Directors: Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson, Caste: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Vanessa Bednar, Shane Brady, Francesco Carnelutti
104mins US Horror/Sci-fi
You can run but you can’t hide, is the message that American Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead deliver in this curio. Their low budget indie mix of mumblecore and mystery takes place in a picturesque seaside cove in Apulia (southern Italy) where a recently-bereaved American (Evan) has fetched up following his mother’s death and a string of bad luck back home. Almost at once he strikes up a relationship with a strange and sultry local girl whose enigmatic behaviour is the recipe for a ‘head over heels’ love affair.
Lou Taylor Pucci is compelling as the naive chancer who strays into Paradise and gets more than he bargained for. Finding a job and a billet with a local olive farmer (an unconvincing and poorly-drawn sketch of what Americans imagine Italian country life to be), Evan pursues his elusive paramour Louise with a vengeance. Meanwhile, she is struggling with a rare ‘skin disease’ that requires her to drink the blood of local cats and even her pet rabbits. As Louise, Nadia Hilker’s ill-pitched American twang and foxy confidence take a great deal away from her character’s potential mystique, making her feel more like the ubiquitous teen vampires of recent dramas rather than an intriguing European muse. What’s more, Evan is so lacking in any direction or judgement on this aimless jaunt, that he is prepared to tune out of reality and take Louise’s perpetual signals to back off (is she a ‘vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch or alien’): he just rolls over like a proverbial lamb to the slaughter.
Moorhead’s bleached out visuals contrast and alternate with occasional vibrant frames which, combined with shaky camerawork, are intended to create a sense of disorientation, but just feel ill-advised and slapdash and special effects echo Aliens. And despite a theme of recurring insect close-ups and a crypt vignette, the filmmakers disregarded the naturally sinister locale that could have added so much more by way of texture and atmosphere . Sharply-scripted early scenes give way to slackness in the later stages: conversations between Louise and Evan lose their acuity and pithiness, descending into endless ‘folkloric’ nonsense. All in all, this feels more like a teenage boys’s ‘wet dream’ territory with Sci-fi undertones than affectingly immersive and spooky Gothic horror. MT
THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 9-19 OCTOBER 2014