Final Girls Berlin Film Festival: Body Horror

Fear of the body, what it can do to you and what it can become is, understandably, a major preoccupation in horror. The Body Horror shorts block explores those fears in a selection of films that take that fear to extremes.

In The Flesh

Tracey has spent enough time masturbating with the assistance of her bath tap that she has started to take notes. Those notes are seen early on, reflecting how much of her time and other life, including work, is being taken up by her hobby. One plumbing disaster later and Tracey is forced to confront the reality behind her odd situation. Many reviews have made comparisons to the leaking fluid from Titane, which is understandable in some ways, although In The Flesh is a more individualistic tale, with Tracey’s state of mind at the centre. Her anxiety spiral, demonstrated by cuts to increasingly unhinged Google search results keeps us with her throughout the runtime, an effect that allows the rest of the film to stretch into other areas and fully bring this story together. The physical and emotional are interlinked in a way perfectly expressed by the film’s take on body horror, resulting in a pretty powerful message.

Violet Daze

Violet and Daisy’s long-time friendship is established early on within Violet Daze and the tension from their changing friendship resulting from a move is central. Daisy is keen to point out that they aren’t 8 years old anymore, but Violet is set on reaffirming their friendship, no matter the cost. This is such a skilful short in that it telegraphs its direction from the outset, yet manages to retain the tension, embracing the inevitability as another layer of horror. Director Marisa Martin drip-feeds the viewer, each moment laden with meaning and increasing dread. Bonnie Ferguson as Violet and Emma Horn as Daisy both portray their roles excellently, crucial when so much rests on their interactions.

Shlop

One of the block’s shortest films is Shlop, coming in at just over two minutes long. If body horror is about finding fear and revulsion in the body, this certainly taps into that, offering ultra close-ups full of movement and squelching. Deliberately difficult to pin down, this denies narrative in favour of feeling and the drive to evoke discomfort.

First Blood

A first period is a stepping stone in many coming-of-age horrors and First Blood functions as a particularly good example. Rather than feeling revulsion or unhappiness at her first period, Mia (Lauryn Sa) instead greets it with a muted, yet prepared response. That initial flatness soon wears off, however, as she finds herself increasingly curious about the process. Mixing music video aesthetics with provocative visuals that Lauryn Sa fully commits to this exploration of awakening female hunger really leaves an impression.

Swallow

On a purely personal level, this film was probably the most difficult for me to watch, such is the effectiveness of what it serves up. After a tense dinner, a self-absorbed actress is invited by another woman to a mysterious club to discuss the secrets of her continued success. The sumptuous visuals draw you in before switching to ever more skin-crawlingly effective imagery. However, it is the dark playfulness of the short that keeps you engaged, toying with punchlines and upping the suspense all the way through.

Love is a Fire

Intimacy issues and a particularly vicious yeast infection present an obstacle for the couple at the centre of Love is a Fire. The couple are presented as struggling with their physical relationship, pitching Olivia’s (Celina Bernstein) desperate attempt to connect against Andrew’s (Kenny Yates) reluctance. In many films exploring the dynamic of a struggling couple, female desire is often sidelined, so it is refreshing to see it front and centre here, even when deriving horror from it. This would perhaps benefit from being slightly longer to more fully explore the couple, although both performers do well to sell their relationship in a short space of time, a little more about them would assist. However, it is the memorable effects that you’ll likely take away with you – like it or not…

Legs

Pregnancy is pretty high on the list of body horror explorations, and for good reason. It is still one of the statistically most dangerous things for a person to do, even with good medical care, so what better phenomenon to mine than that? Joy and her husband are attempting to have a baby and the process is wearing. When Joy accidentally swallows a spider, she thinks there may be another way to be a mother. By mostly adopting the bright colours and peppy soundtrack of something much lighter, Legs gradually dials up the horror until a conclusion that is genuinely unsettling.

The Body Horror shorts block screened as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023: Female Pacts

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival always curates a particularly exciting short film lineup and this year is no different. The Female Pacts block explores the nature and power of women connected to one another, whether in the same space and time or across generations.

All Girls

All Girls is an early contender for the best line of the festival, which I can’t share without spoiling it, but I really urge everyone to check out this short. Fiercely driven leader Heather (Dolores Carbonari) takes her group of friends on a practice run of a hiking challenge intended to secure the best possible University application brag. However, after much bickering, the group end up lost and without equipment, putting the entire trip, and their lives in jeopardy. The strength here is in the cast, working to bounce snappy dialogue around in the open air. The interplay between them, especially in Heather’s most excitable moments is easy to engage with. The outdoor photography is very effective in isolating the girls within a difficult environment with director Anastasia Bruce-Jones able to switch from that vastness to the quieter, inner thoughts of the girls with sophistication.

Blood Rites

Another British offering and another slice of darkness with a side of wry humour – this time based on a short story about 3 girls with an unusual appetite finding themselves in the English countryside. The comic beats between the three main performers are so well-pitched with Mirren Mack, Ella-Rae Smith and Ellis George all delivering distinct characters in a short runtime. The film has fun with its humour and a particularly notable nod to the high-school corridor power walk but also delivers on the horror stakes with their unique condition and personalities creating issues for them.

Sabbath

From the slow creep over a cliffside, Sabbath is a film keen to indulge in tension as a group of women stand accused of witchcraft. The events of the film take place in broad daylight, with the brightness furthering the discomfort as a religious figure loudly decries the women and their ‘crimes’. The film could be forgiven for surviving on the intensity of the dialogue alone, but director Alexandra Mignien gradually dials up to something far more explosive and, ultimately, satisfying.

Souterraines (Rooted)

A far more mellow (to some degree), but no less effective offering is Souterraines, a story of a woman in search of the secrets of her family that she feels immensely burdened by, yet drawn to. When she meets another young woman at the home, the pair begin to unpick their feelings, fears and suspicions of what is happening around them. The dialogue is poetic, laden with metaphor, supported by the dimly lit house providing an intimacy up until a bracing conclusion.

Huella

Daniela works at a call centre, dealing with the mundanity of customer calls with good grace despite the recent loss of her grandmother. As her mourning continues, her dancing background comes to the fore in a flow of interconnected, dream (or nightmare) sequences. The flow of this is really something special with seamless editing and movement providing a high-energy experience along with some memorably jarring moments.

No Man’s Land

The most overtly comic short of the block comes in the form of No Man’s Land, featuring a cult led by a man who may, or may not be, involved in one of the most infamous documentaries put on screen. Despite the well-pitched jokes, this also has a serious thread about those who preach faux-empowerment as a form of control. References to ‘finding your awesome’ sit at odds with the increasingly restrictive behaviour as the day of ascension approaches. The cast are effective here in selling the insecurities of the group and the arrival in this space without much need for background. Effective and entertaining.

The Female Pacts shorts block screened as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023: Raquel 1,1

A teenager takes on a dangerous mission in Mariana Bastos’ bitingly clever drama.

Synopsis: Raquel is a teenager who moves with her father to a small town, in search of a new life. During her first days there she believes she is given an important and controversial mission related to the Bible.

When Raquel (Valentina Herszage) moves to a small town, her immediate acceptance into a local religious circle appears to be a blessing, showing her warmth and companionship under unfamiliar circumstances. However, as the group’s central belief of submission and subservience of women comes to the fore, she begins to question the use of the Bible in rationalising, condoning and even mandating control over women. Those questions soon lead to a movement that threatens her place within her new community as she decides to reclaim the words for herself.

Religious horror is a mainstay of the genre, with the core idea of good vs evil obviously underpinning many films, but more interesting are the works that present women undertaking personal missions linked to a higher religious power. Films like Saint Maud and A Banquet both feature women burdened and spurred on by cosmic enlightenment, but do so in a way that calls into question their mental health and places a tremendous personal cost on them. Within Raquel 1,1, there is rather more sobriety, aided by the film’s more muted qualities. That lower key doesn’t, however, prevent the film from engaging in otherworldly moments, but its attempts to echo religious imagery are more organic than any special-effects-driven take.

Raquel is not on a direct mission to save one person, nor is she rendered under a kind of fevered possession seen in those films mentioned above, but something far more grounded. Her need to exorcise the damaging passages about women from the Bible is rooted in her past, but also in the behaviour she sees in the young women and men around her – her drive is in preventing those words being used to justify that ill treatment. This is truly a story about reclaiming and critique as Raquel’s own faith is not influenced by her non-religious father – she seeks to claim it for herself rather than abolish entirely.

