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NIGHT VISIONS 2020: THE NEW (AB)NORMAL
The new (ab)normal is before us and, if we don’t screw it up royally, in just under a month we’ll be treated with a brand new serving of Night Visions greatness. The first genre festival of the decade emerges from the depths of COVID19 isolation with 23 films over 42 separate screenings, each worthy of your time.
Being the first film festival taking place right at the tail end of the pandemic in Finland, certain changes have been made to the regular proceedings. The all night marathon session will not take place this time, and the screenings have longer breaks between one another to ensure proper guideline procedures. Safety first, and I’ll happily take a modified festival now if it ensures that we can get back to the swing of things sooner this way.
Catching each film would prove a Herculean effort, so here are ten recommendations we suggest you make the effort to catch on the big screen this year.
Meanwhile, you can check out the full lineup and get your tickets as they go on sale July 31 from the festival website.
Click on the name of each film for more information.
Already terrifying festival audiences worldwide, THE LODGE finally arrives on our screens at exactly the right time. The film follows a newly formed family (a father and his new wife and his two resentful children), who arrive to spend Christmas at a snowed in remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. But with no civilization around and bizarre events happening around the family, past trauma rises to the surface and nobody is safe as the walls begin to close in on them.
Stupendously acted by Riley Keough, Jaden Martell, and Lia McHugh, THE LODGE is one of those intimate and small stunners that are best seen in the dark with strangers.
Horror anthologies are a difficult sell. What’s scary to some will not be even remotely so for others, which often leads to collections like this being wildly erratic in quality. But what if you took that same idea and subverted expectations by depicting the horror on a meta level? Focusing instead on the tropes, genre staples, and characters that define the films we love? You’d get SCARE PACKAGE, a loving and insane tribute and send off to horror in all its forms.
Directed by an eclectic mix of talents from behind and in front of the camera, the anthology casts a wide net for its near two hour runtime. In the vein of classics like CREEPSHOW, SCARE PACKAGE promises a rowdy, crowd pleasing good time for anyone who loves horror films – or just a good scare.
Filed under the ever-growing genre of “what in the ever-loving fuck did I just watch”, BUTT BOY defies any straight definition. Is it a horror film? A comedy? A thriller? A satire? Impossible to tell. But for fans of the unconventional it promises to be the definitive film to see in a year that continues to grow stranger by the minute.
Chip Gutchell lives a sadly average life without a single thing to bring him titillation or joy. That is until a routine colonoscopy triggers something in him, awakening a desire to insert larger and stranger items into his ass to achieve pleasure. Nine years later he’s happily married and enjoying his life as an AA sponsor. When his latest ward, a manic cop called Russell Fox, begins to suspect that Gutchell has something to do with a case he’s been working on, the duo find themselves in a bizarre game of cat and mouse that defies description.
Even as I write this I can’t tell if BUTT BOY is a real movie or not, which makes me want to see it even more. If nothing else, it will be something unlike anything you’ll see on the big screen this year – or probably any year. And isn’t that what Night Visions really is for?
Shunned by prudish American critics and audiences for its frank, lustful, and even lurid depictions of sex and sexuality, SHOWGIRLS is often cited as one of the worst films of all time. Naturally the truth is somewhere in between, as Paul Verhoeven’s film isn’t a particularly great one (or even that good most of the time), but it’s nowhere near the turgid quality its reputation might suggest.
Verhoeven is a blunt satirist, always going for one extreme or the other to make a point, and it’s not the first time he’s been misunderstood over the years. Both his masterpieces, ROBOCOP and STARSHIP TROOPERS, took years to find audiences that understood what they were going for, and even now (with both being remade) it feels like people are still missing the point.
SHOWGIRLS is a nasty, raunchy, and oddly tender satire at the excess and inhumane side of America that people liked to pretend didn’t exist when the film was released. Today, as the great empire is imploding, it reeks of prescience as the rise and fall of stripper Nomi Malone is charted in neon lights and excessively long takes of her anatomy. Called a misogynist, feminist, satirist, and prophet, Verhoeven’s film is ripe for a multitude of hot takes and essays because it’s all over the place. It’s a messy cauldron of everything that never finds a tone, but it’s never boring.
