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Fantasia Film Fest: Part IV

There are 4 newly added films to the festival, which are Reeker, Way of the Dragon, Way of the Director and Fist of Fury (also known as The Chinese Connection). Check them out! After blowing audiences away at South By Southwest and The Tribeca Film festival, the critically acclaimed American horror film Reeker will be getting its Canadian Premiere on the 25th of July at 19:40 in the Hall Theatre, Way of the Director Hosted by director Tomoko Matsunashi on the 19th of July at 21:55 in the J.A. De Sève Theatre, Way of the Dragon on the 23rd of July at 12:30pm in the J.A. De Sève Theatre, and Fist of Fury, HOSTED BY BRUCE LEE’S CO-STAR NORA MIAO, on the 25th of July at 17:20 in the Hall Theatre. This will be a video projection of a restored master. Also, there will be an additional screening of the acclaimed Thai horror blockbuster, Shutter, on the 15th of July at 23:55 in the J.A. De Sève Theatre. Good chills for a hot summer night!

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Firecraker (Steve Balderson, USA, 2005)

Wamego, Kansas. The current population is 3708. Years ago, a series of obscure events led to the discovery of a body in a backyard while the small town is visited by a strange sideshow. Filmed on location in Wamego, Firecracker opens with the discovery of a body and then traces all the events that led to the murder. “This story is a part of my history,” says Steve Balderson. “I can’t believe something as astonishing happened three blocks from my childhood home.” Balderson who directed his first feature a film on a series of school shootings at the age of 22 decided to bring this story to the big screen.

Annually in the spring, huge portions of the Kansas prairie are burned to make way for new growth. An area the size of Los Angeles is set ablaze, delivering one of the most gorgeous and apocalyptic landscapes on earth. The burning of the prairies became the ideal images for the opening credits of “Firecracker” and properly set the tone for the rest of the film. This film is a tragic horror film without any horror per se. The film relies solely on its sinister ambiance and distinctive characters to create a very unique tone and it works very well. The characters are strange and freaky, yet we can recognize ourselves in the film. “There is no time associated with ‘Firecracker’,” says Balderson. “Even though the actual events occurred more than half a century ago, it is a classic story that transcends a time period. The hiding and denial of abuse and imprisonment has been with us since the beginning of time … and will remain with us until we confront it.” This is what is so chilling about the film; those themes are universal and we can recognize ourselves in the film even though it may seem very remote on the surface.

Zee Oui (Nida Sudasna & Buranee Rachjaibun, Thailand, 2005)

Whether it’s for its dark humour or its over the top narrative and action sequences, Thai cinema is often very peculiar. Very similar to the excellent The Macabre Case of Prompiram, Zee Oui relates the story of a young immigrate who kills several children in Thailand. While this may sound like a simple story, the rendition of the plot on the screen is well achieved and is rather complex; the film is designed in such a way that we are trapped to like the killer and we are forced to sympathize with him. Many Thai directors use narratives techniques similar to those of Hitchcock, especially Ratanaruang; the main character is forced in a series of situations which he has no control over as he seems to be going directly to the bottom sucked by a strong whirlpool. The spectator doesn’t escape it in this film and is brought down along with the main character. The anti-hero had a very difficult life, no one seems to like him and he needs money badly to return to China. Once all the spectators are on his side, the murdering spree arrives in the last portion of the film. This anti-hero is disturbing, shocking and kills children—he is a cold blooded killer—yet we like him. This strange and awkward-feeling pic is very well exploited and makes you wonder why you still like the killer after what he’s done. A movie that makes you think(!) as opposed to one-dimensional American thrillers.

One Missed Call 2 (Renpei Tsukamoto, Japan, 2005)

Written by Minako Daira, co-author of the original, One Missed Call 2 follows the story of Kyoko and her boyfriend, a police detective and a reporter who investigate a new series of phone calls which announce the death of people who receive them. They all hope to solve the mysterious case before they die too; many of them have received one of those infamous phone calls. Film genres are like recipes you can use over and over again. The Asian horror genre revolving around technology was overexploited in the past few years according to many. While watching One Missed Call 2, I couldn’t help but see elements of many other films of the genre; a phantom killer that wants his body to be discovered (Dark Water, The Ring), a detective investigating events that led to the murder of that phantom child and saturated black and white flashback (The Eye, strange water stains (Dark Water) etc. Unfortunately, parameters of the film seem to have been limited by those of the overexploited genre. This movie seems like a collage of various elements taken from other films and doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. One Missed Call 2 works though—more than the first one. It provides a cheap thrill for about 90 minutes, nothing less, nothing more. This is Renpei Tsukamoto’s first feature film.

Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (Takashi Shimizu, Japan, 2003)

The events of the first Ju-on are already urban legend when this second movie begins. Horror actress Kyoko Harase is starring in a television show based on the Ju-on haunting when she’s asked to be a guest on a television show being shot at the house itself. What a mistake! Ju-On’s story isn’t breaking any new ground. However the remarkable non-chronological narrative structure of the first Ju-On is still used for this sequel—it’s one of the strength of the film. Takashi Shimizu who directed several low budget films before directing the Ju-On series is certainly a director to watch for in the next few years. In my introductory piece I talked about how it was better to see movies in a bigger room with 700 people. It usually makes movies more fun to watch. Ju-On is perhaps the exception that proves the rule. Some of the horror sequences were a bit over the top and people laughed. Arrrgh. I’m sure those people would have freaked out had they been watching the film alone in a dark basement. I would have(!) and even in this big theater the very textile horror of the film scared the hell out of me—unfortunately, I was too shy to ask my neighbor to hold my hand!

Purple Glow (SV Bell, Quebec, 2004)

Fantasia has its toll of trashy films, especially Canadian ones, but trashy doesn’t necessarily equate to awful. Who doesn’t like the Harry Knuckles films ( Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace, Harry Knuckles and the Treasure of the Aztec Mummy, …) ? They are not extraordinary films, they are made with an extremely low budget and it shows, they have a weak plot and they’re full of non-sense situations, yet we dig them. This is the spirit in which Purple Glow was made. Purple Glow relates a rather strange astronomical event; several meteorites fall on earth and when women touch them they become incredibly horny and hungry at the same time, which can lead to regrettable events as you can imagine! Bell’s films always make you appreciate the fact you’re not dating any girl right now; in all his films girlfriends are sassy, they keep complaining about their ‘strange girly feelings’, they are bitchy and they will eat you (in a bad way that is). Clearly inspired by invasion films from the fifties and horror films from the eighties and their unique dialogs, Purple Glow is definitely worth watching. This film will probably never get released in theaters, but the DVD is already on sale on the website. The investment is worth it and you’ll encourage an often neglected side of Quebec cinema.

Fantasia Film Festival: Part III
Fantasia Film Festival: Part II
Fantasia Film Festival: Guests
Fantasia Film Festival: Intro

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