Saturday, 6 November 2010
Night Visions Maximum Halloween 3010 report
After missing out on the most exciting biannual film festival in Finland last spring, I wanted to take part of this Halloween's Night Visions festival a little wider than usual. Unfortunately I had a job and a big party to keep me occupied, yet I managed to see quite a large number of festival films. As Night Visions has grown larger, also it's variety of different films has grown. It depends whether this is a good or a bad thing, as many festival goers didn't care too much to have mainstream films like Due Date in the festival lineup. Yet much of the stuff I saw was weird as ever so I won't complain that the festival has lost its cool just yet. In fact, I'm eagerly waiting for April when Back To Basics will blow my mind!
I'll leave a couple of films I saw to be discussed later on in different blogposts. There's too much to write about anyways.
Frank Henenlotter: Bad Biology
The festival had chosen interesting guests this time around. Frank Henenlotter is remembered for the cult classic Basket Case. All of his films I've seen deal with characters that have problems with some mutated part of their own body. His newest film, his first in 19 years doesn't break the trusted formula. Bad Biology is more twisted sex-comedy than body horror, but it's still pretty icky. It deals with two characters: First with a girl with seven clitorises and an hungry man-eating appetite. The second a young man who has trouble from his monstrous-sized penis which seems to have a mind of its own.
This bad-taste parade is shot pretty cheap and it shows. Yet it has a nice aura of just trying crazy ideas together and seeing what fits. The sexual subtext is left pretty thin but it's a fun ride nevertheless. Particularly with an eager festival audience with the author also present with amusing anecdotes.
Jussi Parviainen, Juha Rosma: Harmagedon
Perhaps the biggest highlight of this year's festival was the unforgettable Finlandia Gala of the nigh-forgotten finnish art-action film Harmagedon. Jussi Parviainen is a big name in the finnish theatre circles and he produced, wrote, directed and starred a series of plays in the 80's which starred his own alter ego, Juska Paarma. Harmagedon the film is the conclusion for this series, and it sure goes out with a bang.
Juska Paarma (who had been killed in the previous play) is resurrected to kill everyone he knows with a white shotgun. Thus after his own destruction he will destroy everything he held dear in the world as well. The world is seen in Paarma's point of view - women pine for having sex with him, men either fear him or love him as a hilarious drinking buddy. Even though the film is repetitive, the arty photography, often hilarious script and a cavalcade of 80's finnish actors holds the whole thing together. I particularly love Aake Kalliala.
Maybe even more incredible than the film were screenwriter-star-producer-uncredited director Parviainen's anecdotes before and after the film. After stories about killing a child as a five-year-old, an explosion at the prop factory, surviving the war in Afghanistan and hoping to meet Osama bin Laden, it's a night to remember.
J Blakeson: The Disappearance of Alice Creed
This one managed to surprise me! The best crime-film in a while, it tells the story of two men excecuting a kidnapping. And like the best heist films, it makes you almost hope that the criminals get away with it, so well-planned is the crime, however despicable. The film is told with considerable patience, in that it doesn't give away all its cards in the beginning. The starting montage of the criminals silently preparing an apartment for their hostage is intriguing enough.
With a couple of suitable twists that don't feel forced, we get to find out that it actually deals with a power-play. Every one of the characters has some strengthness and weaknesses over the other two. Thus, the film never loses its drive and the viewer keeps on the edge of his seat until the end credits.
HERE BE SOME MINOR SPOILERS, although I try to articulate them as vaguely as possible.
One jackass complained about the ending being too uplifting after the film. I don't think so. A crime always leaves traces and thus no one walks away from the tangled triangual drama intact.
Mark Hartley: Machete Maidens Unleashed!
Documentary-maker Hartley continues on the same path than his previous Not Quite Hollywood, this time focusing on B-movies made in the Philippines. I got dozens of MIWS from this, which was probably the intent. So in that, the film fulfills its function. It is always fun to see old clips, even brief ones, but the real meat is the wide array of interviews with fun anecdotes. Unfortunatelly, the focus of the film tends to stray from time to time. If I wanted to hear from the making of Apocalypse Now, I would've watched Hearts of Darkness instead. Also too much time is spent on describing Roger Corman's producing tactics. I would've wanted (nay, NEEDED) to hear more about Weng Weng, one of the greatest actors that ever lived.
Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rocher: The Horde
The first dud of the festival. This french crime-film swiftly turns into a zombie film. Kudos for keeping it mostly serious but the problem here is that it's all been done better by oh, so many times. I couldn't care less about any of the characters even if they have been written tension among themselves. There are gleeful moments here and there (cocky cops on a bust get taken down at the first door, the gun-toting old fat neighbour), so that one watches this through without too much pain, but mostly it's just droll.
Seiji Chiba: Alien vs. Ninja
I had a very troubling text message just before the screening of this film. So it tells about the quality of the movie that I was able to forget the threat of my loaned car being towed away, and just sit, watch this and have a good time. The start doesn't promise much. A shitty-looking film is shot with a digital camera at some forest with either wimpy-looking ninjas or annoying comic sidekicks (that ALSO are wimpy-looking) having boring battles.
But once tha Aliens arrive the fun begins. It's obvious that the creatures are copied from the Aliens of Ridley Scott and James Cameron. But with their slimy green rubber-suits and dolphin-like beaks they look kind of cute. Not to mention their tiny offspring. And at the same time the creatures are very blood-thirsty (not to mention thirsty for some boob-grabbing). So we soon get rid of the most annoying chracters and have a good amount of silly WTF-moments. It's a very stupid film, but unashamedly so. With the goofy humour, gratitious violence and interest in female anatomy it is a clear movie for a boy's night out. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. The audience loved it judging by the applause.
Robert Schwentke: RED
RED is a big ensemble action movie, and thus must be compared to the recent The Expendables. RED is better. But it is by no means a perfect movie either.
Like The Expendables, your enjoyment of RED depends largely of how much you get a kick out of the actors on screen. And I for one love more old, crazy character actors than wrestlers and other muscle stars, even though I love 80's action films with all my heart. In addition to leading Bruce Willis, you'll get John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Morgan Freeman, and a couple of smaller parts I don't care to reveal yet, even though they are found on the cast list. And all these actors seem to have a genuinely good time - for once they get to shoot guns instead of doing boring drama. Except for Bruce who has a boring romantic subplot - that at least happens among all the action and not bizarrelly stopping it a'la The E-movie. Without the cast, or even with just Bruce, the film would be sort of a lacklustre spy thriller, even if it has a few truly kickass sequences (most of them are found in the trailer). But Malkovich and Cox in particular always bring a smile to my face, even with some lesser material.
One thing that really bugged me about this film was the use of music. It was way too generic and comedic and always too loud. I get that RED is supposed to be an action comedy, but the makers should take a page from the ZAZ filmmaking: Everything is much funnier when done with a straight face. Without the wink wink -attitude this could've been an even greater action film. But I still enjoyed it a lot.
Pasquale Festa Campanile: Hitch-Hike (Autostop rosso sangue)
Here is a just about perfect sleazy italian thriller to play at an all-nighter. About as sleazy as you can get Franco Nero plays a wife-beating sleazebag, who gets kidnapped by even bigger scum. There is no good, or even shades of grey. Everyone in the film is either bad or ugly or even badder and uglier (on the inside that is). The film quality is suitably dirty-looking for a film like this as well.
Like The Disappearence of Alice Creed, the story doesn't flow from start to finish like you would expect it. A couple of suitable twists take the story into all new layers. The film is about as nihilistic as can get, yet it isn't hard to watch as action and outrageous sequences follow each other. Even the notorious rape scene feels like a parody of the one in Straw Dogs. Yet you won't be walking from the film with a happy-go-lucky attitude, that's for sure.
Frank Henenlotter: Brain Damage
And here we are back with Henenlotter. Brain Damage rivals Basket Case as his magnum opus. He told that he poured a lot of his own experiences with cocaine into this film. It sees a young man getting connected with euphoria-causing brain parasite, which seeks to kill a lot of other people. This is not a subtle film by any mens, but Henenlotter keeps adding up the shots nicely and keeps the pace comical enough but not turning into a huge farce at any point. Both the scenes with carnage and scenes of drug-euphoria are done extremely well. But it still feels a little padded and the acting is very bad indeed. Elmer the parasite is a likeable villain with a sweet voice and one wonders why he hasn't become a bigger pop-culture icon.
