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[Fantastic Fest] Last Night in Soho: Charmed and Chilled Us to Death

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Last Night

Edgar Wright’s deep dive of Soho is an exquisitely made thriller that changes the pace and direction of the room for its entire runtime. It seems that giallo cinema, or at the very least giallo inspired cinema, is making a strange and welcome come back and its doing so by way of auteur directors who are giving us something that is totally off the barometer of what is mainstream. Both, Wright’s Last Night in Soho and James Wan’s Malignant have come out swinging on a return to gialli films and a new wave in a cinematic blast.

Last Night in Soho follows small town Eloise to Central London with big dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Upon arrival, she discovers that she is a little more old fashioned when it comes to music tastes and her social life. After discovering that she isn’t going to fit in with her party all night, bullying roommates, she decides to rent a room belonging to a nice older lady who shares a lot more of Eloise qualities than girls her own age.

It really doesn’t take Wright to turn up the stylistic dial to 11 and sweep Eloise back to swinging 60’s London. Wright achieves this by placing Eloise within the shoes of the beautiful soul singing, Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy). Sandy matches Eloise in pretty much all the ways a new to the big ciy dreamer could.

Wright does an incredible job of technically putting Eloise and Sandy in the same shoes. An immense amount of in camera magic was used to place both girls in the same place at the same time.

Both Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie are incredibly moving in their respective roles. Each bringing with it their own heartbreaking turns in the world where dreams are crushed willy nilly and hopes and dreams are quickly shoved under the carpet.

All isn’t as it seems with the beautiful Sandy. Jack (Matt Smith) is promising Sandy stardom in London and might not be up to snuff. However, Smith plays his classic and superb debonair approach to the role of Jack too charming for Eloise or an audience to resist. The former Doctor Who star is truly working magical charm all over the place in the film’s first act.

The moving pieces all set up for a thriller that keeps the audience on their toes as the film bobs and weaves under and above expectations.

Last Night in Soho is incredibly rich in its design and colors. The best of Argento and Bava definitely come to mind. A gialli blueprint for all out style is used wonderfully by Wright who proves he is a true student and master of the sub-genre.

I’m in love with the era of the sixties in Central London. Wright does a painstakingly, awe- inspired recreation of the world and lets us live in it right along side Eloise.

Both Diana Rigg and Terrence Stamp add their classic presence, heart and even sinister side to the film. Both amazing classic actors are at the top of their games offering a big part of their cinematic fingerprints in incredible ways.

The film is as heart-wrenching as it is wonderfully comprised. The writing for SOHO goes a long way for keeping us deeply grounded with its characters. By the finale, Wright convinces the audience to all but fight for the lead. A remarkable writing achievement and brought home by the whirlwind of beauty and grace that both Joy and McKenzie bring to their roles.

Last Night in Soho keeps everyone on the edge of their seat by way of making us fall in love with its two main characters. By the end of the film, no fault can be found in Eloise or Sandy. The horrors of the film, go from the cold-blooded killer type to the supernatural in single beats. Wright orchestrates those break neck turns in genre masterfully throughout.

Last Night in Soho will go down in my top 10 of the year. Much like Wright’s other films it begs to immediately be watched and re-watched. It’s a horror film that ups the ante around every single corner it takes and constantly shocks in delightful ways. Wright’s film is elegant, electric and all out chilling . It will reintroduce audiences to giallo films and there isn’t anything more I could ask for.

Movie Reviews

A Date Night Goes Wrong in Shudder’s Disturbingly Surreal ‘A Wounded Fawn’ 

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A Wounded Fawn

A Wounded Fawn, the newest film from director Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor and Jakob’s Wife) adds to the resurgence of ‘70s nostalgia filmmaking and creates something that will surely stand out from the rest. It descends into terrifying chaos steered by an impressive acting duo. 

The film premiered at Tribeca Film Festival to acclaim and also played at Fantastic Fest, and will be premiering exclusively on Shudder on December 1. 

A Wounded Fawn Poster

Meredith (Sarah Lind: Jakob’s Wife,Wolfcop) is a museum curator trying to reenter the dating pool after an abusive relationship. She runs into Bruce (Josh Ruben: Scare Me, College Humor), a sweet but offputting man who invites her on a date to his secluded cabin. Little does she realize that this man is actually a mentally ill serial killer with his eyes on her as his next victim. 

