Review: ‘Something In The Dirt’ is the latest mindf*ck from the filmmaking team Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.

SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

I’ve been waving my arms and shouting their names from the rooftops for years, pushing their films on fellow indie genre fans. Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are unquestionably one of the most intriguing filmmaking teams. It is impossible to predict their endgame. They thrive on the unexpected. Their latest film killing it on the festival circuit, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, is no exception. Welcome to one of the weirdest head trips in cinematic history.

Levi and John form a fast friendship when a strange occurrence in their LA apartment building inspires them to make a documentary. Walking a fine line of admiration and distrust, the two get deeper into the mystery and the lies they tell one another.

Benson and Moorhead’s use of science is a running theme in their films. It is always clever. In SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, history and math (specifically the Pythagorean theory) are quite literally written on the walls. The quick-take editing holds your attention like a vice with a mix of home videos, documentary-style sit-down interviews, visuals of whatever topic Levi and John reference, and handheld cinematography allow the audience to teeter on the edge of doc and sci-fi narrative. This is what Benson and Moorhead do; keep you on your toes from start to finish.

The sound editing is a character. Audiences might suddenly find themselves imitating Levi’s stillness and neck craning to get the full effect. Justin Benson wrote the script, while Moorhead tackles the eclectic cinematography. Directing side by side, Benson and Moorhead share a chemistry that is something of the gods. They cannot escape likeability. The dialogue sounds so natural it could be improvised around the main outline. I constantly smirked as they effortlessly bounced between science, humor, casual conspiracy theories, and the idea that nothing is a coincidence. A meta film within a film, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT is here to mess you up and keep you guessing. I need to watch it again. I need to.


SOMETHING IN THE DIRT
The Fifth Mind-Melting Feature from Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (THE ENDLESS, “Moon Knight”) 
Opens in Theaters November 4 via XYZ

Review: Amanda Kramer’s ‘PLEASE BABY PLEASE’ is the next cult midnight movie queer obsession.

When newlyweds Arthur and Suze become the object of obsession for a dangerous street gang called The Young Gents, their lives get turned upside down. Amanda Kramer‘s PLEASE BABY PLEASE puts identity and love to the test in this sexy queer musical.

Demi Moore plays upstairs neighbor Maureen. She’s a hot pink and animal print-drenched eccentric woman and the perfect influence on Suze, giving her permission to let go of her inhibitions. Karl Glusman is Teddy, a member of The Young Gents with an eye for Arthur. Glusman nails the classic greaser role, adding a relentless sensuality to his words. He is fantastic. 

Harry Melling plays Arthur with brooding intellectual turmoil, his gentleness waiting to burst at the seams with desire. Melling oozes charm and surprising elegance. It is a marvelous turn.  Andrea Riseborough is Suze. Her fiery energy explodes off the screen. Brimming with sass, dramatic flair, and pent-up rage, Riseborough dives deep into Suze’s fantasies of sadism and masculinity. They are perfect foils for one another, each hungering for something more. They are, simply put, magnificent. 

The score is brilliant, with a mix of bass plucking, bongo drums, and saxophone wails. Short bursts of choreography smartly encapsulate the mood and era. The sets are deliciously accentuated with neon-colored everyday objects, black light hues, and engulfing blues and magenta. Everything sort of glows like a live-action comic book.

The dialogue openly discusses the foolish nature of traditional gender stereotypes. It invites exploration at every level. PLEASE BABY PLEASE would make a fabulous stage production. It’s over-the-top perfection. I loved everything about this fearless, campy, one-of-a-kind film about self-discovery. 


Opens In Theaters October 28

https://www.pleasebabypleasemovie.com/


 

 

Review: IFC film ‘VESPER’ is an exquisite sci-fi tale of morality and mortality.

VESPER

Alone in a cruel near-future world, 13-year-old Vesper experiments with what’s left of her surroundings to nourish her and her paralyzed father. Abandoned by her mother, Vesper keeps Darius’ body alive with her bio-hacking skills and uploads his full consciousness into a small droid. While she and others suffer immensely, the wealthy exist in private, enclosed spaces called “Citadels.” They produce seeds that the remaining poor vie for to survive in the harsh environment. After someone sabotages their generator, she reaches out to her Uncle, the leader of a group that cultivates children’s blood for seed trade. When Vesper discovers a young woman from the nearby Citadel passed out in the woods, she imagines a way out. VESPER is a gorgeous film about control and climate change wrapped in a glorious sci-fi narrative.

Richard Brake‘s performance is predominantly a voiceover. The enveloping tone of his vocals is perfection. But, the expression in his eyes speaks volumes. Eddie Marsan as Uncle Jonas is spectacularly vile. As his “survival at all costs” attitude becomes increasingly disturbing, Marsan nails the villain role.

Rosy McEwan plays Camellia with a complex mix of yearning and practicality. She is a slick foil for Vesper. McEwan’s grace and control are all the more stunning when given the opportunity to break. Our titular role comes to life with the sensational performance of Raffiella Chapman. Her raw vulnerability jumps off the screen. There is no denying she is a star. Her ability to carry this film from beginning to end is a wonder.

