We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

You know, revoke my movie cred, because I hated every single moment of this movie and I’ve seen some respectable people fawn all over this movie and maybe the version on HBO Max is not the one you’ve all seen. Am I too old? Did I not grow up on Twitch? Could I have missed the idea of gender dysphoria through body horror even though I desperately hoped this movie would give me an insight into that?

Casey (Anna Cobb) lives alone with her widowed father and spends all day and night on the web, trying out online challenges like, well, the World’s Fair Challenge in which you have to say, “I want to go to the World’s Fair,” three times on camera before cutting yourself. She keeps watching videos where people turn into plastic — they claim — or losing touch with reality.

Michael J. Rogers — who was great in Beyond the Black Rainbow — is the best part of this movie. I mean that as a compliment even if it’s petty theft. He’s a middle-aged man who may or may not have guided others through the challenge. He worries that the forces behind the World’s Fair are taking over her and that she needs to keep sending him videos, like the one where she smears paint all over herself and tears a doll to shreds or when she sings and then starts screaming.

Cobb definitely has a future in acting as she is either able to lose herself in the character or that’s just her. And director and writer Jane Schoenbrun had a really solid idea here. But this movie just drones on and on and never seems to find anything, even at the end when the older man claims that he met Casey years later.

There’s a lot of talent that’s all kind of wasted in a modern take on found footage that meanders and loses its way and actually never has it. This is no different than watching any number of streams online or reading about creepypasta. I really wanted to walk away from this movie but then I thought about how weak every Iron Man Joe Bob Mutant Fam person was complaining about how hard Things was to make it through and I’ve watched Things more than twice. So I steadied myself and kept this going, hoping and praying for something, anything to move me. And nope.

So please: tell me what this was about and why it moved you so much. I have the feeling that — I hate even typing these words — movie Twitter has the need to validate itself by rallying around movies that feel like they have some level of ascetic meaning. It’s like being in a club and saying things like, “This movie really goes for it” and it’s just all generic garbage spewing forth from your keys. You are the people who say “sell me on this movie” or wait for others to give their blessing to something instead of having the courage of your own conviction.

Movies should make you feel something and not just joy when the final credits roll. I never need to see or think about this again other than on my deathbed contemplate the minutes that I wasted on this and I could have forced my wife to watch something better. Now I don’t get to pick a movie for forever.

PS: Fuck ASMR.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Two Witches (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I saw this at the always well-run Salem Horror Fest. It was first posted on October 27, 2021 and has been expanded for this blu ray release.

The Arrow blu ray release has two commentary tracks, one by director, cinematographer and editor Pierre Tsigaridis and another by producer Maxime Rancon; a two-part behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with actor and associate producer Dina Silva, actor Marina Parodi, composer Gioacchino Marincola, a discussion of the piano music in the movie, test footage, a Q&A, a trailer, image gallery, a reversible sleeve with art by Ilan Sheady and an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel and a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sheady. You can get it from MVD.

Sarah (Belle Adams) may have never intended to be a witch but comes face to face with the craft when she meets a strange woman at a restaurant. In contrast, Masha has always known that she will one day become one.

In Sarah’s story, “The Boogeywoman,” our heroine is pregnant and her husband cooly informs her that all her visions of witchcraft are just the hormones talking. Oh yeah? Then who is the stalker in the woods casting spells on photos of your wife? Then, as these things happen, a Ouija board gets involved and the darkness sees out.

In “Masha,” the titular protagonist is a woman who knows that her magical powers are there and waiting for her grandmother to die and pass them on to her. Despite her inability to find the man she feels will complete her, she soon finds the power — and the madness — to do pretty much anything she wants.

Although these stories don’t seem to be connected, they are at the end, as the film hints that these women are part of a larger universe. Director Pierre Tsigaridis told Horror Obsessive that “I was really influenced by Italian cinema…Italian horror movies in the ’70s were criticized by Americans because they didn’t follow a typical structure, more visuals over story. In Europe, that was more common.”

This movie starts off with a bang, featuring a witch devouring a baby, and then doesn’t really slow down all that much from there. You can see hints of everything from Suspiria (both versions) and The Beyond to Carrie, Single White Female and Drag Me to Hell in these stories. And the fact that the villain from the first story has an impact on the second excites me for how this series — I hope it’s a series! — of films grows.

FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Everyone Will Burn (2021)

María José’s (an incredible performance by Macarena Gómez) life has fallen apart. Nearly everyone in the small town of Leon, Spain could care less about the suicide of her bullied son years before. As she prepares to jump off a ridge, Lucía appears. She’s a strange little girl who might just be the prophecy of a local legend about stopping an impending apocalypse come true. Whoever she is, she holds hope for María José, who is now savoring the chance to be a mother again and, well, take horrific revenge on everyone that hurt her or her son.

