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Fantastic Fest 2021 review round-up: The Beta Test and The Trip

Images from The Beta Test and The Trip.
Images from The Beta Test and The Trip. Pic credit: IFC Films/Netflix

We had the pleasure of seeing two films at Fantastic Fest. These films are the hilariously violent relationship comedy The Trip and the satirical dark comedy The Beta Test.

Both The Trip and The Beta Test have characters with Hollywood backgrounds and both involve a degree of marital strife in their conflict. This said, the two of them are vastly different experiences in their own right.

What is for sure is both movies are entertaining and are incredibly subversive.

What are our thoughts on The Trip and The Beta Test? Here are our capsule reviews of both films out of Fantastic Fest.

The Trip review

The Trip stars Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Lisa and Aksel Hennie (The Martian) as Lars – a couple that works in television that plans to take a vacation at a remote cabin away from their city life.

As the film begins we know something is off about this trip. Lars is shopping for red-flag items that clearly scream, “I am about to kidnap and kill someone.”

After picking up Lisa, when they begin to get settled in the cabin, the mood is thick. And even something as simple as a board game comes off passive-aggressive.

The next day, Lars tries to kill Lisa, but the joke is on him because she had the same plans for him. And well, it becomes hilariously violent from there.

The Trip is the perfect one-location (mostly) comedic thriller because it makes fantastic use of its setting and knows how to keep building the stakes with its minimal environment.

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Aksel Hennie from The Trip.
Aksel Hennie from The Trip. Pic credit: Netflix

Director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) also manages to deliver full-fledged action scenes inside small spaces that are expertly cut and framed. This is obviously thanks to cinematographer Matthew Weston’s ability to photograph appropriately.

It can be frustrating watching an action film that is shot so close to the choreography that it is incomprehensible. Here, The Trip proves there are no excuses for doing so.

The Trip is also extremely hilarious throughout and even the violence is somewhat laughable. Mainly because of how over-the-top it can be at times.

The best way to prepare the viewer mentally for what the Norweigan film has to offer is basically to have them imagine if Quentin Tarantino directed War of the Roses. Noomi Rapace is Kathleen Turner and Aksel Hennie is Michael Douglas.

And just like Tarantino’s Kill Bill, not only is the violence visceral, so is the sound design. Cuts, stabbings, strangulations, all have emphasized audio to make us feel it even more. And trust us when we say, the blood will flow spectacularly.

The Trip is not a film aiming to have a subtext or deep messages of any kind. It’s a film that just wants to entertain the living hell out of the viewer.

It will take audiences on the edge, make them laugh, squirm, and just have a great time. What more can one want?

The Trip will land on Netflix on October 15.

Jim Cummings from The Beta Test.
Jim Cummings from The Beta Test. Pic credit: IFC Films

The Beta Test review

The Beta Test is like nothing we have seen before.

The film centers on Jordan (Jim Cummings), a stereotypical Hollywood type that is basically a Jerry Maguire type figure for the entertainment industry.

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In the film, Jordan seems unsatisfied in his industry as well as his marriage. He gets a mysterious letter that is an invitation from an admirer, and after he chooses to accept the invite, he goes tumbling down the rabbit hole of forced self-examination.

Because the movie is rather far out on release, we will try to be as vague as possible on the experience, but let’s just say The Beta Test has a lot of meat on its bone and is a rather brave film for two talents that want to keep making movies. Seriously, Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe are rebels, and we are here for it.

The Beta Test is a character study about the sleazy Hollywood dinosaur going extinct. This is Cummings and McCabe roasting the Weinsteins and the Spaceys that are trying to salvage any relevancy they have left. And honestly, thanks to Jim Cummings manic and unlikeable protagonist, it works beautifully.

Cummings himself is a thrill to watch as he executes a character that is magnetic and loathsome all in one. He gives a perfectly blended performance of Christian Bale in American Psycho and Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. It might sound strange, but for the story and tone, it absolutely works.

Having only seen the film once, the ending did leave this reviewer somewhat perplexed and it might make more sense with extra viewings. This aside, The Beta Test shows that Cummings and McCabe are versatile creatively and we cannot wait to see what they do next.

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The Beta Test will release in theaters and on-demand on November 5.

For more Fantastic Fest reviews, readers might want to check out The Execution, V/H/S/94, and The Sadness.

Stay tuned for more Fantastic Fest coverage at Monsters & Critics.

John Dotson is a film and television reviewer and commentator from...read more

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