It has been nearly a week since the end of the 2013 Fantasia Festival, which means I’m extremely behind on closing out my review roundup of this year’s festival. I have no defense other than the fact that I’ve been kicking back this summer, enjoying Fantasia and other summery pursuits at my leisure… I’m sure many of you can sympathize.
BLACKOUT I must have blacked out myself in neglecting to include this in my last round of reviews, but with no good reason, since the film is excellent. Blending the gangster intrigue of Snatch with some Hangover-esque moments, this Dutch thriller will give you a perfect 95 minutes of intrigue and amusement. RIYL: Snatch (really, I cannot overstate this enough), dealing hard drugs
REWIND THIS! There’s a duality in this documentary that, while being enjoyable for me overall, left me of a divided mind. On one hand, as someone who absolutely cannot relate to people fetishizing a medium with few tangible benefits largely for kitsch/retro value alone (cassettes, anyone?), most of that aspect of the film left me unmoved. On the other, as a document of the vast amount of creative human output that we are in the process of losing, I found this film to be incredibly thought provoking. That whole swathes of cultural production are not being given the “longevity” of conversion to digital, and that much of what has been made “straight to VHS” has already been lost, is a legitimate concern, and it’s in touching on these ideas that the film becomes most interesting. RIYL: collecting VHS tapes, Side By Side, compulsively cataloging or worrying about your archives/collections/backups
WILLOW CREEK I’ve been wanting to see a Bobcat Goldthwait oeuvre for some time, and after seeing this, I’m looking forward to seeing the others. There is something very natural and understated about this found footage film, and I liked it very much, and was satisfied by it, despite it not being very conclusive at all. I think this is mostly due to the quality of the acting, and to the fact that the film can be discussed and debated, since its open-endedness lends itself well to individual interpretation. RIYL: cryptozoology, people with poor planning skills getting their comeuppance
BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN Having Bloodshot Bill introduce this film with some sad, twangy songs couldn’t have been a more perfect segue into this heartbreaker. Beautifully shot, and crafted to cut deep, there was barely a dry eye in the house once the credits roll. There’s a lot to dig into here that I won’t do justice with words, but if you need a cathartic cry, this is the film for you. RIYL: bluegrass, tattoos, seizing the fleeting moments of joy life offers, and raging, raging against the dying of the light
PLUS ONE The high school/college party genre of films is one I’m all too familiar with, so I was very pleased with this latest addition to the roster, which manages to completely embody everything you’d expect, while simultaneously being something completely different. This film IS Can’t Hardly Wait (right down to the red headed misfit girl), if that film had turned into violent headfuck about choice and consequence and time travel. Yes, time travel. RIYL: Can’t Hardly Wait, and/or have ever pondered what you’d do if you met yourself
DISCOPATH He hears disco. He kills. An enchanting premise, which flounders a bit in execution, but is nonetheless an enjoyable romp. The New York scenes are a little cringeworthy due to questionable Noo Yawk accents, but the Montreal stuff is much more viable, and local viewers will enjoy location spotting. RIYL: Kiss’ “I Was Made For Loving You”, living in Montréal
HK/FORBIDDEN HERO This is definitely a party movie, and I was not in a particularly party mood when I saw it, so I was not smitten with this tale of an unlikely superhero who defeats evil with his codpiece and the power of perversion. Lots of women’s panties, and the flexing of golden muscles move this story along, and while it has amusing moments, this is mostly a one note joke. RIYL: half naked men, those Borat-style bathing suits, the word panties as pronounced in Japanese
YOU’RE NEXT One of the strongest, most visceral films I’ve seen this year, this home invasion horror explodes from scene to scene while never letting up. With a strong female lead who fights back and plans ahead, instead of merely stumbling toward survival, this is the film that horror fans have been waiting for. Also of note is the creepy cute animation Invocation, the new Robert Morgan (Bobby Yeah) short that screened with the film. RIYL: survivalism (on the most basic level), survival horror, bickering with your family
TALES FROM THE DARK A horror anthology from Hong Kong, this film brings together three “ghost stories”. The first is circular and somewhat confusing, the second has touches of humor, and the last will have you never looking at grannies in cheap sandals the same way again. Not as strong as some of the other anthologies that screened this year, but there are some creepy moments that Asian horror fans will enjoy. RIYL: revenge, voodoo
CHEAP THRILLS I loved this film, but man, it left a small, dark knot deep in my gut. A wrenching, unrelenting parable of class war, this movie makes you question what you would do for money, and how deep depravity and need will go. I loved seeing David Koechner, better known as Todd Packer, and was delighted by Ethan Embry (star of such classic teen flicks as Empire Records and the aforementioned Can’t Hardly Wait) all grown up, but with the same kinetic quality he brought as a teen. RIYL: making stupid/gross bets, or have ever set your own price for any depraved or disgusting act
THE WORLD’S END Passionate fans of Edgar, Simon and Nick will most likely adore this film, but while I greatly enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I found myself wishing that this film was something other than it is. There’s a compelling character-driving initial narrative that grounds the film, but it veers into scifi shortly thereafter, to the amusement and delight of many, I’m sure, but not me, particularly. That said, this is still a great film, with all your favorite English actors in the role of unlikely action heroes, and a solid entry in an already storied body of work. RIYL: the three I mentioned above to the degree that their first names are enough, middle aged Englishmen in elaborately choreographed fight sequences, Sisters of Mercy
That brings this year’s total to a relatively disappointing 27 films of the 40 I had aimed to watch (28, if you include the 40 minutes of I Am Divine I managed to catch before having to attend to an emergency), but I’m not complaining. I caught most of what I wanted to see, and now I have a small list of things to catch up on until Fantasia starts again next year!
Click here if you missed Part I!