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Preview: This week’s alternative films

PUBLISHED: 08:58 29 April 2011

Meek’s Cutoff

Meek’s Cutoff

Archant

Oscar nominee Michelle Williams delivers another striking performance in Kelly Reichardt’s gritty western Meek’s Cutoff. Plus there is Uruguayan horror The Silent House and Jerzy Skolimowski’s terrorism chase/thriller Essential Killing.

MEEK’S CUTOFF (PG)

Dir: Kelly Reichardt (2010)

With: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson

Oscar nominee Michelle Williams delivers another striking performance in Kelly Reichardt’s gritty western.

The year is 1845 and three families join the Oregon Trail, a perilous trek across the Cascade Mountains led by experienced guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood). Solomon Tetherow (Will Patton) and his wife Emily (Williams) spearhead the train of wagons followed by Thomas Gately (Paul Dano) and his wife Millie (Zoe Kazan), and William White (Neal Huff), his wife Glory (Shirley Henderson) and their son Jimmy (Tommy Nelson).

Meek claims to know a shortcut and he leads the wagons into the desert, becoming lost in the endless sea of sand, dry rock and sage. Hunger and thirst are a serious concern and the families slowly turn against one another as the spectre of death looms on the horizon. Then a Native American from the Cayuse tribe (Rod Rondeaux) chances upon the stricken emigrants and the families must decide whether they should trust a man they have always viewed as the enemy to rescue them in their hour of greatest need.

nScreens at Cinema City on April 29-May 5, 09871 9025724, www.picturehouses.co.uk

THE SILENT HOUSE (15)

Dir: Gustavo Hernandez (2010)

With: Abel Tripaldi, Florencia Colucci, Gustavo Alonso, Maria Salazar

Ever since the phenomenal success of The Blair Witch Project, scrappy, documentary-like footage supposedly shot on camcorder has become a staple of the horror genre.

Gustavo Hernández’s The Silent House (La Casa Muda) follows in this tradition but also has another trick up it’s sleeve, in that it claims to be shot in a single, 78 minute take.

Based on shocking true events that took place in a sleepy Uruguayan village in the late 1940s, The Silent House is a horror for anyone who’s ever been creeped out by things that go bump in the night.

The plot sees a father (Gustavo Alonso) and daughter (first-timer Colucci) spend the night in an isolated cottage, which is alive with strange sounds and unsettling creaks and moans.

Whether the single-shot or based on a “true story” claims are entirely accurate, the result is far from being a clichéd affair, with solid central performances and an unyielding sense of dread.

nScreens at Cinema City on April 29-May 2/4-5, details as above

ESSENTIAL KILLING (15)

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski (2010)

With: Vincent Gallo, Emmanuelle Seigner, David L. Price, Zach Cohen

Jerzy Skolimowski makes an impressive return to feature direction with this harrowing account of a Taliban fighter and his experience at the hands of American soldiers.

The Polish-born director, who marked himself out as a spiky, original talent with a run of films – Deep End, The Shout, Moonlighting – in the 1980s, collected the Special Jury prize and Vincent Gallo won the trophy as Best Actor at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.

Captured in Afghanistan by US forces, Mohammed (Gallo) is subject to interrogation and rendition. In the course of his journey through an unnamed European country, he escapes across a snow-covered landscape, where he attempts to live off the land, eventually having his wounds tended by a deaf and mute woman (Emmanuelle Seigner).

Virtually without dialogue, its simple chase/thriller narrative recalls The Fugitive — but transformed through imaginative cinematography by Adam Sikora.

nScreens at Cinema City on April 29/May 2-5, details as above

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