Welcome to Cinematic Nightmare Candy. Providing your horror sweet tooth its (hopefully) terrifying fix.
This time I am back with two new delightfully twisted, thought-provoking horrors.
The Hole in the Ground (Lee Cronin)
Anchoring some of the Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s vibe, The Hole in the Ground is an Irish-born retelling with narrative nuances and an eeriness all its own.
Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) move away to a small rural area of Ireland. As a single parent, she’s got a lot of maternal, realistic concerns without the horror that awaits her.
After Chris gets lost in the woods one night, he seems to be changed. His personality, eating habits, and distinct memories have shifted. When one of her neighbors, (a woman known for her distrust of a child that led to a child’s perishing) dies horribly, Sarah is even more concerned.
It’s a genuinely creepy experience, luckily, and it makes for a slow burn discomforting exhibition. Seána Kerslake is terrific straddling that element of “who to believe” as everyone considers her unstable, with the clear victim of an unexpected and scary precipice. Is her son, her son? Wouldn’t a mother know? That instinctual motherly awareness is a big part of the film. Chris is acting differently, and it’s something the audience automatically sees, but how does one prove that?
With some genuinely terrifying imagery and set design and moments that definitely speak to our mental fragility and awareness of who we think we know best, The Hole in the Ground strikes a nerve. It’s a hidden gem.
Friend of the World (Brian Patrick Butler)
Friend of the world is a quick, 50 minutes of surreal, talkative black-and-white curiosity of a film.
At its start, Keaton (Alexandra Slade) is in a room full of corpses. She carefully treks by them looking for a way out. What’s happened? Why are they dead? The answers are few in this film, but the intrigue never wavers.
Soon she encounters Gore (Nick Young) who seems like a John Goodman from 10 Cloverfield Lane type as if he’s been expecting whatever has happened to come to fruition. He has a lot of ideas and claims to be a general, and perhaps, these are the last two to survive in this world.
The movie is sometimes infuriating because of its very remote locale and indistinct direction. While purposeful, I’m sure, it begs the pondering, what are we saying here? By its end, you get more of a distinction, and definitely an appreciation for the artistic value, but still feel like you’re clinging to the shadows.
We do discern details like Keaton is a filmmaker, and she was here accounting footage. But, the why, is eluded. Gore says there’s a cure for what’s occurring to people, and with some terrific effects, especially for a low-budget film, that combines body horror and suspense, it makes for a tantalizing play. Those gnarlier shots were especially a high point.
I will say, it’s not easy to sustain a film with two characters, let alone continue to keep the audience’s suspicions and attention sufficiently. Brian Patrick Butler writes, directs, and produces this genre flick with ample intention, even if it sometimes feels uncertain.
As the film continues there are some intriguing twists and turns, and I love the direction it goes in, as well as its eventual compelling finality. Even if Friend of the World sometimes meanders, the captivating performances, gnarly practical effects, and intelligent direction make the most of its limited screen time and show Brian Patrick Butler is a force in the genre film world.