Captivating production design from Ramūnas Rastaukas and Raimondas Dicius lures you into a bleak but visually curious existence. The costumes are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Dan Levy‘s score is ethereal and hypnotic. The script by Brian Clark and directors Bruno Samper and Kristina Buozyte is endlessly intriguing. There is never a dull moment in Vesper’s nearly 2-hour run. Each scene provides an opportunity to expand the canon of this story. The metaphor of Vesper’s creations and her place in the world is beautiful. I could easily see this developed into an entire franchise. Overflowing with nuance, it is a mesmerizing sci-fi film that grabs you by the conscience. A stark and endlessly creative warning about Earth’s near-future mortality, Vesper is easily one of the best films of the year.


 

US Release Date: September 30, 2022

Starring: Eddie Marsan, Raffiella Chapman, Rosy McEwen

Director: Bruno Samper

Fantastic Fest 2022 review: ‘MISSING (Sagasu /さがす)’ is one of the year’s best genre films.

MISSING

This wild multiple narrative film tells the story of Kaede, her father’s disappearance, and the serial killer she’s determined to hunt down. MISSING is one story told from three different angles.

Performances from the entire cast are spectacular. There is not a loose thread in the bunch. Here is where things get tricky. To tell you more about the plot defeats the purpose. You need to go into with as little information as possible. The complexity of MISSING is relentless. Do not get comfortable with what you think you know. Writer-director Shinzô Katayama and co-writers Kazuhisa Kodera and Ryô Takada bring twist after twist. I stopped counting at a certain point. The final scene is a mindblowing metaphor for everything we witness in two hours. Wow doesn’t even begin to cover it. Fantastic Fest 2022 audiences are in for one of the year’s best features.


Dark Star and Bloody Disgusting plan a US theatrical release for MISSING on November 4, 2022, an On Demand release on November 18, 2022, and the Blu Ray release for the film to follow on December 6, 2022.

(US Premiere, 124 min)

Directed by: Shinzô Katayama

Starring: Aoi Ito, Hiroya Shimizu, Misato Morita, Jirô Satô 

Japan, 2021 (In Japanese with English Subtitles)

 

FF 2022 OFFICIAL SCREENINGS

All screenings are at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, South Lamar, Austin.

Location: 1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

 

Thu, Sep 22nd, 8:30 PM @ Theater 2

Thu, Sep 22nd, 8:30 PM @ Theater 3

Wed, Sep 28th, 11:00 AM @ Theater 5

Wed, Sep 28th, 11:00 AM @ Theater 6

FF 2022 PAGE:

https://2022.fantasticfest.com/films/62fbbf1dd0f21300854b372b


After working as an assistant director for Japanese films, including Nobuhiro Yamashita’s works, filmmaker ShinzôKatayama crossed paths with Bong Joon-Ho while shooting “TOKYO!” (2008) and served as his assistant director on “Mother” (2009). In 2019, his debut feature, “Siblings of the Cape” was selected by numerous domestic and international film festivals. He now is one of the most promising, emerging directors in Japan, and his second feature, MISSING (“Sagasu /さがす”) will be his commercial film debut.


 

Fantasia 2022 review: ‘Incredible But True’ is another ludicrously comical creation from filmmaker Quentin Dupieux.

INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE

Quentin Dupieux brings his unique level of absurdity to audiences once again with Fantasia 2022 film Incredible But True. Alain and Marie’s new home comes with one hell of a caveat; a tunnel in the basement that transports the individual 12 hrs forward in time. But that’s not all it does. This sharp comedy manages to be socially relevant through its silliness. 

The meandering dialogue is hilarious and infuriating. Dupieux has characters constantly waiting to get to the damn point already, and you know what? It works like gangbusters. Performances are outstanding across the board. They feel effortless through the profound theme of chasing vanity. His previous films RubberKeep An Eye Out, and Mandibles are cult classics. Incredible But True is a brilliantly bizarre addition to his signature storytelling style. You’ll want it in your Dupieux catalog. 


To find out more about Incredible but true screening at Fantasia 2022 click here!

Incredible But True sees a husband and wife move into a suburban house of their dreams only to discover that a mysterious secret is hidden in the basement, which may change their lives forever.
The quirky French comedy stars Alain Chabat (The Science of Sleep, Mood Indigo), Léa Drucker (Custody, The Man of My Life), Benoît Magimel (The Piano Teacher, Thieves) and Anaïs Demoustier (Sweet Evil, Alice and the Mayor).

Fantasia 2022 review: ‘The Breach’ is gooey and gruesome.

The Breach

Just before he leaves for the big city, Chief of Police John Hawkins (Allan Hawco) is asked to consult on a strange case. A body is found in a boat on the Porcupine River with unsettling wounds.


Director Rodrigo Gudiño brings the gross and engrossing to Fantasia 2022 with The Breach. A genre mash-up of sorts that’s as gooey as it is mindboggling. When a body washes up on shore, the small-town Chief of Police follows the clues that lead him to an isolated house in the woods. With his pseudo-girlfriend and her ex in tow, the mystery grows deeper (and weirder) with strange writings, the home in shambles, mutilated bodies, and supernatural happenings. 

