The best of the two marginal blockbuster genre films I’ve caught late at night on my couch this year comes in the form of somewhat effective Frida Kempff. “Knock,” a film reminiscent of great apartment horror films like Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” in his examination of fractured mental health.
Cecilia Milocco stars in what is essentially a show for a woman as Molly, a woman who suffers the trauma of a horrific loss when she moves into a new apartment. Alone all the time with her grief, she begins to fracture more when she hears a knocking sound coming from the apartment above. She investigates and asks her neighbors, who all look at her like she’s crazy (and, of course, they all men), but the beatings intensify and are joined by other disturbing sounds. Is anyone trapped? Or is Molly going crazy?
It’s hard not to feel like “Knocking” is an effective short film that has passed its breaking point even at just 78 minutes, despite a strong central performance and a sweaty sense of existential dread. Who hasn’t felt like there was something going on deep in their emotions at one point or another, probably more than ever last year? Milocco and Kempf cleverly focus their narration on doubt as Molly herself begins to wonder if she is going mad or dizzy. After all, the neighbors who pretend they can’t hear the beatings are all men. And then a woman seems to flee the building one night and is brought back? What is going on?
I wanted “Knocking” to become more formally ambitious and to reflect Molly’s tension and her possible mental state in her visual language, but there is a sweaty claustrophobia in this movie that is effective, especially for those who haven’t. left their apartment a year ago.
A whole different kind of horror unfolds in James Ashcroft’s brutal “Coming home in the dark” a film reminiscent of other Sundance waking nightmares like ‘Killing Ground’ from 2017. It’s one of those horror films that seeks to investigate not the supernatural or the unknowable but the real evil in the hearts of men, even those who have convinced themselves that they are good.