The Overlook Film Festival 2019, Ranked & Reviewed

Last year’s sudden appearance of the Overlook Film Festival on the local calendar was an unholy, unexpected blessing. There are only a few substantial film fests that are staged in New Orleans every year, so for an international horror film festival with world premieres of Big Deal genre movies to land in our city was a major boon, almost too good to be true. I attended the festival as a volunteer, catching three artsy-fartsy creature features (all directed by women) and a couple live podcast recordings over the course of a few days, hungry (bloodthirsty?) for more. This year, Swampflix attended Overlook with legitimate press credentials, meaning we were able to cover even more films playing at the fest, which was majorly exciting.

There were 23 features and 18 shorts from 11 different countries screening at the festival over the course of a single weekend in early June. It was overwhelming. Self-described as “a summer camp for genre fans,” The Overlook was centrally located, corralling all of its movie screenings to just a few venues: Le Petit Theatre for its more prestigious premieres, the UNO Performing Arts Center for a repertory screening of The Faculty (with Robert Rodriguez in attendance), and what is now the ghost of the old Canal Place theater for the bulk of its heavy-lifting. It was wonderful to be able to take fuller advantage of this super cool genre film extravaganza, especially considering that Canal Place’s closure might persuade them to leave us for another city, which would be a total shame.

Listed below are all eleven features we were able to catch at The Overlook Film Festival that weekend ranked in the order that we most appreciated them, each with a blurb and a link to a corresponding review. For a more detailed recap of our festival experience beyond these reviews, check out our podcast discussion of the fest.

1. In Fabric “Wholly committed to over-the-top excess in every frame & decision, whether it’s indulging in an artsy collage of vintage fashion catalog advertisements or deploying a killer dress to dispose of a goofball victim entirely unaware of the occultist backstory of their sartorial selections. It’s both funny and chilling, beautiful and ludicrous. It’s perfect, as long as you can tune into its left-of-the-dial demonic frequency.”

2. One Cut of the Dead “So much of One Cut of the Dead is on shaky logical ground because of the limitation of its filmmaking resources, but horror fans who are inclined to watch low-budget, high-concept zombie movies in the first place should be used to making those allowances. What’s brilliant about the film is how it transforms those awkward low-budget details into something brilliantly executed & purposeful. Revealing how it performs that miracle in a review would be a crime that I’m not willing to commit. You just have to afford it your attention & trust long enough to see it for yourself.”

3. Ma “It’s at first baffling to learn that Tate Taylor, the doofus responsible for The Help, also directed this deliciously over the-top schlock, but it gradually becomes obvious that the goon simply loves to watch Octavia Spencer devour the scenery and it just took him a while to find the proper context for that indulgence – the psychobiddy.”

4. Paradise Hills “This is far from the first fairy tale to allure characters in with a bounty of sensual pleasures only for the fruits therein to be revealed as rotten, cursed, or poisonous. In that tradition, Paradise Hills presents a fairytale Eden that’s deadly dangerous precisely because the pleasures it offers on the surface are so tempting. It would be far too easy to lose yourself in this pleasure palace – both literally and figuratively.”

5. Come to Daddy “As Elijah Wood’s cowardly protagonist sinks further in over his head in sinewy ultraviolence, the picture begins to play like a farcical mutation of a Jeremy Saulnier picture – not unlike Wood’s recent turn in I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore, just creepier.”

6. Greener Grass “Whether it’s grossing you out with the moist, passionless sex of its suburbanite goons or it’s breaking every known rule of logical storytelling to drive you into total delirium at a golf cart’s pace, the film is uniquely horrific & punishing – and hilarious. You should know approximately thirty seconds into its runtime whether or not its peculiarly antagonistic humor is something you’ll vibe with; there’s just very little that can prepare you for what it’s like to experience that aggressive irreverence for 100 consecutive minutes.”

