Aug 30, 2019
It’s Friday, so it’s time for another Fantastic Fest feature from Andrew Campbell. Last week’s review for “The Wind” seemed to deflate Andrew’s sails, but will this week’s vacation thriller be the antidote? You’ll find out in a minute, but for a few other reviews from Andrew, check out “Girls With Balls” (Episode #558), “Dogman” (Episode #565), and “The Wind” (Episode #572). A few of those are even available on streaming services!
Before the review, we’ll have a promo for the We’re Watching Here podcast. Chris and Perry deliver a heaping dose of movies and analysis every two weeks. Check out their most recent episode on the films of Steve Carell, as well as their reactions to the latest film news. You can also check out their review for “Arlington Road” (Episode #522), as part of the Big Heads Media Takeover. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @WatchingCast and on Facebook @werewatchinghere. You won’t regret it!
Subscribe to stay current with the latest releases.
Connect with us over social media to continue the conversation.
Here we go!
<< WE’RE WATCHING HERE PROMO >>
Hello film fans!
Andrew here - back this week with a bit of a tough sit. I’m not big into “trigger warnings” unless you’re trying to caution someone against viewing spontaneous, extreme violence; the kind of images that sneak up on a sensitive viewer and leave a lasting impression. Today’s film is demanding throughout, punctuated by one particularly challenging scene. This film is heavy and memorable, and the director is deliberate in her choices.
Today’s movie is “Holiday”, the Danish film written and directed by Isabella Eklöf. “Holiday” made its Austin premiere at the 2018 Fantastic Fest where Eklöf scooped up both the Next Wave Best Picture and Best Director awards. 2018 was a massive year for Eklöf, as she also co-wrote “Border” which holds a 97% Certified Fresh rating, not to mention scoring an 8.8 out of 10 from One Movie Punch (Episode #480).
“Holiday” stars Victoria Carmen Sonne as Sascha, young girlfriend to slick, wealthy drug dealer Michael (Lai Yde). Sascha and Michael are vacationing on the picturesque Turkish Rivera coastline, frequenting bars and discotheques with a group of friends. They all cut loose together, but when problems arise or his mood shifts, the “friends” become subservient to Michael, as soldiers in his drug cartel. Michael extends these submissive expectations to Sascha who, in exchange for an affluent lifestyle, is subject to physical and emotional abuse. When Sascha strikes up a flirtatious relationship with an attractive young boat owner, behaving oblivious to his advances, and failing to evade his pursuit, a violent conflict feels inevitable.
“Holiday” is beautifully shot with a palette of rich pastel colors. The scenes shot on beaches and boats, in pools and in bars, often feature long single-camera takes. The director allows you to soak in the gorgeous surroundings, juxtaposed with the dark current of abusive power that hums below the surface.
The film’s two posters are stunning, reflecting the film symbolically with images of Sascha, clad in a white swimsuit and sporting bloody feet. But this is not the cheeky horror film or sexy thriller one might expect from that imagery; it’s a portrayal of abuse in the daylight in which everyone is complicit.
Some spoilers ahead.
Michael is on a working vacation; his relaxation is continually interrupted by the occasional vague business dealing. We get glimpses of his temper and violence directed at his employees. You don’t feel much sympathy for these men who signed up for a life of crime, but that’s not the point. The wives, girlfriends, and children of Michael’s inner circle are shown scurrying away, blocking out these necessary evils that allow Michael to provide them with wealth and security.
The hardest moment to watch, and there are several others, occurs when Michael rapes Sascha. It comes as little surprise by that point of the film, but Eklöf captures it in one long take, bathed in sunlight. It is so repulsive, it may be the most difficult scene I have ever sat through with an audience. I do feel it is substantially more graphic than necessary, but I cannot argue with its effectiveness in confronting the audience, as if complicit in allowing such horror to go unchecked. At one point, a houseguest walks partially into frame before scrambling to leave, unable or unwilling to speak up.
What makes “Holiday” fantastic? The film is authentic from start to finish, partially aided by an unknown but incredibly talented Scandinavian cast lead by the fearless and brilliant Sonne. The plot takes some dark turns as Michael becomes jealous of Sascha’s other suitor. However, Eklöf ends the film perfectly and unexpectedly from a moral standpoint, not taking an easy exit like I had anticipated.
“Holiday” is not for everyone, but for those up for a challenging story that will open up a difficult discussion the film is memorable and meaningful. Fans of uncomfortable stories that deal head-on with emotional and physical trauma like “Sling Blade” or “Mysterious Skin” will enjoy this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
One Movie Punch: 8.6/10
“Holiday” (2018) is not rated and is currently streaming on Kanopy – free to anyone with a library card.
Come back next week and we’ll break the tension with the rarest of Fantastic Fest genres – a comedy! But this is Fantastic Fest, so you’re going to get a niche comedy with zero commercial appeal. “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn” is a small film with some big names. Jemaine Clement, Aubrey Plaza, and Craig Robinson are about to bring the weirdness like you’ve never seen.
I’ll see you then.