The Overlook Film Fest was an absolute hit this year, one of the main upgrades being the switch from the traditional Overlook Hotel to the wild and witchy city of New Orleans. It's difficult not to have a good time in NoLa, even if you're a completely introverted "I don't like fun things" character like myself, but to also have the chance to spend 4 days watching some of the strangest, most inventive horror films around is an absolute blast. Below are some quick reviews of the films I got to see while in attendance.
TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN)
Set in modern day Mexico City, Tigers Are Not Afraid tells the story of several children forced to fend for themselves while living in a city run by drug cartels. The film does an excellent job of allowing the horrors of what these children face each day stand in for a more typical horror-movie boogyman. While it isn't without some "just go with it" flaws (if you can't afford good CGI, please find a way to tell your story without it), director Issa López puts the audience in the shoes of these kids in startlingly effective ways. There wasn't a dry eye in the theater by the time the credits rolled.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman is better known for his Saw films and experimental genre events such as Repo! The Genetic Opera, so you would assume a story about a young pregnant woman held captive by a convent of nuns would be a gross-out gore fest. However Bousman, during the Q&A after the film, has made it clear that as he's gotten older and become a parent he's not been able to stomach much gore these days. He wanted to tone things down and allow the setting of the film, as well as its characters, creep out the audience. Alas St. Agatha is not entirely unwatchable, but its not got much going for it. A few interesting gross moments are peppered in, but are otherwise rendered moot by the writing, acting, and overall story. Actors Carolyn Hennesy and Trin Miller help elevate the film with their scene-stealing roles, but it's not enough to save everything else.
SATAN'S SLAVES (PENGABDI SETAN)
If someone were to ask me "Hey Isaac, how many Indonesian horror films have you seen?" I would probably say "There are Indonesian horror films?" Evidently yes, and I've been missing out. Satan's Slaves is a remake of its 1982 original of the same name, wherein the mother of a family has become bedridden due to a mysterious disease. She can only communicate with a bell next to her bed, and boy oh boy does that bell come in later. The first half of this film is utterly terrifying, with the second half dragging its feet a bit while using the same scares that were so effective before. Highly recommend if only for the wonderfully inventive scares and setting you'll see during the first 45 minutes.
PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH
Welp, this movie is absolute hilarious insanity, I'm not sure what else I can say. Thomas Lennon leads a cast of soon-to-be-murdered hotel guests, hunted by some super racist Nazi puppets. Udo Kier is in it. I'm honestly not sure if you need to know anything else. See it with as many people as possible.
Though it's difficult to describe this as a horror film, I will not question a film about a paralyzed man who can walk with the help of a super-AI chip in his neck. Oh and also the chip in his neck can talk and turn him into a hand-to-hand combat killing machine. Logan Marshall-Green has been a favorite since his elevated turn in The Invitation, and it's nice to see him get to have a little fun with a role. My only complaint is not actually with the film, but with the trailers they've released. There are only 4 big action set pieces in the film, and the trailer shows the ending of all of them (this is especially an issue with the red band trailer, which shows in full exactly how he kills people). Please please go in blind, it's well worth your while.
I have to keep this short because I'll be diving in to a spoiler-filled review later on, but this is hands-down the best horror film I've seen in years. I cannot emphasize enough just how utterly upsetting so much of the content is, and it's made all the better when that content is based on extreme family trauma. Toni Collette will be absolutely robbed if she isn't given at least an oscar nomination, and Alex Wolff has suddenly become an actor I'm going to keep on my radar for years to come. I was shaking a half-hour after the film ended and I've not been able to get it out of my head even days after I've seen it. Parents be warned, this is very difficult to watch.