Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Fantastic Fest Daily 2014.07: Man from Reno, The Absent One, Haemoo, Local God, and It Follows

You know the drill - 11:05 am movie I'll probably be late for. More another time.

Today's (finale) schedule - I Am Here, I Am Trash, Waste Land, The Treatment, and blessed sleep after what looks like kind of a downer of a day.

Man from Reno

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #9 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

There's a moment at the end of a lot of the really good "Coen-like" movies (a description unfair to everyone involved, but one people use) where someone sits down, has a long sigh, and considers just what all this insanity means, inviting the audience to do the same. I don't know if Man from Reno quite has that moment, and it's kind of missed. There's still quite a bit to like about this little mystery even without that moment, and maybe it works well enough without it.

We approach the mystery from two directions. First, Paul Del Moral (Pepe Serna), the sheriff of a county just outside San Francisco, finds an abandoned car on an extremely foggy night - and then finds the driver when an Asian man jumps out in front of the officer's car. In the city itself, Japanese mystery writer Aki (Ayako Fujitani) has bailed on a book junket back home to visit friends, also meeting fellow tourist Akira Suzuki (Kazuki Kitamura) in the hotel lobby. But what about the other people lurking in the background?

There are a lot of characters beyond that, from Aki's college friends to Paul's daughter, and their investigations wind up leading to some peculiar areas, although it's often the sort of situation that seems innocently baffling on its face rather than kinky or threatening. Given that there isn't much initial indication of where things are going, it's hard to say that the movie drifts particularly far from its initial destination, but it certainly feels like it does.

Full review at EFC

Fasandræberne (The Absent One)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #8 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

I swear I've heard of the Department Q books from somewhere, even though I haven't really been keeping up on detective fiction as much as I'd like. If they're going to keep cranking out movies this good in adapting them, I hope they make it over here as well as the Dragon Tattoo books did.

It is kind of a familiar sort of detective set-up - the too-intense sleuth with the partner who grounds him, the case that leads into decadence among the elite going all the way back to boarding school, the finale that, let's face it, involves a lot of things that would get these guys fired from the police force. It's got folks involved who are pretty good at it, though, and a secondary protagonist in Danica Curcic's Kimmie who is downright fascinating and haunting. It's second of a series (the first came out last year), and I wouldn't mind seeing both get US distribution soon-ish.

Full review on EFC


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

This one has received a lot of notice in part because of Bong Joon-ho's involvement as a prodcer and co-writer for long-time collaborator Shim Sung-bo, and if that helps it out, that's great. It's a nifty little movie, the sort of thriller that South Korea seems to do better than anyone else right now - the type that plunges the audience into much darker than expected territory and still keeps one on the edge of his or her seat out of genuine excitement.

It looks great - I joked a couple weeks ago that someone in South Korea built a tank for shooting maritime movies and intends to get their money's worth, but I can't complain about the results, especially with how Shim handles the sea fog of the title, letting it really set the scene when the movie gets into murky territory. I do wonder a bit about the characterization, especially in the second half of the film - a lot of people seem to go way off the deep end, and although they're in a situation where I can't blame anyone for being messed up, I wonder if it's as much a sign of the film's roots as a stage play as anything else.

Full review on EFC

Dios Local (Local God)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #6 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

I really liked this one from Uruguay, much more than I expected. It's easy to read the description and come in expecting something from like The Descent or As Above, So Below - friends in a spooky cave have to survive and get out - but what we get is a lot of genuinely eerie stuff, and just when it seems like the movie is about to disappear up its own tail, the filmmakers will drop a pretty great jolt on the audience.

It's a bit unorthodox in structure, and that causes a few problems - I don't know that the story which is supposed to set the stage really does the job, and the filmmakers have trouble avoiding "doing the same thing three times" with the set-up they have - but it's a horror movie with some truly memorable moments, and you have to respect that.

It Follows

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2014 in Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar #5 (Fantastic Fest, DCP)

It Follows is genuinely weird in a few places, and there are moments when I think writer/director David Robert Mitchell had a great idea for a horror movie without any idea of how he would finish it. This thing is pure distilled "stalker who won't stop and whom nobody will believe exists" without much worry about mythology, and that's okay - it lets Mitchell really get at the emotion of never feeling safe again, and the ending he comes up with certainly works on that level.

The pretty great cast is a big help, too - Maika Monroe is kind of transfixing as Jamie "Jay" Height, described by another character as "annoyingly pretty", and the audience goes for her easily. The group of supportive friends around her is interesting because in some ways they're as much her plainer (by movie standards) sister's friends as hers, but they work as a solid unit while also giving Keir Gilchrist a chance to stand out.

Ultimately, it's a movie about sharing weight even when you can't necessarily see a friend's problem yourself, and that's a pretty great thing to pile on top of a thriller that's already full of inventive, exciting material.

Full review on EFC

No comments: