Toronto Film Festival Video Blog #5: You're Next And Damsels In Distress Reviewed

By Katey Rich 2011-09-14 12:41:47discussion comments
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I've been in Toronto for a week now, and though there are still movies playing and even interviews left to conduct, the festival is starting to wind down. A lot of people seem to think it's exhausting spending 10 full days seeing movies, eating poorly and never exercising, and I'd argue against it but I'm feeling too exhausted. Instead I'll just point you to the latest video blog, in which I run down the two films I caught yesterday, the indie horror comedy You're Next and the return of Whit Stillman with Damsels in Distress. I also talk briefly about Shame, which I wrote about in more detail here.


You're Next was one of those films you catch at a festival because you were running late to catch the other thing you meant to see, and you sorta remember hearing positive buzz a few days earlier. But it turned out to be one of my favorite surprises of the festival, an exceedingly well-made but also economical indie that uses the "house under siege" side of the horror genre for both old-fashioned scares and some twisted humor. The movie is gory and gross in a lot of moments, but not particularly sadistic or mean-spirited, even when it's allowing characters to, say, be garroted with a piano wire. The story is completely standard issue horror movie stuff about a family's home invaded by mysterious killers, but it's Adam Wingard's careful and often elegant filmmaking, along with very funny actors, that sets You're Next apart.

My next movie, Whit Stillman's Damsels In DIstress, was just as confident as You're Next, but I really have no idea what to make of the end result. Stillman is a distinct filmmaking voice who hasn't made a movie in 14 years, and that alone is enough reason to celebrate Damsels, which is colorful and witty and very cheerful. But it's also packed with the kind of quirk-- like pretty college girls who want to prevent suicide with tap dancing lessons-- that can get viewers checking out of the movie within minutes. I stuck on board-- I'm a sucker for dance numbers, what can I say-- but never felt totally certain what kind of world Stillman had created, what the rules were and how, if at all, I was supposed to engage with his wackadoodle characters. I don't necessarily think I should have-- Damsels in Distress is its own very specific thing, and is frothy and funny enough to enjoy fully. But I found myself respecting its oddities more than engaging with it, and wondering how much more could have come out of it with more focus and comedic restraint.

For all the rest of my ongoing Toronto coverage, go here.
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