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Telluride Horror Show: Day 3 - Sickle's Take


After Midnight

After Midnight follows a man who attempts to fend off a monster every night after his longtime girlfriend leaves unexpectedly.

It would probably take too much of a dive down the rabbit hole to track down all of the subtle connections within this family of horror filmmakers, but any film that associates with the Resolution, Spring, The Endless, and The Battery folks has to be good. And it is. The cast and crew of these films have built quite a portfolio of character-driven horror pieces that focus more on horror as a vehicle to push the human condition.

On the surface, it appears to be a monster movie, but it soon becomes clear that the monster element is merely symbolism for the real point of the story...the relationship between Hank (Jeremy Gardner) and Abby (Brea Grant). It takes center stage for the entirety of the runtime as the monster embraces its place as the juxtaposed metaphor.

The film is incredibly powerful in its realism within the character dynamics and dialogue. So much so that it creates heartache in the viewer as they experience verbal exchanges that are all-too familiar to those that have had rough patches in a long-term relationship. The film hurts sometimes, but it's a good hurt with an even better ending.

After Midnight isn't the purest horror film out there, but neither are any of the other films mentioned in this filmography of movies above. That isn't their point. What they achieve is much more impactful and makes these films a rewarding and welcomed addition to the horror genre.

Sweetheart

Sweetheart follows a woman (Kiersey Clemons) who is stranded on a remote island with an amphibious creature that stalks the island at night. She must find a way to survive more than just the elements, as the creature becomes aware of her presence on its island.

This was the flick I was most excited about this year and it didn't disappoint. What essentially equates to Cast Away with a monster, the plot is simple, but allows us to sit back and enjoy some survival horror. Clemons does a fantastic job in her role as the film structure is dependent on her pulling off her performance without much of anyone to interact with.

The film has a well-executed plot progression, as the creature's reveal is properly revealed in chunks as Clemons' interactions with it increase. The effects work and creature design are very well done and thankfully don't disappoint.

I wouldn't call Sweetheart uniquely special in its plot, but it doesn't intend to be. It's an awesome survival monster movie and it achieves that greatly. It's highly entertaining, builds up nicely, and gives enough subtle character development to keep you invested. It was definitely a favorite of the festival.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 9/10

Horror Quality: 8/10

Film Quality: 8/10

The Lodge

The Lodge follows two children in the aftermath of the suicide of their mother. Their father attempts to get the two close with his fiance, who happens to be a cult survivor, by going to a lodge in the middle of nowhere. When the father leaves for business, the children are forced to coexist with their future stepmother and her dark past.

The Lodge has a flavor that sits along the line of Ari Aster's work. The Lodge directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz have experience in this dark and dreary arena with their previously successful film, Goodnight Mommy. It is emotionally unsettling and somber and requires patience and investment to engage with it.

The acting is fantastic and the story unfolds in an organic way that allows its twists to develop naturally, but it does struggle with overly-stretched cinematography and an over-reliance on its score to build the atmosphere in the first act. While I think scores are important to developing strong tension, if they are the only thing, it's a struggle to keep your fight-or-flight response motivated.

Still, The Lodge is a powerfully constructed film that just delivers on a subversive level. It's mostly quiet, gloomy, and hopeless, which comes with the territory of this ever-growing style of horror filmmaking. It's inevitably a great film, but lacks the impact of Goodnight Mommy and the residue-leaving strength Aster's works.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 8/10

Horror Quality: 5/10

Film Quality: 7/10

Telluride Horror Show was a blast this year! The feature films were outstanding, as many of them I wanted to watch again soon after leaving the theater. It just goes to show the efforts THS goes through to deliver high quality productions for us to view year after year. And now comes the post-THS withdrawal that leaves me desperately waiting for next year...already!

© 2020 Sickle and Efrit | Dalton Vanhooser & Kyle Hagan