7 films to know
Science has long proven that you can technically live at Alamo Drafthouse.
(Fantastic Fest is science. Crazy science, however.)
From September 23 to 30, the Austin-based iconic cinema film festival presented new and classic genre films – sci-fi, horror, crime, kung fu, what’s the matter – to voracious fans, the welcoming festival numerous world and American premieres.
It was a throwback to (something that looked like) normal for Fantastic Fest in its 16th edition, after a digital and non-traditional 2020.
Due to the pandemic, this year’s Fantastic Fest ditched the badges, choosing to sell individual tickets for in-person screenings. The shows were spread over three Drafthouse. They kept a virtual component, called FF @ Home.
On the pitch, everything seemed to go smoothly. The usual swarms of fans in the halls were gone, but the diehards showed up, swapping stories outside the theater and in the Highball Bar.
Fantastic Fest adhered to its policy of requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to participate in screenings. Recording tables have been placed prominently at the front of the theater in the South Lamar and Village cinemas. Most of the festival-goers also wore masks during the screenings I saw.
“The idea was to always try to do the right thing and create something that is safe and appropriate for our time,” Alamo Drafthouse co-founder and executive chairman Tim League told me last month.
As promised, the movies were wild, and they were mixed, because it’s a festival.
Fantastic Fest loves stunts. Opener “Titanium”, in its American premiere, began with crowds of people in firefighter costumes dancing in the aisles of the theater. Filmmaker Julia Ducournau presented her Cannes hit, teasing League at the microphone and addressing the heart of the festival.
“Some stories are universal and shouldn’t be niche,” she said. “Gender is not a niche.”
Critics’ favorite ‘Titanium’ is one of the most viscerally visual films I’ve ever seen, filled with body horror, industrial bloodshed and dazzling imagery. Ducournau spoke candidly about allusions and metaphors in his film during the Q&A. In her story of a homicidal woman (with a plate in her head and monsters in her body) and the grieving fire captain who greets her, there is room for everything.
This may be too alarming for casual moviegoers, but don’t be surprised if it wins awards later on. (And then when he invites the required pearl.) “Titanium” is now in theaters.
Review of “Titanium”:Sex, cars and the twisted most gender reveal party ever
The second night of Fantastic Fest brought “Hell bingo”, a horror film airing on Amazon Prime Video from October 1. Production company Blumhouse has cornered the top scary market for streaming services. “Bingo Hell” is the final part of their horror-themed anthology series for Amazon.
The film finds Lupita (Adriana Barraza) struggling to keep the community spirit alive among her gentrifying circle of elderly people in Oak Springs. A sinister character (Richard Brake) moves into the city’s old bingo hall, opening a flashy new game room with insanely high prizes. Then, as people start to win big, they also start dropping dead. Soon it’s just Lupita against the forces of darkness.
Ahead of the screening, writer-director Gigi Saul Guerrero said: “We need abuelas carrying a shotgun more often.” (Yes, it’s true.)
“Bingo Hell” is a high schlock with a touch of melodrama, or in other words, the perfect selection from Fantastic Fest. There are seams that show, that’s for sure: Hallmark cinematic-quality score, weirdly erratic editing, and heavily drawn stock characters keep the film in what you’d call conventional quality.
However, there is no denying the thrill of Guerrero’s film. Barraza’s performance is undeniably excellent (those chuckles!) And the threat of the bingo man (those gums!) Gives real chills. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” takes place under the multicolored lights of a bingo hall.
Speaking of style, Dutch director David Verbeek “Dead and beautiful” takes an admittedly heavy metaphor – hot young people from billionaire families wake up from their life of boring excess in Taiwan to find out they’re vampires, but like, the kind with fangs – and makes it look so cold, dark and gorgeous as possible.
Internal logic puts a strain on gullibility at times, but I have to say I found “Dead & Beautiful” mesmerizing. With a premise if on the nose, you must plan an indulgent camp, all provided by the ghostly and glowing luxury rooms; gothic designer outfits; and vaguely silly main characters. There’s a big twist at the end, which I’m obviously not going to spoil, and just know that it basically doesn’t work. As a commentary on a generation rotten by wealth, social media, and lack of purpose, however, it has teeth.
