• Maxwell J.

2022 Fantastic Film Festival Review

This year’s Fantastic Fest is my first full in-person festival (it’s hard to count 2021’s as a true example of the festival) and it lived up to its name! While I am super introverted and still iffy on crowds nowadays, I found the experience greatly enjoyable. FF22 featured great Q&As, fun events, and an amazing atmosphere over at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Overall, I watched 27 horror films which averaged a 6.78/10 rating from me, which means I saw plenty of excellent films here. In fact, I would say I didn’t see a single “bad” film. There are a few films that I thought were fine, and that’s it, but for a streak of 27 movies that is impressive!


Sadly, there are a few films that I couldn’t quite fit into my schedule but not as many as last year. Releasing in November, All Jacked Up and Full of Worms will stream on Screambox while Bones and All will grace theaters before Thanksgiving. Kids Vs Aliens will get a theatrical release earlier in 2023 before premiering on Shudder later that year. Plans for Everyone Will Burn and Final Cut are still up in the air, but releases do seem probably for both in the States sometime next year. Werewolf By Night and Hellraiser were billed as secret screenings and have both been released on streaming platforms. I was able to catch Hellraiser earlier this month actually!


I also did catch two non-horror films at the fest: serial killer thrillers that leaned heavily into the drama/thriller aspect of their premises: Missing and Decision to Leave. Both solid movies but not something I would normally cover. Check them out if you are interested though!


Without further ado, here are the 27 films I watched at this year’s Fantastic Film Festival and my personal ranking of how much I enjoyed them.



27. Disappear Completely (Director: Luis Javier Henaine; Mexico)

Santiago makes a living as a crime scene photographer. While supportive, his long-term girlfriend Marcela is frustrated at how his job pulls him away from their relationship and occupies his mind at all hours. This escalates when Santiago is tasked with photographing the death of the Senator. What starts as a usual job turns to terror when the Senator is found to be alive and Santiago spots a figure in the darkness. Minutes later he is mugged on his way home. This string of events turns more sinister when Santiago starts losing each of his senses in the days following the attack. He learns that he has been cursed by a powerful witch and that he only has a week to reverse it before he loses himself to darkness. While my least favorite film of the fest, Disappear Completely is not a bad film per se. It is merely hampered by the lagging script and muted performances. In fact, it has some of my favorite sensory components to a horror film I’ve seen in a while and is aided by strong direction to tell its witchy slow burn story. Had the film been trimmed or even given the protagonist a longer timeline to dissect the mystery, and thus fix many of the pacing issues. Regardless, it isn’t without merits and its low ranking should not deter you from letting it Disappear Completely from your radar.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



26. The Nightmare (Director: Kjersti Helen Rasmussen; Norway)

Mona moves into a new apartment with her long-term boyfriend, Robbie. Their initial excitement is blunted when their housewarming party is interrupted by an angry neighbor begging them to quiet down so their baby can get some sleep. The chilly reception lingers in her mind as Mona remains at home, having dropped out of school, while Robbie spends longer hours at work. Her problems intensify when she experiences terrible nightmares and bouts of violent sleepwalking. Searching for answers, Mona discovers that she has been marked by a powerful demon for a sinister ritual that he is steadfast in carrying out on her. At its core, The Nightmare pairs timely themes with very generic sleep demon horror that makes it rather dull. The performances, visuals, and production values are fine, but there is an emptiness within the movie that is difficult to ignore. Its lore is the only interesting aspect of the story and the added gimmick of Mona attacking others in her sleep is neat but isn’t enough to maintain the momentum it establishes in the beginning. Competent yet derivative, this Scandinavian sleep horror will enthrall you if the messaging hits well enough or if the novelty of its demon strikes a chord. Otherwise, The Nightmare is another sleepy riff on stories you have heard before and likely better.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



