Fantastic Fest 2014 Capsule Reviews – CUB, HORSEHEAD, & More

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With so many films playing Fantastic Fest — I saw a film in every single time slot this year, totaling 37 and I still only saw a fraction of what was available — it’s nearly impossible to keep up reviewing them all. So I’ve decided to gather my thoughts on a few of the smaller titles I saw right here.

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The Editor (3 out of 5) Astron-6, the Canadian filmmaking collective behind inventive no-budget exploitation genre parody-homage hybrids Father’s Day and Manborg return with their largest budgeted production yet, a loving, knowing satire of Italian giallo films called The Editor. Co- writer and director Adam Brooks takes on the titular role, a once revered film professional reduced to working on schlocky horror flicks after an accident took his left hand, who becomes the prime suspect in a string of brutal murders. The Editor nails all the wonky touches that cult movie fans have come to love about the lurid, often nonsensical giallo subgenre, from the bad dubbing to the convoluted plotting, casual misogyny and free-flowing sexuality, the pulsing synth music and the vivid primary colors, all done with a winking knowledge of the absurdity of the films that never becomes condescending or superior to the material. That said, the film’s laughs — which are solid for anyone with a base knowledge in such B grade cinema — slow to trickle as the film wears on. The Editor loses steam as it goes on, and its insular comedy ultimately preaches to the choir without bringing newbies onto the giallo bandwagon.

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Local God (1.5 out of 5) This Uruguayan chiller would have made a kick ass five-minute short film, but as a feature-length it’s too slight — there’s absolutely nothing there. Some cool imagery and ideas can’t compensate for a threadbare, paper-thin story about a rock band that enters a cave to record their last album only to confront the possibly demonic spirit that lives there. Each band member is forced to confront their darkest fears in the warren of tunnels and woods around them in a series of non-linear, repetitive vignettes that follow the same basic pattern: People run around in the dark, calling each other’s name, see something strange, than run around calling names some more. Writer Santiago Gonzalez and director Gustavo Hernandez may have had an idea but they sure as hell don’t have a movie.

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Let Us Prey (2 out of 5) More satanic mayhem in Let Us Prey, a well acted but painfully predictable Irish supernatural thriller from director Brian O’Malley. Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) plays a mysterious, sinister old man who is hit by a car, and taken in for custody at a small police station after his behavior grows threatening. Soon strange things begin happening and if you can’t guess where this familiar tale is going, then you haven’t seen enough horror films.

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Cub (3 out of 5) This violent Dutch shocker is a fun if mean-spirited paean to classic slasher flicks, strongly directed by Jonas Govaerts. A group of cub scouts go camping in the woods only to be picked off one by one by a feral child and his murderous pop. Cub is part Saw, part Friday the 13th, and the film pulls no punches — animals and 12-year-old children are as doomed as adults here — which should delight gore fans. Technically the film is as assured a debut as one can have, though the familiarity of the plotting, particularly at the climax, holds it back from genuine horror greatness.

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Horsehead (2 out of 5) What do you get when surrealism fails at being surreal? You get something like the flat-footed art house horror flick Horsehead, which tries to bury it’s ultiamtely dull and mundane story under a heaping helping of pretentious arty imagery. Alas writer-director Romain Bassett is no David Lynch; once you see where the plot’s endgame is going, you realize Horsehead is just a predictable and overdressed bore and not the mindtrip it wants to be. The film is supposed to take place in strange and nightmarish dream world, but feels more like it’s taking place in a discarded Marilyn Manson video.

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Housebound (3.5 out of 5) This New Zealand horror comedy attempts to do for the haunted house genre what Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland did for zombie flicks, and it mostly succeeds. Morgana O’Reilly is winningly surly as Kylie, a troublemaking twentysomething sentenced to eight months home detention in her overbearing mother’s house — which turns out to be haunted. Initially skeptical, Kylie soon becomes a believer and seeks to discover who or what the presence in the house wants, aided by the surprisingly accepting security guard tasked to monitor her. Not all the humor works, and it ranges from the clever to as broad as a wall, but Housebound is a pleasant, funny diversion that also takes its horror credentials seriously.

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About Author

Johnny Donaldson

Johnny Donaldson is an actor, writer, foodie, and raconteur who’s been immersed in the geek world since childhood, especially when The X-Files changed his life. (Fox Mulder is his Han Solo.) A published film critic (his college-era movie reviews can be found in the archives of rottentomatoes.com) and a film producer with two films under his belt, Johnny likes kitty cats, coffee, the color purple (not the movie, the literal color purple), dark microbrews and good horror/scifi/fantasy and superhero movies. And occasionally long walks on the beach, when it’s not too hot.