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  • David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (24/4/2020)

(Reviews of Moffie; Sea Fever; We Summon the Darkness; In Bed With Victoria; and A Faithful Man)

Cinemas may be closed during these dismal days. But there are still ways to connect with some of the films on general release over the next few weeks and months. In addition to Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI and the BFI Player, it should also be possible to access the titles under discussion via iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation. BFI CALLING. We're now into the second month of lockdown, but the UK film industry's online sector has really kicked into gear. A number of outlets have dangled introductory offers to entice new subscribers, while others have used the time to curate packages of free-to-view items on a range of family-friendly topics. The BFI Player is renowned for its free programmes drawn from the National Archive and the two latest are particularly appealing. The selection of films on the Eating In menu is the cine-equivalent to comfort food. Among the earliest culinary delights is Biograph's Little Bobby (1899), which shows Herbert Campbell (in his costume from the Drury Lane pantomime, Cinderella) chomping his way through a hearty helping before washing it down with a pint of beer. Pioneer film-maker Charles Urban gives away some trade secrets in Manufacture of Stilton Cheese (1920), while avant-garde New Zealand animator Len Lye reveals how to make the most of what's in the pantry in When the Pie Was Opened (1941). There's also a chance to see some celebrity chefs of the past in action, with Xavier Marcel Boulestin and Dorothy Sleightholme respectively showing how to rustle up a veal escalope and some tasty leftover treats in Party Dish (1936) and Boxing Day (1973). Moreover, there's an invitation to sample something new around the country in Chinese Restaurants in Plymouth (1966), Black Country Food (1972) and Caribbean Restaurant (1986), which spices up the fare in a wintry West Bromwich. For afters, why not try Nilesh Patel's debut short, A Love Supreme (2000), which takes its cue from Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) in showing how the director's mother overcomes rheumatoid arthritis to make her famous samosas. And, if you're still peckish, check out the vintage commercials on the Food Glorious Food slate. There are plenty of pets on purrade in Cats vs Dogs, which should have fur flying in households the length and breadth of the land, as proud owners stake a claim for their favourite feline or chosen canine. Although it only lasts for a few seconds, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson's unique 68mm film, Me and My Two Friends (1898), sets a high standard for cuteness. But take a look at the puppy being pampered with heroic patience in The Lassie and Her Dog (1901). If you prefer your pooches to be cartoonised, meet artist George Studdy's famous creation from The Sketch. Long before Spotty Dog graced The Woodentops on Watch With Mother, there was the wide-eyed, sausage-loving star of Bonzo (1924). He would certainly have been a contender for Best in Show in Cat & Dog Life (1928), which peeks (or is that pekes?) in on the cats and dogs under the beady eyes of the judges at Alexandra Palace and Crystal Palace. A couple of contrasting shorts from 1943 will cause paws, sorry, pause for thought. An English Bull Terrier with a gimlet glare teaches a careless duo about putting out their cigarettes with due care and attention in Gilbert Gunn's Ministry of Information offering, Firewatch Dog, while road safety is uppermost in the minds of Cambridge father-and-son film-makers William and Ken King in Almost Human, which shows Jill the Golden Labrador stopping her car (you really need to see this) to allow a pup patrol to cross the street. After a brief introduction to a Devonian moggie in Ginger Tom (1950), the scene shifts to Callington in Cornwall for John Dooley's brief Children's Film Foundation adventure, Rover Makes Good (1952), which sees the eponymous farm hound confound owner Uncle Jim (Francis Lunt), by tracking down the missing Sheila (Felicity Alway) and Tony (Malcolm Doney) to the disused tin mine where they have become trapped. There's more proof you can teach an old dog new tricks in William C. Hammond's Juno Helps Out (1953), which features a Great Dane (trained by the inimitable Barbara Woodhouse) chipping in with a couple of kids doing some household chores for their ailing mother. British Movietone News became a company for hire in order to make Cats on the Hearth (1957) for the RSPCA, which features narrator Howard Marion-Crawford offering a few tips on how to befriend a cat without losing half a finger. However, the fluffy hero of William Lloyd Ellis's Pwtan the Kitten (1960) steals the show, as she tumbles off the back of a rocking horse into a Pwllheli flower bed before challenging the film-maker's daughter, Fiona, for supremacy of the settee. Things get a bit cartoony for Vera Linnecar's A Cat Is a Cat (1971) and Richard Taylor's Matches (1973). However, there would be every justification for calling the former a work of art, as the images were achieved by applying paint directly to the celluloid. But the latter will be instantly familiar to viewers of a certain age, as the third in a legendary six-strong series of Central Office of Information safety films that boasted Kenny Everett as the miaowing voice of Charley the Cat. His advice was translated by a boy named Tony, who was played by the seven year-old son of one of Taylor's neighbours. All together now, `Charley Says....' Accomplished