Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival Review: RIFT (2017)

I have always been a fan of foreign films, especially foreign horror. Some of my favorite horror films of the last decade have come from foreign markets, including Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008), Goodnight Mommy (Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, Austria, 2014), and most recently, Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari, Iran, 2016). Whether it’s the fact that these films aren’t held under the same constraints as some made by big-budget studios here in the states, being noted to death by studio execs, or simply that they’re coming from fresh new voices telling original stories we’ve never heard before; I find a certain sort of magic in each new foreign film I watch. RIFT, the second feature film from director Erlingur Thoroddsen, is no different. Its own unique brand of magic captivated me from beginning to end.

In this gorgeously atmospheric feast-for-the-eyes, two men, Gunnar (Bjӧrn Stefánsson) and Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson), are trying to come to terms with the end of their relationship. After Gunnar receives a strange phone call from Einar in the middle of the night, he drives out to find Einar in a secluded cabin where they used to spend time together, fearing Einar may be in a state of self destruction. Gunnar arrives to discover Einar has been on a bender and doesn’t remember calling Gunnar at all. Although their relationship is long over, Gunnar decides to stay at the cabin to ensure Einar’s safety, but they soon find out their dead relationship may not be the only thing haunting them.

The film’s bleak Icelandic setting was sprinkled with allusive red imagery, which made for a striking contrast that was almost hypnotic. Set to a compelling score composed by Einar Sv. Tryggvason, the audio and visual experience alongside the passion between the two men truly made this film feel like a work of art. Bjӧrn Stefánsson and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson carry the film with veraciously sincere performances that tugged on my heartstrings. For anyone who has ever been through a breakup and the complicated range of emotions that come with, this story speaks volumes about the complexity of love and the ways we continue to care for a person long after the relationship has ended. Combine all of that with the threat of a mysterious figure lurking outside of their cabin and you’ve got an all too real horror story that may be more relatable than you’d expect.

RIFT feels like a ghost story, the primary entity being Gunnar and Einar’s dead relationship, and it had me gasping for air for more reasons than one. The entire film is shrouded in an air of mystery, leaving much left up to the imagination until the very end. All in all, I adored this film and am pleased to add it to my list of foreign favorites. Erlingur Thoroddsen’s classy style of filmmaking was made for me, so I am looking forward to checking out his debut film Child Eater, based on his short film of the same name, and I am anxiously awaiting whatever he creates next.

RIFT is currently making its rounds through the festival circuit, having already won the Artistic Vision Award from L.A. Outfest. Its U.S. festival dates include: September 15 at California Independent Film Festival, September 21 at Fantastic Fest, October 1 at Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival, October 13 at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and October 14 at New Orleans Film Festival.

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