Festival Files- Fantastic Fest 2022: ‘Everyone Will Burn’, ‘Deep Fear’, ‘The Antares Paradox’

It seems every horror film nowadays has to be tinged through the lens of trauma. David Hebrero’s Everyone Will Burn takes that concept to wicked places, mixing in folk horror and telekinetic violence for good measure. If the film doesn’t quite completely escape its derivative nature, it does get points for trying. And it looks terrific.

Taking place in a small Spanish village where an old legend of child sacrifice once staved off an impending apocalypse centuries ago, Maria Jose (a high wired Macarena Gomez) seems to be facing her own impending doom. Standing on the edge of a bridge and about to fling herself in the river below, she’s interrupted by a small child who calls herself Lucia (Sofia Garcia). Still reeling from the death of her son, Maria Jose quickly attaches herself to the child. She isn’t even scared off after watching Lucia dispatch two curious police officers in gruesome fashion.

From there, Everyone Will Burn devolves into a Maria Jose& Lucia battle against the townsfolk who become increasingly suspicious of the deaths happening all around them. And even though Maria Jose doesn’t want to believe it, they’re probably right.

Borrowing from a host of other horror films- which includes quick snatches of something evil out of the James Wan universe and all the way back to the spooky children genre of Joseph Losey’s The Damned (1962) and 1950’s science fiction- Everyone Will Burn manages a few ample scares, but I found myself wandering from its themes. It’s most interesting for its excavation of folk, myth, and buried secrets…. one including the local priest (German Torres) that’s a doozy. But for all its atmospheric chilliness, Hebrero’s film can’t escape the well tread genre of recent trauma horror. I yearn for good old fashioned scares without the mental/societal implications. While parts of Everyone Will Burn achieve genuine creepiness, too much of it strains for meaning about loss and rebirth.

__________________________________________________________________________________

A horror film without any pretensions is Gregory Beghin’s Deep Fear, and even though it borrows pretty liberally from its own barrel of previous claustrophobic tunnel horror films, it comes out on the other side as relentlessly entertaining, spastically gory, and the perfect midnight movie spacer.

Wanting to help her best friend Henry (Victor Meutelet) celebrate his last free night as a civilian before entering the army, Sonia (Sofia Lesaffre) and Max (Kassim Meesters) sets up a day of French catacomb exploration. With graffiti artist Ramy (Joseph Olivennes) serving as their guide, Deep Fear follows the foursome deeper and deeper underground where they encounter not only violent skinheads, but something much more sinister.

Building slowly and then popping off in the final 20 minutes, Deep Fear largely avoids any strong societal commentary (unless one counts the devilish nationalism that hunts everyone) and plays out like a good old fashioned slasher film in the murkiness beneath Paris. The film situates itself in the early 90’s and it does right by its unfussy, simple scares and gore.

__________________________________________________________________________________

My favorite film of the festival so far is Luis Tinoco’s The Antares Paradox. As a genre festival, it’s easy to see how the film settles nicely into the programming for its science fiction framing, but what lingers long after the film ends is the heady emotional chords it strikes in the viewer.

Following a scientist on what’s perhaps her best (and eventual worst) day in her life, Alexandra (Andrea Trepat) arrives for her night shift at her SETI laboratory only to find her co-worker has lost faith and abandoned his post. A violent storm is raging closer. Most of the lab’s equipment has been sold or raided by the local college. Time is running out for results. Most tragic of all, Alexandra barely gets settled before she begins a series of phone calls with her sister (Aleida Torrent) who constantly berates her for not going to visit their dying father in the hospital. Then, Julia discovers a recorded alien signal from the Atares system….. something that may be the key to her life’s work.

How Tinoco blends all this together in a tight 95 minutes is inspiring and made all the more weighty by Trepat’s confident performance. Her range of emotions, from inspired disbelief to the gallows of sadness, serves as a heartbreaking terrestrial counter point to the film’s extraterrestrial leanings. As a visual effects artist within the industry, Tinoco proves he clearly has a handle on the technical aspects of storytelling.

Confined to one basic setting and adhering to a committed real time narrative, The Antares Paradox features maximalist ideas in a minimal setting without losing any of the tension that traps many single-set films. What’s most admirable about the film, however, is its attention to the emotional aspects of filmmaking through Trepat’s performance. It’s easy to fake the ballistics, but even harder to make us care for what’s happening underneath all the dressing. This is a strong debut and a film that announces its creators as something special to watch.

Stay tuned for continuing coverage of the 2022 edition of Austin’s Fantastic Fest.