Fantastic Fest Day 4 Recap: ‘THE WITCH’, ‘THE DEVIL’S CANDY’ and ‘SOUTHBOUND’

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fantastic-fest-2015-700x300Preston Barta & Cole Clay // Film Critics

The pace has been set, and hopefully you have stayed hydrated and have received enough sleep for the halfway point of the festival. In the meantime, it’s also very important to gorge your eyeballs on what has to come to pass, as the most eclectic line-up to date. This is the moment of truth, either you have the stamina to make it through, or you get burned out. And remember, this is a marathon, and proper training is required.

Nicolas Winding Refn has been on the prowl in his standard issue white button-up shirt, signing copies of his hella pricy but gorgeous book THE ACT OF SEEING. His enthusiasm is infectious– somebody should give this guy a reality show, for real.

One of the more exciting events that has now become a staple at Fantastic Fest is the comedy show THE MELTDOWN WITH JONAH AND KUMAIL, which packed the Highball to the brim with a one-in-one out policy that lasted for hours.

But let’s talk some flicks. It was a big day for the premiere films at the festival, including a very special screening of a Puritan horror spookfest.

Anya Taylor-Joy makes up the great ensemble in THE WITCH. Photo courtesy of A24.

Anya Taylor-Joy makes up the great ensemble in THE WITCH. Photo courtesy of A24.

THE WITCH is the type of film for which you cannot prepare someone, no matter how much time and effort is spent laying the groundwork. Since its January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, it has caused much of a stir, especially now that its nightmarish trailer is released on the web. The film marks a well-crafted and impressive feature debut from Robert Eggers, who knows how to ferociously ratchet up dread, superstition and paranoia to a grand degree.

Many witnessed the wrath of this film’s trailer, which slowly built up fear within with its expert use of string chords, drums, and goat bleats. It’s one of the creepiest trailers I’ve ever seen, springing a whirlwind of curiosity amongst us all. In its full form, THE WITCH showcases Eggers skill as a filmmaker while also personifying the basest fears.

Set in 1600s New England, the film follows a family as they leave their settlement to live alone in the wilderness. Once a witch steals their youngest child, however, wickedness enters their lives, making their brave new life a grave mistake.

It’s said that a good horror film is one that sticks with you, one that you can’t shake for days, possibly even years. A good horror film makes you scared to turn off the light, and makes you run when you could have walked. THE WITCH will undoubtedly be one of those films (read our full review here).

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Another dynamite feature was THE DEVIL’S CANDY, starring Ethan Embry (pictured above) and Shiri Appleby (UnREAL). This wonderfully twisted film tells a story that may sound familiar to your ears: a family buys a house in a remote location and craziness ensues. Yes, while that part of the story doesn’t necessarily cruise through the uncharted, where the plot detours and arrives is completely fresh and exciting.

With its rockin’ heavy metal tunes, exceptional performances from its cast (seriously, I cannot just talk about one person), and nerve-racking exploration, THE DEVIL’S CANDY is a real treat. It features a sharp script written by Sean Byrne (THE LOVED ONES) with visuals that vividly back his words. There is never a dull moment amidst its dark and disturbed nature.

A scene from SOUTHBOUND.

A scene from SOUTHBOUND.

Anthology films works quite well in the horror genre, but man, don’t tie each story together besides using a narrator or MC like the CryptKeeper to introduce each story. SOUTHBOUND ties together five short stories about weary travelers on the road at night, and it’s unpredictably twisted.

Directors Rozanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath and the directing group Radio Silence all work together to create one vision that coalesces naturally and is one of those perfect midnight showings. With a sick sense of humor, SOUTHBOUND works in its themes of fear and regret and pokes and prods at its subjects with fulfilling results.

All ticket and screening information can be found at fantasticfest.com.

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About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.