Festival season continues its steady momentum of exciting new horror movies this week at Fantastic Fest 2018. Held in Austin, Texas, Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the United States, which if you want a sneak peek of upcoming horror films sure to delight and shock, you pay attention to Fantastic Fest.
In Fantastic Fest’s own words, “The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers. We are committed to supporting film in its most provocative, ground-breaking and lesser-known forms and giving the audience a chance to find new favorites and future genre classics.”
In the past, Fantastic Fest has screened horror films such as Zombieland, Split, Dark Song, The Void, The Witch, We Are What We Are, It Follows, The Babadook, and Sinister. Last year, Fantastic Fest screened The Endless, Gerald’s Game, and Revenge, among others.
Essentially, Fantastic Fest is legit. And the list of horror films is long! There are 31 horror films total at Fantastic Fest! (It’s a sign!)
Even better, this year’s Fantastic Fest seems especially committed to showcasing horror films from all over the world–Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Tunisia, to be exact. For horror fans like me, the chance to learn about new foreign horror is thrilling, especially when mainstream American horror fails to deliver.
Without further adieu, let’s check out what Fantastic Fest has to offer!
“Thomas may hate his father, but his love for his sister Jennifer has never wavered. Upon learning that she’s been kidnapped for ransom, Thomas finally returns home to face his father. Finding him too broken to handle the situation, he makes his way to the remote island of Erisden. The island is home to a mysterious cult that worships “the Goddess” of the land who speaks to them through Her chosen prophet, Malcolm. But before boarding the boat, Thomas switches his ticket with another man: an instinctive move that allows him to arrive undetected and stay in hiding.
Upon arrival in Erisden, Thomas finds a pseudo-socialist society, a place that supposedly advocates freedom and equality, with no currency and shared work. But as with all communities, it’s poisoned by the all-too-human instincts of greed, envy, and lust for power, failings that are spreading like a cancer. It’s that very cancer that makes Erisden such a dangerous place and threatens its very existence. While Thomas carefully searches this cesspool for his sister, Malcolm and his cohorts search for Thomas in a tantalizing cat and mouse game with devastating consequences.”
“BLOOD LAKE is the most fascinating — and stupefying — horror movie that ever escaped from 1987. Like SLEDGEHAMMER before it, this movie documents a group of unhinged party animals as they embark on a weekend trip filled with Jet Skis, a keg of Busch, and an extended game of quarters. But look out! There’s a supernatural killer on the loose who wears cowboy boots and a silk shirt with a rose stitched on it! The motive for the gory killings? Real estate debt. Yes, you read that right — people are being murdered because someone has anxiety about their unpaid bills. And then there’s Lil’ Tony, played by Travis Krasser. Lil’ Tony is an adolescent horn-dog with a 12” mullet. Whenever he speaks (“I choose you as my sex partner!”), you’ll wish you were smoking weed on a paddle boat with him, just like in the movie!”
“Evan Cole has a seemingly perfect life: a loving wife, a healthy baby boy, and a meaningful job as a social worker for troubled teens. But Evan has a secret — he violently tortures and kills those who lack his wholesome family values, specifically the family members causing problems for his patients. He hides his compulsion from his wife and son, but concealing his true nature from his overbearing, ever-present mother is harder.
For a while, things work out quite conveniently for Evan. A sleek white mansion sits empty and available for Evan’s murderous rendezvous, his students’ problematic family members make themselves easily accessible and readily disposable, and his wife exhibits unending patience for his recurring late-night drives, never questioning her husband’s actions… until an observant detective catches a pattern in the killings that leads him to Evan’s doorstep.”
“When a border guard with a sixth sense for identifying smugglers encounters the first person she cannot prove is guilty, she is forced to confront terrifying revelations about herself and humankind.”
“Consistent provocateur Gaspar Noé outdoes himself with his latest feature CLIMAX, a trippy horror-musical featuring twenty sensuous dancers partying hard and living their best lives, until a bad batch of sangria plunges them into insanity.”
“Come for Tunisia’s first horror film, following three students’ filmed investigation of weird rumors in a remote village, and stay for the sickening madness, macabre witchcraft, ghastly beheadings, and gory cannibalism.
Tunisia, modern day. Death seems a constant companion to Yasmin; her parents are dead, her grandfather ritually embalms those who passed, and she is plagued by nightmares of a woman in black. But she’s not one to shy away from a challenge.
Two university classmates, Walid and Bilel, are given the assignment to produce an exclusive investigation report for their year-end assignment. Bilel suggests Mongia, a suspected witch found naked and mutilated by the highway 25 years ago. While it’s a cold case now, Bilel has access to the asylum where she’s kept. Following a harrowing meeting with her, they pinpoint where she was discovered and make their way into a remote forest. There, they discover an isolated archaic village filled with mute women, one pigeon-eating child, chunks of hanging meat, and an impressive amount of goats. Something’s very not right. Once the overly sympathetic cult leader forces them to stay the night, the friends quickly realize the danger is real, it links to Yasmin’s past, and that they may not make it out alive.”