25. Family Dinner (Director: Peter Hengl; Austria)

Desperate to lose weight, Simone seeks out her famous nutritional wellness coach aunt, Claudia, for guidance. Aunt Claudia’s initial reluctance turns emphatic when Simone tracks down her cousin Filipp after he runs away one night despite his cruelty towards her at the beginning of her visit. Placed on a strict diet of nothing for the remainder of the week, Simone battles with her desire to lose weight and her need to sustain herself on no sustenance. All the while, Simone grows suspicious of the true reasons why Filipp attempted to leave and question whether she might need to do the same. Family Dinner is an aggressively fine film. The performances are raw, the cinematography is understandably bleak, and the build up with fresh lore is captivating. The strong chemistry between Pia Hierzegger and Nina Katlein adds depth to their respective characters while maintaining viewer’s attention. Unfortunately, the boiling family drama bubbles over into a lukewarm ending that leaves viewers wondering if the payoff is worth it. Foreshadowed clues make the finale seem underwhelming with what they teased in Claudia’s research. Simi’s weight loss journey is given an appropriately level of care which is a clear positive of the film even if it doesn’t explore her motivations more than surface level discomfort. Family Dinner may not be something this reviewer wants to return to but others may find something fulfilling.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch:Wide Release TBD?



24. Venus (Director: Jaume Balagueró; Spain)

After stealing an excessive amount of ecstasy from her nightclub, Lucía is driven to seek shelter at her estranged sister’s house while she heals and figures out her next plan. She crosses paths with Rocío in the elevator, apparently fleeing from her apartment. Something is bothering her but the inclusion of her niece, Alba, complicates their awkward reunion. The next morning, Rocío is nowhere to be found. With no phone, no vehicle, and stuck with the responsibility of looking after Alba after just meeting, Lucía’s last resort gets much stickier as her former employer closes in on her and a force within the apartment complex makes itself known in her dreams. A dynamic cold open fizzles off into circuitous storytelling with convoluted plot devices to keep Lucía trapped in constant danger. While the film is littered with plenty of terrifying imagery and well-choreographed action sequences, the overall vision feels disjointed and incomprehensible. It gets points for a balls-to-the-wall performance from Ester Expósito and the audaciousness to try something “out there.” Venus will surely polarize audiences but those up for something truly unique may find something of value in this witchy siege film.


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23. Smile (Director: Parker Finn; United States)

Dr. Rose Cotter is a workaholic emergency room therapist who is forced to witness her newest patient, Laura die by suicide. Moments before, Laura revealed that she has been pursued by an invisible entity that wears the faces of those around her with a terrifying grin. Initially, Rose brushes it off, but as the days pass, she finds herself haunted by the same visions as her former patient. She confides in her fiancé Trevor who doesn’t believe her. Her ex-boyfriend Joel, however, is convinced after they discover a horrific pattern of suicides and murders stemming from Laura. Easily one of the biggest events of Fantastic Fest this year, the premiere of Smile is one that does not live up to the hype. While very little is “wrong” with the film, there is a distinct emptiness to it that is hard to shake as it explores its premise. Sosie Bacon’s lead performance is fantastic, the camerawork is exciting and aligns perfectly for the scare sequences, and its concept is electric. Unfortunately, its bloated storyline, reliance on cheap tropes, and pacing issues make it hard to invest in this modern curse film. Regardless, plenty are finding reasons to Smile about this film as it soars to the Box Office and in audience scores, so feel free to ignore this vignette.


Full Review: See Here

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22. The Offering (Director: Oliver Park; United States)

Art visits his estranged father at his childhood home in the city with his wife, Claire. Unbeknownst to Claire, Art has re-financed their home and is desperate to get his father to sign over his home as collateral so they can keep theirs. He’s even willing to reconcile with his father after freezing him out when his mother died. The corpse of a recently deceased widower complicates things as it is possessed by a very powerful demon named Abyzou. Once freed, this demon will stop at nothing to get what it wants: Art and Claire’s unborn child. Perhaps more exciting in premise than actuality, this Jewish horror film examines the effects of its central demon in an interesting manner. The crumbling family unit works as an excellent for Abyzou to work her terrible magic and offers plenty of opportunities to discuss forgiveness and the lengths families will go for each other. Beautiful set design and a consistently dark atmosphere makes this chiller particularly haunting and effective. Art works as a frustrating protagonist that makes all the wrong decisions in saving his family but that is what is so compelling about him. The humanity of his imperfection and his failures as a husband and son make it so you want him to take initiative and be better. This quiet haunted house film is perfect viewing material for a dark and stormy night, so keep an eye out to see if any of your local theaters are offering it next January.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here



