Fantasy Filmfest Nights 2012 in Stuttgart, Day 1

A year ago I wouldn’t have bothered writing about the Fantasy Filmfest program, that is the summer festival. Not because there wasn’t much time to write about it, but because there wasn’t much to write home about. Most of the good movies will probably be reviewed in future blog entries, but the rest was more miss than hit last time around.
The Nights have never been more than the rest-of movies which didn’t fit into the big picture, even though there were some good ones. This time I wanted to have a different experience in Stuttgart.
Cologne is all good and well, but the big multiplex cinema definitely loses some of its appeal when you are surrounded by all kinds of other mainstream visitors. Sure, the Cinedom offers a bigger screen, but it’s less personal than if you’re at a smaller cinema like the Metropol in Stuttgart where the audience consisted more or less of the Fantasy Filmfest.
The only disappointing thing was that there wasn’t much applause going on, 2 out of 10 movies where this happened at the end, 1 out of ten there was some during the movie. Something the Cologne audience just does better (even though it can sometimes get on your nerves).

As there were quite a few movies to watch (10 in total) I won’t go into much detail and only give a quick summary of the highs and lows, ordered in the manner they were shown.

Day 1
Saturday, March 17th 2012
We nearly missed the first movie, in the safe believe of the starting time at 3 pm, as it has been usually done before. So we just wanted to be there an hour earlier to get something to eat. As we arrived, I wanted to check where to get my all-incl.-ticket. Seeing some fellow moviegoer asking at the ticket center and being pointed in the direction upstairs I followed him, making some small talk by saying “I hope they’ll have the ticket stand already there as it was more than one hour before the first film started. He just looked at me in a stressed way and told me he hoped to get in before the movie starts in 5-10 minutes!
It was a good idea to have my evening meal as lunch already with me, my friend Axel had to do with different sweets to stifle the hunger (even though he took at time-out later with the next movie).

Rosewood Lane
(USA 2011, director: Victor Salva)

Jeepers Creepers wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t a good one either. But of course one shouldn’t go into a movie expecting the same from a director (like the surprisingly great Frozen which came from the fun-but-not-really-unique-slasher Hatchet-director).
The typical hype-talk of the Fantasy Filmfest type aside (in this case quoting the director’s attempt to make one particular scene with a cat and a hatch stay in the minds of the audience, like Hitchcock’s The Birds is a bit over-the-top, even though the scene is pretty cool), this isn’t your typical creature-feature and is more like a psychological thriller.
The idea of having a magazine-paperboy stalking a young woman in a house her father died, might not win the high-originality-award, but the premise is interesting and its execution, for the most part (there are some scenes which due to acting and not-so-good camera-work, that is slow-motion, which fail to capture the drama and only succeed in some unintentional laughter; even though there’s something to be said about some close-ups of a bike the ominous paperboy uses), works rather well. No cheap CGI effects or bad make-up (which pretty much destroyed the ending of Insidious), but a level of suspense which holds up for a pretty long time.
It might not reinvent the horror or thriller genre, but for an entertaining Saturday afternoon it’s entertaining enough, even if it’s not the best opener, but for the Nights there were much worse movies to start them (there were also some extremely good ones).

Rating: 6/10

Childish Games
(Spain 2012, director: Antonio Chavarrías, original title: Dictado)

Like the upcoming We Need To Talk About Kevin this movie didn’t really fit in the fantasy/horror/triller categories you’d usually associate with the festival. Not a bad thing in itself, but it felt more like a filler than a killer movie, also in its quality.
Whereas other cities got R.E.C. 3 (nothing to get really excited about as the movie would soon be available on BD/DVD in a trilogy box anyway), this seemed an odd decision. A drama about a tragic childhood accident, told in flashbacks, sometimes disorienting pace of narrating, themes like suicide, as if this hasn’t been done so many times before.
The main problem of Childish Games is therefore not really its slow pace, but how familiar everything is. Nothing stand stands out, except for one rather disturbing bath tub scene nothing really memorable, acting as well not that much of a big deal.
It’s an alternative to what Spanish cinema offered in the past Nights screenings (usually hectic and over-the-top-violence that it became ridiculous), but maybe it’s a movie which works best as on TV as the quality of cinematography (just like Rosewood Lane) would fit the format better.