“DEADLY GAMES (3615 CODE PÈRE NOËL) is the terror version of HOME ALONE. A 9-year old kid in his house, tormented by a demented Santa Claus, fights for his survival by setting traps. Christmas will never be the same again.”
“DEADWAX delivers a creepy and stylish tale of Etta (Hannah Gross, MINDHUNTER), a young woman who works as a scavenger of scarce records for rich clientele. She’s got a gift for tracking down the rarest of the rare, even if it involves a little breaking and entering. Her most recent score includes an especially unusual piece, legendary in collectors’ circles: a “key” record from master sound engineer Lyle M. Lytton, and one of only three in existence. She sells it off to one of her usual high bidders, but her curiosity goes into overdrive when the police discover that one of these records — identified by its strange, ominous marks in the space between the grooves and the label, also known as the “deadwax” — is linked to the death of another record collector. That gruesome demise puts the law and Etta on the same track, trying to unwind the mystery behind these wicked acetates.”
“After winning a competition, a women’s volleyball team heads home aboard their minibus. Forced to take a shortcut, they end up at a tavern where they upset the local degenerate rednecks… and then the hunt begins.
To be honest, the story doesn’t have an ounce of originality: a bus driver (the coach, in our case) is forced to take a short cut and our protagonists end up at a small tavern where they very quickly piss off the locals. And then, of course, the hunt starts. But what director Olivier Afonso has done brilliantly is add wicked, bitchy humor to our characters, along with picking at the cracks in the group’s solidarity before the hunt even starts. Albeit a team, our players grapple with the pressure to win, with career opportunities, and with jealousy.”
“Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode, who comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.”
“Somewhere in an unnamed country, “She,” a mysterious and enigmatic figure, leads a religious cult. Through strict rules and even stricter hierarchy she ensures that her flock never strays from the path of righteousness, and those who even dare to suggest anything out of the ordinary are punished without mercy.
However, a series of events start to corrupt the very fabric of their reality; doubt starts to set in for some of the members, and the arrival of a mysterious outsider sets She and her followers on a path of collision from which no one will emerge unscathed.”
“Sheila, a bank manager and single mother, decides to dip her feet into online dating. But first she must find the perfect dress for the occasion. She begins her search in an expansive ‘70s-era department store run by carefully manicured employees who dote on their clientele with a peculiar brand of verbose, enigmatic hospitality. Immediately, she is drawn to a glamorous red dress that miraculously fits her like a glove.
Initially her new dress seems like a good luck charm, but much like similar icons in horror films past, this one harbors mysterious powers and refuses to be disposed of. Sheila’s story is just the beginning of the garment’s dark journey where nothing good happens to the women who stumble across it.
But where did the dress come from and what is going on behind the scenes of this strange department store? What’s with the hypnotic television advertisements, and why do women seem compelled to wait eagerly outside the store each morning? Why are the employees dressed in head-to-toe black, and why do they only spout incoherent musings about beauty and perfection? Why are there whispers echoing throughout the store, and is that moaning coming from the mannequins?”
“Anne (the always great Vanessa Paradis) is at her wits’ end. Not only is her long-term relationship with her lover and editor Lois (Kate Moran) over, but now someone is murdering her actors. An unknown masked killer is laying siege to her low-budget gay porn production company, and while she hasn’t a clue why, she can at least make the best of a bad situation and bend the situation into the plot of her newest film, HOMO-CIDE. But as the killings continue, her employees go into hiding, sending Anne on a quest to investigate the motives and history of the monster who strikes from the shadows.”
“Taxi driver Luz enters a brightly lit but mostly deserted police station at night. Simultaneously, Nora is at a local bar attempting to seduce psychotherapist Dr. Rossini, telling the story of how her girlfriend jumped out of a moving taxi. As the conversation and sexual tension swells, Nora shares not only her connection to Luz, but the dark secrets of their past, making it increasingly clear that something evil is stalking Luz. It’s when we return to Luz’s interrogation that things quickly spiral out of control into a menacing and oftimes surreal series of events.”
“Easily one of the nastiest slasher films the horror subgenre has ever seen, grindhouse auteur Bill Lustig’s MANIAC took a notably inner-city approach to its murderous narrative revolving around a sweaty hulk (pock-faced character actor icon Joe Spinell) who begins collecting pretty women’s scalps as trophies in Times Square. The 4K restoration of grindhouse auteur Bill Lustig’s 1980 slasher landmark features splatter SFX artist Tom Savini’s gnarliest work, as well as one of horror’s finest, sweatiest performances from legendary character actor/co-writer Joe Spinell.”
