The Invitation

The fourth day of Fantastic Fest took place on the same day as the super blood moon eclipse, a coincidence that wasn’t lost on Southbound co-director Roxanne Benjamin, who told the audience before a packed screening to “dig down to all the worst things you’ve ever done” while watching the film, then to take advantage of that evening’s lunar event as an opportunity for a fresh start. Those instructions were reflected in yesterday’s slate of films, three occult and occult-adjacent horror films (followed by a X-rated Danish comedy sequel, because that’s how things go here). Patterns are emerging: Black goats. Larry Fessenden, who showed up for a third time yesterday. Sinister dinner parties. Bottomless scenes. Is Fantastic Fest trying to tell me something? Will I end up eating Satanic goat burgers with a half-nude Larry Fessenden before the week is out? Maybe it’s just the blood moon talking.

Southbound (C+) ended up being part of the encouraging emerging trend of a more cohesive horror anthology film, with four interlocking segments all based on themes of irreversible mistakes. Freshman director Benjamin’s segment ended up being the best of the bunch, bringing a wicked streak of black comedy (Dana Gould as an occultist, anyone?) to a story of an all-female band that falls into the clutches of an aggressively wholesome couple with Wicker Man-esque religious beliefs. The rest of the segments, however, lack focus and are mostly forgettable, save for some interesting CGI creature design and a sick amateur-surgery joke that’s memorable mostly for its sadism.

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The best movie of the day, period, also came from a female director—Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation (B), which screened as a special presentation at Fantastic Fest after playing SXSW earlier this year. A slow-burn take on California death cults, The Invitation is essentially a chamber piece following a Father John Misty-type L.A. hipster and his new girlfriend who are invited to a dinner party at the home he used to share with his ex-wife, who has a new outlook and a new man in her life courtesy of a sinister New Age group. The chaotic, bloody final act is by no means a surprise—especially given the Manson jokes sprinkled throughout—so the film’s success comes mostly from Kusama’s direction. She deftly manipulates mood, loosening the dramatic tension with occasional moments of levity before snapping it back into place again.

The Devil’s Candy (B-) is also less than coy about its ultimate outcome, although it’s mostly concentrated on pandering to its metalhead demographic. And far be it for me to deprive headbangers of inside jokes like a Ghost poster covering the sinister imprint of an upside-down cross, or the voice of Satan himself being composed by robe-clad doom-metal act Sunn o))). Director Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones) adds an additional layer of winking and nodding by giving the film a bright, shiny look that contrasts its pitch-black content. But in trying to make a film that blends the Satanic, home invasion, serial killer, and haunted house subgenres—with some alterna-family drama on top of that—he ends up making something suitably loud, but insufficiently hefty.

And for something completely different, the day ended with a midnight screening of Klown Forever (B-), which opened in Denmark last week and, as Tim League announced yesterday, Drafthouse Films will be distributing in the U.S. This sequel to 2012’s Klown is accessible and inaccessible at the same time: Accessible because everyone can understand a joke about getting your dick caught in a dreamcatcher (long story), and inaccessible because most Americans won’t recognize Danish actor Lars Hjortshøj as himself. Like Klown, Klown Forever revolves around unrepentant playboy Casper Christensen talking domesticated family man Frank Hvam into acts of unspeakable debauchery, but this time the most outrageous of those take place in L.A., and the stakes are higher when the two return to Europe. (Speaking of: Both Hvam and Christensen display what we’ll call a Continental approach to self-depreciating full-frontal male nudity, best expressed here in Frank’s comical shame showers.) It’s a rare example of outrageous lowbrow comedy for adults; if you find the idea of Curb Your Enthusiasm-style situational bestiality humor at all appealing, Klown Forever is worth a look.

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