Review: ‘Pearl’ (2022), starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland and Emma Jenkins-Purro

September 15, 2022

by Carla Hay

Mia Goth in “Pearl” (Photo by Christopher Moss/A24)

“Pearl” (2022)

Directed by Ti West

Some language in German with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Texas in 1918, the horror film “Pearl” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A mentally ill young woman, who’s desperate to become a famous entertainer and move away from her family’s rural farm, will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. 

Culture Audience: “Pearl” (which is a prequel to the 2022 horror movie “X”) will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “X,” filmmaker Ti West, star Mia Goth and slasher movies that are just as effective in showing psychological horror.

Mia Goth and Tandi Wright in “Pearl” (Photo by Christopher Moss/A24)

In this prequel to director Ti West’s 2022 horror flick “X,” Mia Goth shows why she is one of the all-time great actresses in horror movies. Her disturbing performance as the title character in “Pearl” is a master class in horror excellence. Viewers don’t need to see “X” before seeing “Pearl” (both movies were directed by West), but seeing “X” before seeing “Pearl” gives much better context to “Pearl” in foreshadowing what’s to come for this unhinged serial killer.

“Pearl” was filmed immediately after “X” was filmed. The two movies were released six months apart, which is unusual for a prequel movie. The main location for “Pearl” and “X” is an isolated Texas farm in an unnamed rural town. (“Pearl” and “X” were both actually filmed in New Zealand.”) It’s at this farm where a lot of murder and mayhem take place. “X” was written by West, whereas West and Goth co-wrote “Pearl.”

In “X,” the year is 1979, and a group of six people from a big city in Texas have gone to the farm to make a porn movie called “The Farmer’s Daughter.” The movie’s producer rented the farm. The owners of the farm are an elderly couple named Pearl (played by Goth) and Howard (played by Stephen Ure), who is nicknamed Howie. Pearl and Howard don’t know until after the fact that their farm is being used to film a porn movie. And when Pearl and Howard find out, all hell breaks loose.

The actress who plays the title role in “The Farmer’s Daughter” is Maxine Minx (also played by Goth), an ambitious performer in her 20s who thinks that this porn movie will make her a big star. Pearl becomes fixated on Maxine, who reminds Pearl of how Pearl used to be when Pearl was a young woman who dreamed of becoming a famous entertainer, with a specialty in dancing. Pearl ends up being a voyeur who spies on Maxine, and this voyeurism triggers a deadly rage in Pearl.

The movie “Pearl” is this character’s origin story that shows she’s been mentally ill long before she encountered this unlucky group of pornographers. In “Pearl,” the year is 1918. Pearl (who an only child) is in her late teens and living on the same farm with her parents. The name of the property is Powder Keg Farms, which is a nod to something that happens in “X.”

Pearl is married to Howard (played by Alistair Sewell), but he is a military man who’s away because he’s serving in World War I. She appears to be sweet, innocent and a hopeless romantic. She keeps Howard’s love letters to her as if they are her greatest treasures. However, Pearl’s seemingly harmless exterior masks someone who is capable of a great deal of harm.

The infleunza pandemic is plaguing the United States, so people wear face masks in public. (It’s a chilling parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which “Pearl” and “X” were filmed and released.) Pearl’s one goal in life is to become a movie star, especially in musicals. She frequently goes to the local movie theater to watch her beloved films, such as “Palace Follies,” which she has seen multiple times.

Pearl finds her home life very stifling and will do anything to get away from the farm and follow her dreams. There’s a scene where Pearl is alone and prays out loud: “Please, Lord, make me the biggest star the world has ever known, so I can get far away from this place.” Pearl’s strict and religious mother Ruth (played by Tandi Wright), who is a German immigrant, frequently berates and punishes Pearl if Ruth thinks Pearl did anything wrong. Ruth thinks being an entertainer is a sinful lifestyle, and she expects Pearl to live on the farm for the rest of Pearl’s life.

There are some scenes that show how cruel Ruth can be. One of these scenes takes place during a family dinner at the dining table. Pearl admits that she had some candy on the way back from the movie theater. Ruth gets angry and takes away Pearl’s dinner before Pearl can finish and says that Pearl gave up her right to the meal because Pearl spent money on candy. Pearl says she’s “starving” and pleads with Ruth to let her finish the dinner, but Ruth remains unmoved.

Pearl’s father (played by Matthew Sunderland), who does not have a name in the movie, is catatonic for unnamed health reasons. He is usually seen in a wheelchair, as he watches the love/hate turmoil between Pearl and Ruth, with sadness and fear in his eyes. It’s never made clear if his muteness is voluntary or involuntary.

At various times, Pearl and Ruth express resentment over having to take care of him. Ruth shows signs of mental distress too, when later in the movie, she unleashes a rage-filled rant at Pearl about how much Ruth hates being a caretaker for her husband, and Ruth thinks that Pearl is not doing enough to help. Ruth also knows that something is very wrong with Pearl, when she shouts at Pearl during an argument: “You are not well, Pearl! Something is festering inside of you!”

“Pearl” is the type of horror movie that takes its time to build to the actual horror, because the movie is a psychological portrait of Pearl’s mental illness. Pearl is seen talking to the farm animals, who are the only audience she’s had to practice her dance moves and act out her fantasies of being a famous actress. Out in the farm’s field, she dances with a scarecrow. And then, she starts kissing the scarecrow passionately and simulating sex with the scarecrow as her personal sex doll.

The farm is located near a swamp that has an alligator, which Pearl thinks of as a pet. An early scene in the movie shows Pearl killing a goose on the farm and feeding the goose to the alligator. There’s also an alligator in the same swamp in “X,” which does exactly what you think a horror movie does when there’s an alligator in a swamp. At one point in “Pearl,” it looks like Pearl is going to push her father into the swamp, where the father would surely be eaten by the alligator. Will Pearl commit this murder?

Two things change the trajectory of Pearl’s life in a short period of time. First, she meets the local movie theater’s projectionist (played by David Corenswet), who is a bachelor in his late 20s. The movie’s credits only list this character’s name as The Projectionist, but at one point in the movie, Pearl calls him Johnny. Whatever his name is, there is an immediate attraction between him and Pearl when they first meet.

He’s smooth talker who flirts with Pearl when she’s outside of the theater after she’s seen “Palace Follies” once again. He tells Pearl that she’s welcome to see a movie for free anytime when the theater is closed, and he’s there to operate the film projector. One night, after Pearl has another conflict with Ruth, she rides her bike to the theater and takes him up on his offer.

The other turning point in Pearl’s life happens when Howard’s perky younger sister Misty (played by Emma Jenkins-Purro) stops by the farm to visit and tells Pearl that there will be dancer auditions held in the near future at the local church. Misty will be going to the auditions and suggests that Pearl audition too. Pearl sees this opportunity as her chance to get in the big leagues of the entertainment industry. Pearl is determined to go to the auditions, knowing full well that her mother Ruth would disapprove.

“Pearl” has several nods to “X,” such as the audition scene where Pearl goes on the audition stage, and there’s a big “X” to literally mark her spot. When she meets up with her new projectionist acquaintance, he shows her a softcore porn movie and predicts that this type of adult movie will eventually be legal in the United States. He also mentions that he wants to make these types of movies, and that Pearl would be a big star if she did these types of movies too.

He suggests that Pearl move to Europe, because he says entertainers in Europe have more freedom to express their sexuality. All he will say about his background is that he’s a bohemian who lives a nomadic existence. Pearl is intrigued and awestruck by him and takes his advice to heart.

Viewers who are expecting a typical slasher flick, where the first murder happens within the first 15 minutes of the movie, might be disappointed at how slow-paced “Pearl” seems to be in the first third of the movie. The middle of the movie picks up the pace. And by the last third of “Pearl,” there are several tension-filled, gruesome moments that culminate in scene that’s a cinematic knockout.

Goth has two major standout moments in the film that don’t involve show any bloody murders: In one scene, she delivers a long monologue that is a window into her troubled and twisted soul. And the final scene and the closing credits in “Pearl” will be talked about by horror fans for years.

What also makes “Pearl” so notable as a prequel is that it doesn’t try to copy “X” or confuse people who haven’t seen “X.” (And people who see “Pearl” without seeing “X” first will be curious to see “X” after watching Pearl.”) “Pearl” is a true stand-alone film that has an entirely different look and tone from “X”—quite an achievement, considering all most all the crew members were the same for both films.

The cinematography by Eliot Rockett in “X” was dark and gritty, inspired by the bleakness of many 1970s horror movies. Tyler Bates’ musical score also reflected the angst of a freewheeling 1970s American society on the verge of the 1980s, a decade that ushered in a cultural explosion of financial greed and political conservatism. As stated in the production notes for “Pearl,” West and Rockett were inspired by Technicolor films for “Pearl.” Bates’ musical score is sweeping, lush and romantic—all meant to reflect the elaborate fantasies in Pearl’s mind.

Pearl’s fantasies don’t always match up with reality. That is her personal horror, which manifests itself in the rampage that takes place in the movie. People who saw “X” already know what happened to Pearl as an elderly woman. However, Maxine Minx’s story continues in the sequel “Maxxxine,” which is due out sometime in 2023. West and Goth have a great partnership in this movie saga. It’s a partnership that has resulted in horror movies that are instant classics.

A24 will release “Pearl” in U.S. cinemas on September 16, 2022.

Review: ‘Resurrection’ (2022), starring Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman and Michael Esper

September 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rebecca Hall in “Resurrection” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Resurrection” (2022)

Directed by Andrew Semans

Culture Representation: Taking place in upstate New York, the horror film “Resurrection” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Asian American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A business executive, who’s a single mother to a teenage daughter, experiences emotional turmoil when a man from her past comes back into her life.

Culture Audience: “Resurrection” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, and will appeal to viewers who are open to watching horror movies with unexpected and disturbing twists.

Tim Roth and Rebecca Hall in “Resurrection” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

Just like the 2021 horror film “Malignant,” the 2022 horror film “Resurrection” has an unsettling and shocking reveal that viewers will either love or hate. The movie isn’t perfect, but the surprise ending offers a bizarre twist that shows bold originality. “Resurrection” is better than the average horror movie, largely due to the suspenseful mystery at the center of the story, as well as the cast members’ convincing performances.

“Resurrection” is the second feature film from writer/director Andrew Semans, who previously directed the offbeat comedy/drama “Nancy, Please,” about a hellish experience with a roommate. “Nancy, Please” made the rounds at several film festivals in 2012, before getting a very limited release in the U.S. in 2013. “Resurrection” (which has its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival) is a movie that is much darker in tone and will leave many viewers disturbed by some of the visuals and how the story concludes.

“Resurrection” takes place in an unnamed part of upstate New York (the movie was actually filmed in Albany, New York), where biotech executive Margaret Ballian (played by Rebecca Hall) thinks she has her entire life under control and in order. The movie’s opening scene shows Margaret having a private meeting in her office with her young intern/administrative assistant Gwyn (played by Angela Wong Carbone), with Margaret giving Gwyn some advice about Gwyn’s personal life. Apparently, Gwyn is in a very bad relationship with a love partner, because Margaret tells Gwyn that Gwyn’s belittling partner is a “sadist,” so Margaret advises Gwyn to end this toxic romance.

Because of the sensitive nature of this conversation, Gwyn asks Margaret not to tell anyone about what they discussed in this meeting. Gwyn doesn’t know it, but Margaret’s own love life isn’t exactly going so well either. She’s having a secret affair with a married man named Peter (played by Michael Esper), who is the father of a teenage daughter named Chloe. Margaret, who is not married, is also a parent to a teenage daughter. Margaret’s daughter Abbie (played by Grace Kaufman), who 17 or 18 years old, is a college-bound student in her last year of high school.

Although Peter and Margaret care about each other, they’re not in love with each other. They both know it’s a dead-end affair that came about from lust and a need for companionship. During one of their sexual trysts, Margaret gets an alarming phone call: Abbie is in a hospital after getting into a drunken biking accident with a friend named Lucy. Luckily, Abbie recovers from her injuries, but this health scare starts to trigger maternal feelings in Margaret that affect her for the rest of the story.

Margaret and Gwyn are then shown in another private meeting in Margaret’s office, where Gwyn confides in Margaret that she broke up with the abusive partner. Margaret congratulates Gwyn and praises her by saying, “You’re tougher than leather.” Although Margaret and Gwyn have not been working together for very long, it’s apparent that Margaret feels protective of Gwyn, almost like a mother is protective of a child.

Not long after this meeting, Margaret attends the Biotech Rising Conference and is shocked to see who someone who is one of the conference’s speakers: His name is David Moore (played by Tim Roth), who is a confident and intelligent scientific researcher. Margaret’s reaction to seeing David on stage is that of someone who suddenly physically ill from fear.

Margaret is so unnerved by seeing David, she rushes to her home and calls out for Abbie, who is at home, safe and sound. Margaret bursts into Abbie’s room and asks Abbie if she is okay. Abbie says yes. Margaret is immensely relieved to see that nothing has happened to Abbie, who is confused over why Margaret is acting so paranoid, and she asks Margaret why.

Margaret won’t tell Abbie anything, except to insist that everything is just fine. But when Margaret goes into a bathroom, she begins sobbing. What is it about David that’s caused Margaret to be so distressed? It should come as no surprise that David is someone from Margaret’s past whom she wants to forget. And he ends up making contact with her, much to her dread.

Most of “Resurrection” is about the unnerving cat-and-mouse game between David and Margaret. David takes pleasure in knowing that his presence is upsetting to Margaret. She starts having nightmares, including one where she finds a burned baby inside of a stove. It’s enough to say that much of the horror in “Resurrection” is about Margaret’s issues with motherhood and abuse.

