TIFF 2018 Review: HOLD THE DARK (USA 2018) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Hold the Dark Poster
Trailer

After the deaths of three children suspected to be by wolves, writer Russell Core is hired by the parents of a missing six-year-old boy to track down and locate their son in the Alaskan wilderness.

Director:

Jeremy Saulnier

Writers:

Macon Blair (screenplay by), William Giraldi (based on the book by)

HOLD THE DARK is the latest film from director Jeremy Saulnier (GREEN ROOM, BLUE RUIN) whose specialty appears to be moody thrillers.  In HOLD THE DARK, written by Macon Blair adapted from the novel by William Giraldi, the film begins with a child playing outside in the winter snow when he sees a pack of wolves.  The child goes missing.   His home is one of a handful of trailers on the edge of the wilderness in Alaska.   His father (Alexander Skarsgård) is serving in the Middle East and his mother (Riley Keough) seems to be succumbing to cabin fever.  

She calls in Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), a writer and expert on wolves; she believes the creatures took her boy and hopes Core can find him.  The film is quite different for a number of reasons that enable it to stand out.  The first is the wilderness setting.  The second is an unlikely older unattractive looking hero who disappears for a length of the film.  Anyone can be killed off in the story.  

The film is also a bit over the top in violence that undermines the authenticity of the story.  Still, HOLD THE DARK is an apt thriller.

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Movie Review: GREEN ROOM. Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat

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green_room.jpgGREEN ROOM (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat

Review by Gilbert Seah

Character development is not really important in a slasher horror film. But it helps that the audience can identify with the characters and know something about them so that they are not just numbered victims. An example is the upcoming BODY in which the director spends a considerable amount of time giving each of the three girl victims a distinct personality.

The premise of the film is a simple one. A punk band called ‘The Ain’t Rights’ is dead broke. Their car is stranded and they are so out of cash that they have to siphon gas from other cars to get to their gigs. One of their desperate gigs is a Neo-Nazi skinhead bar headed by a no-nonsense meanie played by Patrick Stewart. After witnessing a stabbing, the band members and the victim’s friend (Imogen Poots) are locked in a GREEN ROOM. The Neo-Nazis want them (the only witnesses) done away with. It is Neo-Nazis vs. punks.

In GREEN ROOM, spending time on characterizations seems useless for two reasons. Firstly, there is no need to know anything about a victim who is no longer there in the film and characterization serves to give a hint as to who will survive. The nasty personalities are usually killed of first, as stated in the spoof SCARE films, a fact only too true. But director Saulnier (BLUE RUIN) cleverly introduces each of the band members at the start of the film through an interview in which each member has their say. Much can also be read from each’s favourite band, a running joke in the film.

The characters are all nasty in their own way. Saulnier makes none of them any less sympathetic. It finally comes down to the question of who is the least nasty.

Atmosphere and mood wise, GREEN ROOM has an extremely scary look – credit to the tech department involved. Whether out in the open or in the green room, the film always has a claustrophobic feel that the victims can never escape.
Performance-wise, the one that stands out is Patrick Stewart as D’Arcy. Stewart appears to have moulded his role out of Rob Zombie (THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, HALLOWEEN). Of the cast, all do well in the screamingly best.

Saulnier also teases the audience in number of ways. In one scene he shows a victim with no blood and just a sharp object on the side of her head. No blood. Want blood? The next scene has the object pulled out with lots of blood gushing out flooding the carpet.

Saulnier does have a soft spot for innocent victims. The killer dog in one scene is allowed to survive and is shown sadly putting its head down and mourning its dead owner.

GREEN ROOM finally emerges as an efficient chiller, not suitable for the weak-hearted or even for the strong hearted in the early hours of the day. An entertaining nasty piece of work if one has the stomach for it.

 

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