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Fantastic Fest 2018: “Between Worlds” Review

Fantastic Fest is the best of the best when it comes to weird cinema. That’s why it calls Alamo Drafthouse its home, in beautiful Austin, Texas: a city best known for keeping it weird. Film fans froth at the mouth for the most innovative science-fiction, the goriest horror, and the most WTF midnight titles and Fantastic Fest says, “I got you, fam.”

Between Worlds
Nicolas Cage in “Between Worlds” | Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest

Wanna talk about weird Fantastic Fest films? Let’s talk “Between Worlds,” starring Nicolas Cage.

“Between Worlds” follows the story of a down-on-his-luck trucker, Joe (Cage). Joe is plagued by the memory of his recently deceased wife and daughter. He meets Julia, a medium who needs Joe’s help to find the wandering soul of her comatose teen daughter. But the spirit of Joe’s dead wife, Mary, overpowers the young girl and takes over her body. Shit just gets crazier from there.

The film first debuted at the Cannes Film Festival Market and is helmed by writer and director Maria Pulera. Franka Potente, Penelope Mitchell, and Lydia Hearst join Cage on this wild ride, now featured at Fantastic Fest 2018.

A moment of silence for Nicolas Cage and the odd twists and turns of his career. All of which have brought him to this point and this film and every weird thing he does in it.

Between Worlds
Still from “Between Worlds” | Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest

“Between Worlds” is…bizarre. Bizarre is putting it mildly. This is a weird-ass movie. It’s not just the Cage factor of odd acting choices and the most unnatural cadence in human speech and behavior (are we sure that Nic Cage is still human?). It is a weird story. It is a weird delivery. The soundtrack of this movie was even janky as hell.

I’m all about unusual and bold cinema. Give me something new. But, to join the thought camp of Justice Potter Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio, there is a line that is too far. I can’t explain it but “I know it when I see it.”

“Between Worlds” saw the line, flipped it the bird, took a flying leap over it, and danced away.

Between Worlds
Still from “Between Worlds” | Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest

More than just the weirdness, “Between Worlds” is uncomfortable. Now, I’m no prude. I’m all about sexy movies and nudity and the human form and all of that. But…give me a reason. This film had way too much screwing of teens and screwing of their moms and screwing in the past and the present. My face started to hurt halfway through the movie and I realized that it was because my muscles had frozen into a mask of cringing horror. None of it seemed to have a real purpose or, when there was a purpose, we got a lot more of it than was necessary. And it was weird sex, at that.

You know how we all share the theory that Adam Sandler makes movies as an excuse to go on vacation with his friends? Well, here’s a new theory: I’m pretty sure there must have been some sort of boob fulfillment clause in the contract for this project. Too many boobs that have no reason to be boobing around.

You may be dismissing me, at this point, saying, “You cynical critic, with your boob prejudice.” No. Not a boob prejudice. A deep desire for choices in a film to make sense. There were several moments in “Between Worlds” that just made no sense. The shot was weird. It didn’t fit. The decision of a character didn’t make sense.

It made for a choppy narrative and an inconsistent execution. At moments, the plot folded in on itself and twisted into a chaotic knot. One of my first comments, after screening the film was, “Why wouldn’t they just do this instead?” (No spoilers. Sorry.)

That’s the true criticism of “Between Worlds.” It was a bizarre story that only became more incoherent with a sloppy narrative. Weirdness wasn’t the turn-off so much as poor construction.

Between Worlds
Still from “Between Worlds” | Photo courtesy of Fantastic Fest

Something that the film does well is very raw visuals (for better or for worse, considering some of the sex scenes). The audience is treated to horrific imagery and a very ugly, grimy view of this world and its characters. It is the one thing that provokes any kind of genuine emotion. You see the grim backdrop of these characters’ lives and are exposed to the very same images that haunt them.

The ladies of “Between Worlds,” Potente and Mitchell particularly, are giving the best performances that can be squeezed out of this material. Potente especially has a sort of haggard delivery that betrays the weight of her abilities and her struggles as a suffering mother. It’s a very well-executed performance.

As for Nicolas Cage – this was not a good look. Not a flattering role and only aggravated by a manic performance. Part of me wants to blame the script. Other parts of me bet that there was no preventing this.

Suffice to say that I was not a fan of “Between Worlds.” If you exist within the Cult of Cage and live for the next extreme thing he does, you will get something out of it. As for the rest of us, skippable and forgettable (at least, I hope I forget this soon).

You can catch “Between Worlds” at Fantastic Fest on

  • September 25 at 11:50 PM (Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)

Stay tuned for more Fantastic Fest coverage on Shuffle Online!

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