I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (BHFF) this past weekend. In two different settings, I saw two films, FASHIONISTA and COLD HELL. Both films have their own distinct female leads, who are victims of outside forces and their own inner darkness. Both FASHIONISTA and COLD HELL aren’t traditional horror films, but this encompasses what the BHFF and the various film directors aim to do: celebrate the art of horror filmmaking while challenging the genre’s preconceptions.

BHFF ’17: FASHIONISTA (4 out of 5 stars)

FASHIONISTA, written and directed by Simon Rumley, had a screening at a small, intimate theater in Brooklyn called Video Revival. FASHIONISTA stars Amanda Fuller as April. As the title suggests, FASHIONISTA’s protagonist is a devoted follower of fashion and is obsessed with clothes: as in sniff sniff ’till you get high on clothes. After discovering her husband’s affair, April starts her own fling with a mysterious and dangerous man.

Throughout the movie, April confronts her clothing addiction and abuse. With the help of a well styled homeless man, she is able to redeem herself and rise from her victim mentality. However, while she can improve her own life, the consequences of her actions crush those around her.

In each scene, April’s outfits provide an interesting contrast to the setting around her. The film always catches your attention, having a visual style reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. Specifically, the film echoes REQUIEM FOR A DREAM’s mother character, as April too spirals down into madness.

The non-linear story line of FASHIONISTA builds tension. However, some of the organization can take the watcher out of the moment. The film would’ve worked just as fine in a linear format. Format aside, the story feels a bit slow paced. The introduction to April’s “Christian Grey,” played devilishly by Eric Balfour, takes the film to new heights — but you’ll need patience.

BHFF ’17 COLD HELL (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Cold Hell

COLD HELL takes place in Vienna, Austria. The main character Özge, played by Violetta Schurawlow, is a Turkish immigrant working as a taxi driver. In stark contrast with April from FASHIONISTA, Özge is an independent woman in every aspect of her life. She practices Thai boxing and has picked herself up from under an abusive father. The conflict of the film begins after she witnesses a murder from her window. As a result, she is convinced the murderer has seen her. So, she contacts the police and everything begins to unravel from there.

The first half of the film begins as a promising gritty Indie thriller. Özge is a badass that can hold her own against the murderer hunting her down. Especially after an altercation with the antagonist, Özge had the LIU theatre crowd cheering her on as she checked herself out of the hospital.

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On another positive note, the color palette of the first half of the film was full of complimentary primaries. The blue back lit evening scenes contrast with Özge’s signature yellow jacket. Also, the stark neon against the dark setting helps set the atmosphere of the film.

About halfway through the film, all the things that make COLD HELL a promising indie horror film seem to disappear. The lighting changes, becoming brighter and switching to a more neutral color palate. The dialogue goes from being minimal and haunting to including throwaway lines like “language is culture.” Atmospherically, the film changes to something that one might see as a Hollywood summer blockbuster, almost like an Austrian version of TAKEN. At the end of the film, all the consequences building throughout the plot disappear and leaves viewers disappointed.

Overall

FASHIONITA and COLD HELL deserve to be seen and praised for their own merits. They both reflect strong female leads that capture your attention. Both protagonists overcome their struggles in their own ways. The films aren’t traditional horror, but can be enjoyed for what they are.

For more films from the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival click here!

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