BREEDER – Review by Lauren Anderson

Breeders is a horror/thriller that asks us to examine how far we’ll go to feed our vanity. A ruthless businesswoman abducts a young women in a gruesome bio-hacking experiment to reverse the aging process. But when Mia goes to investigate, she finds herself trapped, branded, and tortured in an underground medical facility funded by her husband. Directed by a man and written by a woman, Breeders presents an interesting female perspective. Is looking young really all that important? Moreover, what do the pressures of wanting a child do to a woman?

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APPARITIONS – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In its savvy combination of ghost story and slasher subgenres, Apparitions’ playful twists and turns provide ample popcorn thrills that make this a sure-fire essential for those with a taste for low-budget indie horror. While not exactly redefining the horror genre in any kind of radical way, in its defense Apparitions shows no real interest in doing so. Rather, what it offers instead are simply some really great characters, co-director Cummings’ turn as Jane a particular stand out.

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SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Slumber Party Massacre revels in its status as a teen horror film but admirably refuses to let that be a reason to dumb down either its gender politics or tame its more visceral, gut-churning moments; the blood and gore might take centerstage here, but the glee with which a particular vomiting scenario is depicted is also worthy of admiration for those of us with a taste for such fare.

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THE ATTACHMENT DIARIES – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

There’s a fearlessness to The Attachment Diaries that sees it power ahead without letting us pause to take a breath, and its determination and originality explode on the screen in something altogether wild, continuing to demonstrate just how ahead of the game both Javier Diment personally and Argentine genre film more broadly continues to be.

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THE MANOR – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Belgian-born, US based filmmaker Axelle Carolyn has, across the organically evolving stages of her career in horror, gained an intuitive understanding of the genre few can equal. Tightly structured, The Manor leads towards the revelation of the horro sub-genre whose codes and conventions the film most comfortably adheres to (to reveal what this would spoil the movie). But perhaps much more importantly are the more socially minded aspects of The Manor which largely pivot around the medical gaslighting of an older woman.

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KNOCKING – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

After fifteen years of directing short films and documentaries, Swedish filmmaker Frida Kempff has turned to feature fictional filmmaking with her suffocatingly intimate portrait of mental illness, Knocking. A film both simultaneously subtle and confronting, with Knocking Kempff achieves the perfect balancing act that holds the humanity of those living with mental illness such as Molly at its core.

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HELLBENDER (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Izzy and her mother live an isolated but relatively happy life in the lush mountains, their reclusiveness supposedly because Izzy has a rare autoimmune disease. As Izzy soon learns, however, her mother has kept her squirrelled away from the world because they are both “Hellbenders”, defined as a hybrid of witches, demons and predatory animals. While her mother tells herself she has her powers under control, when Izzy learns that she too has these abilities, a mother-daughter power struggle collides with a supernatural coming of age story that at its heart is also a powerful tale of the maternal bond and that old chestnut, the circle of life. A film embossed with all the ferocity and heart and passion and craft of the most powerful of art, Hellbender is a reminder that when film like this is revealed as possible, we never should settle for less.

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GIVING BIRTH TO A BUTTERFLY (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A visually immersive experience as much as a compelling narrative populated by some truly unforgettable characters, it’s lush 16mm photography adds a textural quality that only deepens the sense of intoxication that riddles the film – as a world building exercise, Giving Birth to a Butterfly pulls you in, and refuses to let go. Giving Birth to a Butterfly is a poem, a love song, a cry to be heard and a breaking free, all in one.

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THE RIGHTEOUS (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A brazenly ambitious horror film about grief and belief, actor Mark O’Brien dominates both in front and behind the camera in the additional roles of writer and director in one of the year’s most unforgettable horror films, The Righteous. Shot in crisp, high contrast black-and-white, the tale of an ex-priest forced to face his demons hinges largely around a series of intensely focused one-on-one conversations. Yet so steady is the writing and so solid are the bulk of the performances that this is all this film really needs, so much so that when it strays from that path the impact of what in other films would be jump scare highlights, here they seem somehow out of place. Thankfully, however, O’Brien knows to trust his cast and trust his words, and the showier horror set pieces are kept to a minimum, leaving the real terror of The Righteous buried in the words of its key protagonists.

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MARTYRS LANE (Fantasia 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

While on one level this is a ghost story about a child who fears her mother does not love her, it is more broadly a vision of a nightmare world where adults are unable to speak openly and honestly with children – and the consequences are chilling. Passionately rejecting the far-too-common tendency to reduce children to ciphers for innocence or symbolic tools in the telling of stories about adults, in Martyrs Lane Ruth Platt pulls back the curtain into the complexity and sophistication of the childhood experience with breathtaking imagination, extraordinary filmmaking, and a heartfelt, sincere respect for children themselves.

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