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Evil dresses, bucolic terror, Satan in a basement: 3 horror flicks screening at MSPIFF

'In Fabric'

'In Fabric'

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is showing more than 250 movies over the course of 17 days.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2019

St. Anthony Main Theatre
$15; $11 Film Society members; $8 kids and students

That means by the end of the day, festival-goers are often running on fumes, so late-night movies in the “Dark Out” section may end up sacrificed in favor of sleep. Here’s what’s worth loading up on caffeine stay awake for and what’s worth skipping at MSPIFF.

 

In Fabric

Director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy) once again draws inspiration from low-budget ’70s European movies with experimental storytelling and his flair for the perverse. The result is a horror movie about a malevolent red dress. That may sound like something out of a second-rate horror anthology series, but Strickland takes the goofy premise and suffuses it with existential dread. The dress is the product of a mysterious, cult-like department store, where a clerk, played by Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed, delivers cryptic shopping-related pronouncements like she’s the wicked witch in a demented fairy tale. There’s a wry sense of humor to this dark story (including some pointed satire on consumerism), keeping it from dipping into pretension even as the dress is levitating above Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s meek bank teller, preparing to destroy her life. Strickland’s films are more like fever dreams than carefully plotted thrillers, and In Fabric unfolds in the same baffling/haunting fashion as his previous work. The gorgeous, bizarre imagery will take hold in your mind and never let go.

See it:
9:45 p.m. Saturday, April 6 
9:45 p.m. Thursday, April 11

 

The Hole in the Ground

Yes, there’s literally a hole in the ground in the atmospheric Irish horror movie by director and co-writer Lee Cronin. But it’s just one part of the foreboding countryside where newly separated mother Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) moves with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey) after fleeing a presumably abusive husband. Their isolated, run-down house is spooky enough, and it doesn’t help that Chris starts exhibiting slightly odd behavior in a manner similar to a local tragedy from decades earlier. Has Chris really been replaced by some sort of sinister doppelganger? Or is Sarah cracking under the pressures of single parenthood as she attempts to start a new life for herself and her son? Like Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Hole uses supernatural threats to explore the terrors of being a parent, but here it’s more understated, with subdued, deliberate pacing and a muted color palette. Kerslake is fantastic as a woman summoning up every ounce of her courage to face the unknown, and Markey provides just the right balance of cute and creepy as the (possibly!) evil kid.

See it:

10 p.m. Saturday, April 13
9:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 17

I Trapped the Devil

Even at just 82 minutes, Josh Lobo’s debut feature I Trapped the Devil feels like it’s been stretched thin, but the promising concept could’ve made for a great short film. Lobo relies on ominous music and hallucinatory lighting to provide the suspense for the sometimes tedious story about a man who may or may not have, as the title implies, trapped the devil. When his brother Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) come for a surprise visit, weird loner Steve (Scott Poythress) insists that the person being held captive in his basement is in fact Satan himself. Matt and Karen, however, think it’s more likely that Steve has finally gone off the deep end and has locked up some innocent bystander. There are some tense arguments among the main characters, and Lobo makes good use of his one location, a labyrinthine old house, but the story quickly becomes repetitive, and there are too many long, wordless stretches where characters wander around looking vaguely horrified or unhinged. The question of who -- or what -- is in the basement loses its fascination well before the movie’s bleakly amusing final shot.

See it:

9:40 p.m. Friday, April 12
10 p.m. Tuesday, April 16

All three films screen at St. Anthony Main Theatre 3. Find more info at mspfilm.org.