Across the River ("Oltre Il Guado")
A wildlife biologist has set up a variety of trophy cameras along a path in the remote Italian mountains. Living alone in a cabin, he collects data daily, reviewing footage, studying animal behaviour and their tracks, on the hunt for ever-elusive wild beasts. Occasionally, strange items appear, such as a beautiful piece of cloth flowing down the river, from what appears to have been a dress. One day, he takes his camper further down the road and ventures past the river, which traps him unknowingly on its opposite shore. Wandering deeper and deeper within the forest, an abandoned village catches his attention, and what he discovers within its walls, lurking at night, unseen, is far more unnerving than he could have imagined. The darkness engulfs him. Meanwhile, an old man watches over it all, guardian of a terrible secret.
The most downright efficient, atmospheric horror film in this year’s selection and a chilling discovery from Italy, ACROSS THE RIVER prioritizes a slow-building, intense crescendo approach to its atmosphere of disorientation and dread, forsaking cheap scares for the sake of terrific sound design, carefully placed shadows and rustling leaves. Thrusting you deeper and deeper into the clutches of his dark, otherworldly woods, director Lorenzo Bianchini offers an almost dialogue-less hybrid of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (without it being subjective found footage) and INTO THE WILD, pulling you into the supernatural wilderness one discovery at a time, insidiously even, until you are, like his protagonist, completely trapped and at the mercy of what lies within. The unique infrared wildlife footage peppered throughout takes on a vividly evocative quality, as uncanny images of the wilderness are produced, forcing you to wonder as to what is really there. A classical horror tale spun from the interstices of man and his digital technologies as confronted with the (super)natural world of yore, ACROSS THE RIVER is a brilliant opposition of new and old narratives, building towards a downright terrifying finale that will recall, in intensity and affect, both [REC] and Bobcat Goldthwait’s Bigfoot found-footage film WILLOW CREEK, also playing this year. Wander, wonder and dare cross the river, you will be glad you did.
— Ariel Esteban Cayer