Fantastic Fest Reviews: When Evil Lurks & The Altman Method reviews two Fantastic Fest movies, When Evil Lurks and The Altman Method

The 2023 edition of Fantastic Fest is happening right now and is covering this celebration of niche and genre cinema from around the world. Our first two reviews from the event are here in the form of horror-thrillers, with the Argentinian possession movie When Evil Lurks and the Israeli domestic thriller The Altman Method. Here are two quick reviews from this year's Fantastic Fest.


When Evil Lurks review

Filmmaker Demián Rugna, who made a big splash in the genre scene with 2017's Terrified, is back with a new vision sure to shock viewers. In When Evil Lurks, a pair of brothers in a rural village find that a nearby neighbor has come under the influence of something taking over his body, and his possession is just the first step in their entire town falling under its influence. Ezequiel Rodríguez and Demián Salomón anchor the film as brothers Pedro and Jimi, doing their best to navigate their already volatile personal lives while the presence infecting their town begins to spread across all manner of people and animals to do its bidding. This makes for not only a compelling drama, but it gives the film great space to create dread and tension, while also peppering in some stomach-churning gore throughout.

When Evil Lurks deploys its often-disgusting gore effects with the correct timing and with aplomb. Even when the audience knows exactly what's going to happen in a scene, Demián Rugna is able to wring every ounce of tension out of a moment that he can making you wait for it. Then, when he gives himself the chance to show these gnarly moments, they never disappoint. They're also never done for the sake of exploitative depravity like a Saw movie, but every instance of violence leaves a mark and some of it will stick with you when it's over, because you've never seen anything quite like it before. 

If there's a place where When Evil Lurks stumbles, however, it's in the fact that this ever-evolving "evil" is consistently the subject of expansive lore and rules. One scene, in particular, lists all seven of the "rules" in a very clunky manner that plays like it was added later. To make things more complicated, from scene to scene these rules get new addendums and changes, making the larger lore of what's going on make less sense. By the end, though, it's clear that the importance placed on these elements of the story isn't exactly that big of a deal. Its conclusion is satisfying, especially if you've been paying attention to every little twitch and sputter that is shown.   

Rating: 4 out of 5

When Evil Lurks will debut in theaters October 6th and will stream on Shudder later that month.  


The Altman Method review

Young Israeli couple Uri and Noa Altman find themselves spinning their wheels professionally. Noa is an actress who hasn't worked in some time while Uri's karate business is failing and they're going to need to close up the space that he had previously occupied. One day, while Noa is out shopping, she returns home to find Uri was attacked by their building's housekeeper, a Palestinian, and in the days after this public event, business at the karate studio begins to boom. Filmmaker Nadav Aronowicz has crafted a unique domestic thriller with The Altman Method, one where the truth is never entirely clear, especially as Noa begins to suspect that the event bringing her husband professional success isn't adding up.

The Altman Method puts the Israel-Palestine conflict into perspective in a unique way. Naturally, the divide itself is central to the plot, but seeing the way characters speak of and interact with Palestinians can be eye-opening, especially as reality begins to make itself clear. The trouble with this deconstruction is that its final message on the matter also seems to be less inclined to take a stand than its entire run time might have you believe, leaving audiences with a feeling that it may not have been worth it in the end. Maayan Weinstock does great work in the role of Noa, embodying the uncertainty of her character while also navigating the larger story, with Nir Barak bringing a sinister edge to the character of Uri Altman that evolves over the course of the entire film.

There is a fundamental flaw in The Altman Method and it's that, unfortunately, it never quite feels cinematic. Aronowicz handles the larger elements of the thriller with precision in a narrative sense but seldom deploys these in a way that fully captures the potential of every facet of the film. Moments of the story work but every element of the movie as a whole never congeals together in harmony, nor is there much visual style to even speak of. It's a story that sounds good on paper but doesn't deliver visually.

Rating: 3 out of 5