2022 Fantasia Festival Movie Reviews — Megalomaniac, Incredible But True, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra

Megalomaniac, The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra and Incredible But True are screening as part of the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs from July 14 – August 3.


Megalomaniac is the bleakest film I’ve seen at this year’s Fantasia (and I also watched Speak No Evil, so that’s a high bar to clear). In the case of Speak No Evil, I could better stomach the grim ending as a logical conclusion to an adept film. With Megalomaniac, the gut-churning abjection was less effective. It is not the bleakest film I’ve ever seen, by any stretch, and I’ve seen more abject films which I believe are also more successful in what they do.

What it ultimately comes down to, I think, is that Karim Ouelhaj’s film has an ends-don’t-justify-the-means problem. I’ve heard others’ opinions on the film’s themes, and how they are astute if one can soldier through the intense physical, sexual, and psychological trauma within the film’s narrative. I suppose this is where my opinion diverges. The themes of Megalomaniac are fine. The psyche of the killer. The reality that we are helplessly born into the lineage and life situation we are. Pain breeds pain. The film is like a cross between Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and the most dour New French Extremity film you can think of.

This might sound like an intriguing combination. Maybe it is. But I found the interminably bleak and interminably gray film to be something of a slog. And, for me, the subdued emotional core and casual violence doesn’t mix into a meaningful message. At least, nothing meaningful enough to justify the grueling experience of watching.

For what it’s worth, Eline Shumacher’s performance in the lead is impressive.

Megalomaniac: C+


The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra

Park Sye-young’s The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra is a film told in vignettes, and it employs a moldy mattress, of all things, to tell an episodic narrative in which various people struggle with interpersonal relationships. The film uses the organic horror of fungi growing inside this mattress, which travels from studio apartment floor to roadside alley to motel room, etc. Fifth Thoracic is a strange beast (about a strange beast), a quiet horror melodrama that is equal parts heartfelt and gross.

At just over an hour, it is a brief sojourn into body horror of a completely unique sort. Any longer, and the film may quickly become tedious. But for what it is, no individual sequence overstays its welcome, and in the best moments, the slow pacing is entrancing. A pair of sequences are particularly standout. One, set in a hotel room, is charged with fraught emotions which heighten to a beautiful passion before the scene curdles into creature feature horror. The other, taking place at a woman’s dying bed, is still and quiet as it gives the story a different perspective.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra exists comfortably in the not-for-everyone exhibition space. Even using the term “body horror” might throw some people, as this film does not present itself as most body horror fare does. Body horror fans may find this as strenuous a watch as the lay viewer. For me, I rode this film’s wavelength gently through its stream of grotesque tales of the human condition. And I came out the other side impressed less by mattress fungus and more by the occasionally poignant conversation about what it means to exist in a world of (tenuous) connections.

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra: B


Incredible But True

Quentin Dupieux is one of those directors who always intrigues me but whose films I never adore. His unique take on story is commendable, but these stories rarely feel fully developed. These films have quirks and personality but often feel as though they are missing an act’s worth of crucial plot and character development.

Incredible But True feels more cohesive than the other Dupieux films I’ve seen. It shares the short, sub-90 minute runtime of these other films, yet it accomplishes a more complete story. It cleverly reads as a fable about pining for one’s youth. In the case of this premise of a magical house with the power to de-age (in the short term), in order to regain the youth of one’s past, one must sacrifice their present. It is a simple but effective idea that, when combined with Dupieux’s general absurdism and casual juvenile humor, makes for a light and entertaining watch.

At the same time, the narrative has a certain weight to it that other Dupieux films I’ve seen lack. Incredible But True is a humorous exercise in absurd vanity, but the ramifications of characters’ vane actions lead to a somewhat sobering result. A montage that play out late in the film does a magnificent job of articulating both the humor and melancholy of these actions; the sequence may be the best thing I’ve seen Dupieux put together. And Incredible But True is certainly one of my favorite Dupieux films to date.

Incredible But True: B

As always, thanks for reading!

—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)

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