Rating: 6/10

Sleep Tight
(Spain 2011, director: Jaume Balagueró, original title: Mientras duermes)

Spanish movie No. 2 of that day and I hoped it would get me out of the nearly-sleep-feeling. To a certain extent it succeeded. Only problem, it tries too many formulas. Being one part social commentary (loneliness, hypocracy in a building with all its tenants), one part comedy with thriller elements, it fails due to its main protagonist, an unsympathetic caretaker who has the strange hobby or life goal of making the tenants’ living hell.
First one can laugh about him finding meaner ways to manipulate things in the apartments, but when the audience gets a look at how human and not really superficial the other characters are, it poses the question what’s his purpose: making them realize there is no such thing as happiness? Even though it might be a stretch to compare it to Le Fabulous Destin d’Amelie Poulin, the idea is the same: uncovering the empty lives of people, but in this case it’s not a positive, but a negative outcome.
The humor simply doesn’t fit the story when it gets not only bloody, but also disgustingly inhuman. If it’s meant to be a satire, the resolution doesn’t add up, the story and characters are not fleshed out enough to really get across the message other than a man doing bad things because he likes it.

Rating: 5/10

(UK, USA 2012, director: Josh Trank)

Not being a big fan of super hero movies (except Super and Kick-Ass) I went into this flick without thinking it would be something special. Then realizing it was all done with a handcamera, I got a bit more interested, and then I was completely hooked when the action started.
It takes some time and the characters need some getting used to as well, as the constant laughter of the teenagers who discover secret powers from an alien stone, act more like the guys one knows from Jackass, which is fine by its short running time, but can get problematic with full-length.
There’s also not a big amount of story and character development, but what it does really well, and better than any action blockbuster I’ve seen so far with a shaky camera, is how the pretend of having super powers is realized. Not to take away any of the surprise, but flying through the air has never looked cooler than here. And when it gets to fighting, Cloverfield looks weak in comparison.
The idea of having all kinds of different cameras (TV stations, smartphones) taking over some perspective one wouldn’t see without the heroes’ own filming equipment is a genious idea as well highlighting the sheer amount of action sequences later.
It might not be the perfect superhero movie (nothing of that social criticism you have in Kick-Ass or Super), it’s immature most of the time, but like Cloverfield it’s a rollercoaster ride one isn’t likely to forget.

Rating: 8/10

Juan of the Dead
(Spain, Cuba 2011, director: Alejandro Brugués, original title: Juan de los Muertos)

After one fun flick (even though Chronicle is more mainstream cinema) another highlight which actually got some applause from the audience. Constant laughter is guarrantued when a group of Cuban losers is confronted by an armada of zombies threatening their not-so-great lives. So the idea of making money out of the situation is ingenious as it is sick: rent us and we’ll kill your loved ones painlessly (or without you doing the bloody work).
The first 20 minutes or so need some adjusting to, not because of the unique setting, but because the humor is a bit too much at first, consisting of more jokes per minute which aren’t that funny.
Then after the first zombie appears (with bad make-up as it’s pretty low budget), the real fun starts. One comic scene after another with great one-liners, dialogues, fight scenes. One doesn’t want the movie to end, and it’s amazing how each scene surprises more than the last, introducing weird characters, letting others die, and all the time you feel for them, thinking how they’d get out of there, wishing they get out of that situation.
Labelled as the Cuban answer to Shaun of the Dead, this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a completely different movie, bringing more zombies to the screen, having over-the-top craziness written all over it. Hopefully this festival flick will get a home cinema release and (even better) a sequel.

Rating: 9/10


About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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