Fantastic Fest was a promising haven for horror this year. The good definitely outweighed the, shall we say, “disappointing,” that’s for sure. I’ve been filing all of my coverage and reviews to date in one convenient spot at our Fantastic Fest hub. You can check out some lengthier reviews of a handful of films there. But now, as I play catch up, I wanted to provide you with some capsule reviews for other titles that I viewed while in Austin.
Less abstract than their previous feature Resolution but just as bizarre and remarkably original at its core, Spring is an achievement from filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead in that they’ve created an adult-minded horror movie love story. Lou Taylor Pucci (Evil Dead) plays Evan, a guy who is go nowhere. Following the death of his mother, he loses his job at a restaurant and decides to leave the country for a European adventure. He doesn’t get too far because he lands in a seaside Italian village where he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker, making a strong feature film debut). They quickly get caught up in a blistering affair and their passion is palpable, but Louise has a pretty big secret she’s harboring and Spring never fails to shock its audience in spite of sprinkling clues as to what is coming early on in the film.
Evan and Louise are charming, believable characters and the performances Pucci and Hilker bring to the table are instantly engaging. The writing is strong, the mythology/science that is introduced in the film is unique and captures that Lovecraftian alchemy that made his works so spellbinding and full of dread, and both Moorhead and Benson have stepped up their game visually. It helps that they’ve got an absolutely gorgeous locale to play in, but there are some truly great directorial choices made here. The only flaw that bothered me was that Spring could use some tightening, however, I was never bored. Evan and Louise made even the slightly tedious moments in the film enjoyable.
A puzzling, troubled movie by Daniel de la Vega that has moments of creepiness, but as a whole, is a meandering, predictable mess. The film follows a tailor who is in the midst of grieving over the death of his brother and dealing with a wife who is destroying their relationship. A mystery man in a long black coat and hat enters his life and a string of dream-like events unravel around the tailor. Necrophobia hits a few of the giallo beats it was going for, but never attains true giallo status. Too cumbersome, too cumbersome and it really didn’t need to be in 3D.
If this movie officially came out this year, it would mostly likely make the number one slot on my “best horror film of the year” list. Within the first five minutes, writer-director David Robert Mitchell creates a thick sense of unpleasant mystery as a young woman walks out of her house, looking like she’s being pursued by someone. To the audience, she isn’t. But in her mind, she is and we don’t know what is following her. Minutes later, we’re witness to a tableau so grotesque you’re left thinking, “Oh my god, I don’t want to see that happen to any other character in this film!”
And so the anxiety you get from It Follows begins.
Mitchell creates a story that weaves something I can only describe as the early works of David Cronenberg married with the supernatural elements of The Ring.The performances are all solid here, but where It Follows excels is in its execution and score. Clever story, genuine scares…I can’t wait to see this one again.
Produced by Alex de la Iglesia, Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel’s feature debut was the biggest, most twisted surprise of the fest. Talk about a real treat. The film begins as a real slow burn, focusing on two sisters. One, played by Dagon‘s Macarena Gomez, has agoraphobia and when she fears that she may lose her sister to the world beyond their apartment, she kidnaps an injured man who comes knocking at their door one day. From there, Shrew’s Nest goes off of the deep end. Its screw-turning plot becomes deliberately forceful and bloody. Real bloody.
The cast is phenomenal and this is a real standout performance for Gomez. Witching & Bitching‘s Carolina Bang makes an appearance, also look for Sleep Tight‘s Luis Tosar.
The film is a bit slow going in, but Andres and Roel do such a great job establishing the emotional threads of the characters that when the second half of the film kicks into gear, everything that occurs is a punch to the stomach. The whole thing feels like Misery meets DePalma. But it carries something that dark magic that we occasionally see in Spanish thrillers, or, in De La Iglesia’s work. Jot this one down and keep an eye out for it.