Fantasia Festival 2021 Movie Reviews — Glasshouse, Sweetie You Won’t Believe It, The Last Thing Mary Saw

Glasshouse; The Last Thing Mary Saw; and Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It are screening as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival that runs Aug. 5 to Aug. 25.

Glasshouse

Glasshouse is an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller. It explores  notions of loneliness, family, and the yearning for connection. But it seems to frame these themes as a cautionary tale. For the family of characters holed up in this large greenhouse—to breathe the air outside would mean the degradation of their mental faculties—the adherence to isolationism and family ritual end up hurting them in the end.

Then again, it is all a matter of perspective. It is the intervention of an outsider (Hilton Pelser) that begins events spiraling out of control. But it is the strict code of Evie’s (Anja Taljaard) mother which tempts her to spare that outsider’s life and bring him into the greenhouse in the first place.

Glasshouse ponders this situation while keeping the tension high. And while the film ends pretty much exactly in the place you would not want it to, it is still compelling for its quiet thrills and complex character dynamics.

Glasshouse: B-

 

The Last Thing Mary Saw

Period horror has its place within the horror genre—a firm place, one could say. ’80s nostalgia has overtaken the genre in recent years. But there has also been a surge of folk horror, where repressive (and oppressive) religious rule serves as the foundation for the terror.

The premise of The Last Thing Mary Saw—a religious community looks unkindly on the relationship between two young women, who as a result must keep it secret as to not be accused of heathenism—is not dissimilar to that of the recently-released Fear Street: 1666 (only set nearly 200 years later).

This premise of secrets coming to the fore and the idea of fighting for one’s autonomy inside of an oppressive regime has room for engaging tension and drama. The addition of more supernatural elements could form the basis for a horror inflection that could turn this drama into a more eerie tale.

Unfortunately, the film is more dull than it is frightening. I feel it is disingenuous to hang my opinion on a film on the decidedly non-constructive criticism that something is merely boring. But the simple answer to why I disliked The Last Thing Mary Saw was that it failed to grip me. I was not drawn into these characters’ plight or the period milieu. I was bored, I’ll admit it, and while I watched I struggled to find a more sound opinion than that.

The Last Thing Mary Saw: C-

 

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It

I had never seen a Kazakh film before Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (no, Borat doesn’t count). And I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Is it a pitch perfect dark comedy? No, it has its rough patches, particularly in its second half. But it has an ineffable energy about it—it is funny and offbeat but also vicious.

Dastan (Daniyar Alshinov), a pent-up angry man with a stubborn streak and a debt problem, needs to cool off by taking a fishing trip with his two friends, whom he hasn’t seen much of since being married. The last thing he needs is to witness a murder and to be chased through the woods by a group of wannabe gangsters.

The film’s parts complement its whole, with the editing, shot choices, and soundtrack contributing to the light tone. It is a well-shot film with plenty of effective gags. The main issue is that the script loses steam (and some of its charms) through its final act.

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It: B


As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)

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