Magic Magic

Director: Sebastian Silva (2013)
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Emily Browning
Find it: IMDB

Mumblecore turtleneck hipster icon Michael Cera stars in this psychological horror film, driving poor Juno Temple around the twist over the course of what will surely turn out to be the worst holiday of her life. Visiting her cousin in Chile, the nervous young Alicia (Temple) is abandoned among a group of people she barely knows in a claustrophobic, remote country house.

Not-so-gradually, the already bewildered Alicia begins to lose her mind, bullied by the aloof Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and harassed by sleazy, weird Brink (Cera). Add to that a terrible bout of insomnia, definite mental health issues and chronic moodiness, and we're left with the most uncomfortable holiday since that one time I was trapped on a fucking houseboat with a cretin who identified himself as a standup comedian. Temple does a good job with a thankless role, but it's Cera who will win the lion's share of the applause. And rightly so; he's magnificently malicious in it, like a more drawn-out version of his role in This is the End.

Everything else is so purposefully odd that it almost hurts. This is horror for the mumblecore crowd - a darker version of Youth in Revolt. Sadly, Cera didn't bring the moustache back for this one, although he does rock a series of great jumpers. Browning is less effective as cousin Sarah, surrounded by terrible people and having little to do but look tired and react resignedly to her friends' shitty behaviour. Augustin Silva is cool as the only guy in the group who's not an unbearable arsehole, but that just makes his decision to hang around people who are seem all the more conspicuous.

Not being the sort of horror movie with ghosts or chainsaws or even horror, Magic Magic jumps to a Kill List change of pace in the third act, but it's no game changer. Those who hate the film will likely hate it even more, while those who were enjoying it will support its arty dive into nonsense.

Magic Magic is a convincing portrayal of a girl suffering a mental breakdown while surounded by shitheads and Michael Cera. It's grim and dirty in all the right ways and has a great villain in Michael Cera (as far as anyone can be anything in this sort of thing) but remains about as enjoyable as holidaying with a gang of bickering hipster numpties could ever be.

Which is to say, 'not very'.


Director: Riley Stearns (2014)
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick
Find it: IMDB

A more serious version of that episode of The Simpsons in which Homer joins a cult and has to be de-programmed by Marge and Reverend Lovejoy. Well, slightly more serious anyway. Starring the always awesome Mary Elizabeth Winstead and That Guy actor Leland Orser, Faults is actually very funny also.

Their daughter apparently brainwashed by a mysterious cult named 'Faults', a pair of worried parents enlist disgraced cult expert and de-programmer Ansel (Orser) to help the girl see sense. Grabbed from the street, tied up and thrown in the back of a van, Claire (Winstead) is smuggled away to a quiet motel room where Ansel plans to spend the next few days undoing Faults' influence. We're soon left wondering, however, just who is in charge around here. Hint: probably not Ansel.

Faultlessly (geddit) acted, well-written and enjoyably surreal in places, Stearns' directorial debut is a fine piece of darkly humorous food for thought. Its work with Ansel is particularly impressive; a character who starts off reprehensible and pathetic before transforming before us into a figure both sympathetic and oddly likeable. Very well done to Winstead too, giving a subtle and nuanced performance which manages to be believable both in vulnerability and later strength. Lance Reddick also appears periodically, serving to boost the cool quotient even more.

Playing at Film4 Frightfest, Faults was one of the festival's more interesting releases - not horror, nor even really a thriller, with minimal violence and gore, it nevertheless emerged as one of the weekend's best. Sure, it's a little slow and even mildly predictable in places, but we can forgive its minor faults (get it!) when everything else is so well done.