TIFF 2019: Color out of Space and The Vigil – quick horror reviews

The Vigil. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

For the first time I’ve been granted press accreditation for the Toronto International Film Festival®, recognised as one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. So, I had the opportunity to watch and review a bunch of movies. This article features short reviews of Color Out of Space (USA, Richard Stanley, horror/sci-fi) and The Vigil (USA, Keith Thomas, horror).

Now it’s finally time to delve into the horror of Toronto International Film Festival: I already reviewed Saint Maud and Resin, and I’ll be posting longer reviews of SYNCHRONIC, The Platform and Takashi Miike’s First Love in the next few days. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch two of my most anticipated horror films from TIFF, The Antenna and The Lighthouse. Hopefully, I will still be able to review them prior to wide release. Fingers crossed!

Continue reading and check my quickies below… 

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Color out of Space – short review

Color out of Space - Image credit, courtesy of TIFF
Color out of space. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Richard Stanley takes on the adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror short story about a meteor falling on earth and landing on the property of a New England family, in which the-one-and-only Nicholas Cage plays the father. The meteor unleashes a wave of madness and insanity that drives both the family – and the film’s audience – out of their minds.

Very similar to Mandy in terms of tone and uniqueness, Color out of Space relies on a much faster pace and on visuals reminiscent of Annihilation. This film is a purposeful nightmarish and nonsensical experience that go beyond “regular weirdness”: sci-fi extravaganza meets exhilarating body-horror, in a movie that truly provides an unprecedented viewing experience, despite its clear inspiration coming from the aforementioned titles.

Every scene revolving around Nic Cage is, simply put, glorious: the actor is free to go completely bonkers and his performance is truly fascinating. However, it feels like Cage is acting in another film in comparison to everybody else: his over-the-top, insane performance doesn’t mesh with the other characters, whose acting is very straight-faced and subdued. Another aspect that really feels misplaced is the comedy: Color out of Space tries to utilise its weirdness as a mean to deliver nervous laughs, but it only causes the terror (with some truly disturbing images) to be less impactful due to the out of place and embarrassing sense of humour.

Overall, Color out of Space is a very unique and entertaining film, but its attempts at being completely insane make it messy, confusing and tonally very inconsistent. Aside from Cage, the performances in the film are really dull and one-note, with every character feeling like an emotionless mannequin.

Color out of Space                                        5/10

The Vigil – short review

Keith Thomas’ directorial debut, The Vigil, is based on the premise that joining or leaving a faith comes with dreadful consequences. The movie takes place over the course of a single evening, where a man (Yakov – Dave Davis) providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity. This is the result of Yakov’s decision to abandon his dogmatic faith.

Labelled as a “Jewish horror movie,” The Vigil doesn’t dive very deep into theology or even specific traditional superstitions, which raises two issues with the film: on one hand, it’s really hard to understand the main character’s psyche and why he feels the way he does in the movie; on the other, The Vigil heavily relies on jump-scares that, due to confusing motivations, really don’t mean anything on a deeper level.

The fact that The Vigil often falls victims of gimmicky horror trends is really detrimental to the film, since both the build-up and the atmosphere are incredibly effective, here. In fact, on a technical level The Vigil is miles better than any other cliched horror flick: despite this being his first feature, Keith Thomas fully understands how much setting, lighting and camera-work can deeply affect the audience’s viewing experience. On top of that, Dave Davis’ performance as the lead is genuinely electrifying and relatable. While his character isn’t fully fleshed out, his journey throughout the film is very compelling and, by the end, satisfying.

Despite its overreliance on horror tropes and some issues with the writing, The Vigil is frightening enough to please most horror fans and well-made enough to be enjoyable for most cinephiles.

The Vigil                                             6/10

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