Overlook 2023 Wrapup!

MARCH 30th-APRIL 2nd, 2023


My man Kurt Cobain said it best: "Weather changes moods." After I had a great time in 2018 I planned to go to Overlook as often as possible, only for 2019 to not work out for whatever reason (I honestly can't recall why) and then 2020/21 being torn asunder by covid. So I went in 2022 and... it was just OK. I still enjoyed the conversations and accompanying libations with pals of course, but they moved it further into spring (practically summer) that year, and the excess heat/humidity just made it kind of a drag at times. It's a spread out festival, which is usually fine - it gives you an excuse to see more of New Orleans! But a half mile can feel like a marathon when you're sweating through your clothes *before* you sit down for two hours to watch a movie. So I was on the fence about returning, but when they moved it back to the end of March/beginning of April (i.e. barely out of winter, technically), I decided to give it another chance.

And man, I'm glad I did. I honestly think I enjoyed this one even more than that first one that made me like it so much in the first place. The weather was better (I think I only felt hot/sticky once the entire time), there were more friendly faces than last year, and - oh yeah, it's a film festival - the lineup was much more to my liking. The "worst" movie I saw was still pretty decent, and I think I saw more than ever which meant my chances of a stinker would go up. Of course, in order to devote more time to the movies that means I missed out on a lot of the immersive/live event kinda stuff that makes the festival all the more appealing to attend (as opposed to watching the movies via screener from home), but I still had a great time which is all that matter. AND I managed to gain a few pounds from all the food, so that's... well, not GOOD, because now I need to lose it, but yum! Crawfish! Shrimp 'n grits!

Also, as with last year, I wasn't there on assignment like I was the first time around, where I was tasked with filing reviews ASAP, which meant taking more notes and having trouble focusing on movie #2 when I was trying to think of what to say about movie #1 (and so on). So this was like the best of both worlds scenario: good movies and weather like in 2018, and no need to "work" like last year. I didn't even bring my laptop! Bless. That said, I planned to write a few reviews in full, but my mom came out to visit us in CA the day after I got back from New Orleans, so it's only now, a week after I returned, that I have been able to find time to write anything. So... yeah, you're getting paragraph mini-reviews. I might still do one for Renfield (which I enjoyed!) since that's coming out next week, as opposed to these others which are mostly undated; hopefully I find time for that this week. But other than that omission, here's everything else I saw, in order!

This was described as body horror, but that's kind of misleading - other than a brief scene of a man cutting himself open to put a little light up battery pack thing in his chest, there's nothing Cronenberg-y going on here. Instead it's about a massive heat wave that is seemingly driving all the elderly people crazy; the film opens on an old woman committing suicide, prompting her husband to move in with his son and his own family so that he wouldn't be alone. However the old man is increasingly disturbed, talking nonsense and even making threats toward his son's new wife (he preferred the first wife, who has died). The rapidly increasing temperature is depicted with full screen graphics, so you know it's building toward some kind of unbearable/dangerous temperature, which is accompanied by an epic thunderstorm for good measure. At this point all hell breaks loose, with all the titular Elderly going all "rage virus" like on the younger folks, bringing some shockingly brutal moments along with it. Very little is really explained, but that's OK - it works as a slow burn toward tragic/unsettling violence, while also saying a few things about how the elderly begin to lose control of their minds (and yes, bodies - I guess that's where the "body horror" thing comes from but it's still rather misleading to use it as a genre depiction) and how even their own children see them as nuisances. If you're a fan of Adrian Bogliano's work (particularly Penumbra), or simply enjoy seeing creepy naked old men, you should be into this one.

A well executed period piece about grief and paranoia. Set a few days after Christmas 1945 (so, not long after the war ended), the movie takes place in real time as an Army man (Larry Fessenden in a terrific performance) who recently lost his wife has invited a few of his fellow soldiers over for a reunion, which doubles as a well-wishery for one of them, who is about to face a court martial for war crimes. The nature of his crime (and specifically, whether it was intentional or not) is one of the film's many mysteries that unfold over the 90 minutes, with things kicking into gear as Fessenden's character attempts a seance to contact his late wife. Director Ted Geoghegan (who wrote the movie with his father) does a fine job recreating the look/feel of the films that were made at the time (the credits in particular* really sell the Capra-y era), and the script keeps you guessing over who is telling the truth until the end, giving you just enough reason to believe either party. I was also amused that one of the quintet was played by Ron E. Rains, who I am most familiar with as "Peter Rosenthal", the film critic for The Onion. It also contains a face smashing scene that rivals any "torture porn" era film for how disturbing it is, so that was nice. I believe it's coming to Shudder, so keep an eye out!

I almost didn't see this at all because I got the wrong idea from the plot description, which referred to people hired to trim marijuana plants - I got it in my head that it was a stoner horror comedy, which isn't anything I'd rush out for. I'm so green (heh) when it comes to pot that at a key moment in the film, when a character steals a red colored bud from their boss' special stash, I thought it was a strawberry (if you're baffled: it kinda looked like this, but also in the dark because it's a horror movie). Anyway, I'm glad I was corrected as it turned out to be tied for my favorite movie of the fest. Our group of trimmers (including Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes) are all new to the gig, and mostly don't know each other, and the people who run the joint (sorry for these puns!) are suspicious and creepy, so you're probably thinking it'll be some Texas Chain Saw type thing, but that's not what it is! I mean yeah most of them die, but the vibe is more straight up folk horror; I was reminded of things like Midsommar and Lepterica than any "five young folks get lost and run afoul of _____" type movie. But fear not, it's also gory at times - there's a scene that rivals the puking bit in Fulci's City of the Living Dead! - and even dips into body horror territory as the villains exert a puppet-like control over their victims, leaving their minds intact as their bodies betray them into killing each other. So while it may remind you of this or that other movie at times, it all gels to be its own unique, disturbing, but also weirdly kind of optimistic thing. A true gem, can't wait til the rest of you can see it.

Not a movie, but I took a break from the theater to compete at horror trivia. Our team did quite well! Of four rounds/twenty or so teams, we won one and lost a tiebreaker for another. I won a blu-ray of Orca. And I took a lyft there but walked back, getting to see parts of the city I hadn't seen in the two other times I've been (trivia is always at a different location for whatever reason), so that was nice.

Oh man. I don't even want to say anything about this one as it's coming to Hulu soon and I myself didn't know anything about it - it just happened to be the only film that I could make it to on time knowing I'd be coming from trivia (which was about a mile from the theater) and wanting dinner/possible change of clothes after the walk. I'll tell you the basic plot setup: a woman's birthmark starts to spread/hurt, so she gets it checked out. And that's it. That's all you should know before watching (if Hulu advertises it, don't look!). The surprise happens at like the 20 minute mark, so if you're like "Oh, no way, that's not for me" you've only lost 20 minutes of your life. For everyone else, just enjoy the rest! I had a blast, though the ending did drag a bit and they lean too hard into the main character's paranoia that her bestie is hooking up with her boyfriend. Otherwise it'd tie for fave with Trim Season and the other one which I'm getting to soon (and is also from Hulu, weirdly).

This was the "secret screening" which I was assured by one of the festival organizers would be something I would like. I usually don't bother with these secret things at festivals; I don't like walking out of things and if it turns out to be something that's just not for me (a rape revenge movie, for example) I'd feel stuck. Plus it was 10pm, which is never ideal for my damn near narcoleptic ass. But it turned out to be a pretty good entry in the "play with a cursed object and then try to get un-cursed" genre, focusing on an embalmed hand that, when held while saying "talk to me" would allow you to communicate with the dead. Our teen heroes of course use it as a dare for parties, but naturally things go wrong and our heroine's best friend's little brother ends up putting himself into a coma after the spirit causes him to smash his own head in (two in one day after Brooklyn 45!). So the girl, who is like part of the family to these people and now blamed for his accident, is now racing against time to free him from the spirit that is still haunting him, but thankfully it didn't involve finding out who the ghost was/how it died/what it wanted, like most of these things do. My issue with that kind of story is that it's never anyone we care about, so the movies kind of stop cold to solve a mystery that we in the audience are not invested in. Here the focus remains on the girl and her attempts to just free him/herself through other means, and whether they work or not is naturally not something I'll spoil here, but I will say it results in a knockout final scene. It could have been tighter, but the scares work, the characters are engaging (Miranda Otto as the kid's mom is a particular delight), and it kept me awake at 10pm after three other movies and a lengthy walk, so that's gotta count for something. Coming this summer from A24 (who just bought it - they didn't make it themselves, which is probably why I can say things like "it has a great ending").

Not really a movie, but a presentation from the good folks at Museum of Home Video, which streams online every Tuesday night. The theme was creepy/insane footage that was captured with people's Ring cameras, something I own myself but rarely manage to get even the deliveries it should be capturing, let alone someone doing anything uncouth. Anyway, as one can expect some of the footage isn't all that interesting (most of it was culled from Youtube channels devoted to such things, so I guess they occasionally have slim pickings), but there were some genuinely unsettling ones. One in particular started with a woman and her son coming home like normal, only for the door to shut and reveal a dude had been following them and was possibly only seconds away from entering as well if they hadn't shut (locked?) the door in time. It was an excellent little diversion, highlighted by an intro piece (unrelated to the Ring stuff) with random remix videos, such as a four minute cut of Poltergeist III that just focuses on the excessive number of times people in that movie say each other's names to one another.

As with last year, the Kingcast boys did a live recording after a viewing of a Stephen King movie. But this year's choice was Dead Zone, which I watched not too long ago, so opted to just hang out with pals and get a meal until the podcast portion began. It was fun and I got a shoutout when Phil (who was subbing in for Bryan Fuller, who himself was set to sub for Scott Wampler, who couldn't make it at all) ranted about how every time he was on the show he was making people angry, as this time they were expecting the creator of Hannibal and last time he was asking trivia questions that were hated by the guest (Kate Siegel), and those questions were penned by yours truly. Sorry Phil! Sorry Kate! The recording should be up this week if it's not already.

I was trying to get into Evil Dead Rise at this time, but it was jampacked and it seemed I didn't have much of a chance of getting in (as with other fests, your badge guarantees you get into *a* movie per slot, not necessarily the movie you want the most). But I know I'll see it in a theater soon, so beyond some mild FOMO afterward since I couldn't talk about it, I wasn't too upset about it - especially since I ended up seeing Clock instead, which was the aforementioned "tied for favorite" movie of the festival. It's about a woman with a "broken" biological clock, in that she just doesn't really want to have kids like (society assumes) most other women do by the time they are her age. But her husband wants children, her father wants to see the family line continue, and her friends keep egging her on, so when her gynecologist suggests a clinical trial to "fix" these broken clocks, she decides to give it a shot for the sake of everyone around her. Naturally, things don't go as expected for her, but whereas you might think you know where it's going simply because it's a horror movie, I assure you that you are likely incorrect. Again, I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers (I'll say this much: it rivals the smash Smile for a scene where the troubled protagonist gives a gift that turns out to be horrifying), but it turns out to be a very dark but also very sad tale of the lengths women will go to just to feel "right" based on what other people think she should be doing with her life, and how devastating it can be. Just leave them be, people! Like Appendage, this is coming to Hulu and well worth your time/suffering through the commercials (that said, SO HAPPY I saw it in a theater!).

I saw the first Becky at the drive-in, which is to say I *attended* Becky at the drive-in, as the screen was too dim to make out much of what happened in the darker scenes of the film (such as the entire climax). So I had to laugh at the Q&A after, when the director revealed that this one was supposed to have a climax at night too, only for them to change their minds only days before shooting to continue the style of the rest of the movie and keep it in the bright sunlight. Not only was this cost effective, but it tied into the material: this time around, Becky isn't trying to hide or evade the bad guys, she's openly egging them on. It's a different set of villains (obviously, since she killed them all) and thankfully not even related to them beyond the fact that they're also Nazis (think "Proud Boys" types as opposed to the skinheads of the original). So you don't need to see the original and in some ways it might even be better if you don't, as it'll dilute some of the novelty of seeing this teenager kill the crap out of some racist douchebags; the only real tie is that she's still trying to figure out the purpose of the key the bad guys were looking for. Seann William Scott is a surprisingly solid menace (the director also said they wanted to continue the "cast a comedian as a terrifying Nazi" theme after Kevin James' turn in the first one), and the whole movie revolves around her trying to rescue her dog, so it's pretty crowd-pleasing. It also has a cameo from Kate Siegel that is an all time howler, as it just fully leans into the absurd premise of the whole (now) series. Bring on a third one!

