For all the media attention it garners, the Sundance Film Festival (which runs from January 21-31) is a pretty insular event: A handful of the festival’s most buzzed-about films eventually make it to theaters, but most are barely seen outside of Sundance screening rooms. A first step toward bringing the festival to a wider audience comes with the debut of three Sundance films on video-on-demand simultaneous with their premieres at the festival. Subscribers to various cable systems (including Cox) can watch Sundance debuts Daddy Longlegs (starting January 22), 7 Days (also January 22) and The Shock Doctrine (January 28) at any time for 30 days, without having to stand in long lines in freezing weather.
Daddy Longlegs, from filmmaking brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, is a micro-budget indie film about an irresponsible and incompetent divorced father whose two weeks with his obnoxious kids go anything but smoothly. The Safdies dedicate the film to their own father, but the irritating, self-absorbed and whiny main character seems like a pretty poor tribute.
The Shock Doctrine, from Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, is yet another left-wing political documentary, this one based on a book by Naomi Klein and essentially blaming economist Milton Friedman for most of the world’s financial ills of the last 30-plus years. It rehashes tired anti-Bush arguments, wildly overreaches in its thesis and relies on near-constant narration rather than direct evidence to make its points.
French-Canadian psychological horror movie 7 Days is the default best of the bunch, and it starts out promisingly with striking imagery and restrained performances. But the story of a doctor who kidnaps and tortures his daughter’s murderer soon degenerates into tedious sadism, like an austere, artsy version of the Saw movies.
These films may not be the best Sundance has to offer, then, but getting really excited for obscure movies that turn out to be forgettable duds is also part of the film-festival experience.