Sundance Day 1 Recap
I got a bit later of a start than usual this year after a couple of my screening plans fell through the last two days. But I could finally see two films today so my Sundance season has now officially begun. While yesterday was Day 3 for everyone else, it was Day 1 for me so it's time to play catchup by checking out some of the most talked about movies of the festival so far.
Freaky Tales is a series of seemingly inconsequential vignettes that invariably intertwine as the movie progresses. 1980s Oakland acts as the backdrop here, with plenty of classic metal anthems and synths to accompany the film's frequent scenes of mayhem. The film is told in four chapters and unfortunately, each story is not created equally. In fact, I didn't find myself very interested in the film until the third chapter and by then I wasn't sure I could overcome my apathy. Plus, it doesn't help that when those two storylines do make their way into the others, they still don't really feel justified in existing, rather they just feel roped in and insignificant. That said, its over-the-top violent ending makes up for a lot, so I can see how a lot of people felt so enthusiastic about it and came out of it raving. Ultimately, I'm not the audience for this, though I'm sure it will be beloved by many.
There are some really good performances to be found in Freaky Tales. The second half of the film gets the benefit of being supported by strong acting turns from Pedro Pascal and Ben Mendolhsen, while the first two storylines lack characters with much depth. While there are definite highlights as the film does its very best to channel Quentin Tarantino in its last vignette, I just felt overall this film was less than the sum of its parts.
IT'S WHAT'S INSIDE
It’s What’s Inside is the type of movie that’s so hard to know how to review. Its central concept is one that is better kept a secret, for the viewer to enjoy the surprise of…well what’s inside. But more broadly told, It’s What’s Inside follows the gathering of a group of old college friends getting together to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of their friends. But the evening takes a turn when one of the members of the group brings along a mysterious suitcase whose contents bring fateful consequences.
It takes a little bit to really get going, but once it does It’s What’s Inside is quite the ride. It’s definitely a concept film, and its gimmick is explored fully and well. I would say it’s poised to be the next runaway Sundance horror hit, save for a few snags. The first of which, is that well it’s not really horror. It always feels as though it could veer there, but never quite does. It instead settles more for a mystery whodunnit type of feel. The other issue keeping it from true greatness is that a movie like this would excel with deep complex characters, but instead, they come off as more caricatures. Sometimes in horror movies that doesn’t really matter, but this one in particular you need to really differentiate between these characters and it kind of becomes tough to do. I don’t need my horror characters to be likable, but it helps when there’s more depth to them at least.
Still, those things aside, it is an impressive feature! It’s creatively told and continually engaging. It keeps you on the edge of your seat guessing where it’s going to go, and you can never quite predict it. I don’t know what its current plans are for distribution, but I’m excited for this to get a wide release and for more people to see it. But I hope when they do they can keep a secret to preserve its surprises.