Overlook Film Festival Wrapup!

JUNE 2-5, 2022


After having a blast there in 2018, I knew I wanted to go to Overlook Film Festival again someday. I can't remember why I didn't go in 2019 (financial reasons, I assume) but I didn't have much of a choice in 2020 or 2021, as covid forced them to do it online, which isn't quite the same. So when I saw they were returning to a physical fest for 2022, I instantly took the dates off work and vowed to go (luckily I bought my flight before the gas prices sent airline tickets skyrocketing in turn). And, as a special treat to myself, I didn't apply for a press badge via any of the sites I've written for, opting to just buy a pass and attend like anyone else, allowing myself to have fun and not worry about turning around reviews, doing interviews, or any of the other things that can dampen the enjoyment of a festival when you're working.

As a result, I didn't push myself to hit a movie at every slot and do all of the other things the festival offered. Instead of seeing another movie on the first full day, I walked off site to enjoy a horror trivia game (my team won a round outright and tied for another, out of four total - not bad!), and on the last night I skipped the final slot and treated myself to a normal dinner in a restaurant instead of wolfing something less healthy down in between films (hell I only got beignets ONCE, which is embarrassing!). But it's not just the disinterest in the grind; I'm getting older, my friends. I can't run on fumes like I used to, and since covid is still very much a real thing (despite what many seem to believe), I had to put my wellbeing first and take it easy. And hell, even with my reduced schedule, I still slept for almost 11 hours when I returned home on Monday!

The flipside is, alas, missing out on stuff, including both the winner and runnerup of the audience awards, as those slots were either spent seeing (lesser?) films or just taking a break. Not counting Sleepwalkers (which screened with a live recording of The Kingcast podcast, run by two pals who I wanted to support) I only saw six movies while I was there, which is a pitiful amount for a three and a half day festival - younger BC could have done double that! I really need to start embracing the idea of screeners. And I also missed out on pretty much all of the interactive game, as the 90+ temps had me not really wanting to walk around the city looking for clues (I only did the first part, which was indoors - and it was fun for the record). Last time I went it was held in April, which was much less humid and not as hot, so I hope if they CAN move back to that time that they do. No one wants to sweat all day.

Anyway, without further ado, here's a quick recap of all the films!

I never saw Ana Lily Amirpour's second film The Bad Batch, because everyone who DID see it seemingly hated it so I figured I was fine to skip it. But as a fan of her first movie (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) I was excited to see this one, because it sounded more horror-y on paper (an escaped mental patient with the power to control minds!) and was also shot in New Orleans, making it an ideal film to see at this NOLA-centric festival - I even booked a more expensive flight to ensure I would be there in time to see it! (A good call since my friends who took the cheaper flight did indeed arrive too late to see the film.) And it's pretty good, though I can't say I loved it - it's a little too loose, narrative-wise, for my tastes, with some tonal shifts that also left me a bit cold. Our hero (Mona Lisa) is just kind of wandering around the city for a while, using her powers mostly to get food, when she finally crosses paths with Kate Hudson (who is top billed despite her late entrance), a stripper who is kind of a garbage person. At first she's just using Mona to harmlessly bilk dudes at the strip club out of their cash (fine, f them!) but then they start robbing people at ATMs, which is less deserved. Their antics catch the attention of the police, of course, led by a woefully miscast Craig Robinson as the one cop who knows something supernatural is happening. The rest of the cast is good (kind of novel seeing Hudson ditch her girl next door persona to play such a jerk), in particular Ed Skrein (who I usually dislike!) as the world's most helpful DJ/drug dealer, and the relationship between Mona and Hudson's son (who kind of rightfully hates his mom) is very sweet, but the herky jerky screenplay kept me from loving it as much as I might. Amazing final scene though; almost made up for all of my issues with the film. Almost.

My favorite movie of the fest, and one I'd probably like even more if The Night House didn't just come out less than a year ago. Because this movie is ALSO about Rebecca Hall trying to get past an old lover who has seemingly returned to haunt her, though in this case he's a flesh and blood human monster. Tim Roth plays the ex, who was a former teacher who manipulated her into being a slave of sorts to him, and then apparently murdered their baby when she got pregnant. She is now with another daughter (whose own father is unknown; not Roth - she purposely hooked up with bar strangers until she got pregnant, to try to replace the baby she lost) and worries that Roth will harm them both, but of course no one believes her, including her daughter who starts to pull away. What Roth wants is a surprise best left to viewers, but I will say this - if not for Men, this would lay claim to the year's most jaw dropping WTF ending. But it's in a better movie, so I think it gets the W.

I might give this one another chance someday, as on paper (and occasionally in execution) it's right up my alley: a bullied teen named Sara (the title refers to one of the horrible nicknames she's given) catches the attention of a psycho who opts to "defend" her by killing the bullies. And so the movie focuses on Sara's dilemma - does she tell the cops and the worried parents what she knows, or does she let this guy do what he's doing in the hopes that maybe her life will suck a little less? Unfortunately, the pacing is all off (I wasn't surprised to learn it was based on a short film); it seems like we spend nearly half the movie on repeated scenes of people yelling at Sara to tell them what she knows, and Sara running off to pout about it. It gets to the point where I stopped feeling bad for her, which is perhaps the point in some kind of "don't stoop to their level" kind of message, but it's muddled/lost in the grueling pacing and Grand Guignol gore that seems like it's something we're supposed to cheer for. The idea is sound, but something was missing to make it as engaging/exciting as it should have been.

