Fantastic Fest Day 3 Recap: ‘April and the Extraordinary World’, ‘High Rise’, ‘The Brand New Testament’

The third day marked fewer people in animal costumes (at least at first), and a few more attendees pacing their steps with hungover deliberation. Day three consisted of animation, a VHS autobiography, a dramedy about God’s defiant daughter, and a cathartic study of the confines of civilization.

Here’s how the movies in day three stacked up.

April And The Extraordinary World


An animated steampunk tale of an alternate timeline where Napoleon stays in power, and his heirs continue to rule France through a world still powered by steam and coal. As war brews between France and the U.S. over Canadian forest land, and scientists around the world disappearing, April’s parents work to find an invincibility serum before being pursued by police and presumed killed.

Flash-forward ten years, April continues to search for the secret to their serum, and soon gets caught up in a conspiracy that involves, among other things, talking cats, armored super mansions, and mech suit-wearing dragons. A spectacularly imaginative premise that follows through on every level, and a fantastic adaptation of the comic art of Jacques Tardi.


Standby For Tape Backup


A wholly unique experience, it’s an essay in search of an autobiography hidden entirely on a single, well-worn VHS tape.

A daring and original piece of analogue performance art, Ross Sutherland manages to both subliminally suggest and outright transform the images on his tape. While it does work within the limits of his incredible limited world he’s built for himself, it at times can be difficult, feeling like there could have been more fulfilling in places.

The Brand New Testament


A religious celebration as much as a satire, this seriocomic look at God as an abusive, neglectful father and his defiant, and largely forgotten, daughter Ea. After breaking into her father’s office, she sends everyone in the world a countdown to the point in which they’re going to die.

Pili Groyne is an absolute revelation (pun intended) as God’s precocious daughter, Ea, who comes to earth having already changed it. Her ability for miracles is starkly contrasted with her genuine naïveté when learning what it means to be a human. It balances itself out to be immensely humorous while presenting how a “what would you do if” were to come to pass.

High Rise


It starts as a promising take on all of J.G. Ballard’s favorite subjects, the apocalypse, dystopia, and the erosion of civilization. It plays out like an intricate game of chess at first, with Tom Hiddleston in top form as Laing, the young doctor who narrates the film in third person.

Unfortunately, somewhere between the second and third act, things start to slip. And while the cinematic approach goes from deliberate to increasingly disorienting, reflecting on how the tenants of this building descend into savage barbarianism. It almost works, but it feels too much like something is missing to bridge this transition.


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