There’s still quite a lot of writing work to do in order to cover other events like Gamescom and Respawn et al, but as the event only finished (relatively) recently and I didn’t go there for the last three days, the Fantasy Filmfest 2013 feature might be the shortest one I can do at the moment.
Problematic price policy
First things first: Unlike the previous year(s), there aren’t a lot of movies to discuss this time, mainly because I didn’t have a all-inclusive badge, which was partly due to a future job and the way the Fantasy Filmfest treated its fans. As has been pointed out before in the coverage of the 2012 festival, there were quite a few unfortunate technical difficulties like bad sound, wrong picture ratios, no 3D etc. Of course the festival can’t be compared to big events like the Berlinale, but if one takes into account that a single ticket costs 9 Euros, there should be some kind of quality assurance. Not to mention the more expensive badge which has no justification whatsoever. Apparently the 15 Euros more were because of the prices of the cinemas, buying the film licences etc. Of course that’s understandable, but why hasn’t the price of the single tickets changed? There you go…
Up to date and genre-defying or genre-embracing
Anyway, another reason why fewer movies found their way on my single tickets is that most of them were already available on DVD/BD or had a release date in home or public cinemas. Talking to one of the regular filmfest fans, at least half of the movies fit this model. Additionally, some choices in the film selection were made which seemed in stark contrast to the thriller-horror-fantasy template. Nothing against broadening one’s horizon, but one shouldn’t forget its core audience who simply love slashers and splatter as much as comedy without a rather complex sci-fi social drama like The Congress as an opener.
Minor niggles but (mostly) major entertainment
This time I didn’t witness any major problems with missing/wrong activation codes or messing with the picture/sound quality, BUT after watching the short films of every year’s Get Shorty we realized that one wasn’t shown. Asking the FFF staff, the answer was: “We don’t know what happened. We’re looking into it.” Great, but what about a bit of a refund or an apology? Seriously, it’s not enough that the Fantasy Filmfest seems to ignore people’s discontent about the movie selection (this time, the movies were simply not up to date), they don’t even care anymore to check beforehand what’s wrong with their copies. And the less said about the ridiculous cover (even if the red zombie clown nose last year was worse), the better.
Anyway, despite these problems and annoyances, the selection I made was quite good and I’m happy to present some individual titles which may or may not appear in cinemas or on other formats in the near or far future.
Welcome To The Jungle
(USA 2013, director: Rob Meltzer)
Sending a group of inexperienced office people to a remote island with a drill instructor turns out to be a fight for sanity, survival and laughter.
The main idea of people stranded on an island who are tested with their inner strengths and weaknesses isn’t anything particularly new, and even if there are some surprises and twists in the story, it’s no break new ground in the genre. Fortunately, the tone is much more humorous and except for some rather uncomfortable scenes and further implications of people’s violent actions it remains silly fun throughout. Not every joke or character works, but the movie never outstays its welcome. Having Jean-Claude Van Damme as the hard-boiled man becoming someone else is also worth the price admission alone. All in all maybe not a suitable festival movie as it’s much more mainstream-compatible, but well worth checking out for JCVD’s tongue-in-cheek performance alone.
In The Name of The Son
(Belgium 2012, director: Vincent Lannoo, original title: Au nom du fils)
Deaths in her family connected to corruption in the church brings a woman to unleash violent justice and revenge on those whose religious beliefs are less important than their personal gains and profits.
There’s a thin line between what’s funny and what makes you choke on your laughter in black comedies. This movie is as close as one gets to question if it’s really a comedy. Obviously it’s more like a satire, but with more drama elements. In contrast to God Bless America which criticed consumerism and had sympathetic killers on the screen to clear the streets from the scum of society (or cleanse society itself), this one is much more slow-paced, even if it has its action moments. In many ways it feels more like a drama. This is also one of its shortcomings: The message is an important social commentary and less exaggerated in its execution than in God Bless America, but it also drags its depressing and shocking moments into the spotlight a bit too long while the overall meaning that the church does bad things gets a little bit tiresome after a while. Despite its pacing and character problems, it still remains a movie which should get more attention in the mass media, even if it’s hard to stomach.
(India 2012, directors: S.S. Rajamouli, J.V.V. Sathyanarayana)
A dead man has to take revenge on his murderer and protect his love while he is reborn in the body of a fly.
Bollywood movies are tricky to recommend. I’ve seen a couple of them, and the main problems are: music, music and again music with clichéd characters, overacting and not much of a story, and almost always a runtime of nearly three hours. Makkhi still has some of these elements, as the first 30 or so minutes show, but it always has a self-aware ironic approach, making fun of the overacting and choreographed dances. When the fly shows up, it becomes a completely different movie and after the second half kicks in, there’s not only a higher amount of laugh-out-loud moments but also some very original ideas which shouldn’t be spoiled here. Suffice it to say that even with its running time problems (apparently this version had 20 minutes missing due to the IMDB), this should be watched by everyone who likes their movies as crazy as possible with some catchy music. Even Bollywood haters might like this, because the songs aren’t nearly as intrusive as in other flicks.
With various release dates and contributions from different countries, the best way to get an understanding of the quality of the selection is to discuss each short film individually. But as can be seen, it’s again a very nice compilation and would warrant an 8/10 rating overall.
