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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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Monarch Movie Minute: ‘Beware the Slenderman,’ ‘Burning Sands’ and ‘Trespass Against Us’

Tyler Passarge | Staff Writer

‘Beware the Slenderman’ (2016) | NR | 114 min.  🎬🎬🎬🎬

In May of 2014, two 12-year-old girls lured their friend out into the middle of the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin. They both proceeded to stab their friend a total of nineteen times and left her for dead. Thankfully, the friend had survived and crawled her way to find help, where she was able to tell someone who had done this to her. When police questioned the two girls on why they would do this, they said it was to impress Slenderman.

In “Beware the Slenderman,” documentarian Irene Taylor Brodsky documents the trial of the two girls while also exploring the culture surrounding the character of Slenderman. For those unfamiliar with the character, Slenderman originated from a series of short horror stories on the internet. The tall, faceless figure has since become an icon on it’s own, along with the help of a video game and numerous fan videos on YouTube.

As Brodsky covers the trials of the girls, she also interviews their families, who struggle on a daily basis to keep their lives together. The devastation that has been left in their path forces them to understand the obsession their daughters had with Slenderman and the culture that surrounds him.

Anyone who is familiar with the character will find this film to be a fascinating analysis that can be unnerving and surprisingly sympathetic. Audiences watching the drama unfold will also be left pondering over the sociological implications of these girls’ actions and what drove them to an act of horrific violence.

For those interested in cultures formed by the internet, “Beware the Slenderman” is smart, introspective and leaves the viewer thinking.

This film is available on HBO GO.

‘Burning Sands’ (2017) | NR | 96 min. 🎬🎬🎬🎬

To Zurich (Trevor Jackson), being accepted into a fraternity is everything. By becoming a member of the Greek lifestyle, he would be fulfilling a dream of his father’s as well as getting to know the right people who can move him up through the world. Before Zurich and his friends can do this, though, they have to endure a week of initiation and hazing at the hands of the merciless frat members.

As the week of hazing progresses, the abuse intensifies with each passing day. Their week will only get worse until the final night, aptly named “Hell Night,” where they will face their final judgment. Zurich quickly becomes torn between enduring through the rest of the week or breaking his code of silence to end the abuse.

The plot device of college fraternities and hazing is something that has been explored through cinema on two sides of the spectrum. It is either used in telling a story about the loss of innocence or it can be used in light-hearted terms as a source of comedy, much like in the “Neighbors” movies. In “Burning Sands,” everything leans more towards the grim side, but with a fresher take.

Rather than exploring the dehumanization that is often explored with films about hazing, “Burning Sands” successfully explores dignity. How much can someone sacrifice their individualism and at what cost? The film answers this question in terms of harshness that make “Burning Sands” something hard to shake off.

The bold nature and unforgiving stance of hazing make “Burning Sands” an intense ride that shouldn’t be missed.

This film is available on Netflix.

‘Trespass Against Us’ (2016) | R | 99 min. 🎬🎬🎬

The community that Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) inhabits is one made up entirely of dirt and grime. Existing in a world of criminals, Chad struggles to balance his role as a father to two young children while also working a life of crime. This balance is only hindered by the need to please his father (Brendan Gleason), who facilitates and nurtures their community and outlaw lifestyle.

Growing concern over his children’s upbringing leads Chad to devising a way out of his father’s world. With a new place in mind, all Chad needs to do is stand up to his dad and tell him that he is taking his family and leaving. This becomes a difficult task, however, in the wake of a heist that has just gone terribly wrong.

Holding “Trespass Against Us” together is the dynamic themes of father/son relationships and the need to grow apart. The script for the film allows terrific actors like Fassbender and Gleason to explore their characters and bring life to their onscreen interactions. Not a single moment or performance is wasted.

While the performances may be outstanding, there’s not too much about “Trespass Against Us” that makes it all that memorable. The film’s script makes its audience consider interesting questions about fatherhood and upbringing, while director Adam Smith tries to bring out the best of the film visually. Even so, nothing truly makes the film unique.

The performances and overall themes of “Trespass Against Us” are certainly good, but the film falls just short of being great.

This film is available on Amazon Prime.

Rating System:

🎬 — Well, there goes 2 hours of my life!Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬 — Straight to DVD.
🎬🎬🎬 — Add to my queue.
🎬🎬🎬🎬 — A must see.
🎬🎬🎬🎬🎬 — Mind blown!