“At her father’s deathbed, Alfie learns that she and her family must give the Devil his due when he comes to collect on the pact made years before in this electrifying horror film from Indonesian master storyteller Timo Tjahjanto.”
“MURDER ME, MONSTER starts off strong and keeps you riveted, featuring a close-up of a slashed throat as the victim desperately tries to keep the head attached to the neck. We are in rural Argentina, lost somewhere in the Andes Mountains, and there’s a serial killer on the loose… apparently. Inspector Cruz is called by the police force to investigate the series of murders exacted in spectacular ways and only on women, with the head always missing. The main suspect is David, the husband of Cruz’s lover Francisca, who claims a “monster” did it and is communicating with him telepathically, repeating over and over again, ‘“Die, monster, die.” Though Cruz is skeptical, the clues keep adding up: green goo and overgrown teeth found near the victims. He’s not sure anymore what’s real and what‘s supernatural. Could there really be a monster on the loose?”
“Stênio can’t catch a break. At home, his wife berates him constantly, showing open disdain for him, his hopes of financial stability, and the smell he carries home from his job. At work in the morgue, things are busy and the paramedics don’t pass up any opportunities to pull pranks on him, spoiling what little time he might get to himself. If that weren’t enough, he can’t get the recently departed to shut up.
One day while talking with a newly dead acquaintance, Stênio learns a startling bit of information. Angered by what he has discovered and armed with a city’s worth of dead men’s secrets, Stênio chooses to use his forbidden knowledge for vengeance. This sets off a series of events that will threaten to destroy Stênio and his family.”
“A filmmaker sets out to shoot a zombie film in an abandoned factory, but something is lurking on the outside. Is it a zombie apocalypse or just another shoot gone wrong?
Dad is a director hoping for a project that will put him on the map, Mom’s an actress whose career was cut short by a debilitating illness, and the daughter is only paying attention to her father’s work because he might cast her favorite actor as one of the leads. But they’ll come together when Dad is offered a one cut zombie film that will be broadcast live on TV. It’s a situation ripe for chaos, mayhem, and good laughs as the family joins forces to avoid a public disaster.”
“Mary (Vanessa Grasse of LEATHERFACE) has a criminal background. She has done a short stint in the slammer for setting her serial killer boyfriend on fire, a fact she’s not afraid to let people know, especially any creeps that come her way. She is being hounded by her parole officer, but despite having a few unsettling premonitions, Mary gets a break and is hired at a low-rent, all-night convenience store in the middle of nowhere.
After being given the quick rundown by the current cashier Bobby (Brendan Fletcher of RAMPAGE and FREDDY VS JASON), Mary’s left alone to fend for herself on a damp, ugly night. She’s then visited by a few manifestations and a bevy of gas station regulars. As the rain falls, things go off the rails in a serious way.”
“With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that’s crucial to the invasion’s success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen. From producer J.J. Abrams, Overlord is a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist.”
“A former cello prodigy (Allison Williams) seeks out both her mentor (Steven Weber) and his new star pupil (Logan Browning) with enigmatic intent in this twisty and undeniably twisted midnighter.
From an agonizingly uncomfortable incident on a slow bus through China to a nail-biting cello performance with vile stakes within a remote Massachusetts estate, both Browning and Williams remain fearless in their high-wire act performances, and effectively anchor the severe and relevant thematics that underlie the film’s ultimate trajectory with a bed of emotional integrity.
Divided into four movements, each adopting a distinct genre flavor from lurid erotic thriller to high anxiety body horror, Shepard consistently modulates the increasingly high-concept melodrama to maddeningly unpredictable crescendos, peeling back revelation after revelation before finally arriving at a shocking climax guaranteed to leave the audience gobsmacked.”
“Christopher Abbott (IT COMES AT NIGHT; JAMES WHITE; GIRLS) stars as Reed, a young businessman and first-time father looking for a way to relieve a little stress. When he finds himself inexplicably standing over his newborn baby with a knife, he realizes it’s time to come up with a new strategy. What follows is a journey that initially feels familiar — shady husband goes on a “business trip” and hires a prostitute — but all familiarity disappears when he unveils a meticulous, torture-filled plan to murder said prostitute. For context, all of this happens in the film’s first ten minutes. There are many more twists to come.”
“A girl. A mixtape. And Armageddon. A uniquely honest portrayal of loss as a young woman struggles with the death of her best friend while dealing with the horrific Lovecraftian end of the world, driven by a beautiful indie music soundtrack.”
