Fantasia Festival Review: Texas Trip-A Carnival of Ghosts

Year: 2020
 Runtime: 79 minutes
 Directors: Steve Balestreri, Maxime Lechaud
 Writers: Steve Balestreri, Maxime Lechaud
Stars: Giless M. Fakir, Grady Roper, Ernestina Evelyn Forbis, Chris Cones, James & Andrew, Coby Cardosa, Neil Barrett, Jessica Sopolis, Jeffrey Garcia, Rebekah Porter, Matt Akins, Attic Ted, Mother Fakir, How I Quit Crack!, Ak’Chamel the Giver of Illness, Pornohelmut, Toxic Water, Street Sects

By Joan Amenn

“I don’t belong in the world.”

                         – “Carnival of Souls” (1962)                          

“Texas Trip-Carnival of Ghosts” (2020) pays homage to the B-rated films that were shown on the big screens of drive-in movies in the 1950’s and 1960’s, specifically in Austin, Texas. The premise seems to be that those odd, low budget horror, science-fiction and exploitation films were the inspiration for this generation of performance artists who are one of the reasons the city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” Like the cult classic horror film that inspired its title, “Texas Trip-Carnival of Ghosts” is an unsettling road trip that plays with the audience by occasionally having artists pose in macabre handmade masks. At one point, a quote by Hunter S. Thompson is referred to, and who better to be a spirit guide on a journey through bizarre landscapes then this icon of counterculture?

Abandoned drive-in theaters look forlorn and forgotten but the film makes the argument that they were once the place for teenagers to gather and feel like they belonged to a community. What they saw were for the most part terrible, but there were some unexpected gems like “Carnival of Souls” (1962).

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“Directors Steve Balestreri and Maxime Lechaud did a great job in creating an atmosphere of disquieting isolation throughout the film which makes the performances even more powerful.”

In a similar way, the performance artists in “Texas Trip” are playing the small empty storefronts, festivals and coffeeshops of Austin and have their devoted followers. They take their art seriously and for some, it is a kind of therapy that helps them deal with life. There is an obvious kinship and supportive community along them as we see them collaborate and encourage one another. These outliers of society may not feel like they belong anywhere, but they seem to have found a home in a city that prides itself in being “weird.”

Directors Steve Balestreri and Maxime Lechaud did a great job in creating an atmosphere of disquieting isolation throughout the film which makes the performances even more powerful in their need to convey pain, loss, loneliness, and sorrow. A word of caution to the squeamish; for the most part “Texas Trip” is not graphic in its content but the ending does have scenes some might find hard to sit through. Despite this, the film makes a strong argument for the value of art that makes the viewer uncomfortable but perhaps renders some solace to the troubled spirit of its creator.

“Texas Trip-Carnival of Ghosts” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.

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