LFF 2018: Our final picks for this year’s BFI London Film Festival

28th October 2018

Our last installment of picks we've managed to see at the BFI London Film Festival last week. We will hopefully be covering most of the films, more extensively throughout the coming months upon their release.
Mandy is pure gothic, heavy metal horror bliss; if that was ever a thing, then this is it. I found myself completely immersed into director’s Panos Kamenos blood-red lucid dream; with its blurry ambience and stoned pace. Kamenos fuses 80s fantasy with a straight forward genre narrative but loads it all with copious amounts of blood, gore and vengeance, littered throughout with satanic symbolism and 80s He-Man animation references. With praise-worthy performances from a lovesick, anger fuelled Nicholas Cage and a crazed Sheira-esque death maiden in Andrea Riseborough; Mandy will soon be a definite a cult classic.

An unexpectedly generic cop-goes-rogue affair, a far inferior effort to what we’ve become accustomed to by Nicole Kidman of late. Kidman’s detective Erin Bell goes off-grid to settle an old score and in doing so reveals her own struggles with an estranged daughter, workaholism, alcoholism and an inability to let go of a past discrepancy. What is most surprising about Destroyer is the production's poor or perhaps a lack of a hair and make-up department; Kidman is sporting the most awful, ill-fitting wig ever and bad crusty make-up which completely distracts. If there were any merits to this film I wouldn’t know as I found myself heavily examining Kidman's hairpiece throughout, desperately searching for the moment where it looked natural, even just little.

A witch coven masquerades itself as a world-renowned dance company in the heart of Berlin in 1977, where the arrival of new student Susie Banion (Dakota Johnson) starts to cause all sorts of mayhem. I had mixed feelings about Luca Guadagnino’s follow up to his overexposed Call Me By Your Name. A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 supernatural masterpiece Suspiria, Guadagnino tries to capture some of the over-dramatics, the 70s neon-coloured euro glamour mixed in with stylized witchcraft, stabbings galore and copious amounts of brightly coloured fake blood; but opts, in some parts, to take things down a notch into a more grey and realistic terrain. Rightly so, it would be difficult in an age of social realism and state-of-the-art CGI to replicate the original's frantic over-acting and its stylized terror kitschiness and not come across as utterly pretentious. Visually it’s a magnificent offering, however at 2hrs 30mins it’s a bit of stretch, especially as the plot starts to lull at 41 minutes in and never fully recovers.

In Fabric is centered around a department store, sometime between the 70s and 80s, where a demonic red dress purchased by Sheila (played the brilliant Marianne Jean Baptiste) for a date, brings her a stream of really bad luck. The dress is then passed on to find itself at the hands of Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) forced to wear it for his stag do, and subsequently also disrupts his life completley. It sounds bizarre and it truly is, hilariously bizarre. Director Peter Strickland is perhaps more successful than Guadagnino in capturing the essence of kitsch Italian horror and injecting a dose of comedy to boot. Strickland is solidifying his position as a visionary director, creating a lavishly baroque signature style that is unique and easily recognizable, with clever tongue-and-cheek dialogue, an outlandish narrative and characters that are scrumptiously vivid and complete. His films take place in a alternate yet familiar universe, where the twist is provided by the absurd situation the protagonists find themselves in and the ease with which they settle into this bewildering staus quo. If you loved Berberian Sound System or The Duke of Burgundy, this is just as good!

The BFI London Film Festival took place between 10th-21st of October 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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