This article is part of our Grimmfest 2020 coverage. You can check out the rest of it by clicking these words.
Written and directed by Matt Smith, USA, 35 minutes
I don’t know what time or place this is set in, but it’s not here, and it’s not now… thank goodness! The Altruist is about a man caring for his bedridden spouse, with more mucking out than one would normally expect, though just as much affection. The horror lies partly in what we see (and smell), but more in the contrast with the intrigue and detailed production style. Perhaps what the film is showing us is that real horror can be found in a complex relationship. The couple presented have wildly different needs and levels of commitment; but could they continue any other way?
The acting is remarkable. Smith himself plays the man, with admirable and seemingly difficult restraint. Somehow the woman (Elizabeth Jackson) expresses everything in one repeated word and a smile. I think I held my breath for the duration, sometimes with my hand over my mouth, but I’m definitely glad I saw it: bizarre, horrible, and outrageously original.
Patrick is Outside
Written and directed by Carsten Woike, Germany, 30 minutes
No-one enjoys the first visit to a partner’s parents, but I don’t think anyone really expects to feel quite as uneasy as I did on Anna’s behalf, when watching this. This is a pristine suburban Good Housekeeping-type home with an apparently retired couple, glasses of Grappa in the evenings, and talk of theatre. It is also a house where everyone steps carefully around unwritten rules and casual conversation: no politics, no upset. We get to see what happens when a family member steps out of line, but would one want to join a family like this?
There is an almost constant tension here, seeing that something is off balance with the boyfriend’s family, but nothing you can put a finger on; a bit like the first half of The Visit. The acting from the two women stood out, demonstrating on the mother’s part that she is desperate for her family to grow and never quite saying that it must be on her terms; and a gradual sense of disbelief on Anna’s part. Beautifully filmed, with patience and class to reflect the people presented.
Written and directed by Paul Nicholas Holbrook and Sam Dawe, UK, 23 minutes
My son, a creative boy, once asked me if there was something that was both my superpower and Kryptonite. He didn’t like my answer: parenthood. So it will come as no surprise that this film touched a nerve or two for me. It’s about the relationship between young Joe and his mother, Laura, which we see from before his birth up to adulthood. Joe is an unusual boy in that he does not stop eating, regardless of manners, appetite, or hygiene. Laura is concerned from the start, but the health visitor just lays it back on her, and her husband doesn’t stick around long enough to help.
Hungry Joe is clearly a gross horror that’s difficult to watch at times, though that’s as much due to the atmosphere from the score and the way the cast becomes steadily more unhappy. But there is also horror in the real-life commentary (exaggerated though it may be) in the way parents are often not taken seriously, or else blamed if there is a problem; the way one has to support one’s children, like it or not; and when someone finally considers asking how Laura is, she says, “I’m fine.”
I think Joe’s single line of tragic dialogue will stay with me as much as the ending of Saint Maud.
Blue & Malone: Impossible Cases
Written and directed by Abraham López Guerrero, Spain, 23 minutes
As if knowing the audience would be ready for a change of pace, Grimmfest 2020 has laid on this little treat: a blend of live-action with simply beautiful digital animation, a story of nostalgia, imagination, and hope.
Berta (Aura Garrido, El ministerio del tiempo) is a journalist with a deeply tiresome boss. Instead of doing his bidding one evening, she goes to visit the theatre where she used to play as a child while her grandmother worked, and document the place and the memories before it is demolished. She doesn’t just rekindle memories, though: she also encounters Mortando Malone and Big Blue Cat, imaginary friends from her childhood, now detectives who deal in impossible cases.
You might think Who Framed Roger Rabbit? at first, but not for long: Blue & Malone: Impossible Cases has affection and wonder instead of dry sarcasm. The quality of the production surely deserves to be utilized for a longer piece; this is the second short film about Blue and Malone, and we can certainly hope for more.
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