The US premiere of A24’s cattle fantasy thriller “Lamb” also transported Fantastic Fest to lands overseas, this time the lush green countryside of Iceland. Writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson and star executive producer Noomi Rapace came for the fun, which started with League in lamb costume and a group of moviegoers wearing lamb masks in the front row. (At the sight of which, Rapace laughed and said she liked it.)
“Lamb” is difficult to analyze, both genuinely watchable and confusing all around. Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason play husband and wife farmers who one day adopt a strange creature born in their lamb pen. The movie is slow and horrifying, although the baby is certainly adorable in every way… well, it should be watched. There’s a lot to guess about the thematic intent of “Lamb”: parenthood, grief, and man’s relationship to nature all swirl in the Nordic haze. If you understand it, let me know. It’s in theaters October 8.
The world premiere of the COVID-era spook-fest “Alone with you,” created by Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks and starring Bennett, was much more generous with his responses (and scares). The film follows Charlie (Bennett) as she awaits his girlfriend’s return from a trip to fight for her sanity in a supernatural hellish landscape, in her own home.
It’s about as independent as it gets, with a chaotic back end, but “Alone With You” has some good bones. Bennett holds his place in the world of one-piece psychological thrillers, an image of brilliant abilities slowly fading into insanity. We all love a good old-fashioned jump scare, which this movie has a lot of. Dora Madison as Charlie FaceTiming’s friend is a comedic treat, and horror vet Barbara Crampton paints such an accurate portrayal of a passive-aggressive, religious fanatic parent that you must be wondering where it came from. inspiration.
Now the inspiration for “Slumber Party Massacre” is clear – it’s a reboot of the 1980s slasher franchise of the same name. A SyFy original, you’d be forgiven for tempering expectations.
But director Danishka Esterhazy has done a wonderful thing by not only turning the genre around, but making an honestly hilarious film that doesn’t trade in any of her garish, gory, Grand Guignol delights.
Though it disappointingly shifts to more conventional territory in the second half, “Slumber Party Massacre” is a genre lover’s playground. Firstly, his phenomenal cast of young actresses (directed by Hannah Gonera and Frances Sholto-Douglas) is hell of a game to turn the Driller Killer’s chase on him, all flashing in unison the way these things usually go. . Second, he uses a team of generic, useless hot dudes as plot devices and a shameless cheesecake. (A shower scene? Hello.) The script, it’s been reversed.
You can watch “Slumber Party Massacre” on October 16th on the SyFy channel.
Secret screenings are a hallmark of Fantastic Fest, and fans can usually expect to see high-profile films before hitting theaters or streaming platforms. Recent secret screenings have included “The Lighthouse” and “Dolemite Is My Name”.
This year, the first surprise was “Last Night in Soho” by Edgar Wright, with Anya Taylor-Joy. (I missed it; Moontower Comedy Festival called.) But Revelation # 2 was the story of provocative Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nuns “Bénédetta”, released this winter.
In the intro, League himself nodded that it wasn’t necessarily what audiences might expect, teasing a dive into “faith-based” cinema before being coached. by a horde of people in nun costumes.
It wouldn’t be the first angry horde of the night in Verhoeven’s adaptation of Judith C. Brown’s “Shameless Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy”. Benedetta (Virginie Efira) has visions of Jesus in her 17th century convent, much to the abbess’s suspicion (Charlotte Rampling, spectacular). When a novice named Bartolomea finds herself in Benedetta’s bed (for the Lord, of course), the prophetic sister leads a revolution against the backdrop of the plague.
There is no sense in dancing around it: “Benedetta” is as salacious, sacrilegious and explicit as one would expect from something I called “Paul Verhoeven’s Lesbian Nun Story” . But it’s also low-key slaps, elevated costumed drama with gonzo moments and heart-felt drama, if you can believe it.
If you still want a piece of the fantastic pie, FF @ Home is running until October 10. “Alone With You” is screened as part of the virtual festival on Alamo On Demand, with films like “After Blue (Dirty Paradise)”, “Zalava” and many more winning awards at the festival in person. Go to festivalfantastique.com for more information.