Saturday, April 14, 2012
BIFFF Day #6 (Wednesday, 4/11)
Okay, full disclosure: Some of the events that I’ll be chatting about in today’s entry actually occurred the day before, on Tuesday. As anyone who has walked this path before me can attest, it’s easy for everything to run together. “It’s the BIFFF!”
It’s easy to see why I was initially confused, however, since my interview with Father’s Day’s Jeremy Gillespie would have made sense to have occurred the morning after the midnight screening, right? Instead, for whatever programming and/or scheduling reasons, the interviews with Gillespie and Troma head Lloyd Kaufman took place the same day, before the film had actually screened. (In hindsight, this is less insane than it actually appears to be – it’s just that I was unaware of the upstairs press screening room computers when I made my appointments, and besides, I had already seen Father’s Day back in March courtesy of a DVD screener.) All this to justify why your sleep-deprived narrator got his days mixed up.
Anyway, the interview with the affable Canuck went quite well, and as it turned out, I was one of the only journalists to get him all to myself, since Lloyd had to run off to prepare for his master class session (more on that in a second). Again, these interviews are only 15 minutes in length, so you can imagine how these filmmakers feel, potentially covering the same ground over and over again for the various press folks, especially since it’s not like Astron-6 (the five-man artistic collective who wrote and directed Father’s Day) has a decades-long film career to discuss. Even so, Jeremy was very agreeable and enthusiastic as we talked about the intense birthing process, dealing with very limited funds and the fact that the quintet were spread out all over the country during much of post-production. These locational hindrances meant artistic decisions were that much more difficult to make, which tested the friendships of the group (though, it turns out, not perhaps as much as other reports have led us to believe. Or maybe it’s just that nobody could get mad at the mild-mannered Gillespie). A full transcription of our conversation will be forthcoming – either here or the pages of an upcoming issue of HorrorHound. Stay tuned.
Following our encounter on the Jameson bus, I wandered inside to observe Lloyd’s “master class.” I’ve met up with the extremely accessible Troma head at countless conventions over the past decade, and I count myself among his legions of fans. However, these repeat encounters do tend to have a sense of déjà vu about them: Lloyd pulls the same “Lloyd face” in pretty much every picture, he can’t seem to go for more than two minutes without either a dig at the “evil corporate conglomerates” who are running the film industry or a commercial for his company or their library. But being a fan of his Make Your Own Damn Movie book series, I was genuinely curious to see him addressing the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, and lord knows he’s had plenty of experience running the nearly 40-year-old independent studio. Kaufman took the stage and launched into an impressively fluent stream of French before switching over to English (at the request of several attendees, and much to my relief), and I’m here to say that witnessing the mile-a-minute huckster in another dialect is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
However, my enthusiasm was short lived as it became apparent that this was to be less a concentrated dispensation of useful information and more an extended commercial for Troma. For instance, under his “How to raise money” section, he ran a seven-minute video of the backer’s audition for Toxic Avenger: The Musical, which concluded with the inspiring message that…this particular technique was not successful for the project, “but there are many other ways to raise funding.” Um, what? He then ran an interview clip with Eli Roth, wherein we learned that if you’re going to make a film, make it something that you really want to make, since filmmaking is really tough but worthwhile if you really care about the project. Um, WHAT? The last straw for me came when I asked Lloyd to explain how he goes about creating a budget – does the script dictate the constraints or do the constraints dictate the script? His response to this query? A packaged diatribe about how digital filmmaking has revolutionized independent cinema from the days when he was shooting on 35mm. Next question? Le sigh. Suffice to say, while I still think Kaufman has much knowledge to impart, we sure as heck weren’t getting it here. It might as well (and perhaps should) have been a straight-up Q&A session, since we would also have been spared the technical lag-time as he tinkered with his laptop trying to find the right video file to stream. Disappointing to say the least, especially for someone who should have this presentation down by this point.
I quietly excused myself from the “classroom” area and headed into the cinema for a very satisfying overall day of features, including two highlights of the festival, the Bollywood superhero action flick Ra. One and the hilarious Spanish werewolf horror/comedy Game of Werewolves. If either enters your sphere, make every effort to check them out.
