North Bend Film Festival Reviews: Extra Ordinary, Monument, Koko-Di Koko-Da, and The Incredible Shrinking WKND
By: Joseph Perry (@JosephWPerryJWP)
The second North Bend Film Festival offered a fine selection of engrossing independent genre offerings. Following are reviews of four of the dozen features screened at the festival, which ran August 15–18 in North Bend, Washington.
One of my absolute favorite movies of this year is the superb Irish/Belgian horror comedy Extra Ordinary, which finds childhood medium turned driving instructor Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) trying to put her supernatural past behind her because she feels responsible for the death of her celebrity psychic father many years earlier. Widower Martin Martin (Barry Ward) has a problem that requires Rose’s help, though — the ghost of his deceased wife won’t leave him or their teenaged daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) alone. When has-been rock musician Christian Winter (Will Forte) tabs Sarah as the virgin sacrifice needed to seal his pact with Satan for a comeback, Rose reluctantly comes out of paranormal retirement to try and save the girl’s soul. Extra Ordinary has a huge, sweet heart, which makes it one of the most endearing horror comedies in recent memory. The laughs come hard and often, with demon and gore effects aplenty. The cast is terrific. Higgins is a delight as a charming but lonely everygal, Ward is a lot of fun as put-upon Martin, and Forte is a blast as the sometimes meek, sometimes looney musician hell bent on reviving his career. Priceless set pieces including our pair of protagonists gathering ectoplasm, and a sequence involving cars following Sarah’s possessed, still body down a road, help make Extra Ordinary a fun film that receives my highest recommendation.
Polish puzzler Monument slowly unfurls ever-darker elements that make it grow increasingly enigmatic as it builds to a jaw-rubbing climax. Writer/director Jagoda Szelc’s follow-up to her Tower. A Bright Day finds 20 students looking forward to a summer internship waking up on a bus, their driver missing, in front of a hotel. They are immediately stripped of their identities by the hotel manager (Dorota Lukasiewicz-Kwietniewska) and given menial tasks to perform. At first the work seems simple enough, from kitchen duties to cleaning rooms and the like, but eventually things become stranger, such as one intern using the toilet while a naked person is bound on the floor in front of her, with no explanation, and a morbidly obese woman being bathed and pedicured by an increasingly agitated intern. Alliances are formed, betrayals and accusations are made, and the interns’ behaviors becoming increasingly weirder. The tone of the film lies somewhere between abstract and clinical, with a dash of the absurd and surreal. A strong sense of dread and the sinister eventually pervades the proceedings. Monument is experimental and artistic, and requires patience. For viewers who do not need to have all of their “Why?” questions answered, it is an exercise in concept over entertainment.
Grief, torture, grief, torture, and more of the same is the theme of the Swedish/Danish co-production Koko-Di Koko-Da, a shocker that is bound to be divisive. There are attempts at the darkest of humor here, but whether that element works or not is up to the individual viewer moreso than in a typical horror comedy. Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlung) are a married couple who suffered a horrible tragedy a few years earlier. In a last-ditch effort to salvage their marriage, they go on a remote camping trip, where they encounter a trio of evil people dressed as circus sideshow performers: ringleader Mog (Peter Belli), hulking mute Sambo (Morad Khatchadorian), and gun-toting Cherry (Brandy Litmanen). Writer/director Johannes Nyholm then subjects the couple, and viewers, to myriad acts of savagery as Elin and Tobias find themselves caught in a time loop, with the sideshow trio committing different acts of torture and murder each time Tobias tries to thwart their attempts — or rather, hide in a cowardly manner or bark orders at Elin without explaining what is happening to them.
Dog attacks, beatings, shootings, and other displays of violence are in abundance as Nyholm puts the couple through hell for reasons left up to viewers’ imaginations. The film looks great thanks to fine cinematography by Tobias Hӧiem-Flickt and Johan Lundborg, with some intriguing shadow puppetry on display, as well. Gallon and Edlung throw their all into their portrayals, but their characters are written in a manner that gives viewers little reason to root for them, other than that they are being attacked again and again. Part modern fairy tale, part surrealist horror, and part drama dealing with trauma, Koko-Di Koko-Da was for this reviewer the most “Your mileage may vary” film, as well as the uneasiest watch, of the North Bend Film Festival features that I saw. U.S. viewers can decide for themselves when the film is released theatrically in Winter 2019 in New York City, Los Angeles, and other major cities by distributor Dark Star Pictures. (Koko-Di Koko-Da photos are courtesy of Dark Star Pictures.)
A time-trap tale of a far less brutal kind is The Incredible Shrinking WKND, a Spanish science fiction drama that takes the Groundhog Day conceit to new places. Alba (Iria del Rio) is a thirtysomething hard-partier with something of a Peter Pan complex. She is surrounded by friends with successful marriages and careers, and she goes to her childhood vacation cabin with some of them for a weekend that keeps resetting itself. Unlike most time loop films, this one is a more of a countdown (not a spoiler, as it is in the film’s tag line), with each new reset becoming shorter and shorter. Alba’s boyfriend Pablo (Adam Quintero) breaks up with her in the first two time traps, and as Alba begins understanding and accepting her repetitive situation, which her friends are oblivious to, she begins to find opportunities that allow her to rethink where she is, and where she might be headed in life. Writer/director Jon Mikel Caballero has crafted an engaging story that offers new twists on the time-after-time theme, and he is aided by a strong lead performance from del Rio, whose Alba is at turns equally frustrating, annoying, likable, and relatable. The rest of the ensemble cast is fine, too. The Incredible Shrinking WKND is a moving slice of cinema filled with subtle surprises.
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the film websites Diabolique Magazine (diaboliquemagazine.com), Gruesome Magazine (gruesomemagazine.com), The Scariest Things (scariesthings.com), Ghastly Grinning (ghastlygrinning.com), and Horror Fuel (horrorfuel.com), and film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope (videoscopemag.com) and Drive-In Asylum (etsy.com/shop/GroovyDoom).
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