Fantastic Fest 2018 Recap

(Welcome to The Fantastic Fest Diaries, where we will be chronicling every single movie we see at the United States’ largest genre film festival.)

It’s raining at Fantastic Fest this year. The forecast says it’ll drizzle all week. And when the skies aren’t opening up, the air is thick with humidity. It’s typical of Austin, Texas – this city will never not make its visitors and denizens alike miserable when it comes to weather. It comes with the territory. You get used to it or you melt.

And yet, we gather in the increasingly warm lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. And yet we congregate under the outdoor tents, attempting to stay dry and cool. And yet, we never consider going home or calling it a day. Because we’re here to see movies at one of the world’s craziest film festivals, a place where major Hollywood premieres and foreign oddities are treated with equal reverence.

Welcome to Fantastic Fest. On day one: David Gordon Green’s incredibly entertaining Halloween, the wild German arthouse horror import Luz, and the astonishing and deranged thriller The Perfection.

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Luz

Let’s be real: most film students’ thesis films are mediocre, at best. And certainly most thesis films don’t get into Berlinale or Fantasia. So let me introduce you to Luz, a 70-minute feature written and directed by Tilman Singer. He’s a young German filmmaker with a hell of a future ahead of him if he’s given the opportunity (i.e the money) to make more work.

In his review for /Film, our own Matt Donato describes the “what-the-fuck’”slow-burner that is Luz. There isn’t much of a plot to speak of, and the simple narrative (once you figure out what’s going on) hints to more of what’s offscreen than on. But I’ll give it a go: a young Chilean cab driver named Luz wanders into a police station after getting into a car accident after which her passenger disappeared. A psychiatrist, a detective and a sound technician assist in her interrogation. What they discover through hypnosis is, well, demonic. Shot on 16mm with a trance inducing score, the stunningly confident debut is a maelstrom of bodily possession and hypnosis.

I sat down with Luz writer/director Tilman Singer and producer/production designer Dario Mendez Acosta to talk about the film at the Fantasia Film Festival. Topics included demonic possession, the challenges of making a feature at school, and the upcoming Suspiria remake. 

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luz trailer

As far as graduate thesis films go, Luz goes above and beyond the curriculum. German writer-director Tilman Singer‘s debut film originally began as a film-studies thesis project, but had more than enough style and verve to escape into the real world. Luz is both a bold experiment in horror and a throwback thriller that calls back to the atmosphere that dominated ’70s European horror. And after making a splash at Berlinale and the Fantasia International Film Festival, the first Luz trailer gives us a glimpse of the hypnotic horror film.

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Luz

Tilman Singer’s Luz deceives its audience like a retro-grungy hall of mirrors, quietly unconventional and admittedly not a film for everyone. Dread filters through unexplained channels that hurtle softly towards a catastrophic finale…I think? I’m almost certain. Singer’s mystifying opus presents itself in true form right before the credits roll, not before spiraling viewers into a boarded-up dungeon of nastily nestled psychotropic horrors. Sound, sight, and design all make for one simmer-on-the-grill slowest of slow burns, but when the flames finally rise, they singe with ruinous intent (depending on one’s interpretation). Read More »