Letters to Angel (2011) (1st viewing) d. Keedus, Sulev (Estonia/Latvia)
An indefinable drama set in Afghanistan, where a stoic soul-shattered soldier alternates time between writing letters to his daughter Angel (whom he has not seen for years) and encounters with other female characters (his ex-wife, an unbalanced artist, a theatre director). It’s a very “deep” art-house movie, but perhaps not necessarily my cup of tea in this particular setting.
Ra. One (2011) (1st viewing) d. Sinha, Anubhav (India)
On the other hand, there was no denying the appeal factor for this huge blockbuster whizbang Bollywood extravaganza, concerning videogame inventor Shah Ruhk Khan who creates a new motion control game with an unstoppable morphing android as its villain. Equipped with artificial intelligence, the titular menace finds a way to escape the confines of the mainframe and the only one who can stop it is, of course, the game’s hero, G-One (with the face of Khan, naturally). As one might expect, there are numerous musical numbers, but they’re fun, energetic and actually fit nicely into the narrative. Bottom line, the 2.5 hours flew by and the entire crowd left smiling. Highly recommended.
One Way Trip (2011) (1st viewing) d. Welter, Markus (Austria/Switzerland)
A group of attractive twentysomethings head off into a remote part of Switzerland in search of some hallucinogenic mushrooms. They encounter a father/daughter team of psychos. Rain soaked 3D slashing ensues. Though it shares a similar narrative to the Irish feature Shrooms, it’s a completely perfunctory but perfectly serviceable slasher flick. Its distinguishing traits? It's from Austria. And in 3D. That's about it.
Game of Werewolves (aka Lobos de Arga) (2011) (1st viewing) d. Moreno, Juan Martinez (Spain)
I’m sure this catchphrase will be used time and again once writer/director Moreno’s love letter to the Universal classics, Paul Naschy and 80s practical effects makes its way into the public consciousness, so I’m going to seize the opportunity that comes with having seen it first: “Game of Werewolves does for lycanthropes what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies.” There, now I feel better. But in all seriousness, there is much here to favorably compare with Edgar Wright’s instant undead classic: It is first and foremost a situational, character-based comedy – not a spoof – dealing with ordinary characters trapped in extraordinary, supernatural circumstances. In this case, writer Gorka Otxoa returns to his home village coincidentally on the 100th anniversary of the gypsy curse laid upon it. Things get hairy in a hurry, with nary a CGI wolf nor cuddly Twilight boy toy in sight, and the heads roll as fast and furious as the belly laughs. Highly recommended, and one I’ll be rooting for over the next few months to make its way in the world.
Bloodwork (2011) (1st viewing) d. Wostenberg, Eric (USA)
A experimental drug testing group, under the observant eye of sexy doc Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica’s Number 6), begins to experience some wicked little side effects…who woulda thunkit? But even if there aren’t a whole lot of surprises in this routine scenario, screenwriter David Nahmod and director Wostenberg’s scrappy little indie horror ensemble sink their teeth into the proceedings (literally, in several cases) and don’t let go. There’s some decent gore, the acting is passable, and one particularly ironic twist of the surgical knife that had me nodding my head in approval at Nahmod’s ingenuity. Bottom line, you could do worse.
Deadball (2011) (1st viewing) d. Yamaguchi, Yudai (Japan)
The brains behind such Japanese splatter titles as Battlefield Baseball, Tokyo Gore Police, and Meatball Machine teams up with the maniacs at Sushi Typhoon for this over-the-top earth-shaking goregasm. More a collection of set-pieces than any kind of coherent plot, the storyline follows former baseball prodigy turned juvenile delinquent Tak Sakaguchi as he is forced to join the prison’s ball club. Given that Sakaguchi’s fastball explodes his father in the pre-credits sequence, this can only lead to a red sauce cornucopia, and Yamaguchi keeps the mayhem running at high speed and volume. (Even so, the slight story and exaggerated characters grow a little tiresome over the course of the 100-minute running time.) No doubt we’ll be seeing a U.S. release of this sometime over the next year.
2012 Totals to date: 153 films, 132 1st time views, 79 horror, 38 cinema
Picks of the Day: Ra. One, Game of Werewolves