21. Blood Flower (Director: Dain Said; Malaysia)

Iqbal is not like other kids, and that frustrates him. Both he and his mother possess special gifts that allow them to fight demons and free humans from their terrifying grasp. His training is halted, however, when a particularly nasty djinn possesses him, and his mother makes the ultimate sacrifice to save him. In the fallout, his father binds his powers to save him the torment of his mother’s fate. Unfortunately, Iqbal’s friends set free a powerful force from one of their father’s greenhouses setting forth a chain reaction of deaths and possessions. Iqbal must convince his father to let him fight the entity before it takes everyone that he loves away from him. There is something so simple about this tale of demonic possession that makes it so easy to enjoy. Leaning into the typical Southeast Asian horror tropes, Blood Flower is nothing new but that doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable horror romp. While its visual effects may not be the most impressive, the vision behind its imagery certainly is one to celebrate. The world building in this Malay feature paints a disturbing picture with dark implications for the real world and spiritual one as well. It doesn’t hurt that the child actors are solid, with the lead being exceptional in this heavy role. If anything else the title Blood Flower should have you hooked and aching to see what’s in store for you.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



20. The Elderly (Director: Raúl Cerezo, Fernando González Gómez; Spain)

Spain is experiencing the hottest summer on record. As the heat wave intensifies, the senior citizens of one city begin to behave strangely. What is written off as the result of old age slowly turns into something more sinister when they exhibit more antisocial and violent behavior. After her grandmother dies by suicide, Naia watches out for her grandfather with deep ferocity and love. Her father, Mario, wants to do right by his father but is not equipped to help him all the while his wife, Lena, is both irritated and afraid of him. Things heat up even more when he declares that he is going to kill them all tomorrow. Simmering until it’s electrifying climax, The Elderly takes a deliberate approach to its horrific sci-fi horror story. While its story is relatively simple, this Spanish oddity takes its time developing its central family to examine the very real horrors of family breakdowns and the place of elders in society. There are equal amounts of horror dedicated to the treatment of the grandfather at the hands of society and his own family as there is to the inevitable blood-soaked finale. While it doesn’t explore all its ideas effectively, The Elderly is a solid horror film that ratchets up tension the old-fashioned way.

Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?

19. Attachment (Director: Gabriel Bier Gislason; Denmark)

Maja is running late to work as a character actor in a children’s library when she literally runs into Leah, a Jewish PhD student from London. The two hit it off quickly and spend the remainder of Leah’s days inside Maja’s apartment. An unusual seizure prompts Leah to return home but they both agree Maja should join her. They settle in and Maja meets Leah’s mother, Chana, a fussy and overprotective woman. Through a series of terrifying events, Maja learns why Chana holds such a protective hand above her daughter. Following the recent trend of films subverting expectations with a first act tone shift, Attachment takes an adorable meet cute and ends with a haunting sacrifice. Told through the point of view of fish out of water, Maja, Attachment explores the intersection of culture shock and alienation while asking how far you are willing to go for love. The dynamics at play elevate the more familiar ideas to something truly special. Chana represents the stereotypical Jewish mother: overbearing and invasive while diving deeper to explore her specific motivations that lead her to her attentiveness. Great performances across the board and a truly heart wrenching ending make it easy to get an Attachment to this romance horror.

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18. Piggy (Director: Carlota Pereda; Spain)

Bullied relentlessly about her weight by a group of popular girls at school, Sara wants nothing more than to disappear into the background. Her family doesn’t know about the constant abuse, and her mother makes matters worse with her overbearing behavior. All this changes after Sara is the victim of yet another cruel prank by the crew, but this time things take a more violent turn when Sara witnesses the group getting kidnapped by a man. Infuriated at their vicious treatment of her and scared that the killer might retaliate should she do anything, Sara opts for silence despite the town’s ever-growing anxiety about the girl’s whereabouts. Sara must decide soon: turn in the one person who has shown her kindness or let innocent, but terrible, people die. A slasher focused on centering an atypical protagonist, Piggy cuts through the normal markings of a slasher from on by placing the fate of its victims in the hands of a bystander. This dynamic adds an element of danger and mystery as Sara works through the difficult decision. It does lose sight of its novel idea the longer Sara contends with her indecision buckles under the pressure of the town’s suspicion is direct at her. Typical themes of forgiveness and strength are projected when she finally does face her bullies and captor. Regardless, Piggy is a mostly refreshing take on serial killers that is still appropriately tender towards its complex protagonist.

