Fantasia 2009 wrap up (part 3)
Life Is Hot In Cracktown
Directed by Buddy Giovinazzo
Writer and director Buddy Giovinazzo has successfully adapted his collection of the 1992 short stories into a full-length feature film. Similar to Magnolia, Giovinazzo’s movie intercuts between four groups of people who all reside in the same ghetto overrun by crime, drug abuse and poverty. The film is dark, truthful and violent, so much so that there is only one print left worldwide that hasn’t been cut. Often compared to Last Exit to Brooklyn, the indie gem is populated with one of the most talented groups of unprofessional actors who deliver in spades with groundbreaking and extraordinary performances. It does suffer from one too many characters including a security guard/married man whose character arc is never closed, but barring that minor issue, Cracktown is definitely worth a viewing.
Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
Directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu & Yoshihiro Nishimura
Over the past few years, I have seen Japan’s genre filmmaking scene quickly deteriorate. After over-saturating the market with supernatural Ringu-style thrillers, audiences are now fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to enjoy the wave of extreme Japanese splatter satire such as Tokyo Gore Police and VGVFG. Give credit to the film, which always seems to find new ways to slash at the boundaries of good taste, particularly when it comes to a group of Asian girls dressed in blackface who occasionally joke about Barack Obama and Michael Jackson. The film is a series of gags none of which work for me. Clearly there is an audience for these films, seeing as the screening was nearly sold out, but I suspect it’s the Japanese equivalent of the Epic Movie demograhpic.
Private Eyes has a lot going for it. The film boasts a cast of extremely talented actors, and the period atmosphere was created by the same person responsible for the sets used in The Good, the Bad and the Weird. It resembles a classic detective story similar in tone to Sherlock Holmes and balances the humor, action and suspense like Philippe Petit walking the tightrope. Unfortunately, director Park Dae-Min is juggling too many twists which are all too familiar and there is never a surprising moment despite the overcrowded plot, which includes opium smuggling, police corruption, a child-prostitution ring, and a circus act. However, like any good summer blockbuster, it delivers in great entertainment, and hopefully it will kick off a new wave of Korean detective films.
Best Worst Movie
Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson
Best Worst Movie offers a glimpse into the lives of the actors, director and writer responsible for the making of the film Troll 2, which was once ranked on IMDB.com as the worst film ever made. This debut feature documentary from Michael Paul Stephenson, the actor who portrayed little Joshua in Troll 2, is an absolute delight to watch. Similar in tone to The King of Kong, the film offers a unique look into a pop culture phenomenon – from an insider’s point of view. Fun, poignant and clearly the feel-good movie of this year’s festival, Best Worst Movie stands tall with or without having seen Troll 2.
Actor/dentist George Hardy, the film’s focal point, is a lot of fun to watch amidst the mayhem of delusional film makers, forgotten actors, mental break downs, outrageous loyalists, strange film conventions and a trip around North America “goblin style.”
Directed by Tom Shankland
The concept of killer kids is nothing new, but The Children can safely join the list of great horror movies like The Omen, Home Movie, The Exorcist, The Innocents and Village of the Damned. The film is directed by Tom Shankland who also adapted the script form a story by Paul Andrew Williams the director and writer of London to Brighton and The Cottage. Shankland delivers a simple film, with a simple set up and a simple pay off. What’s not simple are his sublime directorial flourishes. Shankland might add a few jump scares, but avoids genre clichés and wisely chooses an effective slow burn. The journey is unnerving, relentless, packed with suspense with a terrifying and brutal atmosphere. Easily one of the best horror films of the decade and destined to become a Brit Classic.
Directed by Na Hong-jin
A massive success in its native South Korea, The Chaser is an odd but effective thriller which holds no mystery and purposely reveals its secrets right from the start. The brilliance behind this approach is avoiding tiresome clichés and the need to include ridiculous plot twist and disappointing endings. First time director Na Hon-jin mounts his tension not on shocks and revelations but strictly on emotion, keeping the audience frustrated and aggravated with the police force who are more concerned with public image than public safety. Hong Jin delivers an amazingly assured crime thriller debut revolving around the grisly deeds of a real life serial killer who claimed more than twenty victims. Not quite a masterpiece like Memories of Murder, but on par with a film like Seven.
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia
Directed by Julian Nitzberg
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia follows the legendary White family, a gang of troublemakers, hated by just about everyone, including themselves. Most family members have killed or viciously assaulted someone, ended up in prison, developed a drug addiction, or managed to be classified legally insane. The Whites gained notoriety back in the early 1990s, when the PBS documentary Dancing Outlaw, profiling Jesco White, became something of a cult phenomenon. The key difference between these two films is one follows an interesting character, even if reviled, while Wild and Wonderful can’t seem to find anyone worthy of taking interest in, much less does it try to stay focused on a character long enough to make us care.