Imagine if everyone that was wrong in a small town finally had to confront the wrath of God — or Satan — and the corrupt cops were set ablaze, the ineffectual church was decimated and the gossips were torn asunder. Imagine no longer, because this film is a delirious blast of red-hued style and violence.

Director David Hebrero, who wrote this film with Javier Kiran, this movie may not be set in America, but it reminds me of the small-town hypocrisy that I grew up in and takes things beyond that into its own out-of-reality world. This is Hebero’s second movie, which is quite frankly mind-blowing because this movie is absolutely overloaded with style, substance and just plain greatness.

Lucía (Sofía García) is Damian Thorn as protagonist instead of antagonist. That’s a bold step to take and this movie just keeps making bigger leaps throughout, starting with an astounding “Wish You Were Here”  inspired visual and then just getting even stranger from there. Consider this my highest recommendation.

Don’t leave at the end. Sure, we’re all conditioned to stay through the credits for surprises, but this time the wait pays off.

If you’re attending Fantastic Fest in person, Everyone Will Burn will play at the following times:

Fri, Sep 23rd, 11:55 PM @ Theater 9
Tue, Sep 27th, 11:35 AM @ Theater 1
Tue, Sep 27th, 11:35 AM @ Theater 2

You can also get a virtual badge here.

To the Moon (2021)

Filmmaker Dennis (director and writer Scott Friend) and figure skater Mia (Madeleine Morgenweck) are trying to enjoy a healing weekend when Dennis’ brother Roger (Will Brill) shows up and takes them on a hallucinatory journey that won’t end well for anyone.

I really can’t do justice to the elaborate push and pull between Dennis and Mia that happens in this movie and how their past comes slowly to light. There are so many things that have happened between them; addiction, a lost child and promises that have been broken. At this point, an accident skating has cost Mia her ability to stand on one foot. The relationship with Dennis may have taken even more.

Mia thinks that Roger could save their relationship. Dennis believes that his brother just wants to ruin his life. Yet David is also detoxing from a lifetime of drug use, so he is not a reliable narrator in any way. He has waking nightmares. And Roger isn’t to be trusted either. Oh yeah — there’s also a monk who keeps appearing in the woods.

This is a quick film, a deep one and a movie that does more with three characters than most movies do with a cast of thousands.

To the Moon is now available on VOD from 1091.

SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE: The Sadness (2021)

I read a review where someone said that this movie was “morally repugnant” and that made me like it more. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen in the last few years that upset me, as it has some moments that are just overwhelming in their bloody fervor.

It’s funny though that in the rush to heap praise on this movie that no one says that it outright rips off the comic book Crossed to the point that I thought that this was an official adaption. Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows had been trying to sell a movie of their comic for some years and well, who wants to buy a movie that has already been made?

But what is in here — sorry, I just want to go back for a second and say that nose eating scene is literally panel for shot taken from Crossed — proves that director and writer Rob Jabbaz can create something brutal and horrific.

The Alvin virus has mutated and connects the part of the brain that enjoys sexual pleasure with the one that is aggressive. Those that have the disease have black eyes and are devoted to acts of erotic murder.

Jim and Kat become separated as the virus gets out of control and fight to get back across town to one another. Nothing works out. She comes across an obsessed businessman who is devoted to assaulting her once he becomes infected; there’s also a doctor who explains the virus and seems helpful yet he has an entire garbage bag full of dead babies.

I kind of hate that this movie was funded with a mixture of cryptocurrency and revenue from a producer’s cam girl business, but I do enjoy that it’s nearly all practical effects. It feels like a movie that watched Dawn of the Dead and said, “What if that movie had more fucking?” Well, it’d be called Shivers, but you get my point.

The Scary of Sixty First (2021)

Noelle (Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) lucked into an apartment with no furnishing but it’s in the best part of New York City’s Upper East Side. Sure, it gives Addie nightmares and Noelle has found a tarot card that upsets her, but what could go wrong?

That’s when the girl (Dasha Nekrasova, who directed and wrote this; she has no name in the film) shows up and lets them know that they’re living in a place where Jeffrey Epstein once assaulted and maybe even ritualistically killed underage girls.

So of course Noelle falls in love with her.

Meanwhile, Addie starts dressing like a child, jilling off to photos of Prince Andrew, wandering the streets and telling her boyfriend Greg (Mark Rapaport) very specific things to say while having sex such as Boeing 727 and “treat me like a 13-year-old” in a demonic voice.

As these things happen, Epstein owned several buildings around the apartment, all in the shape of a pentagram, and even the mention of the place frightens a magic store owner into giving Noelle and the girl a crystal for protection and kicking them out of his store, all while they’re followed by Ghislaine Maxwell as they run toward the Metropolitan Correctional Center where Epstein died, only to find Addie waiting for them.

None of this ends well or how you’d expect. And you know, I have to admire how this movie synergizes giallo, Eurohorror and torn from the headlines tabloid 70s film trash into one sleazy yet artistic ride.