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Where to Watch: See Here

17. A Wounded Fawn (Director: Travis Stevens; United States)

Meredith is excited to spend a weekend away with a new man she met, Bruce. She doesn’t know much about him, but she looks forward to learning more about him. Besides his charm, she knows he is a great cook, lost both of his parents, and is a purveyor of great art. As their evening goes on, Meredith finds herself experiencing a series of unsettling experiences that she cannot explain. When she shares her fears that something might not be right with the cabin, Bruce gets agitated. While she is dead set that the cabin is haunted, she is unaware that Bruce’s anger stems from the fact that he is a serial killer, hoping to end the evening with his favorite part of the ritual. Hallucinatory horror that focuses on gender-based violence and visceral imagery, A Wounded Fawn flips the script of a slasher making the hunter, the hunted. Dripping in its own twisted humor, this indie gem revels in the breakdown of its insidious antagonist. Juxtaposing Greek allegories against its setting of backwoods horror, the predation of women by mentally unwell and deeply misogynistic men is explored in exciting and provocative ways. Both leads do exceptionally well in their roles, but Josh Ruben gives a deliciously unhinged performance that forced him to reach new depths of terror. Its humor doesn’t always land but A Wounded Fawn is still trippy film with a gleeful amount of gory set pieces.

Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?


16. 12 Days of Terror (Director: Jack Sholder; South Africa)

For two weeks the Jersey shore was terrorized by a great white shark in July 1916. 12 Days of Terror follows a lifeguard at a swanky resort who witnesses a terrifying shark attack on a young man. After he rescues the barely breathing youth, the lifeguard shares what he saw. Unfortunately, the resort owner and mayor refuse to believe him that a shark was to blame. Even still, they posit that a shark attack would be a one-off experience as they never get so close to their shore. While Alex can’t force them to listen, the bodies piling up on shore might change the tune of the public to one of outrage. A period shark film that takes its content seriously. In this subgenre, this is difficult to find and it’s exciting to see that this underseen gem managed to craft a tense tale steeped in history. Obviously, it takes its liberties, but it proves to be a competent film that is easy to watch. It won’t set the world on fire, but it is certainly worth checking out for fans of sharkspolitation. 12 Days of Terror is the TV shark horror film we all hope we stumble upon when taking chances flipping through streaming apps, so dive into this one the next time you see it pop up on your screen.


Full Review: N/A

Where to Watch: See Here



15. Year of the Shark (Director: Ludovic Boukjerma, Zoran Boukherma; France)


Maja is days away from retiring after a long yet boring career as a small beach town police officer. Right as she signs the paperwork to get everything in order, she experiences something that alters her course. After assisting two German tourists with their boat problems, Maja realizes that there is a shark in La Pointe. She not only faces local opposition to the idea of closing down the beaches, namely due to the recent devastation COVID-19 had on the economy the year prior, she also faces internal pressure from her boss and husband to retire. Maja is steadfast in her decision to prioritize the safety of her city, even if it’s the last thing she’ll do. More reserved than expected from a horror comedy, Year of the Shark is an engrossing take on government inefficiency and public hysteria in relation to COVID-19. Stoic leading woman Maja makes for a wonderful change of pace in her stern yet compassionate demeanor. Rarely do horror films feature older women with so much agency and nuance, but Year of the Shark allows for Maja to make mistakes, have flaws, and grow over the course of months. Its use of practical effects for the shark itself is another marvel of the film and is heavily featured in a beautifully terrifying final confrontation. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but there is no better shark film from the last three years to sink your teeth into than Year of the Shark.

Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here

14. Holy Spider (Director: Ali Abbasi; Denmark/Germany/Sweden/France)

Journeying to the holy city of Mashhad, Rahimi, hopes to uncover the reason why so many sex workers end up missing or dead at the hands of a serial killer. She meets with reporters and police but has trouble finding anyone to take her seriously. Thankfully, she finds an ally in the reluctant Sharifi, who is in contact with a man who claims to be the Spider Killer. The pair follow the clues to apprehend the killer when it is clear that the police find the entire process as waste of time and resources. This leads Rahimi to face against the killer alone. Based on real events, Holy Spider is a continual gut punch to reality as it details the horrors of religious fundamentalism. Zar Amir Ebrahimi leads with steely confidence and is foiled by the deeply disturbed Mehdi Bajestani anchored by his deceptive mundanity. Terror turns into a dark meditation on society’s view on women as people come out of the woodwork to support the Spider Killer once his motivations are revealed. From government and church officials to supportive housewives, there are few people that escape criticism unscathed. While the actual moments of horror are scant, the implications are far more horrifying in Holy Spider which allows it to be a genre bending serial killer thriller with grit.

Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here

13. Terrifier 2 (Director: Damien Leone; United States)

Resurrected shortly after his original killing spree, Art the Clown takes no time before seeking out new victims. He does, however, take a year long hiatus shortly thereafter. In his return, he has become hellbent on stalking Sienna, a young woman whose father’s death affected her greatly and may reveal some clues towards her recent nightmares involving Art. At least her troubled younger brother Jonathan believes there is some connection between their family and Art. Sienna disregards him and decides to attend a Halloween party with her friends, while Jonathan stays at home with their mother. This makes both of them easy targets for Art as he starts slicing his way through the town. Bigger, badder, and meaner than ever, Art graces the big screen with his relentless cruelty and terror. And audiences get exactly what they deserve! This slasher merges nostalgia for 80s slashers while carving a path for a new icon to emerge. Sienna is an electrifying final girl with enough depth to cheer for and watch as she fights to save her brother. Much of this is due to Lauren LaVera’s performance. The true star, however, is David Howard Thornton who continues to craft Art as a memorable and fearful antagonist. A slasher is nothing without its ability to kill its cast off creatively and Terrifier 2 boasts some legendary sequences that are sure to satisfy gore hounds. Know what you’re getting into and Terrifier 2 is a safe bet for the sickest film you’ll watch this Halloween.

Full Review: See Here

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12. V/H/S/99 (Director: Maggie Levin, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, Tyler MacIntyre, Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter; United States)

Five more entries in the V/H/S series are pulled from the archives of 1999. Four teens sneak into an abandoned concert venue where a stampede of music lovers stampeded an all girl punk band to escape from a fire. Cruel sorority sisters force a prospective new member to partake in a terrifying hazing experience. The vindictive family of a former reality tv show contestant take their pain out on the host. Teenage boys get more than they bargained for when the woman they are peeping on catches them in the act. Two documentarians tasked with recording a Y2K sacrifice on New Year’s Eve are put through hell. One of the most cohesive and unexpected entries in the series, V/H/S/99 is a fun and light-hearted anthology film in a franchise known for being downbeat. The deviation works, as the shorts in this feature are devilishly twisted all the same. Aside from one stinker, the grating punk rock opener “Shredding”, all entries are entertaining in their own right. Twisty “Ozzy’s Dungeon” and triumphant closer “To Hell and Back” are the clear standouts here, both offering plenty of bizarre imagery and fresh material. Fans of the franchise will get exactly what they need from the fifth film in the series and newcomers will find at least one short exhilarating enough to return. Go on and pop this bad boy in your vhs player and enjoy a delightful throwback to 90s horror.