Bastos’ film is economic with its imagery, instead placing an emphasis on voiceover or text in exploring Raquel’s past. Her reasons for challenging the words within the Bible are revealed slowly, each time increasing in their harrowing details. At each stage we see Raquel experience those memories and thanks to a committed and engaging performance from Valentina Herszage, this becomes more powerful than providing the visuals ever could be. Her experience hangs over the film like a spectre with long, slow shots of the cave in which she has her revelation treated as a traditional horror space before switching to the aural reveals. The film becomes overwhelming in its sobriety, taking time to pause at other moral panics (most notably the Satanic Panic) in which people become targeted for being at odds with the current system.

While the film toys with moments of magical realism, it uses them sparingly and powerfully, often without thorough explanation or exploration. That is likely to frustrate some who might long for clearer answers about her revelation, although the film’s technical choices make it clear that is not the film it wants to be. The bulk of the film’s power lies in the words spoken, whether recited from the Bible or recounted from the past – this is a film with something to say about the treatment of women within modern society based on ancient texts and affords them the volume to say it.

Overall, Raquel 1,1 is a bold film, refusing to take an easy (and lazy) critique of religion and instead molding a powerful critique of how texts can allow all genders to justify poor treatment of others and how those who seek to upend those systems can be vilified. Bastos’ restraint in writing and direction allow the performances and messaging to shine.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

Raquel 1:1 screened as part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2023

Running from Feburary 1st to 5th, The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival returns for the 8th edition, bringing their longest ever line-up of female and non-binary-focused features and shorts. You can view the whole program and get full passes here (individual and online tickets to follow).

The features lineup boasts a selection of firm festival favourites in Sissy, Watcher, Hatching and Huesera, all featuring excellent central performances by young women confronting their surroundings and in some cases, their own natures. There are plenty of new films with German premieres of Polaris and Nightmare and a Berlin premiere of Raquel 1:1, but also a chance to rediscover the lesser-known Australian film Celia.

That variety continues across 10 absolutely stacked short film blocks with intriguing block titles promising a range of films tackling important, all-too-relevant social horrors in addition to the otherworldly scares we all love to indulge in. Including films like Kelsey Bollig’s incredible Kickstart My Heart and Izzy Lee’s deranged Meat Friend there’s sure to be something for everyone. The block titles are outlined below.
FEMALE PACTS, BODY HORROR, MENACING PRESENCES, CLOSE TO HOME, CREATURES, BODILY AUTONOMY, QUEER HORROR, MIDNIGHT, YOUNG ‘N DEADLY, and HIGH TENSION.

Many of the shorts will be available via Vimeo On Demand throughout the festival and there is an online ticket option for those wanting to watch who can’t be there in person.

As ever, the festival is providing a platform to excellent speakers and some truly unique events, including a Tarot workshop, witchy choreography study and a zombie self defense session. In the talks, Mexican sexuality, hagsploitation and rape-revenge are all under the microscope in what are sure to be fascinating and insightful discussions.

For more information about the festival please go to the Final Girls Berlin webpage. You can also keep up with the festival on social media on Twitter (@finalgirlsfest), Instagram (@finalgirlsfilmfest), Facebook (Final Girls Berlin). For exclusives and updates you can also sign up to their Patreon.

Fantastic Fest 2022: Give Me An A!

A selection of short films in reaction to the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

Synopsis: Expands the importance of bodily autonomy and addresses the issues of a democracy that does not protect the needs of the majority of the population.

The overturning of Roe vs. Wade in June this year felt like a blow to everyone who may find themselves with an unwanted, dangerous or unviable pregnancy. Limiting crucial access to often life-saving healthcare for a significant part of the population felt like a cruel blow, even for those outside the USA. Give Me An A! is a selection of critiques of that decision and the thoughts around it, bringing sci-fi, horror, comedy and satire in a collective reaction.

Following a dedication to ‘our mothers, our grandmothers and all those upon whose shoulders we stand today’ A! introduces a changing room of teenagers. The group engage in talk about proper tampon use and other subjects like the fetishisation of their uniforms before launching into a routine about bodily autonomy. Already, there is a cohesion between those women who have gone before and those having to ready themselves to fight again, creating a powerful statement about the current situation.

The shorts that make up the film range from the emotionally disturbing The Voiceless, the satire of DTF and even the faux-infomercial stylings of Plan C, to name but a few. Boasting an impressive list of creatives and performers each segment possesses its own clear identity and a different handling of the material. This careful placement and movement through different tones sustain the film’s energy, allowing an ebb and flow of lighter and more distressing takes.

Whether the segments are skewering the relative apathy of men in the face of bodily autonomy (DTF and the Love-Island-style gameshow Crucible Island), seeking to explore the very real impact on young girls (the slick transitions and emotional weight of Sweetie) or taking a more body-horror-related angle (The Voiceless and Medi-Evil) the throughline in them all is, understandably, rage. Even the cutaways back to the cheerleaders, staring into the camera as they announce the next film are all imbued with a sense of anger that hangs over the whole project.

As with any anthology, viewers will find more to like about some sections than others. However, with clear tackling of such a pressing concern each offering feels relevant and more importantly, potent.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Give Me An A! screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2022. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Fantastic Fest 2022: Lynch/Oz

Alexandre O. Philippe continues to deliver absorbing studies of his subjects, accompanied by a host of creatives.

Synopsis: Victor Fleming’s film The Wizard of Oz (1939) is one of David Lynch’s most enduring obsessions. This documentary goes over the rainbow to explore this Technicolor through-line in Lynch’s work.

If you are familiar with Alexandre O. Philippe documentaries, Lynch/Oz will be unlikely to surprise you. This does not buck the trend of engaging, aborbing, video-essay style explorations that are focused on how the smaller moments come to build a much bigger picture. This time the focus is on the collision of two seemingly distinct types of media: the classic film The Wizard of Oz and the films of David Lynch. Lynch, the film posits, has been inspired by Oz more than anything else and the threads are there to unpick in all of his work.

The documentary is divided into sections, each narrated by a creative with their own specific interest to highlight. Rodney Ascher, himself no stranger to the obsessive detail that documentary can bring following his own Room 237, takes on the ‘Oz narrative’, doubles and the ‘fish out of water’ character that has come to influence Lynch so heavily in Membranes. John Waters explores his and Lynch’s love-hate relationships with villains and the 1950s as well as their personal interactions in Kindred.

Elsewhere, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson dig into Lynch’s playfulness as a ‘populist surrealist’ and the way he plays with American myth and collective fetish in Judy. Amy Nicholson too, draws attention to the moments where a film ‘looks at’ an audience, inviting them on the rest of the journey in Wind. The film finds perhaps its central thesis in Karyn Kusama’s section, Multitudes, in which Lynch is directly quoted as saying, ‘there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the Wizard of Oz‘. Drawn together neatly David Lowery’s final section, Dig, focused on journeys and transportation finds space to discuss the wider impact of artistic influences.

The variety of contributors, whether they know Lynch personally or are inspired by his work adds a great deal to the documentary. Lynch’s many years of work can, at first, seem sprawling and difficult to connect beyond a few of his well-discussed tropes. However, as the film progresses, like the colour arriving as Dorothy enters Oz, more and more light is shed upon those influences, the lens of Oz offering a magical view of Lynch as a prominent American film-maker with much to say, often working in a system that finds his work knotty and difficult to unpick.

The voiceover work is clear, with carefully selected clips keeping a steady rhythm, allowing each contributor the chance to highlight their view. Some will undoubtedly find this slow in places, but it would be more accurate to say unhurried and keen to dwell on those moments. This allows those influences to become ever-clearer, strengthening each section as they come to build on one another.

An often hypnotic journey through the origins of what is now commonly known as Lynchian, this celebrates both Oz as a film and a cultural institution, responsible for providing the building blocks for some of the most engaging American film-making of the last few decades. An absolute must for David Lynch fans.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Lynch/Oz screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2022. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Fantastic Fest 2022: Nothing (Intet)

A tumultuous coming-of-age tale that indulges the darkness under the surface of a ‘perfect town’.

Synopsis: A group of 8th graders who confront the meaningless of life and leave behind the innocence of childhood.

There are two distinct worlds established at the outset of Nothing – the outward-facing, rule-observant idealistic one, full of parents who want their children to be guided in the right direction and the one beneath that image, of children left alone to fill their time, resulting in the group starting to explore their own directions and meanings in life.