It’s also hilarious that it ends with the same note that Tom Cruise got in Eyes Wide Shut.

You can watch this on Shudder or buy the blu ray from Vinegar Syndrome.

Gameboys: The Movie (2021)

Gavreel (Kokoy De Santos) and Cairo (Elijah Canlas) started as fellow gamers but after getting to spend some time together at Gavreel’s house, they’ve become lovers. But when Cairo must return home, they learn that distance and the pandemic stand in the way of their love.

Based on the first Boys’ Love series in the Philippines which aired in the U.S. on Netflix, Gameboys: The Movie is the next part of the story. Despite the boys finally getting the opportunity to see each other in person, their time is limited, as Terrence (Kyle Velino) and Wesley (Miggy Jimenez) interrupt and Gavreel’s aunt Susan (Angie Castrence) appears and brings her homophobia to their lives.

I really liked the way the movie used screens to show the story and allowed me to learn who the boys were in a way that dialogue wouldn’t be able to. You know, I never would pick this movie to watch and I’m so glad I did. It brought me into two lives that I would otherwise not be able to experience and that’s what great cinema can do.

Gameboys: The Movie is available on demand and on DVD from Dark Star Pictures.

The Alternate (2021)

Jake (Ed Gonzalez Moreno) is a videographer who has found all of his dreams coming true on the other side of a portal to another dimension. The perfect job, the wife of his dreams, a daughter that he never had in our world. Yet as they say, the grass is greener on the other side and Jake soon learns that perfection isn’t all it’s claimed to be.

Directed and written by Alrik Bursell, The Alternate answers a question I’ve always asked: is it cheating if you sleep with your wife from an alternate reality?

As the film progresses, we meet multiple versions of Jake and his wife Kris (Natalia Dominguez), who is overworked and wishes Jake would stop being so immature in our reality yet loving and supportive in her mirror universe version.

The truth of the movie lies in the question of whether you’re truly happy with what you have and the steps you need to make to find it. Even in another world, you remain yourself and so often, our problems are caused by our own emotions and behavior.

While the budget is low and the effects not the best you’ve seen, this movie realizes that it can be different by having an intriguing story and pushes itself to be quite unique.

The Alternate is available on digital and DVD.

SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE: Saloum (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: I originally saw this at Fantastic Fest and am so fired up that it’s on Shudder. This was first posted on October 1, 2021.

Bangui’s Hyenas, an elite mercenary team, have already extracted a drug dealer and his treasure from the chaos of a coup and are heading straight for the payout in Dakar. Yet as much as we love it when a plan comes together, we also seem to love a movie where things fall apart. And the Hyenas have found themselves stranded in the Sine-Saloum Delta, a group of isolated islands filled with local legends and dark magic. Now, the police — and maybe much worse things — are coming down on them.

The Hyenas — Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Minuit (Mentor Ba) — have survived so many wars and missions thanks to their skill and trust in one another. But this time feels different. That’s because it seems like Chaka, their leader, is hiding something. And as they stay within a small lodging camp until they can figure out their escape, the mute Awa (Evelyne Ily Juhen) threatens to expose them to the police unless she can go on the run with them.

Yet by the end, this movie goes from Italian western to American action to a supernatural take on Predator. What a strange ride this movie takes you on and the effects totally work, feeling as real as the gunplay at the start of the film.

SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE: Hellbender (2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on September 29, 2021. You can watch this on Shudder.

Toby Poser, John Adams, and their daughters Zelda and Lulu made The Deeper You Dig, a movie that divided Becca and me. For their follow-up, the Adams family has created a movie all about 16-year-old Izzy (Zelda), whose mother (Toby Poser) keeps her isolated due to a rare illness. Yet as Izzy begins to grow as a woman — beyond playing metal songs (written by Toby and Zelda) as the band H6LLB6ND6R without an audience may not be enough — she escapes to another home in the woods where she meets Amber (Lulu), who gives her a bikini and the chance to drink with teenagers.

Yet when she consumes a live worm, the hunger of being a hellbender opens her eyes and she soon learns exactly why her mother keeps her from others.

At first, I felt like this movie was kind of like seeing an opening act at a show and not feeling the first few songs that they play. It feels inauthentic. Not metal? Silly facepaint? And then before you know it, you’re nodding your head and feeling the urge to headbang by the end of the set. This film took some time to grow on me — The Deeper You Dig had some of the same issues — but when it works, it works.

The effects either look great for the budget or remind you of the budget, yet never feel like they’re organic to the film. That’s fine — this is a very DIY effort — and it actually becomes charming. I’ve never really trusted homeschooled kids who are too close to their parents, but maybe this is one of those families that gets the dynamic right.

It’s intriguing that Hellbender has been playing Fantastic Fest with Luzifer, another film that centers on an isolated relationship between a mother and child, albeit one that’s more sacred and profane at the same time.