Worst Breakup (For the Characters, Best for Us) – What Keeps You Alive

What Keeps You Alive is about the end of a loving marriage between one unsuspecting partner and her far-more-equipped spouse with a plan. Jules (Brittany Allen) the sweetheart, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) her aforementioned hunter. Colin Minihan’s naturalist survival thriller is beastly and frantically one-sided, only to heighten Jules’ shedding of meekness in the face of Jackie’s criminal past. A savage, speak-and-you-die kind of waiting game for spells, then psychological toolbox tamperer when Jackie grabs a hold of Jules once again.

Some hide-and-seek, some fleeing captivity, all harrowing female-on-female crimes against passion. In the name of ritual and “fun.”

Minihan’s forest setting leads to comparisons of animalistic regard. Jules at one point – while teasing Jackie in bed – calls herself a crow. Jackie responds by saying she’s a bald eagle, asking Jules if she’s afraid. These are the personas their fighters take, and particularly the evolution Jules undergoes in order to soar as an equal bird of prey. Jules finds herself lined-up in Jackie’s crosshairs, but what good would Minihan’s LGBT heartbreaker be without conflict or drama? Gushing wounds, dinner party theatrics, hammer-cocked weapon poses – What Keeps You Alive doesn’t skimp on intensity the size of black bear paws. A union burns at the stake, a raging inferno of broken spirits and fiery resurrections it is.

Best Reason Never to Have Children – Tamara (The Inhabitant)

Guillermo Amoedo’s The Inhabitant mashes exorcism horror with home invasion blueprints, all hinged on one family’s basement secret. Three sisters break into a wealthy estate searching for riches but find something evil. Something satanic, even. Why is there a little girl locked up in the cellar? Is now the time to grow a conscience? Poor little Tamara (Natasha Cubria), stricken by disease but discarded by her family.

Turns out that’s because she’s possessed by a demon.

Enter young Natasha Cubria’s performance as a red-eyed disciple of Hell, whose weapon is one of the tongue. She reveals your deepest secrets and cackles with glee as the fallout takes place, whether that be squabbling, physical harm, or self-inflicted endings. Cubria dives head-first into her blasphemous attack against religion and humanity, channeling a voice of pure gravely evil while invading the conscious of even Cardenal Natale (Fernando Becerril). Kids are creepy enough as is, but a psychologically damaging child being puppeteered from below? I’LL PASS THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Most Punk Rock Vibes – Boogeyman Pop

Brad Michael Elmore’s take on anthology horror, Boogeyman Pop, is a roof-thumpin’ punk odyssey set in small-town America. His wraparound killer wields a bat, drives a beaten Cadillac, and wears a black face mask that conceals his identity. A drug called “Wendigo” may be transforming concertgoers into alpha-asshole monsters of the night, but amidst all the soul-snatching, ‘shroom-eating, and venue moshing is the film’s most inviting aspect – this punk-as-hell vibe that chews like fruity bubblegum throughout.

Wolfmen From Mars score Elmore’s fantastical calamity, which isn’t always boot-stompin’ anarchism. Synthesizer tones ring a throwback to ’80s slasher accompaniments accented by classic rock notes with a panicky twist, but it’s not just about music. It’s about colorful cinematography, cul-de-sac haziness, and letting all your frustrations out during angsty stage shows. While the film’s second half works better than its first, there’s no denying Elmore’s found a loud and interesting way to buck anthology trends. One that shitkicks and head-bashes its way into genre competition.

Most Entertaining Kill Sequence – Seesaw Beheading (Anna and the Apocalypse)

Anna and the Apocalypse is a lot of toe taps and finger snaps, but my favorite laugh-it-up bloody kill of Scary Movies XI was the zombie seesaw bit. One I alluded to above, where a zombified civilian in a snowman costume lurches towards our young heroes. It’s still early in the film so hesitation and stumbling hit first, but it becomes obvious that Feeding Time Frosty needs to be handled. Cue an elaborate Mouse Trap style death that ends with the mascot’s head being clean-removed and a geyser of blood erupting from a now decapitated torso. It’s not all this midnight-madness crazy, but John McPhail hits us with a gusher right when his production needs it most.

Most Unsettling Silence-the-Entire-Theater Moment – Dead’s Big Reveal (Lords Of Chaos)

I’ve already gone into detail about Jack Kilmer’s portrayal of Mayhem vocalist Dead, but no words justify how deafening a bang this spotlighted scene makes. Rips the rug right from under you, your gut plummeting down an unending drop. We are onlookers, voyeurists, of something we have no control over stopping. Kilmer flays our emotions in two, incapacitating and paralyzing by virtue of quite possibly the year’s most disturbing sequence of events. You’ll know when it happens, blood-soaked and bursting with ache. Merciless, relentless, all the -lesses.

Best Festival Movie I Can’t Stop Writing About That Finally Has Distribution – Tigers Are Not Afraid

There it is. A line of text in the description for Tigers Are Not Afraid reads “A Shudder release.” Congratulations Issa López, thank you Shudder, and get ready, world! López’s macabre fairy tale has been touring festivals for almost a year now and should have been snatched up in half the time (if even). That said? Shudder couldn’t provide a better home. Satan’s Slaves, The Witch In The Window, and now Tigers Are Not Afraid? Someone’s distribution team needs a pay raise.

Are you getting sick of me screaming about this movie yet? I reviewed it out of Fantasia. Gave thought to its massively successful festival run. Now I’m back with the greatest news of all and no less love for one of 2018’s most enriching, important, and tremendously affecting watches. Let’s all appreciate this brilliant news and just enjoy the moment.

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