Fantasia 2009 wrap up (part 1)

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Must Love Death

Directed by Andreas Schaap

***

The first feature by director Andreas Schaap has had made some big impressions amongst Fantasia movie-goers. Clearly one of the more surprising and original films of the festival, it blends two seemingly opposite genres, the romantic comedy and extreme horror. These are the horror films one expects to see at the festival. Simultaneously good-natured and mean spirited, the film boasts some excellent and professional production values considering  its film school origins. A brave, unapologetic and truly independent achievement.

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The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle

Directed by David Russo

****

A strange and oddly charming film which openly refers to itself as toilet humor but also toilet tragedy, toilet inspiration, etc. You can call it an acid-vision experimental art house feature or a zany pseudo-subversive gender farce or you can simply sum it up as brilliant. It’s a moving exploration of gender while touching on topics like commitment, purpose, hope, religion, faith and corporate greed. Wildly imaginative in both concept and delivery, with an eclectic and inspiring music selection, highly philosophical dialog, an energetic and talented young cast of up-and-comers and an ending that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Reminiscent of the work of Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, director David Russo is a talent to look out for.

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Thirst

Directed by Park Cha Wook

****

Park Chan-Wook reinforces his reputation has one of the leading directors working today and although Thirst may not be the greatest vampire movie ever made, his desire to try something different makes it a fresh take on the genre. The key ingredient to its success is the pitch perfect performance of Korea’s leading actor Song Kang-ho (The Host), who carries the film’s broader themes of guilt, conscience and redemption almost single-handedly.

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Terribly Happy

Directed by Henrik Ruben Genz

***

“Terribly Happy” is a modern western; a dramatic, comical and grotesque movie about selling out morally to achieve recognition and a sense of belonging. Critics around the world, including myself, can’t help but compare it to works of the Coen brothers and David Lynch.

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Dead Snow

Directed by Tommy Wirkola.

** ½

“Zombie Nazis” sounds like an unbeatable combination, but it turns out to be one of those great ideas that cannot sustain itself purely on the concept alone. Although the film has its heart in the right place by embracing the horror genre, it fails in its execution. The blood-drenched fight scenes out in the snow are gruesomely entertaining and even beautiful to look at but the gaping plot holes, under-developed cast and repetitive and all-too-familiar homages to other horror films make it a drag to sit through.  Worth a look for horror fanatics, as long as you keep your expectations low. This is one of those examples when the trailer is better than the movie.

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Kaifeck Murder

Directed by Esther Gronenborn

**

A beautifully photographed thriller that’s anchored by compelling performances from its two leads, but Kaifeck Murder is precisely the sort of genre film that has a great cast and crew but a lousy screenplay. A straight-line descendant of the old Grimm fairy tales, it is yet another reminder that no matter how civilized we may pretend to be, there is always something dark lurking inside us. Fans of M. Knight’s The Village will find love for the German import while everyone else will be greatly disappointed.

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The Horseman

Directed by Steven Kastrissios

*

The Horseman is your standard revenge thriller; similar to this year’s hit Taken only without the action, Liam Neeson and the thrills. The film is packed with nothing but cringe-inducing moments (and I mean that in a bad way). Essentially you get 94 minutes following its main character fighting everyone except the useless pregnant teen he picks up halfway in. The film won the Best Australian Film and Best Director awards at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in 2008, which either makes me completely wrong or makes you wonder about Australia’s current wave of new indie films.

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