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BIGHT-SIZED REVIEWS: NIGHTTIDE'S MUST-SEE FILMS FROM THE 2023 SOHO HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

By Mo Moshaty, November 26, 2023

NightTide had a special early-access viewing of the 2023 Soho Horror Film Festival lineup and it did not disappoint! We know you're busy, so we've put together a compilation of bite-sized reviews for those films we feel you should make time to see Soho and/or keep an eye out for at a theater near you -- enjoy!

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OUR FAVE SHORTS

 

The Girl with the Haunted Vagina

Dir: Samantha O'Rourke.

Starring: Sophie Duker, Scott Gutteridge, Declan Baxter.

United Kingdom (2023)

Sexually repressed Meghan desperately tries to reach climax but is thwarted at every turn by the ghost that haunts her vagina.

Our Thoughts: Absolutely cracking and a testament to how we can definitely get caught up in our heads about sex. 

Flappy

Dir: Darcy Conlan.

Starring: Dennis Manahan.

Australia (2023) 

A thief is stalked by an inflatable car yard mascot after he steals one of its closely guarded vehicles.

Our Thoughts: Short and sweet, Flappy enrobes us in a justice-bearing “guardian of the gate” scenario and we’re all the better for it!

Nasty Videos

Dir: Alice & Ren Sanders White.

Starring: Alice Sanders White, Carol Corcoran.

United Kingdom (2023)

The year is 1980… something. The Censor Board and their army of citizen busybodies are protecting British living rooms from the biggest threat to social hygiene the nation’s ever seen: NASTY VIDEOS.

Our Thoughts: A call back to the moral hygiene videos of the past is eye candy for any horror fan!

Janelle’s Baby

Dir: Michael Squid.

Starring: Rachael Richman, Loren Bidner, Crystal Tweed.

USA (2023) 

Janelle's desire to have a baby of her own takes a heart-wrenching turn when she finds out she's infertile.  

 

Our Thoughts: When we tell you this film made us audibly gasp, we tell no lie. A hard-hitting look at IVF failure that’ll absolutely scar you!

OUR FAVE FEATURES

 

The Hyperborean

Dir: Jesse Thomas Cook.

Starring: Liv Collins, Ry Barrett, Jess Vano.

Canada (2023) 93mins

 

Clue meets Star Man meets Succession is the best way to describe this tongue-in-cheek look at a dysfunctional family walking the tightrope of an extraterrestrial invasion and a fight for a prodigal position. Patriarch and whisky magnate Hollis Cameron has a disaster at his door and he’s gathered his children, Rex and his influencer girlfriend Lovie, his ill daughter Diana and his buffoonish son Aldous, to drop a bomb. Having recently obtained a few dozen barrels of moonshine from a nearly 200-year-old shipwreck in the Antarctic by illegal means, Hollis plans to extend the position of head of marketing the product, not to an heir, but to Diana’s brown-nosing husband Ian – which not only doesn’t go over well – it starts a chaotic chain of events involving murder, laser beams, ice mummy juice, and space mythology. 

Where The Hyperborean wins is in Aldous Cameron, played by Jonathan Craig doing his best Danny McBride from This is the End, and Mr. Denbok, played by Justin Bott, the crisis manager hired by the Cameron company to figure out what the hell went on at the Cameron compound that fateful night. Space stories are fun -- humor in the midst of an alien invasion is even better. The third act, however, feels a bit rushed to clean up some of the holes in the mythology. All in all, a very fun sci-fi horror comedy.

 

Halfway Home

Dir: Isti Madarász.

Starring: Péter Bárnai, Vivien Rujder, Erzsébet Kútvölgyi.

Hungary (2023) 103mins

 

Death do us part be damned!

On a bike ride to his new humdrum position as the night watchman at the local morgue, Krisztián collides with Ági, a pink-haired, crinoline-decked dream girl. After a brief but endearing flirtation, the two agree to see each other the following morning. Krisztián’s first night on the job isn’t as boring as he he’d hoped as the dead have sprung back to “life” in an attempt to get him to help them with the unfinished business they’ve left behind before moving on to heaven. The only thing thwarting him is the ticking clock and a nefarious and demonic mortician. Anyone would feel it’s all a bit much and an exhausted and confused Krisztián has missed his date time with Ági.

 

Heartbroken, Ági boards a bus home that unfortunately has a horrific crash. Blue and regretful, Krisztián muddles on with work until Ági materializes at the morgue and Krisztián’s elation soon turns to panic as the mortician has set his sights on Ági.

 

In a race against time, this sci-fi horror romance has a huge heart chockful of folklore, prophecy, and legacy. Erzsébet Kútvölgyi is superb as Krisztián’s guardian Ilus, and the chemistry between Péter Bárnai and Vivien Rujder is breathtaking.

Onyx the Fortuitous and The Talisman Of Souls

Dir: Andrew Bowser.

Starring: Andrew Bowser, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton.