7. Knives & Skin “Filters the Lynch Lite teen melodrama of Riverdale through a hallucinatory overdose of cough medicine, so that it sticks with you only as a half-remembered dream. You can recall laughing, but you’re not entirely sure why, or whether that was even its desired effect.”

8. The Vast of Night “The film chooses a very difficult path in distinguishing itself, relying more on the strength of its performances & written dialogue than its sci-fi chills & scares. It’s more akin to intimate walk & talk dramas like Dogfight, Before Sunrise, or My Dinner with Andre than the sci-fi horror tones you’d usually expect from an alien invasion story template.”

9. Gwen Gwen looks, sounds, and feels like Elevated Horror™. Its monochrome portrait of a family in crisis is illustrated mostly by the grey hues of soot & snow. There’s very little dialogue & no musical score to speak of, somewhat mistaking total quiet for atmospheric dread. Those drab, miserable textures lull the audience into a foggy calm, only to be shocked out of our seats by loud, violet stabs of lightning, medical fits, and nightmares of self-mutilation. This movie has genuine jump scares! But it’s not horror.”

10. Satanic Panic “It may not be the pinnacle of joke writing or emotional drama, but it at least knows how to deliver the goods when it comes to over-the-top ultraviolence & softcore sexual mania.”

11. Porno “When most comedies fail to make you laugh, they leave you very few opportunities to be entertained otherwise. To its credit, Porno entertains throughout by relying on the most tried & true attractions in the entertainment business: sex & violence. Even if you’re impervious to its proper Jokes, there’s still plenty of blood-soaked juvenilia to keep you occupied.”

-Brandon Ledet

Podcast Movie Report: The Overlook Film Festival 2019

For this week’s new-releases podcast report, Brandon and CC discuss all the films they caught at the 2019 Overlook Film Fest,  an international horror festival staged in downtown New Orleans, “The Most Haunted City in America.”

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloud, Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

– CC Chapman & Brandon Ledet

Movies to See in New Orleans This Week: The Overlook Film Fest Edition

Last year’s sudden appearance of the Overlook Film Festival on the local calendar was an unholy, unexpected blessing. There are only a few substantial film fests that are staged in New Orleans every year, so for an international horror film festival with world premieres of Big Deal genre movies to land in our city was a major boon, almost too good to be true. I attended the festival as a volunteer, catching three artsy-fartsy creature features (all directed by women) and a couple live podcast recordings over the course of a few days, hungry (bloodthirsty?) for more. This year, Swampflix will be attending Overlook with legitimate press credentials, meaning we’ll be able to cover even more films playing at the fest – a prospect I’m incredibly excited about.

The trick is knowing what films to cover. There are 23 features and 18 shorts from 11 different countries screening at the festival over the course of a single weekend. It’s overwhelming. Self-described as “a summer camp for genre fans,” The Overlook is centrally located, corralling all of its movie screenings to just a few venues: Le Petit Theatre for its more prestigious premieres, the UNO Performing Arts Center for a repertory screening of The Faculty (with Robert Rodriguez in attendance), and what is now the ghost of the old Canal Place theater for the bulk of its heavy-lifting. That means you can pack in a lot of movies in a very short time. You just need to know how to narrow down your selections.

Personally, I like to use film fests as an opportunity to see smaller films that are unlikely to get wide theatrical distribution otherwise, as opposed to bigger movies I know I can see at a corporate multiplex just a few weeks later. It’s incredibly cool that The Overlook will be hosting early screenings of Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, the follow-up to Goodnight Mommy (The Lodge), and the upcoming Octavia Spencer psychobiddy revival Ma, but I plan on catching those a little later down the line. Listed below are ten genre films I’m incredibly excited about that are screening at The Overlook Film Festival this weekend but most likely will not play in a proper New Orleans cinema otherwise. Take advantage of this super cool genre film extravaganza before they leave us for another city (which is entirely possible, given the recent death of the Canal Place theater) by catching something offbeat & adventurous that you wouldn’t be able to see projected large & loud in any other context.

