The 57th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival* starts on April 24 with more than 100 films spanning two weeks. The more than 100 films screening at SFIFF captures the whole gamut of film genres from documentaries to dramas to the downright creepy. This post is mostly interested in the latter. Below you’ll find five films from this year’s film festival that will leave cinephiles with either pounding pulses or pondering brains.
Wednesday, April 30 | 9 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Monday, May 5 | 9 p.m. | New People Cinema
Most reviews of Borgman suggest the film is a home invasion story at it’s heart. Before you roll your eyes and mumble something about “home invasion” movies having run their course take a moment and reflect on You’re Next. Most horror film fans tend to agree that You’re Next, which screened at last year’s SFIFF, took the subgenre and managed to squeeze rewarding fresh life out of it. Everything I’ve read about Alex van Warmerdam’s dark horror/comedy seem to suggest it does the same. Jordon Hoffman wrote for Film.com “What works wonderfully, however, is the unease of not knowing just who, if anyone, deserves our sympathy in this story. The infiltrators are all so charismatically nonchalant (and well dressed) that it is hard not to cheer them on, but as the body-count of innocents unlucky enough to get in the way of their scheme increases, the “Funny Games” fourth-wall break isn’t even required.”
Friday, April 25 | 9:45 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Tuesday, April 29 | 9:45 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Coherence is an indie sci-fi flick that comes to SFIFF riding on a wave of buzz created at last year’s Fantastic Fest. Reviews for this film are spoiler heavy, so I won’t be linking out for this one, but the festival guide describes it as “delightfully weird and brain-busting.” If you wanted to have a loose theme for your festival viewing experience Coherence would act well as a bridge between Borgman and The Double.
The Double UK
Saturday, April 26 | 1 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Tuesday, April 29 | 9:15 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
The Double, based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella of the same name, follows mundane office worker Simon James as he copes with the sudden appearance of an out-going and well-liked doppelganger of himself. Fans of Terry Gilliam’s kingdom of schizophrenic alienation will feel right at home while taking in Richard Ayoade’s sophomore effort. While the film has been received with considerable praise where there is negative criticism it mostly relates to Ayoade’s dependence on his influences. Considering the source material this criticism seems appropriate. Dostoyevsky scholars see The Double as the important juncture where the author was still under the shadow of his influences, but also showing the signs of his personal voice.
History of Fear Germany/France
Wednesday, April 30 | 7 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
Friday, May 2 | 9 p.m. | New People Cinema
Wednesday, May 7 | 8:45 p.m. | BAM/PFA
History of Fear provides a different sense of paranoia and anxiety than The Double. While The Double offers an object of paranoia for the audience History of Fear goes the opposite direction. The audience is only granted vague suggestions of what’s creating the air of anxiety in a Buenos Aires suburb. It’s the sort of storytelling that isn’t well-suited for mass consumption, but, as The Hollywood Reporter‘s Boyd van Hoeij writes, “is the kind of feature that requires an active investment from its audience, making this more suited to festivals.”
The Sacrament USA
Saturday, April 26 | 11:45 p.m. |Sundance Kabuki
Monday, April 28 | 9 p.m. | Sundance Kabuki
I won’t lie, You’re Next was one of my favorite films of 2013, so it brings me some pleasure to reference it twice in this post. Fun trivia: In You’re Next the character Tariq, who takes a cross bolt to the head during dinner, was played by The Sacrament director Ti West. This year West brings to the festival a horror film that takes many of its queues from the Jamestown Massacre…maybe? Using the “found footage” technique the film follows ambitious Vice reporters as they travels to the Eden Parish commune where all isn’t as it seems…or is it? I don’t know the answers to these questions…or do I?
* disclosure: this author is a seasonal employee of the San Francisco Film Society