USA (2023) 105mins

 

Sci-fi horror and slapstick go well together and Andrew Bowser’s command of this persona does well to move the story of mid-30s Marcus J Trillbury, a.k.a. Onyx the Fortuitous. Still living at home with his mother Nancy (Barbara Crampton) and his new step-dad, the aggressively average Todd (Jason Stanger), Onyx works at the local patty shack and moves diligently to be the next occult superstar.

 

When Onyx wins a spot at an exclusive retreat run by his idol, Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs), he can’t help but feel he’s achieving his destiny. Joined by four other devotees, down-to-earth Mackenzie (Rivkah Reyes), the mysterious Jesminder (Melanie Chandra), the well-learned Mr. Duke (Terrence 'T.C.' Carson), the overly giddy Shelley (Arden Myrin), and Bartok’s right-hand woman, Farrah (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Onyx is in for the ride of his life.

 

The persona will grate on some and with a run time of almost two hours, it may seem like the adventure will never end but the world loves an underdog, and Onyx the Fortuitous proves we ... could.

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Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls

Booger

Dir: Mary Dauterman.

Starring: Grace Glowicki, Garrick Bernard, Heather Matarazzo.

USA (2023) 75mins

 

There’s a lot of great grief horror, and Booger has landed itself in the somber pile. After the sudden death of her best friend Izzy (Sofia Dobrushin), Anna (Grace Glowicki) takes solace in the company of the stray cat they shared, a fluffy black cat named Booger. When Booger bites her after a reprimand, Anna’s behavior and body take a serious turn for the worst.

 

Booger is a fun, brutal, disgusting (honestly, don’t eat during this film) look at unprocessed grief, trauma, and survivor’s guilt. Garrick Bernard is lovable as Anna’s supportive boyfriend Max and Heather Matarazzo is incredibly wacky as the pet store manager, Ellen. The film circles heavily around loss and how one is “supposed” to act after losing someone close -- an excellent watch!

Hippo

Dir: Mark H Rapaport.

Starring: Kimball Farley, Lilla Kizlinger, Eliza Roberts.

USA (2023) 99mins

 

In this Pre-Columbine, cusp of the world-wide web family horror, Hippo is a polarizing look at the creation of an incel and the bodily autonomy and expected subservience of women. Hippo’s depiction of the inflated ego of the sheltered '90s young man is spot on and an anchor in this film.

 

Hippo (Kimball Farley) has assumed the role of man of the house at a very young age. Sheltered by his mother, Ethel (Eliza Roberts), and in the company of adopted sister Buttercup (Lilla Kizlinger), Hippo’s allegiance lies only to himself. He is the smartest, strongest, most important person in the room, or so he’s been led to believe by his uber-subservient mother, who is deeply apologetic when there is something Hippo doesn’t like, no matter how unreasonable his reactions are. Buttercup, deeply alone culturally, spiritually, and socially, sees only one want -- a baby -- and as the madness of the house revolves around Hippo, she’ll stop at nothing to achieve it.

 

As strange events plague Hippo and Buttercup, the situation of ruler and ruled only deepens. A glaring look at the horrors of the lack of the parental “no."

Saint Drogo

Dir: Michael J Ahern, Ryan Miller, Brandon Perras.

Starring: Michael J Ahern, Brandon Perras, Wayne Gonsalves.

USA (2023) 78mins

The team behind Death Drop Gorgeous brings a folklore tale that chills the heart.

 

Deep within a fledgling relationship with his boyfriend, Adrian (Michael J. Ahern), Caleb (Brandon Perras) is plagued with horrific nightmares of his ex, Isaac, whom he hasn’t received any contact from in weeks. When a mysterious package arrives including a candid photo of Isaac from his stay in Provincetown, Caleb gets tunnel vision in his quest to find him and coerces Adrian into an off-season jaunt to Provincetown as a “getaway”.

 

Entering the now-winter-laden town goes from bad to weird as they encounter Eric, a local they rope into helping them find Isaac, a quest that will take them to the boundaries of their will, their bodies, and their very souls. There is solid folklore simmering within this slow burn!

Fixation

Dir: Mercedes Bryce Morgan.

Starring: Maddie Hassen, Genesis Rodriguez, Stephen McHattie.

USA (2022)

 

Medical gaslighting and igniting the flames of the Hysterical Woman trope are on the menu with this film.

 

As the accused in an unusual murder trial, Dora (Maddie Hasson) is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation. But as the testing, the doctors, and the hospital prove to be more unnerving at each encounter, Dora spirals. Stern and unforgiving Dr. Melanie (Genesis Rodriguez) and her trusted psychiatrist, played by Stephen McHattie, push Dora to her limits.

 

It’s a beautifully shot film with an earworm of a soundtrack, but it’s constant twists and turns make you wonder if you’re on the right track in guessing the real story, even though it guides you along a bit with it’s “Steps” theory. If it’s a quest to make the audience just as disoriented as the lead, then it succeeds. Be aware of the trigger warning of abuse and torture.

