Fantasia 2009 wrap up (part 2)
Crush and Blush
Directed by Lee Kyoung-mi
Lee-Kyoung-mi’s first feature tries too hard to be the “polar opposite” of a romantic comedy. The story of a male teacher being stalked by a former pupil who has now become a teacher herself in order to be closer to him to attract his attention simply does not sustain the premise past the opening 20 minutes. The lead character, Me-sook, is played in an over-the-top fashion, and the film seems to have been made for the art-house crowd in spite of its plot, which seems ripe for a broad comedic treatment. The films also seems haphazardly edited and is often needlessly confusing.
Directed by Paul Solet
Childbirth can be a horrific experience if things go wrong, a fact ably exploited in Grace, which acts as a surefire contraceptive. An impressive first feature by director Paul Solet, who delivers an ambitious and masterful web of chills, thrills, blood, shock and genuine horror. Solet has already mastered the art of intense silence, beautiful close-ups, unnerving atmosphere and patient story telling. A slow moving film, yet always entertaining and backed up by a brave and powerful performance by Jordan Ladd, Grace is not your typical horror film. In fact, it would be hard to even classify it under the category of pure horror, but it is accessible to both genre fans as well as a general audience.
Directed by Sion Sono
Over its four-hour running time, Love Exposure unfolds an extremely bizarre odyssey revolving around an unusual love triangle, advanced techniques in upskirt photography, Japanese Catholicism, perversion, guilt and obsession amongst another dozen or so motifs. Masterfully directed by Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Hair Extensions) proving once again that he is one of the most innovative, unique and daring filmmakers working today. It’s a cinematic oddity which never seems to drag despite its marathon running length. Accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack, slick editing and wise direction, the films leaves you feeling somewhat hypnotized. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. Love Exposure is a must see for any movie buff.
Directed by David Morlet
Mutants may be a homage to the cinematic living dead of the past, but the film fails in bringing any new ideas to the table – which is not to say it’s a bad film. Mutants focuses primarily on the moment when man becomes monster and the transformation from human to zombie/mutant is a slow and painful watch. At the heart of the film is a love story led by an outstanding performance from female lead Helene De Fougerrolle. The film of course suffers from the usual clichés and a group of four useless characters who are introduced halfway in, but it’s soaked in violence, has some exceptional special effects sequences (none of which look computer generated) and is tirelessly paced.
Directed by Lee Demarbre
From Lee Demarbre, director of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, Smash Cut is a love letter to the work of H.G. Lewis. Packed with an all-star cast of genre icons including David Hess, Michael Berryman, and Ray Sager, it also features the first (pseudo-) mainstream performance by legendary adult-film actress Sasha Grey. The film’s true mission is to emulate the low budget schlock of Lewis’ films, which it does very well but might also work against it for many audiences. Unlike some other remakes of H G Lewis’s work, the film never forgets the humor, but the comedy is odd and definitely not for everyone. Look out for one of the best opening credit sequences in recent memory, some interesting art direction, and an incredible score, making it worth the watch for fans of exploitation cinema.
Lesbian Vampire Killers
Directed by Phil Claydon.
No genre is better suited to nostalgia than horror. Horror is always taking us back, and the tradition of lesbian vampires is at least 135 years old, dating back to novels like Camilla (released 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Clearly the writers of Lesbian Vampire Killers have studied all these films, soaked in all their tropes and stylistic variations, and fused it all together. It’s a tongue-in-cheek homage to classic Hammer horror with the spirit of Shaun of The Dead. Not smart enough to be a cult classic, but still goofy and surprisingly funny, with some inventive visuals and some great visual work. The script does try too hard at times to make its audience laugh, and some people may find the humour a touch smug. Fans of classic horror-comedies like An American Werewolf in London and Fearless Vampire Killers may be disappointed to find that the film is completely void of any gore and is pitched purely as a comedy.
I Sell the Dead
Directed by Glenn McQuaid
I Sell the Dead is reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt, adopting a flashback framework, beginning at the end of the story, which follows a group of grave robbers who sell the corpses to mad scientists/doctors. Inspired by the Hammer-esque time period, this horror-comedy has just enough charm to grab your attention. Unfortunately, the script hits some roadblocks and the film does drag at times. Luckily, these moments are book-ended by fairly entertaining scenes. Based on his award-winning short, director Glenn McQuaid has the right set of ideas but doesn’t quite deliver. Watch out for some spotty Irish and British accents amidst the American cast, and an odd comic-book-panel visual device that is seemingly forgotten halfway. The film does star Ron Perlman ,and also features an appearance by Angus Scrimm, Phantasm’s “The Tall Man.”
The Clone Returns Home
Directed by Kanji Nakajima
Without a doubt the best film at Fantasia thus far. Clone is certainly one of the more cerebral films found at the festival this year. Director Kanji Nakajima is certainly Japan’s answer to Andrei Tarkovsky. The similarities between Nakajima’s piece and the Russian master’s work is uncanny; be it the extremely strong water motifs (including one scene where it rains inside a room, a la Stalker) or with the replication of a deceased relative and the confusion and inner conflict it produces in those close to the clone (think Solaris). At the same time Nakajima states that his film deals with completely different metaphysical issues that, he hopes, inspires the audience to contemplate the meaning of family, science, religion, and ethics. It’s a think piece that will raise some interesting questions about the human soul. With his first film, the young director can be labeled a master of Japanese cinema.
Graphic Sexual Horror
Directed by Barbara Bell
Graphic Sexual Horror details the rise and fall of Insex.com, a notorious torture and bondage porn website created by founder PD, who is known within the industry as the Michelangelo of torture porn. The film raises a number of important issues, particularly around the porn industry’s conflating coercion with consent, but it’s a tough watch. Barbara Bell spends too much time showing footage of graphic sex and disturbing scenes and loses focus on some of the models interviewed. This documentary is not for the squeamish or the judgmental but is an eye-opening look at a misunderstood area of sexual gratification.