Thursday, April 27, 2017

BIFFFF 2017 Wrap-up!

Well, BIFFF 2017 has come and gone, and a glorious experience it was.

This marked my third visit to Brussels for the fest, as well as my first time serving on the jury of an international film festival. I was honored to lead the 7th Orbit Jury, filled out by my illustrious compatriots, actress Bénédicte Philippon, radio personality Lucile Poulain, and writer/director Xavier Seron.

There were fewer jaw-dropping celebrity encounters compared to my visits in 2012 (Barbara Steele, Terry Gilliam, William Friedkin) and 2013 (Dario Argento, John Hough), but I was still happy to have rubbed shoulders with directors Fabrice du Welz (Calvaire, Vinyan) and Stanley Tong (Supercop, Rumble in the Bronx), and the lovely Spanish actress Macarena Gomez (Dagon, Witching and Bitching). Due to my late arrival, I just missed meeting 2017’s inductees into the Order of the Raven (the BIFFF’s Hall of Fame), Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Stoker) and Alejandro Amenabar (The Others, Open Your Eyes).

Edith Scob, the star of the original 1960 shocker Eyes without a Face, was also supposed to be on hand but had to bow out at the last minute due to illness.

As with my previous visits, I spent my downtime camped out in the abode of Brussels blood brother and Cult Reviews mastermind Gert Verbeeck, although our separate trajectories – he was handling a healthy portion of the subtitling programming throughout the fest while I was attending to my jury duties and trying to catch as many other features as possible – did not allow us to spend as much time sitting side by side amidst the raucous BIFFF crowds. Still, it was nice to know that we were both playing important roles in the festival this time around.

Announcing Swiss Army Man as the winner of the 7th Orbit, with Saving Sally receiving a Special Mention

In addition to the films (which we’ll be getting to in a second, since I can hear you all grumbling in the background), the real highlight was reuniting with scores of Belgian film fans that I have befriended over the past five years. Jonathan Lenaerts and Youssef Seniora, who keep the press and special events running smoothly. Roxane de Quirini and Elli Mastorou, who served on the BIFFF 2012 press team. Editor of When Animals Attack (to which I contributed an essay on The Food of the Gods), Vanessa Morgan. Director of Forgotten Scares (documenting Flemish horror), Steve De Roover. Fellow journalist pals Claire Annovazzi, Thibault van der Werve, Jean-Philippe Thiriart, Kamal Messaoudi, Jérôme Di Egidio, Pat A. Cronenberg, and Dorien Bijdeweg. My favorite man of mystery, Eddy Benteyn. New friends Vanity Celis, Jasna Kohoutova, and Boumédiène Yahia-Berrouiguet. And, of course, the face of the BIFFF, everyone’s favorite Master of Ceremonies, Stéphane Everaert.

What an honor it is to call these people my friends, and how glad I am that a simple love for fantastic cinema somehow brought us all together.

Below are all 41 films (with posters and trailer links) from 21 different countries viewed by these wondering and wandering eyes over nine magical days. In the days to come, I will also post individual reviews of the horror offerings to be dutifully linked back to this wrap-up page as they come into being. In other words, this will ultimately be your one-stop shopping for all things BIFFF 2017, but it might take a while before everything is ship-shape. So, feel free to keep checking in here, or simply stay tuned as each of the individual films are given their due.

Without any further adieu:

Dragon (2016) d. Dzendubaev, Indar (Russia)

Deeply romantic fantasy flick about a shapeshifting dragon and the woman who loves him. Has its moments.


The Eyes of My Mother (2016) d. Pesce, Nicolas (USA)

I really enjoyed this one. I had been hearing about it for a while and it did not disappoint.


Attraction (2016) d. Bondarchuck, Fedor (Russia)

Great special effects (especially the opening sequence shown in the trailer) carry the day, even if the "fish out of water" alien subplot feels overly familiar.


Bad Black (2016) d. I.G.G., Nabwana (Uganda)

So much fun, and made for probably less than the price of a hotel room. Must-see.


This Giant Papier Mache Boulder is Actually Really Heavy (2016) d. Nicolson, Christian (New Zealand)

Entertaining and charming love letter to cheesy sci-fi, even if it does overstay its welcome at nearly two hours.


Saving Sally (2016) d. Liongoren, Avid (Philippines)

Utterly winning and deeply sentimental story of young love and manifesting dreams in a world surrounded by monsters.


Hidden Reserves (2016) d. Hitz, Valentin (Austria)

Cold and removed doesn't begin to describe this haunting vision of the future where bodies are kept alive if their owners are not debt-free at the time of death.


Monolith (2016) d. Silvestrini, Ivan (Italy)

Outstanding slice of high-concept: Woman in desert is locked out of her bulletproof-windowed car with her infant trapped inside. Works so much better than you'd think.


Holy Biker (2016) d. Olivetto, Homero (Brazil)
A few inspired action sequences amidst a confused storyline and mishmash of eccentric characters.


Forgotten Scares (2016) d. de Roover, Steve (Belgium)

Stimulating documentary about a subset of cinema you probably didn't even know you were missing out on: Flemish Horror!


Happy Hunting (2016) d. Dietsch, Joe / Gibson, Louie (USA)

Yup, it's the ole Most Dangerous Game conceit trotted out once again. Entertaining enough.


A Dark Song (2016) d. Gavin, Liam (Ireland)

Super slow burn with solid performances that doesn't quite put it over the top. But still worth seeing.


