Tuesday, April 17, 2012

BIFFF Day #10 (Sunday, 4/15)

Another late night leads to another sleep-deprived day, and I feel the exhaustion level inexorably rising. Of course, I also recognize it in my colleagues as well – everyone has been on this ride for a long time, and it’s taking its toll for those who are riding it morning till night. Apparently, it was also taking the toll on Gert’s aged two-wheeler that I had been using for transport between home base and the BIFFF, because Sunday morning, en route to my interview with Iron Sky director Timo Vuorensola, the back tire just crapped out on me almost exactly halfway there. I was left with a dilemma: do I continue forward to the BIFFF and then be forced to walk the sucker home at 2:30am, or do I head back, cancel the interview and deal with the bike situation during the daylight hours? I opted for the latter, since even though I dug Iron Sky for the amusing, ambitious diversion that it was, it’s not really HorrorHound material – with no splatter or alien monsters to nudge it between the covers. Therefore, I don’t feel all the broken up about it, although Timo certainly seems like heck of a big personality from what I’ve seen in his previous night’s introduction, so it probably would have been fun. But needed to formulate a plan and get the dead ducks off the road, so there you go.

Gert and I, following a terrific geek-out session with Offscreen programmer and all-around cool-cat Dirk Van Extergem over drinks, worked out our transportation for the rest of the evening (me borrowing his bike, him catching a ride to and fro with the lovely and talented Sabrina), and I got over to the BIFFF for my interview with Stig Svendsen, director of Elevator. We had a really good convo as he discussed the challenges that led to the production of the film (another, larger project had fallen through, and in frustration, he and screenwriter/producer Marc Rosenberg decided to create a one-location horror scenario that they could shoot in a matter of two weeks) as well as the challenges that followed as a result of their “solution.” Talking about the casting of the underused John Getz (seriously, why doesn’t this guy work all the time?) as well as “Whatever happened to her?” Shirley Knight, who apparently came aboard when her good friend Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) was not available. Bottom line, a good time was had betwixt two horror-loving long lost Norwegian blood brothers.

Then it was time for another solid spread of flickers for the evening (I’d avoided the Japanimation festival scheduled earlier in the day, so it wasn’t just that I was slacking). Only one real horror effort (the English haunted house tale, The Awakening), though the sci-fi illegal alien drama Arrival of Wang had enough disturbing moments to potentially tip it into the players box. Nothing really wow-worthy, but solid stuff across the board with a few minor quibbles here and there.

Arrival of Wang, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Manetti, Antonio/Manetti, Marco (Italy)
A young interpreter is brought to a top secret underground bunker to interview a political prisoner…only said prisoner turns out to be even more alien than she initially imagined. A really intriguing concept, but one that runs out of new ideas about halfway through, feverishly treading some pretty redundant and/or ridiculous water until it gets back on track for the final reveal. Would have benefitted from a smarter second act, but the two central performances by Ennio Fantastichini and Francesca Cuttica are very well realized and the end is a wingding. With a firm grip on the fast forward button, life should work out fine.

Awakening, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Murphy, Nick (UK)
A handsomely mounted period British ghost story (though, when are they not?) starring Rebecca Hall as a specter-debunking expert called to a beleaguered boys school where the terrified tots report seeing an ambulating apparition. Smartly scripted and well-acted, but my failure to be wowed stems from its covering such similar ground as The Orphanage, Haunted, Turn of the Screw, The Others, The Woman in Black, etc. yet never really distinguishing itself among them. No spoilers here, but it seems like the films listed above managed to bring something truly unique to the table – I’ll be very surprised if people are talking about this five years from now (much like this year's Woman in Black).

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Hark, Tsui (China)
Lot of zippy Hong Kong medieval action on hand here, but the complicated story and interchangeability of many of the characters makes things pretty confusing. (Even the BIFFF synopsis seems to require a scorecard to keep things straight.) The biggest reason for celebration must be the reunion between Jet Li and his Once Upon a Time in China director Hark, but the theatrical wonder of wire-fu has been replaced by CGI trickery, and the digitally augmented combat sequences lose the magic as well. Most frustrating though was the 3D processing, which make the lightning-fast sword/footwork extremely difficult to follow, becoming a general wash of flurried fists and steel. Too much whizbang for its own good.

Charlie Zone (2011) (1st viewing) d. Melski, Michael (Canada)
Glenn Gould plays a disgraced Native American (Canadian) boxer now on the skids, picking up change from playground brawls later uploaded to the internet, is approached to kidnap teen addict Amanda Crew from the crackhouse lair she now calls home. We’ve seen this story before, but there are enough interesting character touches, mostly stemming from Gould’s character’s Indian background, that kept me involved. There are enough gruesome scenes of torture and seamy subtext to satisfy genre fans, and the performances are all quite notable. True, the low budget constraints occasionally show their true colors, but for the most part, it feels like a personal thriller that comes from co-writer/director Melski’s heart.

2012 Totals to date: 168 films, 146 1st time views, 86 horror, 51 cinema

Picks of the Day: Charlie Zone, The Awakening


  1. Awesome movie Gould rocks and Crew does a memorable job. Writer Joe LeClair is an up and coming talent who shows promise. I saw his and Producer Hank White's short "Fractured" on CBC downloads last year.

  2. Agreed, indeed. I'm inclined to check out the work of several of these folks, based on their CHARLIE ZONE efforts.