Writer-director Trine Piil Christensen, adapting from Janne Teller’s novel situates herself firmly in the world occupied by the children, keenly aware of the adult’s indiscretions and relative lack of interest. The film’s inciting incident in which school boy Pierre Anthon (Harald Kaiser Hermann) has an outburst at school, declaring everything meaningless, before retreating to the safety of a nearby tree and refusing to come back down is an unusual one, seemingly purposely chosen to showcase the ineffectual parenting surrounding them. The rest of the children begin to mount a campaign to show him what they find meaningful, but Pierre Anthon’s existential crisis soon sets in motion an epidemic of nihilistic thinking amongst the group.

Much of the early parts of the film rely heavily on a voiceover from Agnes (Vivelill Søgaard Holm) who calmly intones about tragedies yet to unfold. At times, this feels like too much of a shortcut, with much of what we know about the characters delivered through that voiceover, rather than in more organic ways. This does occasionally feel clumsy, introducing snippets of exposition just before dramatic events without allowing the viewer to understand entirely. However, given that this film is largely concerned with the troubles of meaning (or lack of meaning) this does function on another level, prompting the audience to view each incident through both Agnes’ meaning and what plays out in front of them.

The sedate pacing too, imbues the film with the same impression the audience is given of the children’s lives. These are children with lots of time to spend together and they struggle to fill that time. Even those who are given parental figures with more status or involvement, like Frederik (Frederic Linde-Fleron), the head teacher’s son, are only viewed fleetingly, based on the ideas the group have about them. This, again, is assisted by the voiceover but the need for it to do quite so much of the heavy lifting in building that world sometimes bristles. This, along with a swerve into an odd direction during the third act that is not quite given the time it requires, hints at a sense that this would perhaps sit more comfortably in a much longer, episodic format.

This is, perhaps obviously, given the subject matter, an incredibly dark film, especially with so many younger performers involved. These dark moments are handled with an appropriate sense of dread and while many of the scenarios could easily stray into the exploitative (and may well overstep that line for some), there is an impressive amount of restraint employed, holding back so the moments that are fully revealed to the audience hit all the harder. The escalating trades the children begin to make in their search for meaning grow steadily darker and the young cast are all excellent at conveying their sways from innocence, to sadistic behaviour, all with a sense of insecurity at the heart of it. Maya Louise Skipper Gonzales is a standout as Sofie, taking a role that could easily become cliche and making it compelling.

While Speak No Evil may be the Danish horror that has everyone talking this year, Nothing also offers that very European darkness and unsettling themes that linger beyond the credits.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

Nothing screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2022. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Soho Horror Film Festival 2022 Announcements

Following the initial announcements, the full lineup for both the in-person and online festival editions have been revealed, promising more of the eclectic indie genre cinema the festival has been bringing to lucky patrons for years.

The in-person festival kicks off on November 11th at the Whirled Cinema in Brixton, London with the virtual edition taking place a week later. Boasting a huge 30 features and more than 50 short films programmed with them, the festival is a real celebration of both forms.

The physical festival opening film, Nyla Innuksuk’s SLASH/BACK sees an alien invasion face off against underestimated teenagers. Other highlights include MEGALOMANIAC, described as being in the same sphere as films of the New French Extremity which is obviously a massive selling point for me. Jarring but enjoyable HYPOCHONDRIAC receives a further preview following an excellent reception from its FrightFest screening.

The virtual festival kicks off on 18th November, allowing festival attendees a little time to recover before serving up a further collection of horrific treats. Describing anything as The Wicker Man meets Bridesmaids will always peak my interests, so STAG is certainly one to watch. Previously announced found footage film WHAT IS BURIED MUST REMAIN joins the likes of ABYSSAL SPIDER, ensuring there really is something for everyone.

Tickets for both events are now available (and selling fast) from the Soho Horror Film Festival webpage where you can also read more about this incredible lineup.

Fantastic Fest 2022: Satanic Hispanics

A collaborative effort, awarded the Best Directors in the Fantastic Fest Horror Features category brings plenty of variety to this solid anthology.

Synopsis: A police raid uncovers a mysterious man chained up in a locked room. This mysterious man, who only refers to himself as the Traveler, leads us through four stories.

