Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S. and always brings with it some truly memorable experiences. EoM’s been formally covering the festival since 2021, discovering gems like The Execution (2021), Baby Assassins (2021), Unicorn Wars (2022), and Give Me An A (2022). If writer/director Sam Fox’s new short film, Fck’n Nuts, is an indicator of what audiences can expect from the short film section of the 2023 Fantastic Fest, everyone is in for a remarkable experience. In this case, in under 12 minutes, Fox moves audiences into the world of the absurd where love is large, perception is reality, and nothing is nuttier than family.
Despite feeling a profound love, Sandy (Maddie Nichols) insists that this is the end of the road for beau Dan (Vincent Stalba). However, Dan is not one to give up and arrives on her doorstep ready to fight for their relationship. What he doesn’t account for is what lives within her family home and how destiny may have other ideas.
On the Foxy Films website, they describe their films as combing, “… highly stylized imagery, music, and psychedelia with dark comedy, horror and genre cinema.” From the opening of Fck’n Nuts, this couldn’t be more clear as it features semi-creepy tones straight from a 1970s slasher as we stare at a the outside of a house covered in fog with tones of purple, blue, and green smartly accentuating specific aspects we’re meant to see. From here, we enter Sandy’s room, a space so pink that Greta Gerwig wants to know where Fox got it all, with the camera inverted, spinning slowly so as to right the image while Sandy makes a tear-filled call. Perhaps it’s the white cat-eye sunglasses, the pink polka-dot dress, or the corded phone in Sandy’s hand, but everything in the production design screams of yesteryear, when Pink Ladies and Greasers rumbled only for each other and greased lightnin’ was a double entendre. The way in which cinematographer Daniel Waghorne (The Wheel of Heaven) captures both the opening shot and the introduction to Sandy, the audience understands quickly that the world Fox places us into is totally upside down, a suspicion confirmed when we meet ole’ reliable Dan, a boy who won’t shut up about his love even when his girl is visibly sick at the idea of him meeting her parents. This characterization combined with the cinematography and design make it very clear that Fox is ready to play, utilizing tropes of old to fuck with her audience. These strengths keep Fck’n Nuts rumbling on a nice even keel, even when the waters get wild. This is a necessity because the film plays well on the first watch, but loses some of its shock (of which there is plenty) starting with a repeat visit. However, with the shock absent, one can peel away the disquiet and take a look at what’s under the surface.
In the press notes, Fox comments how this film is inspired by her own upbringing. She doesn’t get into the specifics, but, having known parents who are, how should we say, separated from reality, amid the high ideas and outrageousness, there are several goobers of truth. A relationship is less likely to survive when there is discord between familial expectations (especially when living under their roof) and an offspring’s partner. Who among us hasn’t been told “you’re too good for them”? Yeah, that might be true, but it can also be a weapon wielded to keep you alone and isolated. Here, the reasoning and methodology is unrefined yet smart in the same way that just because Halloween Kills (2021) is a bloody slaughter doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to say about mob mentality and the way in which we create our own monsters. Fox’s Fck’n Nuts is slathered in the bizarre, but it makes sense within the framework of the film itself, making it profound in the way it proclaims “one of us” as a cry of strength while also being a lonely statement of subjugation by a larger system. The bonds of blood have a way of making us weak in ways we don’t realize, even if all it takes is a little proactivity on our part to become the hero of our lives. There’s a sadness amid the madness of Fox’s tale, which one can only hope is lessened through the act of making this film and turning that sadness into gleeful insanity.
If this sounds like your cup of tea and you want to go on a rollercoaster-like wild ride with no safety guards in the seats, Fantastic Fest has Fck’n Nuts scheduled within the Short Fuse segment of shorts. At the time of this writing the schedule hasn’t been released, so make sure to use the link below to snag screening information. My understanding is that the film will screen more than once during the fest and, if prior years are any indication, this may be available for viewing during the online portion of the festival.
Screening during Fantastic Fest 2023.
For more information, head to the official Fantastic Fest Short Fuse webpage.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.