While some of the most exciting Fantastic Fest titles were only in person (including those secret screenings!), back here in New York, we still managed to cover quite a few titles virtually. In fact, one of the films is definitely among the best foreign titles of the year. Don’t miss our full coverage of the festival after the jump!



Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Baffling, appalling, and head-scratching, Fantastic Fest gets weird with The Fantastic Golem Affairs. Best friends Juan (Brays Efe) and David (David Menéndez) are playing some weird game of guessing/charades on a rooftop. During a particularly animated moment, David plunges off the side of the building, notably to his death. As he falls, David turns into some fully ceramic golem. This is the best sequence in all of The Fantastic Golem Affairs, and hits the exact right notes of surreal and bizarre. Sadly, what follows does not live up to this catchy opening. Juan posts about his best friend being “smashed to smithereens,” then goes to meet up with Maria Pong (Anna Castillo). She claims that her best friend also broke like a ceramic doll too. In a normal movie, one would think this signals a whirlwind romance; instead, The Fantastic Golem Affairs uses this as the first of 3,800 deaths that drop a random piano out of the sky. I am a huge fan of slapstick comedy and weird characterizations. The Fantastic Golem Affairs sounded like a home run. Random musical number and all, this Spanish import is entirely too strange for my tastes.


From writer/director Jamie Childs, Jackdaw arrives at the festival, setting out to be the next Drive. Certainly, this slick action/thriller oozes with style and synthy music. Jack (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a former motocross champion and army veteran, finds himself in some seriously deep trouble after a package-snatching heist goes awry. Upon returning, Jack discovers that his younger brother has been kidnapped, with a calling card left behind. Jack attempts to get his affairs in order; only revenge floods his mind. Jackdaw begins promisingly enough, as Jack lights up a cigarette before unveiling his beautiful-looking motorcycle in drastic close-up. At one point, a character played by Jenna Coleman, a former member of the “flock” Jack used to frequent, shows up, but then is given nearly nothing to do afterward. To waste the sole major female character seems a definite misstep. The deeper the story unravels, the more obvious it becomes that the meandering nature results in a rather uneventful “action” movie. Minor bursts of violence aside, Jackdaw leaves much to be desired in the way of frenetic fun.


Full review at the link.


Strange Darling boasts one of the strongest casts of the festival. Horror king Kyle Gallner (2010’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, 2022’s Scream) and scream queen Willa Fitzgerald (MTV’s Scream, upcoming miniseries The Fall of the House of Usher) share the screen in what is practically a chamber piece. The title promises a “thriller in six chapters;” not entirely incorrect, however, most would assume that chapters would play out sequentially rather than non-linearly. Without spoilers, Strange Darling explores one complicated day in the “love life of a serial killer.” Miramax’s out-of-order chiller is shot entirely on 35mm, and looks impressive aesthetically. One section that takes place outside of the Blue Angel Hotel lives up to the name, bathing Fitzgerald and Gallner in cold blue lighting. Writer/director JT Mollner bookends black-and-white segments to sprinkle in a vintage feel. I think the biggest issue here is that by way of the structure alone, Strange Darling becomes incredibly disjointed. Sporadic bursts of violence and individual scenes between Fitzgerald’s “The Lady” and Gallner’s “The Demon” cannot save a meandering script. Not to mention, why frame the movie’s biggest asset as some silly twist? At least it is an interesting, almost Lynchian deconstruction of the serial killer subgenre.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.

Three of my favorite projects of 2023 screened at Fantastic Fest: Mike Flanagan’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Totally Killer, and The Animal Kingdom. For more information about Fantastic Fest, head over to the official website.

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