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The Tribeca Film Festival has a lot of fun with their Midnight movie slate. This year, we've enjoyed the outrageous found footage anthology V/H/S/2 as well as the telekinetic kid tale Dark Touch. So, I went into two other flicks from the Midnight selection with high hopes. Happily, neither Mr. Jones nor Fresh Meat disappointed as each offered its own unique take on after hours terror.
Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Karl Mueller, Mr. Jones is an inventive interpretation of the found footage genre that unfolds a wild fantasy story about the cannibalistic nature of art. Penny and Scott (Sarah Jones and Jon Foster) are lovers who have come to a remote cabin so that the latter can kick his inner demons (vaguely established as they may be) while working on a nature documentary. Penny, a professional photographer, puts her life and work on hold for her partner, but begins to resent him as he loses focus and drive. Scott laments to one of his confessional camera that he doesn't know what his partially conceived doc is about just as Mr. Jones enters his life and changes everything.
"Mr. Jones" is the name given to an elusive and anonymous folk art sculptor whose creepy scarecrows rose to prominence when he sent them to random recipients back in the 1970s. Enthralled when she uncovers this reclusive icon's new works, Penny declares they have stumbled across an incredible opportunity, "like finding out your neighbor is J.D. Salinger, or Banksy!" She urges Scott to make his doc about Mr. Jones, while she'll photograph his latest scarecrows for a coffee table book. But as they greedily take inspiration from Mr. Jones' art to create their own, the couple uncovers the artist's unbelievable secret identity. This builds to a mind-bending finale that is fun, frightening, and fascinating.
Mr. Jones has scored distribution, so watch our for it!
A zany horror-comedy out of New Zealand, Fresh Meat centers on the growing pains of the Crane family, an upper-middle class Maori family that rediscovers their roots in a pretty untraditional way. Blossoming Rina (Hanna Tevita) returns from her all-girls boarding school to discover her father Hemi (Once Were Warriors' Temuera Morrison), a frustrated academic, has led the family to embrace an ancient religion that involves ritualistic cannibalism. And just as Rina is forced to face this horrific new brand of home cooking, their home is invaded by a pack of armed and dangerous fugitives.
There are splashes of campy gore and gonzo humor inspired by B-movie horror and exploitation flicks, but at its core Fresh Meat is about Rina coming into her own, rejecting her family's "traditions" and embracing a newfound love for Gigi, a badass/dental hygienist who seems a custom fit for Rina's Sapphic fantasies. Fresh Meat has fun ogling its leading ladies, but while imbuing them with the power to wallop their domineering male authority figures (father, brother, boyfriend). There's a sociopolitical message about race, sex, and imperialism buried in here somewhere, but it's largely lost amid the comedy's willful silliness and outlandish action. Nonetheless, Fresh Meat is fiercely funny and brazenly bonkers.
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