UFO death cult thriller, Mexican wrestlers, restaurant mayhem in VIFF’s Altered States series

Friendly Beast is the debut feature from Brazilian filmmaker Gabriela Amaral Almeida.

Amidst all the kitchen-sink foreign dramas, big-name Hollywood blockbusters and poignant, thought-provoking documentaries, the Vancouver International Film Festival also makes room for mind-bending, compelling and sometimes just weird genre (and genre-bending) movies.

This year, the VIFF (Sept. 28-Oct. 13) is once again presenting its Altered States film series. The series features 10 movies that don’t fit in with the regular, more mainstream (read: less gory/perverse/violent) fare. This year’s 10 Altered States run the gamut from UFO death cult thriller (The Endless) to surreal relationship drama (Animals) to weird domestic nightmares (Housewife, Bitch).

Here are five Altered States films that look particularly intriguing. (Note: click on film titles to watch trailers.)

Animals (Switzerland/Austria/Poland)—A feuding couple hit a sheep in the Swiss alps and “are thrust into a cracked-mirror reality stocked with doppelgängers, temporal loops and other surreal phenomena.” According to Variety, “Edgy marital drama, inky black comedy and blood-freezing horror combine to intoxicating effect…” in the film.

Mona Petri in Amimals, part of this year’s Vancouver Int’l Film Festival.

The Endless (USA)—Filmmaking bros Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (Spring) play brothers who return to the compound of a UFO death cult they escaped years earlier. They end up on a “descent into an uncanny realm, one in which menace manifests itself in many haunting forms.” “The kind of fantastical horror that creeps under your skin…”—Screen Anarchy

A scene from the movie Endless.

Friendly Beast (Brazil)—”When two thieves botch a holdup of his eatery, a harried restaurateur (Murilo Benício) abandons the forced congeniality instilled by the service industry in favour of unhinged ferocity as he takes the perpetrators, as well as his patrons and staff, hostage.” Horror movie bible Bloody Disgusting calls this debut feature from Brazilian filmmaker Gabriela Amaral Almeida “Weird and uncomfortable and strangely alluring… It’s fascinating to watch it all unfold.”

Lowlife (USA)—Critics have likened Ryan Prows’ crime drama to early Quentin Tarantino. Ex-cons, luchadores, and “other reprobates” (or, as the trailer suggests, “monsters”, “fiends” and “thugs”) make up the cast of characters. “A seriously nasty treat…” says the Hollywood Reporter.

El Monstruo in Lowlife.

Tiger Girl (Germany)—Two of Europe’s top up-and-coming actresses star in this third feature from German director Jakob Lass. Ella Rumpf (previously seen in the French cannibal film Raw) is a cool, aggressive, mocking queen of attitude. She’s comically aided and abetted by wannabe policewoman Maria Dragus (she played the college-bound daughter in the acclaimed 2016 Romanian film Graduation. “An anthem to the marginalized youth of Europe… and women who need to kick ass if they are going to survive.”—Screen Anarchy

A still from Tiger Girl, one of the films screening in the VIFF’s Altered States series.

Other films in the series incude Tragedy Girls (USA/Canada); The Crescent (Canada);
Bad Day for the Cut (Northern Ireland); Bitch (USA); and Housewife (Turkey).

Altered States is part of what the festival calls its “ALT programming stream.” This includes MODES, “a new film series that explores how far the form of cinema is capable of bending.” MODES “highlights international video and screen-based artists “uninhibited by the limits of traditional approaches,” according to a press release. “(T)his series is provocative, insightful and aesthetically astounding, existing onscreen in the liminal spaces between different modes of digital expression. This year’s works expand the frame on art, politics and human experience, questioning the subjective notion of ‘being’ and inevitably asking us to consider unexplored thresholds of reality.”

For more info, visit viff.org.

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