Same procedure every year: Another two days in which the Fantasy Filmfest team presents movies which either don’t fit in the big summer program or which sometimes seem more filler than killer. After last year’s mediocre rest-of approach (I bought only single tickets, and half of the movies were crap), this time the selection looked more promising so I got the badge for watching all 10. It cost 65 Euros, and if you do the maths with the 9 Euros (in comparison to 8 or 7 the years before) you have to pay for each individual flick, you more or less get 3 for free, not including the 12 Euro 3D-flick.
Saturday, March 26th 2011
(Japan 2010, original title: Jûsan-nin no shikaku, director: Takashi Miike)
I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this. After Miike’s last Fantasy Filmfest contribution, a Yakuza flick the name I can’t even remember of, and me slowly getting tired of the Asian film market (because of oversaturation), I was less than thrilled to watch a 2 hour-long-samurai movie. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the music great and the fight scenes well choreographed (without the typical flying-through-the-air silliness), the story was engaging, the characters intriguing and you didn’t get bored. Sure, there was an overload of names and the first hour was very dialogue-heavy, but all in all the concept was easy to understand and the story progression even more easy to follow. The only drawback I found was that some of the fight scenes could have used a bit more blood and gore. But then again it’s not your typical Miike movie (except for some weird scenes and crazy ideas) and more along the lines of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in both content and form. All in all a very good start!
(Spain 2010, original title: Secuestrados, director: Miguel Ángel Vivas)
Another movie about kidnapping with… well, a title that doesn’t suggest any originality whatsoever? From Spain? My expectations weren’t that high, but then they weren’t high either when I watched The Disappearance of Alice Kreed last year which was surprisingly good. Well, this one wasn’t. The first 5-10 minutes looked promising (like a game the kidnapped person has to play in order to rescue his family), but this actually didn’t have much to do with the rest of the movie. Not only was the shaky camera annoying and completely failed to capture the realism, there were also no likeable characters, no memorable scenes and the lack of story progression was just not acceptable. It borrowed heavily from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games in that it tried to shock people, but it was just ridiculous with its bad acting, no suspense and constant screaming. Not to mention some gory scenes which didn’t even fit and situations which didn’t feel uncomfortable to watch because of their tension, but because they were cringeworthy badly executed. A forgettable experience which made you wish the characters would die sooner. Unfortunately they don’t…
The Troll Hunter
(Norway 2010, original title: Trolljegeren, director: André Øvredal)
It’s actually funny that after recently re-watching Troll 2 this title was announced for the film festival. I didn’t know anything about it, just the title alone made me curious. Then I heard it was some kind of Blair-Witch-Project-shaky-camera-documentary, and my hopes were a bit less high. As I usually don’t watch trailers I didn’t know what to expect, only that it could be very funny or very bad or maybe both, just praying it would at least be entertaining. What I feared happened in the first 30 minutes, that is a lot of talking with an uninteresting film crew and some running around in the woods. But then the humor and original ideas kicked in and it was really a joy to watch until the end. What’s even more important and surprising is that you actually see quite a lot of trolls and it has some decent action scenes. And the most curious thing is that it will get a German cinema release. Maybe this will start a whole series of troll movies? Who knows, it could at least be fun, like this little flick which quite nicely balances “realism” and fun, something a lot of other shaky-camera-documentaries lacked, even though there’s not much of suspense to be found.
I Spit On Your Grave
(USA 2010, director: Steven R. Monroe)
I haven’t seen the original and I didn’t really know if I’d want to see this remake. But then again I watched the excellent revenge/rape remake of The Last House on the Left which was touching and in some brutal scenes quite entertaining. Entertainment, that’s quite a weird thing to write. Although why not? After all not every movie wants to delve deep into social criticism and what have you. I Spit On Your Grave is one such film. At some point it criticizes the hypocrisy of one character who commits the crime of rape and who is your average family father. But that’s not what this movie is about. If you want to cut it down to its essentials, there is not much left than one part watching the rape sequences and one part watching the torture scenes. The former is uncomfortable to watch (even though with some piano music it’s less intense than in the other remake), the latter is kind of fun if you can stomach the violence. And it definitely has its gruesome moments. But it’s oh so satisfying. So yes, the overall experience is flat, you don’t get much character development, but what it tries to achieve it does, especially with some very good cast. No overacting or actors which don’t fit their characters. The music, cinematography, everything falls together. It might even surpass the original if you watch it from today’s perspective as it obviously offers more graphic violence. If that’s a good thing is up to you to decide.
(USA 2009, director: Joe Dante)
It seems weird that a movie by Joe Dante (who did the excellent Gremlins among other cult hits) took over 2 years to hit the cinema. And it doesn’t even have an official release date in Germany. That’s really a shame because it’s an excellent movie in its own right. The only problem is that the audience is hard to pinpoint. Something between 12 and 18 years old presumably, even though for 12-year-olds it might be a bit too scary. But then again we have Coraline for 6-year-olds, so there you go ;). Back to the small horror comedy itself, it reminds you of the 80ies, especially with some cameos by Bruce Dern (well known in its Burbs‘ military neigbor role) and Dick Miller (yes, Mr. Futterman from Gremlins!). What works very well is the mix between humor, some very funny scenes and dialogues between the characters and some nice special effects. Sure the plot doesn’t offer much, but it’s entertaining all the way through (except maybe for one narrative strand I don’t want to spoil which involves childhood memories). The 3D effects are, to a certain degree, quite nice to watch, even though you get the feeling that they are a bit unnecessary (the typical “throw something against the screen”-effect), but as it is a bottomless hole the 3D effect carries some of the atmosphere. Of course the whole thing works in 2D as well, but if you get the chance to watch it in the other version, it’s a bit more fun, despite the fact that as it was finished in 2009 and the 3D-technology didn’t kick in then, it’s safe to presume it’s nothing more than a gimmick to draw the audience’s attention. If that works is another question, as this little genre gem is not for everyone. A bit out of date, for sure, but that’s what’s makes it so special. You don’t necessarily need a lot of fast, shaky camera-shots and lots of blood and gore to tell a charismatic ghost story.