Rabies (dirs. Aharon Keshales & Novat Paupshado, 2010, Israel)
Aharon Keshales and Novat Paupshado's awesomely vicious and funny film Rabies came with a lot of options as Israel's first horror feature. That there's a homicidal predator in the forest, the directors could've explored that as a traditional (albeit Israeli) slasher film and made a bloody decent one at that. Instead, they focus on the broader picture of Israeli acting talent, the quartet of friends road-tripping in the woods, the park ranger and his trusty hunting dog, the two cops patrolling the area, the brother and sister targeted by the maniac — IN ADDITION to a very dangerous killer on the loose. In doing so, Keshales and Paupshado concocted a very creative, articulated entry to the international genre scene. So the conventional beginning — young Tali (Liat Harlev) stuck in the killer's trap, her brother Ofer (Henry David) comes to her aid only to be attacked off-camera — quickly segues to separate story-lines of friends, a hunting expedition, laughter and bickering that spirals out of control as tensions rage, miscommunication reigns and violence ensues. That the forest is littered with landmines leftover from past nationwide conflicts is just one spark to this growing molotov. A case of good samaritan aid and misidentification leads to copious bloodshed, another instance of a corrupt cop Yuval (Danny Geva) forcing himself on the girls Adi (the lovely, ass-kicking Ania Bukstein) and Shir (Yael Grobglas) he's supposed to be protecting — you know, from the psycho in the woods! — goes far different than you might think. Rabies equaled one of my most memorable Fantastic Fest films and a favorite, and I look forward to these directors' future efforts within the horror genre.
Livid (dir. Julien Maury/Alexandre Bustillo, 2011, France)
A Lonely Place to Die (dir. Julian Gilbey, 2011, UK)
The Innkeepers (dir. Ti West, 2010, USA)