The film begins with a bang. Sweeping shots of a seemingly abandoned canoe quietly floating down the river. The title is reminiscent of classic horror films like The Blob. We become familiar with the townspeople pulled into this bizarre case. Suddenly the pace feels like it goes off a cliff. 

Here is where I struggled. In the film’s final third, the screenplay takes three very different concepts and tries to mash them together. It was a real head-scratcher for me, as I was all in with the body horror ala The Fly idea. Everything sort of implodes from there. Ian Weir and Craig Davidson‘s screenplay is based on an audible original of the same name by Nick Cutter. (Cutter is Davidson, Davidson is Cutter) It makes me want to go back to the source material to compare the work. 

The best performance comes from Natalie Brown as Laura. She is a mother mired in grief and desperate for answers from her physicist ex-husband. Her vulnerability, anguish, and badassery should be applauded.

Yes, that kickass music you hear is by executive producer and rick legend, Slash. It’s nothing short of epic. Arguably the best aspect of The Breach is the design team. The main set is a spectacularly dressed mess with peeling wallpaper and inches of dust. Practical FX and makeup are literally gag-worthy. These are the things Fantasia audiences eat for breakfast.


Click here for all things Fantasia 2022!


Fantasia 2022 review: ‘Moloch’ brings unique folklore horror to viewers.

MOLOCH

A sinister score from Ella Van Der Woude and sweeping cinematography by Emo Weemhoff immediately let us know we’re in for something truly frightening. Perhaps cyclical in nature, unresolved trauma rears its ugly head in the form of a supernatural creature and a celebrated legend. Moloch is a keenly written and beautifully performed horror.

Sallie Harmsen plays Betriek with an unbridled nuance. Existing in a caretaker role for her mother and young daughter, we are privy to childhood trauma that everyone in town seems to know more about than Betriek. Harmsen is raw and determined. She encapsulates a woman mired in distress.

It’s not an exaggeration to say my mouth was agape at the final reveal. So many seemingly minute details in the script came rushing into my brain. Writer-director Nico Van Den Brink and writer Daan Bakker have given Fantasia 2022 audiences a moody, atmospheric folklore horror. Lucky for Shudder fans, Moloch is now available to stream.


38-year-old Betriek lives at the edge of a peat bog in the North of the Netherlands. When she and her family are attacked by a random stranger one night, Betriek sets out to find an explanation. The more she digs, the more she becomes convinced that she is being hunted by something ancient.

Premieres July 21 on Shudder


Click here for more info on Fantasia 2022!


Fantasia 2022 short film reviews: ‘Deiji Meets Girl’ and ‘Summer Ghost’ are whimsical and complex

Deiji Meets Girl

Deiji meets girl

Sixteen-year-old Maisie Higa works at the front desk of her family’s hotel, and she’s bored out of her mind. Then a familiar-looking teenage boy from Tokyo checks in, and Maisie’s summer break gets weird. She is scrappy, emotional, enthusiastic, and dramatic, and I could not get enough of her. Maisie has the perfect foil in the character of Ichiro Suzuki, who is overly nonchalant and annoyed about their whimsical predicaments. The two offer nonstop laughs and smiles as they experience their ever-evolving surroundings. I would eat this up as a feature. It has a lot of similar qualities as the Prime Video series Upload. In its current micro-series form, Deiji Meets Girl is the perfect lighthearted and creative entry for Fantasia 2022 audiences to enjoy. 


Summer Ghost

This stunning 40 minutes film about mental health comes to us in a gorgeously told mystery. When three young people meet in hopes of catching a glimpse of a local legend of a ghost girl, emotions run high as each carries the weight of sadness only known to them. With an ethereal score from Akira Kosemura and nuanced storytelling, Summer Ghost took my breath away, quite literally. It’s one of those films that run away with your attention before you have a moment to notice the runtime. With thoughtful writing from Otsuichi and a gasp-worthy ending, this one will be with me for a long time.


Both films screen as part of the Anime no Bento 2022 program


 

Fantasia 2022 review: The brutality of ‘Megalomaniac’ is burned into my brain.

MEGALOMANIAC

Offspring of the most notorious and elusive serial killer in Belgium’s history, Martha must navigate her brother taking up the family mantle, working a job where she is the victim of sexual abuse, and the fragility of her sanity. Writer-director Karim Ouelhaj gives Fantasia 2022 audiences one of the most brutal and brilliant films of the year.

The sumptuous score from Gary Moonboots and Simon Fransquet is a push and pull between heaven and hell. The production design and camera work will haunt your nightmares. Simultaneously hideous and magnificent, the vast family mansion Felix and Martha reside in has cracking plaster walls, carved mahogany structures, and a plethora of aggressively posed taxidermy creatures. It’s Dracula’s wet dream.

Actress Eline Schumacher leaves her soul on the screen. The slow, deliberate fracturing of the human psyche is breathtaking. It’s a brave, emotionally wrought, and award-worthy performance.

It’s an understatement to say that the imagery in Megalomaniac made my blood run cold. I winced as I witnessed unapologetic violence on women’s bodies. The fear Martha experiences had a visceral effect on me. The film examines the patriarchal power structure in a heartbreaking and infuriating way. Ouelhaj nails it. The term “triggering” is not one I use often, but Megalomaniac encompasses that word from start to finish. The cyclical nature of evil cannot be denied.


To find out more about Fantasia 2022 click here!


Fantasia 2022 review: Zombies, comedy, remakes, Oh My! ‘Coupez!’ brings bloodbath and laughs.

COUPEZ!

*Full disclosure, I have not seen Shinichiro Ueda‘s One Cut of The Dead (Fantasia 2018). This review is solely my take on COUPEZ!*

An eccentric director who activated a curse in order to get the best film possible? Sounds more like an industry documentary than a horror comedy to me. Coupez! turns filmmaking on its head with a structure that keeps on giving. Do not get comfortable because you’re about to enter the world of money, fame, indulgence, and the ridiculous in three distinct acts. 

Coupez! is unafraid to make fun of the collective zombie/ horror genre. At times, it’s like watching Film Twitter arguing with itself. This meta take on the industry will delight to no end. The handheld camera puts the audience into the action in a one-take, real-time unfolding of hilarious chaos. One can only imagine the amount of rehearsal it required to coordinate. The practical FX are cleverly achieved just out of sight. 

These actors give 200% in this splatterfest. The cast’s unwavering commitment sells this film. Romain Duris as Remi is just trying his best to make the movie he created on the page. But, like Hollywood, everyone has their hand/opinion in the proverbial pot. Duris has an upbeat energy that pulls you into his story. In truth, Coupez! is a masterful ensemble film. The double entendre dialogue never misses. It’s kind of like an amped-up version of Shawn of the Dead meets Noises Off. It was a risky move for writer-director Michel Hazanavicius to bring Coupez! to Fantasia 2022, but a massively successful one.


Click here for all things Fantasia 2022!


Fantasia 2022 review: ‘The Harbinger’ is a waking nightmare.

THE HARBINGER

Mo is taking every precaution possible in lockdown with her father and brother. When summoned to the city by an old friend, Mo’s loyalty takes precedent over her protesting family. She arrives to find a strung-out Mavis claiming something is controlling her dreams. When Mo then begins to have her dreams invaded by a hooded figure in a plague mask, things go from bad to downright terrifying. Writer-director Andy Mitton, who brought The Witch In The Window to Fantasia in 2018, dives headfirst into his new supernatural horror and extra creepy Fantasia 2022 entry, The Harbinger

The script slickly combines historic iconography from the plague to mirror current events and builds upon the concept of mass hysteria and mental health. Mitton introduces demonology and then mixes in the idea of viral internet posts, an issue directly addressed in Jane Schoenbrun‘s brilliant film, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. Combined with the rapid spread of misinformation, internet challenges like Momo, and urban legends like Slenderman, the spread of evil becomes exponential. But this is really simplifying the fear in The Harbinger

Gabby Beans gives us every ounce of herself as Mo. She is the heartbeat of this plot. Beans brings a grounded vulnerability, and I cannot imagine any other performer in this role. The film has everything and then some. Jarring imagery, thoughtful camera work, cool-as-hell production design, and meticulously placed jump scares keep your pulse pounding as this story unfolds. On top of the authentic terror we all experienced at the beginning of the covid lockdown, The Harbinger is a masterfully crafted, waking nightmare. 


DIRECTOR

Andy Mitton

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Cassidy Freeman, Clark Freeman

PRODUCER

Jay Dunn, Richard W. King

WRITER

Andy Mitton

CAST

Gabby Beans, Cody Braverman, Emily Davis, Ray Anthony Thomas, Myles Walker

CINEMATOGRAPHER

Ludovica Isidori

COMPOSER

Andy Mitton

EDITOR

Andy Mitton

For all things Fantasia 2022 click here!


Fantasia 2022 review: ‘Swallowed’ is any LGBTQ person’s nightmare… and then some.

SWALLOWED

Cooper Koch and Jose Colon play best friends, Benjamin and Dom. In order to send Benjamin off to L.A. with some extra cash, Dom coordinates a drug mule operation that complicates everything. When the packages turn out to be something far more sinister, things get much darker than anyone imagined.

Swallowed is a genre-obliterating film with fantastic performances. Jena Malone adds gritty believability. To no one’s surprise, she manages to bring charm and intensity. Koch and Colon have spectacular chemistry, and you 100 percent buy their relationship. Koch possesses an accessible vulnerability. Colon’s honesty feels grounded. Bravo for their openness to go full frontal nude. We all know how rare that is, and it makes complete sense given the plot. The film also features a solid villainous turn from Mark Patton, a genre legend from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. One line, in particular, is slyly redemptive given his status in the horror canon.

The camera work has visceral intimacy. Writer-director Carter Smith (The Ruins) gives audiences a unique genre entry, with the leads being LGBTQ male characters in scenarios we usually see female characters tackle. Swallowed is part crime thriller, part coming-of-age, and body horror. This film is an LGBTQ scenario of nightmares. Fantasia 2022 audiences, get ready to squirm.


Click here for all things Fantasia 2022


Fantasia 2022 review: ‘All Jacked Up and Full Of Worms’ is gagworthy arthouse horror.

ALL JACKED UP AND FULL OF WORMS

Writer-director Alex Phillips brings a special kind of WTF to Fantasia 2022 with micro-budget arthouse horror, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms. In a wicked multiple narrative of some seriously messed up people, we are party to some of the sickest storylines we never signed up for. Roscoe, a motel maintenance man in a creepy, sexually adventurous throuple, a mentally ill man named Benny looking to be a father, a violent addict couple, the former pagan member giving an endless interview, and his sex worker daughter all collide. The throughline of these stories is that the characters ingest worms like drugs. The consequences will make you as queasy as you think. If David Cronenberg and Requiem for a Dream had a baby, you might get All Jacked Up and Full of Worms in the bassinet. The likelihood that you’ll be looking around the theatre to check if everyone else is just as horrified as you are incredibly high. Would I recommend you watch high? I’m not not saying it’s a good idea. Films like this bring audiences to Fantasia in the first place. Am I jacked up to see what Alex Phillips does next? Yup.

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms also stars Eva Fellows, Mike Lopez, Carol Rhyu, and Sammy Arechar. The film was produced by Phillips, Georgia Bernstein, and Ben Gojer.


Click here for more information about Fantasia 2022


Fantasia International Film Festival is back with its 26th edition to rescue us from reality. Here’s what we’re excited to see! #Fantasia2022

It’s no secret that all the best genre films come through Fantasia Film Festival. 2022’s fest comes just in time to distract us from all the actual horrible things happening in the world.

Welcome to a list of things we’re excited about playing this year. Some are already on our best of the year lists and some we anticipate adding. Check out our picks below.

For all things Fantasia Film Festival 2022 stay tuned to Reel News Daily with some special posts from our friends at Unseen Films


Six films we’ve seen at previous festivals and their reviews can be found below. Highly recommend each of them for a myriad of reasons.

Next Exit
Legions
Sissy


Honeycomb
Hypochondriac
Speak No Evil (One of the year’s most brutal films)



FREAKS OUT (Italy)

– Dir: Gabriele Mainetti

Rome, 1943. A pack of sideshow performers with supernatural powers face off against occupying Nazis in the most unusual superhero film you will ever see. This fantastical and gutsy celebration of the different that walks an electrifying tightrope between blockbuster filmmaking and edgier, more subversive genre work. From the director of THEY CALL ME JEEG. Winner of the Leoncino d’Oro at last fall’s Venice Film Festival. Canadian Premiere. 

Sounding like a genre fan’s wet dream, FreaksOut is a priority watch this year.



Princesse Dragon

Bristle is a little girl raised by dragons. But when her father, Dragon, has to pay the Sorcerog using his second most valuable asset, he offers her Bristle – Throwing her into an infinite sadness and forcing her to flee the family cave. Bristle then embarks on a journey to discover the world of men.

Feminist anime? Give it to me all day, every day.


Polaris

Set in 2144 against the harsh backdrop of a frozen wasteland, Sumi, a human child raised by Mama Polar Bear, narrowly escapes capture from a brutal Morad hunting party and sets out across the vast winter landscape. When Sumi stumbles across Frozen Girl, an unlikely friendship is forged and together they race ahead of the vindictive hunters towards the only guiding light Sumi knows, the Polaris star.

All female-led opening film. Sold.


One Cut of the Dead

(French remake of the cult classic)

After opening this year’s Cannes, FINAL CUT (Coupez!), Michel Hazanavicius’s riotous remake of Shinichirou Ueda’s ONE CUT OF THE DEAD, is coming to North America. Starring Romain Duris, Bérénice Bejo, Grégory Gadebois, Finnegan Oldfield, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, and Yoshiko Takehara reprising her beloved role from the original film as a producer, this hilarious ode to the do-or-die spirit of filmmaking is a joy to behold. It is especially noteworthy for the film’s North American journey to be starting at Fantasia, as the festival was among the first to popularize the original Audience Award-winning ONE CUT OF THE DEAD in the West. Poetically, Ueda’s latest, POPRAN, will also be having its North American Premiere at the festival this year. Bet your viewfinder that FINAL CUT is going to bring the house down in cheers. North American Premiere.

Without knowing the original, the buzz around this remake is out of this world. Will it live up to its predecessor? I guess we’ll all find out together.

Huesera

Pregnant with her first child and consumed by terrifying visions, Valeria (Natalia Solián) believes that she may be cursed by a supernatural entity. A brilliant and frightening breakout debut as important as Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK, HUESERA firmly announces Mexico’s Michelle Garza Cervera as one of the leading new voices of the genre. A scorching personal vision that asks complex questions with ferocious honesty, this profound, nightmarish blessing comes to Fantasia hot off its award-winning Tribeca launch and is already one of the most talked-about genre works of the year.  Canadian Premiere. 

A big winner out of Tribeca 22, this is a slick film tackling identity and motherhood in a surprising way. If you’ve ever been pregnant and didn’t love every single second of it, this one will cut extra deep.



Bodies, Bodies, Bodies

Also screening as part of Fantasia’s closing night events will be Halina Reijn’s wildly entertaining and gloriously twisted BODIES BODIES BODIES. A party game leads to murder when young and wealthy friends gather at a remote family mansion in this instant classic comedy horror joyride that maintains a taut balance of uneasy tension and wicked humor. Starring Amandla Stenberg (THE HATE U GIVE), Maria Bakalova (BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM), Myha’la Herrold (INDUSTRY), Rachel Sennott (SHIVA BABY) and comedy superstar Pete Davidson. Special Screening.

When people cannot stop talking about a film, you know you have to see it. Coming to theaters August 5th.

 DIRECTOR: Halina Reijn CAST: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, with Lee Pace and Pete Davidson


Piggy

Laura Galán appears in PIGGY by Carlota Pereda

During the sweltering summertime of rural Spain, Sara carries an extra load of teenage agony due to the perpetual bullying from her peers. She’s also an outsider at home—her parents and little brother just don’t understand her—so, feelings internalized, she’s often found buried in her headphones, drowning out her surroundings. One day, Sara’s usual solo dip at the local pool is disrupted by the presence of a mysterious stranger in the water and an exceptionally grueling bout of abuse at the hands of three girls. But, in a strange twist of fate, along the way home Sara witnesses her bloodied tormentors being kidnapped in the back of the stranger’s van.

Another buzzy title, this one focusing on mean girls and morality is a star vehicle for actress Laura Galán.


The Pez Outlaw

Steve Glew spent the 1990s smuggling rare pez dispensers into the USA from Eastern Europe, making millions of dollars. It was all magical until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident decided to destroy him.

Who wouldn’t want to watch a film about rival pez dispenser smugglers is really the question.


Everybody Goes To The Hosptial (short film)


Based on a true story, EVERYBODY GOES TO THE HOSPITAL is a stop motion animated exploration of physical, psychological, and familial trauma, telling the tale of 4-year-old Little Mata (writer/director Tiffany Kimmel’s mother) as she’s taken to the hospital in late 1963 with appendicitis.

This is s personal pick for me, as someone traumatized by hospitals more than once in my life. The first time was when I was diagnosed with appendicitis. Check out a teaser here.


For all things Fantasia 2022 stay tuned to Reel News Daily with some special posts from our friends at Unseen Films.


 

Review: ‘STANLEYVILLE’ is so weird it works.

An exercise in the absurd, the hit indie STANLEYVILLE opens with Maria (Susanne Wuest) walking away from her life on a moment’s whim. Found lounging aimlessly on an airport chair, an odd man named Homunculus (the absolute legend Julian Richings) informs her of her selection to participate in an exclusive competition. The prize is an orange compact SUV.

Without hesitating, Maria arrives at an apartment alongside four other contestants. In a series of eight individual challenges, the first being balloon blowing, Maria, Felicia, Manny, Bofill, and Andrew battle to be the victor. The Master of ceremonies appears equal parts confused and confident in his role. As the stakes get higher and the games get weirder, chaos ensues. Five opposite archetypes collide in one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever witnessed. 

STANLEYVILLE is so odd it works. The film’s pacing is intentionally erratic, and the personalities are strong. That is, all except Maria. She is content to play the game fairly and with an abundance of reverence. The performances of our six cast members are outstanding. This eclectic mix of actors pours their heart into a script that must have seemed outrageous when they first read it. Full disclosure, I’m not sure I walked away understanding what I watched either, but I’ll tell you this, I cannot stop thinking or talking about STANLEYVILLE.

The finale is equally enigmatic, occurring offscreen. It’s a keenly written full-circle moment that makes you think. STANLEYVILLE is like nothing you’ve seen before. Some will assume writer-director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos was making it all up as he went along. I cannot be the first to salivate at the idea of turning this into a stage play without intermission. The story is a conversation starter. What that conversation consists of is determined entirely by each viewer’s experience. It’s a one-of-a-kind film. 


Oscilloscope Laboratories is proud to release STANLEYVILLE — the quirky, dark feature debut from writer/director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos that has won festival accolades across the globe — exclusively at New York City’s Metrograph on April 22nd, with a wider rollout to follow.


Color
English Language
88 minutes
Not Rated


The pitch-black comedy, which critics lovingly call “a strange movie for strange people” and “an episode of Survivor for sociopathic miscreants”, stars Susanne Wuest (GOODNIGHT MOMMY), Cara Ricketts (FOX’s The Resident), Christian Serritiello, George Tchortov (Amazon’s The Expanse), Adam Brown (Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT trilogy), and genre legend Julian Richings (CUBE).


‘HELLBENDER’ begins streaming today on SHUDDER! It’s gonna rock you to your core.

HELLBENDER

In Hellbender, 16-year-old Izzy (Zelda Adams) suffers from a rare illness that has kept her isolated on a mountaintop with her mother (Toby Poser) her whole life. As Izzy begins to question her sickness, she pushes back against her confinement and secretly befriends Amber (Lulu Adams), another girl living on the mountain, but her newfound happiness is derailed after she eats a live worm as part of a juvenile game and finds an insatiable and violent hunger awakened within her. To understand the hunger, Izzy must learn the dark secrets of her family’s past and the ancient power in her bloodline.


*Originally posted during Fantasia 2021*

Honestly, if I could choose to grow up in another family, it would be the Adams family. I’m not talking about Morticia and Gomez. While I adore that lot, I’m talking about the indie horror filmmaking family. These industrious and smart people consist of Mom, Toby Poser, dad, John Adams, and daughters, Zelda and Lulu. Fantasia 2019 audiences got their first taste of spooky genius with The Deeper You Dig. It was scary, intense, unique, and then some. This year, Fantasia 2021 audiences got to experience a new tale of terror with Hellbender.

Their cinematography is stunning. They really understand how to fill a frame. Their writing feels collaborative. John Adams’ score is deliberate and insanely effective. The songs are so fantastic I would buy their album! Within the first three minutes of Hellbender, I gasped and rocked out. If that’s not a winning film, I don’t know what is.

Zelda Adams as Izzy is so intriguing in her innocence and curiosity. Her journey from child to adult occurs before our eyes, whether we like it or not. Toby Poser, as Mom, is a force of nature. Often telling an entirely emotional story without words. Their chemistry is never forced. This is not always the case when a family works together. In the case of the Adams family, it’s their biggest strength. Their work is dark and that takes trust and guts. And allow me to assure you both are teeming in Hellbender, quite literally. There is one special effect in particular that blew me away. When you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s a mother-daughter relationship film that just so happens to center around a witchy heritage. Predictably, deceit under the guise of protection is bound to backfire. Hellbender is about a secret and sacred family history. But, it’s also about the power of the feminine and a slick takedown of any sort of patriarchal structure. The social commentary between the treatment of witches and any female, ever, is glaringly obvious, but no less genius. Hellbender is undoubtedly one of the most kick-ass films from this year’s festival. It’s no wonder it won Best Score and Best Actress (Zelda) in the CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to join in their fandom.

*PS- The Adams’ have agreed to let me be part of their family via Instagram. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I’ll run the camera and hold the boom next time. Also, not afraid to get covered in blood.*


Premieres February 24 on Shudder

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Review: ‘KING KNIGHT’ is an unlikely story of self-acceptance.

KING KNIGHT

SYNOPSIS: “Thorn (CRIMINAL MINDS’ Matthew Gray Gubler) and Willow appear to have it all as the revered high priest and priestess of a coven of new-age witches. But a secret from Thorn’s past throws their lives into turmoil and sends them on a trippy, hilarious journey.”


Committed coven leader Thorn is hiding a secret. How will his partner Willow and fellow coven members react when the truth comes to light? King Knight is a film about acceptance and growth against the backdrop of Wiccan comedy. Yes, Wiccan comedy. 

Writer-director Richard Bates, Jr. flips the script on societal norms with a humor reminiscent of Christopher Guest’s films. King Knight has a killer ensemble cast. The eclectic nature of the members will make you grin, with each actor given their time to shine. A highlight performance comes from Barbara Crampton as Thorn’s mother, and it’s simply magic. The horror icon, who seems to appear in one film after another without a break, can do no wrong in my eyes. She is hilarious in her brief but memorable screentime. 

Angela Sarafyan as Willow is delicious. She’s ethereal and grounded. Is she a practicing Wiccan? You could have fooled me. Her energy counters Gubler with the ease we needed. Matthew Gray Gubler as Thorn is fantastic. His dedication to the absurdity of the script draws you into King Knight. He’s suave and funny, and I want more of him on my screen. I would watch him dance any day of the week.

It’s easy to see why this was a Fantasia 2021 selection. The use of tarot cards as transition devices is super slick. Quirky and colorful animation adds another element of cool. Oh, the soundtrack is fire, as the kids say. While it struggles a tad from pacing issues, King Knight is a perfectly weird and fun film.


In Select Theaters, On Demand and Digital:
February 17, 2022
Starring:
Matthew Gray Gubler, Angela Sarafyan, Andy Milonakis, Kate Comer, Johnny Pemberton, Josh Fadem, Nelson Franklin, Emily Chang, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Swati Kapila, Shane Brady, AnnaLynne McCord, Alice Glass, with Barbara Crampton, and Ray Wise
Directed and Written By:
Richard Bates, Jr. 
 
Run Time: 81 minutes | Rating: Not Rated


SHUDDER news: ‘THE SPINE OF NIGHT’ to premiere exclusively on SHUDDER on MARCH 24

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller, and the supernatural, announced that The Spine of Night will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Thursday, March 24, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

 The Spine of Night stars an all-star cast of Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Betty Gabriel (Get Out), and Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”). The film was co-written and co-directed by Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King.


