How the Fire Fell
72 Joe Haege (31Knots frontman, part-time Menomena member) stars as charismatic preacher Edmund Creffield in Edward P. Davee's ambitious debut feature about turn-of-the-20th-century Corvallis-based cult Bride of Christ Church. Shot on Super 16 mm film for a mere $50,000, How the Fire Fell nails the necessary subtleties of period detail—it never feels like Davee rallied his buddies for a weekend of dress-up—and sustains a vibe of creeping dread throughout, thanks in large part to Scott Ballard's crepuscular black-and-white photography and a plangent score by Haege and John Askew that recalls the apocalypse aperitifs of A Silver Mt. Zion. The film is peppered with images of stark, scary beauty, but Davee has a bit too much faith in aesthetic appeal as a substitute for drama. Virtually every interaction that doesn't involve Haege laying down the biblical law is buried beneath music-soaked impressionism, and while it's certainly pleasing to the eyes and ears, a vital humanity is lost in the process. With a daguerreotype face and stage-honed theatrics, Haege is perfect for propheteering, and Davee has fashioned a convincing collapsing world around him, but the disciples remain opaque constructions. CHRIS STAMM. 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 19.
55 Using a '70s horror aesthetic, this flick takes us back to a time when handheld cameras and uneven audio were not only the norm but necessary, in order to follow a haunted farm-dweller who escapes a violent relationship and goes on a dark odyssey through her soul—which looks uncannily like the forests of Oregon. Enigmatic clues about her mysterious "accident" are provided by roadside crones and campers who speak in riddles, and graphic intimations of mortality punctuate every odd encounter the Oregonian has with other (ostensibly living) souls as she flashes back to images of her own downfall. But tired tropes—like symbolic rooms and cackling choirs of women—derail any mystery the film succeeds in creating. Despite the quaint retro feel, it all comes off as clunky and poorly thought out; not so much an homage to the '70s horror genre as a contender for a film best left forgotten in that era. SAUNDRA SORENSON. 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 19.