The nightmare about the burned baby isn’t what most viewers will think it is, because the secrets about Margaret’s past, which are eventually revealed in the movie, have some unpredictable elements. Hall gives a very tormented performance as Margaret, whose mental health begins to unravel the more that she sees David. Roth gives an effective performance too, but he’s played creepy villains in many other movies, so there are no real surprises in how Roth portrays David in “Resurrection.”

The pacing of “Resurrection” sometime drags slowly, but Semans’ writing and directing are solid enough to maintain viewers’ curiosity about what will happen next. “Resurrection” has some horror imagery about children that might be too upsetting for sensitive viewers. As gruesome as “Resurrection” can be, it’s a horror movie that offers glimmers of hope and makes a memorable statement about the power of a mother’s love.

IFC Films released “Resurrection” in select U.S. cinemas on July 29, 2022. The movie’s release on digital and VOD was August 5, 2022.

Review: ‘Barbarian’ (2022), starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long

September 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

Georgina Campbell in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” (2022)

Directed by Zach Cregger

Culture Representation: Taking place in Detroit and briefly in Los Angeles, the horror film “Barbarian” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Murder and mayhem ensue after a woman, who’s in Detroit for a job interview, finds out that her Airbnb-type rental house has been double-booked with a male guest, who is also staying at the house. 

Culture Audience: “Barbarian” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching suspenseful slahser films that mixes formulaic plot developments wth a few surprises.

Justin Long in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” falters with uneven pacing and some gaps in logic, but this slasher flick delivers the type of suspenseful mystery, jump scares and interesting characters that a horror movie should. The acting performances are better than the screenplay. If not for the performances and some clever surprises, “Barbarian” would be a very run-of-the-mill horror movie.

Written and directed by Zach Cregger, “Barbarian” is somewhat of a departure for Cregger, who is also known as an actor who does a lot of work in comedy. (He was one of the original cast members of “The Whitest Kids U’ Know,” the comedy sketch series that was on the IFC network from 2007 to 2011, after launching for a short stint on the Fuse network.) Cregger’s feature-film debut as a writer/director was the forgettable 2009 sex comedy “Miss March,” in which she co-starred with Trevor Moore, one of the other cast members of “The Whitest Kids ‘U Know.”

“Barbarian” begins with the arrival of aspiring filmmaker Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), who has traveled to Detroit, because she has a job interview to be an assistant to a semi-famous documentary filmmaker. Tess is staying at a one-bedroom house (at the address 476 Barbary) that she rented through Airbnb. And because this is a horror movie, she arrives at night when it’s raining outside.

To her surprise, Tess finds out that there’s another guest who’s already at the house, and his rental time is for the same time that she’s been booked. His name is Keith Toshko (played by Bill Skarsgård), who has arrived from Brooklyn, New York. Keith tells Tess that he booked his reservation through Home Away, an online service that’s similar to Airbnb. Keith also says that he’s part of an artist collective called the Lion Tamers Collective, and he’s in Detroit to look for living space for the group.

After Tess and Keith see that they both have confirmations for the same booking, Tess offers to leave, since Keith arrived at the house first. Tess starts to call around to find a hotel to book, but the first place she calls doesn’t have any vacancies. Keith says that there’s a big convention happening in Detroit, so she probably won’t have much luck finding a hotel room. The movie never says where Tess lives, by the way, but it’s far enough were she had to rent a car for this trip.

There are several moments in “Barbarian” when people make less-than-smart decisions—the types of decisions where viewers might say to themselves, “I would never do that.” The first of those moments in “Barbarian” happens when Tess takes Keith’s word for it that she won’t find a hotel room, and she gives up too easily in her search to find a hotel. This is the type of questionable decision that horror movies rely on, in order to put characters in danger.

Tess then offers to sleep in her car for the night, but Keith insists that she stay in the house because the neighborhood is too dangerous for her to be sleeping in her car at night. At this point, even though Keith is friendly and polite, viewers will be wondering if Keith really is a good guy, or if he has sinister intentions for Tess. This question is answered at a certain point in the movie, but “Barbarian” does a very good job of keeping viewers guessing about what’s going to happen.

Tess then makes the fateful decision to spend the night at the house. Keith tells Tess that she can have the bedroom, while he sleeps on the couch. Because Keith is a complete stranger to Tess, as a precaution, Tess uses her phone to secretly take a photo of Keith’s driver’s license when she see his wallet on a table in the bedroom.

There’s tension in the house, but not just because of fear. After a while, there’s sexual tension, because it becomes obvious that Keith is attracted to Tess. And when Tess begins to feel more comfortable around Keith, the feeling of attraction becomes mutual. Their first night together in the house has some scares for Tess when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find out that her bedroom door, which she had closed behind her, is open.

The terror in the house doesn’t happen right away. Tess begins to trust Keith enough that she accepts his offer to share the house with him for the rest of their stay in Detroit. When Tess goes outside the house for the first time when it’s daylight, she sees that the house is the only well-kept house on a residential street that looks like a bombed-out war zone. All of the other houses on the street look like condemned, unhabitable buildings.

The street is also eerily quiet, except for a harrowing incident when a homeless-looking man on the street, whom Tess later finds out is named Andre (played by Jaymes Butler), runs after her and yells at her not to stay in the house. Tess is so frightened by this stranger, she runs into the house and locks herself inside. When she calls 911 to report the incident, the operator says that there are no police units available to go to that street.

Tess gets another big red flag when she goes to her job interview with the documentary filmmaker Catherine James (played by Kate Nichols), who asks Tess where she’s staying while Tess is in Detroit. When Tess mentions the neighborhood and that she’s staying at an Airbnb house rental, Catherine’s immediate reaction is surprise that this neighborhood has a house that meets Airbnb rental standards. Catherine is also very concenred that Tess is staying in that neighborhood, which has a bad reputation for crime, so Catherine urges Tess to be careful.

And something horrible does happen in that house. Luckily for viewers, it’s not revealed in the “Barbarian” trailer or other marketing materials. The movie avoids the pitfall of not giving away its best moments or the movie’s chief villain in the trailer. However, it’s enough to say (as shown in the “Barbarian” trailer) that there’s a long and sinister tunnel underneath the house. And lurking in that tunnel is someone identified in the movie’s credits as The Mother (played by Matthew Patrick Davis), who will definitely make viewers squirm.

Meanwhile, about halfway through the movie, “Barbarian” introduces another character who has a connection to this house. He’s a famous actor named AJ Gilbride (played by Justin Long), who lives in Los Angles. AJ is successful enough to be a steadily working actor who gets starring roles, but he’s not mega-rich. He owns some rental properties, including the house in Detroit where Tess and Keith are staying.

AJ is first seen in the story as he gets bad news from his agents: An actress named Melisa (voiced by Kate Bosworth), whom he is co-starred with in a TV pilot called “Chip Off the Old Block,” is accusing him of rape. Melisa is suing AJ because of this alleged sexual assault. AJ might also face criminal charges. AJ, who vehemently proclaims his innocence, tells anyone who’ll listen that the sex he had with Melisa was consensual.

Because of the scandal, the TV network for “Chip Off the Old Block” has decided that if the network picks up “Chip Off the Old Block” as a series, AJ will no longer be a part of the show. AJ says that he plans to countersue Melisa for defamation. His attorney advises AJ not to contact Melisa or talk to the media while the case is pending.

AJ gets more bad news when he visits his business manager, who tells AJ that AJ doesn’t have enough money to cover the cost of AJ’s legal fees. The business manager advises AJ to sell some of AJ’s property. The business manager also tells AJ that he no longer wants to work with AJ.

A desperate and despondent AJ goes to Detroit to see what he can do about selling the house that he owns at 476 Barbary. AJ has neglected the property so much, he wasn’t even aware that the property’s management company had been renting out the house to visitors for temporary stays. He’s in for a shock when he finds out what’s been going on at that house.

“Barbarian” has a flashback to the 1980s, when this Detroit neighborhood was safe, clean and well-maintained. A middle-aged man named Frank (played by Richard Brake) is seen going to a home supply store and telling a helpful sales clerk that he needs plastic sheets for a “home birth.” Viewers see that Frank is actually a bachelor, but he lets the sales clerk assume that he has a pregnant wife who will soon give birth. Frank doesn’t talk much, and there’s something “off” about him, because he acts like someone who has dark secrets.

Frank is then seen arriving unannounced at a house where a woman is home alone. He’s wearing a repairman’s uniform, and he politely tells the lady of the house that he’s from the utility company, and he needs to do an inspection. The woman lets him inside the house without hesitation. Frank then goes in the bathroom alone and unlocks the bathroom window.

After just a few minutes in the house, Frank thanks the woman resident, and he leaves the house. It’s at this point you know that Frank is going to break into the house later through that unlocked bathroom window. Who is Frank and what kind of criminal is he? Those answers are eventually revealed in the movie. This flashback scene also foreshadows that the neighborhood will go downhill when a male neighbor tells Frank that his family is moving soon because the neighborhood is “going to hell.”

“Barbarian” makes a few references to “white flight” in Detroit (when white residents moved out of certain Detroit neighborhoods because more black people were moving in) and the #MeToo movement. But these social issues don’t overwhelm the story, which remains mostly focused on the horror. “Barbarian” is an overall commentary on decay and neglect in communities, particularly in urban areas.

The characters in “Barbarian” are believable as people, even if some of their actions are illogical. For example, after Tess sees some disturbing things in the house, she stays in the house much longer than most people would. It’s very hard to believe that she can’t figure out other options on where to stay besides this creepy house.

“Barbarian” also brings up some questions that are never answered. There’s a part of the movie that shows there have been some missing people with a connection to the street where the house is. Wouldn’t any loved ones and friends be looking for these missing people? And who’s been maintaining the upkeep of the house? There’s no mention of housekeepers for this place. It’s the only house on the street that’s very neat and orderly on the outside of the building, even though the house’s front lawn looks run-down and messy.

A showdown scene near the end of “Barbarian” also doesn’t make sense on a physics level. However, the mystery of the house is plausible, as long as viewers believe the movie’s depiction that the cops in Detroit avoid this neighborhood as much as possible. “Barbarian” is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of renting a vacation home from strangers, particularly for women traveling alone. Jess obviously didn’t do enough research about the neighborhood and house where she’d be staying.

“Barbarian” writer/director Cregger (who has a cameo in the movie as a Detroit friend of AJ’s) could have paced the movie a little better, since the suspense-filled tension stops in areas where the tension should have been better-maintained. However, the movie has a talented cast, and the film delivers plenty of terrifying and ominous moments that should satisfy most horror fans. “Barbarian” is the type of horror movie where viewers shouldn’t overthink some of the details and should enjoy the terror ride for what it is.

20th Century Studios will release “Barbarian” in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2022.

Review: ‘Hawa’ (2022), starring Chanchal Chowdhury, Nazifa Tushi and Sariful Razz

September 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Nazifa Tushi in “Hawa” (Photo courtesy of Jaaz Multimedia)

“Hawa” (2022)

Directed by Mejbaur Rahman Sumon

Bengali with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Bay of Bengal near Bangladesh, the horror film “Hawa” has a cast of characters from Bangladesh representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After a mysterious woman gets caught in a net from a fishing boat, she is pulled aboard, and strange things start to happen to the fishermen on the boat.

Culture Audience: “Hawa” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching slow-paced horror movies that save the best scenes for the last third of the movie.

Pictured clockwise, from bottom left: Rizvi Rizu, Shohel Mondol, Sariful Razz, Bablu Bose, Nasir Uddin Khan, Mahmud Alam, Chanchal Chowdhury and Sumon Anowar in “Hawa” (Photo courtesy of Jaaz Multimedia)

The “slow burn” horror movie “Hawa” doesn’t get to its most terrifying moments until the last third of the film, but the long buildup to this terror is worth the wait. “Hawa” has a lot to say about gender dynamics when there’s only one woman in an isolated place with men. The movie takes its time in showing the increasing tension between the all-male team on a fishing boat (they are all fishermen for a living) and the mysterious young woman who literally gets ensnared in one of their nets.

Directed by Mejbaur Rahman Sumon, “Hawa” (which means “the wind” in Bengali) takes place entirely in a remote part of the Bay of Bengal, where the closest nation is Bangladesh. Sumon co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with DurSukorno Shahed Dhiman and Jaheen Faruque Ameen. (“Hawa” was filmed on St. Martin’s Island in the Bay of Bengal.) The movie’s central setting is a mid-sized fishing boat whose below-deck area is equipped with a furnace room, a storage area and some sleeping quarters.

During the fateful trip that’s depicted in this movie, there are eight members of the fishing team, including their captain, who are all men. Except for one brief scene in the movie, when another boat appears, the people on this fishing boat are isolated. It’s mentioned at one point that women aren’t allowed on these fishing trips.

The gender composition in this trip changes one night when they find a young woman caught in one of their nets. At first, she appears to be dead, but she’s actually unconscious. When the woman is brought on board and regains consciousness, she remains mute until a pivotal part of the story.

“Hawa” looks like a movie that could take place in an undetermined decade in the late 20th century or early 21st century. There is no mention of technology, such as the Internet or cell phones, to make contact with people. If the boat has a radio, it’s not seen or used.

About halfway through the movie, it’s revealed that the mystery woman’s name is Gulti (played by Nazifa Tushi). It’s also eventually revealed why Gulti was found in this part of bay that is so far from land and from other boats. Because she does not speak when she is first discovered, and she has no identification, the men decide that they will drop her off at the nearest town when their fishing trip is completed.

In the meantime, the fishermen decide that Gulti will have to do some work on the boat, in order to earn her place. Some of the men on the boat misinterpret Gulti’s silence for weakness. Two of the men try to sexually assault her on separate occasions. Gulti is able to fight them off, but her attackers hold grudges.

The first attempted rape happens when the boat’s domineering, middle-aged and arrogant captain Chaan Manjhi (played by Chanchal Chowdhury) tries to lure Gulti to go with him below deck to the furnace room to have a sexual encounter. He licks his lips lasciviously at her to make it known what his intentions are. As he tries to physically lead Gulti down to the furnace room, she pushes him away.

