Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2014 Fantastic Fest. For more information on the festival visit fantasticfest.com and follow Fantastic Fest on Twitter at @fantasticfest.
Dir. Jonas Govaerts
Belgian director Jonas Govaerts makes his feature-length debut with Cub, a tale about a group of boy scouts and their leaders who go on a trip into the woods and get more than they bargained for in the form of a mean-spirited being. The buildup in the first act is great, with Govaerts creating a dark brooding atmosphere and showing us characters that are more than his biggest mistake is opening the film in the middle of the story, which robs the film of suspense by letting us know that scene is coming. Regardless, Cub is a fine debut film featuring some crazy violent sequences, though it isn’t as entertaining as one might suspect. Given its examination of bullying and its consequences, that is probably a good thing.
Dir. David Robert Mitchell
I walked into an 8:30 press screening of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows unsure what to expect. What followed was an involving film that masterfully instills a sense of constant dread in its audience. Maika Monroe, who delivered a strong supporting performance in The Guest, gets top billing this time around as Jay. After a sexual encounter with a boy that climaxes with being chloroformed and strapped into a wheelchair, Jay is told that she has been given the ability to constantly see bad things following her. They will always follow her until she sleeps with someone else. If they die, they will come after the person who had the curse last. The premise of the film is simple and its horror simple and virtually devoid of jump scares (another great plus) but Mitchell pulls all kinds of horror from it that it’s impossible for this film not to scare the most hardened of moviegoers.
Dir. Ruben Ostlund
I’m convinced that in some alternate universe there is a stage version of Force Majeure. This is a film that relies heavily on its script and actors and at first glance doesn’t necessarily scream fantastic movie. Swedish director Ruben Ostlund creates a fitting atmosphere for his family drama that has a surprising amount of twisted comedy. The story centers on a family that is vacationing at a ski lodge in the French Alps, where it is only a matter of time before conflict between husband and wife, parent and child, and fellow couples erupts. It’s never feels like Ostlund is playing any of his material for laughs, instead letting them come naturally out of everyday situations.
Dir. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
An occasionally convoluted plot and frustrating lack of further elaboration on its themes are more than made up for by the one-two punch of Mark Zaror kicking ass and scene chewing by Noah Segan. Zaror, who made a memorable but all too brief appearance in last year’s Machete Kills, stars in this Chilean-set tale of a hit-man turned vigilante who takes the law into his own hands in hopes of atoning for his previous sins. Zaror is the reason to see this film, with so many extended fight sequences choreographed by Zaror himself announcing the coming of a future action star.
Dir. Justin Benson, Gregg Bishop, Todd Lincoln, Aaron Moorhead, Marcel Sarmiento, Nacho Vigalondo
Much like its fellow horror anthology partner ABCs of Death 2, V/H/S Viral gives one the sense that the minds behind them have tinkered enough with the premise of the film that its execution is no longer a mixed bag. V/H/S Viral is a magnificent collection of horror shorts from both established and newer talent in cinema. The concept of a wrap-around story explaining the existence of the shorts is essentially abandoned here, allowing us to just enjoy some damn fine shorts that include magic, portals to other dimensions and a nightmarish trip into Mexico. Fans of the franchise will certainly be pleased, but it’s hard to imagine newcomers to the franchise not being won over as well.