Germany’s touring genre film showcase Fantasy Filmfest returns to Berlin this month, from October 17-24. The eight-day event takes place in seven cities and Berlin’s Kino in der KulturBrauerei is your port of call for some thrilling horror/sci-fi gems.
The standouts this year are animal-centric. The hot ticket is Pig (19/10 at 20:15), which sees a late-career best Nicolas Cage see red when his truffle pig is kidnapped. The premise recalls Taken and John Wick’s pup-avenging antics, but don’t be fooled: Pig wrestles with personal reckoning and entrenched trauma in a gently dazzling way. Then there’s Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Cannes-premiering, Béla Tarr-produced debut Lamb (21/10 at 20:15), a supernatural chiller / darkly absurdist folktale set in Iceland that deals with anxieties of parenthood in the strangest way possible.
For those who are aching for that John Wick thrill burst that Pig doesn’t provide, head to the opening film, Gunpowder Milkshake (17/10 at 18:00), to witness an all-star squad of female assassins (featuring Karen Gillan, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Carla Gugino) get their fight on. It’s solid trashy fun that doesn’t reinvent the genre in any shape way or form, but boasts two very strong shootouts.
Inevitably, there are going to be a few duds in a 37-strong film line-up, so feel free to merrily skip Mosquito State on Friday 22 and Ted K on Sunday 24. The first is Filip Jan Rymsza’s initially tantalising but overly mannered attempt to merge body horror with a commentary on Wall Street capitalism, and it ends up brain-scrapingly literal-minded and just plain stupid. The second is Tony Stone’s film about the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski; despite a committed performance by Sharlto Copley in the lead role, this portrait of the American domestic terrorist goes nowhere slowly, and you’re much better off watching the Netflix documentaries Manhunt: Unabomber and Unabomber: In His Own Words instead.
To end on a more positive note, head to Rob Jabbaz’s The Sadness (23/10 at 20:15), which centers on a virus that turns the population of Taiwan into bloodthirsty, sexually disinhibited monsters. Yes, the premise is pandemic-centric but, if anything, this batshit romp should reassure you that things could have been a lot, lot worse. Small blessings, and all that…
Fantasy Filmfest Berlin / Oct 17 – 24 at Kino in der KulturBrauerei. All films screen in OV.