25th Fantasia International Film Festival: ‘Don’t Say Its Name,’ ‘Glasshouse’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Don’t Say Its Name

Directed by Rueben Martell

Written by Rueben Martell and Gerald Wexler

Ever since Kharis (Sheena Kaine) was killed in a hit and run, there’s been a number of strange murders on the reservation. In all of the cases, the victims smelled something foul before they were killed. Unlike with Kharis, who was alone when she died, all of the other murders had witnesses. None of them saw the murderer, however. In fact, you’d almost think the killer was invisible, which given that tribal police aren’t investigating the case on their own, makes it that much harder for Betty (Madison Walsh) to pursue her suspicions.

Betty’s openness to other explanations is one of Don’t Say Its Name’s strongest features. Instead of making her out to be this rational, authority figure who spends most of the movie trying to deny the supernatural, the film skips the denial step and gets right to the part where she and game warden, Stacy (Sera-Lys McArthur), try to track down the monster.

That being said, the film does have a case of the week feel to it. The scenes between Betty and her nephew, Ben (Samuel Marty), could come straight out of Teen Wolf. What the film really misses is a research scene like Supernatural would’ve done, that unpacks the mythology.

While there’s a definite sense of place and honesty to the film’s portrayal of life on reservations, when it comes to the film’s monster there’s nothing fresh about point of view shots and found footage filming techniques. The significance of the title never comes across and there’s no sense of mystery around how the monster is choosing its victims.

Don’t Say Its Name makes its world premiere at Fantasia Fest on August 18th.

Glasshouse

Directed by Kelsey Egan

Written by Emma De Wet and Kelsey Egan

As much as watching a film about a pandemic might sound like the last thing anyone would want to do right now, Glasshouse isn’t trying to recreate recent events. Are there parallels to Covid-19 that make the situation hit a lot closer to home than it would’ve two years ago? Absolutely. The Shred isn’t lethal the way Covid-19 is, but it does affect people’s memories, for a different kind of death. The more a person’s exposed, the more they start to forget.

For the most part Evie (Anja Taljaard) and her family have been able to shield themselves from the Shred by living in the glasshouse. Sealed off from the outside world, they have gardens for oxygen, or at least enough to support five people. When they go outside, they have masks and oxygen tanks, like a beekeeper’s hat and veil made to work like an astronaut’s helmet. It’s a really inventive design by costume designer, Catherine McIntosh. There’s only so much oxygen to go around, though, and while some of their behavior can be blamed on the pandemic, that becomes less true as the film goes on.

By openly courting comparisons to The Beguiled, Glasshouse distracts viewer from realizing just how messed up things will get. The result is a folk horror movie that could become a modern classic someday. Props should go to production designer, Kerry Van Lillienfeld, as well, for taking what could’ve been a boring greenhouse and adding stained glass windows.

Glasshouse makes its world premiere at Fantasia Fest on August 16th.

The 25th Fantasia International Film Festival runs from August 5th to August 25th. Click here for the full program.