PARK CITY, Utah
After midnight, Sundance lets it all hang down.
The festival describes its Midnight program as “unruly films” that range “from horror flicks and bizarre comedies to works that defy any genre.”
So far, I’ve seen all three.
The horror flick, “XX,” is notable because it’s an anthology of four short films by female writer-directors, starring women in key roles.
Jovanka Vuckovic’s frustrating “The Box” follows a young boy who asks a stranger on a subway if he can see what’s in the wrapped present he’s carrying, then proceeds to stop eating. Roxanne Benjamin’s “Don’t Fall” is a fairly standard tale of four friends on a camping trip that goes horribly wrong. Karyn Kusama (“Girlfight”) delivers the closest thing to true horror with the “that boy ain’t right” thriller “Her Only Living Son.” The most entertaining of the four, though, comes from Annie Clark, better known as art-rocker St. Vincent. Her “The Birthday Party” is the comic misadventure of a mother (“Two and a Half Men’s” Melanie Lynskey) who finds her husband dead in his home office and, for some reason, keeps dragging his corpse around the house to hide it from her daughters rather than simply calling the police.
As for the defying any genre slot, “78/52” from director Alexandre O. Philippe is a 91-minute movie about a two-minute scene from another movie.
The title refers to the 78 setups and 52 cuts used during the shower scene in “Psycho,” and it’s a nearly academic look, cut by cut, at how Alfred Hitchcock, editor George Tomasini and composer Bernard Herrmann changed the course of movie history with those two minutes that took seven days to film.
The funny, insightful documentary includes new interviews with Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh’s body double for that scene, as well as Eli Roth, Guillermo Del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis and, of course, Leigh’s daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. Writer-director Peter Bogdanovich, who attended “Psycho’s” first screening, describes the long, sustained screams in the audience. Martin Scorsese reveals how he used the shower scene to choreograph a fight in “Raging Bull.”
Aside from the sheer shock of the scene, “78/52” looks at how it was nearly as groundbreaking to show the bathroom’s toilet as well as Renfro’s navel, both of which were unheard of on screen at the time.
One of my favorite movies of the festival so far is “The Little Hours,” the very definition of a bizarre comedy.
Written and directed by Jeff Baena (“Joshy”) and based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century masterpiece “The Decameron,” the hilariously raunchy comedy follows a servant named Massetto (Dave Franco), who’s on the run after being caught sleeping with the wife of his lord (Nick Offerman). He’s taken in as a convent handyman by Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly), who has Massetto pose as a deaf-mute in order to discourage temptation among the sisters (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci). Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen and Paul Reiser also star.
The actors are basically playing the most recognizable versions of themselves, with zero attempts to even pretend their characters are living in 1347. Everyone spends far more time dropping F-bombs and fooling around than, you know, praying.
“The Little Hours” contains one of the most sexually graphic confessions you’ll ever hear. And even the deaf-mute act can’t keep the sisters away from Massetto.
It’s all just so very, very wrong in the best possible way.
Which is pretty much everything you’d expect out of a midnight movie.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.