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DGC@Home Offers Guatemalan Drama ‘Nuestras Madres’

Plus streaming options featuring witches and vampires

Cinema Junkie Recommends Streaming Options

Reported by Beth Accomando

With sheltering at home people are turning more and more to streaming options for diversion. Here are just a few of those choices for this weekend.

I just reviewed the Shudder original film "Blood Quantum" that dropped on Tuesday. It reanimates the undead genre by serving up a zombie plague that infects the world but the indigenous inhabitants of the Red Crow reserve prove immune. But if that feels too close to a pandemic themed movie while you quarantine at home than here are other options.

DGC@Home offers 'Nuestras Madres'

Digital Gym Cinema has had to close its doors like other movie theaters because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is still open for business with virtual tickets to new films like "Nuestra Madres."

Set in Guatemala of 2018, "Nuestras Madres" looks to a young anthropologist, Ernesto (Armando Espitia), who works for the Forensic Foundation. His job is to identify the missing and collect witness statements from those who remain and remember what happened. But the job becomes personal when one story leads to information about his father that his mother is not eager to address.

The film is quietly impactful as it explores personal grief and loss set in bold relief by a country trying to come to terms with its own history. It looks to how the past can inform the present, and how exhuming dead bodies can unearth secrets. Filmmaker Cesar Diaz crafts a compassionate script that encourages healing and moving forward. He maintains a low key but unwavering focus but never resorts to histrionics to make an easy emotional point. His tone is thoughtful and compelling. I'm sure that the story will resonate more fully with those who are more familiar with Guatemala's history but "Nuestras Madres" is also a personal story that will connect with anyone.

Photo credit: IFC Midnight

Practical effects are the star in "The Wretched."

'The Wretched'

A different kind of grief and loss get filtered through horror in "The Wretched." For some of us on lockdown fictional horror provides a perfect escape from anxiety and stress over the real life horrors of the impact of coronavirus on the world.

"The Wretched" takes a little of the formula from "Fright Night" in which a teenage boy discovers something's up with his neighbor but none of the adults believe him. This time around instead of a vampire, it's a witch.

"The Wretched" opens "35 years ago" to lay a kind of groundwork for the evil that will challenge the teenage Ben (John-Paul Howard) in the present day. Ben's parents are getting divorced and he's about to spend some time with his dad. Then he discovers a witch next door who devours kids and then makes family members forget they even existed.

Ben seems to uncover the particular evil that he's facing with a simple Google search and finds an easy protection in salt circles. On one level I liked how lean the storytelling was on that point so we don't get a lot of exposition on what's going on. On the other hand, I would have liked a little more flair in creating a mythology for this particular witch. The idea of wiping out one's memory of a loved one is a truly terrifying thing as is having your mom turn on you for a midnight snack. There are some shades of La Llorona to the notion of a horrific mother figure but without any backstory on the evil at the core of this story we don't have any insights into the particular origins of this evil.

"The Wretched," the second feature from the Pierce Brothers (they made the horror comedy "Deadheads" in 2011), is a formulaic horror tale that fails to develop an interesting mythology for its witchy creature but it is a showcase for practical effects and boasts solid production values. It just needed a better script.

Photo credit: FX Productions

Nandor (Kayvan Novak) is a vampire living on Staten Island with his familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) and fellow bloodsucker Laszlo (Matt Berry) in "What We Do in the Shadow," which is now in its second season.

'What We Do In The Shadows' Season 2

But there's no room for improvement to the perfection that is "What We Do in the Shadows." Returning for its second season, the FX series is based on the brilliant 2014 mockumentary of the same name created by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. That feature film looked to a group of vampires living in modern day Wellington. After struggling to get released the film found a devoted audience and was able to keep the brand alive with a series that leaves the Wellington vampires behind to follow a group of vampires trying to navigate life in today's Staten Island.

If you have not sunk your teeth into this bloody good show then you can binge the first season and then eagerly await new episodes each Wednesday. The show, as with the feature film, maintains a high level of wit, comic ingenuity, clever character development, and just pure joy. There is loving attention to detail and especially to character. Nandor (Kayvan Novak), his familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), fellow bloodsuckers Laszlo (Matt Berry) and Nadia (Natasia Demetriou), and energy vampire Colin (Mark Proksch) deal with everything from old world vampires coming to visit to ghosts haunting their house to trying to use email. What makes the show such a delight is that the creative team always finds a way to surprise you and to turn a trop on its head.

Everything about this show is top notch from the cast and writing to the production design, music, cinematography, and editing. Everything has perfect comic timing, too. The series maintains the same premise as the film in that it's a film crew documenting their lives. So sometimes we are just observing their life and other times the protagonists are interviewed. It's a formula that works incredibly well.

So treat yourself to comic perfection, you’ll laugh so hard your fangs will hurt.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

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Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando.

So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place

Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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