Anyone who’s showed up early to a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse is familiar with their bizarre pre-show montages, a mix of old TV footage, foreign films, and vintage commercials that usually play into some kind of relevance for the movie about to start. That also goes for Fantastic Fest, which is being held again this year in Austin, Texas as well as three satellite festivals across locations the U.S.
The thing about Fantastic Fest, at least for me, is I try to go in to each film knowing as little as possible, so it becomes a kind of puzzle to figure out how the pre-show will connect to the movie. In this case, before the screening of Let The Corpses Tan (a movie I chose strictly based on its title), featured a group of men firing an array of guns underwater, both at regular speed, slow-motion and super slow-motion.
By the time the film started, the eardrum-shattering gunshots that accompanied the title sequence were just shy of deafening, and set the tone for what felt less like the passive experience of cinema and more like an immersive, almost overpowering, sensory overload. Every grain of sand, bead of sweat, and stretched piece of leather clothing is felt, punctuating all the viewer’s senses.
Told with a narration that’s akin to leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in a forest, the story involves an armed robbery on a deserted road, and the group of criminals hiding out in a reclusive commune on the Mediterranean coast. A trio of hitchhikers is picked up along the way, and two motorcycle cops get wind of what’s going on, all adding to the fury of suspense that runs throughout.
Co-directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani add to their sparse, dizzying tale by telling the story ever so slightly out of order, using its jump cuts to backtrack a few seconds to see a scene played out from another character’s perspective, marked by the occasional flash of a title card with a time stamp to help you keep track. It’s a hand-holding technique that I often find unnecessary, but will concede that it seemed entirely necessary in this context.
Let The Corpses Tan is the kind of movie that makes you feel like you’re watching a 70s-era grindhouse triple feature, sandwiched in between a dust-coated Western and a hyper-violent urban shoot-em-up. A visceral, disorienting, cinematic wholly sensory experience.