Professor Marston And The Wonder Women (Photo: Claire Folger / Annapurna Pictures)

Amid all the controversy surrounding this year’s Fantastic Fest, there’s one group that should not get lost in the shuffle: The female filmmakers whose works screened at the festival. If the film industry in general is male-dominated, the genre film world is even more so, making visibility and support for the women who do defy the odds essential. In the past couple of years, movies directed by women have begun making slow, incremental progress at Fantastic Fest, and this year continued the trend. Over the past three days, I’ve seen some films from female writers and directors with strong (and wildly divergent) personal visions, from an extremely violent revenge fantasy to a conventional biopic about an unconventional romance.

Angela Robinson (Photo: Rick Kern)

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The question of authorial intent is extremely relevant to Professor Marston And The Wonder Women (B-), writer-director Angela Robinson’s biopic about Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and the two women with whom he shared his life. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Robinson says she made a conscious choice to film the movie in a conventional Hollywood style, rich with period details (fans of ‘30s and ‘40s vintage fashion are in for a treat) but shot and scored with a generic, glossy “awards movie” sheen. According to Robinson, her intent was to normalize a polyamorous BDSM relationship by treating it just like any other period romance. And indeed, the film is one of the most kink-and poly-positive movies I’ve ever seen, period, let alone one distributed by a major indie like Annapurna. The problem is, Robinson won’t be there to explain her choice to audiences who see the film at their local multiplex.

Luke Evans stars as Dr. William Moulton Marston alongside Rebecca Hall as his whip-smart, sharp-tongued wife Elizabeth, who would also be a Dr. Marston if Harvard would just grant her her PhD already. The couple’s lives are changed forever when they meet Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), a cherubic co-ed who volunteers to serve as an assistant in the Marstons’ psychology lab. What starts as a professional spark turns into a romantic one after Olive confesses her love for both Elizabeth and William; the three would go on to live together and raise children together as a trio, an arrangement that was even more taboo in the 1940s than it is today. This polyamorous love affair—and the rope bondage the trio explored behind closed doors—went on to inspire Marston’s most famous creation, Wonder Woman. The story is absolutely fascinating, even if the filmmaking isn’t.

Coralie Fargeat (Photo: Rick Kern)

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On the complete opposite end of the filmmaking spectrum is Revenge (B), an aggressively stylized, absolutely brutal rape-revenge film from French newcomer Coralie Fargeat. Taking place in an unnamed location with paper-thin characters—all we know about the heroine is that she’s from L.A.—this film is all about the thrill of the chase. Matilda Lutz stars as Jen, a nubile young woman who, as the film opens, pulls up in a helicopter for a dirty weekend with her handsome older lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) at Richard’s fashionable desert retreat. (Think shag carpeting and a neon pop-art portrait of the Virgin Mary.) It’s never revealed exactly what Richard does for a living, but it’s presumably something illicit. He certainly reveals himself to be a monstrous character when he betrays Jen by pushing her off a cliff after she’s raped by one of his associates.

At first, Revenge seems to be doing a Psycho-style reversal by killing off Jen, but soon she rises, seemingly from the grave, to enact her extremely bloody revenge. The film works best if you approach it as a fantasy, with Jen as a near-supernatural angel of vengeance; otherwise, it’s easy to get hung up on the inconsistencies as the action grows increasingly over-the-top. That is, when you’re not watching through your fingers: The level of blood splatter, bodily mutilation, and exploding heads in this film is on the level of New French Extremity titles like Inside and High Tension, making Revenge as much of a horror movie as an action one. (Think taking peyote as an anesthetic before performing self-surgery with a beer can and a rusty knife.) No wonder horror-only streaming service Shudder picked it up.

Pin Cushion director Deborah Haywood (Photo: Waytao Shing)

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Somewhere in between are Pin Cushion (B) and Blue My Mind (B-), two films from first-time female directors from the U.K. and Switzerland, respectively. Inspired by director Deborah Haywood’s own embattled teen years, Pin Cushion is as quirky and as prickly as its title, an unclassifiable dramedy about bullying and mother-daughter relationships that proposes that mean-girl behavior doesn’t go away after high school. The Thick Of It’s Joanna Scalan and striking newcomer Lily Newmark star as Lyn and Iona, a mother-daughter pair who recently moved to a new town in the English countryside. Lyn, who is physically impaired, has no friends or relatives—or anyone, really—but Iona, with whom she has created a childish safe haven of cat T-shirts, ceramic tchotchkes, and their pet bird Budgie, whom Lyn refers to as her “son.” As the naive Iona enters high school, she starts resisting Lyn’s suffocating neediness and making hesitant steps into the outside world, only to be beaten back into her fantasy life by a gang of popular mean girls. Meanwhile, Lyn’s attempts to reach out to other neighborhood moms now that Iona has left the nest end just as pathetically. Taking a very dark turn late in the second act, Pin Cushion’s eccentric craft-fair aesthetic is ultimately protective cushioning wrapped around a broken heart.

Blue My Mind also centers on a high-school girl trying desperately to fit in, although its narrative goes in a more predictable direction—as predictable as a body-horror movie about a girl who’s slowly turning into a mermaid can be, anyway. In many ways, the film is reminiscent of last year’s arthouse horror hit Raw, using monstrous transformation as a metaphor for puberty and sexual awakening. It’s not as extreme as Raw in its content, though, nor as skillful in its technique: A slow second act that dulls the impact of the effects-heavy finale. For a student film, though— director Lisa Brühlmann made Blue My Mind as her film-school thesis project—it’s quite impressive. Hopefully Fantastic Fest will welcome her back again in the years to come.