Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston Underground Film Festival 2011 Day 6: Chop and Profane

If someone going to BUFF had opted for the "recession special" - a $35 pass that got the audience unlimited admission to the second half of the festival, the encore showings which run Monday through Thursday - Tuesday would have been a good night to sample the award winners. Both the "Director's Choice Feature", Chop, and the "Best of Fest Feature", Profane, played that night. I, personally would have recommended what was in Theater #4 instead - I found The Corridor slightly better than Chop and much preferred the gonzo fun of Helldriver to the well-intentioned but ultimately very dull Profane.

I must admit, I had to scratch my head a little when the awards were published (I missed the gala/party, because I was at Phase 7 and had to work the next day) - I had managed to miss (nearly) every single one of the awarded films by taking my first choices over the weekend, with the exception being Hobo With a Shotgun, which won the audience award. I guess that must have been voted on at the party or something, because I don't remember seeing audience ballots. If so, it had a leg up by not having its audience split (it was the only thing playing opening night); it thus had a better chance to be many people's favorite of the fest.

My votes likely would have gone to The Dead Inside, Phase 7, and Cold Fish, but even though I really disliked the Best of Fest selection, it's a reasonable choice given that BUFF is a festival devoted to envelope-pushing, and all four of the Best of Fest/Director's Choice winners and runners up were movies that do that in one way or another. My tastes are fairly mainstream - I like movies where things happen and as a result people do things, generally solving some sort of problem, and the story is told clearly. So, Profane is not for me, but it fits in with what BUFF is about perfectly.

(One other note: Though the director was not in attendance for either of these movies, Usama Alshaibi did send a video message mentioning that he was recovering from being assaulted a couple weeks earlier, an apparent hate crime. I may not like his movie, but that's despicable, and I wish him a speedy recovery and justice.)


* * * (out of four)
Seen 29 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #3 (Boston Underground Film Festival 2011)

Earlier in this festival, I saw a film described as a black comedy that played pretty well as a straight thriller. This one, meanwhile, is presented as a revenge thriller, but winds up being presented so broadly that it only really works as a comedy. Fortunately, if you're down with this sort of bloody, wise-ass flick, it can work pretty well.

Lance Reed (Billy Bakshi) is being faced with a really lousy choice - some guy (Timothy Muskatell) has kidnapped him and his half-brother Bobby (Chad Ferrin), then informed him that there's another man back home with his wife (Tanisha Mukerji), ready to kill her after having some fun. Time to choose. Oh, but before you do, there's something you should know. Well, Lance makes his choice, but it's the sort of thing that leads to cops and others asking Lance questions. Lance's question is about who this guy is and what his beef is - Lance was kind of a jerk in his addict days, but nothing about his captor is ringing a bell.

Things, of course, get worse. This is a movie about things getting worse, piling more blood, mayhem, secrets, and depraved behavior on until it blows past tension to absurdity. It's fast-paced and full of both amusing one-liners and abundant gore; the audience is unlikely ever to find themselves bored - the movie seldom allows a tense situation to simmer, always rushing toward the next nasty revelation or mutilation. In a way, it's a good thing that director Trent Haaga and writer Adam Minarovich are so committed to just going for the next worst thing; it gives Chop a consistently irreverent, almost cartoonish tone. This might be a happy accident, and Haaga's and Minarovich's goal might have been to make a nail-biter whose events shocked even as they made a well-hidden part of the viewer snicker, but in cases like this, it may be better to do one thing well than two so-so.

Full review at EFC.


* ½ (out of four)
Seen 29 March 2011 in Landmark Kendall Square #3 (Boston Underground Film Festival 2011)

Congratulations, Usama Alshaibi. You've managed to make spiritualism, Islamic mythology, and kinky sex boring in one brief eighty-minute feature. That's quite an impressive accomplishment, considering that most of the movie doesn't seem interested in accomplishing much of anything.

Meet Muna (Manal Kara). She moved to the United States from Jordan for school when she was younger, but of late has not been studying. Instead, she's been working as a dominatrix in Chicago, partaking of alcohol and drugs and other forbidden things. She's also been hearing voices, and believes them to be her jinn, a sort of demon of smokeless fire, some of them assigned to individual humans to tempt them toward evil. She discusses this with her friend Mary (Molly Plunk) in the back of a cab, which leads to the driver, Ali (Dejan Mircea) befriending her and offering his assistance.

And... That's mostly it. Despite the early mention of jinns, this isn't really a supernatural thriller. There's a potentially interesting idea to be played with of Mary and Ali being opposing jinns for Muna, with Mary leading her toward the pleasures and temptations of the flesh while Ali represents a spiritual cleansing and perhaps romance. If that's writer/director Alshaibi's intention, though, it's weakly executed. There's never a real sense of Muna feeling conflicted, or there being any particular consequences if she moves in one direction or another.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: