The fantastic Fest film festival is currently running from September the 22nd in Austin, Texas.  Founded in 2002, it is a little Texas Film Festival that showcases films with a fantasy or horror theme.


Below are capsule reviews of selected films. 
Click on the link below for the complete program and schedule of films:




Capsule Reviews of Select Films:


HOLY SPIDER (Fr/Ger/Swe/Den 2022) ***** Top 10

Directed by Ali Abbasi


Like Jack the Ripper, someone is brutally killing the street prostitutes in the holy Iranian city of Mashhad.  The serial killings are nicknamed spider killings.  As the serial killer, the identity revealed to the audience very early in the film as a devout jihad, the film is thus called referring to the killer, HOLY SPIDER. Saeed (Mehdi Bajestani) is a worker, doting family man, veteran of the Iran–Iraq War, and a devout Shia Muslim. He appears to live simply with his wife Fatima (Forouzan Jamshidnejad) and two children.  Director Abbasi shows the brutal stranglings in detail, just as Hitchcock did in FRENZY.  The victims are struggling to breathe, their faces distorted while badly beaten by Saeed.  With no end in sight to the slayings, a Tehran-based journalist, Rahimi (played by Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who won Best Actress at Cannes 2022, where the film screened in competition), arrives on the scene, determined to uncover the killer’s identity.  Soon, a dangerous cat-and-mouse-game is underway, where each player’s and onlooker’s own interpretation of justice casts a unique prism of doubt.  Like a Hitchcock film, HOLY SPIDER is an engrossing watch from start to end. 


LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE (Philippines 2022) **
Directed by Martika Ramrirz Escobar


Director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s surreal, award-winning first feature transports a retired screenwriter of Filipino action films into the story of one of her own unfinished scripts.  The off-beat action comedy marks the closing night of Midnight Madness at TIFF.  When a television set is thrown out of a window of a building and lands on the head of one Leonor Reyes (Sheila Francisco), a retired screenwriter of Filipino action films, the accident leaves her body comatose, but her mind is transported into one of her own unfinished movies.  While her family, which includes at least one semi-transparent kin(!), rallies around her bedside in the hospital, Leonor finds herself magically interacting with her script’s valiant heroes and nefarious villains, confronting the all-too-real traumas that inspired them, and striving to bring this blood-soaked melodrama to a bulletproof ending.  The film is not as fresh as it looks on paper and not helped by the cheesy fight sequences and crappy music usually found in cheap action flicks from third world countries.   The almost only saving grace is stage actress Francisco who plays Leonor.


PROJECT WOLF HUNTING (South Korea 2022) ***1/2

Directed by Kim Hongsun


Kim Hongsun’s PROJECT WOLF HUNTING is a bloodiest aboard a ship that is a cross between several genres and all very well consolidated.  There is at the cyborg unkillable monster, the escape prison action thriller and cops vs, crooks and war horror movie.  All the action takes place aboard a ship called the Frontier.  When efforts to extradite notorious convicts from the Philippines to South Korea are stymied by a deadly airport bombing, the Korean authorities commandeer the cargo freighter Frontier Wolf for their next transfer. As a rogues’ gallery of lowlifes, including a callous heir to a criminal empire (Seo In-guk), board the titanic vessel, they are escorted by two dozen hardened detectives, and the vigilant oversight of a hot-headed Coast Guard captain (Sung Dong-il). Despite the heavy security, a plot to seize control of the ship percolates among the prisoners and soon boils over, but what neither cop nor crook appear to be privy to is that they are not the freighter’s only cargo.  This is where the story turns around a hunter and eighty degrees and the aduicne can never exect what will happen net.  or will they are able to guess who will die or live as anyone in thsi film can die in an instant.  A super blood fest of a gory film from start to end.  And the bad guys, the convicts are just really gorgeous hunks to gawk at.


RAZZENNEST (Austria 2022) ***

Directed by Johannes Grenzfurthner

RAZZENFEST is best described as an experimental horror ‘el-cheapo’ film almost all totally shot in English, the type that is small budget and can be easily made under the Pandemic.  In fact, at one point a crew member being interviewed is heard coughing really badly followed by some major puking.  For one, there is not one person that are seen on screen, only voices can be heard, as what the audience sees throughout the film is audio recorded over film footage.  In RAZZENEST (which means Rat’s Nest), South African enfant terrible filmmaker and artiste-cineaste Manus Oosthuizen (played by or voiced by Michael Smulik) meets with Rotten Tomatoes-approved indie film critic Babette Cruickshank (again played by or voiced by Sophie Kathleen Kozeluh) an Echo Park sound studio.  With key members of Manus's crew joining, they record an audio commentary track for his new elegiac feature documentary "Razzennest."  The audience gets to hear the interview through their voices as recorded in the sou

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (Sweden/UK/USA/France/Greece 2022) ***** Top 10

Directed by Ruben Ostlund

Swede filmmaker Ruben Östlund might be a difficult name to remember but one that should be remembered for his groundbreaking film FORCE MAJEURE and the Palme d’or Winner THE SQUARE.  This year Ruben Östlund returns with another grand Cannes Palme d’or Winner, a wicked and delicious satire on the rich and wealthy as they grapple with their power and 'lack of' in order to survive a shipwreck or rather a luxury yacht wreck.  TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is flawed but improves from the first to the third chapter and still makes it one of the top 10 films of the year.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is publicized as a film best seen with a full house.  This is true if everyone in the audience laughs together but in this case, the laughs, especially in the first and second chapters are derived from other films, so not laughing and finding everyone else doing the opposite might be extremely irritating.  I previewed the film at a quarter full pre-TIFF screening, a perfect compromise of a full and not so full house.

The film is so called as in the first segment, Carl, a model is asked to rid himself of that triangle of sadness that appears above his eyebrows in order to win the male model audition.   It is apparent that this look is more deeply rooted in his character as he tries in the whole film to rid himself of the inherent sadness within himself, but without success but not for want of trying.

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS unfolds in three chapters.  The first is entitled Carl and Yaya, the perfect human specimen of male and female played by Harris Dickinson (last seen in WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING) and the recently passed on (on the day of my screening) and beautifully talented Charlbi Dean.  The first chapter introduces the audience to the troubled couple, always arguing.  The argument at the restaurant is similar to the one in Östlund’s THE SQUARE where the couple just after sex, have a lengthy argument of who is going to throw away the used condom.  This time Carl and Yaya fight over who is paying the bill, Carl insisting that she always gets away with not paying (it) and when she insists, he says no, only to find that her credit cards have been refused.   The second chapter entitled THE YACHT has this couple win a cruise on a luxury yacht where they meet a bunch of wealthy people above their station.  In a  key scene during the Captain’s (Woody Harrelson) dinner, the guests spew out their dinner, each getting sick from the rocking ship.  The segment is over played especially when the vomiting dinner scenes were already used in MONTY PYTHON'S MEANING OF LIFE, though in  a different context.  The film improves tremendously in the last segment called THE ISLAND where a grenade explosion leaves the surviving guests shipwrecked on an island where LORD OF THE FLIES style, the balance of power changes into the hands of a Filipino worker, Abigail (Dolly De Lion) on a ship, previously the toilet manager now self promoted to Captain as she is the only one who knows how to fish and start a fire.  Everyone depends on her.  The scene where she hands out cooked octopus to her followers is genuinely hilarious.

The yacht’s passengers is comprised of a eclectic bunch of wealthy misfits including a British couple involved with weaponry, a German lady with a stroke who can only utter the words “In Den Wolken”, which she repeats no fewer than a dozen time in the film, and still being funny, a Russian oligarch, Dimitry (Zlatko Burić, from the PUSHER trilogy) who loses his wife among others.

Though the vomiting and shit toilet-overflowing humour and the bill paying segments might not have been that funny, the film contains two of the best jokes seen at TIFF films this year.  When asked by Carl what he does for a living, Dimitry the oligarch answers: “I sell shit!”.   When the passengers are throwing up, the captain and Dimitry debate social/political issues exchanging famous quotes.  Dimitry argues with this quote: “Socialism only works until it runs out of other people’s money - Margaret Thatcher.”

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is a film everyone would delight in viewing.  There is the 99% of the less wealthy audience who would cheer to see the undeserving rich and wealthy get their comeuppance and also hopefully the other 1% of the audience as represented by the yacht’s passengers who are able to laugh at themselves.

         The film opens in theatres October 7th.





V/H/S/99 (USA 2022) ***

Various Directors



Since 2012, the horror anthology series V/H/S has transmitted its fair share of visceral “found-footage” thrills from both emerging and established scaremeisters across four memorable installments.  The latest continues the tradition with a few new twists and a new crop of filmmakers, each hitting record on a string of supernatural incidents that occured at the end of the last millenium, 1999.  In a break from its traditional wraparound structure, this edition’s cursed recordings are instead layered over each other on a single videotape, with the earliest recording running beneath the others, occasionally breaking through in bursts of static and analogue tracking errors. 6 stories in all.  Each episode in the anthology will not be described - bets to unveil the surprises on one’s own.  The last two are the best of the lot, the second last being the funniest and the last with the best and scariest monsters.

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