An enraged Chaan gets physically aggressive with Gulti. He calls her a “fucking whore” and tries to force her into the furnace room. Gulti is able to defend herself by taking a machete and getting Chaan to back off of her during their physical altercation on the deck. He’s so startled, he falls backward into the water and has to be rescued by members of his crew.

For the rest of the trip, Chaan tries to make Gulti as miserable as possible. He’s verbally abusive to her, and he orders her around like a slave. When she brings Chaan a drink, he says that serving him a drink isn’t “real work,” and she has to earn her place on the boat by doing work that’s a lot more physically demanding.

The second time that Gulti is almost raped, the attack comes from a middle-aged crew member named Eja (played by Sumon Anowar), who tries to physically subdue Gulti at the beginning of this sexual assault. Eja’s assault, which is even more prolonged than Chaan’s, involves Eja hitting Gulti, trying to remove her clothes, and grabbing Gulti to try to get her to do what he wants. Gulti successfully defends herself by eventually kicking Eja in the crotch, and he stops attacking her.

Not everyone on the boat wants to hurt Gulti. Most of the men don’t bother her and don’t interact with her much. But there’s one crew member in particular who goes out of his way to be kind to Gulti. He’s a young man named Ibrahim (played by Sariful Razz), nicknamed Iba, and he’s the boat’s friendly mechanic.

Iba is attracted to Gulti, and the feeling appears to be mutual. Iba is also the first person whom Gulti talks to on the boat. Iba and Gulti meet for secret late-night talks in the water. During one of their first conversations, she drops hints that she could be a mermaid.

The biggest flaw of “Hawa” is this 130-minute movie has some unnecessary scenes that drag down the pace of the movie. The first half of the movie is kind of a tedious slog that shows the men on the boat going through various power struggles and disagreements about the work that needs to be done. Early on in the movie, someone tries to steal fish for himself and quickly gets reprimanded for it by Chaan, who rules the boat like a dictator.

The other men on the boat are supporting characters whose personalities don’t leave much of an impression until the last third of the movie. Twin brothers Parkes (played by Rizvi Rizu) and Urkes (played by Shohel Mondol), who are in their 20s, are very close and look like they have a co-dependent relationship. The other crew members, whose ages range from 30s to 40s, are Nagu (played by Nasir Uddin Khan), Mora (played by Mahmud Alam) and Foni (palyed by Mahmud Alam), who have varying degrees of loyalty to Chaan.

“Hawa” has cinematography by Kamrul Hasan Khoshru and Tanveer Ahmed Shovon that effectively immerses viewers into the moods for the daytime and nighttime scenes. During the day, the fishing team is focused on work, but their isolation is still evident, because the boat is usually shown as the only one in the immediate area. At night, the atmosphere becomes more menacing and foreboding for anyone on board the ship.

What’s less realistic choices are in the makeup, costume design and hairstyle for Gulti, who appears in many scenes with perfectly applied makeup, her clothing well-styled, and her hair neatly combed or put up in a bun. Considering that she was found unconscious in the water while tangled in a net, it’s highly unlikely that she would have any makeup or beauty supplies with her, or that there would be any makeup on the boat. Gulti’s dress (the only outfit she has in the movie) sometimes also looks a little too neatly styled, when it should look more worn and tattered, considering everything that she goes through in the movie.

There’s a supernatural aspect to the story that could explain Gulti’s well-kept appearance, so viewers might have to suspend some disbelief when they see Gulti looking like a model on this very unglamorous and dirty boat. The men don’t seem to notice how Gulti manages to look picture-perfect in this rough environment. The men that do notice her physical appearance look at her from the angle of her sex appeal.

The troublemaking members of this fishing team feel more freedom to cause mischief and mayhem at night. And even though Chaan is the captain of the boat, even he can be vulnerable to anyone who has a reason to dislike him. He’s not only cruel to Gulti, but he’s also mean-spirited to members of the crew.

Viewers need patience to sit through the often-tedious first half of “Hawa” before the story gets a lot more interesting. Even though “Hawa” definitely needed tighter editing, the last third of the movie proves that it’s a memorable and suspenseful thriller. And the movie’s last image is haunting and very effective.

Jaaz Multimedia released “Hawa” in select U.S. cinemas on September 2, 2022. The movie was released in Bangladesh on July 29, 2022.

Review: ‘The Invitation’ (2022), starring Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Courtney Taylor, Hugh Skinner and Sean Pertwee

August 26, 2022

by Carla Hay

Nathalie Emmanuel in “The Invitation” (Photo by Marcell Piti/Screen Gems)

“The Invitation” (2022)

Directed by Jessica M. Thompson

Culture Representation: Taking place in England and briefly in New York City, the horror film “The Invitation” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one biracial person, a few black people and one Asian person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An aspiring ceramic maker, who is an American orphan in her 20s, is invited to go to England to meet her long-lost relatives, but she finds out these relatives have sinister plans for her.

Culture Audience: “The Invitation” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching formulaic horror movies that are frequently dull.

Thomas Doherty and Nathalie Emmanuel in “The Invitation” (Photo by Marcell Piti/Screen Gems)

If the horror flick “The Invitation” were an actual invitation, the RSVP would stand for “regurgitated, silly vampire pap.” As the movie’s “woman in peril,” Nathalie Emmanuel tries to bring personality to a film that’s relentlessly mediocre. The movie trailer for “The Invitation” gives away about 80% of the major plot developments. But even if you don’t see this movie trailer filled with spoiler information, everything in this unimaginative film is easy to predict.

Directed by Jessica M. Thompson (who co-wrote “The Invitation” screenplay with Blair Butler), “The Invitation” is a cinematic version of a cheap romance novel with a vampire twist that fails to be suspenseful. The movie’s jump scares look forced and don’t last long. All the horror elements of “The Invitation” are derivative of much better horror movies.

The protagonist of “The Invitation” is Evelyn “Evie” Jackson (played by Emmanuel), an aspiring ceramic artist in her 20s who lives in New York City. Evie, who later says she’s trying to get a master of fine arts degree, hasn’t been able to make a living as an artist. She pays her bills by working as a server at a catering company.

Evie is an independent-minded bachelorette who lives alone and currently has no special person in her love life. She has a (cliché alert) sassy best friend named Grace (played by Courtney Taylor), who is also a bachelorette, and they often commiserate with each other about their lovelorn experiences with dating. Later in the movie, Evie mentions that she’s in no rush to get married, which makes a certain turn of events in the movie more horrifying to her.

Evie’s father died when she was 14. Evie’s widowed mother died of cancer a few months ago. Evie has no siblings. And so, when Evie spends her birthday by herself, she does so by making ceramics and listening to a past voice mail message from her mother. It’s the movie’s obvious way of showing that Evie is in such grief over her mother’s death, Evie wants to spend her birthday alone.

Not long after her birthday, Evie takes an at-home DNA test, by using a kit from a genealogy company that had a recent event where Evie worked as a catering server. When the DNA test results come back, Evie finds out that she has a long-lost second cousin named Oliver Alexander III (played by Hugh Skinner), an aristocrat who lives in England. The next thing you know, Evie is having a lunch meeting in New York City with Oliver, who initiated this meeting.

Oliver explains to Evie that their great-grandmother Emmaline Alexander had an affair with a footman, who was black. In an era when interracial relationships were very taboo, Emmaline got pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was Evie’s maternal grandfather. Evie is also the child of an interracial couple. Her mother was black, and her father was white. Oliver lets Evie know that the current members of the Alexander family are not racists and that she’s welcome in the family.

Oliver invites Evie to meet her long-lost British family during a wedding that will take place at a lavish English countryside estate of another wealthy family whose surname is Deville. (“The Invitation” was actually filmed in Hungary.) Oliver quickly mutters something about a cousin named Martin who’s marrying a member of the Deville family. Oliver insists on paying for everything for this first-class trip. Evie is hesitant at first to take this generous offer, but of course you know that she changes her mind. Oliver simply won’t take no for an answer.

When Evie arrives at the estate, she’s outside and accidentally bumps into a few maids, who are carrying drinking glasses that shatter on the ground. Evie makes profuse apologies, but the estate’s haughty head butler Mr. Fields (played by Sean Pertwee) scolds the maids, even though Evie says she’s entirely to blame for the accident. Mr. Fields looks up and down at Evie (who wears a nose ring) and coldly asks her who she is and what she’s doing there.

Mr. Fields’ snobbish attitude toward Evie has racist overtones, since Evie is the only guest at the estate who isn’t white. Oliver steps in and introduces Evie to Mr. Fields as a member of the Alexander family. Mr. Fields’ attitude immediately changes to being polite and professional, but Evie feels hurt and angry over his insulting demeanor toward her when they first met.

It isn’t long before Evie meets the handsome and charming owner of the estate: Walter “Walt” Deville (played by Thomas Doherty), who makes an apology to Evie about Mr. Fields’ rudeness when Walt sees that Evie feels offended and uncomfortable. Evie is immediately attracted to Walt, and the feeling seems mutual. They mildly flirt with each other in a way that people do in movies where you know that that this flirtation is going to turn into a romance.

Mr. Fields shows Evie around the inside of this palatial estate, and he tells her that she’s welcome to go anywhere except the library, which is locked. And it’s at this point in the movie that you know Evie will eventually go in the library, where secrets are obviously being kept locked up. During this house tour, Evie meets chief housekeeper Mrs. Swift (played by Carol Ann Crawford), a friendly staffer who has been assigned to be Evie’s personal maid during this trip.

Evie feels awestruck by all the opulence and wealth on display. She also feels somewhat out-of-place, since she never grew up with this type of money and privilege. In order to cover up her insecurities, she makes sarcastic comments to Walt and to Grace (who talks with Evie on the phone for video chats) about what it must feel like to be super-rich.

Sure enough, Walt begins to court Evie. In a private conversation that Evie has with Oliver, she checks with him to make sure that the Devilles are not biologically related to the Alexanders. Oliver says with a smirk that the two families are not biologically related. And as soon as Evie gets confirmation that if she got romantically involved with Walt, it would not be incest, Evie lets Walt get closer to her. Eventually, Walt tells Evie that his parents are also deceased.

The courtship is a whirlwind affair. Walt even does things such as give Evie a designer gown to wear at a pre-wedding party at the estate. Evie thinks it’s almost like a fairytale where she is being treated like a pampered princess. But since “The Invitation” is a horror movie, this fairytale is going to turn into a nightmare.

Before that happens, Evie starts to feel more comfortable around her stuffy family members and the Alexander family’s equally stuffy friends when they hold a reception in her honor. She’s given a warm welcome by family patriarch Alfred Alexander, who leads the group in raising drinking glasses to give an enthusiastic toast to Evie.

Almost all of the family members are men. Someone in the group mentions in a foreshadowing comment that they need more women in the family. Evie might have been welcomed into this family, but she still wants to keep her identity. When Oliver introduces Evie as “Evie Alexander,” she corrects him and reminds him that her last name is Jackson.

At a pre-wedding party, Evie is introduced to two more people from nearby aristocratic families: Lucy (played by Alana Boden) is a bubbly blonde. Viktoria (played by Stephanie Corneliussen) is an icy brunette. Lucy is amiable to Evie, but Viktoria is openly hostile to Evie. Viktoria also shows signs that she’s very jealous of Evie’s blossoming romance with Walt.

There are demon creatures lurking around the Deville house at night. “The Invitation” has a lot of stereotypical jump scares involving these creatures, with very brief moments of effective tension. Evie sees one of these creatures on the top of her canopy bed. She screams and hides underneath the bed, but she doesn’t do what most people would do: Leave the house, or at least insist on sleeping in another room.

The movie’s opening scene also shows a woman in the house committing suicide by hanging herself. Later, when Evie is at the mansion, Mrs. Swift tells Evie that this woman was “the lady of the house,” who died recently. The name of this woman should come as no surprise when it’s revealed. And then, certain maids end up getting murdered.

The problem with “The Invitation” is that it could have been more intriguing, but everything in the movie is just shallow. “The Invitation” just goes through the motions of things that have already been done in many other horror flicks about ghosts, demons and vampires. The movie has issues about race and social class that are dangled in front of viewers but never fully developed. “The Invitation” didn’t need to be a “Get Out” ripoff, but it could have made some clever commentary about social prejudices or feeling like an outsider in the context of this horror story.

Instead, the movie just has Grace make unfunny, racist wisecracks about Oliver being “the whitest person I’ve ever seen,” and Grace saying that Evie better be careful about being around so many white people. Grace comments that these white people could be after Evie to harvest her organs. (It’s this movie’s weak semi-nod to “Get Out.”)

Because, yes, as already shown in the trailer for “The Invitation,” Evie has been lured into a trap by a group of vampires. The reasons why they targeted Evie are eventually revealed, but these reasons aren’t surprising since the movie trailer shows Evie in a wedding dress. As for the vampire groom, remove the last two letters of the name Deville. This movie is not subtle at all.

In her performance as the strong-willed and independent Evie, Emmanuel seems to be doing her best to make Evie a convincing character. But after Evie sees the demon in the bedroom, Evie unrealistically seems to get over it quickly. Doherty’s performance as Walt should have gotten more menacing as the story goes along. Instead, the performance becomes campier as the story devolves into a cesspool of vampire clichés. All of the movie’s other cast members give adequate or forgettable performances.

Although the production design and costume design for “The Invitation” are attractive to look at, the movie’s visual effects aren’t very impressive. “The Invitation” has scenes where a massive fire has engulfed an area—and all of the fire looks very phony. The fight scenes are almost laughable. However, “The Invitation” has a manicure scene with some effective sound editing and sound design intended to make viewers squirm.

