Josh Olson's Day 5 at SXSW: ERASING DAVID, COLD WEATHER & THE LOVED ONES!
Hitting my stride. Got some good ones under my belt today. The documentary Erasing David, from director David Bond, is a very funny, and very entertaining movie that also works to scare the crap out of you. David lives in the UK, which is an even more intrusive surveillance state than we’ve got here, believe it or not. In an attempt to find out how much data there is on himself, he disappears for thirty days and hires private detectives to find him. The film follows his attempts to stay off the grid, as well as the detectives’ attempts to find him. It’s fascinating and truly chilling, and the film may change the way you feel about your own privacy. As one of the talking heads in the film says, privacy is one of those things you only ever feel when it’s taken away. David’s hope is to find out far one has to go to be free of what his wife calls “data-rape,” and it’s frightening - although not too terribly surprising - when he does. Put it this way - if you have no job, no friends, and live in a hole in the ground, or an abandoned building, you’re probably going to be able to live a private life. Which is good news for one or two of the folks who’ve been commenting here, but bad news for the rest of us. This is a really good film, and an important one. It’s running on VOD now, and at the Q&A, the filmmakers said it’s also now available on iTunes. Check it out. It’s not often such important information comes your way in such an entertaining package.
Next, it was Cold Weather, from writer/director Aaron Katz. For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the whole Mumblecore movement has been watching some of these filmmakers push at the boundaries, and take their aesthetic into new genres. I’m a huge Baghead fan, but Cold Weather is even more enjoyable, and that’s saying something. A young man and his friends become embroiled in a mystery in Portland. I think that’s all I’m going to say, because so many of the film’s pleasures are found in its surprises. The actors are all just terrific, and it’s beautifully shot and directed. Katz and co. are pretty adept at injecting their plot into the script without shattering the illusion of reality, and the end result is a very suspenseful little piece. Context really is everything - if you’re watching, say, Aliens VS. Predators, the level of action that’s required to make a scene even interesting - let alone suspenseful - is monumental. But when you set a film this securely in a real and believable world, you can get the maximum amount of tension out of two people having coffee in a diner. And speaking as someone who’s a huge fan of movies that know exactly when to end, I really appreciated the hell out of Cold Weather.
Topped it all off with a midnight show of The Loved Ones. A tasty bit of perversion from down under, it was actually kinda revelatory for me. Watching it, it dawned on me that we only use the phrase “torture porn” when the stuff sucks. Sean Byrne has written and directed a truly demented little masterpiece that reminded me of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in all the right ways. (I’m told someone attempted a remake a while back, so I’ll clarify - I’m referring, of course, to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)
The Loved Ones reminded me of a prom I went to in New Jersey when I was in high school, only slightly more terrifying. A good looking high schooler is asked to the prom by a strange young woman in his class, and says, “No.” He should probably have said, “Yes.”
The performances in the film are all top-notch, and it’s very well directed - Byrne knows when to throw it in your face, and when to play it coy. There’s one particularly gruesome act that he never directly shows, and I’m not being your grandmother here. I mean it. I wish he’d shown it, because it would have been a hundred times less disturbing. A very creepy movie.