★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Lado Kvataniya
Director Lado Kvataniya’s Russian serial killer feature The Execution (2021) is one of the best films of 2021, regardless of genre. It’s a gripping slice of cinema that left this reviewer running through a wide range of emotions and character allegiances as it weaved its twisted, twisting magic on me. The film covers a decade-long period — in nonlinear fashion that at first seems a bit hard to get a handle on but that wraps everything up nicely before the ending credits roll — in Detective Issa Davydov’s (Niko Tavadze) quest to capture a serial killer. The film reveals very early in the first act that Daydov has put the wrong person behind bars, and the news comes at a time when he is being promoted. Fellow detective Ivan Sevastyanov (Evginy Tkachuk) is committed to helping Davydov. Daniil Spivakovsky portrays a prime suspect in the case in a chilling performance. The three lead actors head up a superb cast that also includes Yulia Snigir, Aglaya Tarasova, and Victoria Tolstoganova (unfortunately, a cast list crediting actors and their character names was not available at press time). The screenplay by Kvataniya and Olga Gorodetskaya is edge-of-the-seat stuff, filled with sharp dialogue, historical Russian references, and enthralling mystery. Denis Firstov’s cinematography is absolutely stunning. Kvataniya expertly ratchets up suspense and maintains a thick layer of dread throughout. His debut as a feature-film director is a masterful effort that cinephiles of every stripe should put high on their need-to-see list.
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Sebastian Godwin
Writer/director Sebastian Godwin has crafted a highly unsettling debut feature with Homebound (U.K., 2021), a claustrophobic terror tale about a young woman’s visit to a highly dysfunctional family. Holly (Aisling Loftus) has recently married Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) and he takes her to the spacious country home of his ex-wife to meet his three children on the occasion of youngest child Anna’s (Raffiella Chapman) birthday. The children’s mother has seemingly left them to the care of Richard and Holly during the visit and doesn’t return his text messages. Meanwhile, teenagers Ralph (Lukas Rolfe) and Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) make it clear that they don’t want Holly to stay at their home, first through giving the cold shoulder, then through direct words, and finally through weird, violent acts that Richard writes off merely as kids playing games. His behavior becomes increasingly confusing and darker, too, with a frightened Holly — and viewers — wondering what exactly is behind all of the strange occurrences. The ensemble cast members all give captivating turns, with Loftus leading the way running through a gamut of emotions. Goodman-Hill’s character becomes increasingly intense and the child actors nail their disturbing portrayals. Homebound is by no means an easy watch, putting each character in harm’s way, but it is a thrilling one. Godwin sets an eerie, dread-filled town early on and constantly builds on it as the mystery as to what is going on in and around the children’s home increases. This film is a top-notch work of independent horror fare.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
The Execution and Housebound screen as part of Fantastic Fest, which runs in Austin, Texas from September 23–30, 2021, with an FF@Home virtual version from September 30–October 11. For more information, visit https://fantasticfest.com/.