First up, a striking but blood-free psychological thriller, FELL. Leah (the excellent Cheryl Fidelman) is a victim of an abusive father and a powerless mother. Now grown up, she's pushed to the brink (and beyond) by the demands of work and her invalid mother. Her only joy is designing and sewing dresses, especially an extravagant frilly yellow dress (perhaps inspired by her canary) with equally extravagant matching panties (oddly enough, that was the part that really clued me in that she was psycho). Oh yeah, and she takes men back to her barn, tortures, and kills them. It's a really well-made, dramatic film, and the art design by the late Reuben Godinez (the film is dedicated to him) is extraordinary.
And if I left it at that, FELL was a great experience. But the filmmakers were there and talked about how they hoped the film could help stop child abuse. Now don't get me wrong, I am absolutely against child abuse, and I hope they really are successful. If they get distribution, a certain amount of the proceeds will go to charities fighting abuse, and I think it's great. But I don't really see the movie convincing anyone to stop abusing their kids. It's really kind of exploiting child abuse for entertainment value ("exploiting" is maybe the wrong word, it's far from a trashy film. But it's using child abuse as a dramatic driver). Leah responds to abuse by becoming a serial killer, which isn't really a solution. Maybe mothers with abusive husbands could be inspired, because you really don't want to be like the mother in FELL. And maybe (like one of the producers mentioned) it will just start dialogues that will be more serious and solution-oriented than this movie. In any case, I support the goal and wish them well, but I wanted to get that off my chest.
And then I stuck around for STRIGOI, which I previously saw at Cinequest, but I stayed awake this time. Here's what I wrote back then:
And finally, the night ended with a midnight screening of the strangest vampire story I've ever seen, STRIGOI. It takes place in a small Romanian village, although it was an English production and as such contains one of my biggest pet peeves--badly accented English filling in for a foreign language. I have no problem with suspending disbelief and letting English stand in Romanian. It's just if you do that, why do you need the thick accents? I'm already suspending disbelief, so let them just speak normal English
Okay, as for the story, I said it's the strangest vampire movie I've ever seen. It's not scary, it's kind of funny, but mostly it's just strange. In the opening scenes, the hated town master Constantin and his wife are murdered. But when young Vlad comes back to town, he swears he can see Constantin walking around at night. Meanwhile another man is dead, and the locals are keeping watch over the body. Tradition says to watch it for 3 (or was that 5?) days, too make sure it doesn't come back to life. Too bad the locals really use the wake as an excuse to drink over the body, and don't quite watch it enough. That and Vlad wakes up with his dad (or was it granddad, I forget) sucking his blood while patting him and saying "it's all right, it's all right..." Seems there are (un)dead strigoi and living strigoi and none of them make sense. Just really, really really weirdOkay, well I can fill in some gaps. There's something about land being sold to Constantin (or deeds being forged). The priest might or might not be a crook. Vlad has an MD, but never worked as a doctor (instead he was in Italy working in a fried chicken restaurant). That's important because the townspeople need a doctor to cut the Strigoi's heart out and burn it. Everyone is trying to pretend Strigoi don't exist. Oh, and it's his granddad who is living Strigoi and sucks his blood at night (sorry, spoiler!) I will, however, stand by my statement that it's really weird.
Total Running Time: 195 minutes
My Total Minutes: 191,304