Raindance 2017 reviews: High & Outside, Midnighters
James R | On 01, Oct 2017
The 2017 Raindance Film Festival takes place in London from Wednesday 20th September to Sunday 1st October, showcasing web series, VR shorts and indie films from around the world. We take a look at some of the movies screening, from those in search of distribution to those heading soon to VOD.
High & Outside: A Baseball Noir
The words “baseball” and “noir” don’t normally appear in the same sentence, but High & Outside is unlikely proof that they really do belong together. Evald Johnson’s drama follows Phil (Phil Donlon), a washed-up batter who can’t bat for toffee, something that everyone else but him. With a famous player (Geoffrey Lewis) for a dad, though, baseball is in his blood – and he’s all too happy to let it spill out when necessary.
His obsession with the game has already cost him his marriage, as he struggles to balance his career ambitions with the accompanying drug-and-girls habit – not to mention his young daughter.
Phil Donlon’s performance is superb, channeling self-hate and self-denial to make for a character who’s entirely unlikeable, but oddly sympathetic – he’s a guy who swings at good intentions but misses them and knocks bad decisions clean out the park. The problem? He can’t stop swinging. The late Geoffrey Lewis, meanwhile, is a mesmerising foil to his messed-up son: after suffering two strokes, he’s just as stubborn, refusing to give up or go into a nursing home, with mean streak that only puts further strain on the threadbare household. Johnson grew up as the son of a baseball player, and while he captures the sport in action with beautiful slow-motion – even if you don’t like the game, you’ll be riveted – he doesn’t shy away from the negative intensity of a family drama fuelled by toxic masculinity and compromised dreams.
Screenings: 27th September, 6.30pm / 1st October, 12.45pm
The Walking Dead director Julius Ramsay makes his feature debut with this grippingly unpredictable horror. It follows Jess and Lindsey, a couple who accidentally run someone over when driving back from a New Year’s party – not such a fresh start to the new year after all. And so they do what all movie couples must in such a situation: they try to cover it up.
It’s the kind of decision that would risk tearing most marriages apart, but our couple are already under strain, as Lindsey becomes the sole breadwinner for the household, after Jeff’s athlete career has failed to take off. The script, by Julius’ brother, Alston Ramsay, never quite manages to bring the character depth the film needs to explore their relationship fully, but it’s enough to kick-start a growing suspense, as things get more tense and more awkward with every escalating twist.
Driving those, in part, is the presence of Lindsey’s troublesome Hannah, whose past keeps coming back to haunt them – the discovery that their hit-and-run victim was headed to their house anyway only adds to the panic and violence. A brief visit by the cops (Andrew Rothenberg and Joseph Anderson) is deliciously unsettling, while a prolonged interrogation by Detective Smith (Ward Horton) is nailbiting stuff, taking things to dark extremes with creepy smiles and sinister dialogue. If there’s not much substance to the screenplay, its steady string of revelations keeps the pace impressively fast, to the point where even an opening garage door can be enough to give you goosebumps.
Screenings: 21st September, 6pm / 26th September, 1pm
For more on Raindance, click here, or visit the official festival website.