Seeing it on the big screen in a new 4K restoration will be a trip, especially as it’s projected to horny audiences coming out of months-long isolation and into human contact for the first time in ages.
The festival is also screening the documentary YOU DON’T NOMI, about the legacy of SHOWGIRLS. It makes for a great double bill, especially if you’re interested in how a film’s perception over the decades changes the material itself – even if the film itself doesn’t change.
Allegedly based on a true story, director Lee Won-tae’s latest action thriller follows three characters: The titular gangster, cop, and devil (or in this case, a serial killer). The gangster and cop are natural enemies who, when the former is nearly murdered by the devil in the equation, are forced to work together to bring down their mutual nemesis for good. What follows is a buddy comedy without the comedy, instead replaced with the kind of vivid and wild action sequences that only South Korean cinema seems to get right.
Starring the impossibly charismatic Ma Dong-seok, THE GANGSTER, THE COP, THE DEVIL promises to be yet another pulse pounding ride from a country that has been on a winning streak for two decades now. See it before the inevitably disappointing Sylvester Stallone remake comes out next year.
Considering the amount of films where things go wrong on three hour cruises, who even would dare to go on one these days? Luckily for us, the leading trio in HARPOON, that’s who. Written and directed by Rob Grant, HARPOON sees a hapless group of so-called friends head out into open waters with an intent to have a day of relaxing and celebrating, which naturally turns ugly and violent as bitter rivalries and sexual frustration begins to surface.
Told through textbook Canadian humor (complete with narration, time skips, and freeze frames), HARPOON has been garnering praise and delight at every festival it’s appeared in. Clocking in at just 83 minutes, it doesn’t offer a single minute extra to breathe, and that’s just fine. Who’s looking at the clock when the mayhem is this much fun?
Not much is known about this short film from director Juho Fossi except that it’s a nightmarish look at the descent into madness of an expectant father who, during a renovation project of a future nursery, begins to hear his future failures projected from a baby monitor. The high concept script, from Fossi and writer Avi Heikkinen, promises ample scares and terror from its simple premise.
Hailing from Columbia, LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL looks to continue the proud tradition of folk horror under pastel skies and breathtaking scenery.
Set in a remote village nestled in the Andes, an authoritarian patriarch rules his tiny congregation with an iron fist, promising the arrival of the messiah to his wards. Depicting the oppressiveness of faith and how close it runs hand in hand with fanaticism, LUZ looks to be a delirious trip into the unknown, cradled in beautiful vistas that hide the ugliness of man.
Who knew that Norway would rise up as one of the premiere countries for disaster films? I certainly wouldn’t have taken that bet, yet here we are. After a run of films like THE WAVE and THE QUAKE, it seems like our neighbor to the west is a far more dangerous place to visit than previously expected.
Taking a cue from classic disaster films of Hollywood past, THE TUNNEL has a sprawling cast of characters facing certain death in one a collapsed tunnel system somewhere under the Norwegian landscape. The premise is clearly inspired by elements of Sylvester Stallone’s terrible DAYLIGHT, but hopefully with less melodrama, and it certainly shares DNA with its two previously mentioned siblings. Like those, THE TUNNEL promises to be a good time from the most unexpected source.
Forget about THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS films, this is Paul Walker’s true legacy and greatest cinematic achievement. Like the testosterone fueled car films, TAMMY AND THE T-REX is also about family, just not in the most traditional sense.
Walker is in love with Denise Richards(!), and their high school romance seems to be blossoming into something grander when tragedy strikes and Walker is killed by a jealous gang leader. Luckily another local, this time a mad scientist, has the power to transfer Walker’s consciousness into the body of an animatronic T-Rex! Nothing comes in the way of true love, not even anatomy or logic.
Filled with buckets of low budget gore, a script that can only be understood through the power of hallucinogens, and two bafflingly earnest performances from Walker and Richards, TAMMY AND THE T-REX is the kind of rare rip-off that is so out there it becomes an entity all of its own. Here’s hoping this one is played at midnight, and that there’s alcohol involved.