Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit viff.org and follow VIFF on Twitter at @viffest.
Dir. Jason Bourque
Black Fly is a gritty crime thriller set on a small island in British Columbia, Canada. Jake Henson (Dakota Daulby) retreats to the island to lie low with his estranged brother Noel Henson (Matthew MacCaull). The film is loosely based on real events that took place on the East coast of Canada. Paula (Christie Burke) lives with her boyfriend Noel and there is tension between the two. The story unravels slowly, a little too slowly at times. Essential characters are introduced and each performance is fine.
As the story progresses Noel becomes unhinged. MacCaull’s performance as a maniac is terrific, making it easier for the audience to get lost in the narrative. That said, the fear displayed by Jake and Paula isn’t fully earned. While the buildup is lengthy, the shift in tone is a little too quick. It’s a minor gripe with the film. On the topic, it does take too long to hook the audience. Hooking the audience and keeping them interested is a delicate balance when building tension in a thriller like this. Black Fly is certainly worth watching to support Canadian independent film. The violence is quite shocking at times. Sprinkled throughout the film are funny anecdotes of country livin’. During the Q&A, writer and director Jason Bourque confessed that many of the funny stories are real stories from his childhood and from friends growing up.
Black Fly is a worthwhile crime thriller with some cool genre payoffs. The performances anchor this film and there are minor pacing issues that are compensated by a terrific finale.
Songs She Wrote About People She Knows
Dir. Kris Elgstrand
Here’s a film based on one joke and if you don’t like the joke you will not like this film. The film opens with Carol (Arabella Bushnell) singing a song in the flattest, most deadpan voice. It’s meant to be funny but it’s not funny. Through a support group Carol discovered a new way of expressing herself to friends and family – sing a song about it, even if it includes a death threat. Funny? Nope. By design and direction, Carol is a passive aggressive character that operates on one dimension. She deliberately plays dumb in order to antagonize Dave (Brad Dryborough). She pleads ignorance when law enforcement tells her to stop leaving threatening voicemails. “But I’m just expressing myself.” No Carol, you’re delusional and require help.
The characters are unlikeable. Dave doesn’t stop talking. He’s barely tolerable in his first scene and he becomes the uninvited guest that detracts from the movie every time he opens his mouth.
Even in the realm of satire this film cannot operate because there’s nothing to enjoy here. It’s a great premise. If Carol’s character wasn’t so uninteresting this could have worked. More power to you if you enjoyed this film, we’d love to hear what you enjoyed because the consensus of nearby critics aligned with my thoughts.
Dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy
Astron-6 is a genre team that appeals to die-hard genre fans that grew up watching random horror flicks at their local video stores growing up. If you placed The Editor on VHS, jumped in a time machine and placed it on the shelves of video stores in 1980 this would be a huge hit (and it should be a huge hit present day).
The Editor centers on Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks), an unappreciated film editor who takes pride in his work. He’s in a comical marriage that delivers a ton of laughs. The current film he’s working on has seen numerous deaths involving main actors on the set. The kill scenes are grotesque and satisfy genre thirsty fans. The use of practical effects makes this a satisfying experience.
Much like their previous feature film Manborg, The Editor contains a lot of comedy. There’s a slapping scene that plays like a throwback to Airplane! This team knows how to draw from previous talent and add their own flair to deliver an entertaining experience. Adding to the humor are small bits like deliberately delaying the audio when they speak. It’s a small gag that plays throughout the film and is used at just the right dose. Not every single comedic bit works but their batting average is high in The Editor.
The Editor is a tough recommendation because you have to be a die-hard genre fan to appreciate the wonderful works of Astron-6. There was no shortage of walkouts during this film, which is a shame because it’s a blast.