Children of the Night (2017) d. De Sica, Andrea (Italy)

Kids are sent to a special boarding school to see which has the loosest grip on morality. Not bad, but nothing special.


We Go On (2016) d. Mitton, Andy / Holland, Jesse (USA)

Oh, man. Everything that is wrong with independent horror. Jump scares, mediocre acting, substandard effects, weak plot, weaker resolution. And, of course, it will get distribution. HEADDESK.


Spit ’n’ Split (2017) d. Vandewattyne, Jerome (Belgium)

"Documentary" about a Belgian rock band that feels at times like a party that you can't quite leave because your friends really, really, really want to stay. It ends up being a memorable night, but it takes a while getting there. Surprising and impressive final act.


The Void (2016) d. Gillespie, Jeremy / Kostanski, Steven (Canada)

Loved this awesome throwback to '80s monster movies. Solid acting, scares, score, and effects. What more could you ask for?


Tunnel (2016) d. Kim, Seong-Hun (South Korea)

Another great high concept: Man is trapped in his car when an underpass collapses and the race against time is on. Bounces back and forth between the rescue effort above and the victim below with perfect tempo.


Safe Neighborhood (2016) d. Peckover, Chris (USA)

Cult classic from the word go. You'll be hearing about this one.


Replace (2017) d. Keil, Norbert (Canada)

So-so body horror thriller about a girl whose skin condition leads to murder and more murder.


The Unkindness of Ravens (2016) d. Brewster, Lawrie (Scotland)

A veteran's PTSD leads him to a long day's night in the woods. Neither the acting nor the story are strong enough to sustain the tedium.


Hentai Kamen 2 (2016) d. Fukada, Yuichi (Japan)

AMAZING. Hilarious and unabashedly juvenile action/comedy about a superhero who wears ladies underwear on his head.


Vanishing Time (2016) d. Um, Tae-Hwa (South Korea)

Touching and emotionally rewarding sci-fi/fantasy about the effects of a mysterious orb on a young boy and his town.


Tarde Para La Ira (2016) d. Arevalo, Raul (Spain)

Tough and gritty revenge thriller.


Boy Missing (2016) d. Targarona, Mar (Spain)

Kidnapping plot goes horribly wrong and suddenly it's everyone against everyone. Like a Coen Brothers movie without the comedy to ease the pain.


At the End of the Tunnel (2016) d. Grande, Rodrigo (Argentina)

Sexy and fun bank heist flick wrapped up in a will-they-or-won't-they romance between a paraplegic and the stripper who rents his upstairs room.


Mermaid (2016) d. Chow, Stephen (Hong Kong)

Loud and obnoxious comedy from the director of Shaolin Soccer. Funny in spite of all the over-the-top wackiness.


Little Nightmares (aka Innocent Curse) (2017) d. Shimizu, Takashi (Japan)

OMG. So terrible. Hard to believe this is the same guy who made Ju-On: The Grudge.


The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) d. Ovredal, Andre (USA)

Marvelous fright flick that lives up to the hype, with the courage to not answer all the questions it raises and to keep the scares coming such that you don't even mind.


Free Fire (2016) d. Wheatley, Ben (UK)

After the heady misfire that was High Rise, the director of Kill List and Sightseers is back with an all-star cast and 563,000 bullets. Really, really fun.


Interchange (2016) d. Said, Dain Iskander (Malaysia)

Fascinating attempt at a religious crime drama with fantasy elements that never quite gels into a cohesive whole.


Memoirs of a Murderer (2017) d. Irie, Yu (Japan)

Decent enough remake of the 2013 Korean masterpiece, but pales by comparison.


Bluebeard (2017) d. Lee, Soo-youn (South Korea)

Excellent acting and plotting make for a worthwhile exercise in misdirection and madness.


Hypersomnia (2016) d. Grieco, Gabriel (Argentina)

Mash-up between the trials of being an actress and the real-life horrors of human trafficking is semi-successful, but gets bogged down in cliches and never quite escapes.


Eat Local (2106) d. Flemyng, Jason (UK)

Lively and amusing vampire comedy that rides on the charms of its pitch perfect cast.


Small Town Killers (2016) d. Bornedal, Ole (Denmark)
Outstanding black comedy about two husbands' drunken half-plot to kill their wives that spirals completely out of control.


Operation Mekong (2016) d. Lam, Dante (China/Hong Kong)

Solid big budget action flick that shares the spotlight among its high octane cast.


Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time (2016) d. Taylor, Rob (USA)

Low budget silliness, but the moxie goes a long, long way.


Tonight She Comes (2016) d. Stuertz, Matt (USA)

Such a pleasant surprise. Starts off as a simple cabin in the woods scare ride and then goes veering happily into bonkersland with some mind-blowing gore effects. Can't wait to see this again.


Egomaniac (2016) d. Shenton, Kate (UK)

Do we really need another horror movie about how hard it is to make a horror movie? Answer: maybe, but it probably isn't this one.


Don’t Kill It (2016) d. Mendez, Mike (USA)

Tongue-in-cheek B-movie slamdunk, with Dolph Lundgren vaping and punching his way through this mash-up of Fallen and The Evil Dead.


The Bar (2017) d. Iglesia, Alex de la (Spain)

Iglesia assembles another brilliant madcap band of players to spin his particular brand of dark comic mayhem. Big, loud, silly, and thoroughly grounded in its own universe.


Hopefully you haven't worn out your scrolling finger yet - there's more to come! In the meantime, here's a clip of the 7th Orbit Jury singing a mercifully brief snippet of Britney Spears' "Baby, One More Time."



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