Directed by Bertrand Mandico
★★★ out of ★★★★★
After Blue (France, 2021) — a mash-up reminiscent of a science-fiction story from Heavy Metal comics magazine and a spaghetti Western — is a colorful, visually rich arthouse B-movie. It’s as frustrating to follow, though, as it is fascinating to watch. After Earthlings have colonized the planet After Blue, all men have died because of hair growing inside their bodies, while women have survived because the unusual hair growth caused by the planet’s atmosphere is only on their outer necks. If you’re still with me after that sentence, this divisive film may be for you. A young woman named Roxy (Paula Luna), on the beach with her cavorting, callous friends, spies another woman, Kate Bush (Agata Buzek) — you won’t forget the character’s name because it is repeated throughout the film, and as a longtime fan of the British singer Kate Bush, the reference is not lost on me, but I can’t think of a worse character to name after the singer — buried up to her neck in the sand. Kate promises Roxy three wishes, and then immediately kills Roxy’s friends. Roxy and her hairdresser mother Zora (Elina Löwensohn) are forced by their fellow townspeople to find and kill the elusive Kate, which leads to wandering about fascinating landscapes, with masturbation and monsters, assassins and androids, and a vag-eye-na (you’ll see, if you watch the film) and phallic tentacle things all on display. Far more outré science fiction/fantasy than horror, it does have some scare-fare elements. Its more than two hours running time is asking a lot of viewers. Recommended mostly for those seeking a strange visual journey who don’t mind a scattershot plot.
Directed by Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas
★★★ out of ★★★★★
Pandemic-set horror Ego (Spain, 2021) finds psychologically troubled 19-year-old Paloma (María Pedraza) scouring a same-sex dating app. She is shocked to find a young woman who looks exactly like her named Goliadkin. Seemingly playful and friendly at first, Goliadkin soon makes her presence known in increasingly menacing ways, putting the lives of Paloma, her mother (Marian Álvarez), and her good friend Jorge (Pol Monen) at risk. Director Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas’ doppelgӓnger thriller is well helmed, with interesting camera work, an all-in performance from Pedraza highlighting a fine ensemble cast, and some suspenseful sequences, but the story doesn’t offer much new to the deadly duplicate subgenre other than setting its initial action in the virtual world. Even with its 92-minute running time, its pacing occasionally gets bogged down with a little too much wandering around the house at times. Overall, it’s worth a look for Pedraza’s performance and Cortés-Cavanillas’ intriguing vision.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
After Blue and Ego screen as part of Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, which runs from October 14–21, 2021.