The Traveler (Efren Ramirez) is taken into police questioning following the gruesome discovery of a warehouse in which numerous people have been killed. As the lone survivor, he is of particular interest in finding out what has happened, but as the questioning progresses he seems to reveal more questions than answers.

Anthology films have to achieve a balance between their stories – too much comedy and each segment starts to feel similar, too much outright horror and the overall feel is too heavy. Satanic Hispanics, while leaning somewhat towards the more comic side just about gets this right. The wraparound set in the police station offers plenty of moments for the film to poke fun at itself as increasingly puzzled Detective Gibbons (Sonya Eddy) and Arden (Greg Grunberg) try to keep pace with his fantastic stories. The easy chemistry between the trio allows the film to rest between segments, building up to a visually impressive, music video-like finale.

Director Demian Rugna immediately delivers on the scare factor with a story about a man named Gustavo (Demián Salomón) who has seemingly found a way to make contact with the afterlife. However, as with many otherworldly discoveries, this has implications that he is soon forced to confront. This has a few well-pitched scares, coupled with a genuinely engaging concept, making it the perfect introduction.

Immediately switching tones, we head into the proudly silly El Vampiro, in which a mix-up over timings sends the titular vampire (a strong comedic showing for Hemky Madera) into a panicked rush for home. After the weight of the first entry, this provides a much-needed reset. This section is one of two that I would really appreciate seeing with a crowd (the other being the Hammer of Zanzibar) as the construction and escalation of the comic elements feel specifically designed for a late-night festival audience.

That isn’t to say that Satanic Hispanic forgets to provide horror, however, Gigi Saul Guerrero’s segment provides an emphasis on ritual and pain. While there is plenty of horror action elsewhere, this is the section that leans into a sense of brutality, seeking to make the most of the physicality. Close-ups enhance the sense of suffering throughout, making it one of the film’s most tactile entries. The placement allows for an ebb and flow of tone, offering the darker entries a lighter counterpart.

Impressive in its ease of atmosphere and keeping the number of stories manageable, Satanic Hispanics stands to be a real festival crowd pleaser.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3.5 out of 5 stars

Satanic Hispanics screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2022. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.

Fantastic Fest 2022: The Offering

High energy frights, religion and family ties make for an overly familiar horror outing, albeit one with a pleasingly mean streak.

Synopsis: A family struggling with loss finds themselves at the mercy of an ancient demon trying to destroy them from the inside.

Arthur (Nick Blood) is returning to his roots, bringing along his wife Claire (Emily Wiseman) for what will be a tense reunion. While his father Saul (Allan Corduner) does seem to want to welcome him back, a more chilly reception awaits him from Heimish (Paul Kaye). Familial differences are not the only issue, however, as a body brought to the funeral home proves to be anything but routine.

The opening scene of The Offering functions as a decent showcase for what is to come, introducing a scene of religious-leaning horror, based around a demon known as ‘the taker of children’. With that unpleasant groundwork laid, the film switches to Arthur and Emily, starting to foreground Arthur’s departure from his community and the tension that brings to both of them. That they are visiting a funeral home soon sets expectations for creepy goings-on that the film is keen to progress.

Placing the action in a Jewish community presents an opportunity for the film to explore some often-underexplored customs and beliefs but this is arguably one of the film’s weaknesses. Throughout, you want more of that identity, more of those elements that could help it stand out. Aside from a few moments of ritual that are both compelling as well as important set ups for later events, this feels far too divorced from it, resulting in a film that feels too similar to many other horror films. This is not aided by some uninspiring CGI and a colour scheme that fails to differentiate it from other genre pieces.

Where the film works well is in the way it mostly confines characters to the funeral home, building up the pressure but also a kind of geography of the house that translates to the viewer, adding to the anticipation of the next scare. The Offering does possess some great kinetic energy with the funeral home doors slamming and swinging to avoid things feeling static in the same surroundings. Elsewhere an otherwise well-worn scare involving a camera finds a partial swerve that satisfies. However, much of this became standard jump scare fare with sudden bursts of volume drawing attention over anything more unique.

Those with more of an appetite for this kind of horror will likely rate this much higher and it should certainly find an audience looking for a late-night creep-fest.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Offering screened as part of Fantastic Fest 2022. Find out more about the festival at their webpage.