Here are reviews for the six films I saw on Day Two.
The film that Ben Parker's The Chamber is most similar to is the 2015 film Pressure where a small sub experiences major issues at the bottom of the ocean, but Ben Parker's directorial debut is the superior film. In The Chamber a Special ops commander (played by Charlotte Salt) commandeers a sub and goes to the bottom the Yellow Sea, at the bottom of the sea is something the Americans need but when a controlled explosion goes wrong the crew are fighting for their lives.
When films are restricted to a single location it requires a great deal of acting talent and directorial skill to keep the tension up. The confined spaces of the rickety old submarine tests the patience of the Special Ops servicemen and they snap under the pressure and begin fighting amongst their selves(perhaps seasoned professionals should have coped with the scenario better). The tension between the characters and the predicament they find themselves in ramps up the tension which never lets up. There are also some good performances from Charlotte Salt and Johannnes Kuhnrke.
Seth (Dominic Monaghan) is a socially awkward, lonely guy working at an animal shelter and on the way home from work he spots a former class mate, of whom he had a crush on, named Holly (Ksenia Solo). Seth immediately expresses his interest but Holly isn't remotely interested so Seth takes matters to the extreme by drugging and kidnapping Holly, locking her in her cage as though, as the title suggests, she was a pet.
Pet is a difficult film to talk about but starts off as an incredibly cringeworthy film as Seth's social interactions with Holly are painful to watch, but as his behaviour gets slightly more stalkery (looking at pictures online, making notes of her dislikes and likes and turning up at her work) you do recognise his desperation and loneliness and feel somewhat sorry for him. Now, however, we get to the reason why Pet is difficult film to talk about. Around the start of the second act the film takes massive turn and turns what would have been a bog standard thriller about a creepy guy kidnapping a pretty girl into something unforgettable and intense. Credit goes to director and writer Carles Torrens for making a film with generally shocking turns and credit also goes to Dominic Monaghan and Ksenia Solo whose perfect performances make the forever changing playing field between their two characters as intense as it is.
Also, it's worth noting that I met Dominic Monaghan at the Q and A following this film, and a fine Q and A it was.
The worst film of the festival was perhaps Daniel de La Vega's White Coffin. Set in Argentina, a women's child is kidnapped and taken by this cult. She must find a white coffin and present it to the cult, but she's not the only one as there's also two other mothers fighting for the same coffin and they are willing to kill for it.
The film's plot is an excellent one and the ending is as dark and unforgiving as they come, but the rest of the film is so fucking annoying is undoes any effective story points. The most deeply and painfully annoying thing about the film is the dreadful sound design, it is headache inducingly loud to the extent that I almost left. I'm pretty sure they didn't do anything to level out the sound to normal levels before releasing the headache inducing thing the audience. Also the film's style is similar to that of classic and crappy European horror films of the 70s and 80s and that's bloody annoying as well. It would probably have been a good film if it didn't give me a headache.
House from Willow Street
Director Alistair Orr, whose last film was the reasonably decent Indigenous (called Prey in England) manages to recruit Australian scream queen Sharni Vinson (as reliable as ever) in this interesting take on the possession genre where a group of kidnappers abduct the daughter of diamond distributor. However, something evil and not of this world resides in this girl.
I very much liked the premise of this movie, it puts a very different spin on the crime gone wrong film, and it would be very interesting to see how the kidnappers would react to discovering they've kidnapped something demonic. Whilst nursing what seemed to be a pretty deadly hangover director Orr explained that he didn't want to make a film with an exciting opening, a quiet second act and finally an insane final third. The film certainly has an insane conclusion but the whole film doesn't leave too much for boredom to creep in as its jam-packed with scares and frights. That of course is all well and good but it does leave ample opportunity for the film to feel somewhat repetitive, it's only so many times that a character sees a dead relative or friend followed a sudden loud sound effect before a person's patience is worn a little thin.
Yet, there are impressive attempts to give characters some back story ans thus making them worth being invested in and the performances from Sharni Vinson and Carlyn Burchell (as the possessed victim) are top notch. As a film from my favourite sub genre, from my favourite genre it was certainly a thrilling ride.
It's somewhat appropriate that Sharni Vinson was in the previous film as one of her finest films, You're Next, is one that Mercy is very similar to. You will have to go a long way to find a family as repulsive as this one as they gather at their mother's death bed, ignoring the advice of her doctor to inject her with a cure so that she dies and they receive their inheritance. Things, however, go pear shaped as the home is invaded by masked killers
The tension is Mercy is kicked off by the clear friction between the biological sons and the adopted sons who are constantly at each other's throats, making an already unlikeable family even more unlikeable. With everyone pretty much at war with each other a home invasion is thrust into the already boiling pot and until the identity of the home invaders is revealed Mercy a pretty fun film. Whilst Mercy is a well made film there isn't too much to write home about, except for the smart idea to show the home invasion from different perspectives, which worked rather well.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot
Alan Jones announced that this Italian award winner is likely to change the face of the Italian cinema, quite a statement for sure. Due the critical and financial success this Italian film about a guy who falls into the polluted river Tiber and develops superpowers and fights a crime boss will result in many similar films coming from that part of the World.
They Call Me Jeeg Robot gives Marvel a lesson in how to create a villain as Luca Marinelli is so brilliant in the role he'd probably make a good Joker. Claudio Santamaria is also superb and his relationship with Alessia, played by Ilenia Pastorelli (who won an Italian Oscar for her role despite being an unpopular casting), is moving despite the creepy Leon: The Professional vibe due to Alessia's child like mentality and the age gap between the two. It's a terrific, dark superhero film that ranks among the best despite the fact it's from a country that you would never expect to make a superhero film.