“The Invitation” takes so long to get to any real action, by the time the showdown scenes happen, they all feel anticlimactic. Certain fight tactics that are used by the protagonist are too easy to predict. And there are some aspects of the story that are just downright dumb. For example, the very last scene in the movie is ridiculous and unnecessary. “The Invitation” is not the worst horror movie ever made. It’s just not an impressive horror movie, and it will be forgotten quicker than a hungry vampire can bite a victim.

Screen Gems released “The Invitation” in U.S. cinemas on August 26, 2022.

Review: ‘She Will,’ starring Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Rupert Everett and Malcolm McDowell

August 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt in “She Will” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

“She Will”

Directed by Charlotte Colbert

Culture Representation: Taking place in Scotland, the horror film “She Will” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people and one Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A middle-aged actress, who’s been famous since she was a child, goes to a retreat in rural Scotland, where she is haunted by memories of a traumatic past, and she decides to do something about it. 

Culture Audience: “She Will” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching horror movies that have a lot of distracting imagery and useless scenes to cover up for a one-note, very thin concept.

Malcolm McDowell in “She Will” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

The horror movie “She Will” is a female revenge tale that’s heavy on atmospheric images but lacks substance in storytelling and character development. Too much of the movie is dull and meandering, with no surprises. “She Will” (which has a very man-hating tone to it) essentially goes down a predictable movie path of a woman getting revenge for being abused. It’s disappointing that the movie doesn’t bring depth to any of the characters.

“She Will” is the feature-film directorial debut of Charlotte Colbert, who co-wrote the “She Will” screenplay with Kitty Percy. The movie shows that Colbert certainly has a talent for setting up creepy visuals in an emotionally dark horror movie. But these striking visuals ultimately don’t add up to much when the people in the story are just two-dimensional personalities.

The movie makes a half-hearted attempt to have social commentary about age discrimination and sexual misconduct in the movie industry. However, this commentary is overshadowed by “She Will” turning into a turgid revenge flick. And the movie’s constant misandry becomes very lazy, tiresome and misguided because it tries to equate feminism with having negative perceptions of men. True feminism isn’t about thinking that men should be disliked and feared because they’re men. True feminism is about believing in gender equality.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that “She Will” bungles its feminist messaging by going overboard in the man-hating aspects of the movie. Every single man with a significant speaking role in “She Will” is either a misogynistic creep, someone who is condescending to women, or someone who enables misogyny. “She Will” takes the easiest and most predictable route in how the female protagonist deals with these conflicts, even if her decisions are dressed up in horror gimmickry that’s trying desperately to be artsy.

In “She Will,” the central character is a British actress in her 60s named Veronica Ghent (played by Alice Krige), who is deeply insecure about being perceived as an old, unattractive has-been. The movie opens with a montage of showing women getting plastic surgery and putting on makeup. Veronica says in a voiceover: “It’s become a ritual, putting the layers on. Every mask has a function: the eyes, the cheeks, the lips.”

The movie has multiple scenes where Veronica looks in a mirror and seems repulsed or disappointed by what she sees of herself. It’s implied that Veronica is obsessed with her outward physical appearance, especially her face. Years in the movie industry have conditioned her into the sexist belief that female entertainers, more than male entertainers, are expected to look as youthful as possible, in order to be hired for work.

Veronica has been an actress since she was a child. At 13 years old, Veronica became famous when her 1969 movie “Navaho Frontier” became a big hit. “Navaho Frontier” is probably still Veronica’s main claim to fame, because when people talk about her career, “Navaho Frontier” is the movie that is inevitably mentioned. After all these years, Veronica’s fame from “Navaho Frontier” has overshadowed her other work, so she has bitter feelings about being thought of as an actress who peaked before she was an adult.

In recent years, Veronica has become a pill-popping, cranky recluse who’s probably an alcoholic, based on her frequent consumption of alcoholic drinks. Her only companion is her personal assistant Desi Hatoum (played by Kota Eberhardt), a loyal, tolerant and practical-minded employee in her 20s. Veronica’s attitude toward Desi is often cold and haughty. But over time, Veronica sees things about Desi that remind Veronica of when Veronica was young. Not much is known about Desi until later in the story when she opens up a little about her childhood.

The beginning of “She Will” shows how Veronica is rude and dismissive to Desi. It’s also revealed that Veronica is a survivor of breast cancer who has had a double mastectomy and wears prosthetic breasts. When Desi places the removable prosthetic breasts in the bra that Veronica is wearing, Desi says to her employer: “It’s too soon for you to be wearing prosthetics.”

Veronica angrily snaps back, “What do you know?” Veronica adds that she’s had a “mastectomy, not a lobotomy.” Later, Veronica tells Desi, “What I need from you are bandages and the occasional bath.” When Veronica is awake, she overindulges in taking the painkiller Tramadol, which Veronica sarcastically calls “breakfast of movie stars.” When Veronica is asleep, she has nightmares, because let’s not forget that “She Will” is supposed to be a horror movie.

Veronica decides that what she needs is to go on a retreat. This upscale retreat takes place at a mansion in an unnamed, rural part of Scotland in a (horror movie cliché) remote, wooded area. Veronica (accompanied by Desi) is there for what Veronica thinks will be a quiet getaway where she won’t have to interact with any of the other guests at the retreat. Veronica very irritated when she finds out that it’s the type of retreat where the guests are supposed to participate in several group activities.

The retreat only has about five or six guests (all of them are unmemorable), but that’s still too many other people for Veronica, who doesn’t want anything to do with these other guests. She’s miffed when she’s told that the solo retreat that she thought she signed up for is only offered during the summer. Most of the guests immediately recognize Veronica and surround her like star-struck fans. Veronica quickly lets it be known she doesn’t want that type of attention while she’s at this retreat.

Veronica immediately wants to leave with Desi, but they can’t leave, because the roads are flooded due to a recent storm. And because this is a horror movie in a remote, wooded area, it should come as no surprise when Desi finds out that she can’t get a signal on her phone. It’s just the movie’s way of making sure that Veronica are Desi are stuck at this place for most of the story.

The leader of the retreat is an eccentric named Tirador (played by Rupert Everett), who spouts a lot of spiritual guru gibberish, but his qualifications for being a “guru” are very vague and murky. Tirador calls himself a “teacher.” Tirador thinks of himself as an innovative and highly intelligent leader, so he conducts himself with more than a hint of arrogance.

Tirador gets into an unspoken power struggle with grumpy Veronica, who wants to do her own thing at the retreat, but Tirador won’t let her. Tirador’s way of dealing with Veronica is to make her feel like an out-of-touch old woman if she doesn’t go along with what he has planned. He uses mind games and his perceived authority to get Veronica to do what he wants.

Later, Tirador urinates on a tree in front of the retreat guests. He says with a laugh at this indecent exposure, which is a form of sexual harassment because he exposed his genitals without consent: “It’s important to leave your mark on the land.” (The movie doesn’t show any nudity from Tirador, but this nudity is implied.) Tirador, like all of the male characters with prominent roles in “She Will,” is a very obvious symbol of sexist patriarchy. This movie has no subtlety at all.

During her time at the retreat, Veronica continues to have nightmares. She also sleepwalks and finds herself waking up outdoors for reasons that she can’t remember. “She Will” has a recurring image of a sticky substance that resembles black mud, which keeps showing up in places where Veronica happens to be. Tirador mentions at one point that Earth (as in Mother Earth) is supposed to have healing powers affected by witches that were burned at the stake. (Again, no subtlety at all.)

Later, Tirador leads the group in an art class that takes place outdoors, where the retreat guests are doing illustrations with charcoal. Veronica predictably draws a sketch representing her nightmares. And then the mysterious mud shows up again. And again and again and again, until the mud (which just looks messy, not scary) fails to have a shocking impact in what’s supposed to be a horror movie.

Veronica gets a little closer to emotionally bonding with Desi when she asks Desi one day: “Would you go back and relive your childhood?” Desi replies, “Not even if you paid me.” Veronica confides in Desi: “I’m having dark thoughts.” Desi says, “That’s normal. Everyone has them.” Veronica adds, “I mean, really dark thoughts.”

Desi’s mental health issues are eventually revealed in the movie. “She Will” has a subplot about Desi meeting a local guy named Owen (played by Jack Greenlees) at a pub in the nearest town. Desi is at this pub because she wants a break from constantly being around dreary Veronica at this retreat. Desi and Owen have an immediate flirtation. But because “She Will” is a horror movie, don’t expect things to go smoothly in this possible romance.

It’s eventually revealed that Veronica has gone to this retreat because she wants to hide out from the media and other people. That’s because of the recent news that “Navaho Frontier” director Eric Hathbourne (played by Malcolm McDowell) is about to be knighted. Eric has also been in the news because he wants to remake “Navaho Frontier,” and he’s been conducting an extensive search to find a teenage actress for the starring role that Veronica originally had.

There’s a scene in “She Will” where Veronica sees Eric being interviewed on a TV talk show that’s hosted by a well-known TV personality named Podrick Lochran (played by Jonathan Aris). Podrick asks Eric if he’s ever done anything illegal, in reference to stories that Eric had an illegal sexual relationship with underage Veronica when making “Navaho Frontier.” Eric replies defensively, “It was a different era. We were very close. We had a special bond.” (In other words, Eric doesn’t deny that he had a sexual relationship with underage Veronica.)

And you know what that means in a female revenge horror movie made during the #MeToo era. “She Will” overloads on nightmarish visions that are supposed to blur the lines between Veronica’s fantasies and realities. And yes, there are stereotypical scenes where Veronica’s inner child—specifically, Veronica as a 13-year-old (played by Layla Burns)—appears as a haunting figure. After a while, it becomes tedious when the first two-thirds of the movie are essentially this back-and-forth slog of nightmares, Veronica’s moodiness and the mud appearances, with not much to move the story along.

And although Krige gives an admirable performance as Veronica (all the other cast members give average performances), take away all the flashy and eye-catching imagery, and “She Will” doesn’t have much of an intriguing story. Desi is very underdeveloped as a character and only seems to be in the movie for a “female solidarity” plot development in “She Will.” As a horror movie, “She Will” ultimately fails at being suspenseful once it becomes obvious who will be the target of revenge and why.

IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “She Will” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 15, 2022.

Review: ‘Orphan: First Kill,’ starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Rossif Sutherland and Julia Stiles

August 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Isabelle Fuhrman in “Orphan: First Kill” (Photo by Steve Ackerman/Paramount Pictures)

“Orphan: First Kill”

Directed by William Brent Bell

Culture Representation: Taking place in Darien, Connecticut, and briefly in Estonia and Moscow, the horror movie “Orphan: First Kill” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and one Asian) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A female serial killer in her 30s, who has a medical condition that makes her look like a child, escapes from a psychiatric facility in Estonia, steals a missing child’s identity, and pretends to be the long-lost daughter of a wealthy family in the United Sates.

Culture Audience: “Orphan: First Kill” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of 2009’s “Orphan” movie and any horror movie that puts more importance in staging murder scenes than in crafting a good story.

Rossif Sutherland and Julia Stiles in “Orphan: First Kill” (Photo by Steve Ackerman/Paramount Pictures)

“Orphan: First Kill” is a horror movie prequel whose very existence is a spoiler for 2009’s “Orphan.” In “Orphan,” the serial killer appears to be an orphaned girl but (spoiler alert), she’s really a woman in her 30s with a rare medical condition that makes her look like a child. “Orphan: First Kill” is a poorly conceived prequel that spoils all the fun for people who don’t know how 2009’s “Orphan” ends. And all the stupid plot holes in “Orphan: First Kill” spoil any fun in the movie’s new plot twist, which isn’t very clever.

“Orphan: First Kill” is directed by William Brent Bell, who has a history of directing awful horror movies, including 2016’s “The Boy,” 2020’s “Brahms: The Boy II” and 2021’s “Separation.” “Orphan: First Kill” (written by David Coggeshall) isn’t the worst of the bunch. But as a horror movie, this stale flick treats its audience as absolute idiots. And there are long stretches of “Orphan: First Kill” that are very boring.

People who don’t know about the surprise twist ending in “Orphan” will have it revealed almost immediately in “Orphan: First Kill,” which takes place in 2007—two years before the story in “Orphan.” The movie opens in February 2007, at the Saarne Institute, an in-patient psychiatric facility in Estonia. (“Orphan: First Kill” was actually filmed in Winnipeg, Canada.) The most notorious resident of the Saarne Institute is Leena Klammer (played by Isabelle Fuhrman), a violent and sadistic woman in her early 30s who has hypopituitarism, a rare hormonal disorder that stunts her physical growth, so that she appears to be a child who’s about 10 or 11 years old.

In “Orphan,” actress Furhman really was in that 10-to-11-year-old age range when she played the Leena character, who created an alias named Esther before she was adopted by an unsuspecting American family. Leena/Esther’s fate is shown at the end of “Orphan,” which is why this serial killer character got a prequel movie instead of a sequel movie. In “Orphan: First Kill,” Furhman’s real-life adult face is de-aged through visual effects and put on a child actress’ body. Kennedy Irwin and Sadie Lee are the actresses who had the roles of being the Leena body doubles.

The de-aging visual effects (which are adequate) in “Orphan: First Kill” are at least more convincing than the movie’s sloppily written screenplay. The rest of the movie’s visual effects look very cheap and tacky, especially in a scene where a blazing fire breaks out in a house, and the fire looks very phony. (This fire scene is briefly shown in the “Orphan: First Kill” trailer.) Except for the plot twist, almost everything in “Orphan: First Kill” is just like a lot of formulaic slasher movies.

At the Saarne Institute, an art therapy teacher named Anna Troyev (played by Gwendolyn Collins) arrives as a newly hired instructor for Leena. As soon as Anna gets there, the facility is on high emergency alert because Leena is nowhere to be found. Saarne Institute supervisor Dr. Novotny (played by David Lawrence Brown) is giving Anna a tour of the facility when this emergency happens.

