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Movie Reviews (Chattanooga Film Festival): Skull; The Wanting Mare

Skull and The Wanting Mare are part of Chattanooga Film Festival’s 2020 virtual edition, which runs May 22–25, and these films may be viewed anytime during those dates. For more information, visit chattfilmfest.org. Please note that the festival is open to residents of the United States only. Fest badges can be purchased at www.chattfilmfest.org/badges.

Skull

If a demonic monster/slasher mashup sounds right up your alley, don’t hesitate on catching Skull (AKA Skull: The Mask), a grue-filled, giddy romp that delivers action and carnage at a frenetic pace. This Brazilian fright flick centers on the excavated Mask of Anhangá — the executioner of Tahawantinsupay, a Pre-Columbian God — which viewers learn during a jaw-dropping cold open is a deadly false face, indeed. Police officer Beatriz Obdias (Natalia Rodrigues) gets tangled up with mysterious creep Tack Waelder (Ivo Müller of The Devil Lives Here) after a double murder in which the killer ripped out the victims’ hearts, because Waelder wants the mask at any cost. The monstrous mayhem only begins there, as the mask takes possession of a hapless individual and turns him into a relentless killing machine. Among the film’s many thrilling set pieces are a slaughter at a dance party and a showdown with a man of the cloth. Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman cowrote and codirected, and they invest Skull with a frenetic energy, a dash of old-school grindhouse, a pinch of dark humor, and gallons of the red stuff. This could well be a franchise launcher!

 

The Wanting Mare

Writer/director Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s dark fantasy The Wanting Mare — 10 years in the making and a stunning achievement of low-budget digital effects, supervised by a self-taught Bateman — takes traditional elements of medieval-set fantasy and places them in a bleak, dystopian setting that seems futuristic but could be any time. The sweltering city of Whithren allows limited escape from its overbearing locale only once a year, when the city’s valuable export of horses across the sea takes place. Only a few coveted tickets are available for passengers, and they are so highly in demand that robbery and murder are committed to acquire them. Moira (Jordan Monaghan) is a young woman whose mother died after giving birth to her, and she is the latest in the line of women in her family to have the same dream each night, which must be kept secret. The film was shot mostly in a warehouse, though viewers would never be able to tell that because of the incredible visual world Bateman has crafted with digital effects. The performances from the sizable cast are gripping and the drama is taut in this tale that runs approximately 35 years. Though not an outright horror film, The Wanting Mare should appeal to viewers who enjoy such dystopian cinematic fare as Children of Men, The Lobster, and The Road.

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