Well, it’s all done, 19 days of non-stop movies and a lot of miles driven on the road in between. Just like last year, this was a humbling experience; because to be made aware of just how many great movies are out there that you’ve never even heard of can be nothing but. Whenever any of you complain that films have turned to garbage, just think about how many low-budget filmmakers are working in every country on the map, making movies you’ll probably never see. Festivals like this try to collect as many as they can and show them to the public. It almost breaks my heart when I look at some of these film’s IMBD pages and see that either they a) don’t have one, or b) have one with almost no information. Hell, I’m on the IMDB, so to not have anything on there is obscurity indeed. For some of this stuff, it’ll be the first and last chance that you’ll have to see it anywhere except on an iffy quality Chinese bootleg.
Which is why this fest is so damn neat. Where else could you see a live multimedia midnight mass with Joe Coleman one day and Ray Harryhausen presenting Jason and The Argonauts the next? Name one place.
Well? I’m waiting.
Watched “Creep” and “Ghost House” back to back. I admit that I might have expected too much from “Creep,” but that doesn’t change the fact that I was kicked in the crotch by its mediocrity. I’ll save the wrath for the review, but in the meantime, to the right is a photographic re-enactment of my reactions to the film:
“Ghost House” on the other hand was a total delight. It’s the story of a man who buys his first house and discovers that a rather fetching female ghost, whose one true love disappeared when they died together on a fateful bus trip, haunts it. The rest of the movie is dedicated to her attempts to evict the man from the house. Director Sang-Jin Kim is a master of timing and knows just how to build up and play every scene for maximum effect. Despite the cultural differences in humor, this still made me laugh like hell.
This is a huge cliché and it’ll probably be true of some other film one day. But for the moment, HORROR HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE… again. Every couple of years you see a slump and everyone starts talking about how horror is dead. Then a movie comes out pf nowhere, blows everyone away; and the headlines chant HHRFTG!
Whatever it might look like, the genre never really goes away. It just becomes so overly familiar, stagnant and forgettable that it’s as if nothing was being produced anyway.
But what eventually happens is that while everyone else coasts along not trying very hard, a visionary appears out of nowhere with a shotgun full of blood, cocks the hammer and BLAM! We’re reminded of the good times we’ve had in the past.
“The Roost” played to a packed house and with good reason. It’s awesome and scary and fun and it never becomes a big joke of itself despite its familiar story of four teens that get stranded in the middle of nowhere and face pure eeeeeeeeeevil. I’m amazed at how I never get tired of this stuff when it’s done this well. As a fan, this gave me everything I wanted and more. Plus Ti West stirred the pot a lot with some creative twists and the addition of a “Horror Host” that introduces the film and appears a few times within. I had been musing if the “Horror Host” segments would work or not, and they do. The only real downside to them is that if you haven’t seen the movie yet, they give the impression that this is going to be a horror/comedy, and this truly isn’t like that at all. Those out there who get a shiver hearing the old Media Home Entertainment or Thorn/EMI theme song will know exactly what they’re in store for.
Credit must also be given to special effects coordinator Glenn McQuaid for making “The Roost” look so good on such a small budget. He presented his own short film called “The Resurrection Apprentice” and showed that he’s a damn good director in his own right. Just think of him as Stan Winston with a computer.
In the end, I don’t know if low-budget Horror is really “back” but I will say this – I watched “The Devil’s Rejects” and “The Roost” in the same theatre, and if the audience’s reactions were any indication, “The Roost” would have made as much money as “Rejects.” So let the moneymen take THAT into consideration the next time they green light something.
“Trouble” was the film of the day. Before it played they had the Canadian premiere of Robert Morgan’s short film about a brother and sister, called Monsters. I don’t think I have to tell anyone who’s read my nearly fawning review about how incredibly good Morgan’s work is. It was also the perfect intro to Trouble, a story about a different kind of sibling rivalry between two twins.
When a thirtysomething photographer named Matyas discovers that he has a twin brother named Thomas, the knowledge brings with it a feeling of dread, and questions: Why does he not have any memory of his twin? Why did his parents send him to an orphanage when he was 6, but not Thomas? Why did they tell Thomas that Matyas was dead? Why indeed.
I’d never seen any of Harry Cleven’s work before, but now I have to seek it out. As a kid, I didn’t read American comic books, choosing instead to read the French equivalents like Spirou et Fantasio or PIF Gadget; two magazines that you’ve undoubtedly never heard about but who highlight the differences between the French style and American style of storytelling. American’s are usually obsessed with the main character’s strength (…and by “strength” I mean physical, moral, emotional strength. It runs the gamut of how it can be applied to a person.). Either they’re weak and find inner strength, or they’re already strong and lose their strength, or they’re always strong. It doesn’t have to be directly related to the story or plot, but it’s always a concern. There’s just this weird kind of posturing and need for conflict and when you start to notice, you realize just how predictable it can make things.
However, the French have little interest in this, instead they focus on observing the personality of the characters and how they interweave. Everything from “Le Salaire De La Peur” to “Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulin” uses this technique. Sure, you have strength/weakness issues, but they’re not as omnipresent as in English films.
Watching “Trouble” gave me that same sensation of “frenchness”; that lack of timidity when it comes to human relationships. It’s an intricate and complex film that will truly creep it’s way into your soul.
You remember that scene in “Scanners” where the guys’ head blows up? Well, that was my reaction in the theatre as I watched “Survive Style 5+.” With people like director Gen Sekiguchi in Japan, Hollywood doesn’t stand a chance. The rush of images, sounds, colors and ideas kicks the a*s of anything they have in mind.
It borrows the “multiple interlocking stories” template that “Pulp Fiction” and “Go” used, but that doesn’t really matter since it shares little else. Besides, this is GOOD! Of all the Asian movies I’ve seen in the past month, this has the most chance of being verrrrrrrrrry popular if it’s subtitled/translated and released in America. This is our kind of thing. It’s the story of a man who kills his wife and then can’t seem to get rid of her, of a British assassin and his enthusiastic translator, of a happy family with 2.5 kids and a dog trying to let their hair down, of an ad executive whose boyfriend has insulted her for the last time and of a trio of juvenile delinquents.
How these storylines interact is so clever that I was just sitting in my seat, staring in sheer admiration. If you have any doubts you’d wanna see this, just watch the trailer. If it doesn’t blow you away then I can’t help you for being an idiot with no taste.
Next up was a change of pace from all the movie watching. It was a seminar with Lloyd Kaufman who spoke of filmmaking and showed clips from his “How to Make Your Own Damn Movie” DVD box set. If you’re not a fan of Troma films, don’t worry. I’m not that big of a fan either, but Kaufman’s so funny and charming in real life and on the DVD that he’d win over Tipper Gore with his schtick. It’s like taking a film class taught by George Carlin. Not only that, but it’s really informative both to the layman and the connoisseur. I think Lloyd just got sick and tired of seeing kids make a movie but squander most of their budget because they didn’t expect the technical SNAFUs and other nightmares that professionals are familiar with. We all like to think that making a movie is about art, but truthfully it’s about being able to play the cards your dealt and solve a rash of problems. A director on a low-budget film is going to spend a lot more time on his cell phone with a delivery company secretary trying to find out why his cameras and lighting rigs weren’t delivered to his location on time than talking about character motivation with his actors. Kaufman’s DVD hammers this point home over and over again, to prepare you for this kind of thing. And that, if nothing else, makes it required viewing for anyone who wants to make a movie.
The story continues in part two of THANK GOD IT’S STILL FANTASIA: PART 2>>>