Fear and groaning from Israeli horror films set for the US

Up-and-coming duo Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, part of an upcoming ‘The ABCs of Death,’ also have two features primed for release stateside

Still from 'Big Bad Wolves' (photo credit: courtesy)
Still from 'Big Bad Wolves' (photo credit: courtesy)

It looks like 2014 will be a good year to be an Israeli film director.

Ari Folman’s hard-to-categorize animation/live action hybrid “The Congress” elicited a strong response at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is primed for a theatrical and VOD next year.

Warner Bros. has entrusted the follow-up to their wildly successful history-via-comic book epic “300” to Jerusalem-born Noam Murro. The forthcoming “300: Rise of an Empire” (which is more of a “side-quel” than a prequel or sequel) is the first big budget feature from the Murro, a director of top commercials, and it is poised to wow fanboys next March.

Next year also sees two releases by an up-and-coming filmmaking duo working in the horror genre, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado.

“Big Bad Wolves” is a darkly comic, edge-of-your-seat-type film about a disgraced cop, the religious studies teacher who may be a murderer, and an older man whose daughter has been killed. The three come to a head, leaving the audience unsure whom to trust – and unable to turn away as brutal revenge does battle with concepts like how to torture someone so they can still receive a proper Jewish burial.

Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (left) at the 'Big Bad Wolves' premier in NY. (photo credit: courtesy)
Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado (left) at the ‘Big Bad Wolves’ premier in NY. (photo credit: courtesy)

The film was a bit of a sensation at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and was later picked up for distribution by Magnet Releasing, the “genre arm” of Marc Cuban’s Magnolia Pictures.

Keshales and Papushado will also take part in Magnet Releasing and Drafthouse Films’ “The ABCs of Death 2.” The follow-up to this year’s much discussed anthology film “The ABCs of Death,” this new one will follow the same playful and gross rules.

A different letter is assigned to different filmmakers, collecting twenty-six different repulsive, hilarious, clever and/or nauseating shorts (all depending on your personal stamina, naturally). Keshales and Papushado join filmmakers from locations as diverse as Japan, Spain, Canada, Lithuania, Nigeria, France, the Philippines and New York City’s East Village. The legendary Academy Award-winning animator Bill Plympton is also joining the project. No word has been given on what letter the pair will be assigned, though we can only assume they don’t want to get stuck with “Q.”

Scene from 'Rabies' (photo credit: courtesy)
Scene from ‘Rabies’ (photo credit: courtesy)

“What I really love about ‘Big Bad Wolves’ is the tiny little moments of humor sprinkled throughout,” says Tim League, founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas and co-producer of the “ABCs of Death” franchise. “That deft understated handling of comedy is what assures me that Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are well on their way to becoming household names.”

Americans itching to get in on the ground floor with this innovative pair will have an opportunity to do so when FEARNet presents the world television premiere of Keshales and Papushado’s first feature film, “Blood Clan.”

Originally titled “Rabies” (“Kalevet” in Hebrew,) “Blood Clan” is a vicious, somewhat satirical and nightmarish story about a psychotic killer in an inescapable section of the woods. Police, park rangers and even a group of tennis players all manage to make things worse by trying to help a woman escape the clutches of a barbarous madman.

It’s one of those movies that has you shouting back at the screen in good old fashioned horror movie frustration – and also maybe vomiting at some of the good-natured gore. (There’s this one part with a giant stone that just… blech!)

“Blood Clan” played the festival circuit to much acclaim in 2011, but did not receive much of a theatrical release.

FEARnet is makes the debut on July 20th, part of a four-film “Tour de la Terror” of international horror films. The other titles in the program are:

  • Xavier Gens’ 2007 picture “Frontier(s)” from France. (Truly disgusting, not fun, and not really recommended.)
  • Hideo Nakata’s 1998 “Ringu,” the wildly successful and oft-imitated mainstay of Japanese horror. (Which still holds up.)
  • Gustavo Hernández’ “La Casa Muda,” the 2010 “all in one take” haunted house movie from Uruguay that was later remade as “Silent House” starring Elizabeth Olson. (A good film, though one of the few examples where the American remake was, in my opinion, far superior to the foreign language original.)

Even if you don’t think you get FEARnet, you probably do if you live in the US and pay for cable. Check those channels you never go to. FEARnet also frequently streams their films on their website and offers free-of-charge On Demand services with some cable providers.

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