In Fabric : “At the height of winter sales in a modern UK department stores, a cursed dress passes from owner to owner, leaving a path of destruction in its wake in this wry, visionary comedy from the director of Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy.Friday, May 31st – 4:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre & Saturday, June 1st – 7:15 PM – Canal Place

Greener Grass : “Writers, directors and stars Jocelyn DeBooer and Dawn Luebbe create a hilariously deadpan hellscape of competitive suburbia with a boldly stylized absurdist chain of events that unfurls with increasing fervor after one soccer mom asks her best friend for her baby.” Friday, May 31st – 8:00 PM – Canal Place & Saturday, June 1st – 9:45 PM – Canal Place

One Cut of the Dead : “In one of the year’s most crowd-pleasing surprises, this twisty horror comedy sees chaos ensue when a low-budget film crew, hard at work on a zombie flick in a WWII bunker, comes face to face with real terror lurking outside.” Friday, May 31st – 3:30 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:45 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Paradise Hills : “With razor-sharp artistic direction and searing wit, Alice Waddington’s directorial debut tells the story in which a young girl is sent to a mysterious reform school specializing in crafting ladies to be more ‘proper.'” Friday, May 31st – 12:30 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:15 PM – Canal Place

Horror Noire : “A free community screening and panel discussion of this refreshing and incisive documentary tracing the history of Black Americans in Hollywood within the horror genre. Hear from Jordan Peele (Get Out), Tony Todd (Candyman), Rachel True (The Craft), Keith David (The Thing) and many more about representation in our favorite genre from the beginning of cinema to today.” Sunday, June 2nd – 2:45 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Come to Daddy : “Norval, a troubled young man travels to a small seaside town to answer a letter from his long-lost father. When he gets there, the two begin to reconnect, but Norval can’t shake the feeling that something is drastically off. Elijah Wood stars in this hilarious and terrifying twisty thrill ride, the directorial debut of lauded horror producer Ant Timpson.” Friday, May 31st – 7:00 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Knives and Skin : “Calling upon echoes of Twin Peaks, artist and filmmaker Jennifer Reeder serves up an eerie teen noir punctuated with haunting 80s covers and unforgettable imagery centering around the effects of one girls’ disappearance on a small town.” Saturday, June 1st – 2:45 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 12:15 PM – Canal Place

Satanic Panic : “When a pizza delivery girls’ final order of the night turns out to be for a blood-hungry group of Satanists thirsting for a sacrifice, all hell breaks loose…literally. From the Overlook alum writers of We Are Still Here and Paperbacks from Hell, and director Chelsea Stardust comes the goriest of comedies.” Friday, May 31st – 9:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre & Sunday, June 2nd – 7:00 PM – Canal Place

Vast of Night : “First-time filmmaker Andrew Patterson smashes onto the scene with the elegant telling of a 1950s radio DJ and his switchboard operator companion, who stumble upon a strange frequency that may be carrying evidence of other-worldly life.” Saturday, June 1st – 12:00 PM – Canal Place & Sunday, June 2nd – 12:30 PM – Le Petit Theatre

Porno : “Equal parts hilarious and grotesque, this take-no-prisoners horror sex comedy sees a group of ultra-Christian movie theater employees face their worst fears when a mysterious set of pornographic reels releases a little more than their repressed desires.” Thursday, May 30th – 9:30 PM – Canal Place & Saturday, June 1st – 4:30 PM – Canal Place

-Brandon Ledet

Brandon’s Top Ten Film Podcasts (Especially for Genre Nerds)

I’ve been putting together a regular film podcast with fellow Swampflix contributors Britnee, James, and CC for nearly four years now, and it still feels like something I’m only getting halfway decent at as time goes on. Our number of regular, subscribed listers is still microscopic and it’s been almost two years since someone reviewed us on Apple Podcasts to boost us in the algorithm, but it’s still a project I try my best to continually improve despite the lack of feedback. The Swampflix Podcast has evolved through practice & increased equipment quality over the years, but it’s also something I’ve worked to improve by borrowing ideas & influences from other shows.

