Closing down our coverage of Make Believe Seattle 2023, we cover our last three films. Each disturbs in its own way, and feature three of the more exciting directors at the festival. Rebekah McKendry shocked audiences with her killer feature, Glorious, especially after it landed on Shudder. Getting another screening at a festival only adds to its growing fanbase. Director Jeffrey Obrow caught our eye with The Dorm That Dripped Blood, so Pursued‘s premise seemed in our wheelhouse. Finally, a non-traditional documentary from David Farrier always makes for a good time.
We hope that Make Believe Seattle will only get a chance to expand in the coming years. Genre film festivals continue to find fans across the country. Make Believe Seattle has an incredible eye for combining seemingly different artistic approaches and allowing creativity to shine above all else. While we eagerly await next year’s installment, check out reviews of these three films below, as well as our other reviews from the festival.
Pursued – Directed by Jeffrey Obrow
Jeffrey Obrow brings an intense and dangerous foe to life in Pursued. When a teenage girl, Lark (Madison Lawlor), tries to stalk her Mom (Molly Ringwald) on social media, she accidentally insults a serial killer (Angus Macfadyen). The premise sets up a cat-and-mouse game, and Obrow mostly delivers on that front. Macfadyen terrifies, bringing a physicality to the screen that elicits nervous shudders. However, his brash dialogue underserves his performance, and Obrow struggles to fully land the experience.
Perhaps the most frustrating moments of Pursued come from its treatment of teens. In this case, the characters seemingly put themselves directly into harm’s way. They struggle to know how their actions can easily be traced on the internet and make some baffling interpersonal choices, even for teens. They also get too close to a teacher, and if Macfadyen does not do the trick, the relationship with Lark’s teacher will. Ringwald feels underutilized, while the late Paul Sorvino brings pure warmth to the film. You’ll feel the passion behind Pursued throughout, but some issues in execution hold it back.
Mister Organ – Directed by David Farrier
David Farrier rarely makes movies that resemble anything you have ever seen before. The director of Tickled and Dark Tourist returns with one of the year’s most compelling films. Mister Organ follows Farrier as he stumbles into an outlandish conspiracy. One would likely think the “character” of Mister Organ would be too absurd to work in narrative storytelling. Yet in documentaries, stranger than fiction, individuals come to life.
Farrier first meets the titular Mister Organ because of a parking issue. As he digs deeper and deeper into local lore and legend, Organ becomes an object of fascination. Farrier becomes compelled to start a relationship with a man who seems inclined to insert his parasitic claws into your life. It’s unclear at first why Farrier continues to associate with a man threatening lawsuits and financial repercussions. Yet at the same time, life’s often more interesting when there’s a wildcard at every turn.
For long stretches of Mister Organ, the documentary feels like Exit Through the Gift Shop, as the director becomes monomaniacal about his subject. Farrier very much finds a character like Mr. Brainwash from that film. However, Organ appears far savvier as a businessman. He adeptly uses the law to his advantage, running circles around Farrier. Nothing prepares Farrier for where this journey will take him, with financial ruin and his safety becoming his greatest concern.
What Farrier hopes to tell us with Mister Organ remains up for discussion. It’s possible he wanted to put Organ on screen. He’s compelling, and he’s odd. He destroys lives yet seems innocuous. Perhaps most of all, Farrier may finally have turned the camera on himself. Somehow, Farrier continually finds himself involved in the strangest stories imaginable. Much of Mister Organ feels like Farier reckoning with his own poor decision-making. Putting your own mistakes on screen can never be easy, but watching Farrier try to distance himself from the hangers-on in life becomes a cathartic release.
Glorious – Directed by Rebekah McKendry
There are few experiences as fulfilling as a sub-eighty-minute horror film. Directors willing to tell their story and end it before it gets overstretched are a godsend. Often, this leads to tighter, stronger material as well, which aids the “all killer, no filler” ethos of the film. In the case of Glorious, McKendry announces herself as a must-watch director.
Even though our first experience with Glorious came months ago, it’s continued to linger on our minds. The performance from Ryan Kwanten surprises at every turn. It’s nuanced in just the right ways, which is impressive when you realize a Lovecraftian monster awaits on the other side of a bathroom stall. J.K. Simmons continues to prove his value as a vocal performer, taking over the film with his commanding presence. McKendry uses her limited space to perfection and still provides buckets and buckets of blood, tears, and slimy goo. You love to watch talent development, and McKendry enters must-watch territory as long as she’s willing to work in horror.