It’s Halloween night, and Jake (an intense Eric Tabach) is a video editor working out of his New York City apartment on a local TV news story about a fatal traffic stop that involved a police officer and a former state attorney general. When Jake gets an email from the state’s press office marked “Confidential,” he opens it to find dashcam evidence suggesting that what happened on the road that night might have been an assassination.
The spooked-out Jake, who dreams of being a reporter, leaves his apartment to look for a clue he thinks is hidden in Washington Square Park. But what’s with the car idling outside his apartment?
Nilsson has cited Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation” as an inspiration, and it shows. “Dashcam” is at its creepiest when just audio and video clips, and Jake’s surgical adjustments to them, steer the paranoia-driven story. Over 82 unnerving minutes, Nilsson squeezes big suspense out of seemingly throwaway moments, as when Jake just sits and listens to audio tracks. The muted underscoring that sounds like it’s coming from the next apartment adds a sinister sonic edge.
The 2019 documentary “Horror Noire” was a past-due, eye-opening look at Black Americans and their place in, and relationships to, horror movies. Using the same title, this anthology highlights Black actors, filmmakers and six macabre tales that include blood suckers, a possessed house and, as one character puts it, “Satan his damn self.”
There are two standouts. “Get Out” meets “Midsommar” in Kimani Ray Smith’s very funny horror comedy “Sundown.” Erica Ash and Tone Bell star as a couple whose political canvassing in rural West Virginia gets interrupted one night by local racist vampires.
The other is Julien Christian Lutz’s “Brand of Evil.” It’s a Faustian story about Nekani, a young gay artist (Brandon Mychal Smith) who starts getting well-paying commissions from a mystery patron. When Nekani learns his client’s designs are hate symbols, he struggles to reconcile the sinister assignments with the big money they come with. No matter: His fate has been sealed, with soul-sucking consequences.
Jaco Bouwer’s film is many genres in one: folk horror, eco horror, survival film, creature feature. It’s also about killer mushrooms.
The film opens as two South African forest rangers, Gabi (Monique Rockman) and Winston (Anthony Oseyemi), paddle down a river. Their overhead surveillance drone crashes, but not before Gabi sees a figure on camera. Entering the forest to investigate, she injures her foot in a trap, yet manages to reach the ramshackle home of the survivalists Barend (Carel Nel) and his son Stefan (Alex van Dyk). Later, after the three beat back a creature that invades the cabin, Gabi realizes that dark supernatural forces are at play in the father and son’s devotion to Mother Nature.
The film’s message is a folk horror chestnut: nature is good and technology and the city are bad. What’s refreshing is the eye-popping cinematography by Jorrie van der Walt, who makes flora — the movie was shot in South Africa’s Garden Route region — appear breathtakingly lush.
The film often looks like a fashion commercial — wild mushroom spores float like twinkling stars and cute little plants sprout from Gabi’s body. Don’t let the beauty deceive you — what you’re watching is a natural world out for blood.
‘Night at the Eagle Inn’
Fraternal twins Spencer (Taylor Turner) and Sarah Moss (Amelia Dudley) check in at a Vermont hotel to investigate the last known whereabouts of their father, who mysteriously disappeared the night they were born. There they meet the oddball night manager (Greg Schweers), who remembers every guest, and Dean (Beau Minniear), the hunky but enigmatic handyman.
The manager claims the inn is full, but as Spencer and Sarah roam the empty halls, nobody else seems to be there. Of course they’re not alone — through a staticky television their father appears with a cryptic message.
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Erik Bloomquist’s low-budget film doesn’t always land. The bombastic score doesn’t match the intimate setting. Spencer was so grating I rooted for Satan.
That said, this small, emotionally driven film has real pluck, and in just 70 minutes it offers a macabre deal-with-the-devil spin on the haunted hotel genre. The seemingly living televisions that fuel the story reminded me of the early films of Atom Egoyan and how monitors became portals of family grief.
‘Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight 2’
The police station in a small Polish town has problems on its hands. A few corpses, for starters, but also a jail filled with two grotesque ogres and a young woman, Zosia (Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz), who says she’s the only survivor of a massacre at a nearby camp for teen technology addicts.
An inspector takes Zosia back to the grounds to look around, but they don’t get far before goo from a meteorite unleashes a brutal force. Zosia turns into a rampaging monster, and the young officers, the neo-Nazi brothers and the prostitute who land in her path don’t stand a chance.
This gory, slapsticky sequel doesn’t match the smartly funny take on slasher films that made the fantastical original a treat. (The movies, both in Polish, were directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski.) But when this film takes an unexpected turn in the final stretch with a bizarre human-mutant sexual encounter, it offers an odd but sweet lesson on otherness and understanding.