Monday, May 24, 2010

Possessed (2009) aka Bulshinjok aka Disbelief Hell aka Living Death aka Hell of the Nonbeliever aka...

This is the start of a week of films from the Tribeca Film Festival. These, along with Into Eternity, which ran as a capsule review back during the festival, are the best of the 16 films I saw. I'm sorry its taken so long to actually post these, but I needed to get some distance before I wrote them up. Frankly I needed to be able to let the greatness of the films not be colored by the unhappy experience of the festival itself.

So, in the hope of clearing the decks I'm going to start with one of the best films of the Festival and possibly of the year.

This is a Korean film with way too many alternate titles in English. Trying to find the trailer for the film on You Tube resulted in finding clips but under a variety of titles. The film played at the Tribeca Film Festival as Possessed, which is one of the better possible titles… (see the post title for other names)

The plot of the film has a college student getting a call from her mother to come home because something had happened to her sister. This is after receiving a strange late night call from her sister asking her if she was okay. Racing home she finds her sister missing and her mother refusing to do anything about it. All mom is interested in is having her daughter begin believing in God. As mom goes to church to pray, the girl calls the police. At first the police don’t think anything is wrong, the sister has simply run off, however people begin to “commit suicide” and other weird things begin happening.

One of the best most haunting horror films I’ve seen. It’s a film that hangs with you and stays with you and forces you to ponder what you’ve seen and what it’s getting at.

“Getting at?” you’re asking yourself, “what do you mean getting at?”

I mean that the film has more on its mind then making you jump out of your seat, which it does repeatedly. Not only is the film a horror film of the first order, it’s also a film about the notions of faith and belief. Can you believe in something that you don’t have evidence for? (This is a subject that was taken up by the terrible Buried Land which also played Tribeca and which it failed miserably to deal with) When the film ends it’s the questions of faith that remain and which resulted in two hours of post film discussion on the subway and train ride home.

This is that rarest of all things a horror film that works not only as a visceral horror film, but also as an intellectual one. In some ways I think that makes this a scarier film because it’s working you over on any number of levels and you can’t retreat into the safety of dismissing what you are seeing.

I should probably point out that this is not a gory film. Actually there isn’t much blood and no guts, which will probably disappoint the gore-hounds who like everything stained red. The horror here comes from the situations, from the implications and from seeing things that really shouldn’t be (eyes don’t move like that). If you like horror films but don’t like where they have descended this film is for you.

You’ll notice that I’ve been lacking in really discussing the details of the film and that’s intentional. I want anyone who sees this film to walk in and get hit with the film the way I did, straight on and full in the face. If you know too much at the start I think the film won’t work. This is a horror film that’s structured like a mystery so if I give you too much information you’ll be able to unravel what is going on, and if that happened you won’t have as much fun as you should.

Trust me, this is one of the best horror films you’re likely to see. I know from the reaction of the audience I saw this with that everyone was loving it. Sitting in the back of the theater I could see that everyone was sitting bolt upright staring at the screen, never moving except to jump out of their seats. (This is a rare horror film where it sets things up and moves in a direction and you plead with it not to go where you think its going because you know something is going to happen and when it does you scream and jump).

I'm not completely sure what the status of the film is. I think its making the rounds of film festivals and is out on DVD overseas.

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