Monday, August 01, 2011

The Fantasia Daily, 2011.13 (26 July): The Whisperer in Darkness and DJ XL5's Rockin' Zappin' Party

First day of the work week (which this Tuesday effectively was for me) is always the toughest, so it worked out well that I was able to work later than expected and have time for dinner before my first show of the evening because I'd already seen 100 Years of Evil, True Legend, Rare Exports, and Kill Me Please. Always appreciated when it works out that way.

On the other side of the night, I'd also already seen A Horrible Way to Die, which freed me up for the Zappin' Party, one of the unique signature events of the festival. It's a string of short films, music videos, found footage, and clips done up in the style of someone channel surfing. You've got to be able to understand both French and English to fully appreciate the whole thing, and on some occasions it helps to recognize the festival's regulars. It's proudly Québéçois in that way.

Indeed, one of the things about Fantasia that I don't talk about because of my linguistic shortcomings is how dedicated to local film it is. The regular "Quebec DIY" short film programs have expanded to become "Fantastique Week-end du court-métrage québéçois" in the past few years, with this year's group of free local films taking over the main Hall theater during the coming weekend (5 - 7 August). As I'll be returning home and speak very little French, I won't see any of those shows, but the Zappin' Party was a petty nice preview of sorts:


That's DJ XL5 on the left, and a bunch of local filmmakers sharing the stage. This sort of thing being a regular part of Fantasia is a great example of how awesome the festival is and how people don't just love watching movies here, but love making them. I wish there was room and demand for a similar sidebar in some of the Boston-area festivals, quite honestly.

The Whisperer in Darkness

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

There was no small amount of tooth-gnashing earlier this year when Universal backed out of a big-name, big-money production of H.P. Lovecraft's In the Mountains of Madness, and I certainly hope that all those saying that the studio was leaving money on the table are seeking out The Whisper in Darkness. It doesn't have nearly as much money behind it but it has a lot of love for the material and makes that work for it.

Rumors abound in regards to strange things up in the green mountains of Vermont, but Professor Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) of Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts gives them very little credence as modern, genuine phenomena, though his friend, cult investigator Nathaniel Ward (Matt Lagan), says these beliefs are nonetheless dangerous. Wilmarth has been studying them as folklore, and to that end has been exchanging letters with Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch), a fellow folklorist who lives much closer to the scene in Vermont. Akeley asks his son George (Joe Sofranko) to deliver a strange black idol found in a nearby cave to Wilmarth on his way to California, but George never shows, and when the elder Akeley invites Wilmarth to pay him a visit, things in this small Vermont town seem very strange...

Despite his long-lasting and highly devoted fanbase - and, in some ways, because of how demanding such groups can be - H.P. Lovecraft's works have often been considered unadaptable. This project comes from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and like that group's previous go at the task of making a movie from the author's works (2005's The Call of Cthulhu), the first half of this movie is burdened with a great deal of narration that presumably works better on the page than the screen. More so than Call, Whisperer has a number of characters running around with minimal involvement in the plot;, presumably they are significant to the Lovecraft mythos in some other way. Also pulled in - to engage Wilmarth in a debate on science and the unknown - is real-world figure Charles Fort.

Full review at EFC.

DJ XL5's Rockin' Zappin' Party

Seen 26 July 2011 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2011)

I didn't take a lot of notes for this one, but from what I did get down:

* This is a real movie that exists, although the trailer we saw had it titled "Door-to-Door Maniac" and described it as co-starring The Andy Griffith Show's Ronnie Howard, because this is exactly the sort of movie you sell by associating it with that sort of sitcom.

* A lot of nifty animation coming out of Vieux-Montreal, my two favorites being "Au Cube" and "Maximum Galaxie".

* A couple fun ones from Adam Green, a mainstay of the program.

* The entry from PES, "The Deep", seemed like a bit of a departure from him, with a darker-than-usual pallette, using metallic objects rather than the candy and other brightly-colored things I expect. Done really well; I dug it.

* I've been procrastinating on a short film screenplay for the better part of a year, and now want to start a goofy under-ten-minute one with the eventual goal of getting it in this program.

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