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Fantasia 2014: ‘Faults’ has that good kind of sadistic feeling

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Faults
Written and directed by Riley Stearns
USA, 2014

The irony of the penniless cult and mind-control expert is not lost on us. Ansel Roth’s got the tools to get your loved ones back within your grasp, he’s written them down for all to read, but here he is selling copies of his latest book one hotel conference room at a time, living out of an AMC Gremlin, fishing meal vouchers out of the trash, and shoveling ketchup in his mouth with a fork. He used to be a big shot with a bestselling book and a TV show, but that doesn’t stop him from getting beat senseless in front of a half-full room at a regional hotel. Nor will it stop The Wire and Toys R Me’s own Lance Reddick from showing up in the parking lot afterward, smilingly vicious as ever, asking for money his boss is owed.

Things are looking pretty bleak for Ansel, played by Leland Orser, in Faults. Loser days are upon him, and writer-director Riley Stearns has got him halfheartedly huffing the car fumes directly from his Gremlin’s exhaust pipe to compensate. A sweet old couple are desperate to get their daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) back, and Ansel has little choice but to try and get it done, for a hefty fee.

Everything unfurls from there, and it’s a dark pleasure till the end. In fact, the full assortment of ordeals Roth faces, whether they be the weirded-out ones or a living nightmare or two, is a guiltless romp. Though at times peculiarly gross, Faults induces chuckles as one wince-inducing moment after another rolls on by, and as worse gets worse. Pitiably thrifty, nosebleed-afflicted, sleep-deprived, banged up — the little rat’s kinda lovable, but you still want to see him squashed. He muddles his way through the endless string of headaches the dismal remains of his life send his way, and you feel for him, all while pointing and laughing.

That’s a big part of Stearns’s handy work here: a convincingly likable but questionable character no one would mind seeing BBQ’ed. The film’s ensemble of character actor creepos are deliciously the worst, yet you can’t wait for them to enact Ansel’s potential undoing. A glutton for Ansel’s pain, Stearns seduces the audience into sharing the feeling wholeheartedly. Evenhanded direction, clear, concise storytelling, and a snappy novel reveal make that good kind of sadistic feeling last till Faults‘ end.

— David Bradford

Please visit the official website of the Fantasia International Film Festival.


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