The fest, which takes place in Cambridge at the Brattle and Harvard Film Archive and runs from March 22 to the 26, is one of the great gems of the local film scene. The schedule is absolutely fantastic this year, which we should know, because we’ve saw a lot of the major films in the line-up at SXSW a week ago.
In addition to the already-reviewed Hounds of Love, here are our takes on three of the fest’s biggest gets, and some other picks for a packed weekend of off-the-beaten-path filmgoing.
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Another SXSW film screening at the BUFF this year, 68 Kill, is directed by Trent Haaga, one of the writers of the modern classic Cheap Thrills. It’s safe to say that it doesn’t necessarily live up to that film’s pedigree amongst those crazy for cult film, but it’s not really trying to.
68 Kill is a nasty little piece of work, funny as hell and deeply demented in compelling ways, although it can come across as pretty shitty from time to time with its whole “bitches be crazy” messaging (but that can be convincingly counter-pointed). Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a pushover loser who flushes septic tanks for a living, and his overbearing, semi-abusive, and intense hooker girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) wants to improve their lives by getting rich quick. She takes Chip to rob one of her johns, who decided it was a smart thing to wave $68,000 in front of a cash-hungry lady post-coitus, and she winds up, to Chip’s horror, murdering the john and his wife. The dead couple’s sex slave, Violet (a fantastic, tough-as nails Alisha Boe) witnesses the whole thing, so Chip and Liza abduct her, and as Liza makes plans to get rid of the girl, Chip decides it might be time to stand up for himself. What follows is a fascinating orgy of violence (sometimes involving goth rednecks) that explores the nature of gender roles and individual choice.
Haaga’s proficient direction really helps to elevate the whole thing, as the script is occasionally just a bit too juvenile to really delve into these themes properly. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it was constantly breaking to explore its characters deeply, and the action and jokes are just too good to really moan the loss of depth here. Gubler is fully of a nervy energy, and he’s able to have a lot of fun here, even if Chip is sort of left intentionally blank for much of the runtime: He’s a man defined by the girlfriends he’s had, and he adapts to their needs and changes up until he meets and falls in love with Violet. Boe’s character gets the most introspection out of the three leads, and she’s able to work with it wonderfully. McCord gets most of the film’s best lines, and she’s straight-up Southern badass crazy, which makes it super hard to totally hate her character, even though she’s despicable for much of the runtime. There’s something fascinating about making Chip the central character in a film that surrounds him with such interesting and dynamic women, and the “don’t stick your dick in crazy” conclusion that 68 Kill comes to in the end feels a little bit reductive when the crazy women it features are its best part.
Still, it’s a great ride, and will probably drive the BUFF crowds nuts, so any interested parties should go and buy their tickets now. 68 Kill screens at the Brattle on Friday, March 24 at 9:45 p.m.