North Bend Film Fest 2019 Capsule Reviews
The small town of North Bend, Washington is not only home to Twin Peaks, cherry pie, and a damn fine cup of coffee, but it also houses the North Bend Film Festival. Taking the place over one weekend, North Bend programs some of the most interesting genre films you never heard of. We returned for our second year, and during that time, we saw some crazy shit. Below you can find capsules for all the films, experiences, and VR shorts we saw at this unique and up-and-coming festival!
“To see this film is to see the world as Eva sees it, and what we come to observe challenges 21st century rules of thought. Eva is someone on the fringes, pushing boundaries of social norms and being truly individualistic. For that reason, her documentation becomes interesting. To hear from her and see a side of life unseen to most is where we can see the 21st century be reevaluated, it’s just a matter of whether or not we choose to listen that its message will take hold.
I think the most impressive part about this film is how disparate, yet holistically complete it is. As different avant-doc techniques are deployed, you may be taken aback, but it is through this that we see Eva differently. Searching Eva is a film where form plays an important role in how we see Eva. For someone who thinks differently, acts differently, and challenges society differently, it’s a smart — and impressively cohesive — creative decision to construct a doc that challenges the rules under the same mindset. The end result is a visually evocative doc that was my favorite film at North Bend this year, and if you can manage to track it down, don’t hesitate to give it a watch and pick Eva’s mind.”
“Bliss is a hyperkinetic genre film that moves at a break neck pace— literally and figuratively. As Dezzy’s painting begins to take form, the insanity ratchets up, the dosage gets jacked up, and the blood starts flowing. The film is tied to Dezzy’s descent —or ascent depending on how you look at it— into vampirism and as each night passes, the film gets increasingly more dependent on its own excess. A heavy metal soundtrack sets the sonic stage as cocaine powers hallucinogenic orgies, all-night paint sessions, and blood-lust murders. It’s akin to last year’s Mandy in that the trip, the chaotic experience that comes from its visuals, takes precedent over anything else.
Yes the story is there, but it’s not the main coarse, at least in my experience. To really draw from this film, you have to buy into its style. Its heavy metal grunge. Its supernatural demonic aura. Beneath all the white powder and blood there is the message about what it means to be a struggling artist, but it’s in the backseat, and a coked-out vampire painter is in the driver seat, taking us to hell and back. So come for the pitch, not the story, and get ready to watch a vampire who looks like she just raided Scareface’s drug den.”
Circus of Books
“The Masons are your typical middle class American family which makes their entry into the gay porn business all the more striking. Karen, a strong headed mother figure, and Barry, a happy-go-lucky father, are two peas in a pod. They are two personalities in their own right, but the addition of their occupation makes them all the more interesting. The dichotomy between the two is the draw, and after a while, you begin to realize the normal, level-headed nature of Karen and Barry — two people who were accepting of the LGBTQ community in the 80s long before it was common to do so — embodies a methodology of acceptance that is too pure and good for this world.
Their long running titular store is shown as a beacon of refuge for the LA gay scene for decades, positioning it as a place of cultural acceptance during a period when the AIDs epidemic made gay men pariahs. Not only that, but the Mason’s willingness to stay in business despite threats of federal prosecution shows their resilience in the face of social pressures. It’s funny to see two elderly citizens sell hardcore gay porn or buy dildos at a sex-industry convention, but when you realize the significance of what they’re doing and the positive impacts they’ve had, it’s heart-warming to say the least.”
The Gasoline Thieves
“The most interesting element of the film is the underlying political commentary in the film. As corruption in the Mexican government creates economic conditions that give rise to violence, the effects it has on citizens is an intriguing proposition. However, these topics are only mentioned in passing and presented as the backdrop for the film, choosing to focus on Lalo first and foremost. It’s a creative choice that doesn’t connect fully given how the political landscape could have been explored further and made the film’s aims more pronounced.
The flip end of that is more time with Lalo, which ends up being rather rudimentary. Beginning with promise, the film walks itself down an all too familiar path of melodramatic crime dramas. The poor individual seeks a better life. The system has got him down. He resorts to a life of crime. He enjoys a life of opulence. Things go sour, and then the protagonist is punished. It is well charted territory, and I personally didn’t find a major saving grace to reconcile the central issue. I felt if The Gasoline Thieves engaged more firmly with the issues causing Lalo’s moral descent, then maybe we’d have something.”
“Directed by Robert Olsen and Dan Berk, Villains caught audiences by total surprise in the best way possible. Simply put, it’s the story of a Bonnie and Clyde pair who are caught in the clutches of a far more dangerous couple with a house full of deadly secrets. Villains gracefully introduces its main characters, Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) and Jules (Maika Monroe), under the context of their motivations and desires within the first two shots of the film. It’s a proficient approach that wastes no time endearing our anti-heroes to the audience. Although they behave as outlaws, their youthful affection for each other keeps us rooting for them at every turn. After bungling a robbery, their dreams of escaping to the sunny and carefree beaches of Florida are put on hold when they encounter George (Jeffrey Donovan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgewick) during a supply run break-in. Having stumbled upon a horrible secret, it becomes a question of whether or not they can escape with their lives at all as they are ensnared by the sinister couple.
It’s not unusual for many films like Villains making their way to the festival circuit to boast a stacked cast. It’s far rarer to find a film that utilizes their talent so very effectively. Maika Monroe has found a role with plenty of room to explore personality, allowing her to be as feisty as she is heartfelt with Jules’ liveliness complimented by a deeper emotional side. Her past tragedy is subtly woven into the plot without coming to define her character. It’s clear Monroe is amply capable of embodying multidimensional leads and in this role in particular she shines. Bill Skarsgård is her equal match, a chameleon of a man able to inhabit perfectly the sweet, slightly goofy personality of Mickey. He has something of a young Leo Dicaprio heartthrob look going on, with greased hair and bright eyes. Monroe and Skarsgård share an unexpectedly delightful chemistry, playing off each other constantly. Their relationship is the light soul of this dark comedy, both with a high aptitude for quick banter and physical humor. Their bumbling antics and drug habit somehow enhance the charm of these two lovers on the lam.”