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MOVIES

'What We Do in the Shadows,' 'It Follows' and others add a fresh bite

"What We Do in the Shadows": Working in the faux-documentary tradition of Christopher Guest, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi crafted a droll delight — think "Big Brother: Transylvania" — that managed to give fresh bite to a genre that was admittedly feeling a little anemic around the fangs.

"Far From Men": Set against the historical backdrop of the French-Algerian conflict, David Oelhoffen's soulful, existential period western, featuring Viggo Mortensen, conveys an affecting humanity that resonates deeply in alienating wide-open spaces and extended silences.

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"It Follows": Tapping into the primal fear zeitgeist is David Robert Mitchell's nerve-jangling thriller about a college student (Maiki Moore) stalked by a supernatural force. Underscoring the ensuing, mounting dread is a potent, pulsating synth soundtrack by video game composer Disasterpeace.

"Song From the Forest": German author-photojournalist Michael Obert etches an evocative portrait of a man who found his muse by answering the call of the Bayaka pygmies.Ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno's captivating journey into the Central African Republic's lush jungles casts a quietly poetic spell.

"Goodnight Mommy": Co-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala take a visually studied, slyly playful approach to this unsettling yarn about 9-year-old twin brothers who begin to suspect that the woman who returns home from the hospital is no longer their mother. It all makes for one seriously subversive yet tastefully-appointed art house thriller.

More, please: After a prolonged "Behind the Music" funk, documentaries about iconic musicians shook off their hagiographic tendencies and incorporated existing footage in inspired ways to portray their subjects — Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin among them — in a fresh, revealing light.

No más: While faith-based films were in abundant supply, the virtue of subtlety proved to elude most, sending critics ducking for cover against the relentless fire and brimstone. As with secular movies, uplift can most effectively be achieved not via fervent pulpit-pounding but on gossamer wings.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 01, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "A fresh bite distinguishes genre work, music docs - MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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