Death of a Shadow
(Belgium/France 2012, director: Tom van Avermaet, original title: Dood van een schaduw)
A man takes pictures of past deaths in order to win his own ressurection.
Hyped and praised for its oscar nomination, the main idea is quite interesting, the cinematography handled well like most arthouse movies, but also loaded with slow pacing and a political/social message buried somewhere with some philosophical questions about the meaning of life and death. The only problem is: It’s way too long and doesn’t tell anything new, so as always an oscar doesn’t necessarily mean a winner.
(UK 2012, director: Johnny Barrington)
When a group of vikings meets a group of… all is not well and does not end well.
The old meeting the new age with a humorous and bloody twist works quite well. It’s actually difficult to say anything more without spoiling the surprise. Suffice to say that it’s silly with some sort of very black and gory Monty-Python humor.
Fear of Flying
(Ireland 2012, director: Conor Finnegan)
A bird who can’t or doesn’t want to fly has to learn the hard way when winter hits him unexpectedly with a vengeance.
Animation movies are always good for weird moments of ingenuity, even stranger characters and a poignancy to tell a story which other full-length movies try to achieve as well but with an overload of sometimes neglible stuff left on the wayside. This is a perfect example of how a touching story, cute visuals and some downright strange things come together and make the audience laugh and cheer the little bird on.
(Brazil 2013, director: Edson Oda)
A showdown between a hitman and his target in a western saloon ends with an unexpected fatality.
The story or characters aren’t really that special or memorable, but the presentation certainly is. Using stills from comic strips (which also means using that language for special effects) makes this one of a kind, even if it feels a bit long at times. Still with some wonderful drawings, atmospheric music and the genius idea, this stands out from the crowd of other short films.
The Man Who Could Not Dream
(Australia 2012, directors: James Armstrong, Kasimir Burgess)
As this was apparently missing from the FFF reel or hard disc, there’s unfortunately no rating or opinion here.
(Romania 2013, director: Andrei Cretulescu)
Two thugs try to rob a man who turns out to be an annoyingly resistant clown.
Even if the idea of having a clown pull tricks and some slapstick ensuing moments have certain comic effects, the main problem is that the protagonists are simply disgustingly unlikeable and the violence is too realistic and uncomfortable to really turn this into a comedy. Maybe it’s not trying to and only relies on weird characters and scenes, but with no real direction and a runtime which is way too long, it’s a rather failed effort.
(Belgium 2012, director: Too Aerts)
A gaseous mind-altering drug seems to change perceptions and create nightmarish worlds which seep into reality.
Not much of a story there, but lots of blood and gore, gratuitous violence and some downright disturbing but also weird and funny scenes, this could very well be a full-length feature. The grotesqueness of the creature design as well as the over-the-top action is reminiscent of Japanese splatter exploitation flicks, even though it’s much more enjoyable without any of the controversial stuff going on there. Hopefully, the director will come back with a longer movie soon.
(USA 2013, director: Cody Blue Snider)
What starts out as a prank some school kids play on their teacher becomes much more than they could wish for.
If you like your comedies as black as possible with bucketloads of blood, then this is for you. It’s amazing how spot-on the surprises are and how weird situations never seem to end. Scenes in which one is first shocked and then laughs out loud because of the ridiculousness are many and they work wonderfully with a great cast of child actors, not to mention a police officer who could easily be the next Cabin Fever party-man character. Let’s hope that the director will make a full-length feature.
(USA 2013, director: Stephen Sommers)
Thomas who can see things other people can’t, like shadowy creatures being around evil men and nudging them in the direction of more violence, has to prevent a massacre in a small town.
The odd thing about Odd Thomas is that it’s not an odd character or very special movie at all. Whoever watched or read John Dies At The End will see quite a lot of similarities, but none of the wit and crazy ideas Wong’s book and Costello’s movie adaptation showed. One of the problems is the main character who just can’t seem to shut up talking about himself. Then there’s his girlfriend who is so super-sweet and a wise-ass, plus a cop (a role played by William DeFoe which could have been done by any other random actor) who can’t stop praising the couple for their match made in heaven. If this wasn’t enough, the story itself offers nothing particularly exciting with monsters taking a backseat, and except for a cool beginning action scenes which aren’t that spectacular. Only near the end is the director brave enough to evoke some genuine emotions and offer a relatively unexpected twist. Other than that, it’s not a bad movie, but simply an oddity which is too normal for its own sake in the genre. As a side note: I also found out that the movie is based on a book series by Dean Koontz, and even that one seemed to have garnered quite a lot of mixed reviews due to the drama-fantasy-comedy never quite succeeding.
Final thoughts on the festival
Unfortunately due to some health problems I had to give back the ticket for Wrong (another movie by the Rubber tire-killing madness director), but as this one is going to be released pretty soon on BD and DVD anyway, there will be a review in the future. This will most probably be done with the other titles as well.
Maybe next year will be without the Fantasy Filmfest, as some more interesting and up-to-date festivals like the Nippon Connection, Berlinale or even Sitges or Viennale open their (maybe even press) doors to a wide variety of genres and experiences. So stay tuned until the next flood of reviews hit the site.
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