2021’s Fantastic Fest allowed virtual access this year, and thankfully there was an interesting crop of often insanely bizarre, sometimes successful genre filmmaking. Anything not awarded a full written article is listed here, along with links to longer reviews when available. Read on for our exclusive site coverage!



Confining any film to a single-setting is an easy recipe for disaster (particularly in regards to the horror genre), but thankfully, Alone with You breaks free from this easy death trap. Charlie (Emily Bennett, who also writes and directs) is preparing her apartment in Brooklyn for the return of her girlfriend, Simone (Emma Myles). Things quickly take a turn for the weird and mysterious when first an awkward video-chat conversation with Charlie’s mom (Barbara Crampton) seems to suggest time travel hijinks. Charlie begins to break down in full panic mode when her front door is jammed shut, and no one will come to help her. Next comes crying through the vents, mannequins with white sheets thrown over them, camera flashes, a creepy mummified figured under the docks… Anxieties and scare tactics increase tenfold as the movie builds towards its climax. Unpolished and a little rough around the edges, Alone with You is nevertheless a real thriller treat.


When looking through the lineup for 2021’s Fantastic Fest, Barbarians was undoubtedly one of the films that immediately caught my eye. Starring Misfits and Game of Thrones actor, Iwan Rheon, this thriller features a dead fox, baby daddy issues, masked invaders, and a solstice stone that draws crowds. It is Adam’s birthday, so we get a twisted (but surprisingly dull) dinner party disaster movie. There is so much time wasted on the setup that when the explosive third act finally rolls around, it is difficult to muster up any level of care. Barbarians tries hard, but it is too dull to be the next Ready or Not or You’re Next.


What did I expect from this Taiwanese Fantastic Fest production, Dead & Beautiful? Certainly not vapid rich people going to random clubs and finding people to suck dry. If the characters were even the slightest bit interesting, or if there was any progression to the plot, it would be an entirely different type of conversation. Everyone here is rich and constantly talking about their upper echelon lives. The introduction to each character is a flashy slow-motion action sequence that tells us each of their prospective family’s total net worth in the billions. I can’t think of a better way to completely turn me off to concept. Not even the vampire or bloody action leaves any impact.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Hostage: Missing Celebrity is another in a long line of South Korean thrillers, a genre I have found myself becoming increasingly more enamored with as the year has progressed. This one finds actor Hwang Jung-Min (who plays himself in a smart bit of meta-casting) being kidnapped by a desperate group of taser-happy captors. Hwang wakes up tied to a chair, a ransom being demanded, and insists if they have to rough him up: “not the face. I have an interview later.” They proceed to show him a video of the last person who didn’t pay up, one who ended up shot in the neck and bled out. Hwang must work with a captive woman to have any chance of escaping with his life. On a fifteen hour deadline, Hostage is quickly paced but aggressively predictable. Twists are turns are very few—instead, it is an extremely straightforward kidnapping flick. For less demanding viewers, Hostage: Missing Celebrity is a perfectly serviceable little thriller. If I was familiar with the work of Hwang Jung-Min and the film’s meta references, I probably would have enjoyed it more.


Let the Wrong One In gave me virtually nothing that I wanted out of a campy vampire movie. Though the soundtrack is great and numerous sequences exist with plentiful practical gore, not even the presence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) himself can rescue this anemic horror tale. When Matt (Karl Rice) discovers that his brother Deco (Eoin Duffy) now has a hunger for blood, he must team up with a vampire hunter to help control Deco’s building bloodlust. The silliness and conveniences stack until it becomes nothing more than a dull affair. When Deco tries to transform into a bat and simply farts, I think I completely checked out.


