Sorry for the delayed update on Day 2, which, if you're going by CST, was two days ago... but if you're calculating via "festival-brain", it feels like only a while ago.
By Friday morning, it was time to face facts: Night (Day) 1 of Fantastic Fest was a let down. Last year, my second screening of the fest was the overnight sensation Timecrimes (which is finally getting a theatrical release this December, btw... so keep an eye out for it), but this year it went swinging strike (Late Bloomer).... foul ball (How To Get Rid of the Others) .... called strike (Art of the Devil 3).
Though that poor showing may have been from my own poor scheduling/decision-making of what movies to go see.
So, odds were definitely in favor for the first film I saw on Day 2 to lift me out of my low. But to praise The Substitute based on those merits alone would be unfair to this charming Danish, sci-fi film.
As the wife correctly pointed out, The Substitute calls on your nostalgia for 1980's PG-13 sci-fi films like Invaders From Mars. And just as Louise Fletcher dominated in that creature-teacher role from Invaders..., Paprika Steen steals the show in The Substitute. Her first moment on screen - a battle-of-the-wits interrogation with her new students - is possibly the film's high point.
Without Steen, The Substitute may not have worked. Not only does her presence drive the film, but she pulls out the best from a largely preteen cast. The ending is a bit of a shrug, but the final moment is touching. (NOTE: the wife thought this moment was sappy... so, there ya go!)
What happened next was a bit of a panic...
We wanted to go see Jennifer Lynch's Surveillance, but since the mini-diva decided to reserve a bit too many seats for her film, many of us were shut out (sadly, Papa Lynch wasn't one of the "reserved". If so, I wouldn't have been as irritated).
So we bounced over to Eagle Eye instead.
I was a fan of Disturbia's retelling of suspense conventions through the devices of a perpetually logged-in generation, so it was a major disappointment when Eagle Eye fluttered and crashed as badly as it did. Straight-up? Man to man? : This film is pretty stupid. Where Caruso successfully repackaged thriller trickery for a younger audience in Disturbia, Eagle Eye attempts to do the same for political espionage, but falls flat on its beak instead.
Jerry Shaw (LeBeouf) is a down-on-his-dreams, five o'clock shadowed burnout haunted by the shadow of his more ambitious twin brother. When brother dies, Jerry gets forced into a role of citizen foot-soldier by a random woman on a cell phone. Soon, Eagle Eye tailspins into a variation on 2001's HAL meets Harrison Ford in Air Force One.
The "no f*cking way!" moments are off-the-chart, and the subtext underneath Eagle Eye's "assassination plot of an entire administration because of errors in Afghanistan" is numb and amateurish. (Though, to be fair, that reading may come from seeing this movie in Austin, where invoking assassination fantasies is bound to get cheers).
Because the filmmakers for the next film we saw, The Wreck, were sweet people, it's difficult for me to write anything too negative about it.
Despite my dislike of this film - about a married (and pregnant) couple trapped in a crashed car in the middle of nowhere - it did have a fingers-in-the-dirt, DIY glow to it. Listening to the Q & A afterwards only confirmed that.
The Wreck is a minor film that replays a lot of the twisting corners that our post-Saw horror movies have put us in. The film's appearance at Fantastic Fest is likely its first and last hurrah, so why dig in against a film whose journey is probably already at completion?
I hated Wrong Turn, so it was by scheduling default, last year, that I saw Wrong Turn 2 : Dead End. I was glad I did, not only because it was a throwback to the slapstick hyper-gore of yore, but it was also a total tonal departure from the original. It made me realize that horror sequels no longer represent a continuation of any previous storyline or aesthetic, but simply an established vessel for a young director to flex his beer belly in.
Well, I didn't like Feast, so I thought perhaps I would score with another sequel in Feast 2 : Sloppy Seconds. Nope.
There's a reason Feast 2 was given the 11:55 PM slot. It's a movie that should appeal to the drunken & stoned fanboy that likes to have a movie on in the background while he downloads his daily porn updates. There are midgets with 2 foot wieners, monsters pooping, monsters farting, monsters ejaculating, feline fu*king, vomiting, boobs. Yes, I realize some of you may be saying "OMG, that sounds awesome! ", and if so, I would refer you back to the second sentence in this paragraph.
However, I will give Feast 2 the compliment of having shown me something that I'd never seen in a movie before, and that is an utterly bizarre sequence of an infant in distress that truly goes out-of-bounds and into the surreal. And the way it ends, well... let's just say that if you thought baby splatter was the one place that horror heads wouldn't go, well, you'd be very wrong.
DAY 2 DONE! UPDATE ON DAY 3 COMING SOON!....