There were a number of truly excellent films at this year’s Fantastic Fest, and I’m only one little writer. We’ve already reviewed a number of excellent works from Austin already, but we don’t have the time or space to give all of them the ample credit that they deserve. So we’ve brought to you a selection of capsule reviews of some of the titles we saw at the Fest this year- the good, the bad, and the anime — all in 300-or-so words or less.
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This indie horror film is a hit on the festival circuit, and it’s not hard to see why: Its central conceit — the juxtaposition of a supernatural cabin-in-the-Northwest tale, where a mother (Allison Haislip) and her family are forced to fight for their survival against the machinations of a group of witches, and its A&E true-crime follow-up documentary, which adheres to every trope in the book — is intriguing enough and most definitely alluring on the page. It’s well-cast (scream queen Barbara Crampton gives a wickedly fun performance) and quite fun, the production design is great, and director Brad Baruh tries his best to give the audience their money’s worth, with all the gore and thrills they could hope for in a film like this.
Yet there’s something odd about Applecart that fully prevented me from engaging with it. For one, the pacing’s incredibly odd, and it doesn’t help that the true-crime doc and the actual narrative are spliced together in alternating fashion, which I guess is intended to inspire intrigue, rather than deflating the film’s momentum. The editing is choppy and a little odd, and though there’s some great character bits strewn throughout, Baruh won’t linger on any of them or let them breathe — he’s perpetually outracing his best assets.
Finally, the whole thing centers on the blonde ambition of a rising political candidate, bizarrely enough, and it’s a message that feels weirdly out of step for the times, especially given the contrasting roles for women in the film: The homemaker loses everything, the guileful politician gains it (and this isn’t a spoiler, it’s spelled out in the first moments of the crime doc). So, I didn’t care much for this, though it might delight plenty of horror fans interested in formal experimentation. However, some of my issues might be fixed by the new cut of the film, showing in Chicago soon and potentially later on when it hits VOD.