In his ambitious directorial debut, "Applecart," Bradford Baruh uses a true crime television show as a framing device for a truly twisted tale. 

Casey Pollack (Brea Grant) is taking her family out for a winter weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. Her loving husband, James (AJ Bowen), has been diagnosed with liver cancer, and she has booked this getaway because of the potential healing powers of the location. The explanation, which can only come from a movie plot, has something to do with mineral deposits, I think. The semantics of why they are there is not nearly as important as what unfolds next. 

Their daughter, Jessica (Sophie Dalah), has brought her beautiful best friend Amanda (Shauna Case) along for the trip, which does not bother her younger brother, Jason (Joshua Hoffman). A long weekend of forced family fun is pretty quickly nipped in the bud when local politician Leslie Bison (Barbara Crampton) turns up frozen in the snow outside. Bringing her inside the cabin turns out to be the first of many fatal mistakes. 

Viewers are provided with two wildly different perspectives on the events of that weekend. Not only do we see what actually happened, but we also are treated to a reality television series called "Inside Crime" that works as a framing device to show us the story as the police were able to piece it together. The authorities have dubbed Casey "Axe Mom" and believe that she carefully plotted to annihilate her family. On the other side, we watch her do everything she can to fight for them. 

By blending a somewhat traditional horror film with supernatural elements, Baruh may have bitten off more than he can chew for his first feature. That said, the practical effects, blood-soaked kills, and devilish grin of the always brilliant Crampton were enough for me to walk out smiling.

Baruh previously produced Don Coscarelli's Fantastic Fest 2011 favorite "John Dies at the End," and now Coscarelli returns the favor to help get this film out to genre fans.

"Applecart" screens again at Fantastic Fest at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 27. 

RELATED

Things get dark for Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell in "Killing of a Sacred Deer"

Teen girls have murder on the mind in thrilling "Thoroughbred"

What you need to know about the Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest