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Fantasia 2023 Review Roundup: Femme, Blackout

July 28, 2023 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Femme Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

The first week of Fantasia International Film Festival 2023 in the books, and there have been a number of great genre films presented thus far. This year’s festival is particularly stacked, with a murderer’s row of talent premiering films that will most certainly make some waves when they come to streamers, services or theaters near you.

I’ve been watching quite a bit of films remotely from the festival, and you can check out some of my coverage such as the harrowing ScreenLife Ukranian war drama Stay Online, the cosmic & folk horror mashup Lovely, Dark, and Deep, and the tech noir mystery Restore Point here. I have more reviews on the way, and you can check out two capsule reviews of the festival’s offerings below.


Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

Larry Fessenden’s Blackout is a culmination of the legendary indie horror director’s reimagining of the classic Universal horror monsters. Following on the steps of 1997’s vampire film Habit and 2019’s Frankenstein update Depraved, Blackout tackles the Wolfman with a dramatic spin that explores polarization and paranoia as topical points of the current era.

Alex Hurt plays Charley, an artist in a small town that is traumatized victim to a brutal double murder. Charley is trying to put his affairs in order, including exposing the crimes of the town patriarch (Marshall Bell) before he visits his friend Earl where he will say goodbye for good. Things don’t go as planned, and as Fessenden is so good at doing, things unravel in a way that exposes the deeper themes in the film’s core.

Shot on a microbudget, Blackout makes good use of what it has and wrings some fine performances out of its cast which also includes Barbara Crampton, Addison Timlin, and James Le Gros. The cast of characters who make up the community lend it a flair of small-town authenticity, and Fessenden plays with the tropes of the genre with veteran assuredness. A few cheeky Easter eggs will delight horror lovers (the town is named Talbot Falls, for example) and Hurt is wonderful as the unreliable narrator at the center. It’s hard to find good werewolf films – at least on the level and frequency of other cinematic monsters – so it’s nice to see that Blackout is one that can join particular list.

Rating: 7.5


Image Credit: Fantasia IFF

Femme starts out as a queer revenge noir thriller with a stellar setup, then molds into something more interesting than that. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay absolutely shine as London drag performer Jules and Preston, the man who savagely assaults Jules one night in front of his mates. These two actors have an innate chemistry with each other that is put to fine use when Jules sees Preston at a gay bathhouse and decides to turn the tables on the man who victimized him by seducing him and outing him.

It goes without saying that Jules’ choice of payback is morally murky at best, and writer/director Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping never let Jules off the hook for that. Nor do they make attempts to excuse or wave away Preston’s vicious attack. This is a story that takes two people who are damaged in different ways and uses them to explore notions about internalized homophobia, gender dynamics and the price queer people pay for standing up to be counted. It subverts every expectation and leans on the strength of its cast in just the right moments for an unapologetically queer film that is often uncomfortable and far from the easiest watch, but always compelling.

Rating: 8.5

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.