Friday, January 19, 2024

Beware The Witch's Water: Feed (2022)

Feed (Sweden, 2022)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Vincent Grahl, Sofia Kappel, Annica Liljeblad

Hoping to market their experience to countless lifestyle fans online for content and clout, a group of social media influencers set themselves to take a relaxing weekend at an eco-resort curiously located at a small island right in the middle of a lake, all owned by an elderly couple who are more than happy to see their little business getting some attention, maybe enough to hinder a lingering bankruptcy. 

It's mostly a quaint stay, with the resort being more of a luxurious camp that comes with spacious tents decked with furniture, an outdoor grill, a wood-fired sauna and even its own little legend of a child-devouring witch named Märit, who was forced to wear an iron mask and banished to the very same island back in the 17th century, right before supposedly taking her own life by drowning herself in the lake. The gruesome ghost story have the elderly couple cautioning the group from approaching the water, but it isn't long before the gang would ignore the ominous warning and can't help taking a swim, resulting to one of them to get attacked by something and be horribly maimed. 

After a rescue attempt by one of the resort owners eerily ends with the old man getting dragged into the water, the group will not only learn in their horror that they're marooned on the island, but there is also something murderous living in this Scandinavian lake that could surface and stalk the island for more victims to take...

For a good stretch of the film, Feed (2022) echoes the likes of The Ruins (2008) or even The Raft segment from Creepshow II (1987) with victims-to-be trying to figure out their chances of surviving and escaping the single location they're trapped in without getting their numbers dwindling down further, courtesy of a threat that's hunting them. It makes for an engrossing watch, focusing on the group's uncanny encounters with the water-drenched killer, as well as the risks and lengths they'll do just for that slight chance of salvation which, in turn, opens up a surprising amount of character build-up from a group that was initially introduced as one-dimensional stereotypes of self-absorbed influencers. Add on the matter that the killer itself, the iron-masked Märit, is intriguingly depicted as a rapid wave of water tailing boats and swimmers to drag them down to a watery grave, and, too, as an amphibious figure that can only walk and stalk around wet grounds, a bit of mythos that help build a few decent suspense scenes of our group looking for places around the small island where they can hide from the witch as rain pours down, and you have a backwoods slasher with a rather unique touch to it, throwing in some curveballs to our expectations to keep us on our toes and even some fair scares to boot.

By the time the film reaches it climax, Feed (2022) shifts its gear from seemingly supernatural to something a little more grounded, which is also when the plot piles up on the bodycount as it drops all façade of restraint and go all out on its crazed twist. It's not perfect, leaving a few questions unanswered and even coming off as rather improbable, not to mention wasting such an amazing villain design, but so long as it leads to some gruesome kills and the typical hokey villain monologues, I can stretch my disbelief enough to enjoy this last act generously peppered with brutal kills and gruesome thrills of B-grade proportions. 

Despite the flaws, Feed (2022) is a promising little Swedish slasher that does the backwoods horror jig in a largely traditional way even with the tempting opportunities for it to devolve into another lazily modernized outing. In fact, the whole social media aspect of the movie didn't really do much to drive the story forward and it's mostly set aside as self-aware jabs at the culture for the sake of a few jokes or even as a character's flaw, which is a little rich coming from a film produced by Joakim Lundell, who is among the biggest influencers in Sweden, but a welcome and well appreciated approach nevertheless. I say give this one a chance! It ain't great, but it is good!

1 female murdered, method unknown
1 female dragged away, murdered offcamera
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female shot to death with a shotgun
1 male knifed through the mouth
Total: 7

Friday, January 12, 2024

In Deep Deadly Thought: We Might Hurt Each Other (2022)

We Might Hurt Each Other (Rupintojelis) (Lithuania, 2022) (AKA "Pensive")
Rating: ****
Starring: Sarunas Rapolas Meliesius, Gabija Bargailaite, Marius Repsys

The general idea is something we've seen dozens of times; teens go to the woods to party, teens end up hunted and dead. It's a slasher plot as old as the sub-genre's golden age, though this Lithuanian 2022 entry opted to do a little more with what it can dish out while still paying some tribute to classic backwoods slashers.

