Having recently attended Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, Chris Tilly reports back with news of 10 forthcoming genre movies that tackle everything from mazes and mutants to meteorites and anus trauma…


SYNCHRONIC - Through Resolution, Spring and The Endless, moviemaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have been building a truly unique body of work; thought-provoking, metaphysical sci-fi that asks tough questions of the audience, and offers no easy answers. Their new film has a bigger budget and features a pair of movie stars, but that sensibility remains, with Synchronic as challenging and entertaining as anything they have made thus far. Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play a pair of paramedics overwhelmed by the damage a new designer drug is causing, and the film’s early scenes follow them around New Orleans in an ambulance, as the effects of the opioid become ever more strange. When Dornan’s own daughter takes the drug then promptly disappears, Mackie takes it upon himself to investigate, and the search thrusts him through the looking glass. From here-on-in Synchronic enters a very different realm, one that allows Benson and Moorhead to tackle social and racial issues while building towards a genuinely nail-biting climax.


VIVARIUM - Vivarium is a dark satire that stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots as Tom and Gemma, a young couple starting out in the world, with vague plans to buy a house. An off-kilter estate agent convinces them to visit a place called Yonder to find their dream home, but when they arrive its more of a nightmare – row after row of identical green houses that extend as far as the eye can see. While inspecting the garden of their prospective Stepford home, the realtor disappears, and Tom and Gemma find themselves trapped. As Yonder is less a suburban paradise, and more a maze-like hell from which there is no escape. What follows is a disturbing examination consumer culture, parenthood, and the dark side of the American Dream.


SCREAM, QUEEN! MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET - This deeply affecting documentary delves into the gay subtext of Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and tells a much larger tale of bigotry and intolerance in Hollywood. The focus of the film is Mark Patton, a young actor for whom landing the lead in the horror sequel should have been a big break. But ‘Freddy’s Revenge’ didn’t launch his career. Instead, fans were angered by the many ways in which the film differed from the original, as well as its unmistakable homoerotic undertones. Mark was already struggling to deal with being a closeted star, and believing the backlash to be aimed squarely at him, he simply packed up and left the industry. Scream, Queen! catches up with Patton some 30 years on, as he endeavours to deal with the demons of his past. It’s an uncomfortable watch at times – most notably when Mark confronts those he believed wronged him – but ultimately Scream Queen! is a celebration of a film that was way ahead of its time, and the touching tale of a man reclaiming his past.



COLOR OUT OF SPACE - Following decades in the celluloid wilderness, Richard Stanley returns to the director’s chair for this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, about a meteorite landing on a farm, and tearing the lives of its inhabitants apart. Nicholas Cage – who else? – plays the patriarch of the farming family, and he spends much of the film obsessing over alpacas. But when the proverbial hits the fan, he gets to go FULL CAGE, which is fun, though frequently takes you out of the film. The going is also pretty slow through the middle section, with conversations concerning the local water table taking up too much of the run-time. But when the horror does hit, the visuals are spectacular, most notably several gore effects that are truly the stuff of nightmares.


V.F.W. - FrightFest favourite Joe Begos tore the roof off Fantastic Fest with VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), thanks to a magnificent cast, multiple brutal kills, and a crowd-pleasing narrative that had the Austin audience clapping and cheering. The film features a dream team of character actors playing the veterans in question, including Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, Fred Williamson, George Wendt and David Patrick Kelly. When proceedings commence, they’re busy busting each other’s balls while sinking beers before heading to a strip club. But a drug called Hype and a girl called Lizard throw a spanner in the works. Hype turns its users into violent, brain-dead mutants, and when Lizard steals a local dealer’s stash and takes refuge in their bar, the veterans are forced into a violent conflict that plays out like a rabid Assault on Precinct 13. The violence is extreme, the dialogue filthy, and the actors are clearly having a blast, all of which contributes to what might be the perfect ‘Midnight Movie.’


DOGS DON’T WEAR PANTS - A film as serious as its title is silly, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is a startling rumination on loss and pain. Dome Karukoski plays Pekka, a skilled surgeon whose wife drowns in the film’s jaw-dropping opening sequence. Proceedings then pick up 10 years later, with Pekka endeavouring to connect with his teenage daughter while at the same time struggling with his grief. During a visit to a local tattoo parlour – so his daughter can get her tongue pierced – Pekka stumbles into a back room, and his world is immediately turned upside down. We won’t say how or why, as it’s best to know as little as possible going into this one. But Pekka’s journey is thrilling, shocking and heartbreaking, punctuated by a scintillating soundtrack, and one of the most satisfying endings of the year.


BUTT BOY - Nope, this isn’t an origin story for Howard Stern’s Fartman character. Rather Butt Boy is the genre-straddling tale of a man who gets his kicks sticking stuff up his rectum. Yet while that might sound like the premise for a broad comedy, Butt Boy is actually deadly serious. Co-writer and director Tyler Cornack plays Chip, an ‘Average Joe’ whose first prostate exam rocks his world. But what starts out a curious hobby quickly turns into a dangerous fixation that leads Chip down an increasingly criminal path. Soon there’s a grizzled cop on his broadening tail, the film transforming into a tense game of cat and mouse. And while it’s a little slow and ultimately outstays its welcome, Butt Boy has interesting things to say about obsession and addiction, while the final 20 minutes are genuinely bat-shit crazy.



SEA FEVER - This aquatic horror is big on atmosphere and features impressive performances across the board. But strong similarities with a horror classic ultimately derail proceedings. Hermione Cornfield plays Siobhan, a marine biologist skilled in predicting ecological outcomes. She isn’t much of a people person however, which proves problematic when her work takes her aboard a fishing trawler filled with a rag-tag crew of salty sea-dogs. Who either don’t trust Siobhan, or believe her red hair brings bad luck. Just as she’s bonding with her new ship-mates however, there’s trouble in the water, the boat becoming marooned by something deadly that lies beneath. What follows is tense and visually arresting as both the crew’s water, and their minds, become contaminated. Then it pretty much turns into The Thing, at which point Sea Fever becomes a pale shadow of a much more effective film.


IRON FISTS AND KUNG FU KICKS - This entertaining documentary details the history of kung fu movies and examines their influence on multiple modern art forms, from breakdancing and parkour to street fashion and hip-hop. The journey starts with The Shaw Brothers combining ballet with brawls, before Golden Harvest make it mainstream, followed by global superstars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan taking centre stage. Cultures then mix and remix, with kung fu infiltrating Blaxploitation cinema and big-budget action movies, launching the careers of Chuck Norris, Cynthia Rothrock, Steven Seagal and the like, before the story is brought up-to-date via The Matrix, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Raid, and TV’s Iron Fist. Serge Ou’s film places the martial art in social and historical context, and while some big names are missing in terms of talking heads, it’s nevertheless a thrilling whistle-stop tour that’ll have you seeking out many of the titles covered.


THE WAVE - The Wave is a literal and metaphorical celluloid trip that will melt your brain with insane effects and a story that whips back and forth through space and time. Justin Long plays Frank, a corporate lawyer who hates his job and isn’t happy with his lot in life. To celebrate a huge deal, he hits the town, meets a girl, crashes a house party, and ends up snorting a line of mysterious white powder. Which changes Frank’s life forever, plunging him into a waking nightmare that alters his perceptions, but may also end his life. Gille Klabin’s directorial debut is a fest for the eyes, featuring surreal hallucinations, disturbing rotor-scoped animation, and dynamic camera moves that place the audience slap-bang in the middle of the action. Combine that with sharply satirical dialogue and a winning performance from Long, and the result is a demented journey through a deeply messed up mind.



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