Victoria Film Festival reviews: Grisly fun with mom-to-be on a mission

Times Colonist movie writer Michael D. Reid is covering the Victoria Film Festival, which continues until Feb. 12. Go to timescolonist.com/VFF for updates. Ratings are out of five stars.

 

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Prevenge

Where: SilverCity

When: Tonight and Feb. 6, 9 p.m.

Rating: Four stars

Rosemary’s Baby, It’s Alive and even the Vincent Price revenge classic The Abominable Dr. Phibes spring to mind during British writer Alice Lowe’s gruesomely entertaining horror film.

Lowe plays Ruth, a seemingly delusional pregnant woman on a killing spree who views the directions she is apparently taking from her potty-mouthed unborn child as “a hostile takeover” of her body.

As grisly as some of the visuals are in this fusion of horror and black comedy, they’re in the service of a story that is at once a tale of vengeance and a pregnancy nightmare that doubles as a female-empowerment treatise.

Lowe, whose deadpan delivery makes her occasionally appear to be channelling Ricky Gervais, is terrific as the chameleonic, unsympathetic mommy-to-be on a mission.

Be warned, however: This film is as blood-splattered as it is absurd. It’s not for faint-hearted viewers.

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I Called Him Morgan

Where: Star Cinema/Vic Theatre

When: Feb. 6, 7 p.m., Feb. 12, 1:30 p.m.

Rating: Four stars

Like Lee Morgan, Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collins’ documentary about the tragically short life and death of the enigmatic jazz trumpet player and Blue Note recording artist is far from conventional.

It’s a mesmerizing and nostalgic flashback, suffused with a score of jazz standards and glorious black-and-white cinematography of New York then and now.

The film’s striking visuals and seductive score accompany a haunting audio track — a North Carolina jazz DJ’s confessional conversation with Morgan’s widow and convicted killer, Helen Morgan, recorded in 1996, shortly before her death.

It’s a by turns revealing, mystifying and selective recollection of an ill-fated relationship. The recorded memories are an essential ingredient in a richly evocative portrait of the past, up until Helen shot the Philadelphia native dead in 1972, when he was 33.

The audio flashbacks are fluidly intercut with fascinating reactions from jazz luminaries including Wayne Shorter and Billy Harper.

A recurring wintry motif, ostensibly to match the blizzard that preceded Morgan’s death, is an atmospheric highlight.

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Riverhead

Where: Capitol 6

When: Tonight, 9:15 p.m.

Rating: Three and a half stars

Newfoundland native Justin Oakey’s feature debut is a slender but impressively naturalistic crime drama that evokes life in a divided Newfoundland community as he dramatizes the escalating conflict between Patrick (a ruggedly affecting Lawrence Barry), a hardscrabble widower, and his late, longtime enemy’s hostile son Michael (Stephen Oates), fresh out of prison with a chip on his shoulder.

Oakey’s familiarity with the region’s colourful characters, culture and landscape effectively complements his film’s edgy drama.

It stems from a longstanding family feud, apparently sparked in part by religious differences, that is reawakened, triggering slow-burn tension.

While thick regional accents are occasionally difficult to comprehend, these challenges fade away as the narrative takes hold.

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