The Human Race
With expectations running high for this film, I was pretty satisfied. To say this film is brutal is an understatement. While it is violent and gory at times, it is the crushing reality of how easily humans will turn on each other in the right circumstances that brings the unflinching horror to this film. Pushing boundaries with a cast that includes disabled characters (… and the drummer from Cinderella?), the film ends on an unexpected note, one that in most films would seem like a cheap cop-out, but that somehow manages to work here.
Any of my PA friends that may happen to read this will probably be familiar with the legend of Toad Road, and the 7 gates of hell it supposedly contains. Originally hailing from York, PA, the filmmaker blends his background in documentary films into this sort-of horror flick in a unexpected way. Using a group of real-life non-actor friends as his cast, the lines between fantasy and reality blur onscreen in many different ways in this beautifully shot, inconclusive film.
Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel
The worst thing about films like this one is that the non sold-out screenings are populated by mostly men sitting alone. A documentary about the brilliant (and quite possibly insane) French porn actor/director/producer HPG, this is a exquisite corpse culled from a decade of behind the scenes footage. Worthwhile mostly for the unedited look into the otherwise highly stylized and glamorized world of pornography, this film has many funny moments. During the Q&A, when asked about a scene in which HPG convinces a young man to “switch sides” on a gay-for-pay shoot, I particularly appreciated his response. “You might think it’s funny here,” he said, “but imagine if it was your sister, or your daughter. You wouldn’t be laughing then.” That level of candor is unexpected from people in the porn world, where trauma, substance abuse, and the real cost of manipulating and being manipulated are glossed over routinely, but some of that is very visible in this film, and might even teach pornhounds a thing or two.
Small Gauge Trauma
I always look forward to this short film program each year. While nothing particularly knocked my socks off this year, I was extremely partial to Bite Horse, more of a twisted music video than actual short film. Featuring music by the director’s brother under the name Mississippi Witch, this was a more of a musical discovery than a filmic one, but I was pleased nonetheless. That said, all the other short were quite good as well, but nothing seized me quite the way Snip (2008) or Animal Control (2011) did.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything
Three films in one, this confusing and seemingly endless Simon Pegg offering is one pancake short of a stack, just like its main protagonist. Starting off as a rumination on paranoia and mental illness, the film soon segues into a comedy of errors, only to morph into a horror film (with a brief interlude of incredibly well done stop motion animation about small woodland creatures… no, really) before wrapping on a campy upbeat note. Frankly, I found the first part of the film to be exhausting and not particularly funny, with the film hitting its stride towards the middle, and then veering off in all directions by the end. Unfortunately, this film didn’t do it for me at all, but Pegg is valiant throughout.
What do you do if the robot you’ve been working on for months is suddenly destroyed, right before the big competition? If you answered, put an old man in a robot suit and watch hilarity ensue, then this film is for you! A light comedy about just that, this film is sweet, with many clever and amusing moments, but it easily overstays its welcome by at least 30 minutes. I could also have done without the obnoxious robot-obsessed ingenue, whose irritating presence distracted from the otherwise funny grandpa-in-a-robot-suit hijinks, but this lightweight crowd pleaser is inoffensive enough to suit most.
When you’ll hear people talking about this being the role that Matthew McConaughey was born to play, you should know that they’re probably right. Taking the easy Texan charm he’s famous for, and adding a layer of genteel menace to it, McConaughey dominates the screen throughout the film, exploding with violence during the climax, but somehow never losing his charisma. The rest of the cast is note perfect as well, and while the film is bleaker than bleak (and honestly made me appreciate my easy and relatively mundane life), it is riveting.
White: Melody of the Curse
A Korean pop group records a cursed song. Everybody dies. Did I spoil the film for you? Doubtful. By now, we’re all too familiar with the formula. You know it: jump scares, evil ghosts with long hair hanging in front of their faces and the sudden inability to walk upright during pivotal scenes, the blurring of fantasy and reality, an emphasis on body horror… and so on, and so forth. Nonetheless, I did enjoy this film, but it can’t be taken too seriously. KPop fans will enjoy the musical numbers, and there are couple of extremely effective scenes (one in particular, filmed in a rehearsal room full of mirrors, is beautiful as well as creepy), but overall, this is a pretty paint-by-numbers film with a sometimes confusing storyline.
A coke-snortin’, gang-bangin’ thriller from Iceland, there’s not much to take away from this film, but the ride itself is worth the price of admission. Entry into the criminal underworld is a small pebble at the top of the slipperiest of slopes, and the journey to the bottom is bumpy, confusing and fraught with danger for the likeable main protagonist. When the film surprises, it shatters expectations, but otherwise this is a relatively straightforward cautionary tale brought to life by solid, believable performances.
Take. the. motherfucking. shot. Seriously. While I wish absolutely no ill on any of you, please, if you ever find yourself or your family being terrorized by violent, deranged intruders, and you have a loaded gun in your hand and a nice clean shot, please do me the favor and pull the trigger. Then pull it again. When will filmmakers learn that a small sacrifice in tension leads to huge gains in empathy? If you want me to want your characters to live, make me at least believe that they want it too, and that they’re really fighting for it. That said, Replicas is incredibly shot, incredibly acted, and an astounding debut film. We’ve tread this territory many times before, but there are some delicious moments of discomfort and the interplay between the two families is extremely well done, so there’s enough that’s new here to keep these jaded eyes interested.
Missed some of my other Fantasia 2012 reviews?
Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 5
V/H/S, Miami Connection, The Mechanical Bride, Roller Town.
Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 4
Play Dead, Inbred.
Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 3
Funeral Kings, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Alter Egos, Jackpot, Black Pond, Resolution, As Luck Would Have It, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, A Night of Nightmares.
Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 2
Lloyd the Conqueror, My Amityville Horror.
Fantasia 2012: Review Roundup 1
The Tall Man, The Ambassador, Juan of the Dead.