Friday, September 25, 2009

FANTASTIC FEST : DAY 1

I knew I would bring my camera and then not use it at all. That happens when you come of out of theaters, run to pee, say hi to friends, check your phone, then go back into a theater and forget what time of day (and/or what day) it is. I will use it tomorrow... I think.

******

Van Dieman's Land (Jonathan Auf Der Heide)

This slow-riding Australian import was a polite (if cannibalism can be "polite") way to ease into a week that often gets erratic. Bad boys from the UK are sent to a prisoner's work camp somewhere on the edge of the end of the world. Open water vistas bring to mind the endings of Apocalypse Now! and The Mosquito Coast. While Van Dieman's Land isn't great, the ambitions of it's creators are admirable. A Q&A afterwards revealed that the film was made "with zero money". Now, while that may just mean zero "private" funding, the footage and performances captured by this ragtag group of art school friends impresses.

******

Terribly Happy (Henrik Ruben Genz)

The more I sit with this movie, the more I like it. Terribly Happy pivots on the great faces of its actors. As much as the setting sweats small town Denmark, there is also an Americana eccentricity to it. Many of the characters are drawn like incidental reference points from famous international indie films, but that's more likely attributed to the fact that Genz wears his influences on his sleeves. While not a film that hits on all cylanders, Terribly Happy still darkly charms on its way to off-the-beaten-path redemption.

******


Macabre (The Mo Brothers)

YIKES! This was the first official clunker of the festival - through these eyes, at least. Total trash, this Indonesian splatter film aims to pay homage to sadist-horror - from gouge-happy 80's-90's American to the current wave of French brutality - but can't even pull of that easy trick because it's too caught up in it's web of tired tropes and genre cliches. Unlike 2007's Fantastic find Hell's Ground (a Pakistani splatter film), Macabre ignores the essence of its own culture while drawing out the horror. Oh, and a new born baby is not a good device for a horror film (nor do baby skulls make for good props).


******


Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli)

OK, OK. Yeah, yeah. This is the biggest, scariest film since ever... or something. I know. Or, so I'm told. Look, I don't think this film is terrible, and it does have some cold & creepy moments, but I just don't get it. "It" being why movie fans get so excited about stuff like this. Paranormal Activity is another found footage film that doesn't look good, but, as I argued with my buddy Bill the other day about The Blair Witch Project, I guess that's the point. It's also to the benefit of the filmmakers. Since Paranormal Activity is nothing but set ups for some greenlight frights, it's hard for me to see this film as nothing more than another well-marketed stunt of a film that I couldn't really ever care to look at again.


NOTE: This film could just as easily be called The Most Annoying Boyfriend Ever. If my boyfriend followed me around like that with a camera all the time, I would have welcomed demon possession myself.

13 comments:

Bob Turnbull said...

Fox,

Great write-ups on Fantastic Fest so far. The Facebook updates of several friends who are currently there are already making me severely envious, so you're sealing the deal...

I must admit, I hate the hype surrounding "Paranormal Activity" too (Scariest movie ever? They don't think they may be setting expectations a wee bit high?), but I do like this "style" of film - when done well, it can be extremely creepy, tense and bring things home a little bit more. I've seen a few other reviews similar to yours that position it probably where I would expect it to be - pretty effective in spots, probably worth seeing and a good place for new filmmakers to play with the horror genre.

Fox said...

Thanks Bob.

I will be excited to talk about Paranormal Activity once it comes out (next week, I think?). I'm also curious how well it will do. The next day, I heard that the ending was changed for the studio roll out. I don't know if that is true or not, but I know I would not have left the ending the way it was if I were the film makers. Curious.

It's definitely worth seeing as an event, as something to experience and have opinion about, but I shudder to think that there is anything cinematic about it, and I can't help but let that affect my opinion of it.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hmmm, I'll be very interested to see it with your comment about it not being cinematic in mind...It's an interesting point. I saw [rec] with a packed house and it was a ton of fun - people squirming, giggling in anticipation, jumping and then laughing out loud to relieve the tension. But was it a good film?

I want to say Yes (at least in the case of [rec]) because of how they creatively used the medium to make the audience feel exactly how they wanted us to. As well, though it looked very much like "found footage", there was subtlety to it and great use of lighting that obviously took much skill. A different kind of cinematic than what you are refering to no doubt, but still an effective piece of cinema.

I'm very curious to see how PA stacks up (and [rec] will be my yardstick).

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