Day 1 reviews of Arrow FrightFest Digital 2.
Stuart Wright looks at two films from the first day of Arrow FrightFest Digital 2, Chris Lofting & Travis Cluff's HELD and Courtney Paige's THE SINNERS.
Directors: Chris Lofing & Travis Cluff.
Writer: Jill Awbrey.
Cast: Jill Awbrey, Bart Johnson, Rez Kempton, Zack Gold.
Emma and Henry Barrett are celebrating their anniversary at a secluded, state of the art holiday rental home. It’s soon clear their marriage is on the rocks. You also sense from the get-go, they’re not locking people out with the hi-tech security, they’re perhaps locking themselves in. While they sleep the booze off from the first night, a home invasion with a twist is triggered. Awbrey’s intelligent script combines key elements of two Ira Levin books: the prying, unseen eyes of SLIVER, and the wanton misogyny of STEPFORD WIVES. Together they add up to a new take on SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY (1991), but the enemy is a macro notion of all men. At the heart of HELD’s horror is the warped notion that good is being done to protect the sanctity of marriage. It takes a little too long for this aspect to come to the boil, but once out in the open, the film doesn’t labour with its pointed comment on the extreme lengths ‘men’ will go to sustain the patriarchy. Leaving the audience to think on whether men can ever be trusted. A nightmare for both sexes.
THE SINNERS (aka THE COLOR ROSE)
Director: Courtney Paige.
Writers: Erin Hazlehurst, Courtney Paige and Madison Smith.
Cast: Kaitlyn Bernard, Brenna Llewellyn, Brenna Coates, Keilani Elizabeth Rose.
THE SINNERS, or ‘The Sins’ are a clique of seven young women, enduring their final high school years in a small, godfearing outpost of rural North America. Grace, the pastor’s daughter, is the ring leader and Aubrey is the weak link in their chain of resistance. Like HEATHERS (1989) and MEAN GIRLS (2004) before it, these young women – parading about the place with the help of the slo-mo trope - have decided fuck the world is best form of attack when hiding your insecurities from it. Losing patience with Aubrey, they almost kill her while trying to scare her back on track with some satanism. She runs away when they almost kill her. The remaining six say nothing as Courtney Paige’s film sheds its teen rebellion skin and hides for cover in the comfort of a whodunnit/missing persons story. The overused voiceover of dead Aubrey, like a diluted Lester Burnham (AMERICAN BEAUTY, 1999) spoon feeds us a narrative from beyond the grave as ‘someone’ kills the rest of ‘The Sins’. The first half of THE SINNERS made some bold character and story choices in the set up, but by the time of Aubrey’s actual death, it’s hard to care who sinned who, as the convoluted plot tries to cover too many characters’ points of view before the credits roll.