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It’s a day of celebration, and while the horror film “Fat Tuesday” isn’t perfect, you have to admire the spirit and tenacity of this outing.

Fat Tuesday

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When it comes to holiday horror, Christmas is well represented, Thanksgiving has a couple in its camp, and even Arbor Day has one (granted, it’s pretty silly). However, plenty of less well-known holidays out there could use a splatter or two of blood.

This week, I couldn’t resist taking advantage of one of the rare Tuesday holidays to write about Fat Tuesday, the 2018 indie/slasher/whatsit from director Jorge Torres Torres.

A day of celebration and indulgence before Ash Wednesday kicks off the self-imposed temperance of Lent, Fat Tuesday is observed throughout the Catholic world but takes on special resonance in New Orleans as the end of Carnival, which culminates with Mardi Gras (which literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French).

With its wanton debauchery and masquerade atmosphere, it makes for a fine time to get away with murder.

Fat Tuesday is an odd sort of horror movie. It’s largely plotless, with a laid-back handheld vérité style that borders on Mumblecore, that oft-reviled quasi-genre of improv-heavy indie films directed by the likes of Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers.

For large chunks of its runtime, it feels like we’re just hanging out with a group of friends as they whoop it up on Mardi Gras, interrupted by flashes of gory murder.

Said murder comes courtesy of a young woman played by Hannah Gross (who’s gone on to mainstream success in projects like Joker, Mindhunter, and Tesla), freshly arrived in the Big Easy for some solo sightseeing and gruesome killing.

After bludgeoning a lightbulb-eating clown to death, she hooks up with a quartet of friends, ingratiating herself to them by buying them drinks and drugs, then choosing her moment to pick them off one by one. The quartet overlooks pretty much everything odd about this stranger, choosing to go with the flow in the name of a fun evening.

Her motives remain unclear, Torres instead opting to keep her an unknowable monster hiding behind a pretty face.

The film was shot guerrilla style on the streets of New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festivities, with little regard for such trivialities as “permits” or “obtaining consent to photograph strangers,” which gives it an appropriately street-level look at the grimy, less tourist-friendly sides of the holiday.

This was probably my favorite aspect of the film, providing outsiders like me a chance to see a side of the city that probably wouldn’t be approved by the tourism board.

New Orleans is a unique place and one that we’ve seen fetishized in movies time and again, and while the film doesn’t exactly disprove our preconceptions, it feels like a tribute to the people who actually choose to make the city their home once the revelry is over.

I wouldn’t say Fat Tuesday really succeeds as horror.

It’s a bit too shaggy and loose to generate any scares. Yet, as the night wears on and the party gets uglier, Torres manages to capture an air of casual menace.

Strangers stop being approachable and become more threatening, and the streets clogged with partiers give way to dark and desolate back roads. It would all serve to make the unknown feel more frightening if we didn’t already know that something way worse was lurking among our quartet of partiers.

The central foursome of Zach, Chris, Dizzy, and Michelle make for a likable group to hang out with, enough that we don’t want to see them get stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled, etc.

If only they hadn’t been quite so accommodating.

With the exception of Dizzy, the others are more than happy to ignore every red flag in the book as long as their new friend keeps them lubricated with beers and magic mushrooms, and they’re quick to dismiss Dizzy’s concerns in the name of not bringing down the vibe.

The film subverts our expectations, making the single young woman into a violent predator, using her unassuming demeanor to disarm people and make them vulnerable to her murderous intentions.

Fat Tuesday offers a clever subversion of a common slasher trope, even if the movie itself is a little too laissez-faire to satisfy hardcore horror fans.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

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