Austrian arthouse shocker Luzifer (2021) definitely fits into the “It’s not for everybody but you need to see it to see what you think” category. It has both religious horror and eco horror themes, and its initial meditative pace slowly builds into a grueling climax.
Johannes (Franz Rogowski) is a grown man with a childlike mind who has been brought up, living off the land, in an isolated manner by his recovering alcoholic mother Maria (Susanne Jensen). Their lifestyle is extremely out of the ordinary, to put it mildly. Maria turned to decidedly unorthodox religious practices after her husband — Johannes’ father — died, and she raised her son with those same beliefs. Developers want to buy Maria’s land as part of a plan for a ski resort, but she refuses, leading the developers to launch an assault on the family and their beloved animals that begins with harassment including constant drone surveillance and builds to acts of violence. Johannes thinks that the drones are demons, and his mother’s religious teachings lead him toward a brutal decision.
Rogowski and Jensen turn in mesmerizing performances, no easy feat considering the complexity of their characters and the complicated, uncomfortable relationship between mother and son. Writer/director Peter Brunner has crafted a beautifully shot (by Peter Flinckenberg) and directed work that asks much of its viewers while offering its share of discomfiting rewards.
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Alberto Belli
What’s the worst that can happen when players don’t bother reading the full instructions before playing a board game for the first time? If you are one of the unfortunate players involved in the titular game of the winning horror comedy Gatlopp, it could mean all sorts of dire and deadly consequences, including an infernal trip or two.
Los Angeles resident Paul (Jim Mahoney, who also wrote the screenplay) is bitter after being served with divorce papers from his manipulative wife Alice (Shelley Hennig), and in need of a place to stay while waiting to receive money for selling their house. His party-hardy buddy Cliff (Jon Bass) offers him a room, but surprises him with an unwanted welcoming party with invitees Sam (Emmy Raver-Lampman), a workaholic entertainment executive, and Troy (Sarunas J. Jackson), a struggling actor; the group is made up old friends who haven’t seen each other in years. Cliff finds the Gatlopp drinking/board game in a used credenza that he just purchased, and after some resistance, the group settles into play. Gatlopp becomes increasingly disturbing and dangerous to play, the four friends learn, and if they don’t finish the game by sunrise . . . well, this is a horror comedy, so you can guess that there will be dire consequences.
Belli does a fine job at the helm, working from Mahoney’s sharp screenplay, and he balances the fear and the funny well. The four leads are great, investing their characters with verve and making them each flawed but wholly likable. That means that the characters are well worth getting invested in, which raises the stakes of both the game and the film. Gatlopp is a lot of fun, and should be a strong contender for many year-end lists of best horror comedies.
XYZ Films will release Gatlopp on Demand and Digital on June 23, 2022.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Luzifer and Gatlopp screen as part of the 19th Calgary Underground Film Festival, which takes place April 21–May 1, 2022 both at Calgary’s Globe Cinema and streaming on demand online. For more information, visit https://www.calgaryundergroundfilm.org/.