Double Walker

Written by Patrick Hao

58/100

Double Walker represents another entry in the trend of horror movies dealing with the terror of misogyny inflicted on young women that even started before the MeToo movement with films like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Witch. Just in the last month of this film’s release, Last Night in Soho tackles many of the themes of trauma that is inflicted on young women through chauvinist and abusive behavior. So, does Double Walker, the debut feature from writer/director Colin West, stand out amongst the pack? Unfortunately, no.

That is not to say that Double Walker is a bad movie by any means. The film’s direction and moody style, a mix between David Lowery’s midwestern confinement and Guy Maddin’s dreamscape, offers hints of an exciting future. The star and co-writer, Sylvie Mix, is an intoxicating presence, even if she doesn’t entirely pull off the psychological complexity behind her blank stare.

Sylvie Mix plays an unnamed Ghost, who at death was given the choice between going into the afterlife or roaming her midwestern town for the people responsible for her death. She chose the latter. The film is told with a mixture of flashbacks and voice over narration, adding a layer of dream logic, but also over-busied set up that distracts more than it intrigues. The Ghost lures men in one by one, avenging her own death through theirs. Things are complicated when she meets Jack (Jacob Rice), a seemingly nice man, who tries to help this spectral figure.

In a way, Double Walker is not too dissimilar in structure from Promising Young Woman from last year. And in many ways, both films have the same faults. They both use genre as a delivery method of the important themes, but the weightiness of those themes seems to make them resistant to having too much fun within the genre. Some of the set ups and kills have a good degree of cleverness and technical form that show that West is a talented filmmaker. Similarly, the film’s forays into a dreamlike, afterlife space is quite haunting. But the overarching self-importance holds the film back from being truly spectacular.  Double Walker ultimately feels like a good demo reel for its star and director. In fact, West has already wrapped production on his second feature with much bigger stars. If Double Walker is any indication, the future will be bright for him.

Double Walker Trailer

Double Walker will be available on VOD starting 11/12.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Fantastic Fest 2021 Review: The Exorcism of God

Written by Alexander Reams

54/100

Religious horror has been a niche genre since the birth of horror. The idea of mixing the idea of God (religion) with Satan (horror) is one of my favorite genres across all of film. I still remember seeing The VVitch and Apostle for the first time and those films being my gateway into this genre of horror filled with a huge variety of religious iconography. The Exorcism of God is no different, the religious influences are clear, the vision, not as much.

Alejandro Hidalgo’s The Exorcism of God is another interesting entry into this niche. Clearly inspired by one of the greatest horror films of all time, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Instead of following the possessed girl, we follow the priest who performs the exorcism on her. Played masterfully by Will Beinbrink, who commits an egregious act during the exorcism that he is able to hide for nearly 2 decades before it begins to weigh heavily on his soul. Playing off Beinbrink for most of the film is Joseph Marcell’s Father Lewis, while not on the level of Beinbrink he still does a serviceable job.

Fantastic Fest 2021

The film also takes a fresh approach, instead of trying to mock or poke fun at religion, or people’s beliefs, and instead choosing to attack the people within it and their own hypocrisy. It has been long public of the misdeeds of the Catholic Church and their predatory behavior towards minors. This take feels fresh, despite the horrendous and irreprehensible act that happens in the opening scene.

Hidalgo is not only directing but also co-writing with Santiago Fernandez Calvete. Pulling near double duty here clearly took his focus off each position. The film constantly feels unfocused from its narrative, instead chose to utilize traditional horror tropes (high violin pitches, jump scares) to try to mask the fact that the film just doesn’t have substance to it. Any semblance of the theme is watered down to it’s dull exposition. There is so much promise here, from the fantastic performance by Beinbrink to the gorgeous macabre cinematography by Gerard Uzcategui, and all of that promise is wasted on a script that could’ve used a few more drafts, and far less jump scares.

The Exorcism of God was screened as part of the 2021 edition of Fantastic Fest.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

SXSW 2021 Review: Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Written by Taylor Baker

11/100

“I think”, this preface can be found preceding dozens of assertions in Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror. It’s unfortunate that something as juicy and spanning as the occult and it’s expression in film is used as a scaffold to assert these talking heads ideals, feelings, and personal experiences. Rather than an accurate historical examination of the origins and the journey into its expression in the visual medium. At 3 hours and 13 minutes Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror rarely arrives at the heart of any origin of the various topics it discusses; which wouldn’t be quite so enraging if it wasn’t such a fascinating topic. 

As someone with only cursory knowledge of the occult through the works of historians and art historians such as Edgar Wind, Joseph Campbell, Brian Muraresku, and Harold Bloom it was frustrating to see assertions about specific topics such as the history of witches framed so poorly. There can be no doubt of Kier-La Janisse’s sincerity toward the source material. She’s clearly spent time with the depicted films and has a tender place for them in her heart. The ill advised over-reliance of archival footage and talking heads exclusively is at it’s (very brief) best when discussing historical fact. Unfortunately this often devolves as I previously mentioned into assertions of contemporary views and oft repeated messages being hammered again and again. These vain assertions do a great disservice to a project that could have been highly informative and durable.

It’s complete lack of interest in interrogating the iconography, direct source referencing, and history of symbolism seems unfathomable. Though it’s clear that Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror prioritizes it’s message over it’s substance it’s unclear why those fascinating and universal pieces of interest are almost completely avoided. I’m not unwilling to give Kier-La Janisse another try, but I’m not convinced that I’ll see much growth in a new entry. Were she to pick up the camera in the future and tackle this subject again, I’d like to see her attempt a more in depth investigation into a single one of the sub-genres she covers here and really dive deep. Limit her runtime to 90 minutes and be more precious and strategic in her use of archival footage. One of the largest misses in a documentary film I’ve seen in 2021 so far.

Not Recommended.