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[Review] Apps [Another Hole in the Head Film Festival]: South American Anthology Tackles the Horrors Hiding within Smartphone Technology

Chile/Argentina coproduction Apps is a horror anthology based around smartphone apps. Its segments are much like apps in that some work well while others are disappointing. 

“Eye Wolf”

After the first segment of the good-looking but rather lackluster wraparound “Date Freak,” the film kicks into high gear with director Jose Miguel Zuniga’s “Eye Wolf,” in which female college students Berny (Fernanda Finsterbush) and Elisa (Ignacia Uribe) show up at what is supposed to be a party but is in fact, unbeknownst to both young women, a set-up for Berny’s scumbag boyfriend Nacho (Manuel Castro Volpato) and his equally terrible friends to make some dark web money by gang raping Elisa. They’ll find out that she is no easy target, however, in this high-octane, gore-spattered winner. If it’s gruesome, pulse-pounding havoc at a rapid pace that you’re craving, this segment delivers.

Next up is the weakest of the lot, the confusing “Frequencia” from director Camilo León, which tries for a modern-technology approach to Rear Window as Leonardo León portrays a young man with an eavesdropping app who uses it to listen in on his neighbors. Although Camilio tries some interesting approaches such as focusing on sound design and using onlyminimal dialogue, not enough happens to make things interesting, and too many questions are left unanswered.

“Eden”

Things get back on track with Lucio A, Rojas’ “Eden,” in which a group of friends finds out that the dream house rental they booked for a music festival is actually a seemingly abandoned industrial lot — which, of course, isn’t really abandoned. I’ll leave it to viewers to discover who lurks there, but suffice it to say that Eden packs in a heavy share of bloodletting and mayhem, and rivals “Eye Wolf” as the most straight-ahead horror segment in this portmanteau.

Sandra Arriagada’s “On Fire” lightens things up considerably, though it is not short on its own brand of terror effects. This segment is like a humorous take on Firestarter, as a young boy named Toñito (the director’s son, León Arriagada) discovers that when he gets upset enough about something, he can cause things to catch fire. Well, he’s about had it with his lowlife dad, who only spends time with him to take photos of them pretending to play so that Dad can pick up single moms on his dating app, so you can guess people are not exempt from the young ‘un’s fiery rage. Sandra’s creativity, which includes using animated segments to further the story, and León’s hilarious expressions make this one a charming winner.

The conclusion to the “Date Freak” wraparound winds things up with a sight gag that isn’t wholly unexpected.

As with most fright-fare anthologies, Apps has its high points and lows, but unlike some, none of the segments are awful. Some really strong horror films are coming out of Chile and Argentina lately — La Casa for the former and Vurdalak Blood and On the 3rd Day for the latter, for example — and Apps gives viewers a chance to see work from more rising fear-fare filmmakers from these countries.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Apps screens as part of San Francisco’s Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, which takes place December 1st–15th, 2021 with an offering of over 25 features and 200+ short films. The majority of content will be available on-demand via the Eventive platform, plus live online screenings with audience interaction and filmmaker Q&A on the Zoom platform, plus the long-awaited theatrical screenings at New People Cinema in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The full Another Hole in the Head schedule, along with ticket links and programming details, are available at https://holehead2021.eventive.org/welcome

For a direct link to Apps, visit https://holehead2021.eventive.org/films/61880ddf06e591009a12568b.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.
Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.