amateur film-maker Eric Hill wields the camera for Hot Dogs (1970), which centres on a day's whippet racing in West Yorkshire. Coming up to date, Sam Hearn and Richard Penfold made Dog Years (2004) on 8mm for just a fiver. But the frank, but sweetly profound thoughts of Ben, who is 39 according to the pup almanac, will stay with you. That said, the BFI has wisely given the last word to a feline, as 17 year-old agoraphobic Christopher (Callum Tilling) gets a new lease of life when he takes pity on a small black stray in Mishaal Memon's Look At What the Cat Dragged In (2017). MOFFIE. Capetonian Oliver Hermanus is gradually becoming one of South Africa's most important film-makers. Having started impressively with Shirley Adams (2009), he won the Queer Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Beauty (2011). Now, after UK audiences were denied the chance to see The Endless River (2015), which was the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion at Venice, Hermanus returns with his finest achievement to date, Moffie, an adaptation of an autobiographical 2006 novel by André Carl van der Merwe that takes its title from the Afrikaaner slang for `faggot'. In South Africa in 1981, 16 year-olds were conscripted and trained to defend the Apartheid regime against the Communist forces in neighbouring Angola. Armed with a pornographic magazine given to him by his father, 18 year-old, English-speaking Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) heads to boot camp at Middleburg. On the train, he meets Michael Sachs (Matthew Vey) and looks on in dismay as the Afrikaaner conscripts roar with laughter while abusing a solitary black man sitting on a rural station platform. On arriving at camp, the teenagers are dubbed `scabs' by Sergeant Brand (Hilton Pelser) and Lieutenant Engel (Martin Munro), who put them through a punishing basic training regime, while all the time indoctrinating them with pro-Pretoria messages that are rooted in an unyielding brand of Protestantism. They watch videos designed to appeal to their macho patriotism and Bester (Rikus Terblanche) and Roos (Hendrik Nieuwoudt) take it upon themselves to bully Nick by stealing one of his photographs. Howeve, he barters it back using the porn mag and is grateful that Sachs makes an effort to stand up for him. But they are all victims where Brand is concerned and they look on in despair during an overnight route march when he deliberately empties the urns of coffee and soup that they had been promised. As dawn breaks, Brand picks on one hapless grunt to do 50 press-ups and orders him to eat his own vomit when he throws up in the dust. He also sends Dylan Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) to fetch a leaf from a nearby tree and thrashes him when he tries to get clever by bringing back a small branch. The sceptical Sachs is unperturbed by Brand's bullying and, while they clean their rifles back at camp, he and Nick express their defiance by singing a few lines from Sixto Rodriguez's `Sugar Man'. However, they have to be careful about blatant signs of friendship, as Brand is viciously homophobic and makes an example of Baxter (Cody Mountain) when he is caught in the same toilet cubicle as another soldier. Nevertheless, after a long night digging trenches in the rain, Nick still shares an intimate moment with Stassen, who makes him remove his wet clothes and lie beside him under the same cover. He also touches Nick's face and brushes his hair off his brow. Nothing more is said, but a montage shows Nick pondering the incident and its import as he square-bashes and attends church services. He watches Stassen play volleyball with his shirt off and is amused when Dewald Van Der Merwe (Shaun Chad Smit) gets into a strop when Sachs and Fourie hold up the game to fool around at the net by rehearsing an encounter with a coy girl when they go home on leave. However, the fun comes to an abrupt end when Baxter rushes on to the parade ground with a rifle and shoots himself in the head. In order to blow off steam in the dorm, the recruits play a spin the bottle bare-knuckle game and Nick finds himself up against Stassen. He lands a couple of free punches and knocks his friend down. But he leaps back up and is pinning Nick on the ground when Brand comes in and cancels Stassen's leave. Nick feels guilty as he packs his kitbag and has to suppress a confused smile when Stassen plants a goodbye kiss on his lips while the others are waiting in the truck. As he walks to join them, Nick has a flashback to his youth (Matt Ashwell) when he was holidaying with his parents, Miles (Michael Kirch) and Suzie (Barbara-Marié Immelman), and was accused of spying on a boy showering beside a swimming pool. His father punched the man who had raised the alarm and had bundled his son into the car as quickly as possible. But he had been transfixed by the other boy's body and he returns to camp longing to see Stasse. However, he has been transferred because of a medical issue and Brand takes out his suspicion that Nick blames him for the referral by kicking him in the face during a fireman's lift exercise. Eight months after the rookies have a boozy midnight party to celebrate passing out, Nick finds himself on the Angolan border with his unit. Before they had shipped out, he had learned from Baxter's friend, Hilton (Luke Tyler) that Stassed is in the infamous correctional unit known as Ward 22. He informs Nick that the only way to survive as a gay man in the army is to be invisible. But he refuses to take the easy way out. Brand accompanies them to the outpost the commander calls `the fun fair' and they are surprised when the sentry on lookout fires his machine-gun in the air. They are