Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Fantastic Fest Daily 2014.02: Force Majeure, Redeemer, Over Your Dead Body, "Rabbit 105", "The Chaperone", Necrofobia, and Wyrmwood

Again, not much time (there will be a few hours of dead space later, but I won't be uploading then), so let's get straight to some horrible photography:

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From Redeemer, Noah Segan, Marko Zaror, director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza, and host Tim League!

Wish I had more to say, other than that Marko gave us all a sampleof his personal energy drink and... Well, it's different!

NECROFOBIA filmmakers

From Necrofobia, director Daniel de la Vega and producer Néstor Sánchez Sotelo!

De la Vega - not a fan of 3D, though he used a lot of it.

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From Wyrmwood, producer Tristan Roache-Turner, stars Leon Burchill, Jay Gallagher, Bianca Bradey, director Kiah Roache-Turner, make-up wizard Lisa Cotterill, co-stars Meganne West, Catherine Terracini, and Damian Dyke!

All from Australia, all very funny and excited to be here, and probably quite willing to have taken the Q&A even further into the night.

Again, got to run for The Duke of Burgundy, The Babadook, Tommy, World of Kanako, and The Editor. See you there/later!

Force Majeure

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #1 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Danger lurks constantly in Force Majeure, although it's seldom the life-and-limb variety as opposed to the family-falling-apart one. Impressive, given the sheer volume of explosions being set off to cause controlled avalanches. The obvious reminder that there is no such thing serves as the basic premise of the film, and you're not going to see it presented on screen much better.

It's one of those controlled avalanches that really sets things off as a Swedish family on a five-day vacation in a French ski resort - father Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), mother Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli), daughter Vera (Clara Wettergren), and son Harry (Vincent Wettergren) - eat lunch in a rooftop restaurant on the second day and see one roll much closer than expected. No harm done, except that Thomas's reaction exposes a potentially much more serious rift in the marriage than the previous talk of how he works all the time or can't turn away from his phone.

That plays into it, of course, but filmmaker Ruben Östlund is not going to reduce the family's issues into something quite that simple. He does key on something rather basic - a fear of abandonment that both spouses and children in a situation like this feel, and while he's not exactly subtle about it at times (after all, subtle isn't necessarily the way it works with kids), the variations are well-chosen, and there are actual counter-examples given on occasion. The idea of the avalanche is well-chosen, too, as one thing has an effect that gets bigger well beyond the immediate and expected radius.

Full review at EFC

Redeemer

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #5 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

Marko Zaror and Ernesto Diaz Espinoza hadn't made a movie together in five years before re-teaming for Redeemer, and it's kind of nice to see that the formula hasn't really changed: Zaror plays a character that is not just an almost unstoppable force, but colorful besides, and the scenes between him dismantling waves of villains are generally more entertaining and stylish that you might expect from this sort of basic martial-arts action movie coming from an unusual spot like Chile. There's not much rust.

This time around, Zaror plays "The Redeemer" - a man once left for dead and who now wanders the country, listening for prayers for justice in the churches and depositing the weapons of the men he kills on their altars. In Pichidangui, though, he's more proactive, coming to the rescue of fisherman Agustin (Mauricio Diocares) when he sees drug smugglers attacking him. This is not going to stop the men working for Piedra (Smirnow Boris) or his American contact Bradock (Noah Segan), but they aren't the worst of it, for wherever The Redeemer goes, the equally-deadly Scorpion (Jose Luis Mosca) follows.

As stories go, it's not much, a western pulp adventure transplanted into the present day, but that's fine; the idea is to put the title character into situations where he's called upon to dispatch a great many people, primarily by his bare hands. On that count, it succeeds, from a bunch of neo-Nazis being taken out at the start to the last one-on-one, and if the material in between seems perfunctory, it's at least making a stab and enjoyable melodrama and a little humor.

Full review at EFC

Kuime (Over Your Dead Body)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #8 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

In addition to his film work, Takashi Miike has directed a few stage productions, experience that he likely dipped into for Over Your Dead Body. At times, I kind of wish that was where the film stayed; it has all the material for an intriguing backstage drama and the diversion into horror is kind of all over the place.

Not that it's ever boring - if there's one thing you can count on from Miike, it's that he will go to weird places and present what he finds in a memorable way. It's just that, as is often the case, he, writer Kikumi Yamagishi, and the film itself go to so many different strange places that the story starts to seem random once the supernatural becomes involved. Strict rules aren't necessary but not having every scare pulling in different directions would probably help. The individual results are certainly disgusting in memorable ways, at least.

Meanwhile, watching how how the cast members of the play Yotsuya Kaiden are coming to resemble their roles is going quite well, with Kou Shibasaki especially excellent in the "Iwa" role even before she startsdescending into genuine madness. One also hopes that this was a real production, because it looks downright amazing, although the well-appointed kitchen of Shibasaki's character rivals it in eye-candy. I would have been happy with either the play itself or the movie built on top of it; the horror, alas, sometimes seems to be one layer too much.

Full review on EFC

"Liebre 105" ("Rabbit 105")

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

There's a jump in "Rabbit 105", when it goes from being a good idea for a horror movie to actually placing the character in the middle of one, that I'm not sure is quite executed as well as one would hope. It's a little to the film's detriment, because even with a short film's running time, it feels like directors Sebastian & Federico Rotstein could have milked the idea of whether the main character was really in any danger or just jumping at shadows for a while more.

On the plus side, they do manage pretty good work in whatever mode their in at a given time, whether it's a somewhat funny setup of Ana (Gisele Motta) being a vain little brat on the phone or running for her life, hiding in a panic, or trying to push through it. Motta is similarly good with whatever the Rotsteins throw at her as well as game for whatever the make-up guys have for her. It's a basic premise, but one executed fairly well.

"The Cahperone"

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, RealD DCP)

I missed the short program which included this one at Fantasia (probably one of the mostly-French ones during Fantastic Week-End), which is a crying shame. It is a ton of fun, and if it played so well in Austin, I can't imagine the reception it received on its home turf of Montreal.

It's a tremendously fun short that mixes animation and live action, including a few rotoscoped "animated documentary" scenes, to tell the tale of an incident in 1973 when a bunch of bikers tried to ruin some kids' Friday night dance and the seemingly mild-mannered high school teacher there to chaperone who flat-out kicked their asses. The mix of animation styles is fantastic, from stop-motion to hand-drawn to a bunch of crazy live-action, including a short-within-a-short ("The Kneebreakers") that is itself just a great little pastiche.

The jumping between styles works much better here than in many shorts that try it, as it really sells the way narrators Ralph Whims and Stefan Czernatowicz might jump around while telling this story, and it mostly serves to enhance the silliness of already goofy bits. It's a genuine pleasure to watch, even more so in 3D.

Necrofobia

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, RealD DCP)

I may circle back around to this one later in the week, although I'm not sure a midnight showing will have me any less sluggish and worn down during it. I think a big part of the issue with this one was the subtitling - placed underneath the 3D box, it messed with my depth perception something fierce and proved much more of a barrier than the combination of subs and 3D usually does.

Of course, this thing is also a lot more giallo than I was expecting, and I don't really love that form of thriller the way some do. In some ways, the story seems a little much, playing on twins (one recently passed on) with the same sorts of paralyzing fears. For me, the paranoia gets in the way of really getting into the mystery, which is a shame; both of those elements are done well, and it's just the combination that's not working for me.

Director Daniel de la Vega mentioned not really liking 3D during the Q&A afterward, but for someone with that attitude, he and cinematographer Mariano Suarez sure used a lot of it, right on the border of "cool-looking" and "getting in the way". I think one of the tricks with 3D is to really direct the audience's eye to one thing, with the rest there to provide spatial context (with post-conversion perhaps serving to get everything in focus), and there were a lot of scenes in this one where that really didn't happen as well as it could.

Wyrmwood

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #9 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

It's no bad thing, I say, that Wyrmwood feels like a season's worth of an eventful TV series packed into an hour and a half; it's an exhausting ride at times, but there's not ten or fifteen minutes anywhere in the movie that don't come across as exciting or have at least one really cool thing in them. Though making it over four years surely has brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner ready to take a break for a while, it's one of the rare movies where the audience's inevitable requests for a sequel seems like a great idea.

After all, it is packed with action, starting crazy and not letting up for the first half hour, and the various twists on the zombie genre tend to be both useful to the story and entertainingly nuts. There is a point in the middle where it starts to run down a bit (a little too much "evil government/business eager to kill the remains of an already reduced population" for me), but it picks back up for the finale.

I may double-dip on this one too, either later in the festival or when it (hopefully) gets a bigger release.

Full review on EFC

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