Sick, Satanic Hispanics, and more fantastic films reviewed at Fantastic Fest

satanic-hispanics-posterEpic Pictures

Capsule reviews for some of the best films that played at Fantastic Fest, including movies about vampires, aliens, demons, and the bloke who created Hellboy.

We’ve had a busy week reviewing the major films playing a Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas this week. Horror was well-served by the likes of Smile, Werewolf by Night and the new Hellraiser.

While there was dark drama and black comedy via The Menu, Bones and All, and The Banshees of Inisherin.The following are capsule reviews of six more movies we saw, including a scary anthology, a heartwarming documentary, and a film about a twisted daddy-daughter relationship…

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Blood Relatives

noah-segan-in-blood-relativesPaper Street Pictures.
Blood Relatives.

Blood Relatives is a genre mash-up of the most entertaining kind, combining road movie with vampire story and a twisted daddy-daughter relationship.

Actor Noah Segan writes and directs, while also starring as Francis, an ancient bloodsucker in a leather jacket who drives from state to state in his vintage muscle car, eating the odd bad dude, but generally trying to stay out of trouble.

Then 15-year-old Jane (the amazing Victoria Moroles) walks into his life, and everything changes. As Jane is his daughter, and a kind of hybrid vampire with different powers to his own. So unlike Francis, she ages, and can exist in sunlight.

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They become a sort of undead odd couple, with daughter joining dad as he journeys from Texas to Oklahoma and then onto Kansas and Minnesota. But Jane wants to live the normal life of a normal teen, meaning Francis might have to grow up, take stock, and start shouldering some responsibility.

There are big themes at play in Blood Relatives, about identity and purpose. But ultimately, it’s a sweet, sincere, sometimes sweetly sentimental story about vampire blood being thicker than water.

Sick

Miramax.
Sick.

Co-written by Kevin Williamson – he of Scream fame – Sick starts out with a similarly scary opener, though as it’s more than 25 years later, the victim receives scary messages by text rather than a phone call. And he’s receiving them at a terrifying time: when the global lockdown was happening, and people were both paranoid and frightened.

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Much of the film then plays out at the beautiful lake-house where three friends head to quarantine in style. But it soon turns into a home invasion movie, as a masked assailant breaks in and starts killing the kids.

The motivation for those murders won’t be for everyone – and it might be too soon for the first Covid slasher – but director John Hyams expertly ratchets up the tension, before delivering a bunch of creative kills.

Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters

mike-mignola-drawing-monstersInk on Paper Printing.
Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters.

Drawing Monsters is a feel-good documentary about how shy book-worm Mike Mignola became master of the largest creator own universe in comic book history.

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We follow his journey from inker on Master of Kung Fu to artist on Rocket Raccoon, but Mignola soon realized he didn’t like drawing traditional superheroes, and didn’t want to work on traditional superhero stories. So following a Batman stint where he gave The Dark Knight a gothic spin, he decided to go further down the horror route, by creating Hellboy. And the rest is history.

What follows charts that character’s success while also detailing Big Red’s journey to the big screen. Though the more recent movie is given short shrift in comparison to the Guillermo Del Toro flicks. But Drawing Monsters is as much about life as art, and at the doc’s core is a beautiful love story, between Mike and his wife Christine, which is genuinely heartwarming.

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Kids vs. Aliens

kids-vs-aliensBloody Disgusting
Kids vs. Aliens.

A spiritual sequel to writer-director Jason Eisener’s V/H/S 2 short “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, Kids vs. Aliens delivers exactly what the title suggests during its breezy 75-minute run-time.

It kicks off with grizzled fisherman seeing something fiery fall from the sky, which then hits the water, and is soon dragging them down. Then we meet the kids in question, and they are adorable aspiring filmmakers, dressing up like day-glow action figures to star in their own dystopian dinosaur movie.

Early in proceedings, they do battle with some local teens. But a more dangerous threat comes from those aforementioned aliens, with our foul-mouthed, pint-sized heroes the only thing standing in the way of global annihilation.

Shot in Eisener’s beloved Nova Scotia, it feels like an Amblin movie when the kids are riding around town on their bikes, and plays like The Monster Squad when they are doing battle with creatures from the local lagoon. And it’s a blast watching them fight men in rubbers suits, with the effects perfectly practical and the gore quotient reassuringly high. But Kids vs Aliens is also filled with heart, being an ode to friendship, family, and making movies with your pals.

Chop and Steele

chop-and-steeleWavelength.
Chop and Steele.

Another feel-good documentary, this one concerns Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, childhood friends who found fame by collecting weird VHS tapes, and presenting them at what they christened the Found Footage Festival.

Another of their childhood obsessions was playing pranks, and they brought that into adulthood by making up dumb characters, then appearing as them on morning news programmes, most notably becoming strongmen Chop and Steele, who break thin sticks and stomp tiny wicker baskets live on air.

One station didn’t take kindly to the joke however and sued the pair in federal court for conspiracy to commit fraud. What follows is a David and Goliath story, a bizarre appearance on America’s Got Talent, and an inspiring celebration of – much like Kids vs. Aliens – making dumb stuff with your friends.

Satanic Hispanics

satanic-hispanics-witchEpic Pictures.
Satanic Hispanics.

Satanic Hispanics is an anthology horror that deals in Latin American history and folklore. Mike Mendez directs the wraparound story about a man who calls himself ‘The Traveler’ and tells a series of seemingly tall tails to entertain a pair of doubting detectives while he waits for death.

First up is Tambien Lo Vi by Demian Rugna, about a Rubik’s Cube champion who develops a pattern with light that opens a portal to the dark. And what comes through is horrible in a story that cleverly loops back on itself in frightening fashion. El Vampiro is next, by Eduardo Sanchez. And it’s the silliest of the shorts, revolving around an aging vampire forgetting about daylight savings time and having to rush home. Yet while it’s slight, there’s a sweetness to the story that’s irresistible.

Gigi Saul Guerrero’s Nahuales is next, and it’s the scariest entry, starting out with a story of cops and cartels, before turning into a tale of myth and ritual via some genuinely disturbing imagery. Which is followed by Alejandro Brugues’ The Hammer of Zanzibar, which might be the best of the bunch thanks to Tarantino-esque dialogue and Raimi-like action and horror. The cursed tale also has a kicking soundtrack.

Satanic Hispanics then ends back where it started via The Traveler finally making his date with death, and it’s a bloody entertaining climax to an enjoyable, if uneven, anthology flick.