equally taken aback by the sight of Angolan women and children huddling together in the ruins of a shack, but everyone maintains an impassive expression to avoid betraying weakness. When they go out on their first patrol, they are warned about landmines and Nick has to stand over some young boys as they are frisked. Out on a nightwatch, however, they encounter the enemy and their inexperience is readily evident as they scamper for cover. Ignoring orders, a couple break ranks and Snyman (Wynaud Ferreira) is wounded. Scuttling forward, Nick dashes towards him and shoots a figure creeping up beside him. He turns to hear the death rattle of a black man, as the rest of his unit rush up to tend to their fallen buddy. Back at camp, Brand seeks him out, but is too overcome to do anything but nod in manly approval at his heroism and sympathise with his loss. Once home, Nick is taken out for lunch by Suzie and his stepfather. He moves into the spare room in Miles's flat, but refuses to engage in conversation about his tour of duty over dinner. When Stassen is released from Ward 22, Nick goes to see him. They drive out to the coast and swim n the cold sea. Stassen nips off to the toilet, leaving Nick on the golden sand. But he fails to return and Nick realises that he is going to have to deal with the past and face the future alone. Such was the standard set by Stanley Kubrick in Full Metal Jacket (1987) - his blistering adaptation of Gustav Hasford's novel, The Short-Timers (1979) - that all subsequent boot camp pictures have to be measured against it. Hilton Pelser certainly evokes memories of R. Lee Ermey's Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, as he makes life miserable for the raw recruits. Yet, while Hermanus and co-writer Jack Sidey pack plenty of political punch into Brand's homophobic and racist slurs, they also allow him a fleeting moment of humanity, as he seeks out Nick to commend him on his bravery and pay his respects to a lost trooper he had driven as hard as the circumstances had required. It's much harder to read Nick, however, and it takes a well-executed, if slightly shoehorned flashback to enable us understand the need for Kai Luke Brummer's impressive, if not exactly empathetic display of pseudo-Bressonian internalised passivity. He's consciously less engaging than the Boy George-obsessed Johan Niemand (Schalk Bezuidenhout) in Christiaan Olwagen's splendid musical, Kanarie (2018). But the sense of having to rein in one's true self in order to avoid standing out rather than facilitate fitting in is common to both films, as is the way in which xenophobic patriotism, hypocritical religion and homophobic machismo are used to shape/warp the minds of the impressionable recruits. The depth of characterisation is rather slight, as Hermanus devotes little time to rounding out Stassen. Indeed, we get a closer look at Sachs, who seems to suss Nick from the outset and watches his back in the dorm. But we learn nothing other than Nick's physical attraction to Stassen, who is played with equal elusiveness by Ryan de Villiers. This makes the conclusion all the more intriguing, however, as we are left to speculate whether Stassen blames Nick for his evidently hideous experience on Ward 22, whether he has been reprogrammed to reject his advances or whether he simply isn't willing to endure any more prejudice and punishment in the name of love. What isn't in doubt is the extent to which the homophobia is bound in with the aggressive insecurity that feeds the minority fear of the `swart gevaar' (or `black danger'). But Hermanus keeps the focus on the individual rather than the institutionalised and deftly uses Jamie D. Ramsay's tactile camera and Braam du Toit's jittery score to reinforce Nick's sense of desire and dread. For all the picture's moral gravity, there are droll allusions to the drill chant in Full Metal Jacket, the volleyball scene in Tony Scott's Top Gun (1986) and the stark homoeroticism of Claire Denis's Beau Travail (1999). However, there's no getting away from the toxic ideologies that have never been specific to South Africa and never will be. SEA FEVER/ Lockdown has afford some fleet-footed distribution companies the opportunity to slip the odd workaday title on to the VOD schedule and garner it the kind of mainstream press coverage that it would otherwise be denied. And why shouldn't they? Cannily billed as `Cronenberg Meets Cousteau', Irish TV director Neasa Hardiman's debut feature, Sea Fever, is just such a beneficiary. With its emphasis on the perils that await if humanity continues to abuse the planet with such reckless abandon, this eco-thriller clearly means well. But its message is somewhat diluted, while the derivative aquatic action rarely generates much suspense. Socially awkward doctoral candidate Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) worries her marine biology professor (Dag Malmberg) because she's a joyless workaholic. She has secured a passage aboard Niamh Cinn Óir, an Irish trawler skippered by Gerard (Dougray Scott) and crewed by Freya (Connie Nielsen), Johnny (Jack Hickey), Omid (Ardalan Esmaili) and Sudi (Elie Bouakaze), who are freaked by the fact that Siobhan is a redhead. Cook Ciara (Olwen Fouéré) is aware of the superstition, but tells Siobhan she doesn't have to wear her bobble hat at all times to cover her ill-omened hair. As they leave port, Gerard and Freya curse the fact that the coastguard informs them that the area in which they had hoped to fish has been declared an exclusion zone. However, Gerard presses on regardless and ignores Siobhan's warning that something is amiss when they spot whales breaking the waves beside the vessel. Contact with shore is lost