Monday, May 19, 2014

SIFF '14 Review: 'Another'

From the very first frame, writer/director Jason Bagnacki’s neo-giallo “Another” sets a dark mood and an atmosphere fraught with tension. When you start your movie with a bunch of creepy dudes in black robes performing some sort of occult ritual on a baby in a cave, this sort of thing is bound to happen. Spooky imagery, slow motion shots, ominous tones, and many more tools of the trade pile layer upon layer of pressure on top of you as you watch. One scene even slows and well-known pop song ever so slightly just in order to disconcert you in a new and interesting way.

The baby in question is Jordyn, and when she hits 18-years-old, played as an adult by Ana Paula Redding, she learns a hideous secret about past, her bloodline, and her family. This is all kicked off when her Aunt Ruth (Nancy Wolfe) attempts to disembowel herself at Jordyn’s birthday celebration. That is the type of party that you and your friends won’t soon forget. Before she can recover from the trauma, Jordyn starts seeing haunting visions, having terrible nightmares, blacking out and waking up in strange places, and generally being taken over by some kind of evil that she doesn’t fully understand but that totally scares the hell out of her.

At its best, “Another” is an artistic rendering of that classic pulpy giallo style, with a healthy dose of old Hammer horror thrown in for good measure. It will call to mind the work of filmmakers like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and all the other Italian genre innovators. Bagnacki’s color palate and the filters he uses make every frame look and feel like paintings. The film has a marvelous texture that adds an entirely different element to the visual side of the equation. Throughout the movie there’s very little dialogue , but Redding is just stupidly beautiful—like in a classical, if-Audrey Hepburn-made-a-horror-movie kind of way—and keeps you entranced enough.

“Another” reaches its peak in the quiet moments, when it is content to be eerie and send chills up your spine. There are witches, covens, curses, a clock that blinks 6:66, and much more that will unnerve you. As it progresses and things ratchet up, getting more frantic and flustered, the constant stylization does get to be a bit overwhelming. While the aesthetics are intended to mirror Jordyn’s increasing distress and disintegrating mental state, you occasionally feel like you’re about to have a seizure from the lightning fast edits and flashing lights, and your ears hurt from the overwrought screaming. By the end you can’t help but feel the movie is more concerned with style than anything else, and though stylistic concerns are important, there has to be something more substantial to prop it up. You need more than just a string of eerie moment stitched together.

In the end, “Another” will appeal to gore hounds and hardcore horror enthusiast of all stripes, but it’s too specific in it’s homage and references to really cross over to a wider audience. After a strong start, the film comes off the rails—the good news is the film is only 80 minutes long, and eight or nine of those are end credits, so you never feel too stuck. In reality, this has always been an issue with many giallo films, even some of the favorites of the genre. In that regard, “Another” is an incredibly authentic recreation of the form. If this is something you’re interested in, however, you should definitely give it a shot. There’s more than enough going for it that it is worth a watch, and after just having its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, some distributor is going to snap this up and put it out into the world for a slew of late night showings.

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