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 III - Frightfest 2015

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PostSubject: III - Frightfest 2015   III - Frightfest 2015 I_icon_minitimeSat Sep 12, 2015 8:02 am

III is the first film directed by Pavel Khvaleev. It was made on a very low budget with a crew of just eight people. The result this small team achieved is remarkable.

The script, which was written by Aleksandra Khvaleev, focuses upon two sisters Ayia (Polina Davdova) and Mirra (Lyubov Ignatushko). A mysterious epidemic is ravaging their rural village and the girls promise their dying mother they will look after each other. The village priest, a family friend, also promises the girl’s mother to take care of them once she has gone. When Mirra falls ill with the disease, Ayia realises traditional remedies are not going to assist. Looking for an alternative way to help her sister, Ayia finds a shamanistic healing ritual in the priest’s home. However, the mysterious ritual requires Ayia to enter deep into her sister’s subconscious. Once there, she has to confront and resolve Mirra’s innermost demons in order for healing to take place. With the help of the priest, Ayia makes a number of terrifying journeys into the sickness that is the landscape of Mirra’s mind.

III is beautifully filmed. Great care and attention is taken to give the viewer a real sense of time and place. One becomes aware of the remoteness of the village, the bricks and mortar of the buildings, the scope and size of the settlement. This grounding in realism contrasts beautifully with the surreal landscape of Mirra’s subconscious. Lighting is also used to contrast the differences between these external and internal vistas. Naturalistic lighting is used for the external world both sisters reside in, whereas a pink and/or sepia tint colours a great deal of Mirra’s fear riddled subconscious.

However, horror resides in both worlds. As the story progresses, the attitude, of those running the village, changes towards people suffering from the epidemic. In Mirra’s mind-scape, horror resides in both physical challenges to Ayia and within the structure of the landscape itself. Here, I thought the special effects were well managed. There is no reliance on CGI, instead the viewer sees physical performances and actual body make up. These elements, combined with the lighting, manage to create some creepy and uncomfortable moments. The only criticism I would make is that Mirra’s demons weren’t surprising – they felt somewhat routine and the last one was a no-brainer. Yet care had been taken to ensure they fitted logically within the narrative framework of the film. Although I felt vaguely disappointed there wasn’t something more shocking and horrifying about Mirra’s demons, the film’s ending, plus what happens to Ayia, did mediate my dissapointment. Suffice to say, I like the ending. It is chilling and a nice touch to end a horror movie on.

One of the reasons I liked the ending of III so much, was that it added another layer to the story. On one level there is the simple tale of a girl trying to save her sister using a shamanistic ritual. However, by the end of the film, the viewer is aware III isn’t just a tale of two sisters. Clues are given to the audience throughout yet, somehow, they’re almost unobtrusive - the clues blend with what is happening as the story progresses, and what is said by the characters. The reveal at the end is arguably the true horror of this piece. Without doubt III belongs in the horror genre, but it’s creepy and unsettling rather than full of blood, guts and gore. The viewer is shown grotesque body horror and disease, as the result of fear upon both the psyche, and the physical body. Then, in the final scene, we’re shown a different aspect to all of these terrors.

Performances are solid, honest and the characters portrayed believable. No single performance blew me away, but they all did more than enough to keep me focused and involved in the story. More work on the sister’s relationship before their mother died might have engaged more emotion from this viewer, but it was a small lack rather than an overwhelming one.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey Pavel Khvaleev and his crew took me on. I found their work to be gripping. I felt III was quite an unusual art house film because the narrative was linear, with a beginning, middle and end. As a first film, this is terrific and I look forward to seeing what Khvaleev and his crew do next. I highly recommend seeing III. Film making of this stature is to be encouraged and deserves support.

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