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
Sunday’s Day 4 of Fantastic Fest was the weakest day in terms of selection. But that didn’t stop us from testing the waters and seeking out some hidden gems. One of those gems was LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU.
Richard Stanley emerged in the early 90s as one of the great genre directors, producing such great works as HARDWARE (1990) and DUST DEVIL (1992). After his success and recognition with those two films, Stanley took on a big budget film – the adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU.
This terrific documentary, which is one of the strongest films at the festival, explores what its full title suggests – the doomed journey of the film. Not to get all personal, but as a kid, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1996) was one the movies that I often used to watch with my father. So as you can imagine, watching this documentary was completely riveting to me.
After the script for THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU was complete and production was underway, the studio and its actors – Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer – began to interfere with Stanley’s vision, later leading to the studio-decision of firing of Stanley on the inaugural day of shooting.
At the time, Brando and Kilmer were notorious for being two of the most difficult actors to work with. Kilmer, who just came off the success of TOMBSTONE (1993) and BATMAN FOREVER (1995), was eager to change things in the script. Many of the actors in the film, such as Fairuza Balk (THE CRAFT) and Marco Hofschneider (EUROPA EUROPA), commented on how he and Brando refused to even look at the script. The doc even goes into detail about how Brando would have his assistant read his lines through an earpiece from his trailer. The craziness of this project doesn’t stop there. Lookout, witchcraft comes about!
LOST SOUL is one of the finest documentaries in years. Even if you are unfamiliar with THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, it’s still fascinating to learn about the true nature of actors, how difficult it is to make a feature and how easily it can go wrong. It’s an absolute knockout!
LOST SOUL screens again today at 12 p.m. at Fantastic Fest.
However, the biggest film of the evening, HORNS, starring HARRY POTTER wonder-boy Daniel Radcliffe, wound up being one of the greatest disappointments of the fest thus far. HORNS, a tale about a young man accused of murdering his girlfriend and grows devil horns on his head, is all over the place in terms of structure. Something about the project, despite the talents from horror extraordinaire Alexandre Aja (THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 2006), feels simultaneously rushed and long-winded.
We come to know the Radcliffe’s character, Ig, and his girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), pretty well for the most part, but we know not much of anything from his other acquaintances and kinfolk. They are just kind of thrown in and are there just because they need to be (the film is based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name). Of course, they are not the focus of the story, but they play a big part in the film’s final and most crucial moments. So when those moments come, the impact doesn’t have the proper weight.
There are many great scenes in the film, such as one where Ig utilizes the power of the horns to his advantage and has news reporters beat the crap out of each other to obtain an exclusive interview with him. But with every great scene, comes a lot of dry exposition and big-time tonal issues.
HORNS is far from being a complete waste of time. It’s great to see what Radcliffe brings to the role and to hear his American accent. So while it may not be that rush-out-of-your-house type of October release, it’s worth checking out on a rainy day once it hits store shelves and Netflix libraries.
HORNS screens again tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9 p.m. at Fantastic Fest, and opens nationwide on October 31.
Day 5 has more hidden gems that we are excited to talk about. So come back later today to see how Monday played out.
All ticket and screening information can be found at fantasticfest.com.