school friends impresses.
Terribly Happy (Henrik Ruben Genz)
The more I sit with this movie, the more I like it. Terribly Happy pivots on the great faces of its actors. As much as the setting sweats small town Denmark, there is also an Americana eccentricity to it. Many of the characters are drawn like incidental reference points from famous international indie films, but that's more likely attributed to the fact that Genz wears his influences on his sleeves. While not a film that hits on all cylanders, Terribly Happy still darkly charms on its way to off-the-beaten-path redemption.
Macabre (The Mo Brothers)
YIKES! This was the first official clunker of the festival - through these eyes, at least. Total trash, this Indonesian splatter film aims to pay homage to sadist-horror - from gouge-happy 80's-90's American to the current wave of French brutality - but can't even pull of that easy trick because it's too caught up in it's web of tired tropes and genre cliches. Unlike 2007's Fantastic find Hell's Ground (a Pakistani splatter film), Macabre ignores the essence of its own culture while drawing out the horror. Oh, and a new born baby is not a good device for a horror film (nor do baby skulls make for good props).
Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli)
OK, OK. Yeah, yeah. This is the biggest, scariest film since ever... or something. I know. Or, so I'm told. Look, I don't think this film is terrible, and it does have some cold & creepy moments, but I just don't get it. "It" being why movie fans get so excited about stuff like this. Paranormal Activity is another found footage film that doesn't look good, but, as I argued with my buddy Bill the other day about The Blair Witch Project, I guess that's the point. It's also to the benefit of the filmmakers. Since Paranormal Activity is nothing but set ups for some greenlight frights, it's hard for me to see this film as nothing more than another well-marketed stunt of a film that I couldn't really ever care to look at again.
NOTE: This film could just as easily be called The Most Annoying Boyfriend Ever. If my boyfriend followed me around like that with a camera all the time, I would have welcomed demon possession myself.