Alas, my win streak came to an end with this merely "OK" movie. It starts off terrific: an Indian man in London takes the train to visit his parents in the countryside, pulling away only a few minutes after a terrorist sets off a bomb at the station he just departed. At first he just sees it as a shame/tragedy but is trying to focus on more positive matters, only for an old classmate to tweet about how the bomber - caught in a blurry surveillance photo - kind of resembles the man she went to school with. Within minutes, Twitter detectives find someone else's post proving that he was indeed in the building, and that's all it takes for the witch hunt to begin, with all of social media calling for his head (amidst a few - very few - "let's not jump to conclusions" pleas). Eventually he catches wind of this and panics, as his parents have left for the weekend (he's there to dog-sit) and he's unable to get in touch with his girlfriend. This is all the first forty minutes of the movie, and it's quite gripping/all too real, as we've seen this sort of thing happen with mass shooters more than once. Unfortunately, two "good ol boys" decide to take matters into their own hands and show up at the parents' house, which just leads into an extended/overlong home invasion sequence that barely has anything to do with the plot setup. The two attackers rarely speak about why they're there, and for some reason he barely even tries to reason with them in turn, even though he seems to know exactly why they're there. So it's just... you know, a generic home invasion thriller for the rest, albeit without much suspense as he's the only one home (and - spoiler - they kill the dog instantly, burning audience sympathy on top of it). It also never bothers to explain why the cops aren't showing up even after some news outlets name him as a suspect, so it's flimsy as well. The ending salvages some of it by hammering the point home about how these lives are forever altered/ruined by people who just forget about them the next day, but it's a shame that a full half of the movie is focused on such a bland chase scene.

Fans of WNUF Halloween Special should be pretty hooked into this, which takes a similar "actual broadcast" aesthetic, presenting the Halloween night 1977 airing of "Late Night with Jack Delroy", a Carson-esque late night talk show that is currently facing ratings declines as well as some personal struggles for its host, whose wife recently passed from cancer. The backstory is laid out by a narrator (Michael Ironside!) before the tape begins to play, but unfortunately they don't commit to it as well as WNUF folks did - in order to fill in the story, we are shown "behind the scenes footage" whenever Jack goes to commercial, a sort of found footage conceit that doesn't QUITE hold water (how many cameras are filming behind the scenes - in 1977 no less - to give us all these angles and private conversations?) but works well enough to keep the story going. Plus it's amusing to see how much what happens during those brief commercial breaks (such as the first guest's death after he left) affects Jack as he tries to keep things light and breezy for the audience, though as the supernatural possession plot ramps up he cracks fewer and fewer jokes. It could have been a little shorter, but it's an effective Tales from the Crypt type plot done well, and a fine showcase for David Dastmalchian, who also moonlights as a horror host so this is clearly a sort of dream gig for him. It won the audience award for the festival (my fave Clock was runnerup!), so clearly they have a winner here. Plus, it's from the guys who made 100 Bloody Acres, so I was happy to see something new from them.

And that was it, alas. That was the last movie on Sunday night, and while they showed some "encore" movies on Monday they were at night and my flight was in the afternoon, so I didn't get to partake. But since my flight was "late" in the day (last time it was at 6 am) I was able to enjoy one last outing in the city on Sunday night, drinking at a fantastic bar that had skeeball and the same "connected" jukebox service I use here, allowing me to quickly enrich everyone's lives with some Jim Steinman songs. Oh and spend another couple hours with friends who I probably won't see again until next year's fest, which I will definitely attend as long as they don't move it to June again. April or earlier? I'm there!

What say you?

*Not mine! I did the titles for Ted's first film, but not this one. I was a bit jealous of these! I rarely get to do anything that stylish!


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