I listen to movie podcasts for an embarrassing number of hours a day, a routine that’s practically replaced listing to music for me as I’ve fully immersed myself in film criticism as a personal interest. I love the self-publishing D.I.Y. format of the medium, as well as the immediacy of its usefulness as a criticism delivery system. A great movie podcast is hard to find, though, especially if you enjoy low-budget, trashy genre films as much as I do. The best podcasts on any subject are the ones that are most consistent in their structure & schedule – reining in the chaos of this conversational medium with a little rigid rigor. Even the genre film podcasts that meet that criteria are often insufferable to me, though, as they too often slip into above-it-all, so-bad-it’s-good mockery of low-budget outsider art instead of a genuine appreciation for the movies they discuss. My favorite movie podcasts are the ones that are rigidly structured, jovially conversational, and willing to discuss trashy genre films with the same appreciative reverence they afford high-brow artsy-fartsy fare. It’s a surprisingly tough combination to come by, but I have found more than a few.

As we are again shifting around the structure of our own show to accommodate making The Swampflix Podcast a weekly occurrence instead of a bimonthly one, I’ve been thinking a lot about which shows I’d most like to emulate. The following list is an alphabetical collection of the movie podcasts I most enjoy as a listener and most admire as an amateur podcaster myself. They’re especially recommended for movie nerds who appreciate a little low-brow genre fare mixed in with their art-snob prestige pictures. Among them are the shows I’ve most often borrowed ideas from for The Swampflix Podcast’s formula and the ones I’ve most often heard my own sensibilities echoed in.

The Faculty of Horror: Two academic women discuss horror films old & new in well-detailed research, often through a feminist lens.

The Important Cinema Club: Critics from the Toronto blog Film Trap discuss classic movies & total trash with the same appreciative tone, making no judgmental distinction between them.

The Next Picture Show: Ex-writers from The Dissolve, the site that turned me onto the art of film criticism in the first place, compare new theatrical releases with a classic movie they share something in common with – covering everything from Orson Welles to the latest superhero blow-em-up.

No Such Thing as a Bad Movie: An Important Cinema Club Podcast spin-off show that specifically discusses “bad movies” only, but in an appreciative tone. Instead of tearing the movies down, the hosts take turns asking each other “What was your favorite part?”

The Rialto Report: In-depth anthropological interviews with players from the classic 1970s-80s New York City porno scene. It has way more insight into cheap indie filmmaking than you might expect, and it’s the only porno podcast that regularly makes me cry.

Shock Waves: A weekly roundtable of Blumhouse employees discussing what’s new in horror. The quality of the featured interviews varies wildly depending on the guest, but each episode opens with a lengthy discussion of what the hosts been watching lately that I never miss.

Switchblade Sisters: Professional genre enthusiast April Wolfe interviews women filmmakers about how their own work compares to their favorite genre films. The conversations are incredibly well researched and are doing great work to restore the reputations of casually dismissed films that deserve more respect.

Trash, Art, and the Movies: Canadian critics compare a trashy genre film to a high-brow art pic on a similar topic, then somewhat jokingly declare a victor in which film did it better.

We Love to Watch: My like-minded internet buddies record this movie-of-the-week show about a wide range of films that are often eerily in-sync with the things Swampflix happens to cover around the same time. I’ve personally been a guest a couple times to discuss The Fly & Xanadu, and I never miss an episode.

Who Shot Ya?: Mostly covers film industry news & new releases, but specifically through a non-Straight White Male perspective, which is a frustratingly rare thing to come by in podcasting. Only two of the shows listed above are entirely hosted by straight men, but the pointed political corrective of this show still feels like an essential part of my weekly feed.

-Brandon Ledet