Editor’s Notes: The following reviews are part of our coverage of Fantastic Fest 2013. For more information on the festival visit http://fantasticfest.com and follow Fantastic Fest on Twitter at @fantasticfest.
Patrick (Dir. Mark Hartley) [Julian Wright’s review]
Patrick is a film about a nurse who lands a job taking care of comatose patients. Kathy (Sharni Vinson) genuinely cares for her patients and takes an interest in Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) because she believes that he responds to her. The hospital is dark, creepy and filled with otherwise lifeless patients that do creepy things in the night. The film doesn’t work because the frequent jump scares do not pay off. The score is quite beautiful but overpowers the film and telegraphs the next jump scare. The premise, tone and mood are there but it’s difficult to care for anything happening on screen. All of the actors gave it their all. Sharni Vinson has demonstrated skill in the midst of a mini genre run in her career (You’re Next). Redeeming qualities include: Vinson, Charles Dance, wonderfully eerie set design and it’s shot incredibly well.
[notification type=”star”]50/100 ~ MEDIOCRE.The film doesn’t work because the frequent jump scares do not pay off. The score is quite beautiful but overpowers the film and telegraphs the next jump scare. The premise, tone and mood are there but it’s difficult to care for anything happening on screen. [/notification]
Almost Human (Dir. Joe Begos)
Almost Human is a splatter fest sci-fi horror film that draws inspiration from films such as: The Thing and Fire in the Sky. The film opens with a frantic pace. Seth (Graham Skipper) barges through Mark’s (Josh Ethier) house speaking of an alien abduction. Mark is promptly abducted and goes missing for two years. Seth’s life has fallen to ruin while Mark’s ex-girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh) moves on and finds love again. As the story goes, Mark returns completely changed. Mark is now a deranged maniac who kills his way to his old home. The kills in this film are badass and deserve much praise. In a world where CGI blood and other visual effects run rampant, Almost Human is a breath of fresh air utilizing practical effects with minimal CGI. Almost Human may lose some audiences because it lacks originality. The kills have been seen before. Even some of the moments have been seen before. What matters most is the execution. Graham Skipper’s performance in the lead role is a standout. Skipper ran through a wide range of emotions and characteristics. Josh Ethier does a terrific job as a menacing, out of this world killer. If you’re on the fence on this one, wait for VOD/DVD, gather some friends and have a great time. Otherwise sign up for a bloody great time that satisfied this genre lover.
[notification type=”star”]75/100 ~ GOOD.In a world where CGI blood and other visual effects run rampant, Almost Human is a breath of fresh air utilizing practical effects with minimal CGI. [/notification]
Grand Piano (Dir. Eugenio Mira)
Grand Piano is a breath-taking, edge of your seat thrill ride written by Damien Chazelle and directed by Eugenio Mira. The film is about master pianist, Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) and his comeback performance after a humiliating performance that has haunted him for five years. The pressure on Selznick is high. The stakes are raised as he finds a disturbing message written on his sheet music. There is a sniper (John Cusack) in the concert hall with a rifle aimed at Mrs. Tom Selznick (Kerry Bishe). Selznick must deliver a flawless performance otherwise his wife gets killed. The film will draw comparisons to Phone Booth but Grand Piano far exceeds the former because the script is razor sharp and the tension can be felt in the air. Wood delivers an outstanding performance and Cusack is cold, calculated and a ticking time bomb. Film lovers will enjoy seeing Alex Winter on the big screen once again.
[notification type=”star”]86/100 ~ GREAT.Grand Piano is a breath-taking, edge of your seat thrill ride. [/notification]
The Sacrament (Dir. Ti West)
Ti West’s latest film is influenced by the tragic Jonestown mass suicide that took place on November 18, 1978. The Sacrament is set in present time under the umbrella of Vice media. Sam (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg) are Vice journalists who tag along with their friend Patrick (Kentucker Audley) as he visits his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz) at the community she has relocated to in order to clean up her lifestyle. It’s worth noting that the film is shot POV style with handheld cameras operated by Sam and Jake. At first the community appears to be a happy place to be. They are self sustaining with no need for the outside world. Sam and Jake suspect that things are off, especially when they meet the cult leader named Father (Gene Jones). Jones’ performance is eerily charismatic. Jones has one scene in particular where he absolutely steals the show. As events unfold the film inevitably leads to a haunting kool aid scene. West goes for something different, challenging himself to expand his horizons. The film is incredibly bleak. West’s films tend to have a high level of chemistry between characters; it’s for this reason that climactic emotional payoffs missed the mark.
“Fun” fact: The Alamo Drafthouse served cups of Kool-Aid for the audience to drink during the mass suicide moment. Many skipped the kool aid but I drank it without hesitation.
[notification type=”star”]65/100 ~ OKAY.The film is incredibly bleak. West’s films tend to have a high level of chemistry between characters; it’s for this reason that climactic emotional payoffs missed the mark. [/notification]