Friday, October 30, 2015

Morbido ’15: Hostile

Whenever you see a reality TV camera crew turn up in a genre film, you know their life expectancy will be severely limited. Such is the case in France as well. Chloé from SOS Adoption was expecting to give frazzled single adoptive mother Meredith Langston her usual pep talk. Instead, she finds two aggressively evil teenaged girls. They were once innocent and respectful, but something changed soon after moving into their new country home. SOS Adoption will permanently jump the shark in fourteen year old filmmaker (yessir, you read that right) Nathan Ambrosioni’s Hostile (trailer here), which screens as part of Mexico’s Morbido Fest 2015.

At first, Langston was deliriously happy to be the mother of fifteen year old Emilie and the fourteen-going-on-fifteen Anna, before they suddenly turned, you know, hostile. That was around the same time they started talking to the sinister “Jefferson,” a bogeyman-ish figure who appears from time to time in the garden. Mother Langston really starts to crack when she sees Jefferson too. Feeling overwhelmed, Langston takes flight, leaving her adopted Bad Seeds in Chloé’s reluctant care.

Frankly, it takes even less time for Chloé to get completely freaked out by the Langston Sisters, so she arranges for them to spend time Jessica Flaminsky and her husband Daniel, Vatican-approved specialists in demonic possession. Ominously, Ms. Flaminsky senses there is something profoundly different about their case, in a very bad way. Nevertheless, her husband leaves her alone with the hellion sisters, to run chores at the most inopportune time. Strangely enough, unsuspecting minders are often left alone with the sinister sisters, which invariably leads to unfortunate consequences.

Ambrosioni’s commitment to transitions and establishing shots is iffy at best, but he maintains an atmosphere of overpowering dread. As a teen himself, he seems to have a firm handle on how horrible girls that age can act. That first-hand knowledge gives Hostile a razor-sharp edge. Despite not always crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of his narrative, Ambrosioni pulls off a significant third act twist that changes everything about our assumptions, but nothing about the film’s menacing essence. Even with its rough edges, Hostile will scare the snot out of you.

Luna-Miti Belan and Julie Venturelli are frighteningly credible as the twisted sisters, while Magali Gouyon and Julien Croquet play the Flaminskys with the sort of sophisticated eccentricity and cerebral arrogance you find in the very best horror movie protagonists, going back to the legendary Peter Cushing. Ambrosioni also contributes a great Hitchcockian cameo.

Hostile is not a gimmick. If you saw it cold, with no foreknowledge of Ambrosioni’s identity, you would assume it was helmed by a veteran French genre director. It is just all kinds of eerie. Highly recommended for fans of occult horror, Hostile screens this Sunday (11/1) , as part of this year’s Morbido.