Film reviews: “Wesens” and “The Dawn’s Curse” (Unnamed Footage Festival)

South African offer Wesens (2020) is one of the most thoughtful sequences in recent memory, focusing on the day-long investigation by four intelligence agents into a mysterious unidentified object that fell from the sky onto remote farmland. Morné Visser plays the professional and skeptical leader of the quartet; Pietie Beyers portrays a more open-minded character who becomes hypnotized by the dark egg-shaped object; and Conradie van Heerden and Randy Januarie complete the group as assistants. As the men record their findings on what appears to be Super 8mm and 16mm film, the object begins to have strange, even dangerous effects on them. Wesens is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Tom Purcell, who thankfully avoids much of the camera-shaky trappings of the found footage subgenre. Writer/director Derick Muller invests his sci-fi film with elements of folk horror and psychological horror and, with the help of his crackerjack actors, delivers a thought-provoking film that tackles the historical and political issues of this country. .

American production in Canada Curse of Aurora (2020) is a found-footage horror film that finds a trio of American filmmaker friends – Lena (Llana Barron, who co-wrote the screenplay with director/editor Mehran C. Torgoley), Aaron (Lex Wilson) and Kevin (Jordan Kaplan) — digging into rural Quebec and shocking locals when they hear about their plans: a horror film based on the true story of Aurore Gagnon, who died of child abuse at the age of 10 in 1920 and who is a very important historical figure in this province and in all of Canada. Seasoned scare fans can pretty much guess the fate of the three filmmakers when upset locals are involved, especially when some of them are seen early to hold secret candlelit meetings late at night. All three tracks also double as Curse of Aurora, and a good part of the film involves the dreaded approach of yours, truly trembling. Barron, Wilson and Kaplan give solid performances and although their characters have arguments on occasion, they avoid the trap of having unlikable characters. There’s not much new here that scares fans won’t have seen before, but overall the film is a very watchable entry into the found footage subgenre.

Wesens and Curse of Aurora screened as part of the Unnamed Sequence Festival, which took place March 17-20, 2022 in San Francisco, CA.

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