Weekend Options: Horror, Drama, and Documentary Reviews

Tigers Are Not Afraid
Review Rating: 8/10

This Mexican horror film is a dark fairy tale for our modern times. The story finds a group of children living on the street, after being orphaned by the ruthless actions of a drug cartel. They go on the run when they steal a cell phone containing incriminating video and photos.

But as the kids stay one step ahead of their murderous pursuers, they discover that one of their lot, Estrella (Paola Lara), might have a supernatural advantage. Estrella uses her connection to the other side, controlled with three pieces of chalk (referred to as her “wishes”), to fight back. But invoking the undead has consequences, and every time she makes a wish, something bad happens coupled with something helpful.

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” features solid performances, especially by Lara, and some excellent animation combined seamlessly with effective practical effects. The result is a gritty and creepy unique look at the collateral damage of the drug trade.

Ms. Purple
Review Rating: 8/10

This profile of family loyalty proves awfully affecting.

When Kasie’s father falls into a persistent vegetative state, she decides to take care of him at home. Friends and even her brother, Carey (Teddy Lee), beg her to send her father to a hospice, but Kasie (Tiffany Chu) won’t hear of it. And when the home health care nurse leaves for a better job, Kasie is forced to face the harsh reality.

Expertly shot and directed, it’s impossible not to be moved by Kasie’s plight. She loves her father so much that she can’t let go. As a child, her mother abandoned her family to take up with another man. And because her father accepted sole custody without reservation, receiving no help in raising his children, Kasie’s bond with her father is understandably very deep. Anyone who has struggled with end of life care for a loved one will be deeply affected by this story.

On top of the familiar narrative that most of us have or will encounter in our own lives, director and co-writer Justin Chon (see 2017’s well-regarded “Gook”) explores the dark underbelly of the karaoke culture in Los Angeles. Kasie works as a hostess in these scary places, where businessmen often abuse her.

A really well-made film, the images in “Ms. Purple” convey a dreamlike mood, with Kasie and Carey wondering what is left for them beyond the care for their dying parent. And the story seamlessly mixes in flashbacks that deepen character and provide context as to why unreasonable choices are made. It’s a film that should be absorbed and celebrated, giving many of us a peek into a world of which we might be unfamiliar, but exposing the similarities that bind us together as human beings.

Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary
Review Rating: 7/10

Premiering at Atlanta’s Out on Film this weekend, this remarkable documentary is a portrait of a very special Richmond, Virginia, personality. Donnie “Dirtwoman” Corker, who passed away in 2017, established himself as an outspoken member of the city’s underground. But as he evolved, his infectious Dirtwoman persona became engrained into the town’s mainstream.

The film combines a large number of interviews with all walks of life, who tell funny and touching stories about Corker. While members of the city’s underground wax poetically about him, it is surprising to hear from police officers, lawyers, and other professionals about Corker’s impact on the people in his life. He was certainly an acquired taste, but one that through force of will became an integral part of the fabric of the community.

I especially liked the independent-minded filmmaking approach by first-time director Jerry Williams. The movie colorfully makes use of standard definition footage from 1999, which was the start of this long-gestating film. It’s a testament to Williams’ commitment to the project that it was eventually completed, and what a treasure the old footage is.

An often scatological affair, “Spider Mites of Jesus” is a gloriously profane and wonderfully engaging tribute to a counterculture local icon, whose over-the-top rantings are reminiscent of ground-breaking comedian Lenny Bruce.