2020 Fantasia Film Festival Reviews sake of vicious

Usually, the genre-heavy Fantasia International Film Festival is held annually in Montreal, but with things the way they are this year (terrible), the festival has gone virtual. This year, Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato are covering Fantasia for /Film, firing off dispatches featuring capsule reviews of the titles we’ve watched from the safety of our own homes, all while dreaming of poutine.

In this edition: something from Troma; Rhode Island horror; and some old fashioned ultraviolence. 

#ShakespeareShitstorm Puts The “Shit” In Shitstorm

Troma has never been concerned with subtlety, decency, or courtesy. Why would #ShakespearesShitstorm be any different? Lloyd Kaufman pulls from William Shakespeare once more, without feeling, for this poo-smeared rendition of The Tempest through a Tromaville lens. It aims between Street Trash and Society. It achieves repulsive “satire” that suggests we’re all due for a refresher in what defines “exploitation filmmaking.” Provocation of the most putrid order.

The “shitstorm” is Kaufman’s attack against “snowflakes,” “social justice warriors,” and internet commenters who, in the film’s words, lack “perspective.” There’s an angry rant in here about Big Pharma as well, but this is always Kaufman’s crudely personal pushback against America’s inability to take a joke. Expect to glimpse protest signs that read, “I’m upset,” or hear rally attendees shout “Black Lives Matter,” except they’re more a punchline? Troma titles like Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead (a favorite) have something to say amidst grotesque kitchen-themed carnage, while #ShakespearesShitstorm exists only to offend. Which is not the statement Uncle Lloyd thinks (or maybe it is, which is vastly more concerning).

Concerning the Society reference above, some grotesque creations morph human bodies into genital mutants. Everything else? The exploitation equivalent of “man screams at cloud,” where “exploitation” is just an excuse to demean crack-whore characters or belittle movements or equate the free press to fame-chasing bloggers. Aggression with no aim, but plenty of sticky, corn-dotted, repugnant juices ejected from bodily openings. It all becomes a parody of itself, and not how Troma intends. At least the title is foretelling. – 3 out of 10Matt Donato

The Block Island Sound Is A Curiously Creepy Coastal Treat

While I comprehend their differences, The Block Island Sound scratches an itch that The Beach House could not. The McManus Brothers, Kevin and Matthew, utilize the small Rhode Island locale of Block Island to explore “the unknown.” What lies beneath, what humans discount, and what settles deep under the ocean’s cresting waves. There’s far more care taken with narrative intrigue, where The Beach House invests heavily in a few snazzy but shallow Lovecraftian shots.

Harry Lynch (Chris Sheffield) is an outsider who lives with his increasingly forgetful and agitated father (Neville Archambault). His sister Audry (Michaela McManus), with a marine biology background, attempts to help where possible but becomes preoccupied with a local phenomenon that includes washed-up fish and dead birds. Also, it might have something to do with Harry’s father, and soon, Harry himself? It’s psychological horror, eco-horror, and aquatic horror all at once.

Screw it, throw “possession horror” into the mix as well. The Block Island Sound manipulates the audacity of conspiracies while teasing our curiosities with undiscovered terrors. What Audrey says about plucking fish from the ocean to study, removed from their habitat for the betterment of others, could be a metaphor. It could also foreshadow. In any case, the film is well-acted, inquisitively tense, and hits a coastal horror vibe that suits my salty tastes. – 7 out of 10Matt Donato

For the Sake of Vicious Lives Up to Its Name

Vicious is right. For the Sake of Vicious, Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen’s ultraviolet Halloween action-thriller, isn’t fucking around. For 81 minutes, this thing doesn’t let up, throwing one violent set piece after another in our face.

It’s Halloween, and nurse Romina (Lora Burke) comes home to her trailer to discover her landlord Alan (Colin Paradine) been taken hostage by Chris (Nick Smyth). Chris swears that Alan, who is bloody and duct-taped to a chair, raped his daughter. Alan swears that didn’t happen, but it’s already been established he’s not the most trustworthy guy. Who are we to believe?

Before we can even begin to ponder what’s really going on here, hordes of masked assailants start descending on the trailer, leading to a series of brutal, tightly-filmed, strongly-staged scenes where characters are violently hurled around the compact space with full force. 

For the Sake of Vicious suffers from a real lack of narrative – once you strip away all the non-stop violence what remains is rather threadbare. But the relentless brutality, which never feels stagey or false, manages to make this worth your while. You might come away wanting something more, but you won’t come away disappointed. – 7 out of 10 – Chris Evangelista

For The Sake Of Vicious Alternate Take

Spoiler alert: I came away disappointed, Chris.

For The Sake Of Vicious reminds of Random Acts Of Violence by title first, then presentation. We are thrust into a violent situation that continually escalates. The filmmakers want to prove that anger and aggression only exacerbate whatever problems exist. Random Acts Of Violence whimpers when it strives to become a satire on violence in the media, while For The Sake Of Vicious loses its poignancy during a repetitious Assault On Precinct 13 standoff. For the sake of viciousness, indeed, but at what cost?

A nurse returns home (Lora Burke) to find Chris (Nick Smyth), a stranger with demands, and Alan (Colin Paradine), Chris’ hostage who she’s asked to keep alive. There are accusations leveled against Alan by Chris. People yell. Alan thinks he’s calling for backup, but thugs descend on the house, and the three must fight their way out. Simple, but creators Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen craft two at-odds halves of separate movies that don’t stick together.

There’s an attempt to put forth a special effects showcase through fight sequences that is admirable on a slim budget. For The Sake Of Vicious also wants to be a “Halloween thriller,” but the few jack-o-lanterns, a paper skeleton, and one trick ‘r treater don’t sell the festive vibe. It’s battered, but editing cuts are jagged while characters are beholden to their crazed circumstance. It’s violent, it’s bloody, but it’s not the knockout action invasion that’s promised. Nor does the buildup enhance the senseless beatdowns that follow. – 5 out of 10Matt Donato 

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

About the Author