 In The Spine of Night, an ultra-violent fantasy epic, ancient dark magic falls into sinister hands and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. A group of heroes from different eras and cultures must band together in order to defeat it at all costs.

THE SPINE OF NIGHT TO PREMIERE EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER ON MARCH 24


 ABOUT SHUDDER

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. To experience Shudder commitment-free for 7 days, visit www.shudder.com.


 

Blood In The Snow (2021) review: Mark O’Brien’s ‘THE RIGHTEOUS’ brings an unpredictable darkness.

THE RIGHTEOUS (Dir. Mark O’Brien) (96 mins)
A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.


Former man of the cloth Frederic has a crisis of faith triggered by the death of his young daughter. When a mysterious injured young man named Aaron appears in their yard late one night, questions swirl as to his true identity. The young man’s intentions and intensity grow with each passing hour. Aaron slowly ingratiates himself with Frederic’s wife, Ethel, turning her sullen and suspicious mind into a gracious one overnight. His relationship with Frederic proves the most complicated.

Is The Righteous a parable? You’re constantly second-guessing any theory that pops into your head. The screenplay leans on its cast with brilliant storytelling. Stunning black and white cinematography compound a visceral sadness from the very opening shots. You cannot help but be swept away by the camera work. It’s so intentional, creating a timeless and unsettling hum from start to finish. The score is yet another brilliant element. It gave me goosebumps.

Mimi Kuzyk as Ethel is grounded and loving. You’ll hang on every word. Henry Czerny as Frederic is as skeptical as we need him to be. His pensive moments reel you in. You’re right along with him at every turn. Writer-director-star Mark O’Brien, as Aaron, is nothing short of captivating, as each beat is an entire journey. You will be mesmerized by both this performance and the script. You’ll want to watch it again and again.

Religion, redemption, and revenge all take center stage. As one forced into eight years of Catholic school attendance, this one got under my skin on another level. Nothing will prepare you for the reveals in this story. The escalation of terror is much like a rollercoaster that never seems to want to descend. It will make your heart race. Do not get comfortable. The Righteous is one hell of a feature debut. How can O’Brien possibly top such an epic introduction? I’ll be damned if I’m not here for whatever that may be.


You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘What Josiah Saw’ reigns holy terror on your nerves.

WHAT JOSIAH SAW

After two decades, a damaged family reunite at their remote farmhouse, where they confront long-buried secrets and sins of the past.


As a child forced to attend Catholic school for eight years, I know a little something about the trauma religion imprints on a young mind. Irrational guilt dwells in my brain to this day. Director Vincent Grashaw’s staggering third feature, What Josiah Saw, delves into how zealous behavior and extreme dysfunction go hand in hand. A portrait of a family’s unspeakable darkness and how it haunts them forever. It is a film that will consume your soul.

Kelli Garner‘s vulnerability as Mary is a stunning turn. With a palpable fear, Garner leaves it all on-screen in an unapologetic performance. Her arc is astonishing. Nick Stahl scared the Jesus out of me most recently in Hunter Hunter. As Eli, Stahl maneuvers past sins with an anxious undercurrent. Like Garner, the emotional journey of Eli will leave you blindsided.

Robert Patrick plays Graham family patriarch, Josiah. His monstrous behavior appears superficially enabled by newfound holy retribution that looks a whole hell of a lot like dogmatic abuse. Patrick’s innate ability to intimidate with as little as a whisper is terrifying. This performance drips with brutal vitriol.

Scott Haze hit the ground running in James Franco‘s Child of God. That part was a brilliant warm-up to playing the role of a traumatized, devoted son. Haze’s character is the final human whipping post on that farm. He breathes life into the part of Thomas, as every beat is a complete journey. The chemistry between Patrick and Haze is electric. 

Carlos Ritter‘s cinematography reflects an ominous mood. He takes advantage of shadows and natural light to create a visual eerieness. Robert Pycior‘s score makes your skin crawl. Writer Robert Alan Dilts‘ screenplay unfolds in chapters. What Josiah Saw could have been developed into a series. Dilts created fully fleshed-out characters. There is that much life in this story. The script’s structure also allows the audience to focus on each Graham family member and their demons. Everyone teetering on the edge of a potential psychotic break. The repeated visual of each character gazing out the farmhouse window is striking. Its cyclical pattern is sheer brilliance.

Each of these elements creates a visceral disquiet that is unshakable for the nearly two-hour run. What Josiah Saw was relentlessly unnerving. The stakes get higher and higher. I had to remind myself to breathe. It is impossible to think Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences saw this story coming. The final act is so twisted it will blow your mind, again and again. What Josiah Saw is an unexpected, complex, and shocking watch. It is hands down, the best horror film of the year.


Director:
Vincent Grashaw
Screenwriter:
Robert Alan Dilts
Producer:
Ran Namerode, Vincent Grashaw, Bernie Stern, Angelia Adzic
Cast:
Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze, Kelli Garner, Tony Hale, Jake Weber