Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fantasia Day 2 (Friday, July 20)

The day started with me waking up (as most do – it’s the days where I don’t that get me a little worried) and heading over to the press office to check out their digital screening room, hoping to figure out – due to my overcrowded viewing schedule – which films I might be able to catch on the small screen. Good news is that pretty much everything on my wish list can be accommodated, and really, if they can’t, it’s no crime. (If all goes as planned, I’ll leave Fantasia with 100-110 more features under my belt.) One that I’m particularly interested in is Jaume Balaguero’s latest, Sleep Tight, which is slated for Fantasia’s last day, Aug 9. Due to the organizers adding two days onto the schedule at the last second, my flight leaves that morning, so I would not have been able to catch it. Looks like that’s less of a problem now.

I then took a 30-minute stroll down to the Cinemateque quebecoise, host to an array of retrospective features this year, but today’s main attraction is the launch of the awesome new art project, If They Came From Within: An Alternate History of Canadian Horror. A visit to their Facebook page will give a better understanding of the concept, but the basic notion is that Rue-Morgue magazine Editor-in-Chief Dave Alexander has brought together some of the best Canadian genre filmmakers, designers and illustrators to create a gallery of poster art for horror/exploitation films…that don't exist.

Working from a title and a tagline, Alexander, alongside folks such as My Bloody Valentine’s George Mihalka, Smash Cut’s Lee Demarbre, Father’s Day’s Astron-6, Hobo with a Shotgun’s Jason Eisener and Pontypool’s Bruce MacDonald and Tony Burgess came up with plot synopses while illustrious artists Justin Ericksen, Martin Plante, Rue-Morgue’s own Gary Pullin and others brought the fictitious one-sheets to glorious life.

Look, it's George Mihalka!

Just as much fun was the opportunity to meet the RM Fearless Leader in the flesh after years of emailed correspondence. Dave continues to steer one of the finest genre mags out there on a path that is true if not exactly straight, which is how it should be. Hats off to you, good sir. Keep up the great work and best of luck with this new project!

After eavesdropping on his interview about erotica, pornography and other juicy subjects, I hung outside with Lee Demarbre for a spell and we both got all giggly when we saw Michael Biehn wander by. The Man Forever Known As Kyle Reese seemed to be in a hurry, so we didn’t chase him down (I’ll have my chance later on in the fest as he is presenting his solo directorial debut, The Victim, in a few days), but it was still pretty cool.

I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of King-Wei Chu, the co-director of Asian programming for Fantasia (of which there is a lot). King’s a heck of a nice fella and I’m hoping to chat with him more as the weeks go by.

En route back, I stumbled onto a fun little African street festival with lively music, dancing and foodstuffs. If I wasn’t already committed for the evening, I might have spent an hour or two there, because it looked like a good time.

But it was time to dive back into the celluloid, doing time at the main Concordia Hall as well as midnight screenings at the Salle J.A. de Seve theater (where I was joined by Neil, his pal Paul and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone).

By the time we crawled back out onto the sidewalk, six hours had gone by and four flicks had unspooled, including a repeat viewing of Juan of the Dead (this time with English subtitles!) and Astron-6’s Manborg. We’ll see how we hold up tomorrow, as the weekends are when things get really exciting (and start a lot earlier).

Blood-C: The Last Dark (2012) (1st viewing) d. Shiotani, Naoyoshi (Japan)

I gotta say, the same way my beloved femalien doesn’t like beets or yogurt, I don’t really care for anime. I’ve given it any number of tries and it just doesn’t sit well with me. That said, the opening 10 minutes of this follow-up to 2000’s Blood: The Last Vampire, featuring an hideous monster attack on a subway train car, are thrilling and genuinely terrifying. Sadly, my forgiving nature proceeded to be overwhelmed by the obnoxious characters (a gang of juvenile computer hackers) and convoluted storyline (Saya, our unstoppable sword-wielding superhuman heroine, must track down a crooked industrialist whose attempting to control the world through an age-old mutated species…or something). Visually stunning with the occasional worthy action sequence, but in the end, I’ll stick to the live action stuff.

Juan of the Dead (2011) (2nd viewing) d. Brugues, Alejandro (Cuba/Spain)

Calling writer/director Alejandro Brugués’ crowd-pleasing zom-com a Latino Shaun of the Dead is both a spot-on assessment yet a dangerously reductive one. In the same way that Edgar Wright’s capturing of the London suburban slacker culture proved to be Shaun’s secret weapon, so too does Brugués immerse the viewer within the pulsing poverty stricken Havana streets, lending the film an unexpected authenticity. Cinematographer Carles Gusi paints a leached, anemic landscape, underneath which lies a vibrant array of characters that choose life, whether it be in the face of slow economic starvation or staggering undead hordes. What could have been a cheap, derivatively titled zombie flick turns out instead to be a genuinely rewarding and thought-provoking piece of apolitical entertainment that packs an emotional wallop and side-splitting splatter. Juan is a worthy addition to the walking dead canon, and don’t be surprised if popular Cuban actor Alexis Díaz de Villegas’ superlative turn here – equal parts slapstick clown and noble patriarch – doesn’t launch him into the Hollywood stratosphere a la Simon Pegg. A must see.

Manborg (2011) (1st viewing) d. Kostanski, Steven (Canada)

If it’s true that Kostanski created this hilariously nutty sci-fi actioner for a mere $1000, as he claimed via text message to tonight’s crowd, then Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6 needs to be running the world because they know how to do more with less better than anyone else I’ve ever seen before. Less energetically offensive than their Father’s Day yet just as inspired and affectionate a tribute to the schlocky futuristic cheapjack action pics of the ’80s, with stop-motion beasties, sassy heroines, romantically conflicted mutants, hilariously dubbed martial artists (a joke that never, ever got old), and digital explosions by the score. Anyone who loves cinema, on either side of the camera, needs to see this movie now.

Henge (2012) (1st viewing) d. Ohata, Hajime (Japan)

The best way to describe this flick is to imagine David Cronenberg, Shinya Tsukamoto and Ishiro Honda’s three-way cinematic love-child. In a little less than an hour’s running time, we witness a couple (Kazunari Aizawa, Aki Morita) attempting to cope with the husband’s increasingly violent and frequent seizures. Medical science is baffled, especially when he starts speaking in prehistoric, mystical tongues and segments of his body begin inexplicably mutating. I could have done without the patently false CGI blood splatter, but that’s a mild complaint against this brilliantly surreal taste of vibrant body horror whose final reel payoff will Blow. Your. Mind.

2012 Totals to date: 302 films, 256 1st time views, 173 horror, 87 cinema

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