Todd Phillips: Due Date
Who doesn't love a good road trip movie? Todd Phillips, the director of Road Trip, returns to the genre with a dream pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Both are considered some of the funniest actors in Hollywood today.
It is mostly thanks to its leading men that the viewer keeps up with the story. The crazy hijinks of the film are usually not particularly funny and sometimes outright annoying. Not to mention obvious at certain points. For instance, who among the audience doesn't get what is going to happen to a coffee jar full of a dead man's ashes the minute the topic is discussed? A couple of rewrites should've worked wonders. Particularly Galifianakis's character is close to being so utterly, life-threateningly moronic that it's nearly impossible to like him. The actor saves what he can, but is still not my favorite comic sidekick. Downey Jr.'s character's rage towards him is meant to show the character to have some anger issues, even though he's acting mostly pretty reasonable given the circumstances. Towards the end the hijinks get so crazy, this overplayed comedy works better.
Actually Due Date is one of those comedies like Knocked Up that's about the main character growing up and adapting to boring mediocre family life. At the beginning RDJ is shown to not get along with children and even though his methods of handling a problem child are hilarious, they are hardly good parental advices. But during the road-trip with a huge man-child he learns to suppress his anger towards simpler people and thus is allowed to enter the family life.
How sweet, but there are dozens of better road trip / buddy comedies. Here's waiting for The Hangover 2.
Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi: The Mutant Girl Squad
I loved Tokyo Gore Police back in the day, but Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl bored me. The modern japanese gorefests have plenty of sick ideas, but they work in such a fast pace, it can get tiring. The idea behind Mutant Girl Squad is that three different directors have taken each a part of the same story to direct. It brings some new joy to the project, even if it is a bit hit-and-miss.
A teenaged girl finds out on her birthday that she's a half-mutant. Her mutant parents get killed so she joins a secret society of mutants to take revenge on humans. This much I understood about the plot. It may be getting tired, but I was lost after the first part. The second part is the most boring and confusing one, but at least the best ideas are saved to the end. So we get to see an adrogyn Astro Boy-copying mutant, a girl who has a chain saw coming out of her ass and a girl who has katanas coming out of her tits. It's extremely bad taste, but it's the sort of film where you can't help but love the never-ending madness that's put to the screen uncompromisingly. I had fun with this one in the end.
Yun Je-gyun: Haeundae: The Deadly Tsunami
Yet it didn't get any better from there. One of my happiest Night Visions -memories was the screening of the bonkers chinese catastrophy film Super Typhoon a year ago. The ultimate film for preaching trust in the authorities was a suitable send-off. The Korean catastrophy film is a lot more boring one. Bad South-Korean films are usually packed with both horrible comedic bits and overdone melodrama. One should've guessed this would be too. Laughs were few and the film follows the basic Roland Emmerich plot too closely without doing this so over-the-top that one would have fun. Okay, one dog gets kicked and some people electrocuted. But I digress, I slept through most of this shit.
Ken Wiederhorn: King Frat
I had to question my sanity of paying money to see the final film, which is more than usual in Night Visions. A bad, bad, BAD Animal House rip-off is so tasteless, I wondered why more people weren't vomiting on the floors. King Frat barely has any plot at all, more than the hijinks of the most awful fraternity on campus. Seriously, these people make the Animal House boys look like Christian role models. Most of the humour is based on farts, boogers, burping and various other body fluids. One particularly idiotic scene sees a beautiful blonde accidentally starting to have sex with a guy in a gorilla suit in an ambulance (dont ask, I didn't understand it either) and then getting miraculously stuck. The scenes end suddenly and flowing in an order which makes me question the sanity of even the editor of this thing.
The theme is an odd ear-worm with a sweet lady-voice singing too fast about all the Fratboy hijinks for me to catch the lyrics. The theme has been playing in my head ever since, partly because not 5 minutes pass in the film without the fucking song. So all in all, it wasn't even so bad it was funny. It was so bad it made me and everyone else in the theatre feel very uneasy. That may be why it was certainly worth a view.