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Fantasia Film Fest: Part VII

Fantasia is approaching its end, so is my capacity of watching many films in a day. This piece contains a few capsule reviews, as usual, as well as a few suggestions for the few remaining days.

Creep (Christopher Smith, USA, 2004)

Christopher Smith’s first film is definitely creepy. A nightmare for some, a thrill ride for others. This film is literally like watching a 2-hour long version of your worst nightmare and is definitely not a film made for all. Indeed, the rating pattern of this film is quite interesting on the BBC website. The 6000 votes are at the two extremes: about 50% of the votes cast were 1/5 and almost 50% were 5/5, very few votes are in between. It’s another of those hate it or like it film—and for me it worked, very much so. I dug it although it’s probably not the type of films I’d want to see more than once.

The film is about a young woman who inadvertently finds herself in a subway station after it closed. As if the idea of being locked alone in a subway station for the night wasn’t terrifying enough, a strange man seems to be chasing her. Panic! The plot of the film doesn’t really make sense (who cares?) but the plot of your ‘worst nightmare’ probably doesn’t either. Creep is probably not the best horror film out there either but this has to be one of the scariest films I’ve seen. The way the editing of the film is done is very winning at freaking out people—throughout the films we could hear the audience gasping with fear, and it wasn’t only one or two people either (thank God I had my eyes closed at several of those occasions). Other than its raw scariness, the film’s visuals and the freak’s make-up work very well to create a very obscure, claustrophobic and macabre ambiance throughout the film. Definitely a must see for the horror movies aficionados out there.

(editor’s note: For a complete other view – check out this review.)

The Eye 2 (Pang Brothers, Thailand, 2004)

As I’ve said in a previous review, the Asian horror genre has used an ad-nauseam in the past few years. There are still good horror films produced, but most of the horror films use the same elements and the same patterns over and over again. Regrettably, The Eye 2 is one of those films. As a whole, the film works, however, it seems rather déjà vu; how many ‘I See Dead People’ Asian films have you since the release of The Sixth Sense? Compared to the previous film by the Pang brothers, The Tesseract, or compared to other recent Thai horror films like The Omen by Thammarak Kamuttmanoch, which were both free of any strings linking them to a particular subgenre’s formula, The Eye 2 seems rather weak. Other than a few interesting scenes, like for instance when a few bodies fall from the sky as the main character is waiting for the bus or her double (and hilarious) suicide attempts from the roof of a hospital near the end of the film, The Eye 2 is very mainstream and common. While the form could have been refined, thematically the film successfully touches upon several themes related to parenting and maternity and it provides a new twist on reincarnation in Buddhism.

Ghost House (Kim Sang-Jin, Korea, 2004)

Asia produces several fantastic comedies each year and most of them make their way to Fantasia. To’s Wu Yen, Doppelganger or the film Fantasia presented at the festival last year prove that the genre is pretty much alive. Ghost House, directed by Kim Sang-Jin (Attack of the Gas Station, Jail Breakers), is the latest film of that trend. The film relates the unfortunate misadventures of Pil-gi who happens to buy a fine but haunted house; mayhem from then on! Poltergeist meets The Money Pit. Yes, another of those ‘I See Dead People’ films, but this one works very well and it’s very intelligent. The film works better in the first half than in the second half, which is more dramatic, but overall it’s a very enjoyable and very funny. Doppelganger (Fantasia 2004) is definitely a nice companion film to this one and is definitely worth seeing too, although Ghost House is a comedy, it includes a strong social comment as in Kim Sang-Jin’s previous films.

Three…Extremes (HK/Korea/Japan, 2004)

I’ve always been a big fan of short horror films compilations. I remember when I was young, if my parents went out for the night, I rented the various Tales From The Crypt on VHS. While those films are fun to watch (I’m looking forward to seeing the recently released DVD boxset of the first season), the segments aren’t usually visually or thematically complex or groundbreaking. Unfortunately, the three segments in Three… Extremes are not as good as I expected and leave much to be desired. I was looking forward to seeing Three… Extremes when I heard it was going to be released at Fantasia this year and I was hoping that the films would be of higher standards that those of Tales From The Crypt which are fine, but which are just a quick form of entertainment. So is Three… Extremes. At least two of the three stories are interesting, especially Fruit Chan’s segment called “dumplings”, but they lack substance. The segments work well but they could have and should have been developed further. Three… Extremes is still a worthy watch and it’s quite interesting to see films that are from different repertoire than what you’d expect to see from the three directors involved in the project.

* * *

July 22nd
On July 22nd at 9:45 PM, Lloyd Kaufman, beloved American independent filmmaker and father of Troma, will hold a master class on the ins and outs of indie filmmaking, entitled “How to Make Your Own Damn Movie”. This evening of edgy education will conclude with a screening of the film that started it all, The Toxic Avenger!

July 23rd
On July 23rd at 2:45 PM, the anime television series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig will be presented in a North American premiere. For this event, Fantasia welcomes Manga Entertainment label representative, vocal talent and anime enthusiast Keith Burgess to introduce this special GITS:SAC package!

The same afternoon, at 5:15 PM, the North American premiere of the Korean film Spin Kick, a teen martial-arts drama with comic touches and amazing taekwondo sequences, will be hosted by director Sang-Kuk Nam.

In the evening, at 11:55 PM, well see the World premiere of Shadow: Dead Riot, legendary Hong Kong cinematographer Derek Wan’s directorial debut. Producer Carl Morano and the screenwriter Michael Gingold will be on hand to unveil this insane ode to early ‘80s zombie and women’s prison films.

July 24th
For the first time in Fantasia’s history, a Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to an international genre-cinema craftsman. The first laureate is Ray Harryhausen. On July 24th at noon, Mr. Harryhausen will hold forth on his career and present a few of his rare early works, followed by a screening of Jason and the Argonauts in a new 35mm print, and concluded by a Q&A period. Three hours with the stop-motion master, whose special effects inspired the likes of James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

July 25th
Celebrate Bruce Lee’s 65th birthday with his legendary co-star Nora Miao, as she hosts a special screening of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) on July 25th at 5:00 PM. One of the leading actresses and beauties of the ‘70s will grace Fantasia with a rare appearance. Miao holds the distinction of the only actress ever to appear in Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Shaw Bros films over her vibrant career.

Finally, on July 25th at 5:00 PM, Singapore director Tzang Merwyn Tong will present the Canadian premiere of A Wicked Tale, winner of the Gold Remi Award at the WorldFest of the Houston International Film Festival.

Fantasia Film Festival: Part VI
Fantasia Film Festival: Part V
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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