Reviews of Several Films From the Festival

Directed by Dane Elcar

One thing that really impressed me about Brightwood was director Dane Elcar’s ability to achieve the max amount of mystery, drama, scares and meaning out of such an economic setup. Two actors, by a lake I assume the production had access to first, telling a story that goes deeper than films with a hundred times the resources. It reminded me of how I felt the first time I watched Primer and the way Shane Carruth got so much out of a small cast and a garage.

And you can easily continue the Primer comparisons beyond that as well, as Brightwood similarly plays with timelines and with different version of the main actors and the timelines getting so tied together you aren’t even sure which version you are following. In that sense, it reminded me of another horror film currently out, Infinity Pool.

Jen (Dana Berger) and Dan (Max Woertendyke) are a couple who get lost while jogging around a lake. Or is it a pond? The answer to that is included in their many snippy debates. Soon they realize they are lost, soon followed by realizing they aren’t alone out there, and soon realizing they may never leave.

The little moments of scares, from seemingly faceless people bumping into the characters out of nowhere to random figures running by, works both as an unraveling of the story, with moments later coming back around, and works as a study on how to get a lot out of very little. I would especially recommend Brightwood to aspiring filmmakers to show them what you can do out of whatever available resources you may have.

Brightwood works as a metaphor for a lost relationship going nowhere, stuck in circles, and lost in time. But the bickering chemistry between the two, which turns unexpectedly funny at times, with overly-obsessive sidebars about Dan’s hair-loss, makes this creepy, trippy and comical film work as well beyond the deeper metaphor. 

Directed by Alexandra Spieth

Stag is about a reunion between two old friends and rekindling a friendship that did not end on the best of terms. It’s also about a new group of friends that something feels off about. The old friendship – full of pain yet a draw that will never go away. And a new friendship – overly-pleasant and passive-aggressive. And how the blending of the two worlds at a bachelorette party, a mix between the past and present, could be a recipe for disaster.

Stag is an interesting movie. It’s a horror-comedy, but the comedy feels more in the vein of absurdism. The score is really good, but the interesting choice is when director Alexandra Spieth chooses not to use it. When it’s conversations between girls in sort of an awkward silence. It’s a vibe that you may need to adjust to meet, but also one that’s rather unique and rewarding.

The film works best when it’s focusing on the two leads and former best friends (played by Mary Glen Frederick and Elizabeth Ramos). I kept wanting to see more from their interactions and was slightly pulled out when it focused on the dynamics between the other characters, especially some redneck local with a funny eye and a gun.

That said, what feels superfluous in the moment, eventually comes around to be satisfying.

Stag is a film that may test your patience if you’re not completely on board with its tone, but the third act will be rewarding to those slightly on board, and a complete gift to those fully invested.

Directed by Terence Krey

Moving away from your childhood home and your family’s past to find a new identity and a new life is something many people do. When you return home, you may be reminded of who you were, where you came from and some of your family secrets. I imagine that feeling is especially heightened when you happen to be a witch.

Jess (Christine Nyland) has just returned home, feeling nostalgic, but also trying to forget some of the things her mother did to betray the family. Including cheating on her father, who doesn’t know, and doing so with the next door neighbor, destroying that family as well.

After Jess’ best friend asks for her help, which requires Jess to turn back to her old powers, it starts a spiral of looking back into her past, where her abilities become wrapped in with her memories and Summoners plays out like a Springsteen song of never being able to get away from your roots meets The Craft and Practical Magic.

I would be more prone to call Summoners an indie drama over a horror, as if you go in expecting to be terrified, you may be disappointed. Instead it’s a heartfelt and emotional film coming to terms with the past and dealing with unresolved pain