Director Ulges Ote blends folk horror, eco-horror, surrealism and the absurd to mysterious, mysterious effect in his first Latvian narrative feature Upurga. Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) is a rafting guide haunted by his inability to save a young woman from drowning. When her sister Mara (Elvita Ragovska) and boyfriend Matiaas (Rihaard Sniegs) plan a trip into nature to shoot a commercial for vegan sausages – with videographer Oskars (Reinis Boters) and director/project manager Eva (Inga Tropa) – Andrejs insists on coming to keep everyone safe, although others are far less concerned about that and more concerned with having a good time and creating some serious publicity. Inspector Salins (Morten Traavik), the local ranger, warns the group to respect nature and leave their jurisdiction within 30 minutes, but naturally the group members ignore his warnings. This turns out to be a bad decision, as exposure to the local flora causes them to act aggressively, including displaying voracious sexual appetites. After one such encounter, Andrejs wakes up on his own and searches for the rest of his group, now missing. Ote sprinkles his enigmatic sylvan chiller with touches of humor and is aided by strong performances from his game’s cast members. UpurgaThis film’s offbeat atmosphere and procedurals are bound to make for a peculiar yet interesting journey, even if the ending may feel too wrapped up for some.
God caress you
Riffing on the tried-and-true, if overdone, film noir trope of a man and femme fatale resorting to desperate measures that include bringing down a significant other and running away with their money, the British dark crime comedy God caress you offers enough humorous variations on the theme to warrant a recommendation. Charlie (George Webster) is a heroin addict who attends recovery meetings just to meet his dealer. At one such meeting, a tattooed young woman (Skye Lourie) attends for the first time, and as Charlie drives her home, he learns that she is a sex addict – and has a rich boyfriend. violent friend who happens to be a porn star. Charlie is enough to know he has feelings for her and wants her out of his toxic relationship, and she’s wise enough to know not to trust a junkie. But lust and greed outweigh common sense, as it often does, and soon Charlie and the girl plot to steal the actor’s money and move on to a better life. Webster and Lourie have fun doing chemistry together, and Alice Lowe puts on an intriguing performance as Charlie’s therapist. Yes, the setup is familiar, but writer/director Jamie Patterson (kinship; Caught) imbues his latest film with engaging dialogue, a dry wit, and a few effective surprises.
Upurga and God caress you screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022. For more information about the festival, please visit fantaspoa.com.