Sunday, August 18, 2019

Knives and Skin - 2019 NBFF Movie Review

The Movie: Knives and Skin

The Director: Jennifer Reeder

The Cast: Kate Arrington; Marika Engelhardt; Tim Hopper; Tony Fitzpatrick; James Vincent Meredith

The Story: A mystical teen noir that follows a young girl's disappearance in the rural Midwest and its effect on teens and parents.

The Review:
If you enjoy film as an art installation then this movie has a lot to offer. As a complete and cohesive narrative story, first time feature director Jennifer Reeder still has a bit of work to do. With an artistic background that includes dozens of short films, her emphasis for this movie was to create something that stands out specifically as art while pushing the boundaries of story telling by basically ignoring them. The way the movie plays out is the same way you would view an art exhibit that has an overall theme but each room tells its own story along the way.

With these sensibilities in mind, Reeder has created a world that is just a few steps beyond reality with some very interesting stylizations that all derive from film makers, photographers, and other artists who have influenced her over the years. If there was ever a movie tailor made to be in a David Lynch inspired film festival this would be it without question so it was pretty much a no brainer for the programmers of the North Bend (home of Twin Peaks) Film Festival to select it for this year's event. In talking to a friend after watching the movie, Lynch was by far the biggest influence to the point where he could almost deserve some sort of creative credit for the film.

Reeder found a lot of ways to creatively add social commentary and messaging into the movie with a heavy amount of misogyny and toxic masculinity bashing that plays as a sort of flipped version of John Hughes's high school films. She makes great efforts to tear apart the classic jock, nerd, loser, cheerleader, and band geek stereotypes by either turning them upside down, which oddly enough makes them more real by today's standards, or by shutting down the characters entirely.

For example, there is a scene where an overly entitled and single minded jock is trying to insert his dominance into a situation but the bisexual, biracial cheerleader he is confronting completely shuts him down and sends him scurrying away utterly defeated. There is a strong sense of female empowerment when it comes to the high school aged girls whereas the adult women seem to be struggling with a world that is quickly leaving them behind. Even the young men look at the world in a completely different way than their parents although not always in the best way.

My favorite thing about the movie is the inclusion of classic 80's songs from groups like the Go Go's and New Order all with new arrangements and sung by a high school girl's choir. The arrangements are beautiful and haunting and each one is placed perfectly as part of the story itself. Most of the songs are sung by the full choir of about 10 girls but a few are more intimately portrayed by just one or two in an even more blatant "burst into song" musical fashion.

Knives and Skin is a strong debut feature that shows off the director's immense talents while also leaving room for growth in the future. During the post screening Q&A, Reeder mentioned that her next project will be more of a science fiction project involving a shape shifter character and I feel like this is a great direction for her to go.

Knives and Skin is an official selection of the 2019 North Bend Film Festival.

To keep track of all my reviews, interviews and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at NBFF 2019

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