I decided it was time to try some of the more oddball items in my inbox, so stay on your toes, batters, there's some wild pitches coming your way...
Thale - 2012
Written & Directed by Aleksander Nordaas
This low-key tale from Norway centers around Leo and Elvis, a couple guys who seem ill-suited to bio-hazard clean-up work, given how much they (but mainly Elvis) vomit throughout the film, but there you have it. They're doing clean up in a house deep in the forest; evidently the site of some grisly murder, given the amount of blood and gore they're mopping up. In the process, they discover a hidden basement full of cobwebs, old lab equipment and corroded canned foods. There's also a tub filled with something like milk. A young woman emerges from the tub capturing their attention (but mainly Elvis). She doesn't speak, and it's impossible to tell how long she must have been in there, given the lab's state of disrepair. Elvis in particular is compelled to care for her, possibly in connection to his feelings about recently discovering that he has a child, but possibly for a more direct and mysterious reason. The mystery becomes who is she, what is she, and why is she in this strange environment? When Leo and Elvis' superiors send in an armed response team, the answers become deadly.
It's a very slow-paced movie, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but one is bound to notice it. Given that it's rooted in Norwegian folklore, I might have appreciated the developments more if I had been familiar with the legends, but I'm going to leave that to you to decide whether or not that's something you'd want to know. The story is, frankly, on the spare side, which again, isn't inherently bad, but having been introduced to this legend and character, I would have enjoyed seeing more done with it. The actress who plays Thale (TAH-leh), the young woman is convincing as a strange and otherworldly beauty. I would definitely have preferred for her to have more to do, as opposed to the two depressed Norwegian dudes. It wasn't a mind blower, but it was far from a bad movie, and made for a very welcome change of pace.
Lo - 2009
Written & Directed by Travis Betz
Now this I loved.
Justin, a heartbroken young man summons a demon to do his bidding, and his bidding is the return of his lost love, April. The demon, Lo, is antagonistic if not outright threatening and questions Justin's motivations, putting off the job at hand with traded tales about Justin and April's past, and questionable suggestions that Justin may not have known his beloved as well as he thought he did.
The film was clearly made on a shoestring budget, but it is at all moments entertaining and enthralling. Set almost entirely in the nether-space between Justin's apartment and Hell (in other words, the dark), Lo could easily be produced as a stage play, and indeed frames its flashback sequences as though they were.
It's not strictly horror, in that it's not really scary, but by that measure you could discount 80% of the genre. It's an effective hybrid with moments of tension, humor, romance and even a couple musical numbers. It's really remarkable what they were able to accomplish in terms of story and emotion with such a minimalist approach. Joyless viewers need not apply.
WNUF Halloween Special - 2013
Written & Directed by Chris LaMartina & co.
If Call Girl of Cthulhu was Chris LaMartina's homage to the 80s, the WNUF Halloween Special is his attempt at an identity theft. The entire production is made to look like a bootleg VHS copy of a news broadcast and special from Halloween, 1987, including commercials.
First there's a hokey local news broadcast covering the requisite Halloween stories -- the dentist with warnings about tooth decay, the fundamentalist Christians who claim it's all devil worship, etc. -- all hosted by the bland and corny anchors. Their broadcast feeds right into the on-location special with a reporter at the house which was once the scene of a horrible double murder and has been notoriously rumored to be haunted ever since. Crusading reporter Frank Stewart means to go inside with a husband and wife (& cat) team of paranormal investigators to hold a seance and determine once and for all whether the house is truly haunted. Frank also has a Catholic priest in tow, just in case an exorcism should become necessary.
While I generally felt that the whole thing got stretched too thin, I did, ultimately, feel modestly rewarded with an emergent narrative from seemingly unrelated elements throughout the broadcast.