Small Town Murder Songs

Who raped and killed the girl whose body is found by the lake near a rural Ontario community? And who was she? At first, these questions appear to be pivotal to “Small Town Murder Songs,” the riveting new film by Ed Gass-Donnelly. But are they? The police investigation is led by Walter (Peter Stormare), the troubled local police chief in this small Mennonite farming town. As the investigation unfolds Walter enters a labyrinth of religious repression and self-doubt that threaten everything he believes.

The opening scene introduces a quartet of characters that emerge in a tragic tableau; if at first cryptic, the subsequent plot reveals a complex interpersonal geometry. We learn that Walter had an affair with Rita (Jill Hennessy), who notified police when her thuggish boyfriend (Stephen Eric McIntyre) found the dead girl’s body. Walter now lives with Sam, a decent, God-fearing waitress (played by a luminous Martha Plimpton). As the murder investigation develops, Walter is pressured by all facets of the community: the provincial police, the townspeople, his Mennonite father and brother (who won’t forgive his questionable past), and Rita, who shuts him out completely. Before long, the duress pushes Walter to the edges of his sanity.

The terrific music, pumped up to dramatic effect, acts as the chorus in this disturbing drama. The film is divided into evangelical chapters (including the ominously titled “Repent and profess your faith”) which illustrate the weight of Christianity upon both Walter and his community. Brendan Steacy’s cinematography, a small but pitch-perfect performance from the wonderful Jackie Burroughs and the inimitable Peter Stormare in one of his strongest performances to date all conspire to make “Small Town Murder Songs” a devilishly good film. [Synopsis courtesy of Martin Bilodeau/Toronto International Film Festival]

The Last Exorcism Part II

As Nell Sweetzer tries to build a new life after the events of the first movie, the evil force that once possessed her returns with an even more horrific plan.


Abbie Cornish stars in this thriller as Jane, a photographer who is forced to come to terms with her mysterious and tragic past after a horrendous car accident robs her of her memory. Along with her husband (Diego Klattenhoff, Blacklist) and daughter, Jane returns to her childhood home and reconnects with her estranged uncle (Dermot Mulroney). To take control of her life, Jane must confront a mysterious lurking force and grapple with a past that continues to haunt her. [Synopsis courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival]