Fantastic Fest Capsule Reviews: Frankenweenie, The ABCs of Death, Here Comes the Devil


As Fantastic Fest winds down in Austin, Texas, it’s time to play a bit of catch up.  

Shock Till You Drop caught quite a few films at the event and while you can find many of my reviews at this spot, I felt it was time to present some capsule reviews of the other films (plus it will just allow me to get ahead of the festival coverage work load, to be frank).

After the jump, I weigh in on Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, the horror anthology The ABCs of Death and Here Comes the Devil which garnered multiple awards at the fest.

Tim Burton’s adaptation of his ’80s short film, Frankenweenie, is an innocent and harmless endeavor.  Arguably the best film he’s done since Sleepy Hollow (which I’m a fan of, however, I know some people will cringe at that sentiment).

The reason it works is because it finds Burton back in his safety zone.  And the reason why it’s simply “okay” as a film is because it finds Burton back in his safety zone.  It’s a bit too familiar.  There’s no creative risk-taking for Burton and I wasn’t blown away by it because we’ve been through this trip inside Burton’s head before.  Still, Frankenweenie‘s populated by weird characters, great design work and warped sensibilities that you can’t but smile at, especially when it begins to drop horror movie references (from An American Werewolf in London to Gamera).  And much like the original film this feature is based on, it tugs on the heartstrings quite a bit, especially if you’re a dog owner.

The humor is hit or miss (the “weird girl” and her cat steal the show), but Frankenweenie becomes a blast in its monstrous third act and ends on a high note.  Definitely recommended for kids and those who are die-hards of Burton’s ouevre.

The ABCs of Death gets my respect even if it’s not a complete success.  Nowhere else have we seen 26 directors come together for such a mammoth undertaking: An anthology film that features 26 stories inspired by the alphabet and featuring, well, death in one incarnation or another.

It should be noted that the version of the film shown at the Fantastic Fest premiere was a cut that was a few months old and not final.  Upon discussing the project with some of those involved, I was told that the cut has experienced a few tweaks but is not all that drastically different.

I’ll start with what I loved.  The letters D, E and L.  Marcel (Deadgirl) Sarmiento’s “D is for Dog” is stylish and emotionally complex in the way that your feelings genuinely take a drastic turn within the few minutes it plays out, which is an achievement.  “E is for Exhumed” is by Ben Wheatley and presents a unique perspective on something we’ve all see before.  It doesn’t overstay its welcome and it keeps its energy high.  I dug it a lot.  I thought it was one thing and it turned out to be something else entirely – I don’t want to give it away.  And, finally, Timo Tjahjanto’s “L is for Libido” is a particularly f**ked up piece of work.  I mean, really f**ked up.  Only those with a sick sense of humor need apply.

The rest of ABCs is a mixed bag of puke, penises, poop, tits, animation and bloodshed.  As much as I admire Ti West’s recent efforts, his entry is swift and lazy.  Adam Wingard’s letter “Q” is damn amusing and Xavier Gens’ letter “X” will challenge your gag reflex.  ABCs clocks at two hours or so, however, I never felt it ran too long because it’s a sensory overload.  Overall, worth a look, but I don’t suspect this is something I’ll revisit.

The latest film from Penumbra and Cold Sweat director Adrian Garcia Bogliano, Here Comes the Devil, is not going to be everyone’s cup o’ tea.

It’s a slow burn with sporadic bursts inspired, creepy supernatural shenanigans, but there is a lot of fat-trimming that could be done to the script to make it a lean scare machine.  I’d also like to add that, before the Fantastic Fest screening, a 30-40 minute short film (also a slow burn) ran before Here Comes the Devil, somewhat dulling the experience of Bogliano’s film so I’d very much like to see his effort again to get a true assessement.

Regardless of the short film that came before it, I still feel Here Comes the Devil meandered a bit too much to get to its pay-offs.  The performances are good and Bogliano is growing as a filmmaker, but there are inherent problems at the script level.

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