Directed by Lenny Heller
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Struwwellerror (Germany, 2020) is a horror satire taking a decidedly dark dig at “kids today” and the outrageous things they do to get attention on social media. It’s one of the sharpest fright-fare films in recent memory to tackle the subject. Teenage sisters Luca (Caroline Hartig) and Maxine (Flora Thiemann) and their tweenage brother Theo (Jannis Wetzel) are left to their own devices when their parents leave on a trip and take the family router with them. Luca wants to make herself prettier, Maxine is manipulated by a boy in whom she is interested (David Hugo Schmitz) in making a video he hopes to go viral, and Theo wants to stop the teasing he gets at school about a physical problem he is experiencing. All three get their opportunities to reach for their goals, with chilling, brutal consequences. The young cast members are all fantastic, giving performances that feel real despite the outrageousness of their characters’ ideas and actions. At only 45 minutes running time, director Lenny Heller keeps things running at a brisk clip and loads on plenty of tension. Equally disturbing as the fictitious proceedings are in-credits actual video clips of people doing dangerously stupid things that inspired some of the events in Struwwellerror.
Directed by Kate Whitbread
★★★ out of ★★★★★
Australian folk horror outing The Unlit (AKA Witches of Blackwood, 2020) finds police officer Claire Nash (Cassandra Magrath of Wolf Creek in a solid performance) returning to her titular hometown after her Uncle Cliff (John Voce) calls her with news of a death. She is currently on suspension because of her handling of an incident of a young man who committed suicide in front of her. Things seem quite off in Blackwood, and letters from her late father only make things more mysterious. The lack of men and children in the area is another puzzle. Flashbacks of Claire’s past hint as to why she is being treated so oddly by the locals. Director Kate Whitbread eschews shocks and jump scares in favor of intrigue and eerie, brooding atmosphere. She paces the proceedings well and though the finale might not be a surprising one to witchcraft cinema aficionados (the film’s alternate title gives that much away), Whitbread, working from a screenplay by Darren Markey, keeps things intriguing. Folk horror fans should find The Unlit well worth a watch.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Struwwellerror screens as part of Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival , which runs online from October 18–31, 2021.
The Unlit is an official A Night of Horror International Film Festival selection but not included in the virtual event. It will be released in Australia next year and has been released in the U.S. as Witches of Blackwood.
For more information on A Night of Horror International Film Festival, visit http://www.anightofhorror.com/.