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Fantastic Fest 2018: “Cold Fish” Review

A lonely woman. A goldfish. An intruder on a destructive rampage.

Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? Welcome to the premise of Alyssa Traitz’s “Cold Fish.”

“Cold Fish” joins the illustrious ranks of Fantastic Fest 2018’s lineup of short films. In particular, “Cold Fish” finds itself within the “Shorts with Legs” leg of the festival programming, which is precisely where the film belongs. “Shorts with Legs” brings us the weirdest of the weird, the ambitiously avant-garde, and the pieces that take a look at the traditional form and say “I’m good, thanks.”

Spooky is as spooky does at one of the world’s most respected genre festivals and “Cold Fish” fits right in with the quirky and the creepy.

I love a good creature feature. I especially love a creature that isn’t dripping in CGI. One of the standout elements of “Cold Fish” is the mask work and the monster effects on our bizarre intruder. It’s crude and simplistic and it works. You just don’t see enough of that in film anymore.

It’s creepy…but slightly charming, as well. Most importantly, it’s fun.

“Simple” is a word that I would use to describe “Cold Fish.” The setting is simple, rustic, and isolated. The characters are drab and simple and of little account. The creature is without much pomp or circumstance. The story unfolds predictably and on formula…until the end. It goes to show that it does not take a ton of time and does not take much money to tell a story.

Cold Fish
Still from “Cold Fish”

“Cold Fish” does boast its fair share of legitimate jump scares and the story takes a surprising turn that makes for a whimsical film-going experience. But she’s no “Shape of Water.”

Simple could sometimes give way to dragging and the film left more questions than it did resolutions – not in a good way.

That being said: short films occupy an interesting narrative space. Sometimes it’s not about the sweeping narrative and just about moments and feelings. There are more artfully done shorts out there, sure, but “Cold Fish” is a fun romp that delivers on the campy factor that so many Fantastic Fest fans love.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss it, but don’t skip it entirely.

“Cold Fish” debuts at Fantastic Fest on Friday, September 21, and will show again during the late-night programming block on Tuesday, September 25.

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