Well, the virtual library on the Fantastic Fest @ Home is all shut down, the lights in the theatre are off (or on, I guess) and that means it’s a wrap on this year’s edition of Fantastic Fest, which your loyal BBP writers Jeffery ‘X’ Martin and Sachin Hingoo attended virtually for the first time. The festival was two weeks of thrilling and groundbreaking horror and off-the-wall bizarro cinema where I’m confident both of us saw some of our favourite movies of the year. In addition to our coverage so far, here’s some of the highlights from the lineup.
Something In The Dirt
SH: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are two of my favourite filmmakers right now, and their latest might be their most beautiful, intimate, and scary project yet. Produced in lockdown and proudly involving Benson and Moorhead’s friends, there’s no film this year that shows as much heart as this one, even when it’s dashing it on the floor. It’s about two strangers-turned-friends, played by Benson and Moorhead themselves, who discover an anomaly in their apartment building and set out to document it. There’s layers upon layers here, but Something in the Dirt is one of my favourite movies of the year, hands down.
JXM: I was sworn to secrecy about this movie, so I can’t talk about it the way I want to. Rest assured, I want to, and you will too, once you see it. It’s a mystery movie where the mystery isn’t the true focus of the film. Watching Benson and Moorhead flesh out their characters over time is a captivating experience. Something in the Dirt is a journey into weirdness that needs to be seen more than once.
SH: Tereza Nvotova’s Nightsiren struck me right away with it’s striking, neon-tinged aesthetic, but the story about the tightening grips of patriarchal customs and systems on women was more than compelling enough for me. Through a horror lens and with a heaping dose of witchcraft, Nightsiren delivered a powerful story in what was one of the most stunning experiences Fantastic Fest offered this year.
Give Me An A
SH: The fifteen short films that comprise the woman-led anthology Give Me An A, produced in the two months immediately following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, differ in tone and aesthetic and many other ways, but all seek to embody the horror of a world where women lose agency over their bodies. Nearly two dozen filmmakers – writers and directors – as well as a cast that includes Virginia Madsen, Alyssa Milano, Jennifer Holland, and Sean Gunn came together in record time to put this collection of incisive films together. As with all anthologies, some segments are stronger than others (while others don’t land at all) but Give Me An A is a timely, necessary response to a very real nightmare for many people in the United States.
SH: Mickey Reece stars in his own dark comedy about an up-and-coming country music star who goes to visit his downtrodden idol, a washed-up country legend, the night before he’s set to be cryogenically frozen. Behind all this sci-fi tomfoolery lies a powerful and brilliantly-shot story about a man coming to grips with his mortality and his self-imposed limitations as an artist. It’s not a perfect film, by any means, but it’s funny and heartfelt, and has an in utero fetus singing a country song over the end credits. What more could you want?
Stairway To Stardom Mixtape
JXM: The Stairway to Stardom Mixtape, presented by the American Genre Film Archive, is a collection of cringeworthy clips from a 1980s New York City public access program. There are enthusiastically weird musical acts, stand-up comics trying to nail down their tight five, and more interpretive dance than I ever dreamt were possible. There are some gems hidden really deep in this compilation, but a majority of the clips are deeply uncomfortable to watch. If you’re into that kind of squirmy comedy, give this one a gander.
JXM: I watched the 2K restoration of the Motern Media presentation, Freaky Farley. This story about a peeping tom and his life in a small town didn’t appeal to me. While I know that Motern Media has a devoted fanbase, the quirkiness embodied by this film didn’t grab me. The off-the-rails third act was fun, but the twists in the plot occurred in such an awkward way that I couldn’t even enjoy it ironically. I can see how others might be impressed, but Freaky Farley was not for me. That doesn’t make it bad. Just not for me.