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[Fantastic Fest 2023] FILM REVIEW: Fishmonger

Fishmonger - Fantastic Fest World Premiere

Director: Neil Ferron

Starring: Dominic Burgess, Donnla Hughes, Penny O'Brien, Mark Bramhall, Ron Bottitta

Written by: Alexandra Dennis-Renner, Neil Ferron

Produced by: Valerie Steinberg, Jordan Willcox

Cinematography by: Jack McDonald

Original Score by: John Graney


A pathetic Irish fishmonger must survive a sex pact with an ancient sea creature in order to save his mother's soul from burning in hell.


One of the great things about covering film festivals is that you get to see some big titles before they have a general release but even better than that is you have the opportunity to discover hidden gems that, more likely than not, you would never ever set eyes on. 'Fishmonger' is one of those hidden gems and I'm confident to announce that it's one of the best film's I've watched all year.

Seattle born writer/director Neil Ferron returns with his third short film, his AFI thesis project which is not only shocking, provocative and downright weird, it's batshit crazy fun with extremely witty and hilarious dialogue and I absolutely adored it.

Set on a remote Irish island and featuring a small cast of weird Irish inhabitants, 'Fishmonger' is a supernatural, dark comedy but also kinda, sort of a love story that follows Christie O'Mallaghan's quest to save his dying Mother's soul. To do this he must become betrothed before sunrise but there is only one other female on the island who isn't married, Penny O'Brien. Admittedly Penny wouldn't even entertain the idea of marrying Christie so dark magic must be put in place. At the suggestion of old Father Heaney, Christie must visit a dangerous cove in the dead of night and speak to an accent creature who will grant him his every wish. Unfortunately something must be given in return to this creature and Christie isn't quite prepared for what is to come next. An Irish folk tale like no other.

I don't want to give away any spoilers because 'Fishmonger' really is best enjoyed going in almost completely blind. It's a bit of a mad mix of Robert Egger's 'The Lighthouse' and Disney's 'The Little Mermaid'. It's indescribable really. Bizarre and surreal with a hint of 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' thrown in. It's a film you have to watch to believe, featuring oozing flesh blisters, sexy tentacles and a fair amount of bodily fluid escaping for its life. Born out of his own repressed sexuality, a fear of condemnation and the confusion behind Catholic mythology, Ferron got the seed of the idea for 'Fishmonger' when he opened a book full of vintage National Geographic photographs and fell on a beguiling image of a Nova Scotian fisherman rowing a boat through a mighty storm, his face full of anxiety and the waves crashing up around him. Where was this man going and what would become of him when he landed at his destination?

Joking aside, and the hilarity never stops for a second, there is actually something a bit deeper going on here too. Ferron admits that the film has a deep personal connection to him since growing up he used humour to distract him from his own self loathing and suicidal thoughts. The film recently helped Ferron win the Cannes Lions Young Directors Award and apparently there is a feature film version on it's way too as the script also recently won the Grand Prize at the Slamdance Screenplay Competition Awards.

Absurd. Outlandish. Preposterous. Abhorrent. 'Fishmonger' is a brilliant and passionate short film full of old school filmmaking techniques like miniatures, in camera special effects, practical stunts and prosthetic make up. The comedy timing of the cast is remarkable but there's still a weight of honesty and vulnerability present in their performance too. It (fish)hooked me in from the very opening scene and continuously drowned me in all of its charming eccentricity. I didn't want it to end.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

- Gavin Logan

'Fishmonger' received its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest '23 on September 24th


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