Our movie reviewer, Alex Pelham, is tackling SXSW's film offerings as aggressively as humanly possible. He'll glue his eyes to screens for hour after hour so that you can be a little more selective when you head to theaters. Below are his reviews for "Heaven Knows What," "He Never Died" and "The Invitation." Do you agree with what he has to say? Send him your thoughts via Twitter at @talkingofpelham.
Heaven Knows What
“Heaven Knows What” does the job that numerous DARE programs failed to do. It shows just how drugs can destroy lives and reduce people to soulless streetwalkers who only submit to bags of heroin. The film has a gritty feel to it, and the sprawling, dirty New York setting helps illustrate the sheer hopelessness of these young people. The actors do a fantastic job displaying the desperation of these characters.
The film does have weak points. It’s a character study which mostly focuses on an addict named Harley, which means that the majority of the film follows her daily routine and her interactions with her fellow junkies. A lack of motivation or goal (besides getting drugs and hooking up with a sadistic boyfriend) makes the film a bit of a chore to sit through. The overall effect is uncomfortable and horrifying, which is what the director was probably gunning for.
Rating: 7/10 Throwing Stars
Watch the trailer for "Heaven Knows What" here:
He Never Died
Never before has a film featured a vicious cannibal who seems so pleasant. Jack is shown to be a gruff, quiet man who eats in his regular spot at a local diner and indulges in bingo. Occasionally, however, he tends to give into his habit of consuming flesh and brooding about the fact that he is an immortal being. The film serves as an excellent noir with great characters and fun, over-the-top action.
While “He Never Died” is bloody and quite brutal, director Jason Krawczyk makes sure to make certain areas funny and light-hearted to keep it from becoming a brutally depressing drag. The best parts focus on the relationship between the stoic Jack and Andrea, his bubbly, teenage daughter. The two play off each other wonderfully. The film also features great action and has enough broken bones and bloody noses that leave midnight moviegoers satisfied.
Rating: 8/10 Bingo Cards
Watch a clip from "He Never Died" now:
“The Invitation” starts off really slowly and focuses on social anxiety and the uneasiness of being in an enclosed space with strange people. This is illustrated when a man attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife and her odd, new significant other at the house where his young son died. The majority of the film deals with the man’s paranoia and the horrific possibility of what could happen. To him, every weird activity planned for the guests deepens his suspicion and makes him wonder if he can figure out the hosts’ endgame before time runs out.
It’s not until about the last 15 minutes that the film shift gears and turns insane. This dramatic climax is the resolution for nearly an hour of buildup and worth it for the most part. It’s quite jarring to see the film switch pace so suddenly, but the tension and the clever ending make the journey worth it.
Rating 6/10 Red Lanterns
"The Invitation" centers around one man's experience at a dinner party. Image courtesy of Gamechanger Films.