A disconnected, utterly nonsensical mess of a movie, the clashing tones of this film left me baffled. Luzifer takes inspiration from a true story, and it details Johannes (Franz Rogowski), a man with a childlike state of mind who resides with his mother (Susanne Jensen) in the secluded Austrian Alps. Their antiquated low-tech way of living is invaded by modern cell phones, drones, and a power-hungry land owner out to snatch up their land. The acting fires on all cylinders, and visually Luzifer is delightfully specific in its almost post-apocalyptic style world. Inner-workings of religion force their way into the narrative, as does nasty random imagery involving eagles, resurrection rituals, bees buzzing on a corpse, and teeth-pulling brutality. Individually, there could have been something here, but Luzifer is too confounding to work.


At a slight 56 minutes in length, Name Above Title barely even feels like a movie in the traditional sense. More of a mood piece than anything else, the eye-popping cinematography is lovely to look at it, bolstered by an attractive cast led by the beautiful Matthieu Charneau. Throw in the fact that there is zero dialogue, the vaguest paper-thin characterizations, and a plot that veers off course too many times to count and you get one seriously frustrating movie. In the most vague of terms, Candine (Charneau) is a seductive serial killer, and we follow him as he strangles people with wires, kisses dying women, and wears bandages when he feels like it. When the final few minutes culminate in a strangely religious crucifixion-fueled head-scratcher, it left me wondering how the hell we zoomed so far off the rails that this was the destination where we ended things. Perhaps writer/director Carlos Conceição has some answers.


Gritty and well-shot for the duration, Saloum is not the typical flavor of horror I know; in fact, I can safely say I have never quite seen anything like it before. I was shocked when bug-like creatures worm their way into a narrative mostly focused on the journey of three mercenaries in pursuit of a drug dealer. When it delves into the horror weirdness in the final act, I was into it. For the rest of the western-leaning story, I was mostly checked out. Saloum is impeccably directed and acted, but simply put, was not exactly my cup of tea.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


(Written by Allison Brown) After coming across Titane several times over the past few months, I am so glad I finally got a chance to watch. That said, the hype before it led me to believe it would be much weirder. Between Arrow Video Fright Fest, Fantasia, and Fantastic Fest, I have seen a lot of strange films this year, and this is not nearly at peak level. The movie did leave an uncomfortable squeamish anxiety hours after viewing. I winced and looked away from several scenes, but I did not hate it by any means. Be prepared for a large level of nudity, much of it coming from a character similar to an adult version of Stranger Things’ Eleven. This is surely not a film to watch with one’s parents. The closest comparison I can recall for Titane is last year’s Jumbo. Mix in a touching transgender father-son story, lots of gore, female objectification, and a serial murder spree, and you have Julia Ducournau’s feature. The divide in the narrative between the first half and the second almost makes for two different movies. I am not entirely sure it works here. A day later, I cannot say if I am a fan, but I am glad to participate in the film’s discourse. Go in blind for the best chance of pure enjoyment.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Yellow Dragon’s Village is one of the most frustrating films I watched at this year’s Fantastic Fest. At just barely over an hour (including credits), the two distinct halves of the narrative are frustratingly different. Opening with a found footage style filming cataloguing college students having fun, as soon as they get a flat tire, you know there will be trouble. They come upon the creepy Taksuri Village to get help. A foreboding scarecrow with a knife sticking out of its head greets them after heading over a shaky bridge. The film is most effective in this early scene-setting before being overtaken by melodramatic music and silly borderline-satirical dialogue and tone. One girl, when running through the forest, trips and falls in slow motion onto a shotgun where she accidentally shoots herself in the head. When it completely shifts gears into a random action movie, the clashing tones do not feel justified at all. It isn’t even like the first half is great either—Yellow Dragon’s Village has an interesting concept, with poor execution.

As yet another horror genre film festival I have covered for the year, I had quite a gay old time with the Fantastic Fest offerings this time around. My favorite films of the fest were unquestionably There’s Someone Inside Your House and The Found Footage Phenomenon. I look forward to seeing what unique roster they will announce for next year, and for wider audiences to get a look at some these movies in the months to follow. Till next time!

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