following an unexplained collision and Gerard orders Siobhan to dive down and investigate when what appears to be a new breed of barnacle softens the hull timbers and starts seeping a sticky blue jelly. Frightened by the giant squid-like creature she sees while trying to prise a gelatinous tendril off the hull, Siobhan aborts the dive and is appalled when Gerard orders the crew to cast the net so they can land the catch of a lifetime. However, the boat begins to lurch and damages Johnny's hand when it becomes trapped in the winch. When Siobhan spots another vessel nearby, she volunteers to row over with Gerard and Johnny to get help. But they merely discover a dead crew and the skipper urges the other two to say nothing about the carnage they have witnessed. On returning to the Niamh, they learn that the net has been released and that the engines are working again. Gerard talks Freya into making another cast and the crew is delighted when it lands a major haul. Johnny tells Siobhan to stop fretting about things she can't control and she is about to respond to his flirting when Omid and Sudi burst into the cabin. Over supper, however, Johnny begins to feel hot and he causes a commotion by jumping up and declaring his intention to go for a swim. He's restrained and returned to the galley, where a parasite causes his eyeballs to explode and Ciara tries to tend to him, while Siobhan urges Gerard to turn off the water supply, as it's become contaminated. Her warning comes too late for Sudi, however, whose body becomes infested while showering. He's put to bed, while Johnny's corpse is laid in the cold store with the catch. Having discovered that the water filtration system has been compromised, Siobhan takes first watch, as the trawler chugs towards shore. When she checks the slime sample under a microscope, she discovers that it is teeming with small eggs and realises that the squid attacked the Niamh in the mistaken belief it was an animal it could use to host its brood. She suggests running a current around the boat to kill the eggs before they can get into the crew's bloodstream. As the Niamh was named after their lost daughter, Gerard and Freya have their doubts and the latter comes rushing out with an extinguisher when the figurehead sparks. But the gambit appears to work and Siobhan hopes that they will be able to go ashore once they have passed the incubation period. Freya is sceptical and suggests that anyone infected would be better off in hospital. However, Siobhan uses the example of how a few ants wiped out the crab population on Christmas Island to explain how anyone infected with the parasites could spread them by coming into contact with other people. So, when Sudi dies, Siobhan throws a rope overboard to tangle up the rudder and takes a punch on the nose from Ciara before imploring the others to show some responsibility to the wider community by confirming that they are clear of contamination before docking. The others agree to let her examine their pupils by torchlight for signs of the parasite and Freya spots something in Gerard's eye. He confesses to having deliberately steered into an exclusion zone and goes to his cabin, where he asks Freya to mercy kill him with a knife. While they take a final look at the locket photo of their daughter, Siobhan kicks Ciara down a ladder after she tries to attack her and she falls to her death. Aware that the coastguard has no idea where they are, Freya heads off in the rowing boat to fetch help. Siobhan and Omid discover that the creature has become trapped in the water tank and they try to warm it up to slow its reflexes so that they can release it back to the wild (as she convinces him that it's a wild animal doing what it can to survive). Unfortunately, it punctures a hole in the hull in shooting downwards and the pair decide to torch the boat as a beacon for potential rescuers to spot. In climbing down to the dinghy, however, the non-swimming Omid has a panic attack and Siobhan has to plunge into the water to pluck him from the tentacles of the monster. On seeing a cut on her wrist, however, she knows she's infected and dives back into the Atlantic to swim towards the phosphorescent heart of the creature, as a sobbing Omid turns to wave at help looming towards him in the iridescent darkness. While its themes of guarding against infection and obeying official diktats couldn't be more apposite, this competently made, but rarely compelling picture can hardly be described as a hard-hitting polemic. Hardiman's script exploits environmental issues rather than explores them and it is further eviscerated by the shallowness of the characterisation, the dearth of plot twists and the functionality of the largely expositionary dialogue. This is delivered well enough by a committed cast. But Dougray Scott (who seems to be channelling his inner Roy Keane) was far more effective in Omid Nooshin's The Last Passenger (2013), while Hermione Corfield struggles to erase memories of Emily Beecham's equally humourless and non-empathetic red-haired scientist in Jessica Hausner's Little Joe (2019). The dependable Connie Nielsen and Olwen Fouéré do what they can with scraps, but Jack Hickey, Ardalan Esmaili and Elie Bouakaze are largely confounded by their ciphers. They are not helped by the fact that they have parallels in such superior sci-fi ventures as Kevin Connor's Warlords of the Deep (1978), John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), Ridley Scott's Alien (1986) and James Cameron's The Abyss (1989), while the strains of being at sea were better captured in the likes of Baltasar Kormákur's The Deep (2012) and Wolfgang Fischer's Styx (2018). Hardiman is hampered by the financial