I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Critic
There is something thrilling about Fantastic Fest. For a few days out of the year, everyone is a film junkie, hitting up red carpets to see their favorite stars and filmmakers, or lining up in the lobby for hours to catch the festival’s most buzzed about features.
At the Alamo Drafthouse on Lamar, where all the screenings take place, anything can happen. You could share a beer with Pat Healey of CHEAP THRILLS, take selfies with prominent film critic Leonard Maltin, or sh*t your pants scared watching THE BABADOOK.
Day 3’s crop of films had a few exciting features, docs and shorts, but it also had plenty to leave you with your face in your hands, regretting not walking out.
Of the films, the biggest standout was the incredibly effective horror film THE BABADOOK. The film follows Amelia (a knockout Essie Davis), a depressed mother who thought her biggest issue was her son’s violent outbursts. Well, that was before ‘Mr. Babadook,’ a ghostly figure who you just have to see to believe.
Most horror films these days’ climax happens somewhere in the middle and loses momentum afterwards to where everything that follows doesn’t have the same effect (think INSIDIOUS, which is nevertheless a decent horror movie). But in THE BABADOOK, there is a comic relief brilliantly placed throughout to bring you down from your own climax just so they get another opportunity to make you fear up and fall once more. First-time feature director Jennifer Kent understands the psychology behind tension and builds suspense through mere scene construction.
The scares, the pacing, sound design and camera work lend to the film’s high standing, bringing messed up to a whole new level. It’s spectacular. Don’t miss your chance to see it at Fantastic Fest when it screens again tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. (It doesn’t have U.S. distribution right now, so it may be your only chance for quite a while)
After DRIVE, expectations were sky high for Refn’s next feature. Even though the director laid it on thick that ONLY GOD FORGIVES was not going to be the next DRIVE, or anything remotely like it, Refn fans still held on to hope. And as it turned out, ONLY GOD FORGIVES was far from what anybody expected, dividing audiences and critics alike.
But Refn said it best, “ONLY GOD FORGIVES is meant to be taken anyway you like it because that’s when art becomes interesting. Art is an individual experience. So my best offering is to show you this movie— love it or hate it, you’ll never forget it.” The statement rings true, and it’s fascinating to see how much work went into making this film. The filmmaker struggled, doubted himself, suffered from depression, knew everything that critics would say about his movie before he even made it, but yet he stuck to his guns and pushed through to make one of the most peculiar films in recent years.
And the final movie before we venture over to ‘scum bucket’ territory is THE EDITOR, an exceptional horror-thriller about a one-handed film editor who find himself to be a prime suspect after a series of murders begin occurring aroud him. From beginning to end, it’s a twisted and comical ride that should not be missed. (THE EDITOR screens again on Wed., Sept. 24 at 11:45 p.m.)
Every film festival doesn’t come without its crap. It’s just unfortunate when some of those films have all the right ingredients, but still manage to ‘eff’ up the batter. One of those films was FELT, a movie about a youthful artist who loses herself in an unpredictable alter ego while attempting to manage with a past injury.
I’m all about filmmakers taking risks and testing audiences limitations, but FELT pushes you over the edge to where you feel like the only sensible thing to do after seeing it is to take a shower. It’s so disjointed in terms of tone and structure that it’s about as engaging as nails on a chalkboard. Not to mention that it has one of the most disturbing finales of all-time. Trust me, you’ll live a happier life not knowing what it is.
Closing out the night’s disasterpieces was EVERLY, an action-thriller about a woman who must fight her way through a team of assassins. Salma Hayek kicking butt and showing off her butt, what can go wrong? A lot.
Aside from a few funny lines here or there and action scenes, EVERLY pulls from every cliché in the book. Not once do you feel for any of the characters. The whole film is just one big ego trip for director Joe Lynch, who fails in nearly every department.
As for today’s lineup, majority of the films are pretty unknown, besides Daniel Radcliffe’s HORNS. So you may run across a few surprises in the pipeline. Stay tuned.
All ticket and screening information can be found at fantasticfest.com.