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Billed as the first slasher to come from Lithuania, this greasy movie is a visually inventive foray into a well-worn genre - from the Baltic Competitio at 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN

A bunch of teenagers decamp to the wilderness, their days of schooling behind them. Their head-mistress has told them to be “hunters”, which suits them, because all they have is bravado and ferocity. It doesn’t bother them that the wilderness boasts little coverage – they are young and freespirited. All that changes when a serial killer pops up, tearing them down, one by one.

No, this story is hardly original, but its legacy is set by virtue of being the first of its kind from Lithuania. There are no standout performances to speak of: more of an ensemble of actors portraying the team of teenagers who are facing their gravest fears. The story is predictable, but director Jonas Trukanas demonstrates a flair for colour, timbre and tension. There are red herrings, red smoke and a general sense of frenzy. And yet the film presents the killer as a sort of serial killer hybrid, a best of mixture that homages the much lauded murderers of the 1980s. Indeed, the mask feels like a cross between the subdued face worn in Halloween franchise, and the hockey mask used in Friday the 13th.

An unkind reviewer might say the director turns a banal script into a high octane thriller, but the three stars this film has earned seems fair, considering how much the film flits between breaking down barriers and following the rulebook.

What the film boasts is Šarūnas Rapolas Meiliešius, a high cheekboned lead who may be a future heartthrob. He plays Marius, the one character who stands a chance of surviving this onslaught. It’s Marius that connects the audience to the story, the killer to the house, and the teenagers to their destination. There’s a power to Meiliešius’s eyes that recall Daniel Craig’s efforts in the British television series Our Friends In The North, demonstrating vulnerability, sorrow and repentance in the same frame. Indeed, he’s caught in the fury of the violence, demonstrating a wilfulness to survive and an eagerness to thrive.

He’s a strong lead, if a little mousey at points, but he never threatens to overshadow the ambience or the ensemble at hand. What the cast bring is a sense of believability: This is a gang of teenagers, happy to indulge in drink and sex, thrusting themselves into their surroundings. The best scenes are the ones that abandon the trappings of the genre entirely, capturing a story based on humanity and loss, as the teenagers creates a world that is interesting and arguably more fun than the one we are currently living in.

So, maybe that’s what Trukanas should focus on for his next feature: Avoid the trappings of the tried and tested, and piece together something none of us have ever seen on the big screen before. But as slasher films go, this at least holds some merit.

Pensive has just premiered at the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.


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