Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Film: Day Eight, Or, Blame It On The Local Vodka

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Austin again, for a light-viewing Friday.  Hopefully you'll forgive the brevity of this post, but for one thing, I'm preparing for the big push that is Saturday — the final day of the South By Southwest Film Festival, for which I have a full roster of viewings planned — and for another, I ran into some friends last night who had an in with Rwake's people and a case full of Tito's.  So, as you can probably guess, I'm in no condition for an insightful analysis of last night's viewings.  I'm lucky I'm not dead, to be honest.  But I'll do my best, and soldier on for tomorrow, when we go over the top.


Baghead already beat him to the punch with the first mumblecore horror movie, so it's hard to know how Wyatt McDill is going to market his ultra-low-budget thriller Four Boxes.  The first slasher flick for the eBay generation, maybe?  That doesn't make the movie sound very promising, but luckily, it isn't.  The story of a couple of unlikable slackers (Justin Kirk and Sam Rosen) who run an estate auction business, Four Boxes quickly turns even less inviting as they luck into a massive house owned by a recently deceased client with no immediate relatives.  Kirk and Rosen make themselves at home, invide their former ex-girlfriend Terryn Westbrook to join them, and the proceed to get into a bunch of exhausting, annoying bitch sessions over the course of the next hour and a half.  The fact that they stumble onto a site bookmarked on the dead man's computer that shows a 24-hour feed of mysterious figures torturing people only makes them more detestable.

Of course, that's as planned — we definitely aren't supposed to like these self-centered, compassionless jackasses, as later developments make more and more clear (to the point of heavy-handedness).  But the moral lesson, such as it is, tries to have it both ways, and it makes its point with the same leaden distaste as is evidenced in the interactions of the characters.  To steal a line from a guy who made more money doing this than I ever will, where Four Boxes is good, it is not original (it features shades of Saw, Fear.com, and a handful of other indie horror flicks), and where it is original, it is not good.  There's some clever twists and turns along the way, but they all get buried in an avalanche of mediocre acting, low production values, and ploddingly obvious moments.

Grade:  C-

Hannes Stoehr's Berlin Calling is a bit of a curate's egg — overall, it leaves an off taste in the mouth, but parts of it are excellent.  It's more or less a fall-from-victory-to-despair picture, starring Paul Kalkbrenner as DJ Ickarus, a character who, like the actor portraying him, is a superstar techno disc jockey in the Berlin scene.  His career is going great guns, but he's hindered by his drug addiction, which is fueled by a hanger-on named Erbse (played with sinister nervous energy by R.P. Kahl), an ingratiating pusher.

Berlin Calling is something of a disappointment; its sex-and-drugs narrative is nothing we haven't seen before, it delves precious little into the vibrant and diverse German techno scene, its script is minimal to the point of being silly, it overreaches with its obvious metaphors, and overall, it comes across as inconsequential and slight when it should be soaked in bad vibes and heavy feelings.  But it does have enough to recommend it (especially some terrific acting by Kahl, Corinna Harfouch as Ickarus' therapist, and Araba Walton as an ex-girlfriend) that it might be worth hunting down on DVD if it gets a stateside distribution deal.  It's also a gorgeous-looking, slicky photographed film and, unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is explosively great for those attuned to the Berlin sound.

Grade:  C+

Off to get into another fruitless argument with the front desk at my hotel.  Tomorrow:  once more into the breach, then some metal hangover on Sunday before I finally head back home for episode #2 of Kings.  How I suffer for you, AV Club readers!  Cry real tears.