Alas, the final day of Fantastic Fest has come around. Thinking back on the days before the festival, anticipation high, the world our oyster, and ready to conquer as many movies as we can in the allocated eight days, it all seems so long ago. But here I am with 31 movies under my belt, one shorts program and one game show. My final day would add an additional 3 movies to my total before I headed off to hit up the closing night party where much alcohol would be consumed.
Scheduling had put the Korean thriller Blind on the opening and closing day. I never miss the opportunity to see any Korean movies at festivals, not only because I’m a fan of their movies but also because they have a relatively high movie output, so I always hope the festivals highlight the best of the best.
Blind tells the story of Min Soo-ah (Ha-Neul Kim), a young woman training to become a police officer who one evening after pulling her brother from an underground dance battle loses him in a car accident, as well as her sight. A year later she has adjusted to her blindness and at the same time, young women are starting to disappear from her town. After trying to catch a ride home in the rain, Min encounters a man who could very well be a killer.
Channeling Audrey Hepburn’s Wait Until Dark, this thriller loves to place a blind woman in precarious positions. It’s also the best advertisement for iPhone’s Facetime ever, as it plays a central role in one dramatic chase scene. While Blind is a competently made movie and I have no issues with the stars, it does play out very straightforward and little that is shown is shocking or scary. In fact, the movie features many comedic scenes which cause a huge loss of tension to the overall feel of what could potentially be a terrifying film. It’s good, but considering how many excellent Korean thrillers I’ve seen, Blind suffers an air of disappointment.
Continuing in the thriller genre is a French take on the Italian Giallo with The Last Screening. Directed by Laurent Achard, the movie follows a quiet young man who helps to run a cinema in France. Once he leaves at night, however, it turns out he’s involved in much more sinister activities and has a fetish for ears.
This movie is really only one Goblin soundtrack from playing out like an 80’s giallo. Highly stylized shooting styles, the look of the lead and even the subject matter are all so familiar. So much so that I did hear complaints from people about it being boring, but I never found it so, compelled by the character work and wondering where it would be headed in its conclusion. The Last Screening isn’t the best thing I saw at the festival but its certainly one of the stronger features I saw.
And finally the closing night film was upon me. Passing up Ti West’s The Innkeepers, which I had seen at SXSW months before, I chose the alternate film, Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope. A new documentary from Morgan Spurlock and produced by Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles, it follows five major storylines of people who are either fans or people involved in the comic business. Two men are working to try and become comic book artists, one is a cosplayer who is working to try and win a prize at Masquerade, another is the gentleman who runs Mile High Comics and is struggling financially and, finally, one is a young geek who plans on proposing to his girlfriend he met the previous year during the Kevin Smith panel.
Unlike other Spurlock documentaries there’s no real exposure going on here and he’s never in it as a voice-over or ever shown. Instead they have chosen to let the people tell their own stories and that’s where this movie excelled for me. A documentary told by its participants will succeed or fail based on the people who are the focus of the movie and in Comic-Con everyone’s story and personality shines on screen. It’s a touching story that covers the gamut of the yearly attendees of America’s largest comic book and geekery show. It features talking head pieces with the bigger named movers and shakers like Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Seth Green, Frank Miller, Robert Kirkman and many more, covering everything about Comic-Con from the portfolio reviews, action figure collectors, addition of movies to the lineups, the cosplayers and even how comics have becomes the back burner of the namesake festival. By the end, I had really started caring about it’s subjects and found myself even touched by the epilogue. Spurlock and crew have made a fantastic little film and I think it’ll be an interesting watch to even those who aren’t much aware of what Comic-Con actually is.
And with that screening so ended eight days of movies. I went to the closing night party, a superhero-themed affair that had free tequila and beer and played up the carnival aspect by featuring an array of fried foods and inflatable rides. Mostly, though, it was spent catching up with the rest of the festival-goers to even further continue to talk about movies and how exhausted we were. In my fifth year of attendance I have to say the organizers have improved the festival quite a bit and this year’s lineup was incredibly strong, with only a few duds. Even movies I felt weren’t the best of the best were entertaining watches and I recommend people to keep an eye out for the ones I’ve mentioned. Now starts the long wait for next year!