SXSW Film Reviews


D: David Payne; with Eric Mabius, Scott Whyte, Tina Illman, Derek Richardson, Devon Gummersall, Arielle Kebbel

Narrative Feature 'Round Midnight

You've never seen (or smelled, for that matter) anything like Payne's note-perfect, middle-of-nowhere nightmare, a good thing considering most of us would like to get a decent night's sleep once in a while. Five twentysomethings on their way to a desert rave find themselves holed up in a seemingly abandoned California backwater motorcourt, that all but has a flashing "Bates Motel" sign above it, after they're cut off from the outside world by an unspecified disaster. This simple night's roadside layover spirals into an increasingly surreal and horrific series of events that effortlessly mine the fertile (and gory) graveyard plotting like a hot spade through gray matter. Payne's direction is never less than assured; he has a knack for throwing out unexpected shocks as fluidly as a doomed teen vomits grue, and his sense of blacker-than-black humor is a thing of wonder. To a one, the actors are dead-on, particularly Johannesburg-born Illman, whose sexy, resourceful Gretchen is the film's savior-by-proxy. If all rave preparties were this much fun, Fatboy Slim might still have a career.

Paramount, 9:45pm

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