Leah's like Carrie, only meaner, hornier and has better clothes

There are a couple of posts pertaining to "A Month of Horror" I never got to in a timely manner. The first would be a review of Christopher Rusin's Fell, the last film I saw during the Another Hole in the Head festival. Fell's plot seems like a combination of Jenifer and Carrie with a bit of Bastard Out of Carolina thrown into the mix in an attempt to make the film more literary horror than serial killer. There's no gore in the movie at all. The main character, Leah (a convincing Cheryl Fidelman), is an incest victim who is stuck taking care of an invalid mother (a less-convincing Kari Wishingrad). The relationship doesn't work well on-screen because Wishigrad looks too young to be Fidelman's mother and not hagged-out enough to be a believable invalid, though one can intuit there really is nothing wrong with her- she's just insane and feigns all these ailments to keep Leah waiting on her hand and foot.

Leah cracks under the weight of her past and present, and like any lonely, abused young woman who makes her own clothes (some of them quite spectacularly sexy) and has to care for an invalid-hypochondriac-religious fanatic mother, she starts bringing men home to torture and kill. The violence is all off-screen, but the scenarios manage to be quite disturbing, mainly through the strength of Fidelman's arresting performance. The story and Fidelmans's performance has some potency, but it's undermined in the end by some poor production values and a script that could have gone through at least one more version. Fidelman, btw, has enough quirkiness and good looks to take over the kind of roles Jennifer Jason Leigh used to play so effectively when she was younger like Last Exit to Brooklyn and Single White Female.

Still, the film making is promising and if this is Rusin's debut effort I'd be curious to see what he does next. The screening at the Viz was packed with friends and family of the filmmakers who were obviously sympathetic toward the film, giving it a rousing round of applause at the end. I didn't stay for the Q & A at the end but I would like to offer a bit of advice to the producer who introduced the film: the next time you warn the audience the film is very, very dark, you ought to make sure A Serbian Film isn't part of the same festival. While Fell can be disturbing, it's not disturbing enough to for an audience to think the filmmakers are showing us something we need to see. It's more along the lines of "Really? hmmm. That's twisted- I wonder what goes on in your house, Mr. director?" As for the title, the relevance is never made clear- use your own allusion.

On a final note, the Viz is a terrific theater- nice, new and clean. Too clean for a festival like AHITH, but at least there were some shenanigans by one couple during the screening of American Grindhouse which probably left the seats a bit of a mess. I should have mentioned that in the other post.