Monday, July 23, 2012

Fantasia Day 4 (Sunday, July 22)

All right, friends, we’ve made it through the first weekend of Fantasia, which means a reprieve from midnight screenings aka Those Ol’ Man AC Killers until next Friday.

Author and film programmer Kier-La Janisse was on hand yesterday for the launch of her new book, House of Psychotic Women, published by FAB press. In conjunction with the book’s release, Janisse is programming a quartet of films also highlighted in her tome, the first of which being the 1977 Mia Farrow ghost story, The Haunting of Julia (aka Full Circle). Seeing this rare film on the big screen (via a digital copy made from what is believed one of the few surviving 35 mm prints) was absolutely a treat, having only seen it one previous time on VHS nearly 15 years ago.

In addition to meeting the revered scribe (whose work has frequently appeared in Rue Morgue and Fangoria), the launch also provided the opportunity to meet FAB head honcho Harvey Fenton, the man behind a cornucopia of genre film-related reference books for several decades.

I took in the Norwegian short film Videoboy, directed by Stian Kristiansen, which preceded the screening of Sons of Norway, but elected to cut out about 20 minutes into the feature in order to secure a spot in line for the world premiere of Noboru Iguchi’s latest silly splatterfest, Dead Sushi. On hand with the ebullient filmmaker was star Rina Takeda, who performed a brief karate expo with the “sushi nunchaku” (the handles each made with four sushi offerings melded together) featured in the flick.

It’s all as goofy as it sounds, but the onscreen mayhem was met with delighted shrieks of laughter and spontaneous applause throughout its 93-minute runtime – there’s no denying this artist’s enthusiasm or knack for delivering the unexpected.

Following the charming Taiwanese coming of age story Starry Starry Night, it was time to witness The Devil’s Carnival, the latest offering from the Repo! The Genetic Opera team Terrance Zdunich and Darren Lynn Bousman.

For the record, though I admire its craftsmanship and independent moxie, I’m not a huge fan of the first film – its arrival as yet another ready-made cult film with its “Repo Army” members testifying back to the screen at the Chicago premiere put at bad taste in my mouth and its dissonant industrial soundtrack finishing the job.

For their Fantasia debut, the Carnival team enlisted a variety of acts (via Craigslist, if our lovely M.C. is to be believed) as pre-show entertainment, ranging from jugglers to blood-drinker snake charmers, as well as encouraging attendees to dress in costume.

I gotta say, from where I sat, the artifice was stifling, but the worst was yet to come in the form of the film itself: an empty showcase of colored lights, hammy performances and painfully literal oom-pah-pah circus music. While I can vaguely understand Repo’s appeal, anyone who proclaims themselves a fan of this trite slice of tripe can just stand on the other side of the line right now (and from the looks of things, there appear to be a lot of them).

My thoughts exactly, Neil. Sorry, guys – better luck (and a bit more workshopping) next time.

Haunting of Julia, The (aka Full Circle) (1977) (2nd viewing) d. Loncraine, Richard (UK/Canada)

This exquisite slow burn horror yarn ranks alongside The Changeling and Don’t Look Now as one of the most atmospheric and dread-filled ghost stories; like its cinematic younger sibling, it focuses on the death of the protagonist’s child, shockingly depicted in the opening scene. Here, the traumatized parent is Mia Farrow (at her pallid and stuttering best, in spite of a wavering English accent) who, after being released from a doctor’s care, distances herself from rigid husband Keir Dullea and sets up solitary life in a flat on the outskirts of London. After a larkish dinner party séance turns sinister, Farrow becomes convinced that the spirit of her child is attempting to contact her, but her paranormal investigations reveal something far more macabre. Aided immeasurably by Colin Towns’ spare piano-and-strings score, Loncraine casts a foreboding spell over the proceedings, immersing the viewer in Farrow’s grief and desire to reconnect with her daughter. This empathy makes her (and our) quest for answers to the supernatural mystery, motoring the deliberately paced chiller to a devastating conclusion.

Dead Sushi (2012) (1st viewing) (1st viewing) d. Iguchi, Noboru (Japan)

“When you insult a sushi chef, the next dish is death!” Shunned by her sushi master father for inferior rice palming skills, spunky Rina Takeda finds employ at a remote country inn the same day a shady pharmaceuticals firm corporate outing arrives on vacation. When a disgruntled employee infects the edibles with an experimental serum, guests and staff alike are besieged by animated appetizers that are fanged and furious. After witnessing the gut-busting, gag-inducing Zombie Ass at BIFFF in April, I was more than willing to return to the table to see what new dish the sensei of splatter had in store. With this latest exaggerated onslaught of pell-mell pandemonium, Iguchi might just have arrived at the perfect recipe of delirious bloodslinging and ridiculous slapstick, his fevered imagination conjuring such never-before-seen (or imagined) sights as a giant flying sushi roll battleship, nunchucks composed of rice and fish slices, and airborne swarms of bite-sized foodstuffs that spit acid, shoot flame and devour human flesh, snickering high-pitched manic giggles all the while. Needless to say, the world premiere Fantasia crowd ate it up (when they weren’t picking jaws up off the floor or turning to their neighbors for confirmation that, yes, they had just seen that) and begged for more. Innocent within its insanity, Dead Sushi brings to mind the organic audaciousness and inspired anarchy of Troma’s salad days and comes highly recommended to share with friends.

Starry Starry Night (2011) (1st viewing) d. Lin, Tom (Taiwan)

This adaptation of Jimmy Liao’s children’s book casts a glowing spell with its astonishing visual imagery grounded by a achingly human story of a young girl (Xu Jiao) awakening to Life’s harsh emotional truths: Loved ones die, parents don’t love each other forever, friends can be cruel, and sins go unpunished. Yet within this trauma-filled landscape, there is beauty and wonder and love, which our heroine discovers through her friendship with a new school classmate (Hui Ming Lin), an introverted young artist. Together, the two brave mocking peers and familial disquiet in a quiet and sincere exploration of youth and romance, finding the pieces that fit our puzzling human lives.

Devil's Carnival, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Bousman, Darren Lynn (USA)

I can’t even bear to put any more thought or energy into this “film,” since it is the walking definition of critic-proof. Their built-in fanbase will respond to any castigation with fevered screams that “you just don’t get it.” No, I don’t…nor do I want it. The faithful can have it. Hail Satan, indeed.

2012 Totals to date: 311 films, 264 1st time views, 178 horror, 96 cinema

Fantasia Totals: 15 films, 13 1st time views, 9 horror, 15 cinema

No comments:

Post a Comment