The film opens with an art auction around a recently found Greek statue depicting a man being attacked by gods for his evildoing, shaping the premise of the film. 

Effectively cut into two parts, the first half of this film focuses on what you would expect with a serial killer luring a new female victim to his cabin in the woods, bearing many similarities to a film like Fresh. The second half turns into something else, surprisingly morphing into a different film that becomes far more sinister. 

A Wounded Fawn Shudder Original
Some of the eerie cinematography of “A Wounded Fawn” – Photo Credit: Peter Mamontoff/Shudder

A Wounded Fawn was shot on 16mm film, with plot tropes and shot styles resembling ’70s cinema and using the iconic ‘70s-style bright red blood.

Style and color are a big highlight, especially since it merges the art world with Greek mythology, creating shots that could be paintings themselves and a production design that goes beyond the often drab look of modern horror films. 

A Wounded Fawn 2022
Some creature designs from “A Wounded Fawn” – Photo Credit: Shudder

The special effects work adds to the impressive look of the film. Many of them are practical and heavily featured; there’s a good amount of blood spilling in this cabin. There are also imaginative creature designs similar to Donnie Darko. The creatures didn’t always work for me, but their bold designs and uniqueness are extraordinary.

The acting in this film is a standout. The two main actors, Ruben and Lind, have a great dynamic: they have very little chemistry with each other, capturing the feeling of being stuck on a first date with someone who doesn’t click. The story is seen from both of their sides in different but sympathetic ways. 

A Wounded Fawn Josh Ruben
Josh Ruben as Bruce Ernst in “A Wounded Fawn” – Photo Credit: Peter Mamontoff/Shudder

Knowing Ruben previously, it was difficult for me to see him in the role of a psychologically-damaged, violent man; he usually plays a goofy character. But, in this film, his psycho side sometimes unsettled me.

A Wounded Fawn Sarah Lind
Sarah Lind in “A Wounded Fawn” – Photo Credit: Shudder

Lind comes off as a yearning, hopefully romantic, and also confident, surefooted woman, perhaps influenced by her love of art. In particular, her love of the famous hardcore performance artist and author Marina Abramovic.

The film also stars Malin Barr (Honeydew, The Beta Test) in a role that, while small, is impactful. 

A Wounded Fawn Malin Barr
Malin Barr as Alecto in “A Wounded Fawn” – Photo Credit: Peter Mamontoff/Shudder

The film definitely touches on aspects that some might consider feminist, although considering it was written and directed by men, it does come off as a little simplistic — but hey, I’ll take it.

As Lind is an actress around 40 (although you would never know it looking at her flawless face), the film explores the themes of how difficult it is for older women to date, and broadly how dangerous it is for women of all ages in the same situation. The film in some ways could be viewed as a female revenge flick, particularly in the Greek mythology sense. 

The dreamlike atmosphere of this film is aided by really fun camera work and editing that seems to have a lot of intention behind it, and some eerie sound design. 

A Wounded Fawn isn’t perfect, but it was highly original and engaging for its runtime. It elevates the basic premise of a psychotic male killer by using surreal, and psychological elements. I can definitely see the last half being divisive, but those who are into chaotic and trippy horror films might enjoy A Wounded Fawn, streaming on Shudder now.

Check out the trailer below.

3.5 eyes out of 5
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TADFF 2022 Review: ‘MexZombies’ Knows the Kids Are Alright

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MexZombies

Along with writers Luis Gamboa and Santiago Limón, director Chava Cartas has crafted a celebration of youth, life, love, and film with the charming (if not awkwardly named) feature, MexZombies. In a world full of violent zombie apocalypse movies, this one’s for the teens. 

In a gated community in Mexico, Halloween festivities take an unexpected turn when the quiet suburb is overrun by the shambling undead. Only a small group of kids are aware of the chaos unfolding around them, and the fate of the world falls into their teenage hands. 

MexZombies stars an ensemble cast of talented young’uns. Marcelo Barcelo is comically cheeky as cinephile Cronos, Iñaki Godoy wins hearts as underdog Tavo, Luciana Vale is impressively savvy as sardonic Rex, and Vincent Michael Webb’s repeated self introduction as American tourist Johnny is… surprisingly funny. These kids bring a lot of their own authenticity to their roles, and you can’t blame them for having a blast as they slash their way through a horde of zombie neighbors. And it’s nice to see actual teenagers playing their age! Sorry 20-something year old American actors, but you’re not fooling anyone.