Cannibal Mukbang

Dir: Aimee Kuge.

Starring: April Consalo, Nate Wise, Clay Von Carlowitz.

USA (2023) 100mins

 

“What would you do for the one you love?” asks Cannibal Mukbang. A lifestyle change? A diet?

 

Bumbling and unassuming customer service rep Mark (Nate Wise) and beautiful Mukbang web girl Ash (April Consalo) have a run-in at a late-night convenience store, sparking a romance until she ghosts him. But a text from her weeks later settles him. First dates out are always hard, but a graceless Ash shoos Mark from the table in lieu of sitting with another suitor. Heartsick and struck with a physical illness he can’t explain, Mark follows Ash from the restaurant and sees what she’s really about.

 

Cannibal Mukbang is a fun romp through toxic relationships and the hold they can have on us. One lag is any dialogue outside of Ash and Mark together seems a bit rushed and rife with misogyny, which may be driving the point home a bit too much (see Mark’s Patrick Bateman-coded brother Maverick). This rape/torture revenge story is rife with more cannibal than Mukbang, but it's an incredibly bloody trip!

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Fixation

Satan Wants You

Dir: Sean Horlor & Steve J Adams.

Starring: Sarah Marshall, Charyl Proby-Austman, Charles Ennis.

USA (2023) 89mins

This unsettling horror doc speaks to how easily we can be thrust into mass hysteria by the slightest of means. Praying on the fear of the public and the obsession of chasing a lover, Michelle Smith recounts her torture as a young child at the hands of the Satanists in the book “Michelle Remembers”,  with the help of her psychiatrist Lawrence Pazdur, planting the seeds of not only Satanic Panic but thousands of accusations of torture, molestation, and kidnapping by the general public.

 

A wildfire of a book that wreaked havoc across the globe, and an incredible, incendiary watch and a gulp-inducing view of how gullible the public can be.

The Coffee Table

Dir: Caye Casas.

Starring: David Pareja, Estefanía de los Santos.

Spain (2023) 90mins

 

Nothing could have prepared us for this movie, which is deeply unnerving within the first 15 minutes.

 

Juan (David Pareja) and Maria (Estefanía de los Santos) are new parents on the edge. They’re tense, exhausted, and bickering constantly, and that doesn’t stop, even at the furniture store where Maria chides Juan and the salesman regarding the gaudy coffee table being shown to them.

 

In a quest for the upper hand, Juan purchases the table and achingly carries it five flights up to their inherited apartment. Expecting guests, Maria steps out for supplies, leaving Juan to assemble the table on his own.

 

What proceeds as an intimate afternoon entertaining family soon turns to anguish. The guttural and distressing horror that plagues Juan and Maria from this one moment is an experiment in terror. Go in cold folks – it stays with you!

Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism

Dir: Nick Kozakis.

Starring: Georgia Eyers, Dan Ewing, Tim Pocock.

Australia (2023) 95mins

We've never been so angry after a horror film as we were here – and for the best reasons.

 

Religious zeal and admonishment for being a non-believer take center stage as Ron (Dan Ewing) seeks treatment for his wife Lara (Georgia Eyers) and what he believes to be an increasing mental illness. Coaxed by his religious congregation to seek the help of an exorcist for what “clearly is a demon at work within her”, Ron caves and invites in psychotic, yet locally renowned exorcist Daniel James King (Tim Pocock), who proceeds to put an agonized Lara though excess suffering with no shortage of beatings, torture, and verbal taunts, all under the eyes of not only Ron but the entire congregation.

 

Taking place in 1998 and based on a true story, it’s terrifying to know that unsanctioned exorcisms are still taking place even well into the 2020s. A heartbreaking display of zealots in positions of power gone horribly wrong.

Frogman

Dir: Anthony Cousins.

Starring: Chelsea Grant, Justen Jones, Arden Michalec.

USA (2023) 77mins

 

Young Dallas (Liam Hage) spots an unearthly creature during a family vacation to the bayou and has held on to the belief that he’s spotted something real -- and he's held onto that notion for the last 15 years.

 

Upon the anniversary of it all, a grown Dallas (Nathan Tymoshuk) seeks to go back and prove he was right. Armed with his best friend Scotty (Benny Barrett) and his ex-girlfriend Amy (Chelsey Grant), Dallas heads deep into the night.

 

Local legend and tourism marketing flag heavily here but we really wish it had more depth of story. Poor character choices make for some laughs but at the end of the day, even the practical effects of one character trump the actual character design.

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The Coffee Table

SOHO HORROR FILM FESTIVAL celebrates SoHome Horror Film Fest, a steaming version of the fest that will take place from December 7 - 10. The full at-home schedule can be found here, including the European Premiere of Alice Maio Mackay’s new film, SATRANIC PANIC, as well as her smash debut T-BLOCKERS!

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