Fantasia Fest has come and gone, but the last tear still clings to my lower lid, hanging on for dear life and glistening in the moonlight. Quickie bite-sized snack. Dig in.
A Mermaid In Paris (Une sirène à Paris), directed by Mathias Malzieu (the mind behind the animated feature Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart), is likely as whimsical as you’d hope for it to be. If I had to sum it up, I would say this is like Splash and Amélie had a baby, and Moulin Rouge is that baby’s cool aunt; but that overly simplifies it. The movie dabbles in magical realism before plunging into surrealism. A disclaimer: It isn’t horror, but there are dark elements (the concept of an irresistible siren serenading you to your ultimate demise will forever be a horror story indeed). The French title of Siren sounds a hell of a lot less cuddly than a mermaid. Also magical realism, surrealism and Amélie specifically… are my jam. I’m also a lifelong Francophile. So here we have it, don’t be misled by my covering it here and go in expecting horror. Not horror, but definitely genre, with dark elements, and a shit ton of other stuff to love. Continue reading Alive and Swimming With Panache: A Mermaid In Paris [Fantasia Fest 2020]
When you sit down to watch a Troma movie and the opening screen provides the definition for “shit storm” and that definition explicitly includes “a Troma movie”… you know you’re in for a ride. And your intuition in this instance would be spot on. “Shit storm you say? Are we speaking literally or figuratively?” Now, I’d hate to ruin the surprise so you’ll just have to wait and see. I can tell you I was deep into a Chipotle bowl when I started this movie, and came to regret pairing this flick with dinner pretty early on. Continue reading “Now I will believe that there are unicorns…” Lloyd Kaufman’s Latest TROMAtization of The Bard -#ShakespearesShitStorm [Fantasia Fest 2020]
Shin’ichirô Ueda’s (One Cut of the Dead) Special Actors is another wonderfully fun film from the much celebrated director. When your lifelong dream is to become an actor but you suffer from a special medical condition wherein you faint and collapse whenever nervous, what is there to do? Our protagonist Kazuto faces this very problem.
As suspected, I really really enjoyed this movie and feel like I can’t say much about it because I don’t want to destroy or even partially diminish your experience. This isn’t a horror film, but I wanted to cover it anyway because I am such a mega fan of One Cut of The Dead and I know many of you are as well. Ueda’s films just ooze with heart. It’s clear he loves the process and his films entirely exude that passion. It’s nearly impossible to watch this movie and not walk away feeling good. Once again working with a wonderful ensemble cast, the comedy is lighthearted with lots of surprises in store. That’s all I will say about it, please just trust that it’s so wonderful and so fun, and go grab a ticket for the live screening.
The form may be familiar, but the message is timeless. Writer/director Ryan Spindell’s The Mortuary Collection follows in the footsteps forged by classics such as Tales From the Crypt, Creepshow and The Vault of Horror, a self professed love letter to EC Comics offering up moral parables in a horror anthology package.
I’m going to be honest here… this is my ultimate brand of horrific goodness so there may be some bias based on that fact alone. I am one hundred percent the target audience for this. I was raised on the same fare as the filmmakers and I partook heavily. It speasks to me. “Romance, suspense, horror, social commentary… everything a story should be and more”. What I crave most is to be transported by cinema and more often than not, where I want to be transported to is a gloomy October day on the East Coast or Pacific Northwest where leaves change color and fog looms low. “Perpetually longing for Autumn” could have been my nickname in school, but that’s pretty fuckin’ long and not all that catchy.
From the opening frames, The Mortuary Collection is distinctly Autumnal. In reality I watched from a couch in Los Angeles on an August evening, with an afternoon high of a hellish 105 degrees and an early evening temperature still lingering in the mid 80’s. But as I watched from within the mouth of the devil’s very own furnace, I was instantly transported to a gloomy, cool October evening. Whimsically macabre is my jam and that is what this collection delivers.
Aesthetically the look weaves consistently throughout; artfully designed, intentional, lending itself to this Autumn fantasy world. The colors are gorgeous, the lighting is crafted. The soundtrack is amazing, the actors in each segment really sell it, the costumes are drool-worthy, the FX are one hell of a gorefest feast. These are the kind of FX that are fun to watch with a group because you collectively groan at the screen in a strange combination of horror, empathy and appreciation you can’t quite watch full on but can’t quite fully look away from. THE LOCATIONS! Kudos to location scouts/set design/set builders because the locations really helped build this world, making each story distinctly different while absolutely woven from the same cloth, in the same tone and clearly existing in the same world. The main story involving Sam (Caitlin Fisher) and “creepo” Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown) linking the pieces together is a great one. There are no weak links here.
The vibe of this is perfect spooky Halloween fare. If you grew up with the likes of Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Halloween Tree and the animated Tales From The Crypt Keeper, this feels like a grownup version, tonally speaking. Take the vibe of those childhood classics, up the scares, add gushy gore.
This ambitious anthology may be touted as “a love letter to EC Comics on an indie budget” but more often than not, it certainly did not feel like an indie budget. It never felt lacking. Original cautionary tales and the occasional self aware meta commentary, delivered in a delightfully polished package ready to transport you from your couch to a gloomy Fall day at Raven’s End Mortuary. Grab some candy corn, pop some popcorn and prepare to party like it’s the end of October.