restraints placed upon her special effects. But she never comes close to building suspense or conveying the crew's growing sense of despair and dread. She doesn't help herself in this regard by failing to consider the nature of the beast. As a television veteran with a solid track record, she should have known to peruse a few episodes of Doctor Who in order to discover how to terrify on a budget. But Hardiman can't be faulted on her ambition and she and cinematographer Ruairí O'Brien make capable use of the rustily realistic confined spaces created by production designer Ray Ball. WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS. The best horror films need a dash of sly humour and Marc Meyers has his tongue firmly in his cheek for most of We Summon the Darkness. Set in 1988, this moves the action on 14 years from the period depicted with such knowing precision in My Friend Dahmer (2017). But, while Meyers and screenwriter Alan Trezza get brownie points for dropping all the right names, this could easily have seemed overweeningly arch without the impeccable contributions of production designer Kathy McCoy and costumier Maxyne Baker and the committed performances of the fine young ensemble. Indiana, 1988 and teenagers Alexisis (Alexisandra Daddario), Valerie (Maddie Hasson) and Beverly (Amy Forsyth) are driving across open country to a Soldiers of Satan gig. As she watches the road, Alexisis informs her incredulous friends that make-up is war paint for sex. Pulling into a gas station so the Madonna-influenced Val (or is it Cyndi Lauper, as these girls clearly just wanna have fun) can use the restroom, the trio buy sweets, read a newspaper headline about the latest slaying by a supposedly satanic cult and see Pastor John Henry Butler (Johnny Knoxville) warning about the evils of heavy metal rock music on a televangelist show. Assuring the elderly cashier (Harry Nelken) who urges them to be careful that they are quite capable of taking care of themselves, the trio hit the road. However, they are forced on to the verge when a paper cup is thrown from a speeding van and splats on their windscreen. Val refuses to help wipe it off, as she has just had her nails done. Besides, she needs to pee again and lights a cigarette from a safe distance, while the other two clean the glass with a sense of relief that the contents weren't something more nauseating than a chocolate milkshake. Pulling up near the van in the venue car park, Val tosses a Fourth of July firecracker through the window and the girls squeal with delight as the burly Ivan (Austin Swift), the goofy Kovacs (Logan Miller) and the cool (if mullet-sporting) Mark (Keean Johnson) tumble out of the sliding side door. They apologise with free beers and try to make an impression by boasting about the bands they've seen and making light of a killing spree that has now claimed 18 victims. Kovacs tries teach Val how to chug a beer, while Mark comments on the patches on Bev's denim jacket. But Ivan gets embarrassed when it's revealed that his first gig was KC and the Sunshine Band. Following the gig, Alexis invites the boys back to her father's house and they are convinced they have fallen on their feet. As they drive, Val declares that Judd Nelson is sexy and rolls her eyes when Val has no idea who he is. However, she is hugely impressed by Alexis's family home and they spill out into the garden to toast erstwhile Metallica members Cliff Burton and Dave Mustaine. As she is relatively new to the group, Bev feels ill at ease. But Alexis reminds her that they are all sisters and they carry out some more drinks to get the party started. Johnny accidentally bumps into Bev and soaks her and insists on giving her his leather jacket to keep warm. She is spooked by finding a flick knife in the pocket and unconvinced when he claims it belongs to his brother. But Alexis is keen to play a game and initiates a round of Never Have I Ever around a blazing patio campfire. It emerges that Bev has been arrested for shoplifting food, while Alexis has thrown up in a church. However, all three admit to having spiked a drink and the boys collapse on the grass in a state of wounded macho confusion. Having been dragged into the house, stripped to their underwear and tied to chairs. Kovacs, Ivan and Mark are subjected to a rant from Alexis, as she explains that they are part of a Christian group that kills sinners and makes it look as though they have been the victims of a satanic cult. When the boys accuse them of being wackos in the mould of John Henry Butler, Alexis becomes more strident and buries a carving knife into Ivan's throat when he insults her. Clearly in over her head, Bev asks Alexis and Val for a time out in the bathroom and, while she claims she wants to finish them off, the delay gives Mark and Kovacs the chance to cut the cords and escape. They don't get far and Kovacs is gashed in the arm before they can barricade themselves in the pantry. But they do get a stay of execution when Alexis's stepmother, Susan (Allison McAtee), arrives looking for her passport and a bag of cocaine hidden in her wall safe. She reveals that she has called the cops because she saw a strange van parked outside and Sheriff Dembrowski (Tanner Beard) rolls up just as Alexis stabs Susan for poking in her nose where it wasn't wanted. Meanwhile, Bev has gone to the garage to find something to break down the pantry door. Instead, she finds a briefcase full of incriminating evidence and a toolbox lined with bundles of cash. She also discovers a rotary brush cutter and marches into the house just as Val shoots the sheriff with his own gun while he is busy cuffing Mark and Kovacs, who have surrendered to him in the hope he will save them from the girls. Alexis reminds Bev that they are doing the Lord's work and that she should be helping them rid the world of metalheads. But she informs Alexis that her father is embezzling the donations to his church and that he has fooled her and his flock into risking their souls for his gain. Cutting Val and Alexis when they try to overpower her, Bev seems in control of the situation until Kovacs and Mark burst out of the pantry and clonk her over the head. She manages to keep hold of the gun, as Alexis and Val scurry upstairs and blast out Belinda Carlisle's `Heaven Is a Place on Earth' from the stereo. The house is plunged into silent darkness when the power cuts out, but Mark keeps creeping up the stairs to find Alexis, who has the car keys. However, when Bev goes into the basement to reconnect the electricity, Kovacs sees headlights outside and hands over the gun to Butler, who promptly shoots him and declares himself to be `the wrath of God'. He snacks in the kitchen while Bev and Val tussle in the cellar and Mark and Alexis struggle for control of a knife in a bedroom. Quick thinking allows Bev to use a lighter to turn the hairspray-heavy Val into a shrieking torch and she gets upstairs in time for the dying Kovacs to ask her to save his buddy. She is unable to prevent him from being shot by Butler, as he tries throttle his daughter. But Butler is furious with Alexis for botching the job and is in the midst of telling her that she must be sacrificed for her recklessness when Bev beans him with the butt of the rotary cutter. Alexis feigns a show of gratitude in claiming to have been brainwashed. But she lurches at Bev and grabs at her throat before she is pitched out of the upstairs window and crunches into the ground below. At first light, Bev helps Mark to the car and they plough into Alexis as she tries to block the road. When they stop to buy medical supplies at the garage, Bev sees Butler telling news reporter Trish Williams (Stephanie Moroz) that his daughter had been dragged to the dark side and that he had managed to fight off her satanist friends. As she leaves, she urges the old cashier not to believe everything he sees and joins Mark and the toolbox full of money in speeding off in a Jeep Cherokee with a blood-spattered bumper. As T'Pau's `Heart and Soul' plays over the closing credits. it's easy to feel a pang of nostalgia for those bygone days when a slasher movie didn't need to invent excuses to disable the mobile phones that could otherwise spoil the fun. Meyers and Trezza certainly make the most of the 80s freedom and relish the opportunity to overturn lots of genre conventions by making the girls the ghouls. But this is very much a chiller with a message for today, as it warns of the dangers of believing the official line and being duped by false prophets and preachers. It's also highly amusing, thanks to Alexisandra Daddario and Maddie Hasson vamping up the terrible twosome. The former had previously teamed with Tezza on his debut feature, Burying the Ex (2014), which had sadly shown how far director Joe Dante has fallen from grace since his own 1980s heyday. However, there are markedly fewer zingers for the pair to work with following the fade to black around a third of the way in. This is a shame, as a bit of tasteless banter might have enlivened the prosaic and frustratingly suspense-free power games that ensue once Amy Forsyth's lost orphan reveals (shoch horror) that she hasn't been led as far astray as Daddario had hoped. The fact that the boys are never more than ciphers (how does it feel, fellas?) makes it trickier to root for them, although we never learn much about anybody in a narrative short on characterisation and long on convolution. Perhaps Meyers should have viewed another comic horror in which a dutiful daughter seeks to help her father execute an equally twisted mission: Douglas Hickox's Theatre of Blood (1973). Nevertheless, Meyers and Trezza slot the pieces into place with aplomb and they are capably abetted by cinematographer Tarin Anderson and editors Jamie Kirkpatrick and Joe Murphy. Tim Williams's pasthichey John Carpenter score is also a plus point, as is Johnny Knoxville's lugubrious cameo. Yet, for all the slickness (and the excellence of the power tool gag), the switcheroo won't come as much of a surprise to anyone with more than an occasional acquaintance with the format, especially as the throwaway line about Rat Packer Judd Nelson rather gives the game away (as, indeed, does the trailer). IN BED WITH VICTORIA. The excellent people at Cinéfile are putting some of their titles on Vimeo on Demand. The first two pictures on show are Julie Triet's In Bed With Victoria and Louis Garrel's A Faithful Man. Belgian star Virginie Efira received César and Lumière nominations for her performance in Julie Triet's genre-tweaking comedy, In Bed With Victoria. She plays a lawyer who discovers that ex-husband Laurent Poitrenaux is trying to ruin her reputation after she agrees to defend old friend Melvil Poupaud on a charge of stabbing girlfriend Alice Daquet and hires reformed drug dealer Vincent Lacoste to babysit her young daughters, Liv Harari and Jeanne Arra-Beilinger. Brimming over with incidents and complications, this may not be a particularly engaging romcom, but it's certainly intriguing in its attempts to put a revisionist spin on the old battle of the sexes format. Following on from her improvised political satire, Age of Panic (2013), Triet has created something of contradictory anti-heroine, who reaches her happy ending as much by luck as by judgement. But, while not everyone watching will be entirely convinced that she has earned her fade-out embrace, Efira's interaction with the adorably mischievous Harari and Arra-Beilinger ensures that she deserves the benefit of any doubt. A FAITHFUL MAN. Jean-Claude Carrière is one of the unsung heroes of postwar arthouse cinema. Since teaming with comic maestro Pierre Etaix on the 1961 short, Rupture, the 87 year-old screenwriter has amassed almost 150 credits in working with some of Europe's finest film-makers. Despite winning an Oscar with Etaix for Heureux Anniversaire (1962). Carrière's most enduring collaboration was with Luis Buñuel. on such landmark features as Belle de Jour (1967) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). But he also tackled Günter Grass's The Tin Drum for Volker Schlöndorff's Oscar-winning 1979 adaptation and tamed Milan Kundera's supposedly unfilmable The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) for Philip Kaufman. Along the way, Carrière has liaised with Louis Malle, Andrzej Wajda, Jean-Luc Godard, Nagisa Oshima and Miloš Forman. In 2017, he co-wrote Lover For a Day with Philippe Garrel and he has now made it a father-son double by joining forces with actor Louis Garrel for his sophomore directorial outing, A Faithful Man. Abel (Louis Garrel) and Marianne (Laetita Casta) have been living together for three years. One morning, she informs him that she is pregnant by his friend Paul and is going to marry him to please his parents. She apologises for only giving Abel 10 days to find alternative accommodation and is grateful to him for taking the news so well. In fact, he falls down the stairs in shock and is given a tissue for his cut lip by Paul's 13 year-old sister. Eve (Diane Courseille). But he realises her mind is made up and that he has no option but to move on. He becomes a television journalist and is surprised to hear, some eight or nine years later, that Paul has died in his sleep. Abel attends the funeral and sees Marianne with her son, Joseph (Joseph Engel). At the graveside, he wonders if Marianne has ever thought about him since they last met. But he scarcely notices Eve (Lily-Rose Depp), whose teenage crush has clearly intensified, as she shoots an envious glare at Marianne when she accepts a lift home. Despite being distraught at losing her husband, she decides to accept Abel's invitation to lunch and they meet in one of their old haunts a fortnight later. They are amused by the fact that the waitress (Kiara Carrière) shakes her head at every suggestion the owner (Bakary Sangaré) makes about the specials and this helps break the ice after so long apart. Marianne asks Abel home for coffee and he is taken aback when Joseph casually informs him that his mother had poisoned Paul and had slept with Dr Pivoine (Vladislav Galard) to prevent the truth coming out in an autopsy. Meanwhile, Eve takes up the story (each principal takes turns at narrating) and we flashback to her youth, when she used to stalk Abel to take pictures on her phone that she gazed at under the sheets at night. She convinced herself that they were a couple and, one day, had to walk home from the suburbs after she had sneaked into the backseat of his car. In voiceover, she freely admits that she hates Marianne for stealing Abel from her and then forcing him to drop out of their lives by marrying her brother. So, she is overjoyed when she bumps into Abel in the street and he not only notices how grown up she is, but he also gives her his scarf because she's shivering. While Eve keeps hoping that Marianne will die suddenly and leave her a clear path to seducing Abel, he decides to ask Pivoine about Paul's heart attack. He reassures him that it was natural, if sudden, and laughs off Joseph's suggestions of foul play. Pivoine also swears he has no interest in Marianne because he's gay, a claim she disputes when Abel mentions his visit during a trip to the cinema to see Lewis Milestone's The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). She is puzzled why Abel went to see Pivoine and how his sexuality came up in conversation. But she reveals that Pivoine once made a pass at her and Joseph (who is eavesdropping on the whispered conversation) demands to know why the doctor would lie. Joseph correctly identifies the killer in the film and Marianne explains that he has been obsessed with cop shows since he was a boy. Back at the flat, Joseph accuses Abel of being naive for believing Pivoine's fib. But, when he goes to bed, Marianne tells Abel that he had often argued with Paul, who wanted to send him to boarding school. Moreover, she encourages Abel to flirt with her and they tumble in to bed. The next morning, as she leaves for work (she's an adviser to the prime minister), Marianne warns Abel not to believe Joseph's murder theories, as he has concocted them to scare him away because he would rather have his mother to himself. Time passes and Abel moves in with Marianne. Eve is jealous and meets Joseph out of school to quiz him about the state of the relationship. She is shocked when he produces an earpiece so she can listen to the recordings he has made of the pair in bed. But she is also reassured by his insistence that they rarely have sex and he wishes his mother would make Abel leave. Indeed, when Abel seeks his permission to propose to Marianne, Joseph makes it clear that he would not approve of her re-marrying, as he doesn't want to share her affection. Hurt by Joseph's frankness, Abel asks Marianne how she can be so certain about his paternity. She becomes tearful, as she confesses that she had loved Paul and Abel equally and had tossed a coin to see who would father her child. While she was grateful that Paul had never questioned that Joseph was his son, Marianne had often cursed fate because she would have preferred to have