Full Review: See Here

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11. Huesera (Director: Michelle Garza Ververa; Mexico)

Valeria is excited when she discovers that she is pregnant with her husband Raul. Overjoyed, the duo begin preparing for their baby. As Valeria progresses, she finds herself struggling to maintain that initial joy while she contends with the realities of motherhood and finds that something isn’t quite right. A chance encounter with an old flame Octavia reignites feelings Valeria thought were long buried. Things get even more complicated when Valeria starts taking on the roles associated with motherhood in her family, like babysitting and crib assembly. Her experiences only worsen in severity and frequency before she decides she must do something about it. Slow burn pregnancy horror with plenty to say about modern society’s view on women and mothers, Huesera is an eerie, bone cracking supernatural horror film with depth. Natalia Solián gives an impressive performance as the flawed yet compelling Valeria. Writer and director Michelle Garza Cervera crafts an impressive debut feature balancing the sheer terror of Valeria’s situation with the darkness of her personal journey to autonomy and self-determination. Huesera will not be for everyone but for those patient enough to stick with it, they will find it to be as possessing as one could hope for.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



10. Swallowed (Director: Carter Smith; United States)

Best friends Benjamin and Dom are celebrating Benjamin’s successful breakout in the adult film industry. Before he is meant to fly out for Los Angeles, Dom takes him on a quick errand for some going away cash meant as a gift for his new life. They meet Alice who forces them to ingest unknown drugs carefully wrapped in little baggies to smuggle across the border. Once across, one of the bags ruptures in Dom’s stomach and Alice rushes the duo to her family cabin so they can extract the rest. Things turn violent when Alice’s boss, Rich, swings by to take over the operation himself. A true triumph of DIY horror, Swallowed is a tense little horror drama anchored by solid performances and a tight script. Centering gay characters in a truly unique situation while giving them the ability to subvert stereotypes and expectations, Swallowed makes for an impressive indie venture. Strong performances from the film’s cast, seasoned and novice alike, allow the drama to seductively pulsate until the daring finale. Horror fans seeking out LGBTQ representation or are otherwise looking for a grimy and unsettling feature should look no further. Where else are you going to find a horror film featuring a pivotal plot point involving fisting that is as good as Swallowed?


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



9. Blood Relatives (Director: Noah Segan; United States)

Francis has lived most of his life on the road after being turned into a vampire by the Nazis in World War II. After leaving behind his family and old life, he makes his way to America where he meanders through existence from one town to the next. Along the way he runs into Jane at a run-down motel in Oklahoma. She confides in him that he got her mother pregnant after sleeping with her sixteen years ago. The revelations of father-dom don’t shake him, but Francis feels compelled to drop Jane off at her last remaining relative’s home in Nebraska. It also helps that she can walk during the day, a convenience that saves his skin a few times. Will they get closer together after decades apart or will they let their relationship die before it has a chance to blossom? The biggest surprise out of Fantastic Fest, Blood Relatives is a saccharine sweet vampire road trip, family bonding comedy that no one saw coming. From its distinct sense of humor and strong characterization, this Shudder original wins on its heart more than its horror. Although it does have a few wildly fun sequences, it is a rather tame journey. Nothing sucks worse than a bad vampire film, and thankfully Blood Relatives lives up to expectations and more.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



8. Spoonful of Sugar (Director: Mercedes Bryce Morgan; United States)

The excitement of a new job has emboldened Millicent to interview with Rebecca who is searching for a babysitter for her son, Johnny. Johnny has a litany of severe allergies that require special care along with a series of behavioral issues. Millicent wins over Rebecca when she coaxes Johnny to communicate with seemingly little effort. Overjoyed, Millicent celebrates her victory by allowing herself to fantasize about Johnny’s father, Jacob. That isn’t the only secret Millicent intends to keep, as her intentions aren’t as pure as they appear. Another unexpected gem out of Fantastic Fest, and another one picked up by Shudder, is this trippy little film. Nothing in Spoonful of Sugar is what it seems, and there is plenty of disturbing and bizarre imagery to keep the most seasoned of horror fan entertained. Anchored by a delightfully twisty narrative and a fantastically unhinged cast, this indie gem subverts expectations by telling a layered story with plenty of meat to digest through its short runtime. Morgan Saylor’s devilish take on Millicent is easily the film’s strongest selling point, which is saying something considering its fantastic editing and design. It may be scary to take a chance on an unknown film like this one, but I promise you that it will taste amazing once you finally have a Spoonful of Sugar.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



