'In Darkness We Fall' (2014)
Although found footage horror may now lack the nail-biting fright factor it once had in its 'Blair Witch Project' heyday, director Alfredo Montero brings genuinely unsettling realism back to the genre with 'In Darkness We Fall' ('La Cueva') – a claustrophobic cautionary tale of cave exploration gone wrong.
A group of rowdy twenty-somethings embark on an island holiday that promises alcohol-fuelled debauchery and hi-jinks aplenty. Things go off-piste when they decide to explore the titular cave – a yawning pitch-black gash with uninviting stalactites, cramped ceilings and endless, maddening identical chambers.
It all feels a bit predictable at this point – but as morale falters and the cave starts to gnaw away at the group’s sanity, Montero ratchets up the tension to frantic levels, culminating in a devastating final act that will leave you squirming in your seat – and pondering some uncomfortable questions about the nature of humanity for days afterwards.
'Thou Wast Mild And Lovely' (2014)
Only director Josephine Decker’s second feature-length film (the first being psychological thriller 'Butter On The Latch' – also on this year’s festival bill), 'Thou Wast Mild And Lovely' is something of a twisted idyll. Father-daughter duo Sarah and Jeremiah (Sophie Traub and Robert Longstreet) live alone on an isolated, rust-bitten farm. There’s something troubling and unsavoury about the relationship, and the brooding sense of menace intensifies when Joe Swanberg’s taciturn farm hand Akin enters the frame, bringing secrets, furtive glances and fraught silences with him.
A powerful study of loneliness, sexual obsession and suppressed desire, 'Thou Wast Mild And Lovely' is shot in dreamily ethereal style, with lots of beautiful soft-focus vignettes and vivid colours. At times a little too self-consciously arty for my taste, this intriguing film nevertheless has an arresting intensity in its build-up and an excellent cast – though the ending might leave you with a restless sense of dissatisfaction.
Find more info about the films and remaining screenings at bfi.org.uk/lff.