Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I haven't had a free moment to sit down and write up the more minor things I've seen and done here at Fantastic Fest, but I figured I better do so before the festival ends this weekend. It's been a busy, hot week here in Austin, and I'm loving it. I figured I would do a short piece on the more minor events and films that I've seen and done here. (I'll do a more in-depth review of We Need to Talk About Kevin, Melancholia, A Boy and His Samurai, and the American Werewolf in London screening later).
First off, my day on Saturday started with the Animated Shorts. It was a great way to start the morning off. None of them truly jumped out at me as truly phenomenal at first, and there were a few stinkers. But a few did stick with me. First, there's Path of Blood: Demon at the Crossroads of Destiny, a 3 minute short about a ronin who cuts down every enemy in his path mercilessly as he walks down the Path of Blood. Endearingly animated with colored construction paper, it's funny and charming. Also, there was a CGI short called The Lady Paranorma, about a woman who could hear the dead but not see them, so she felt very alone. Beautifully rendered and told like a Grimm's fairy tale, it was magical. In the humor department, there is a short called Lazarov, about Russian scientists trying to resurrect a dead rooster by Frankenstein means, only to have the rooster go nuts and attack the hapless assistant, before being killed once again. It's probably the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, and had the entire audience in stitches and sustained laughter long after the short had ended. Lastly, a claymation short called The Last Norwegian Troll played, and it is a real stunner. Beautifully animated, funny, sweet, and heart-warming, I seriously hope it is submitted for Oscar consideration in the Best Animated Short Film category. A perfect little tale of feeling unwanted.
Afterwards, I also got to see the new blu-ray print of Lucio Fulci's camp cult classic; Zombie. The film is as hilariously trashy-B-movie as ever, and it was great seeing it with an audience. If you've never seen it, check it out. There is a scene where a zombie battles a shark underwater. What are you waiting for?
In addition I saw a new film called The Day, a post-apocalyptic action thriller (with Dominic Monaghan, Shannyn Sossamon, and Shawn Ashmore) that plays like every home invasion film ever, and is pretty by the numbers. It's not very good, but also not bad. Mostly serviceable. The actors all give strong efforts, and I admit I was engaged for a couple of hours. But it's not something I would have sought out outside of this festival. Admittedly, I was mostly taken with how much better the world it builds could be translated into a TV series, rather than a brief film. Hey, it can't be any worse than The Walking Dead right? Though I must say, the Q&A with the film's writer, producer, and Dominic Monaghan afterwards was far more entertaining than the film itself. At the end of the day, a harmless venture into a tried and true genre formula, that will inevitably just be a direct-to-video release relegated to Saturday afternoon cable.
Later on, I caught an in-fucking-tense Colombian horror film by the name of The Squad. Ultimately a flawed but effective work, the film builds an incredibly suffocating atmosphere of dread and tension from the start and only in the last 20 minutes did I exhale. A bit light on character development across the ensemble cast, but I was scared out of my wits for 2 hours, and the film appealed to my sensibilities of what truly frightens me: my own terrified imagination. Taking cues from horror classics like Alien and The Blair Witch Project, the film plays on the audience's fear of what's out there, and shows the characters slowly going insane with fear. Weak character development hurts it a bit, but it's incredibly well directed and acted, and managed to freak me out for the run time. The final shot still gives me chills.
I'll have a more detailed write-up later today on the 30th Anniversary screening of An American Werewolf in London that included a Q&A with legendary Makeup effects maestro Rick Baker and an exclusive poster from Mondo Tees, as well as my reviews for three more films by Saturday. For now, back into the fold!