New kid on the festival block NIGHTSTREAM kicks off tonight with a fabulous lineup showcasing the newest genre films. A collaboration between five festivals affected by COVID-19 (Boston Underground, Brooklyn Horror, Northbend, Overlook, and Popcorn Frights), NIGHTSTREAM features seven world premieres, nine North American premieres, an incredibly diverse shorts lineup (including a queer section), and tons of special events, all streamable from the comfort of your home. Here’s some films you cannot miss:
Originally set to premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, Deveraux Milburn’s fuckin’ bonkers feature debut Honeydew stars Sawyer Spielberg and Malin Barr as a couple who wind up trapped in the home of an unstable elderly woman (Barbara Kingsley) after their car breaks down on a camping trip. Words can’t describe this deranged and disturbing hallucinatory nightmare that also features one of the most unexpected celebrity cameos of all time. Seriously, don’t miss it before the internet spoils the surprise.
Another completely insane and unpredictable film, Justin Dyck’s satanic boomer joint Anything For Jackson follows an elderly couple as they kidnap a young pregnant woman and try to summon a demon that’ll transfer the soul of their dead grandson into the abductee’s unborn child. This is all just as crazy as the synopsis suggests and easily one of the best horror films of the year.
A Midwestern punk fable about two misfits who find love in a hopeless place, Adam Carter Rehmeier’s Dinner in America starts off on an obnoxiously abrasive note and slowly revels its tender heart. In a star-making performance, Kyle Gallner plays Simon, a drug-dealing pyromaniac on the run from the cops who finds an unlikely ally in a pet store employee (Emily Skeggs). Despite an uneven tone and a few bits of homophobic dialogue, it’s one of the funniest movies of the year and has one kick-ass original song.
Presented as a lost VHS police training video from 1988, Quinn Armstrong’s Survival Skills follows the eager and chipper Jim (Vayu O’Donnell) during his first year on the force. What starts off as a darkly funny and tongue-in-cheek satire of Reagan-era politics slowly drifts into unexpectedly dark places as our antihero gets too involved in his work. Complicated, provocative and clever, this is the only police movie you need to see this year.
Set in Germany in the ‘70s, writer-director Sabrina Merten’s domestic drama Time of Moulting confines the audience in the house of a reclusive and emotionally fractured couple scarred by mental illness and their daughter’s increasingly self-destructive behavior. Composed of 57 episodes with mostly static shots, it’s an arthouse slow burn that demands a bit of patience and paints a devastatingly real portrait of inter-generational trauma.
A flawed but fascinating German film that feels like cross between Systemcrasher, The Rider, and The Babadook, the excellent Nina Hoss stars in Katrin Gebbe’s Pelican Blood, a spooky rural drama about a horse trainer who adopts a child with an emotional detachment disorder. Gebbe runs into trouble while trying to turn this into an occult movie, but everything leading up to the questionable third act is wonderful.
Another outdoorsy story with absolutely stunning cinematography, Joachim Hedén’s intense aquatic thriller Breaking Surface follows two half-sisters (Moa Gammel and Madeline Martin) on a winter scuba diving trip in northern Norway that goes horribly wrong after they get trapped underwater in a rockslide. Clocking in at less than 80 minutes, it’s effective both as a lean and action-packed deep sea adventure and emotionally involving family drama.
Based on the infamous true story of a woman who married the Eiffel Tower, Zoe Wittock’s visually hypnotic Jumbo stars Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noemie Merlant as Jeanne, an amusement park worker who falls madly in love with a Tilt-a-Whirl ride. Not a queer film per se, there’s definitely a barely concealed subtext to which some members of our community can relate. In the wrong hands, this could turn out cheap and exploitative, but Wittock’s take on the story brims with empathy.
We’re also dying to see the opening and closing night films: Aneesh Chaganty’s Run stars Sarah Paulson in a Rear Window-esque thriller about the relationship between a wheelchair-bound teenager (Kiera Allen) and her doting mother, and festival closer/Venice favorite Mandibles, the new one from French director Quentin Dupieux about two goofballs who try to earn extra cash by training a giant fly.
Nightstream kicks off tonight – tickets available here