Monday, July 30, 2012

Fantasia Day 11 (Sunday, July 29)

Sing it, Mitch!

Sunday may be a day of rest for some, but not for the Fantasia faithful. This whole rest thing…yeah, I vaguely remember something along those lines, but it’s kinda fuzzy. Or maybe that’s my vision. Or my brain after nearly 50 films…

There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything one would like to do, so I slept for an extra hour (making for a grand total of five, gah) and then rolled out of bed to get some writing done. Completed the log for the day, then dashed off to meet with writer/director Rob Grant and lead actors Mike Kovac and Scott Wallis from Mon Ami for a little midday interview about their slick little indie film that could and does. The interview went well, with the gents all friendly articulate types, then the decision had to be made as to whether to head home for lunch/blog posting or see the new Thai action flick, The Kick. I rolled the dice in opting for the former, only to learn from my Chicago buddy Neil that I had missed “the best martial arts movie of the year,” in his estimation, better even than The Raid, which blew both of us away. So, there you go. Choices, my friends. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes not.

Thing continued in the “not” vein with the next feature, Steven C. Miller’s Under the Bed at the Seve, which he called his “ode to the 80s,” but as you’ll see, I had issues with it for those very reasons. He may have wanted to be his version of a Spielberg-era gem, but Miller’s humorless tendencies (and questionable casting) added up to a less than stellar viewing. The film, enjoying its world premiere, is not a total loss, but oddly enough, where it gets good is precisely the moment that it stops being a kids horror movie, so I’m not sure what Miller and producer Brad Miska were going for.

I headed across the street to the Concordia theater for the rest of the evening, taking in the 70s roller disco parody Roller Town, followed by the indefinable (in the best way) sci-fi/fantasy/just-effed-up Japanese effort, The Warped Forest.

Jovanka Vuckovic’s long-in-gestation short film, The Captured Bird, screened next, exhibiting some gorgeous visuals, impressive creature effects, and an ear-shattering sound design. (Seriously, sh*t was LOUD.) The former Rue Morgue editor introduced her creation beforehand, as well as its notable band of contributors (editor Doug Buck and DP Karim Hussain among them).

The evening wrapped with a world premiere screening of Paul Hough’s crowd-pleasing and brain-blasting survival horror, The Human Race. Also on hand were stars Eddie McGee and Paul McCarthy Boyington, who gave an awesome Q&A chaser to their successful screening.

I’ll be chatting with these fellows soon and looking forward to it, as Race has the potential to rack up a solid fanbase in a heartbeat – even with a not-quite-finished version (“98%,” according to Hough) on display, most attendees on hand were believers by the end.

Under the Bed (2012) (1st viewing) d. Miller, Steven C. (USA)

After being sent away two years prior for burning down their house, troubled teen Jonny Weston returns to live with his father (Peter Holden), younger brother (Gattlin Griffith) and new stepmother (Musetta Vander), but it seems the literal monsters of the past are still present…and hungry. Even if director Miller hadn’t said in his pre-show intro that this was his ode to Spielberg-era kid-horror films like The Goonies and Poltergeist, it’s clear that’s the note he’s striving for from the opening frame. Unfortunately, he’s also clearly interested in doing his version of a Spielberg-era kid-horror film, and like last year’s Super 8, pale imitations – however well intentioned – are no substitute for the real thing. With the exception of Griffith’s appealing tyke, all the characters are off-putting – from Weston’s eternally gloomy gus to Vander’s twitchy histrionics to Holden’s bid for “worst screen father of the year” – and worse, there is absolutely no humor to be found, a required staple of the “kids horror” subgenre. There is, however, a pretty nifty practical monster that shows up in the final reel, but Miller missteps again by delivering explicit and frightening gore sequences, making me wonder exactly which kids he was making this film for. Not to say I disliked the finale, because it is easily the best part; it’s that the previous hour so firmly treads in PG-13 terrain that the gratuitous, out of place shift to hard R is truly puzzling. A decidedly mixed bag from the director of Automaton Transfusion and the upcoming Silent Night, Deadly Night remake.

Roller Town (2012) (1st viewing) d. Bush, Andrew (Canada)

This slice of sheer lunacy spawned from Canadian comedy collective Picnicface sets up as its object d’ ridicule the roller disco feature (think Roller Boogie, Skatetown USA and Xanadu). While they might have done well to ape the conventions of those films a little more closely – it is quickly apparent that no one in the parody can actually skate at all – there’s enough inspired weirdness to carry the day.

Warped Forest, The (2011) (1st viewing) d. Miki, Shunichiro (Japan)

It isn’t often that a director can so effortless create an alternate universe where the rules of our waking world no longer correspond to the one we’re seeing projected. Co-writer/director Miki, however, has done just that with his passion project rife with sexual imagery, exotic lifeforms and floating pyramids with corresponding orbiting spheres. Interpretations of the film’s underlying intentions could fill several books, but it also succeeds as a work of pure fancy where odd creatures wander the landscape, people one-sixth the size of “normal” humans occupy the same world without comment, and all sexual energies are directed to the consuming of suggestively shaped fruit. A major work from the co-director of 2005’s The Funky Forest.

Human Race, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Hough, Paul (USA)

In a premise resembling a hybrid of Stephen King’s The Long Walk and Battle Royale, a broad racial/cultural cross-section of an unnamed metropolitan populace are spontaneously abducted, reappearing in a bleak and barren landscape save for a sidewalk leading in, around and through a few deserted structures. Then the “rules” start echoing in their heads and it’s every individual for themselves until a single survivor remains. Those who read Mitch Davis’ write-up or witnessed the evening’s live intro to Hough’s feature debut might be forgiven for thinking the enthusiastic Fantasia organizer was indulging in just a smidge of hyperbole. But truth be told, this is an extremely effective high concept thriller that belies its budgetary constraints with those all-too-rarely-used secret weapons: strong characters and fine acting. Filling out the latter category are Altered’s Paul McCarthy-Boyington, real-life amputee Eddie McGee, Trista Robinson, T. Arthur Cottam, and Fred Coury. Hough is clearly interested in examining perceived disabilities, as several of his strongest characters possess some physical hindrance yet easily overcome their able-bodied opponents. (McGee is a particularly charismatic breakout, the absence of his left leg only heightening the character’s heroic actions.) In spite of some purist-offputting CGI gore f/x, this is an impressive debut from a welcome new voice in the horror ether.

2012 Totals to date: 342 films, 295 1st time views, 191 horror, 121 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 46 films, 44 1st time views, 23 horror, 43 cinema

1 comment:

  1. The Human Race was quite an impressive screening. Paul Hough always manages to outdo himself, the acting was great throughout, Eddie McGee took it to a whole other level and the soundtrack by composer Marinho Nobre blew it out of the park!