Dr. Novotny explains to Anna: “Leena is our most dangerous patient. Your predecessor underestimated her and ignored protocol.” Viewers never really find out what happened to Anna’s predecessor, but it obviously wasn’t good. Later, Dr. Novotny describes Leena this way: “She’s an exceptional con artist.”

Anna eventually finds Leena in another room. Leena is taken away, but it isn’t long before Leena goes on a deadly rampage. And this is when the movie starts to get really moronic. Leena is supposedly the “most dangerous patient” at the institute. But she’s given a lot of free reign with the bare minimum of supervision, even after her temporary disappearance that caused a panic at the institute.

There’s a scene where Leena starts to seduce a security guard, who is alone in a room with Leena. What kind of incompetent psychiatric facility would have only one employee alone in a room with “most dangerous patient” Leena? What kind of incompetent training did this security guard have in not being warned that Leena is an “exceptional con artist”? This is what happens in an incompetently made horror movie like “Orphan: First Kill.”

What Leena does to this security guard should come as no surprise. And before Leena escapes from the facility, more than one person ends up dead at this institute, which barely did anything to protect its employees and patients from the institute’s “most dangerous patient.” There’s another adult female patient who sort of helps Leena escape, but don’t expect to find out anything about this accomplice.

You’d think it would make big international news that this very unusual and notorious killer (an adult who looks like a child) escaped from a psychiatric institution. But no. Not in this world of “Orphan: First Kill,” where it’s supposed to be 2007, but the lack of news coverage of this massacre is so unrealistic and behind-the-times, you’d think it was 1907, long before the Internet and television existed.

However, the Internet does exist in this world of “Orphan: First Kill,” because after Leena escapes, she uses the Internet to look up reports and databases of missing children. It’s how she finds out about a missing American girl named Esther Albright from Darien, Connecticut. Esther disappeared four years earlier, and would be about 10 or 11 years old in 2007. Leena has a physical remblance to the 10- or 11-year-old girl who Esther would be if Esther is still alive. And so, Leena decides she’s going to steal Esther’s identity.

For reasons that are never explained in this dimwitted movie, Leena briefly ends up in Moscow. Don’t bother to get a explanation for how Leena was able to pass through the borders of another country as a criminal who’s wanted for murder. Somehow, viewers are supposed to believe that no one in Russia could’ve possibly heard the bizarre news that Estonia (a country that’s right next to Russia) has an escaped, serial killer woman who looks like an innocent girl.

Leena certainly doesn’t go into hiding, because she brazenly puts her Esther Albright fake identity plan into action. Soon after showing up in Moscow, she claims to be long-lost Esther. Leena is found by a Moscow cop while she’s sitting alone on a park swing at night. She concocts a story that she is Esther Albright, and she was kidnapped by a woman who brought her to Estonia. Leena makes up a vague lie that the woman who kidnapped her is now dead, but no one checks to verify this story, or even ask for the name of the woman. Leena/Esther can speak fluent English, but she has an Estonian accent.

And the next thing you know, the real Esther Albright’s family is contacted in the United States. Tricia Albright (played by Julia Stiles) and Allen Albright (played by Rossif Sutherland) are a wealthy married couple who are Esther’s parents. Allen and Tricia live in Darien with their 16-year-old son Gunnar Albright (played by Matthew Finlan), who is a star on his school’s fencing team. Tricia is the only one in the family to go to Moscow to identify the person who claims to be Esther.

Tricia brings “Esther” home to Darien. Allen and Gunnar have an awkward reunion with this person whom they don’t recognize as their long-lost family member. Gunnar is the most skeptical of the person in the home who is claiming to be his sister Esther. It’s a reminiscent of “Orphan,” where the older brother was also the family member who was the most suspicious about the person living as his sister in the family home.

During a session with child therapist Dr. Segar (played by Samantha Walkes), the doctor explains that Esther’s physical features could have changed over the past four years. It’s yet another plot hole: This evaluation about Esther’s physical appearance is coming from a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor of human biology.

And the real Esther’s physician and dentist are nowhere to be seen in this movie, because those doctors would be able to tell that this Esther is an imposter, based on medical and dental records. The plot twist somewhat explains why Tricia is unconcerned about taking Esther to get any physical check-ups, but it doesn’t explain why Allen is unconcerned about getting any medical professionals to do a physical evaluation of this “long-lost” child.

Esther’s education and where she’s going to school are also never discussed. And apparently, Esther had no friends before she disappeared, because they are never seen in the movie. No one else outside of the family claims to recognize her, which is a story that would easily fall apart under scrutiny from the media and law enforcement. But the movie ignores that logic.

Gunnar notices that the person claiming to be Esther has skills as an illustration artist that are on par with an adult’s skills. Before the real Esther disappeared, Gunnar remembers that she could only draw stick figures. However, these art skills are explained as Esther developing prodigy-level artist talent in the four years since she was gone.

This talent for art is how Leena/Esther eventually wins over Allen, who is also an illustration artist with a shared passion for painting. Allen thinks that Esther inherited her artistc talent from him. Allen is portrayed as a clueless parent in the worst way, blinded by the ego stroking that skilled con artist Leena gives him as innocent-looking Esther.

The re-appearance of Esther, which would make big news in any community in real life, is esentially ignored by the news media in “Orphan: First Kill.” It’s just a lazy way for “Orphan: First Kill” to prevent ay logical plotline where reporters would be investigating this sudden re-appearance, thereby making it easier for Leena/Esther’s secret to be revealed. It’s the same preposterous portrayal of the media where “Orphan: First Kill” viewers are supposed to believe that the media in Estonia and nearby Russia couldn’t be bothered to give massive coverage of Leena’s escape from the Saarne Institute after she murdered people there.

Instead, the movie has some dull scenes where Esther is treated like a pesky freak by Gunnar. One night, Tricia and Allen are away from home at a gala event hosted by Tricia. Gunnar decides to throw a party at the house while the parents are gone. Gunnar rejects Esther’s attempts to hang out with Gunnar and his friends. And she tells him, “Go fuck yourself” in front of his pals. Apparently, the “Orphan: First Kill” filmmakers want viewers to think that this scene of a “child” cursing is supposed to be provocative, even though viewers already know she’s not really a child.

In a terribly written horror movie like “Orphan: First Kill,” the Saarne Institute’s pathetic mishandling of Leena’s confinement isn’t the only incompetency on full display. Apparently, the “Orphan: First Kill” filmmakers want viewers to also believe that when someone claiming to be a missing child suddenly appears, DNA tests are not done. It’s another irritating way that so much of the movie’s shoddy plot looks like the “Orphan: First Kill” filmmakers want viewers forget that this movie takes place in 2007, when DNA testing definitely existed.

There’s a half-hearted attempt to verify Esther’s identity through fingerprints, when a police investigator named Detective Donnan (played by Hiro Kanagawa) is the only cop with enough common sense to want to check Esther’s fingerprints. But when Leena/Esther finds out that Detective Donnan (who investigated the real Esther’s disapperance) is suspicious about her real identity, you can easily guess what happens to Detective Donnan. In fact, all of the murders that happen in “Orphan: First Kill” are too easy to predict, which makes everything just a witless retread of “Bad Seed”-ripoff movies.

The plot twist in “Orphan: First Kill” is revealed about halfway through the movie. And it’s a plot twist that’s ripped from tabloid headlines regarding a theory about who caused a real-life, very famous unsolved murder. But in order to believe this plot twist and for certain people to get away with the charade, you’d also have to believe no one in the world would question why Esther’s identity wasn’t verified through DNA, fingerprints and dental records. It’s a plot hole that’s too big for this mindless movie to overcome.

The cast members of “Orphan: First Kill” don’t do much to elevate the ludicrous material that they’ve been given. It’s obvious that the filmmakers are relying heavily on nostalgia for the 2009 “Orphan” movie to get an audience for “Orphan: First Kill.” By the end of “Orphan: First Kill,” there’s nowhere else to go with any prequel stories for Leena/Esther, unless filmmakers want to continue the laughably bad concept that this adult serial killer disguised as a child is able to fly under the radar of the news media and law enforcement after all the massacres she’s committed.

Paramount Pictures released “Orphan: First Kill” in select U.S. cinemas, on Paramount+ and on digital on August 19, 2022. The movie is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on October 18, 2022.

Review: ‘Beast’ (2022), starring Idris Elba

August 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Idris Elba in “Beast” (Photo by Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures)

“Beast” (2022)

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Some language in Tshivenda with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in South Africa, the horror movie “Beast” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A British single father, who’s a medical doctor, goes on a safari in South Africa to reconnect with his two estranged, underage American daughters, and they encounter a lion on a rampage.

Culture Audience: “Beast” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Idris Elba and formulaic horror movies about murderous animals on the loose.

Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Idris Elba and Leah Jeffries in “Beast” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

As a horror story about a killer lion on the loose, “Beast” is tame, predictable and often ridiculous. Disney’s 1994 animated film “The Lion King” has more suspense than the formulaic junk of “Beast.” Viewers who want to watch a movie with no imagination, terribly staged action scenes and some laughably bad dialogue will probably enjoy “Beast” a lot more than people who are looking for better-quality entertainment, considering the talented cast members who star in this movie.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur and written by Ryan Engle, “Beast” used computer-generated imagery (CGI) visual effects for the rampaging lion that causes terror in the story. And these visual effects are obvious, because the lion looks very fake. The movie has multiple action sequences where a human kicks the lion, and the lion unrealistically backs off instead of mauling the person to death, which is what would happen in real life.

In another part of the “Beast,” a severely injured person who would be unconscious from medical shock and extreme loss of blood is able to sit up and talk like a normal, healthy human being. The movie is just scene after sloppily edited scene of hard-to-believe nonsense. And to top it all off, viewers are supposed to believe that this rampaging lion does things that are against a lion’s nature because the lion has a human-like revenge plan.

“Beast” also has an over-used formula that’s often in derivative movies about families who experience terror on an adventure trip: tension-filled parent-child relationships. In “Beast,” Dr. Nate Samuels (played by Idris Elba) is a medical doctor and a British immigrant who has been living in the United States for an untold number of years. Nate was separated from his wife Amahle (played by Naledi Mogadime), a South African native, when she died of cancer. The movie never says how long Amahle (who’s briefly seen in Nate’s dream sequences) has been deceased, but conversations indicate that she died less than a year before the story takes place.

Nate and Amahle (who was a photographer) met in South Africa. At some point in their relationship, they moved to the United States, where their two daughters were born and raised. The two daughters have opposite personalities. Meredith “Mare” Samuels (played by Iyana Halley) is 18 years old, moody and withdrawn. Norah Samuels (played by Leah Jeffries) is 13 years old, bubbly and talkative. Mare wants to be a photographer, just like her mother was. Norah hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life when she’s adult, but she mentions at one point, when she’s asked, that she’s thinking about going into psychology to become a family therapist.

It might be Norah’s subconscious way of saying that her own family needs therapy. In a few guilt-ridden monologues in the movie, Nate reveals that his workaholic ways made him a mostly inattentive father before Amahle died. He also blames himself for not seeing the early signs that she had cancer.

Mare (who doesn’t want to be called Meredith) has more bitter feelings toward Nate than Norah does. Mare is especially angry that Nate had downplayed Amahle’s cancer. It’s mentioned that Nate even went as far as promising his daughters that Amahle would be okay and would recover. And that was a promise he couldn’t keep.

As a way to reconnect with his daughters, Nate has taken Mare and Norah a trip to South Africa, to go to the places where Amahle loved. It’s a trip that he promised to Mare and Norah long ago, but he feels that the trip is more urgent now that Amahle has passed away. One of the places where Nate wants to take Mare and Norah is the wildlife preserve where he and Amahle had some fond memories.

The preserve is the home and workplace of wildlife biologist Martin Battles (played by Sharlto Copley), a longtime friend of Nate’s. Martin (who is a never-married bachelor) was the one who introduced Nate to Amahle. Martin, who is also a passionate anti-poacher, is disturbed that poachers have been killing animals on the preserve and have recently been going after lions. (“Beast” was filmed on location in South Africa—specifically in Limpopo province, Northern Cape province and Cape Town.)

The opening scene of “Beast” shows one of these poacher hunts on the preserve at night. Viewers later find out that the poacher’s leader is a generic villain named Kees (played by Martin Munro), who goes with a group of native South Africans for these illegal hunting activities. In this opening scene, the killer lion goes on the attack. Later, it’s shown that the lion has gone on a rampage and killed several local villagers who have nothing do to with the poachers.

Why is this lion attacking every human in sight? It’s against a lion’s nature to attack, unless it’s to eat or in self-defense from being provoked. The lion is killing people but not eating them. Martin, who is the safari guide for the Samuels family, suddenly acts like a lion psychologist, and announces that the lion must be out for revenge because the poachers killed members of the lion’s pride.

You can easily guess the rest of what happens in this movie. And sure enough: Nate, Mare, and Norah find themselves trapped in a Jeep after the lion suddenly attacks them in the vehicle. Mare takes the wheel of the car, crashes it in a state of panic, and the vehicle is then unable to start. Meanwhile, Martin, who has been communicating with them by walkie talkie, tells the family that he’s been attacked by the lion. The attack has resulted in Martin’s right leg being severely injured, and he’s losing a critical amount of blood that could soon lead to his death if he doesn’t get medical help.

The rest of “Beast” is an unsurprising back-and-forth battle between the lion and the humans. The people who die and survive are exactly whom you think will die and survive. Although “Beast” has some stunning landscape cinematography, and the cast members give adequate performances, all of it is not enough to overcome the idiotic things that happen in this substandard movie.

In the production notes for “Beast,” producer Will Packer said he wanted to make “Beast” like “‘Cujo’ with a lion.” The 1983 horror film “Cujo,” which is based on Stephen King’s 1981 novel of the same name, is about a woman trapped in a car with her son while a rabid St. Bernard named Cujo is nearby. Considering that the “Cujo” movie failed to impress enough movie audiences and critics to be a major hit, that’s all you need to know about how low the standards are for “Beast.”

