Directed by Péter Bergendy
★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Billed as Hungary’s first horror film, director Péter Bergendy’s Post Mortem (2020) is a fascinating slice of historical fear fare that boasts gorgeous visuals, engaging lead characters, and plenty of impressive supernatural set pieces. Tomás (Viktor Klem) survived a bomb blast during World War I that involved him possibly getting a glimpse of the afterlife until a vision of a girl pulled him back. Traveling with a carnival as a post mortem photographer — someone who takes photos of the recently deceased for, and sometimes with, grieving family members — Tomás meets young Anna (Fruzsina Hais), who he believes is the girl he saw in his vision. At her suggestion, he accompanies her to her small village, which she says will offer him plenty of business because so many victims of the Spanish Flu died there. The pair become paranormal detectives as they uncover a series of hauntings. Bergendy has crafted a cinematic thrill ride that looks fantastic thanks to terrific costumes and set design, and András Nagy’s gorgeous cinematography. Both the practical effects and VFX departments serve up delightfully eerie work. Bergendy, working from a screenplay by Piros Zánkay, helms the film marvelously, with no shortage of suspense or chills. Klem and Hais make for a great unlikely team, and lead a fine cast. Post Mortem is a strong contender for my Best of 2021 list, and deserves to find a wide audience.
Post Mortem is sold internationally by NFI World Sales.
As in Heaven, So on Earth
Directed by Francesco Erba
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Italian horror outing As in Heaven, So on Earth (Come in cielo, così in terra; 2020) takes a unique approach by combining three different styles to tell three intertwined stories. A first-person perspective style is used for seemingly paranoid detective Leonardo’s (Paolo Ricci) documentation of the case of two missing teenagers. Found-footage style of those teens, Cris (Federico Ceasari) and Jessy (Sara Paudano) — including the novel use of a camera strapped to their dog’s neck — shows their exploration inside a mysterious cave. Highly impressive puppetry is employed to tell the story, set in medieval times, of a young girl kidnapped and imprisoned by monks for alchemical experiments.The puppetry scenes are splendid in their execution but tell an ugly tale, one told without dialogue using on-screen action and accompanying music to further the tale. Writer/director Francesco Erba sets a grim, dour tone from the early going that builds in intensity and delivers shocking moments.
Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night
Directed by Gonzalo Calzada
★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
If you think a film in the supernatural horror genre can’t move you to tears, the Argentinian feature Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night (Nocturna: La Noche del Hombre Grande; 2021) will have you strongly reconsidering your position. This film — one of the absolute finest of the year, regardless of genre — puts viewers through an emotional wringer as it unfolds the story of Ulises (Pepe Soriano), a man in his nineties who may fail to remember what he is doing at a given moment, but who can’t forget some of his decades-long regrets. He lives alone in an apartment with his wife Dalia (Marilú Marini) — they have been together since they were kids — estranged from their adult children, and letting no one in for fear that they will be placed in an assisted living home. A series of burglaries within the building puts the elderly couple at further unease, but things start spiralling out of control when their upstairs neighbor Elena (Desirée Salgueiro) comes frantically banging at their door, begging for help. Writer/director Gonzalo Calzada has made a moving, sensational film that works marvelously as a horror film but would be just as incredible if those horror scenes were removed. Soriano puts on an absolute acting clinic, and that is reason enough to seek out this gem. Marini also turns in a terrific performance, and the members of the supporting cast are all strong, too. Claudio Beiza’s stunning cinematography splendidly captures the claustrophobic — but impressive looking in its set design — apartment and the action within and without. As with Post Mortem above, Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night is certain to make my Best of 2021 list, and also deserves to find the widest possible audience.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Post Mortem; As in Heaven, So on Earth; and Nocturna: The Great Old Man’s Night screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest, which returned to the big screen this year with in-person attendance at London’s Cineworld Leicester Square from Thursday, August 26th through Monday, August 30th, 2021 and then presented an online edition from September 1st through 5th.