borne Abel's baby. But, while she now seems happy with Abel, she recognises the truth of Eve's brusque assertion that she didn't really love him and should do the decent thing and let her have him. This unexpected confrontation on the street is followed by an equally frank exchange in the foyer at Abel's TV studio, as Eve (wearing scarlet lipstick) reveals that she has declared war on Marianne and intends to win. Unsurprisingly, Abel is as blindsided by this revelation as he was by Joseph's admission that he wants to kill him. But he is even more perplexed when Marianne wakes him in the middle of the night to reveal her plan to let him sleep with Eve to see if they are suited to one another. Bleary eyed, Abel wonders what Marianne hopes to achieve by running the risk that they could break up. But she insists she knows he is curious about Eve and that it would be best for everyone if he scratched the itch. However, she makes him promise not to tell Eve that the experiment was her idea, as it wouldn't be elegant. Somewhat befuddled. Abel packs his bags and is greeted with a wry smile by Marianne when he points out that it would be best if he moved in with Eve rather than skulked home after sleeping with her. When he is nettled by the fact Marianne has no qualms with this arrangement, Abel asks if she already has somebody lined up to take his place and she is amused by his insecurity. By contrast, Joseph is indifferent to his departure and only notices the fact that Abel is wearing a pair of his father's old shoes. Despite being an estate agent, Eve can only afford a bijou bedsit and there's barely enough room for Abel's stuff. She is coy when they first make love, but is pleased to win the battle without having to put up a fight. But the reality proves less enticing than the dream, as she resents having to abandon her prolonged adolescence and is unnerved by the notion that she will be stuck with Abel when he grows old. In voiceover, she even admits that she had better sex fantasising about him than in having him to herself. Abel is also frustrated and tries calling Marianne while flat hunting with Eve. She ignores his calls, however, as she brushes off the persistent requests of her assistant (Dali Benssalah) for a date. Feeling old when out with Eve's friends, Abel misses Joseph and calls round at his school to catch a glimpse of him. However, he is whisked away by Marianne, who doesn't even turn to look at him. When he returns from a trip abroad, Abel is pleased by the warmth of Eve's welcome. But, as they cuddle, she blurts out that being alone had done her good and he realises that their relationship is never going to work. Yet, no one makes a move to end things and it's only when Joseph plays his recording of Marianne urging Abel to sleep with her that Eve summons the nerve to break up. Rather than telling him to his face, however, she merely leave his belongings piled up outside the door and he has to struggle downstairs with his baggage. Abel rushes round to Marianne's office, only to discover she's at the Senate. Using his press pass, he gets past the gendarmes on the door. But he is pinned down by security guards when he tries to get into the inner sanctum and he looks up from the floor to see Marianne's shoes. She gives him a forgiving smile and they agree not to talk about the Eve episode. While out at a café, however (where they see Poivine with a woman), Marianne gets a call from school to say that Joseph has disappeared. They search frantically before Eve suggests trying the cemetery. She arrives in time to see Marianne and Abel stand either side of Joseph at the foot of Paul's grave, as the boy reaches out to clasp Abel's hand. Does this imply that Joseph has known all along that Abel is his father or is it merely an act of acceptance that the time has come for everyone to put the past to bed and move on? Either way, it's a fitting way for a fascinating film to end - although there's more intrigue in the closing credits, as Garrel thanks fellow directors Michel Hazanavicius, Noémie Lvosky, Rebecca Zlotowski and Arnaud Desplechin by name, along with his mother, Brigitte Sy. But there's no mention of his father, whose work this low-key drama resembles in almost every regard - although there are also hints of François Truffaut's Stolen Kisses (1968) and Manoel De Oliveira's Belle toujours (2006), which was an unofficial sequel to Belle de Jour, and Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl (2009). What enthralls while watching the action is the ease of the rapport between Garrel and Laetita Casta (who are an item off screen) and how closely Lily-Rose Depp resembles parents Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis. Yet, all three are upstaged by Joseph Engel, whose intensely enigmatic performance recalls that of Victor Ezefis, as another boy in search of a father in Eugéne Green's The Son of Joseph (2016). Blessed with Jean Rabasse's slyly contrasting interiors, Irina Lubtchansky's relaxed views of Paris and Philippe Sarde's deft score, Garrel directs succinctly in following up his debut, Two Friends (2015). There's one pleasingly nouvelle vaguean moment when Depp opens Garrel's car door during a recollection, only to remember that it should be her younger self in the shot and we cut away to Diane Courseille taking over the scene. Some may quibble about the amount of voiceover required to tell a story running a mere 75 minutes. But Garrel and Carrière cleverly use the narration to switch perspectives and keep the audience abreast of the emotional toll that the knowingly contrived events are having on such mischievously cine-Gallic characters.

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