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Fantasia Film Fest: Part V

Cottages. I don’t really see the point in those. They are just some sort of hazardous locations ready to get you killed. You can get visited by a serial killer and by all sort of psychos (The Dark Hours, Haute Tension , Funny Games, …), you can be inflicted by some strange diseases until then unknown to mankind (Cabin Fever, Dreamcatcher, …), you can lose your mind (The Shinning, Make a Wish) and you can even be eaten by zombies (Purple Glow, …).

Cottages are just plain wrong … and who would like to stay in a place where there is no cell phone coverage anyways. Ever since Evil Dead 2 and many other classics, cottages, summer camps and summer houses are at the center of many horror films – even in foreign films too (The Isle, Hallucinations, …). Is it just a coincidence or is there some sort of evil forces lurking in a cottage near you ? Incidentally, the editor of Ioncinema (Eric Lavallée) seriously injured himself three days ago … where? … at his cottage, in a mysterious accident involving a rock! Normal rocks don’t hurt people. Was the rock a meteorite from outer space? Will he turn into a zombie or in a man-eating monster? So far he’s OK … so far. Beware.

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Hallucination (Takeshi Miyasaka, Japan, 2004)

A Yakuza sends his girlfriend along with a few of his employees to a cottage(!) deep in the forest for a few days. While the real motives of this trip remain unclear throughout the film, it’s apparently to cure his girlfriend’s drug addiction the reason he sends them there. Or … is it? As you read the word ‘cottage’, a bell probably went off in your head; indeed things go bad, very bad. The film isn’t a complete failure, but it lacks the necessities of an interesting storyline, good acting and some suspense. What’s interesting about this film is that is draws upon fears that all of us humans have. We’re all paranoid to some extent and so are the characters in the film. Some fear the boss sent them there to have them killed, a crazy old man is fearful about ghosts haunting the cottage as he buried several body near the cottage at his last visit there. Another Yakuza thinks his boss wanted to keep him away of an important mission. Those fears create the sparkles in the film and soon enough people will start dying. The film’s glimmer of hope is that it contains an interesting reflection about our own irrational paranoid fears and how they sometimes rule of lives. For another cottage-related massacre at Fantasia 2005, read my review of Purple Glow .

Godzilla : Final War (Ryuhei Kitamura, Japan, 2005)

This film was Godzilla’s 50th anniversary commemoration production. I’ve never seen any Godzilla movies before except for the American remake, and this was a very rough introduction to the magnificent world of Godzilla. You’ve probably heard of the 30-second long remakes of movies like Titanic and Jaws made with bunnies. At times Final War just seemed like one of those condensed movies. Hence, in this latest installment of the series, Godzilla gets to fight most of the monsters of the previous Godzilla films (King Ghidorah, Gigan, etc.) and the film is filled with ingredients of the previous 27 films. 50 years of history down to two hours! Basically, as if it made any sense, aliens invade the earth, releases all the monsters of the previous films—which they can control telepathically (but they can’t control Godzilla for some obscure reasons)—and the only solution to save the planet is to awaken Godzilla who’s being held captive somewhere in the South Pole. One of the funniest things in the film is that instead of trying to hide the many plot holes, they are fully acknowledged and the most ridicule explanation are provided to elucidate them. So it all makes sense, sort of. The film is fun to watch, however, after a while its smish-smash of action just become tiresome.

Love Battlefield (Cheang Pou-soi, Hong Kong, 2004)

Whether it’s Tokyo Drifter in the 1960s of the first Ju-On films made on video, low-budget Asian films have often surprised their audiences in the past. Love Battlefield, which won several awards, was produced by the “Brilliant Idea Group”, an independent company specializing in low-profile crime flicks. Watching the film is a rather weird experience as it doesn’t follow any conventions of the genre; it’s far from the usual Hong Kong action film conventions and you never know what to expect. Love Battlefield tells the story of Ching, a young woman who will go at great lengths to find her boyfriend who was kidnapped by outlaws. Cheang Pou-soi who influenced Asia’s new horror wave and who worked with Ringo Lam is perhaps one of the most innovative independent filmmaker in Hong Kong. The film is not flawless, but despite his low budget the film has several admirable action sequences.

Love Battlefield will play again at Fantasia on July 18th and July 20th.

Breaking News (Johnnie To, Hong Kong, 2004)

On a similar note, Breaking News is yet another police thriller. When an ambulatory TV news unit live broadcasts the embarrassing defeat of a police battalion, the credibility of the police force drops dramatically. In order to beat the media at its own game and to help resolve a new hostage situation, inspector Rebecca decides to turn the stakeout into a breaking news show. As much as Love Battlefield didn’t respect conventions of the genre, Breaking News on the other end of the spectrum is a very typical genre film. Hong Kong thrillers have exceeded by far most of North America’s thrillers; Internal Affairs, PTU and Breaking News are good examples. Starting with its 10-minute complex long-take at the beginning of the film, Breaking News quickly stands up above most thrillers. Johnnie to has mastered very well the art of directing action films (PTU, The Mission, …) and has now become one of the most prolific commercial director in Hong Kong. An interesting contrast with Cheang Pou-soi.

Breaking News will play again at Fantasia on July 18th.

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

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