FilmSpace at Edinburgh International Film Festival: Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl, Blood Fest, Swinging Safari

Our film critic Scott Wilson checks in from the Edinburgh International Film Festival featuring an LGBT romance in Romania, a splatter-fest horror comedy, and an un-PC Australian romp

Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl – ★★★★☆

Dir: Bogdan Theodor Olteanu; starring: Silvana Mihai, Florentina Năstase, Denise Moise, Ana Ivan, Nicoleta Hâncu

“Please have patience with me,” one girl tells another in her subdued apartment. She’s hesitant, possibly cautious, but she wouldn’t admit it. 

The film is confined to this small space, occasionally cutting to conversations between the two girls over Skype. In an all-too-real Facebook-stalk, one of them was researching a recent flame – a tall girl – and added the other on social media after seeing the tall girl in her photos. They share their experiences with her, two entirely different perspectives on one person. Do either of them know her, or are both projecting what they want to see?

Several Conversations About A Very Tall Girl gets the little things. Even in love, we struggle to completely know the other person. The film’s meet-cute is two girls bonding over someone they are both attracted to, yet for entirely different reasons. They have a mutual interest, which is enough for at least one of them to initiate meeting in person. At least they have something to talk about.

The visitor is making a silent film about a couple who live together. It’s the kind of amateur film an amateur filmmaker would make, and it’s touching to see this character’s focus. She clearly values intimacy and what two people do together. The couple are unashamed, though they are also comfortable and safe in their apartment. 

Romania is largely against same-sex marriage according to a 2017 poll, and that knowledge hangs over the other girl. She asks for patience while the other is more open about her sexuality. It is what it is, to her. Why the need for patience? Is it a general disinterest in the other girl, or is it the social climate preventing her from fully embracing her desires?

I really loved Several Conversations… There’s a moment when the two girls Skype and one says she missed the other because they didn’t call when they usually do. They had gotten used to it. In stories about love, we tend to see the big moments, but rarely these little indicators of routine and normality. It’s a brief film, and it foregoes grand gestures, instead detailing the creeping progression of a relationship, and its stops and starts. It gets the little things other films miss.

Blood Fest – ★★☆☆☆

Dir: Owen Egerton; starring: Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, Jacob Batalon, Barbara Dunkelman, Tate Donovan, Zachary Levi

Did Cabin in the Woods need its own Cabin in the Woods? Sold as an ode to horror films, Blood Fest is the kind of blood-filled schlock that some audiences lap up while others struggle to find a pulse (of note, this is the only film a fellow critic has ever walked out of). 

Horror fans Sam, Dax, and Krill head to Blood Fest, a horror gathering in secluded woodland. Its host is revered in the community, known for gruesome films and his commitment to the genre. Jaded by how people no longer react to scares, he decides to turn this year’s Blood Fest into a genuine nightmare, employing the festival’s workers to kill revellers. Survival requires knowledge of how each monster acts – zombies, vampires, and so on – to outsmart them and last the night.

It lives up to its name, with everything thoroughly doused in red by the end. It works best when committing to this level of silliness and excess. It isn’t capable of a lot (it’s a Rooster Teeth production), so when it focuses on b-movie fun, it’s ticking the boxes for its core audience.

That said, while the cast are enjoying themselves, Blood Fest never grabbed me. The knowing-horror-comedy film has been done before in Scream and Cabin in the Woods, both of which are leagues above Blood Fest. Its lo-fi production is more disappointing than charming, and despite its celebration of a number of horror icons, it all feels a bit surface-level. For a film trying to do something different, it feels all too familiar, a battle with zombies making you wonder why you aren’t just watching Night of the Living Dead. 

It might find a forgiving audience that enjoys the concept and characters. It is after all a celebration of horror’s excesses, the kind that wind up society’s conservatives to no end, which can only be a good thing. But, the rest of us will end up wishing it had a bit more meat on its bones. 

Swinging Safari – ★★★☆☆

Dir: Stephan Elliott; starring: Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Radha Mitchell, Julian McMahon, Asher Keddie

By way of an introduction, Flammable Children describes the mood of Australia in the 70s by saying skin cancer hadn’t been invented yet. 

The adults are horny, their teenage kids are discovering they are too, and their younger kids are setting each other on fire because it’ll look great in their home movie. Young Jeff, armed with a camera, spends his time making his stuntman pal do pre-health-and-safety-regulations shenanigans, while all of the parents are putting their car keys into a pot in the middle of a table. 

It’s an ensemble cast, with Kylie Minogue and Guy Pearce carrying the star power. Like Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, it’s not so much about any one individual, but how they all live their lives in a cul-de-sac in 70s Australia. 

It just about stays on the right side of flouting political correctness. Do we laugh at a golliwog because it’s an uncomfortable truth or because it reminds us of a time we didn’t consider such things offensive? Regardless, I laughed all the way through this, and felt sufficiently terrible about it by the end. 

It might just pull off something that’s offensive and pure of heart. It never longs for these supposedly simpler days, instead merely reminiscing about them. Small-town living is inherently a bit strange because of gossip and how everyone knows each other, especially pre-internet. The film enables us to laugh about our own absurdities, some of which we have rightly confined to history, while others will always be embarrassing quirks of human nature.

Swinging Safari is a sun-drenched haze of nostalgia for wilder times. It’s the sexual revolution gone too far, and the reason why health and safety became part of our laws. It’s bonkers, and a bloody good time.