This year’s festival offered plenty of devilishly dark delights within its raucous Midnight strand.
It is hardly surprising that the biggest winner, money-wise at least, was Sam Levinson’s wild, female-led revenge romp Assassination Nation. With a feisty cast led by Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Abra and Suki Waterhouse, this brazen social media-driven chiller tapped into contemporary fears of cyber bullying and online shaming, going down a storm in early screenings.
Cue the princely sum of $10 million being laid down for rights for its worldwide release. Although the film wore its message heavily on its sleeve, expect to hear plenty more about this badass response to #MeToo in the months ahead.
Less fresh but just as timely is the aptly titled Revenge, from French director Coralie Fargeat, who gives the familiar rape-revenge thriller a new zing of life and sense of empowerment (think I Spit on Your Grave amped up to 11). Matilda Lutz puts in a spirited turn for our times as the assault victim turned avenger, in scenes that feel especially pertinent in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Summer of ’84 attempts to mine an altogether different kind of familiarity, with its unapologetic Stranger Things-esque pastiche of 1980s nostalgia. It struggles to deliver on its well-trodden premise though, and the predictable twist arrives too late to really fire. Still, Montreal triple threat collective RKSS’s follow-up to Turbo Kid produced an enjoyably daft take on the dark underbelly of suburbia that carried a semblance of truth for pop culture nerds.
Sundance always offers opportunities for rebirth. This year, it was Nicolas Cage’s turn, as he gave another potential comeback performance in the bloody drug-hazed horror Mandy, in which he wreaks hell and fury on a cult that kidnaps and abuses his wife, played by Andrea Riseborough. Director Panos Cosmatos conjures a visceral world of substance-abuse barbarity that screamed heavy metal (in a nod to the heavier side of ’80s life), with sexual misconduct a key theme to make this blood-soaked trip feel topical, icky and trippy.
Even more effectively, Lords of Chaos pitches the idea of metal heads losing their minds, in a black comedy horror where Swedish director Jonas Akerlund embraces his metal roots (a former metal band member himself, before becoming an-demand music video director and accomplished filmmaker). A great cast (with some familiar faces) guided by some intense, intelligent direction and flair makes this a bona fide Midnight highlight. It rocked. Hard.
This ultra-violent Nic Cage revenge flick is the stuff midnight movie legend is made of.
By Katy Vans
Karyn Kusama and St Vincent’s Annie Clark are among those contributing to an all-female anthology film.