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The Standouts of Fantastic Fest 2019

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 | Review

Another year of Fantastic Fest has come and gone, which means their best-of horror picks should be hitting screens very soon. Reporting for Rue Morgue is Ariel Fisher with her selection reviews of what we should all be looking out for. 

The Pool

What do you get when you trap a diabetic man in an empty Olympic-sized swimming pool with his concussed, pregnant girlfriend, a couch, an old Pizza Hut pizza, and a crocodile? You get The Pool, the latest film from Thai writer/director Ping Lumpraploeng. After wrapping production on his latest assignment, Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan) decides to take a dip in the abandoned Olympic-sized swimming pool that served as the commercial’s set. But there’s a problem – he’s fallen asleep while the pool was draining and can’t get out. Through a series of absurd, almost Rube-Goldbergian events, the situation gets substantially worse over the course of seven days, including the introduction of a rogue crocodile. Questionable CGI aside, The Pool is funnier than it intends to be with a strange pro-life subplot, random endorsement deal, and a real fetish for melodrama. Though viewer beware: the film contains a particularly shocking dog death.     


The Other Lamb

In The Other Lamb, writer C.S. McMullen and director Malgorzata Szumowska approach cult horror with a powerful feminist lean. The film is about an all-female alternative religion – read: a cult – known as the Flock. Lead by a man known only as Shepherd (Michiel Huisman), the group navigates life by way of extreme, oppressive rules that would be very well received in Gilead. We follow a young woman by the name of Selah (Raffey Cassidy), born into the Flock, as she navigates the only world she’s ever known, the advice and opinions of a heretic (Denise Gough), and her steadily changing opinion of her world. Beautifully shot, The Other Lamb is a horrific allegory for the societal indoctrination of fear in women’s lives and a system that raises us to believe we are less than.    


We Summon The Darkness

Marc Meyers and Alan Trezza’s film about the capitalization of satanic panic features a trio of metal-loving heroines who aren’t all they seem to be. After meeting three guys at a local show and bringing them back to Alexis’ (Alexandra Daddario) parent’s place for a night of drinking, everything goes sideways. Unfortunately, so does the plot. Trezza’s script painted the story into a corner, revealing the big twist too early, thus necessitating the leading women’s descent into backstabbing, bickering female stereotypes. Daddario (also an executive producer), Maddie Hasson, and Amy Forsyth are fantastic as terrible trifecta with killer chemistry from start to finish. The first act is pure gold, a well-paced flick with excellent dialogue and perfect tone. Sadly, that doesn’t sustain the film into the final act, as the pacing loses its footing, the plot gets messy, and the tone loses focus. Regardless of its minor flaws, We Summon The Darkness is a fun flick well worth checking out.

Mariam RM