Marius (Sarunas Rapolas Meliesius) is the class outcast who sees himself planning to skip the post-graduation festivities of partying hard and getting blind drunk with his fellow classmates in favor of playing it safe and oppose any risk that could fall in his way. His bestfriend Vytas (Povilas Jatkevičius) thinks it's about time he at least try breaking out of his little bubble of comfort, maybe even finally ask out his crush Brigita (Gabija Bargailaitė), and the opportunity would soon presents itself when Marius learns that the end-of-the-year party lacks a venue and his realtor mother happens to have a lakeside cottage that she couldn't get sell off. The class accepts his offer of a new spot to crash in and the socially invisible Marius is now a part of the whole excitable gaggle.

What the youngsters didn't know is that the cottage was the home of one Algis Motiejūnas, a man who survived a fire that took the lives of his family and carved really eerie sculptures of mourning figures before he seemingly taking his own life. As the gang went on with their celebration, it isn't too long that the sculptures are drunkenly vandalized for firewood later that night and, shortly thereafter, they're fatally punished for it one hatchet swing at a time.

We Might Hurt Each Other (2022) takes a while to get to the backwoods carnage, so it spends half of its entire run setting up the social dynamics of the group first and does a rather spectacular job at that; the writing and acting felt organic enough to work an interesting set of main characters to focus on, investing a decent development on their growth past beyond their archetypes the further the story progresses. And it is through this chance to know and connect with them emotionally that made the lingering sting of the second act all the more effective as, once the killer shows up to do murder, we're forced to wonder just how far some of these people will go to save themselves as they question their responsibilities for a problem they didn't create. 

This theme of social responsibility lingers greatly during the massacre, throwing the story to directions that shift some characters from being dull to selfless individuals, others from adorable to just downright horrendous people, once faced with the danger of being snuffed out by a madman in a mask. It's a whole lot of escapades of true natures getting revealed, betrayed friendships and consequential brutal bloodshed, making the climactic act one heck of an emotional rollercoaster that touches some real morally-provoking questions down to its rather bleak and polarizing "good" ending. 

On the slasher side of the conversation, it's fairly serviceable; We Might Hurt each Other (2023) does the usual stunt of hinting its killer's existence via heavy breathing POV shots first before escalating it to hands-on murders once the maniac decided to show up. A good chunk of the kills were done offcamera, especially one massacre scene wherein more than half of the class are slaughtered by our slasher after cornering them in the cottage they're hiding at, but for those that get to be seen onscreen do deliver on the film's gore quota with one brutally splashy kill to the next. The killer themselves is a throwback to the earlier Friday the 13th films, mainly an amalgamation of Pamela Voorhees and her son, Jason, considering their family-centric reason for the murder spree which would also become their downfall when this is used against them in a way not unlike how Ginny tricked Jason in Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981). That being said, there's little to no surprise who the killer is and, frankly, there's not a whole lot more going for them apart from looking spooky in their wooden mask and that they only target people who destroyed the sculptures.

We Might Hurt Each Other (2022)'s slasher elements may not break any new grounds, its story of how rotten people can get once the odds are stacking against them does give this movie a little more weight for its gloomy angle and heartbreaking treacheries. Plus, it simply looks and sounds great, a real showcase of talent and production that I can easily recommend for a viewing or two!

2 males and 1 female steamed to death inside a locked sauna
1 male knifed in the back
7 females and 2 males hacked and stabbed mostly offcamera with a hatchet and a knife  
1 male jabbed in the neck with a barbecue skewer
1 female had her head forced unto a broken window
1 male had his head chopped off with a hatchet
1 female found burned to death
1 male burned to death
1 male dies from a stab wound
1 female falls off a cliff
Total: 20