The virtual version of the Montreal-based Fantasia Film Festival wraps today and here’s a few more highlights from this year’s killer lineup:
Come through, Satanic boomer horror! Canadian director Justin Dyck’s fabulously batshit crazy Anything For Jackson forgoes the slow-burn mood that’s so prevalent in recent horror films and wastes no time diving into its wild reverse-exorcism narrative. The creepily calm opening scene introduces Henry (Julian Richings) and Audrey Walsh (Sheila McCarthy), an older, wealthy doctor-and-wife couple still grieving the recent death of their grandson Jackson. Not even three minutes in, we learn they’ve kidnapped Henry’s pregnant patient Becker (Konstantina Mantelos) and have a black-magic plan to summon a demon who’ll transfer Jackson’s spirit into their abductee’s unborn child. Things don’t go exactly as planned, and soon their gorgeous house is overrun by all kinds of shady supernatural entities. Despite dealing with some heavy emotions, this movie offers a surprising amount of chaotic fun that’ll have you smiling while screaming – that’s not to say it’s campy or laughably overly earnest, it’s just got a delightfully nutty storyline that works because everyone plays it so dead-ass serious. Dyck doesn’t rely heavily on jump scares, either – no spoilers, but there’s some genuinely frightening moments involving the way these invasive spirits make people behave in unpredictable ways, while the practical effects are incredibly well-done. The writing also stays consistently on point – Keith Cooper’s sneaky screenplay offers plenty of surprises and the third act is quite bonkers. In short, Anything For Jackson offers pretty much everything you want from a scary movie. Look for it this fall on Super Channel Fuse.
The type of shit that inspires people to go out and buy a gun, Bryan Bertino’s 2008 domestic shocker The Strangers operates on a very simple premise: What if a gang of masked intruders broke into your home just to terrorize you? The stranger-on-stranger-violence narrative stayed grounded in reality and that’s what made it so damn scary. The Dark and the Wicked, Bertino’s foray into the crowded feel-bad family-horror subgenre, opts for a more supernatural-themed story and ends up a bit light on scares. The first act’s a masterclass in creating dread – the film’s slow and spooky opening scenes set up an intriguing story about a pair of adult siblings (Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr.) visiting their dying father on an isolated Texas farm, but it all quickly gets bogged down in familiar tropes by the time we hit the midsection. Plenty of weird stuff happens – nightmares, threatening phone calls, visits from a weirdo priest (Xander Berkley) – but none of it adds up anything that frightening. There’s still plenty to recommend here: Ireland turns in yet another amazing performance, cinematographer Tristan Nyby achieves a sinister atmosphere, and the gore is creative and fun (omg, the chopping vegetables scene). There’s just something missing in the middle – the pace lags and things don’t really perk up until the awesome third act when the supernatural really starts crashing into reality. The Dark and the Wicked is out November 6 via RLJE Films.
A film that truly defies categorization, Polish director Daria Woszek’s menopause-themed Marygoround follows Maria (Grazyna Misiorowska), a virginal 50-year-old supermarket employee who experiences a sexual awakening after OD-ing on her prescribed hormone patches. Laced with dark humor and pointed social commentary, it’s also one of the most visually enchanting movies in the festival. Unlike so many other filmmakers who use lighting as a random stylistic choice, here the colors actually mean something and correspond to developments in the story. The plot hinges on a mixup with Maria’s color-coded estrogen patches – early scenes come in a cool cerulean tone and then porno pink bleeds into the screen as soon as our heroine starts to experience that WAP life, resulting in a truly stunning color palate. First-time actress Misiorowska appears in almost every shot, and her hot-n-cold performance is somewhat of a revelation – she’s comfortable playing both the never-been-fucked spinster and the sensual seductress. Things culminate with a beautifully cathartic ending that makes a bold statement about the Catholic Church’s stranglehold over female sexuality in Poland.
You don’t have to be a professional wrestling fan to enjoy David Dragg and Price James’ meta-documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette, a surprisingly moving chronicle of the embattled actor’s return to the ring. Twenty years have passed since Arquette won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, an infamous event wrestling fans consider a complete joke and low point for the franchise. Was it real, or just part of an ill-conceived plan to promote the Y2K box-office bomb Ready to Rumble? This immensely entertaining new doc follows Arquette on a mission to clear his name as he starts a new round of rigorous training, haters and doctors be damned (Arquette’s health and addiction problems suggest this isn’t a good idea). Like the sport portrayed, it’s unclear how much of this is semi-staged and how much is real, but it’s a shitload of fun to join the actor on this journey that takes viewers from cheap backyard matches in Virginia to street fights in Cancun. There’s literally hundreds of LOL moments in this rambunctious little film that also doubles as the year’s most touching redemption story – it’s humanly impossible not to crack a smile while someone gets a full-body spray tan to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Coming Around Again.”