The title of “Bloody Marie” makes it sound like a splatter picture, but this taut Dutch suspense film has more in common with the jittery “person on the edge episode gems hack” dramas of European filmmakers such as the Dardennes brothers and Michael Haneke. Co-written and co-directed by Lennert Hillege and Guido van Driel, the film focuses intensely on one woman, as she makes a series of catastrophic choices.
Susanne Wolff plays Marie, an acclaimed graphic novelist who hasn’t produced any significant new work in years. Living in the red light district of Amsterdam — and burning quickly through the last of her savings — Marie spends her days trying to hustle publishers into advancing her more money for booze. When that fails, she just swipes what she needs from the corner liquor store.
“Bloody Marie” begins with the heroine about to use up all her last chances — which we then see happen, one by one. She goes too far though when she steals a hefty sum of money from her neighbors, setting up a chain of events putting lives at stake.
The film’s second half is more action-packed, resembling film noir in the way Hillege and Van Driel show Marie racing through the city, scrambling to cover for her mistakes before anyone else gets hurt.
But even at its most pulse-pounding, “Bloody Marie” remains locked on its sympathetically pathetic protagonist, as she hops across rooftops and slithers through windows, all the while muttering to herself, “Stupid drunk, stupid drunk …”’Bloody Marie’In Dutch with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Playing: Starts Nov. 1, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; available Nov. 11 on VOD
Though it’s less surreal and less terrifying, the indie drama “Spell” is a kind of companion film to the recent horror hit “Midsommar.” Instead of a grief-stricken woman having relationship woes while living with a Swedish pagan cult, “Spell” is about a mournful boyfriend, trying to get over the tragic death of his partner by taking a trip to Iceland — where the locals fill his head with Norse mythology.
Barak Hardley (who also wrote the screenplay) plays Benny, a comic book artist heartbroken by the loss of his alcoholic girlfriend. While drowning his sorrows in Reykjavik, Benny is persuaded to get a mysterious rune tattoo, and then to take a trip into the chilly wilderness with a macho tour guide (Magnús Jónsson). In the middle of nowhere, the hallucinations begin.
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Hardley and director Brendan Walter offer multiple explanations for what’s happening. Maybe Benny’s been suckered into some dangerous ancient ritual. Maybe his mind is slipping, because he’s in a fragile emotional state, without the medication that manages his emotional disorders. Whatever the reason, Benny keeps drifting into a fog halfway between dream and memory, where he recalls his recent past and wonders what he could’ve done differently.