“Proceeding with a detached and dryly hilarious severity reminiscent of Yorgos Lanthimos, STRIKE DEAR MISTRESS, AND CURE HIS HEART chiefly concerns the acidic reunion of a famous pianist (Mary Buss) and her estranged daughter (Audrey Wagner) within the uncanny corridors of a run-down Victorian hotel. As director Mickey Reece envelopes these characters in a pervasively unnerving atmosphere, rife with theatrical explosions of emotion and the discordant timbre of Nicholas Poss’s magnificently manic score, he also confidently weaves in a surreal parade of peculiar digressions that deliriously teeter from comic pantomime to tableaus of abject horror. The result is an offbeat and oft-chilling confluence of ingredients that’s guaranteed to simultaneously baffle, delight, and captivate those with an appetite for the strange and unusual.”
“A quiet street in a Buenos Aires neighborhood is disturbed by a series of mysterious and unsettling events. A woman hears hostile voices coming from the sink. Her husband is being driven crazy by his neighbor’s 5am remodeling projects. That neighbor — whom nobody has seen recently — has been desperately attempting to get in touch with a paranormal investigator to explain some disconcerting activity in his house. Across the street, a grieving mother makes her own horrific discovery prompting an investigation from a soon-to-retire detective known for his interest in the occult.”
“In the rural village of Tumbbad, young Vinayak has heard the stories of an ancient fortune held by his family for years, but is warned against attempting to attain the treasure lest he fall victim to the demon who guards it. He instead cares for his great-grandmother, a decrepit crone who must remain sated or her appetites might just claim them all. When she dies and he inherits the treasures housed inside a decaying estate, Vinayak discovers that they are not exactly what he expected, but instead an endless bounty protected by a vengeful and ravenous fallen god.
Years later, adult Vinayak (Sohum Shah) has learned to manipulate the god so he can sneak out his boundless fortune one coin at a time. However, it’s not enough, and soon a cycle of greed envelops his family. Their avarice threatens to destroy what he has built with the fortune stolen from the terrible creature that lives in the bowels of the castle, and soon enough he learns the terrible, violent secrets of Tumbbad.”
“In a makeshift orphanage forgotten by most, a group of children who just survived the Holocaust find themselves preyed upon by a pack of wolf dogs. Their fight for freedom has only just begun.
Adrian Panek’s second feature chews on tough questions about man-made monsters and civilization vs. wilderness. Once freed, our group of nameless children celebrate by stomping a rat to death in a dark communal ritual, evidence of how they have been shaped by the atrocities they’ve survived. Having been debased to the level of animals, how do they re-enter the “normal” world?
Through stark images, gorgeously shot landscapes, and amazing actors, the director forces us to confront the inevitability of horror, the gruesomeness of the survival instinct, and the battle to reclaim one’s humanity.”
“On the surface, prairie life in the late 1800s looks simple enough for Lizzy. She’s only expected to be a good wife, take care of the home, and have children. But something in those wide open plains is after her. Maybe it’s just the wind, maybe it’s an animal, maybe it’s something more sinister. Whatever it is, it’s slowly driving her mad. When a young woman appears on her doorstep, Lizzy feels she finally has someone to talk to and share her fears with. Soon, however, it becomes clear this new force in her life may not be a positive one.”
“THE WOLF HOUSE immediately establishes a sense of unease that gradually snowballs into an endless journey of existential dread…it’s seemingly a children’s story that recounts what happens to Maria who, as a punishment, is forced to spend a hundred days and hundred nights alone in a cabin in the woods.
To reveal more would take away from the breathtaking storytelling on display. Utilizing a wholly individual animation style, the co-directors construct a world of horror that feels like the kind of evil that we somehow suspect underpins our society, an unsettling human condition buried deep within our psyche.”
“Counselors are being killed off at summer camp, and Sam (Fran Kranz) is stuck in the middle of it. Instead of contacting the cops, he calls his friend and slasher-film expert, Chuck, (Alyson Hannigan) to discuss his options.”
“Chuck is well-versed in slasher movie tropes and leads Sam through all the necessary steps to survive the night while also helping him remember each step that has led to this point. Told from the perspective of the third act looking back upon the horrors and plot twists through flashback, it’s a full reversal of the beats one expects in this subgenre. Rather than endearing us to the characters slowly so we fear for their deaths, we’re shown their deaths almost immediately upon meeting them. Ultimately, instead of being about one-dimensional sexy teens meeting their demise, it’s about the joys of both the kill and the genre itself. Similarly, the film’s secrets are unveiled in an unexpected order: we learn the killer’s identity before we’re told who’s dead. But really, this reveal is just the start of the fun.”
Which Fantastic Fest movies do you want to see? Are you going to Fantastic Fest? If you have any news to report from Fantastic Fest, let me know in the comments!