Quirky little "mumblecore" kind of movie (the script is attributed to the film's director and the four major cast members) about a woman named Elena (Blair Witch's Callie Hernandez) living on her grandmother's property in New Mexico, who seemingly does nothing but hang out in the mobile home except for occasionally giving a ride to a quiet friend named Benny. One day while pumping gas she sees an old friend (Jessica; the title is derived from another character's lisp) and invites her to hang out. The friend waffles, then takes her up on the offer, and later we discover why the woman is being so strange: she had a stalker who she finally just killed, and his corpse is in the trunk. Elena helps her bury the guy on the vast land her granny owns, but then his ghost returns and continues harrassing her. However, this isn't played for scares - as Elena explains, he can't do anything but annoy them. Director Pete Ohs has a blast mocking these pathetic incel types, as the stalker ghost continues to whine about how unfair it is that she doesn't love him back just as he did in life. There are other little twists involved, but this very short (70 minutes with credits) film is mostly focused on the pair's friendship and how they can leave the past behind, making it kind of surprisingly sweet in its own weird little way. Definitely not a movie for everyone, but a nice surprise if you can get on its wavelength.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday I hope all filmmakers will realize that when a major character talks to someone out of earshot in a movie, it is instantly telling the audience that "All is not what it seems." The movie starts with Winona Ryder and John Gallagher Jr on their way to a weekend retreat at an AirBNB he booked, but when they get there they see another couple has seemingly also booked the joint. Gallagher goes to talk to the other couple while Winona waits in the car for a minute, and the camera stays with her, not allowing us to hear what we're supposed to think is a conversation that's essentially "Hi I think there's been a mixup..." So we know Gallagher's hiding something, a fact that the movie waits another 30-40 minutes to spell out for us. We're repeatedly told that the cell service is "spotty" up there, but why he didn't just text the people to tell them about the change in plans is just one of the many times in the movie where we need to accept that no one in this movie acts like a normal human being, because otherwise the plot wouldn't work. That said, it's still engaging enough due to Winona's performance, as well as Dermot Mulroney as the home's actual owner, a burnt out hippie type who walked away from a promising biowhatever career in Silicon Valley. The two of them confronting their age and feeling old compared to their younger co-stars (yes, Gallagher being much younger than Ryder is a plot point, not a weird casting decision) resonated with me, enough to mostly forgive the shaky structure that jumps between two timelines when it feels like answering a question or two. It's not as simple as "Gallagher wanted to get rid of her" or something, I'll give it that much, but there's still a hefty chunk where we are way ahead of Ryder, which is never the best idea. Once Mulroney enters the story in full force it picks up, I just wish the movie didn't have to win me back. And the end is a bit of a copout; without spoiling anything, Ryder says something that I thought was daring, but turns out to be a ruse - I woulda just gone with it! Why not?

My last movie at the fest was also my least favorite; what a sad way to end my time there. Ever see Yoga Hosers? It's basically the same thing, with two slacker girls/besties working at a dead-end job (an ice cream stand in this case) encountering all kinds of supernatural oddities. It starts off OK, with one of them having been bitten by a werewolf and convinced they're going to change that night, with the other friend standing guard to make sure she doesn't hurt anyone, only for them to inadvertently kill (shoot) their friend who was attempting to scare them - the idea of people being afraid of monsters and end up in some kind of Coen-y "the bodies keep piling up" situation with zero monsters would be a lot of fun! But no, there IS a werewolf. And a witch. And a sasquatch. And a cult, for good measure. It just gets tiresome before it's even half over, and the scattered laughs get less and less frequent (and less funny to boot). It's directed by Sung Kang for some reason (he has no other credits in the film, so it's not like it's some passion project), so it will draw some attention due to that, but otherwise I'm not quite sure who the target audience is for this, as it's fully R rated but has a plot that seems like someone jammed together five Goosebumps episodes, with some actors (the old guy who runs the ice cream place in particular) seemingly not getting the memo that it's NOT meant for 8 year olds. A very weird project, albeit not entertaining enough to warrant a curiosity viewing.

Anyway, like I said I wasn't attending as press, so I didn't have access to screeners or anything that might have allowed me to see more. But that's OK - I'm also trying to get through "the pile" in speedier fashion than I have been, so it's not like I'm hurting for anything to watch. Hopefully the audience winners (Sissy and Deadstream) find their way to Shudder or Netflix or whatever in due time and I can check them out on my own time. Until then, I was happy to be there if not always up to my full strength/energy, and look forward to returning someday under what I hope will be better circumstances re: pandemic and weather so I can fully embrace the joy that is the city itself, and festing with friends (one of whom indeed had to back out at the last minute due to getting covid :( ).

What say you?


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