J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Morbido ’17: Nightworld

This stately downtown Sofia apartment building is a lot like Sigourney Weaver’s complex in the original Ghostbusters. It has some strange design elements that could only serve an uncanny function. At least it’s quiet—usually. When former LA cop Brett Anderson accepts the position of live-in security guard, he assumes it will the cushy gig his employers promised. Alas, whatever the heck he is supposed to be guarding will ruin his nice, peaceful evenings in Patricio Vallardes’ Nightworld (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Morbido Film Fest, south of the border.

Anderson has been plagued by nightmares featuring his late wife, so he moves from the Bulgarian provinces to Sofia, accepting the ridiculously easy job his pal lined up. He doesn’t even have to spend his time watching the security CCTV. They have software that flags any anomalies for his daily review. Frankly, the basement “hanger” they are monitoring is so dark, there is really nothing for him to see anyway. It is low stress work that comes with a well-appointed flat, but his nightmares become even more violent after moving in. On the plus side, the inviting café across the street employs an attractive barista named Zara. She is friendly too. She will be the one who finally informs Anderson of the building’s infamous history.

So, when Anderson sees some kind of something move across the monitor, who’s he gonna call? That’s right, Robert Englund. He would be our first choice too. In this case, he is playing Jacob Keaton, a rather eccentric and completely blind security consultant. Keaton might be blind, but he is still a natty dresser. Englund plays it to the hilt, practically giggling with mischievous glee—and his enthusiasm is contagious. Whenever he is on-screen, he kicks up the energy level several notches.

Gianni Capaldi is also quite a pleasant surprise, displaying Hammer-worthy scenery-chewing chops as Anderson’s weirdly vague boss Martin. Lorina Kamburova is indeed quite charming as Zara. Granted, it is hard to believe Anderson and Keaton would let her tag along when they start investigating the cosmic evil-doing in the basement. On the other hand, it wouldn’t make much sense to push her off screen.  This is a horror movie, just deal with it. Everymanish Jason London gets upstaged left and right, but he is a reasonably solid and credibly incredulous presence.

Even in broad daylight, Sofia looks a film noir. Vallardes and cinematographer Pau Mirabet take full advantage of the cinematic setting, infusing the film with ominous style. You can glean hints of a giallo influence, but they scrupulously avoid slavish pastiches. Altogether, it is quite distinctive visually and a good deal of fun. Recommended for fans of Euro horror with relatively little gore, Nightworld screens tomorrow (10/28) as part of this year’s Morbido in Mexico City—and it is currently on VOD platforms in the USA.

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