The latest festival that New Orleans is happy to be hosting, The Overlook Film Festival, is one of horrific delights. From premiere screenings (like the U.S. debut of high profile zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die) and independent never-before-seens to virtual reality and immersive experiences, Overlook will give local moviegoers fun scares from May 30th to June 2nd, 2019.
At the time of this article publishing, we have one day left of the event. It’s recommended for all to visit the first hyperlink (above) and see what’s left still to view and feel, between Le Petit in the French Quarter and the now-closed cinema at Canal Place.
Below, you’ll find a triple dose of movie reviews (two features and one short) that’ll help give an impression as to what Overlook has been/is doing this year. While genre pulls the thread of these selections, what the films share in common, in an odd twist, is in how they represent heavy facets of cinema. How they interact with the surface-level mechanics of watching/comprehending movies to creating/making fun of them in the first place are covered in vastly interesting and entertaining ways.
Whatever the future holds for movies, it’s good to know that there is indeed room to play in this great, grand, and young medium:
Hell isn’t under our feet; it’s right here on Earth. At least, that’s part of the idea in Porno, a horror-comedy of hardcore Christian “ideals” and succubus nonsense (the good kind, anyway). I recently watched the obscure Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore on TCM, a movie whose philosophy couldn’t be farther from the world in Porno. In Not a Virgin, we follow a misfit crew of movie theater employees who intermingle their love lives and learn about maturity along the way. In Porno, maturity is achieved through a series of revelations, dipping into “sin”, maintaining one’s “edge”, and a reel of ritualistic nudity that only fundamentalists would think of as true blue pornography.
Set in a small town bible belt type movie theater in the 90s (Encino Man and A League of Their Own are playing), a staff of four boys and one young lady uncover a secret lost film for their late night movie club screening. This seedy footage is made up of sacrifice and naked bodies, but no sexual acts whatsoever. Just the images of genitalia alone freak everyone out, which ultimately opens a door for a demon to unleash all kinds of danger upon them. It’s a little disappointing but makes absolute sense that a goofy European art film from hell would release, for kids growing up under the thumb of Christianity, true evil.
It would’ve been fun for more subtlety in the “porno” itself. Like a faux 70s goofy pizza man story or something. Alas, it’s the literal interpretation of what bible thumpers would have us believe all porn is like.
That is boring, unfortunately. What isn’t boring is everything else. Porno is a fun romp of young and small-minded religious sorts, trying to figure out their place in everything while also attempting to save the world. Each character has something to confront, and confront they each will on this night. By going through their personal demons, they’ll come out more adult than before, and more healthy too.
With a fair amount of gross gore and trippy visuals, Porno lands somewhere in the middle for me. Its main gesture is to expose what the religiously fearful see when imagining the dirty, and that expression works out well enough and is maintained throughout, but there is something tame about the horror. Something too clean, despite the ounces of blood and shots of organs. Something… held back? Porno has just enough to get us through a hump but not enough to pull us to complete satisfaction.
Still, a movie that takes place in a theater, involving hell beasts and fascination with/fear of sex gets a decent grade in my book.
RATING: 3 / 5
The Obliteration of the Chickens
There are few things funnier to me than comedy at the expense of Werner Herzog. As much a grand filmmaker as he is, his voice, his cadence, and his understanding of the universe all make for endless laugh fodder for me (just watch Grizzly Man). No, it doesn’t come from a mean spirited place – Herzog is spot on in observations about ecstatic truth – but rather a loving place. The Obliteration of the Chickens gets me and my affair with this auteur’s style of speech, and ought to be required pre-amble viewing for anyone about to watch some Herzog.
For starters, it’s very much making light and having a little fun at the expense of Herzog. It’s a short that concludes most dramatically with a call to kill chickens, for they are soulless and absurd. Herzog, in real life, has disdain and anxiety for these animals. Check one. Obliteration is also a remix video, edited and culled together from previously captured footage made available online. It features shots of people walking, animals grazing, a juxtaposition of the two, and so on. Very much, Obliteration takes to its edit with sped up gusto, keeping the Herzog thread in voice-over only but nailing the artsy nature of pretentious and provocative filmmakers alike (not that Herzog is either of those). Check two.
Obliteration is a riot. It’d be interesting to see filmmaker Izzy Lee go beyond 3 minutes in running time with this kind of format and tempo, but the fire exhibited here might snuff itself out in that case. Obliteration is a jokey trip that’ll make you laugh and have palpitations too. Your heart will race as fast as your mind while trying to figure out where you stand on Herzog. No worries if you’re laughing at or alongside him; he likely doesn’t care.
RATING: 3.5 / 5
One Cut of the Dead
It’s rare that a film comes along that hits me with a swerve. A curveball. A trick, if you will. One Cut of the Dead does just this and then some. It’ll be difficult to avoid spoilers fully, so I’ll tread lightly. The international comedy darling zombie flick, about a hack filmmaking team getting overrun by the undead, is a blast of surprising proportions.
It’s called One Cut due to its famed one long camera take from beginning to its ghoulish resolution, where everyone and anyone has been “hacked” away. Hack is a key word here, given the demands of the unwieldy and out of his mind director character, who summons a curse upon his set to get “real” cinema. He rages, he rampages, he records, all the while his crew get bitten and turned.
Would it be appropriate to make a comparison here? Cause I saw a lot of Bowfinger in One Cut. Both films are about the trials, tribulations, toils, and trots of thankless filmmaking, featuring out of their depth directors who have a only a dream and plenty of guts for that one emotionally rewarding moment of glory, when the lights flicker on and they see their story come to life. It sounds like I’m making One Cut’s crazy director character into a hero, and I am. He faces obstacle after obstacle, all that need overcoming, in order to bring a vision out of the blur. And while a zombie invasion happens. Hilarious and inspiring.
It’s been a difficult exercise in avoiding plot details, so allow me to leave you with one additional note: Do not leave during the credits. Stay. You’ll understand.
One Cut of the Dead is a joy to watch and a pleasure to think about. Everyone will want to become a filmmaker after seeing this. I feel good about the next generation.
RATING: 5 / 5
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews