Written by Jason Dodson, Henry Saine, and Colin Ebeling
Directed by Henry Saine
In the post-apocalyptic Bounty Killer, bounty hunters roam the wasteland and earn their keep by taking down white-collar criminals. One of the hunters, a guttural and scruffy Nathan Drake lookalike known as the Drifter (Matthew Marsden), turns prey when a bounty is suddenly put on his head, which causes a bit of strife between him and his rival, the foxy and more famous Mary Death (Christian Pitre), who happens to always wear what looks like a hybrid nurse and stewardess outfit (plush with go-go boots and garters).
With a Mad Max-esque backdrop and shades of a Repo Men-like anti-corporate sensibility, Bounty Killer has all the earmarks early on of being a self-serious post-end-of-the-world morality play. Thankfully, with its shoot-’em-up narrative structure, cheesy and obvious CGI, actors who stick closely to their silly character presets, and nods to classic Western films (yes, there is a version of a stagecoach chase scene, and a borderline offensive portrayal of “savages”), the film eschews all pretenses of greater seriousness and instead aspires to be goofy and fun, which it often is.
Big Ass Spider!
Written by Gregory Gieras
Directed by Mike Mendez
As one would imagine, Big Ass Spider! is an arachno-creature-feature with destructive, large-scale ambitions. The story follows an affable bug exterminator named Alex (Greg Grunberg) who stumbles upon a government mishap involving a mutant spider that slowly gets bigger and smarter. With the help of an eager-to-help security guard named Jose (Lombardo Boyar), Alex tries his hardest to stop the big ass spider, and maybe even get the girl he’s always pining for.
The first act or so is fairly uninspired and dull, mainly because the film’s spider in question is not yet big-ass. A good 30 minutes is devoted to Alex and Jose running around a hospital trying to find out what they’re dealing with and where it’s hiding (Alex even goes insofar as to crawl through the building’s air ducts), while the (not yet big-ass) spider goes around attacking people in the face. All of this is probably a homage to the Alien movies, but, if not for the random ramblings between Jose and Alex, it would be an otherwise waste of time; not to mention pointless and too low-key for a creature feature like Big Ass Spider!
However, when the film finally embraces its inner King Kong and lets loose the big ass spider on downtown LA, the action picks up considerably. The destruction is flashy and somewhat satisfying, even if the story itself doesn’t spin and bind everything together.
Written by S. S. Rajamouli and Janardhan Maharshi
Directed by S.S. Rajamouli
The Indian insect rom-com Eega may stand as the only Asian feature to screen at this year’s Toronto After Dark, but, nevertheless, the film amiably compensates for the continent’s famously weird and ridiculous storytelling. In Eega, an un-shown father tells a nighttime story to his kid that involves the love triangle between the businessman Sundeep (Kiccha Sudeep), the benevolent schoolworker Bindu (Samantha Ruth Prabhu), and her genial gentleman caller Nani (Naveen Babu Ghanta).
At the heart of it, the film is basically a classic tale about heart and persistence overcoming wealthy and vanity, but a Kafkaesque metamorphosis in the middle, in which Nani turns into a fly, twists Eega into a farce of comical proportions. Like Jerry Seinfeld in Bee Movie (yes, there’s a scene where our new fly protag dangerously encounters a tennis ball in the park), there’s something endearing about how sappily and seriously (and self-consciously) the film takes an insect-human romance. However, the sequences where our insect hero screws with his mating rival are truly the comedic highlight of Eega (and to an extent justifies the lengthy runtime), which, coupled with a seemingly unlikely and ludicrous love story, makes the film and its leading fly surprisingly easy to cheer for.
– Justin Li
*The Toronto After Dark Film Festival kicked off with We Are What We Are as the Opening Gala film. Check out Josh Spiegel’s review here.