Universal Pictures will release “Beast” in U.S. cinemas on August 19, 2022.

2022 Fantastic Fest: programming slate announced

August 16, 2022

 

 

Sosie Bacon in “Smile” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

The following is a press release from Fantastic Fest:

There’s only one place where you’ll find killer teddy bears, man-eating sharks, elderly zombies, cocktail-serving robots, and Park Chan-wook… all under one roof. That’s right, world-famous genre festival Fantastic Fest is back for its seventeenth edition featuring 21 World Premieres, 14 North American Premieres, and 21 U.S Premieres. The festival will once again take over the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, TX from September 22 – 29 and on the web via a virtual [email protected] experience from September 29 – October 4. 

“It’s been far too long since we’ve all been able to gather together and celebrate film the Fantastic Fest way,” says Festival Director Lisa Dreyer. “We’ve really put our all into crafting an extraordinary week, from the exceptional programming that spans exciting discoveries to highly-anticipated features, to our signature events that will inject a much-needed dose of fun into 2022.”

Badges are available now at FantasticFest.com.

The opening night film for Fantastic Fest 2022 is the world premiere of Paramount Pictures’ SMILE, the intensely creepy debut feature from Parker Finn that’ll have even the seasoned FF crowd gripping their armrests in genuine fright. 

This year’s edition of Fantastic Fest will also honor a legendary genre filmmaker and show his latest masterpiece. Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director of OLDBOY, SNOWPIERCER, and THE HANDMAIDEN has been defining (and defying) genre films for decades, and his latest work – MUBI’s DECISION TO LEAVE – is a stunning achievement. In conjunction with the U.S. Premiere of his new film, Park Chan-wook will be present at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar to accept a lifetime achievement award from Fantastic Fest in celebration of his mind-bending, artfully-crafted body of work.

The closing night film at Fantastic Fest 2022 will be director Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning pitch black comedy from Neon, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. The latest Drafthouse Recommends selection, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is an outrageously funny and audacious social satire, with a second act that could have been engineered in a lab specifically to delight Fantastic Fest audiences. It’s a joyful romp that’ll serve as a fitting capper to the fest, and the perfect segue to closing night festivities. 

Other major studio films include two Searchlight films perfectly tuned to the Fantastic Fest palate – the U.S. Premiere of THE MENU, a sharp satire about a destination-dining experience with unexpected surprises, and the U.S. Premiere of director Martin McDonagh’s THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, chronicling the dissolution of a friendship that escalates with shocking consequences. 

A24 brings us the North American premiere of MEDUSA DELUXE, a murder mystery set in the world of competitive hairdressing, MGM and Distributor United Artist Releasing’s BONES AND ALL, from director Luca Guadagnino and starring Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon-Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz and Mark Rylance, and the U.S. premiere of Miramax’s SICK, the latest slasher from John Hyams.  

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet in “Bones and All” (Photo courtesy of United Artists Releasing)

Other World Premieres include:

  • Noah Segan’s directorial debut, BLOOD RELATIVES, a father-daughter vampire comedy.
  • Dark Side of the Ring co-creator Jason Eisener’s KIDS VS. ALIENS, which sees a group of friends face off against evil space invaders.
  • An anthology horror film featuring many Fantastic Fest alumni, SATANIC HISPANICS, from Epic Pictures. 

“Fantastic Fest has always been the purest expression of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s founding principle: share the joy of cinema with people you love,” says Fantastic Fest founder Tim League. “I am beyond proud of the team for forging one of, if not the all-time best, Fantastic Fest experiences ever. This is my favorite week of the year, and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.”

The Parties

For the first time since 2019, Fantastic Fest’s legendary parties and events are back.

  • A special performance in The Highball from the experiential sonic sorcerers Itchy-O while they’re in Austin for a show at the Far Out Lounge.
  • Hailing all the way from Vienna, Roboexotica makes its Texas-debut at the Fantastic Fest opening night party, bringing their famous cocktail-concocting robots to astonish and amuse.
  • Podcast recordings and live events on The Highball stage with Leonard Maltin, Scripts Gone Wild, The Kingcast and Screen Drafts.
  • Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher of The Found Footage Festival fame will perform a live show after their documentary CHOP & STEELE. 
  • And finally, Fantastic Fest essentials like 100 Best Kills, the Fantastic Feud and the Fantastic Debates will return at this year’s festival.

[email protected]

For the second year in a row, Fantastic Fest will be a hybrid festival that offers in-person and virtual screenings. The Burnt Ends lineup will headline the online festival, with programming that seeks to champion eccentric and obscure indie cinema. Two in-person screenings will introduce audiences at South Lamar to the new series: THE PEOPLE’S JOKER and ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS, both with filmmakers in attendance. The rest of this virtual lineup will be announced at a later date, featuring a selection of films from this year’s in person fest and will also include virtual exclusives such as a retrospective of cult DIY filmmakers Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh’s MOTERN MEDIA movies.

Shark Attack & AGFA Takeover

This year’s sidebar is dedicated to the man-eater from the deep blue sea. Centered around the North American Premiere of FF alumni Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma’s YEAR OF THE SHARK, Fantastic Fest programmers dug deep to bring audiences the most entertaining shark movies from around the world. Many of them have never before screened in the USA and are now available thanks to our friends at AGFA. 

The shark sidebar features TINTORERA! (Mexico) — which will be shown on 35mm from a print coming directly from Quentin Tarantino’s vault — as well as AATANK (India), GAMERA VS ZIGRA (Japan), MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (USA), and 12 DAYS OF TERROR (USA).

Speaking of AGFA, the American Genre Film Archive team has gone all out for this year’s festival, with the debut of the AGFA theater takeover. For two days of the fest, AGFA has free reign over their own theater, and will fill it with mind-melting films from morning to night, featuring premieres of new restorations the first day, and a whiplash-inducing celluloid mystery marathon with five features and ten fingers on the trigger the second day. 

Formed in 2009, the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to preserving the legacy of genre movies through collection, conservation, and distribution . From TERMINAL USA (a new restoration of Jon Moritsugu’s underground classic) to THE STAIRWAY TO STARDOM MIXTAPE (the definitive presentation of the most otherworldly public access TV show of all time), the AGFA team has brought out their best for the fest. 

Partnerships

Fantastic Fest is proud to join the WomanInFan initiative, launched by the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia. WomanInFan was born with the aim to celebrate and elevate the role of the female filmmakers within the fantasy genre. The initiative aims to provide historical visibility, support for new projects, and foster connections and opportunities for female filmmakers. 

Spanish and French Genre cinema are a big part of this year’s Fantastic Fest. With topics ranging from killer sharks, urban exploration gone wrong, space exploration, time travel, witchcraft, alien invasion to real life monsters and space rangers, it is clear that our cross-Atlantic neighbors were pretty busy during the pandemic. Fantastic Fest is thankful for the support of Acción Cultural Española and Unifrance, two cultural entities facilitating the travels of their national filmmakers.

We are thrilled to present 85 feature film titles and episodics, as well as a variety of short film selections to be announced at a later date — all showcasing World, North American, U.S. and Regional Premieres. See below for the full lineup of feature film programming at this year’s festival. 

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Menu” (Photo by Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures)

 FESTIVAL FILM LINEUP BELOW:

12 DAYS OF TERROR

USA, 2004

Retrospective, 95 min

Director – Jack Sholder

In attendance – Director Jack Sholder

During the record-breaking summer heat of 1916, beachgoers on the Jersey shore are threatened by a shark that has developed a taste for human flesh.

AATANK

India, 1996

North American Premiere, 113 min

Directors – Prem Lalwani & Desh Mukherjee

A gangster’s hunt for black pearls sparks a series of vicious shark attacks. No diver, boat, or helicopter is safe in this B-grade Bollywood oddity.

ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS (Burnt Ends Selection)

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 72 min

Director – Alex Phillips

In attendance – Director Alex Phillips

A psychedelic journey of self-discovery leads to romance when a man shares his addiction to psychotropic worms… and Chicago will never be the same.

AMAZING ELISA

Spain, 2022

World Premiere, 104 min

Director – Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon

In attendance – Director Sadrac Gonzalez-Perellon

In the aftermath of a horrific accident, Elisa believes that she’s been given super powers and will stop at nothing to avenge her mother’s death.

THE ANTARES PARADOX

Spain, 2022

World Premiere, 96 min

Director – Luis Tinoco Pineda

In attendance – Director Luis Tinoco Pineda

An astrophysicist working for the SETI project risks her career and family to verify an extraterrestrial radio signal before her access is cut off.

ATTACHMENT

Denmark, 2022

Texas Premiere, 105 min

Director – Gabriel Bier Gislason

In attendance – Director Gabriel Bier Gislason

Maja and Leah’s relationship is off to a great start, but they face two perilous threats: the whims of a Jewish demon and Leah’s overbearing mother.

BAD CITY

Japan, 2022

North American Premiere, 118 min

Director – Kensuke Sonomura

A jailed cop is released to lead a crack unit against a corrupt businessman in this bone-crunching dust-up starring V-cinema legend Hitoshi Ozawa.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

UK/Ireland, USA, 2022

US Premiere, 114 min

Director – Martin McDonagh

In attendance – Director Martin McDonagh

Two lifelong friends find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them.

BIRDEMIC 3: SEA EAGLE

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 83 min

Director – James Nguyen

In attendance – Director James Nguyen

The birds are back, and global warming has them roiled! James Nguyen returns with the director’s cut of his thrilling, romantic, and worthy sequel.

BLOOD FLOWER

Malaysia, 2022

World Premiere, 102 min

Director – Dain Said

A psychic teenage boy battles a bloodthirsty, malevolent spirit in this gory Malaysian horror from BUNOHAN’s Dain Said.

BLOOD RELATIVES

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 88 min

Director – Noah Segan

In attendance – Director Noah Segan

A nomadic recluse living on the fringes of society reconsiders his bloodthirsty legacy when a teenage girl shows up claiming to be his daughter.

BONES AND ALL

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 129 min

Director – Luca Guadagnino

In attendance – Director Luca Guadagnino

A story of first love between Maren, a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter; a liberating road odyssey of two young people coming into their own, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are.

CHOP & STEELE

USA, 2022

Austin Premiere, 81 min

Directors – Ben Steinbauer & Berndt Mader

In attendance – Directors Ben Steinbauer & Berndt Mader, Actors Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher

After pranking unsuspecting morning show hosts, the brains behind the beloved Found Footage Festival earn the ire of a major media conglomerate. 

COUNTRY GOLD

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 84 min

Director – Mickey Reece

In attendance – Director Mickey Reece

Rising star Troyal Brux spends an evening with his idol George Jones, unaware that the country music legend has a rather cold deadline the following morning.

DECISION TO LEAVE

South Korea, 2022

US Premiere, 138 min

Director – Park Chan-wook

In attendance – Director Park Chan-wook

Laced with wicked humor, master filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s dazzlingly cinematic romantic thriller surprises and delights to the very last.

DEEP FEAR

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 80 min

Director – Grégory Beghin

Three friends are caught between a skinhead gang and an otherworldly enemy after discovering a forgotten secret in the depths of the Paris Catacombs.

DEMIGOD: THE LEGEND BEGINS

Taiwan, 2022

US Premiere, 103 min

Director – Chris Huang Wen Chang

Martial arts, magic, and marionettes collide in a dazzling kaleidoscope of blood-spattered puppetry in this one-of-a-kind wuxia spectacular.

DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY

Mexico, 2022 

World Premiere, TBD min

Director – Luis Javier Henaine

After sneaking onto a crime scene to snap pictures of a corpse, an ambitious photographer stumbles into a curse that takes away his senses one by one.

THE ELDERLY

Spain, 2022 

US Premiere, 95 min

Directors – Raul Cerezo & Fernando Gonzalez Gomez

An octogenarian starts behaving weirdly in the wake of his wife’s sudden suicide as he prepares for events leading up to a mysterious apocalypse.

EVERYONE WILL BURN

Spain, 2021

North American Premiere, 120 min

Director – David Hebrero

In attendance – Director David Hebrero

A mysterious young girl interrupts María José’s suicide attempt, offering the power to take revenge on the villagers responsible for her son’s death.

EVIL EYE

Mexico, 2022

World Premiere, 100 min

Director – Isaac Ezban

In attendance – Director Isaac Ezban, Actor Paola Miguel

Left in the care of their eccentric grandmother, Nala discovers that the tough old lady has sinister plans for her chronically ill sister, Luna.

FAMILY DINNER

Austria, 2022

Texas Premiere, 96 min

Director – Peter Hengl

In attendance – Director Peter Hengl

An insecure teenager begs her nutritionist aunt for help shedding weight over the Easter holiday, unaware of how extreme the diet plan will become.

FINAL CUT

France, 2022

US Premiere, 111 min

Director – Michel Hazanavicius

Oscar-winning French director Michel Hazanavicius’ meta-remake of the Japanese cult movie ONE CUT OF THE DEAD manages a little tour de force.

THE FIVE DEVILS

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 103 min

Director – Léa Mysius

A young girl’s ability to smell and reproduce any scent transports her into her family’s troubled past in this gorgeous, magical realist drama.

FLESHEATER (Presented by AGFA)

USA, 1988

Texas Premiere of 4K Restoration, 89 min

Director – Bill Hinzman

The “spiritual sequel” to George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, newly restored in 4K from the original 16mm camera negative by Vinegar Syndrome.

FLOWING

Italy, Belgium, 2022

World Premiere, 93 min

Director – Paolo Strippoli

In attendance – Director Paolo Strippoli

A broken family violently confronts their tragic past as the Roman sewers exhale a hallucinatory toxin that revives repressed memories and fears.

