Almost every year Fantastic Fest offers up at least one practical effects centric heavy horror spectacle. Last year’s The Void took H.P. Lovecraft influence to a gory new level. This year’s Applecart, gives us practical FX lovers some eye candy to work with, while offering up a clever turn at cabin in the woods genre.
When a family heads out to take advantage of a fabled, physically-medicinal location, they run into the bizarre and chilling Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) laying seemingly injured in the snow. As the family tries to work out the details of what the hell is going on, Bison assists in taking the family down a beyond hellish path for the night.
Applecart takes a turn toward the meta a quarter of the way through. That turn is initially a bit jarring but ultimately allows the film to find its own fun and self-aware footing. This turn comes in the form of a true crime doc that runs parallel to the events that occur in the cabin. The over the top cheesy, but fun doc comes complete with a hammy host and about as many Ken Burns zooms as you would want out of any self-respecting true crime show. The doc, like an oracle, focuses on the things we haven’t seen yet. It’s revealing events that are ultimately the possible unfortunate destiny the family has instore for themselves at the hands of “Axe Mom” (Brea Grant).
Applecart is a fresh take on the cabin in the woods setting. It’s delightfully self-aware, gory and a practical FX feast. The cast does some great work building the tension by creating authentic character beats. Director, Brad Baruh, is obviously comfortable with his use of FX, coming from his producing role on John Dies at The End, in addition he appears to be having a blast with his cast and a love for the genre and that definitely shines through.