Clapboard Jungle is a beautiful tale of resilience and perseverance in dream hunting. Bridging the gap between the exhilarating blood, sweat and tears of the initial creative process and the often elusive progression of getting green lit to go to production, answering the evasive, “now what?” This documentary absolutely oozes heart and soul as indie filmmaker Justin McConnell takes us on a very personal five year journey through the lowest lows, open and raw, hitting roadblock after roadblock from script to script to screen. With the help of industry giants like Guillermo Del Toro, Mick Garris, Gigi Guerrero and more, we get a peek behind the curtain into the business side of the industry.
Justin, if this film is your love letter to the industry and the craft you love so much, then this is a love letter and a message of appreciation for you sharing this journey with all of us. You are a beacon. A lighthouse in the distance, broadcasting the message “keep going, you are so close”. It is indeed a jungle out there, but examples like Justin McConnell’s- on the brink but seemingly always just out of reach- provide a rough road map through the clapboard jungle and show us that yes… the seemingly impossible is in fact possible, if you are willing to make it happen.
Sleep – Much of the fun in this for me was not knowing exactly where it was taking us. Somewhere between sleep and waking, navigating a beautiful nightmarish landscape, a tale of a mother and daughter and deeply buried secrets. I don’t want to talk about the themes here for fear I will give some of the mystery away. This was absolutely an enjoyable puzzle steeped in elements of folk horror from German director Michael Venus and writer Thomas Friedrich.
Hail To The Deadites – Evil Dead Fans, grab your boomsticks and rejoice! A groovy documentary dedicated to you. Made for Deadites, by Deadites, comprised entirely of Deadites and their creations. Choosing to forgo the usual source material clips, fan-made tributes of all kinds are used instead. Steve Villeneuve travels deep into the world of superfans, exploring why the Evil Dead trilogy is so special to them through conventions and interviews with the trilogy’s icons; it’s groovy.
Sleep and Hail To The Deadites are both available to screen on demand during the run of Fantasia Film Festival, August 20th – September 2nd
What do you do when you’re being slandered by an onslaught of internet trolls and there is no protection or course of action to take, with no end in sight? If you’re like the titular Columnist Famke Boot, you take matters into your own hands. Director Ivo van Aart and writer Daan Windhorst offer up a different kind of revenge horror, reminding us, “It isn’t hard to be kind”.
Facing writer’s block amidst an avalanche of internet hatred and impending deadline, Famke’s bloodlust fuels her creative process. A serial killer in business casual attire collecting morbid souvenirs from her victims allows for some incredibly fun visuals.
These killings take place wonderfully juxtaposed alongside Famke’s daughter’s crusade to protect freedom of speech, spiraling Famke into a hypocritical moral dilemma. It’s brutal in a fun stick-it-to-me, get your come uppins fantasy way. Internet trolls and keyboard warriors shitting all over creators offering up unsolicited opinions and blatant lies, feeling safe and superior while hidden behind glowing screens – untouchable, right? Or so they thought. There’s far more heart to this than “enacting revenge against internet trolls”. Katja Herbers does a wonderful job of playing Famke as she gradually comes casually unwound. How do you make a brutal serial killer likable? This isn’t blatant sociopathic psychosis à la American Psycho. This is less brutal Bateman and more nuanced and layered into Famke’s life of career, family, grocery shopping, etc. An improbable but not impossible suspect. The Columnist gives us a relatable everywoman and snaps her in a fantastical but believable way, while cleverly delivering the often forgotten reminder- there are real people on either side of the screen and consequences, whether they are directly brought to our doorstep or not.
Gritty, grimy, gross. Those are the three words that first come to mind when watching Fried Barry, an on demand offering from this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. The main question on my mind while watching this film was, why is South Africa so horny?
Straight outta Belgium- writer/director Lars Damoiseaux and co-writer Eveline Hagenbeek offer up face lifts, boob jobs and zombies in this gooey, ghoul-filled flick. When anti-hero Michael (Bart Hollanders) accompanies his girlfriend Alison (Maaike Neuville) and her mother Oksana (Taeke Nicolai) to a wellness clinic for a breast reduction and other procedures, the clinic’s age defying experiments go awry and all hell breaks loose. We’ve got flaming genitalia, lots of goopy explosive FX, blood spray galore (not a good situation for “hemophobe not homophobe” Michael).
Tonally this movie has some aspects reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive in regards to humor and gore, but it takes it to much darker places. Irreverent dark humor, genuinely scary ghouls, wonderfully fun and cringe worthy gore. Lots of topless zombies which maybe I shouldn’t mention because it may give you the wrong impression. At times the humor borders on campy, (and I mean that in a complimentary way as a ghoul who loves camp), but it always balances back out and tips toward the darker end of the spectrum. For every light hearted moment, they really double down on the dark stuff.
If you’re into stuff like Dead Alive and Evil Dead, check this out,
I think you’re gonna’ dig it.