GAMERA VS. ZIGRA

Japan, 1971

North American Premiere, 87 min

Director – Noriaki Yuasa

A classic case of mutated, talking murdershark vs. nuclear turtlebeast when Japanese cinema’s second-most iconic reptile takes on an oceanic threat!

GARCIA!

Spain, 2022

World Premiere of 1st 2 Episodes, 114 min

Director – Eugenio Mira

In attendance – Director Eugenio Mira

On the hunt for a scoop that could secure her a job, a journalist intern inadvertently awakens a superhuman agent created by Franco’s regime.

GIVE ME PITY!

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 80 min

Director – Amanda Kramer

Sissy St. Clair’s debut television special, a variety show evening of music and laughter, quickly curdles into a psychedelic nightmare.

H4Z4RD

Belgium, 2022

North American Premiere, 86 min

Director – Jonas Govaerts

When Noah Hazard volunteers to drive his beloved gold Lexus to help his jailbird cousin pick up a friend from prison, he doesn’t expect to be drawn into a murderous drug war.

HOLY SPIDER

Denmark, 2022

Texas Premiere, 115 min

Director – Ali Abassi

A female journalist descends into an Iranian city’s underbelly to investigate a serial killer stalking sex workers to cleanse the streets of sinners.

HUESERA

Mexico, Peru, 2022

Texas Premiere, 97 min

Director – Michelle Garza Cervera

In attendance – Director Michelle Garza Cervera

An expectant young mother confronts her past demons in Michelle Garza Cervera’s creepy mash-up between a folk ghost story and an anxiety attack.

HUNT

South Korea, 2022

Texas Premiere, 125 min

Director – LEE Jung-jae

Rival KCIA agents hunt for an elusive North Korean spy in this ‘80s espionage thriller, the explosive directorial debut from SQUID GAME’s Lee Jung-jae.

JOINT SECURITY AREA (Presented by AGFA)

South Korea, 2000

US Premiere of Restoration, 110 min

Director – Park Chan-wook

Arrow Film’s new restoration of Park Chan-wook’s explosive exploration of the madness of war set in the DMZ between North and South Korea.

KIDS VS. ALIENS

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 75 min

Director – Jason Eisener

In attendance – Director Jason Eisener

Jason Eisener’s long-awaited follow-up to Canuxploitation classic HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN pits a group of moviemaking pals against sinister alien invaders.

KING ON SCREEN

France, USA, 2022

World Premiere, 105 min

Director – Daphné Baiwir

In attendance – Director Daphné Baiwir

A documentary exploration of the many screen adaptations of the work of Stephen King, with commentary from the filmmakers he’s influenced the most.

LA PIETÀ

Spain, Argentina, 2022

US Premiere, 84 min

Director – Eduardo Casanova

In attendance – Director Eduardo Casanova

A terminal cancer diagnosis upends a claustrophobic mother-son relationship in Spain’s auteur of weirdness, Eduardo Casanova’s sophomore film.

THE LEGACY OF THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE

United Kingdom, 2022

World Premiere, 83 min

Director – Phillip Escott

In attendance – Director Phillip Escott

Fest alumnus Phillip Escott presents a journey into THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, exploring the elements that garnered the film its cult status.

LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE

Philippines, 2022

Texas Premiere, 99 min

Director – Martika Ramirez Escobar

In attendance – Director Martika Ramirez Escobar

A falling TV hits Leonor on the head, and she ends up in the action movie she’s writing, but there’s just one problem: she hasn’t finished the script.

A LIFE ON THE FARM

United Kingdom, USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 75 min

Director – Oscar Harding

In attendance – Director Oscar Harding, Executive Producers Joe Pickett & Nick Prueher

An often-macabre deep-dive into the inspiring legacy of the long-lost home movies of a filmmaking farmer’s life in rural Somerset, England. 

LIVING WITH CHUCKY

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 102 min

Director – Kyra Gardner

In attendance – Director Kyra Gardner

The daughter of one of Chucky’s puppeteers examines the family relationships that contributed to the success of the queer camp classic CHILD’S PLAY.

LYNCH / OZ

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 108 min

Director – Alexandre O. Philippe

Documentary filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe dissects director David Lynch’s lifelong obsession with THE WIZARD OF OZ.

MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH

USA, 1976

Texas Premiere, 86 min

Director – William Grefé

A rabidly anti-human Vietnam vet cranks his telepathic shark-bond to 11 in William Grefe’s lethally entertaining shipwreck of JAWS and CARRIE.

MANTICORE

Spain, 2022

US Premiere, 115 min

Director – Carlos Vermut

In attendance – Director Carlos Vermut

Spanish cult director Carlos Vermut returns to the festival with an unsettling, intimate portrait of a real-life monster tortured by a grim secret.

MEDUSA DELUXE

United Kingdom, 2022

North American Premiere, 100 min

Director – Thomas Hardiman

In attendance – Director Thomas Hardiman

Tensions and hairspray run high when a stylist is murdered at an elite hairdressing competition where a passion for extravagance borders on obsession.

THE MENU

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 107 min

Director – Mark Mylod

In attendance – Director Mark Mylod

A couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) travels to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

MISSING

Japan, 2021

US Premiere, 124 min

Director – Shinzô Katayama

A distraught daughter searches for her widower father, after he disappears while trying to collect the reward for capturing an unknown serial killer.

MISTER ORGAN

New Zealand, 2022

World Premiere, 96 min

Director – David Farrier

In attendance – Director David Farrier

Following reports of fraudulent car clamping in Auckland, journalist and filmmaker David Farrier opens an investigation that pushes him to the limits of his sanity in this incredible true story of psychological warfare.

THE NIGHTMARE

Norway, 2022

World Premiere, 99 min

Director – Kjersti Helen Rasmussen

Mona’s domestic bliss with her devoted boyfriend unravels as her night terrors intensify, but attempts at lucid dreaming reveal something sinister.

NIGHTSIREN

Slovakia, Czech Republic, 2022

US Premiere, 109 min

Director – Tereza Nvotová

Šarlota returns home decades after losing her sister in an accident, only to be faced by the brutal village patriarchy and accusations of witchcraft.

NOTHING

Denmark, Germany, 2022

International Premiere, 88 min

Directors – Trine Piil & Seamus McNally

In attendance – Directors Trine Piil & Seamus McNally

A group of teenage classmates face an existential crisis, pushing them into darker and darker territory as they confront the meaninglessness of life.

THE OFFERING

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 93 min

Director – Oliver Park

In attendance – Director Oliver Park

A desperate man defends his unborn child from an ancient demon brought into their family-owned, Hasidic funeral home inside a mysterious corpse.

OINK

The Netherlands, 2022

Texas Premiere, 70 min

Director – Mascha Halberstad

A young girl suspects that her estranged butcher grandfather has sinister plans for the adorable piglet he has given her as a birthday gift.

ONE AND FOUR

China, 2021

Texas Premiere, 88 min

Director – Jigme Trinley

A Tibetan forest ranger must deduce who among the three visitors seeking refuge in his cabin from a coming blizzard are poachers and who are cops.

THE PEOPLE’S JOKER (Burnt Ends Selection)

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 92 min

Director – Vera Drew

In attendance – Director Vera Drew

The Joker finds new purpose in Gotham City after transitioning and opening an illegal comedy club in Vera Drew’s handcrafted superhero genre parody.

PIGGY

Spain, 2022

Texas Premiere, 90 min

Director – Carlota Pereda

In attendance – Director Carlota Pereda

When a bullied girl’s tormentors are kidnapped, she faces the ultimate moral test: Does she help or allow them to suffer as payback?

PROJECT WOLF HUNTING

South Korea, 2022

US Premiere, 121 min

Director – KIM Hongsun

On the choppy seas between Manila and Busan, violent convicts run amok on a hellish cargo ship in this blood-soaked slice of maritime carnage.

SATANIC HISPANICS

USA, Mexico, Argentina, 2022

World Premiere, 105 min

Directors – Mike Mendez, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Alejandro Brugues

In attendance – Directors Mike Mendez, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero & Alejandro Brugues

Five crazy and original shorts from five entertaining Hispanic directors, together in an anthology that will make you laugh and jump in fright.

SHIN ULTRAMAN

Japan, 2022

Texas Premiere, 113 min

Director – Shinji Higuchi

Ultraman descends from space after Japan suffers a devastating series of kaiju attacks in this homage to the classic, genre-defining TV series.

SICK

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 82 min

Director – John Hyams

As the pandemic steadily brings the world to a halt, Parker and her best friend Miri decide to quarantine at the family lake house alone – or so they think. Directed by John Hyams (ALONE), written by Kevin Williamson (SCREAM, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER) and Katelyn Crabb (SICK) and starring Gideon Adlon (BLOCKERS, THE CRAFT: LEGACY), Bethlehem Million (AND JUST LIKE THAT), Marc Menchaca (THE OUTSIDER, OZARK), and Jane Adams (TWIN PEAKS, POLTERGEIST, HACKS).

SICK OF MYSELF

Norway, Sweden, 2022

US Premiere, 95 min

Director – Kristoffer Borgli

Fueled by a need for attention, Signe plays a perverse game of one-upmanship with her boyfriend, popping a drug that causes a painful skin condition.

SMILE

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 116 min

Director – Parker Finn

In attendance – Director Parker Finn

After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING

France, 2022

Texas Premiere, 80 min

Director – Quentin Dupieux

Five anti-smoking avengers are forced to take a mandatory team-building retreat in Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist take on the superhero genre.

SOLOMON KING

USA, 1974

World Premiere of 4K Restoration, 85 min

Directors – Jack Bomay & Sal Watts

Think twice before you mess with Solomon King! Deaf Crocodile’s meticulous restoration of Sal Watts’ ‘70s cult classic will soon be your new favorite.

SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 115 min

Directors – Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

In attendance – Directors Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

A pair of Los Angeles misfits’ investigation into the city’s occult history sends them down a rabbit hole that threatens their friendship and sanity.

SPOONFUL OF SUGAR

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 94 min

Director – Mercedes Bryce Morgan

Desperate for connection, Millicent enmeshes herself in the lives of a dysfunctional family as her disturbing, LSD-fueled hallucinations grow violent.

THE STAIRWAY TO STARDOM MIXTAPE (Presented by AGFA)

USA, 2022

World Premiere, 70 min

Director – AFGA

Culled from more than 15 hours of footage, the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) presents the definitive cut of public access TV’s most otherworldly show.

THE STRANGE CASE OF JACKY CAILLOU

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 92 min

Director – Lucas Delangle

Jacky has his grandmother’s gift of healing, but when a woman turns up on his doorstep with an unusual problem, he must decide how far he’ll go for love.

SWALLOWED

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 94 min

Director – Carter Smith

In attendance – Director Carter Smith and Actor Mark Patton

Forced to mule drugs on their crossing of the southern US border, two friends realize that the packages they ingested seem to be alive.

TERMINAL USA (Presented by AGFA)

USA, 1993

World Theatrical Premiere of 4K Restoration, 60 min

Director – Jon Moritsugu

Jon Moritsugu’s genre-melting underground classic, newly restored from the original camera negative by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA).

TERRIFIER 2

USA, 2022

North American Premiere, 137 min

Director – Damien Leone

Resurrected by occult forces, Art the Clown returns to wreak bloody havoc on the residents of Miles County, targeting a frazzled mother and her kids.

TINTORERA!

Mexico, United Kingdom, 1977

Repertory 35mm Screening, 85 min

Director – René Cardona Jr.

A tiger shark disrupts two best friends’ blissful plans to enjoy life in the Caribbean in this Mexican sharksploitation classic from 1977.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS

Sweden, 2022

US Premiere, 149 min

Director – Ruben Östlund

In Ruben Östlund’s wickedly funny Palme d’Or winner, social hierarchy is turned upside down, revealing the tawdry relationship between power and beauty. Celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.

TROPIC

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 110 min

Director – Edouard Salier

In attendance – Director Edouard Salier

An extraterrestrial substance cripples an aspiring young astronaut, forcing his twin brother out of his shadow to continue his training alone.

ULTRAMAN (4K EDITION)

Japan, 1966

Texas Premiere of 2022 4K EDITION, 101 min

Directors – Samaji Nonagase, Hajime Tsuburaya & Akio Jissoji

Four episodes from the brand new 4k restoration of the original Ultraman television series. 

UNICORN WARS

Spain, France, 2022

US Premiere, 92 min

Director – Alberto Vázquez

After a bloody defeat in their apocalyptic war against the Unicorns, the Teddy Bear army launches a desperate attack in the heart of the magic forest.

UNIDENTIFIED OBJECTS

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 100 min

Director – Juan Felipe Zuleta

In attendance – Director Juan Felipe Zuleta

An internet sex worker convinces her reclusive neighbor to road-trip across North America for a rendezvous with visitors from a distant galaxy.

V/H/S/99

USA, 2022

US Premiere, 99 min

Directors – Johannes Roberts, Maggie Levin, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa Winter & Joseph Winter

In attendance – Directors Maggie Levin & Tyler MacIntyre

The found footage anthology’s latest scare package rewinds the tape back to 1999 with bloody tales set against the end of the millennium.

VENUS

Spain, 2022

US Premiere, 100 min

Director – Jaume Balagueró

In attendance – Director Jaume Balagueró

Injured in an attempt to steal from her boss, Lucía hides with her sister, unaware that something’s very wrong with the rundown building’s residents.

VESPER

Belgium, France, Lithuania, 2022

US Premiere, 112 min

Directors – Kristina Buožytė & Bruno Samper

In attendance – Directors Kristina Buožytė & Bruno Samper

In a post-apocalyptic world, a peasant girl’s encounter with an oligarch’s lost daughter leads to a discovery that could reverse ecological collapse.

VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL (Presented by AGFA)

USA, 2012

World Premiere, 96 min

Director – Lindsay Denniberg

The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) presents a new preservation of DIY filmmaker Lindsay Denniberg’s hypercolored, VHS-inspired horror valentine.

THE VISITOR FROM THE FUTURE

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 102 min

Director – François Descraques

A snarky time traveler from the year 2555 arrives to save the world from ecological disaster by attempting to assassinate a climate activist’s father.

WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD

Germany, Romania, 2022

Texas Premiere, 93 min

Director – Natalia Sinelnikova

When a dog disappears from a secluded high-rise building, fear spreads among the residents, threatening to turn their utopia into Absurdistan.

A WOUNDED FAWN

USA, 2022

Texas Premiere, 91 min

Director – Travis Stevens

In attendance – Director Travis Stevens, Actors Sarah Lind & Josh Ruben

Bruce is erudite, handsome, and charming… but he’s also a psychotic serial killer urged to violence by the gigantic red owl that lives in his head.

YEAR OF THE SHARK

France, 2022

North American Premiere, 84 min

Directors – Ludovic Boukherma & Zoran Boukherma

A maritime police sergeant-major spends her last days before retirement in the relentless pursuit of the shark terrorizing her small beach town.

ATTEND:

CULT MEMBER, FAN, and 2ND HALF Badges for Fantastic Fest 2022 are available for purchase here[email protected] Badges are also available and provide access to the fest’s virtual event which takes place from 9/29 – 10/4, geolocked to the US. 

Movie lovers in all Alamo Drafthouse theaters can get a taste of Fantastic Fest via a special limited-time menu. Fantastic Fest themed food and drinks will be available across all 37 Alamo Drafthouse theaters nationwide from September 22nd – September 29th. 

As the world continues to spin on in this new normal, we want to assure you that your safety is still top of mind. Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar’s enhanced sanitization practices will remain active so that we can continue to provide the safest theater experience possible. Masks are optional, but we do still recommend wearing them when not eating or drinking. Forgot your mask? We’re happy to provide one.

For the latest developments, visit the Fantastic Fest official site www.fantasticfest.com and follow us on  Facebook & Twitter.

We are now accepting press credential applications for Fantastic Fest 2022. To apply, please fill out this  form. The deadline to apply for press credentials is Friday, September 9, 2022. Please note all applications are subject to approval.

For Fantastic Fest & Alamo Drafthouse Media Inquiries:

CONTACT:  Brandy Fons / Brad Johnson

PHONE:    (310) 809-8882 / (972) 898-7528

E-MAIL:     [email protected] / [email protected] 

About Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. In years past, the festival has been home to the world and US premieres of PARASITE, JOJO RABBIT, THE BLACK PHONE, JOHN WICK, FRANKENWEENIE, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, APOCALYPTO, ZOMBIELAND, RED, SPLIT, HALLOWEEN, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, MID 90s, and SUSPIRIA while the guest roster has included such talent as Tim Burton, Nicolas Winding-Refn, Lilly and Lana Wachowski, Bong Joon-Ho, Taika Waititi, Robert Rodriguez, Rian Johnson, Bill Murray, Keanu Reeves, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Edward Norton, Ryan Reynolds, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Karl Urban, Josh Hartnett, The RZA, Dolph Lundgren, Paul Rudd, Bill Pullman, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau, George Romero, Darren Aronofsky, Mike Judge, Karyn Kusama, M. Night Shyamalan, James McAvoy, Vince Vaughn, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonah Hill, Barbara Crampton and Jessica Harper. Fantastic Fest also features world, national, and regional premieres of new, up-and-coming genre films. Fantastic Fest has seen the acquisition of many titles, including BULLHEAD, KILL LIST, MONSTERS, KLOWN, THE FP, PENUMBRA, HERE COMES THE DEVIL, NO REST FOR THE WICKED, VANISHING WAVES, COMBAT GIRLS, I DECLARE WAR, THE PERFECTION, and TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID Fantastic Fest is held each year at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Alamo Drafthouse has been named the best theater in the country by Entertainment WeeklyWired, and TIME.

Our Partners

Presenting Sponsors for Fantastic Fest as of now include Austin-born Milton Sleep Co. who will be providing some of their unique bed-in-a-box comfort throughout the week; and Wicked Kitchen, a 100% plant-based global food brand created by chefs and brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, who are on a mission to improve the lives of humans and animals globally by inspiring the world to eat more plants. 

This year, Fantastic Fest has teamed with Legion M to release “Film Scout”, an app that puts fest-goers and fans around the world in the role of Hollywood executives to “scout,” rate, and rank their favorite films. Film Scouts compete against one another for honor and prizes, and the reviews provided by these fantastic film fans will be used by Legion M and their partners to evaluate movies for potential distribution deals.

To continue the effort toward creating a more accessible festival, the fest has again partnered with Rev to provide captions for the English language films playing virtually through [email protected]

About Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, celebrating its 25th anniversary, was founded in 1997 as a single-screen mom and pop repertory theater in Austin, TX. Twenty-five years later, with 36 locations and counting, Alamo Drafthouse has been called “the best theater in America” by Entertainment Weekly and “the best theater in the world” by Wired. Alamo Drafthouse has built a reputation as a movie lover’s oasis not only by combining best-in-class food and drink service with the movie-going experience, but also introducing unique programming and high-profile, star-studded special events. Alamo Drafthouse created Fantastic Fest, a world-renowned genre film festival dubbed “The Geek Telluride” by Variety featuring independents, international filmmakers, and major Hollywood studios. Alamo Drafthouse continues to expand its brand in new and exciting ways, including the American Genre Film Archive, a non-profit film archive dedicated to preserving, restoring and sharing film, and with eight new theaters announced for this year and beyond.

Review: ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies,’ starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace and Pete Davidson

August 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders and Rachel Sennott in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (Photo by Erik Chakeen/A24)

“Bodies Bodies Bodies”

Directed by Halina Reijn 

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in New York state, the horror film “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white and one biracial Asian) representing the wealthy, upper-midde-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: During a hurricane, seven people partying in a mansion decide to play a murder mystery game, but then some people at this party really end up getting killed.

Culture Audience: “Bodies Bodies Bodies” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of horror movies that mix raunchy comedy with a suspenseful mystery.

Lee Pace and Pete Davidson in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” (Photo by Gwen Capistran/A24)

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” capably serves up suspense and social satire, despite a few plot holes and an overload of pop culture and slang that will inevitably make this horror movie look very dated. It’s a time capsule of Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) in their 20s, and all the technology that affects their relationships and perceptions of each other. In other words, it’s not a throwback to slasher flicks from the 20th century. This is a horror movie about people who don’t know what it’s like to live life without the Internet, for better or worse. Except for one person, all of the characters in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are supposed to be in their early-to-mid 20s.

Directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The movie makes the most out of the relatively small number of people in the cast and the fact that “Bodies Bodies Bodies” primarily takes place in one location: a mansion in a remote, mountanous area somewhere in New York state. (“Bodies Bodies Bodies” was actually filmed in Chappaqua, New York.)

In many ways, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” follows the same formula of dozens of other horror movies where young people gather in an isolated area; indulge in sex, drugs and mind games; and are killed off, one by one. However, the movie’s snappy dialogue and a twist ending make “Bodies Bodies Bodies” slightly better than the average horror flick. It isn’t a movie where people are killed indiscriminately, because it’s shown exactly why each person was killed.

The opening scene of “Bodies Bodies Bodies” lets viewers know that this is a very queer-friendly movie, where the sexualities of the characters can be fluid, and if other people are uncomfortable about it, they don’t really care. The movie’s first scene is a close-up of new couple Sophie (played by Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (played by Maria Bakalova) passionately kissing each other. They also tell each other, “I love you.” It’s mentioned a little later in the movie that Sophie and Bee have been dating each other for the past six weeks.

Bee and Sophie have almost opposite personalities: Sophie is a risk-taking extrovert. Bee is a cautious introvert. Sophie and Bee are about to take a road trip to the aforementioned remote mansion to party with some of Sophie’s friends who were her schoolmates in high school. Sophie has known a few of these friends before they were teenagers. Bee is very nervous about this trip—and not because she will be meeting Sophie’s friends for the first time.

Bee has some other social anxieties. Bee is an immigrant from an unnamed Eastern European country and comes from a working-class background, while Sophie is an American whose family is rich. (Bakalova, the Oscar-nominated actress from 2020’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” is actually from Bulgaria.) Sophie is openly queer. However, Bee is also not completely “out of the closet” as a queer woman. Many of Bee’s family and friends don’t yet know that Bee is queer and dating Sophie.

Sophie’s got her own issues. Conversations in the movie reveal that Sophie is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. When she was a student at New York University, Sophie had at least one overdose and mental breakdown. She has also spent time in drug rehab and psychiatric facilities. It’s never mentioned if Sophie graduated from NYU, but it’s implied she probably dropped out of college because of her personal problems. Sophie doesn’t appear to have any life goals at the moment except to try to stay clean and sober and enjoy life as much as possible.

The mansion is owned by the parents of spoiled and obnoxious David (played by Pete Davidson), who is yet another stereotypical stoner that Davidson seems to play in his most recent movies. Before Sophie and Bee go to the mansion, Sophie tells Bee that David was Sophie’s “pre-school boyfriend, before I realized I was a raging dyke.” No one’s parents are seen in this movie, but it’s mentioned that all of Sophie’s childhood friends come from affluent families.

Because of his abrasive personality, David is someone who has friends who don’t really like him, but they tolerate him because he’s generous when it comes to partying and sharing some of his wealth. Just like Sophie, David doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do with his life, and his family is rich enough to financially support him. David is the type of braggart who has to prove to everyone that whatever they can do, he can do better.

When Bee and Sophie arrive at the mansion, the small party is in full swing in and around the swimming pool. Sophie is warmly greeted by everyone, while Bee shyly offers a party gift: homemade zucchini bread. The other people at the party (except for Sophie) think this gift is very unsophisticated and old-fashioned, and they react with either rude haughtiness or amusement. Sophie tries to make Bee more comfortable, but Bee can immediately sense that she will have trouble fitting in with this group of bratty snobs.

The other people at the party are David’s insecure girlfriend Emma (played by Chase Sui Wonders), an actress who’s been in a relationship with David for the past six years; free-spirited but flaky Alice (played by Rachel Sennott), a podcast host who likes to wear glow sticks as jewelry; scruffily handsome and goofy Greg (played by Lee Pace), who is in his 40s and is having a fling with Alice; and brooding Jordan (played by Myha’la Herrold), who has unresolved romantic feelings for Sophie. Jordan is the only one in the group who is not part of a couple, so her “romantically unattached” status affects some of the tensions and jealousies that happen later in the story.

Some viewers might not like how long it takes for “Bodies Bodies Bodies” to actually get to any horror. The first third of the movie is really about showing the dynamics between these seven people when they’re partying and trying to prove to each other how “cool” they are. Alice met Greg on the dating app Tinder, and they’ve only known each other for less than a week. David is threatened by Greg’s physical attractiveness, so David attempts to demean Greg’s masculinity by trying to make Greg feel “old” and out-of-touch.

A hurricane quickly forces the party to go indoors, where there’s the inevitable electrical power outage, so that people can’t use their phones or WiFi service. No electricity also means that much of the movie is dark and shadowy, except for lights from candles, flashlights, cell phones or Alice’s ever-present glow sticks. Sophie notices that Jordan has been flirting with Bee. And so, as a distraction and in order to liven up the party, Sophie tells everyone that they should all play a game called Bodies Bodies Bodies.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is a murder mystery game, where slips of paper are distributed to all the players. The player who gets the paper slip marked with “x” is the designated murderer, who has to “kill” as many of the other players as possible. The potential victims can hide wherever they want to avoid being killed. Someone can win the game in one of two ways: By being the first potential victim to prove who the killer is, or by being the killer and getting away with all of the murders. And because “Bodies Bodies Bodies” is a horror movie, the killings turns out to be real.

A potential outlier in the story is a character named Max (played by Conner O’Malley), another friend in this clique, who was at the party the night before. However, no one really knows where Max is during the killings because he left the party the previous night, after getting into a fist fight with David. (It’s why David has a black eye.) The reasons for this altercation are later revealed in the movie. Max is not seen for most of the movie, but his name comes up multiple times in the increasingly paranoid and frantic conversations, and as the body count continues to pile up.

With a soundtrack that’s heavy on electronic dance music and hip-hop, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” wants to have a very “of the moment” vibe to convey a pulse-pounding nightclub of the early 2020s. But at this party, people’s pulses are pounding because they’re terrified that they’re trapped in this mansion with a serial killer on the loose. The hurricane outside wouldn’t put off some people from trying to get away by car. But it should come as no surprise when “Bodies Bodies Bodies” has a horror movie cliché: a car that won’t start when people want it to start.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies,” which has good performances all around from the cast members, is at its best in revealing of some of the secrets and lies within this group of characters. The arguing can get a little tedious and annoying, but not so grating that it overtakes the movie’s horror angles. That’s because there’s enough comedy in the dialogue in the movie’s self-aware way of showing that these self-absorbed and sometimes-cruel characters mostly deserve to be mocked. Bee is the only one who seems to be immune to the group’s ridiculous ego posturing and whiny antics, but she’s no angel either.

Some of the plot developments in “Bodies Bodies Bodies” are a little on the implausible side. On the other hand, it is very believable that people in a panic can do a lot of things without thinking logically. People will either love or hate the ending of “Bodies Bodies Bodies.” Regardless of how viewers feel about how the movie ends, “Bodies Bodies Bodies” offers some sly commentary on some people’s preoccupation with creating lives and images on the Internet that are often quite different from reality. This preocupation can lead to misperceptions and manipulations that can be their own kinds of horror stories.

A24 released “Bodies Bodies Bodies” in select U.S. cinemas on August 5, 2022. The movie’s release expands to more U.S. cinemas on August 12, 2022.

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