7. Deep Fear (Director: Grégory Beghin; France)

It’s 1991 in the city of Paris and former classmates Sonia, Henry, and Max are looking for something to do for the boy’s final days in the city. Sonia enlists the help of a fling, Ramy, for something truly exciting. He takes the group on a secret tour of the Catacombs. Their simple trip is intruded upon by a small gang of skinheads which diverts the group away from their planned exit. They meet up with some other adventurers who have finally broken through to an unexplored section of the tunnels, to which the frazzled students reluctantly join them in exploring. Sometimes, all you need for a great evening is a good ole fashioned monster movie set in a uniquely creepy place. Deep Fear does all of this and more with its 1990s Parisian catacombs set shocker. This grimy underground horror thriller doesn’t have much in terms of plot, characters, or substance, but it makes up for this with top notch scares and atmosphere. Deep Fear is 80 minutes of pure fun and fear, as it pushes its characters to the absolute limit of what one could possibly endure in one of the worst planned trips these tunnels have ever seen. Appreciate Deep Fear for what it is and there is no depth to the enjoyment you will receive.


Full Review: See Here

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6. Evil Eye (Director: Isaac Ezban; Mexico)

Nala travels with her family to her grandmother Josefa’s house deep in the forest to search for a cure for her younger sister Luna’s debilitating health condition. Once there, her mother and father leave their daughters to seek out more answers. Their absence allows Josefa’s true colors to show which forces Nala to believe that the stories about witches Josefa’s assistant Abigail tells them are true. Nala is dead set on her grandmother being a witch, and she knows that she has to do everything she can to protect herself and her sister. The darkest of fairy tales with some of the hardest lessons to learn, this Mexican folk horror is a sinister entry in the witch subgenre of horror. Between its dazzling imagery and fantastic sense of dread, Evil Eye knows how to unnerve and frighten its viewers. Combine that with an exceptional performance from the incredibly talented Paola Miguel, and this Spanish language film is a knockout. While it still touts all the conventions of a typical supernatural horror film, its commitment to Nala’s character development is unmatched. She is given the chance to truly shine in her darkest hours and make the mistakes kids would make if they ever found themselves in a similar predicament. Don’t look away when Evil Eye wanders into theaters near you next year.


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5. Satanic Hispanics (Director: Alejandro Brugués, Mike Mendes, Demian Rugna, Eduardo Sanchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero; United States)

Five tales of horror are connected after a mysterious man named The Traveler is taken into custody following a massacre. Stuck in his family home, a man discovers a ritual that opens portals to another realm. It’s minutes before the sun is meant to rise and a vampire out in a killing spree must race home before the morning light burns him alive. Deep in a remote rainforest, a man hiding out finds himself victim of a terrifying force. A man must free himself and avenge his friends from the wrath of demons with help from an ancient artifact. Finally, The Traveler faces off with Death himself. Quite possibly the best midnight movie I have ever attended, Satanic Hispanics succeeds in being the most consistent and entertaining horror anthology of recent years. While lighter on the scarier side of horror, this team effort manages to balance the fun and terror of a variety of cultural stories that are near and dear to the hearts of its filmmakers. As cohesive as it is celebratory, there is so much to enjoy in every short. While all impressive, “The Hammer of Zanzibar” is the clear winner in terms of humor and horror. Not only is it impressive that each short radiates greatness, but also its wraparound segment featuring a charismatic Efren Ramirez, manages to captivate where many framing segments fail in other anthologies. Whether you are bursting with Latino pride or itching for more something light and fun, Satanic Hispanics has got you covered.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



4. Flowing (Director: Paolo Strippoli; Italy/Belgium)

Trauma has a tricky way of infecting everyday life for everyday people. That’s what happens to one family. Thomas’ wife Cristina dies in a car accident thanks to a poor decision from their careless son Enrico. Additionally, his daughter Barbara is left paralyzed from the fallout adding to the lingering pain of the incident. Their family is still reeling from the accident when a mysterious gas starts rising from the city’s sewers. Its properties are unknown and by the time it’s discovered to elicit feelings of primal aggression prompting people to murder, maim, and self-destruct, it’s far too late. With its unique premise and structure, Flowing tells a cautionary tale about unaddressed rage, guilt, and shame ripping through family structures. While its themes are well-trodden in horror, the messaging is more hopeful than one might expect from something so apocalyptic. Rarely does a film move me to tears, but Flowing manages to do so twice. It truly is a frustrating, effective, and human horror film, which makes it so beautifully horrific. A different kind of social horror film is Flowing through this Italian gem and you should make it a priority to check it out once it comes Stateside in the coming months.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here



3. Project Wolf Hunting (Director: Hong-seon Kim; South Korea)

After an unsuccessful suicide bomb attempt threatens to kill them before they are imprisoned, a group of 57 prisoners are taken to a cargo ship for transport from the Philippines to South Korea, their home country. Onboard is the ship’s crew and over 20 police officers. All seems to be going well until they hit international waters. Due to his own ingenuity, one of the prisoners manages to escape, and, with the help of some friends in on the job, starts a riot onboard. The prisoners begin slaughtering everyone that stands in their way of freedom. Their excitement fades when they realize they are not alone on the vessel. From the beginning, this action-horror-science fiction hybrid film starts strong and refuses to let up until the bitter end. Filled with pulse-pounding action sequences, Project Wolf Hunting masters the genre shift multiple times making it unpredictable and dynamic amongst the constant slaughter. Thin in terms of true plot and character development, this Korean film capitalizes on its extreme violence to make a fun splatter film that isn’t made to be taken super seriously. Fans of dynamic action horror and gore hounds in general will find much to adore in this prison break horror at sea.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here



2. Sick (Director: John Hyams; United States)

It’s April of 2020 and the world is gripped in fear over the developing COVID-19 pandemic. Friends Parker and Miri steal away to Parker’s remote family cabin deep in the woods. There they unwind and enjoy their quarantine after being released from school. An unexpected visitor in DJ changes their plans, as his attempts to woo Parker into a relationship go unreciprocated. Their quiet yet odd evening is interrupted when they are viciously attacked by a masked intruder. With all lines of communication destroyed, they must rely on each other to stay alive and evade the torment of the faceless killer. Sick is going to make a lot of people angry, which makes it awesome. COVID-19 angst is front and center in this slick slasher, and everyone is eviscerated all the same. It’s pretty easy to tell what motivations might arise from a pandemic themed slasher film, but director John Hyams and writer Kevin Williamson aren’t here to strictly moralize. Instead, the film serves as an opportunity for all the pent-up anger and frustration to get laid out bare. Magnificently tense suspense sequences and a unique structure allow Sick to differentiate itself from the bevy of slasher films released every year.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: Wide Release TBD?



1. The Menu (Director: Mark Mylod; United States)

Margot is invited to an exclusive and expensive dinner on a remote island by Tyler a food lover. Among the VIPs are food critics, celebrities, and other wealthy regulars who enjoy the fine dining experience mixed with experimental cuisines. They arrive to the island and are introduced to the disciplined crew and their illustrious head chef. This dinner, however, is no ordinary dinner. As the evening progresses, the dinner guests find themselves at the mercy of the increasingly disturbing courses and the staff that is determined to execute the best dinner ever. Easily the highlight of the festival, The Menu is a sharp-witted and stunningly tense horror satire that cuts deep into elitism and faux-intellectualism. Focusing on the horror of losing passion behind art and the commodification required by society, The Menu lambasts those who uphold those power structures and participate in them. Between its startling imagery and unsettling implications, this film holds up a mirror to viewers to allow them clarity in how they too might be a part of the problem. Featuring a star-studded cast, especially the captivating Anya Taylor-Joy and ferocious Ralph Fiennes, The Menu sears brightly through its fiery finale to give one of the best horror comedies of recent years.


Full Review: See Here

Where to Watch: See Here



Final Words on Festival:


It’s always fun to align my expectations with what actually ends up happening in the festival. For example, Flowing was very low on my radar before attending and ended up coming through as one of my favorite films. On the flipside, Disappear Completely was among my most anticipated, which makes my theatrical experience with it rather underwhelming. Regardless, it is wonderful to say that I did not watch a single bad film throughout this week. There are a few that did not engage me, but for 27 movies that is a spectacular average. I can’t wait for next year!

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