Fantastic Fest: Day 1

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021


One thing I truly miss about Birth.Movies.Death (RIP) was that it gave me a consistent outlet for writing about non horror things whenever I was inspired to do so. Now that it's gone and I have to scramble for freelance work elsewhere (and worse, actually pitch the piece/myself to get it approved, something I never had to bother with at BMD) I can find myself with something to say and nowhere to say it. And yes, I have HMAD to do whatever the hell I want, but I'd prefer to keep it "clean".

But given the genre-adjacent spirit of pretty much everything playing at Fantastic Fest (which I'm attending in person for the first time in five years), I figured I'd "dirty" up the joint a bit and give mini reviews to the stuff I saw that don't have a place to review in full elsewhere. Not only will it make the publicity people happy (extra coverage for them!) but it'll keep me from the increasing problem of seeing a festival movie, not putting my thoughts down in full, and then literally forgetting if I liked it or not when it comes along later.

So without further ado...

Movie #1: TITANE

Julia Ducournau's Raw was my favorite movie of the last Fantastic Fest I attended, so it was some nice serendipity to finally make my return and see her equally long-awaited followup right off the bat. The film won the Palme d'or at Cannes a few months ago, which I found fitting personally as my introduction to this prestigious award was when Pulp Fiction won it over 25 years ago (Jesus Christ...), and like that film Titane is a triumph in surprising storytelling. Our protagonist, Alexia, suffers a bad car accident as a child and gets a plate in her head (the title is French for "titanium" and - after hearing multiple variations - is pronounced "tee-TAHN"), but rather than fear cars she comes out of it... well, loving them. Like, really loving them.

She has sex with cars is what I'm saying.

But she has a more traditional movie character vice: she's something of a serial killer, murdering a guy who hits on her (yayyy!) and then a love interest (aw) and the rest of the people at the girl's house, and finally her own parents for good measure. And if you think I've just spoiled the entire movie, relax - that's just the first half hour, and I haven't even mentioned the top billed actor. That's why I compare to Pulp Fiction; when the girlfriend character is introduced (via the most hilariously gnarly "meet cute" I've ever seen, I think) it seems like she could be the film's co-lead, a calming presence for our psychotic lead that can maybe have her find her own peace... only for the poor girl to be dispatched just as suddenly as the would-be rapist. Instead, Alexia goes on the run and does what any woman would: cuts her hair short, tapes down her breasts, and batters her own nose (anyone who delighted at Emma Roberts' self-attack in Scream 4 - try this on for size) so that she looks like a young boy.

Specifically, a boy who went missing a decade earlier and whose father, Vincent, is still trying to find him. Believing that she is indeed him, Vincent takes "Adrien" (yes, the names were both used in Raw) home and tries to get him to readjust, as well as giving him a job with him at the fire department. With barely any spoken dialogue to establish this, it's pretty clear the man has been desperate to fill the hole his son left; one of the younger guys at the fire department has obviously been something of a replacement (and now himself replaced by "Adrien", whose story he doesn't believe), and as Alexia's ruse becomes easier to see through, Vincent just ignores the signs out of desperation, as if he knows damn well it's not his son but as long as he doesn't say it out loud he can keep on believing it.

In short (I won't reveal any more of the film's narrative; indeed I left out one of its primary plot points), what seemed like a mix between Crash (Cronenberg), American Psycho, and that documentary The Imposter ends up also tugging at the heartstrings as well, the final ingredient for the most deliriously entertaining cinematic stew I've seen in quite some time. As she did on Raw, Ducournau displays a knack for implementing pitch black or offbeat humor where you least expect it (wait til you see why "Macarena" makes an appearance) as well as getting fearless performances from her actors. It will be a divisive film for sure (one friend admitted to shutting off his screener), but for those of you who don't mind going for a ride that has no interest in standard movie conventions, I suspect you'll be just as enraptured as I was.


This one is definitely a traditional horror movie, so I COULD write a whole review but I just don't have too much to say. It's pretty good though, and has a great hook for a slasher mask: the killer wears 3D printed masks of his victims (said killer complaining about how hard it is to make the masks during the climax is a line/delivery on par with Stu's "My mom and dad are gonna be SO MAD AT MEEEE!"). Not only is it a creepy visual, but it actually ties into the theme, of people running away from themselves (our heroine is new to town after fleeing her old town thanks to being involved in a tragedy) as it operates as something of a widespread I Know What You Did Last Summer. The victims all have dirty secrets (hazing beatings, an anonymous racist podcast, etc) that establishes pretty early that this isn't revenge for any particular crime but someone with an axe to grind against the town's residents as a whole (which, along with the corn-filled Nebraska setting, made me think of the recent Clown in a Cornfield novel, which I recommend!).

Unfortunately even with this seeming surplus of potential villains, anyone with a GED in Slasher School will probably be able to figure out who the culprit is pretty early on, which dampened the fun a touch for me. But what it lacks in proper whodunit mastery it excels in making characters to care about who also seem real and - bless - genuine friends! There's like one little spat at around the hour point but otherwise our group of heroes (intentionally filling in stereotypes: a jock, a stoner, etc) spend all their time together in harmony - they literally put their heads together and look up at the stars at one point. It's also impressively inclusive but without making a big deal out of it, which (as I've said before) is the best way to go about it, by just doing it as if it didn't need to be spelled out or addressed from a soapbox - because isn't!

It's coming soon from Netflix, which is a shame as it means a sizable chunk of its audience will be watching it with one eye on their phone (though maybe it'll make the reveal more surprising?), but for those who fawned all over Fear Street 1994 earlier this summer, I hope you give it a proper viewing. For my money, it's doing a lot of the same things, but doing them better.

What say you?

P.S. My laptop - which I am using for the first time in over two years - is a piece of shit. The spacebar doesn't work well and it has a habit of shifting the cursor to some random spot, so I start typing my next word in the middle of an earlier, unrelated sentence, screwing up my train of thought to try to fix it. Needless to say there might be some weird typos in here that I missed, and I simply don't have the patience to try to format it (italics and such), so for that I apologize. I'll clean it up when I get back home.


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