The film deftly weaves typical teen troubles into the zombie-killing action. MexZombies sings the frustrated teenage anthem of “parents just don’t understand” while juggling themes of unrequited love and class disparity. These themes are approached with a level of respectful maturity; they’re young, but their troubles are still valid. Especially when combined with the whole “survive and save everyone” thing. 

The character of Cronos is particularly tangled in this topical web; any dorky movie nerd can identify with his continued dismissal, but he counters it with such impassioned enthusiasm that the film never gets too broody or dark. If Tavo is the heart of the film, Cronos is the guts. 

One thing the film seems to be lacking is any sense of despair. Let’s be clear: this is not a bad thing. It’s oddly refreshing. Are there “we’re at a dark moment and it could get rough” points? Yes. But it somehow stays light on its feet, pushing audience engagement with quick pacing and forward momentum. 

MexZombies definitely wears its Zombieland influences on its sleeve – between the overt references (Cronos dressed as Tallahassee for Halloween) and the slightly less direct (the overuse of slow-motion blood spurts). The appreciation of the zombie film oeuvre is high in this one, from Romero to Thriller to Shaun of the Dead. Overall, the whole film is a smorgasbord of pop culture references, which actually kind of adds to its whole teenager cinephile vibe. 

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen, so you really have to do something bold to stand out. MexZombies may not be brazenly bold, but it is a light, bloody snack. Consider it part of a zombie-watching balanced breakfast. 

MexZombies played as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup. 

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TADFF 2022 Review: ‘Here For Blood’ Serves a Knockout Punch

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Here for Blood

If Hulk Hogan’s 1990s family-friendly action comedies have taught us anything, it’s that a burly wrestler is quite possibly the best qualified person to watch your kids. Daniel Turres’ Here For Blood confirms this lesson, but with a whole lot more blood. And cultists! It’s a great time. 

In Here For Blood, college student Phoebe (Joelle Farrow, Level 16) is encouraged to find a substitute for her regular babysitting gig so she has more time to prepare for an upcoming exam. Her friends are pretty persistent, and they have a valid point, so Phoebe turns to her rugged rough-and-tumble boyfriend Tom (Shawn Roberts, Resident Evil: Afterlife) to ask the big favor. He reluctantly agrees, and thus begins a night of mayhem. A group of cultists attack the home and attempt to kidnap Tom’s young ward, Grace (Maya Misaljevic, The Boys), unaware that she’s under the care of a heavily muscled man with a real knack for violence. 

As a horror comedy, a lot of the laughs are in the presentation; it’s less about the script and more about the delivery. Another key to its comedy is in the bloody mess that erupts across the screen. Here For Blood uses ample amounts of blood – buckets of it, in timed spurts – which just adds to the absurdity. 

The practical effects are done by The Butcher Shop FX Studio, and they’re top notch over-the-top gruesome gory goodness. It’s gooey, gnarly, visceral fun. If you like your horror with a heavy dose of campy violence, Here For Blood has just the kind of bare-knuckle punch you’re looking for. 

The cast have just the right amount of fun with it. Roberts as babysitter extraordinaire Tom O’Bannon charms his way through a burly front to create a character that you really grow to care for. Misaljevic as Grace is endearingly precocious, and it’s always a treat to see Canadian legend of stage and screen, Michael Therriault (Chucky). 

In Here For Blood, the stakes are high – the fate of the world, etc etc – but there’s a carefree avoidance of logic that somehow still works out. Who needs a rational explanation when there’s so much fun to be had? 

Director Daniel Turres (Terry’s Car Gets Stolen) shows a real flair for the melodramatic elements that make the film work. At moments – greatly aided by the synthy score from composer Norman Orenstein (The Editor) – the film plays like a cult classic 80s horror. Turres understands the assignment and crafts a plucky retro-inspired blood-soaked horror comedy.

 A surefire crowd-pleaser, Here For Blood is a treat for fans of classic 80s horror, but with a modern flair. The film is full of a passionate love for the horror genre and all the splatter that comes with it.

Here For Blood played as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup.

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