Monday, July 21, 2008

Fantasia 2008, Day Eighteen: 1968 Tunnel Rats, Muay Thai Chaiya, Voice of a Murderer, Alone, and Pig Hunt

Today's my last day in Montreal - I leave on the 8am bus tomorrow - and it has been a blast. My only regret is that between trying to get two or three reviews up a day and doing some work for the day job, I wound up not getting to go out and about nearly as much as I would have liked. I'm not sure what the "right" way to do a festival is - I kind of feel obligated to see as many movies as I can and spread the word on them if they're going to give me a media pass, but I have spent way too much time in this apartment typing on a computer.

Ah, well. I've got the place rented through next month, so I'll probably take an unclaimed weekend and just see the city with no obligations at some point.

Today's plan: The Moss, Going by the Book, Dance of the Dead, and probably Tokyo Gore Police, though I might decide I want to end the fest on Dance of the Dead and make sure I get enough sleep to wake up early tomorrow. If you're in town, Alone and La Tueur are good today and The Midnight Meat Train is good tomorrow.

1968 Tunnel Rats

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre J.A. de Seve (Fantasia Festival)

So, has this whole "Uwe Boll is quite possibly the worst filmmaker ever!" been an elaborate hoax? I haven't seen any of his videogame-derived movies, which are apparenty unbearably awful, but Tunnel Rats is a pretty solid piece of work. It has a little trouble getting started - the scenes in the camp where we try to get to know a dozen or so characters in very little time wiht not-always-fitting music aren't great - but once it gets down into the tunnels, it's a pretty tense bit of work.

Of course, it seems to still be a bit of a work in progress, as there was just a black placeholder screen for the end credits, so perhaps there's time for him to screw it up yet.

Chaiya (Muay Thai Chaiya)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

I'm not generally a fan of boxing films; even so-called classics of the genre leave me cold. Because, let's face it - boxing is about violence and fighting as an end unto itself, and while it's one thing to engage in it for physical fitness or self defense, it's hardly surprising when boxers wind up entangled in crime and thuggery. At that point, it's a question of how compelling the filmmakers make the details and how much style they bring to the story. While Chaiya doesn't stand out too much on the first front, it is exceptional on the second.

We start with three friends in rural Thailand, training under the tutelage of a master at his camp. Samor (Sonthaya Chitmanee), our narrator, suffers from an early leg injury, and misses his chance to perform in the ring himself, and so winds up supporting the other two. Pao (Thawatchai Phanpakdee), is the son of coach Thew (Samart Payakarun) and brother of a champion, and is considered to have the most potential, although he is somewhat timid, being in their shadow. Piak (Akara Amarttayakul), is more aggressive, both as a fighter and in life, as he woos pretty nurse Sriprai (Phreeta Kongpetch) before Pao can make his move. After a time, the four make their way to Bangkok so that Pao and Piak can try to break in as professional boxers. Though Piak has more early success, a false accusation soon has him reduced to underground cage matches - and soon doing "favors" for the man who runs them.

The movie takes place over the course of years during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and as a result feels a bit like a mauy thai version of Boogie Nights. The cinematography takes on a retro feel as well, with lots of grain and the occasional split screen during montage sequences to have Pao's and Piak's paths run literally in parallel. Director Kongkiat Khomsiri and his editors do a very nice job with those sequences, which are both filled with muay thai action and pretty good storytelling. Having this sort of narrative sweep does mean that he has to fit a lot of information into the film's two hours, and that's often accomplished by literally stopping the film and giving the audience names and vital statistics on new figures entering the friends' world.

Full review at EFC.

Geunom Moksori (Voice of a Murderer)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

That title threatens to give the game away, but then again, the outcome won't exactly be in doubt for the film's target audience - the 1991 kidnapping of Lee Hyong-ho is one of Korea's most famous true-crime stories. That's worth remembering when one sits down to watch this movie: For us, this looks like a thriller, but it is perhaps best appreciated as a character study of two parents trapped in their worst nightmare. There's a great scene that sums up the entire movie, as the parents rush to a cable car that slowly makes its way to the top of a tower, watching the kidnapper take their car and ransom while they helplessly wait to reach the top and hope they will find their son there.

Seen that way, it's a pretty strong movie; Sol Kyung-gu's breakdown in the final scene is a thing of terrible beauty.

Faet (Alone)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival)

When I saw the original Thai version of Shutter at Fantasia a few years back, I told friends that the only way it seemed Thai horror could get less subtle would be to have the ushers actually throwing cats at the audience. That turns out to be an unfair stereotype, but the makers of that movie are back and looking to get the audience to jump again. They manage it, too, throwing in a story that's actually fairly clever besides.

When we first meet elegant Pim (Masha Wattanapanich) and scruffy Wee (Vittaya Wasukraipaisan), they are living in Soeul, South Korea, and seem happy enough - they have friends, a dog, and live comfortably. Bad news comes from their native Thailand when they find out that Pim's mother (Ratchanoo Bunchootwong) has just had a stroke. They fly back to be at her side, but returning home dredges up a lot of bad memories for Pim. She was born a conjoined twin, and her sister Ploy did not survive the separation that she insisted upon. Now, Ploy appears to be appearing in every mirror and any other place she can. Wee and his psychiatrist friend Donai try to convince Pim that it's all in her head... but is it?

Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom made a pretty decent horror movie in Shutter, and though the story here is different, they spend much of the movie keeping to the same template: Introduce the situation, punctuate the film with lots of flashes of a dead girl accompanied by loud crashes in the score, and flesh out the characters' backstory in flashback, including how the twins' first meetings with Wee when they were hospitalized teenagers (Wee for complications from diabetes) set in motion both Pim's desire to separate and Ploy's increasingly hostile nature. (The latter is nice; a haunting makes more sense if the ghost was ornery even before death) The first half of Alone is an unapologetic jump movie, but Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom are really, really good at making the audience jump.

Full review at EFC.

Pig Hunt

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 July 2008 at Concordia Theatre Hall (Fantasia Festival, Bloody Radical: Unconventional American Horror)

Perhaps the funniest moment during last night's screening of Pig Hunt was the director and executive producer trying to push it as an allegory for America today and the war in Iraq. Sure, they make good connections, and I don't doubt that was in their mind. Of course, with their next breath they try to claim they were being subtle about their politics, but I don't know if a hunting cabin full of newspaper clippings with "LIES!" scribbled on them qualifies as subtle.

In the end, it's a decent monster movie featuring a giant pig and all the bloody violence they could cram into it. Not bad at all, and it will do you all right if you're looking for some monster-fighting hillbilly action.

1 comment:

Moves DBs said...

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