By Neil Pedley
After the feast of holiday offerings, there’s but a meager smattering on offer for a New Year nibble. This week brings two brand spanking new holocaust movies for anyone who still has the stomach (after the other four released in past weeks) or as a tasty alternative you can enjoy some bloody murder in the former Soviet Union or some bloody murder right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. You decide.
Depending on your tolerance for ultra low-budget horror, writer/director Robert Stock’s debut feature will either delight with its copious amounts of corn syrup-enhanced gore or look like someone had a camcorder out during an intense Halloween-themed session of LARP. Inspired by a supernatural encounter that spooked his infant son while idling on a lonely road one night, Stock was inspired to create this dark legend involving a young girl’s spirit haunting the backwoods, possessing passersby and leading them to commit terrible murders. Intuiting that this is the kind of story that indeed has some legs, Stock has already finished filming a sequel with a budget big enough to afford Corbin Bernsen.
Opens in limited release.
Russian auteur Aleksei Balabanov lets his imagination run riot with this black-as-soot comic indictment of Soviet-era Communism described by its director as an attempt to inoculate against growing romantic nostalgia for the old empire. Set at the height of the Afghan conflict in 1984, casually invoking George Orwell’s pre-established dystopian nightmare, Balbanov’s film is a grievous tale of unchecked power run amok. Agniya Kuznetsova stars as Angelika, the free-spirited daughter of a high-ranking official who is abducted by a sadistic secret police captain (Aleksei Poluyan) hellbent on venting his deep-seated sexual inadequacy by way of a bloody murderous rampage.
Opens in New York.
Fresh off the critical knocks of “Quantum of Solace,” Daniel Craig looks to take back a little credibility with Edward Zwick’s adaptation of Nechama Tec’s chronicle of Jewish resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Poland, though still expect to see his chiseled scowl at any point in time. Abandoning the traditional notion amongst the Yanks that history doesn’t really exist until an American shows up to witness it, “Blood Diamond” director Zwick focuses on the Bielski Partisans (Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell and George MacKay), a literal band of brothers who evaded German forces by force on a mission to recover and protect scattered Jewish refugees in the woods of Belarus.
Opens in limited release; expands on January 16th.
Serving as a convenient and purely coincidental mirror to the Edward Zwick’s heroic saga of courage and loyalty, Austrian director Vicente Amorim’s adaptation of C.P. Taylor’s stage play deals with a crisis of conscience for an enfeebled literature professor John Halder (Viggo Mortensen) as he witnesses the resurgence of nationalism in 1930s Germany. When his latest book is hijacked as fodder for the Nazi propaganda machine, Halder has his weak will tested by his bullying wife (Jodie Whittaker) and party bigwigs as he is slowly pushed towards tacit acquiescence and the betrayal of his colleague and closest friend (Jason Issacs). As those who saw his collaborations with David Cronenberg can attest, nobody wrestles with their emotions quite like Mortensen, when he isn’t grappling nude on the floors of bathhouses.
Opens in limited release.
[Photo: “Angel’s Blade,” Stock’s Eye Productions, 2008]