Fantastic Fest Weekend Report

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-09-26 20:15
My weekend at Fantastic Fest started off in disappointing fashion. I wasnít able to secure at ticket for Youíre Next, which has come out of nowhere to possibly be the next big horror flick. It was scheduled to play here twice until Lionsgate bought it and axed a screening. Go figure--they donít want anyone buzzing about what could be their next big horror hit. This wouldnít be a bad thing except they plan to shelve it for a year so they can release it next fall. Bummer. Anyway, itís a home invasion flick starring A.J. Bowen, Sharni Vinson, and Barbara Crampton, all of whom were in attendance here. By all accounts, Youíre Next is the real deal--definitely look out for it next year.

Saturday wasnít a total loss, though--I hung around afterwards because Barbara Crampton was still around mingling with the crowd. It was a pleasure to meet her--sheís quite a treat and very personable. I thanked her for starring in all those kick-ass horror flicks, plus Fraternity Vacation (which she apologized for!). Thatís been the highlight of the festival for me so far; I wonder what my fifteen year old self would have thought if he knew heíd one day meet her. Good for her, Iím mostly more mature now.

I also saw two movies on Saturday starting with Urban Explorer, which is standard slasher junk that Iíll be posting a full review for. I also saw A Lonely Place to Die, a British movie that sees Melissa George and her hiking companions being terrorized by guys in the woods after they find a little girl stashed in an underground bunker. It didnít do a whole lot for me, but I could appreciate the craft--it captures peril and tension well, but the story is a bit limp, despite how it starts simply and unravels into something complicated.

The writing and directing team are the brothers Gilbey, who fielded some questions afterwards, where they revealed that the hardest thing about the production was getting George to take a dip into some cold water. They also discussed some interesting nuts and bolts stuff of how they achieved some of the shots and which cameras they used. Both came across as knowledgeable and humbled, and they revealed that their next project will actually be a big Hollywood film whose title now eludes me.

Sunday was a bit better, at least in the sense that I saw some memorable stuff. In all, I managed to catch five movies, and I started out the day with The Yellow Sea, which is yet another kick-ass South Korean crime drama featuring men with knives and hatchets. This sucker sprawls but moves effortlessly over the course of 2 and a half hours. It starts simply--a Chinese taxi driver needs to get into Korea to track down his wife, and the only way he can get there is if he carries off a mob hit. The problem is that heís not the only guy thatís been contracted, so he ends up royally pissing off rival gangsters and the police. This might be one of the most ďquietĒ action films Iíve seen--itís very meditative and the lead actor finds a lot of depth in his character: rage, anguish, and regret. If youíre a fan of stuff like Oldboy and I Saw the Devil, definitely check this one out--it might be my favorite of the festival so far.

After that I saw Two Eyes Staring, but I could feel my own two eyes closing for much of it, not only because I was tired, but also because itís sort of a standard ghost/creepy kid flick. A family of three moves into the motherís old childhood home, and the daughter starts to see the ghost of a child. It ends up being the ghost of her aunt, whom her mother never told her about. The spirit seeks revenge for some traumatic stuff that happened during their childhood, so it hits all the expected beats, right down to a big twist that just kills the movie. I may review this in full, but itís honestly quite unremarkable.

The same canít be said for New Kids Turbo, a Dutch comedy thatís one of the funniest movies Iíve seen all year. There are movies that are irreverent, and then thereís this, which moves with the reckless abandon of a nitrous-fuelled tank whose driver is tripping on acid. The New Kids are five guys whose fashion betrays the fact they never left the 80s or 90s, and theyíre a bunch of losers who basically stand around drinking beer and smoking weed. When they all inexplicably get fired from their jobs, they decide that they just arenít going to pay for anything anymore, so they basically become anarchists and, eventually, heroes to the downtrodden populace. New Kids Turbo obliterates any semblance of good taste; letís just say one of the filmís quieter moments is punctuated by a gunshot to the head. Also, it breaks the indoor record for the use of the word ďcunt.Ē Very funny stuff, and the post-show Q&A revealed that thereís a sequel in the works.

The forth movie I saw was Penumbra, which is an Argentine flick that deals with a bitchy lawyerís encounter with some weird people in an apartment building on the day of a solar eclipse. It sounds kind of like House of the Devil, but itís a more dry, less atmospheric version of that one. Iíll have a full review at some point, I think. Itís not a terrible film, and the extremely amateur subtitles (which were rife with spelling and grammatical errors) didnít help matters.

Don Coscarelli (left) with Twitchfilm's Todd Brown

However, Penumbra was prefaced by the second biggest highlight of my experience so far, as Don Coscarelli and Doug Jones dropped by to preview his new film, John Dies at the End (which I can only assume culminates with the demise of John). I was right in the front row wearing a Phantasm shirt, and I really had to resist the urge to ask him about Phantasm V. Iím sure he grew tired of answering those questions sometime around 2005, so I just kept my mouth shut as he answered questions about John Dies.

The footage for the film was a five minute sequence where Doug Jonesís character introduces himself to Dave, not John (who apparently isnít the main hero--Iíve never read the book, so I donít know). Jones was kind of amiable and creepy all at once (basically what you expect from him) in the clip, but itís hard to glean much from the one scene other than it seems like he and Rob Mayes have been well-cast.

Following the clip was a ďteaser trailer,Ē which was a huge collection of footage, really. Iím still not 100% sure what the film is about, but I do know it stars Paul Giamatti and Clancy ďMotherfuckiníĒ Brown (Coscarelliís own term of endearment). It looks fun--some of it reminded me of Phantasm II, as it looks like our heroes will be on the run and battling against some weird stuff. No word yet on a release--Tim League hinted that itíll premiere here at the Drafthouse like Bubba Ho-Tep did, but Coscarelli insisted that heíd like to not have to self-distribute, so get out there and start talking about John Dies at the End!

Finally, I caught a screening of Juan of the Dead around midnight; Iíll be posting a full review of it very soon. In terms of horror flicks at the festival, itís among the better ones Iíve seen along with Livid. If you think itís just a Cuban Shaun of the Dead, prepare to be surprised.
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