Archive for the ‘2014 Fantasy FilmFest’ Category

extraterrestrial1There are about 30 minutes of cinematic gold in the new science fiction-horror flick Extraterrestrial, scenes good enough to meet the expectations raised by the smart, sleek trailer for the film and give rise to the hope that The Vicious Brothers may have hit on the elusive formula to provide the Alien on Earth mash-up that has eluded this genre to date. Unfortunately, Extraterrestrial runs for a too-long 106 minutes, meaning that the 30 minutes of genius are subsumed completely by a sub-standard storyline that renders the overall product unfortunately unpalatable. (more…)

R100Do you remember the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where it looked like Bugs was trapped, but he would pull out a can of paint and a brush, paint a door, and then escape through it? Hitoshi Matsumoto employs a similar device each time his movie, R100, is in danger of running into a dead end. Matsumoto simply changes the rules, not to mention the genre, and his madcap characters crash through the newly drawn door and veer off in another direction. For viewers willing to sit back and enjoy the ride without giving a whit about the destination, R100 is a blast of originality and a poke in the eye of the, at times, too staid Japanese film industry. (more…)

The-CanalDirector/screenwriter Ivan Kavanagh comes off as something of a dilettante in his new horror film, The Canal. Kavanagh dabbles in the subgenres of scary movies, never settling on a single theme or approach. Is this a psychodrama or a ghost story? Are there real demons behind the walls of the house or are those sounds just the voices inside a jealous husband’s head? Does that 100-year old archival film showing murders along the same canal indicate a spectral presence that now haunts a public bathroom in the area or is the laconic Irish police detective right in his assessment of the situation? We always think it’s the husband, he explains to the husband, because it’s always the husband – every time. (more…)

A-Hard-Day-1Ahead of October’s release of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, we have the Korean adult version known as Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da or A Hard Day. Alexander may have to deal with setbacks like gum in his hair and a trip to the dentist, but that hardly measures up to the grown-up problems our hero, Go Geon-soo (Seon-gyun Lee), faces.

Geon-soo must plan his mother’s funeral, deal with his own divorce and the custody of his daughter, and stay a step ahead of the internal affairs team investigating him and the other members of his police squad for alleged corruption.  But what proves to be the capper for the good detective is when he runs over a pedestrian late at night on a deserted stretch of road.

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White Bird4“I was 17 when my mother disappeared…”

There is a haunting beauty to the tag line of White Bird in a Blizzard, an ambiguity that echoes throughout the film. Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) loses her mother (Eva Green) just as the young girl is becoming a woman, but has Eve Connor walked away from her family or was she taken? The mystery of the mother’s departure, and the effects of her absence for better or worse on Kat and, to a lesser degree, on husband and father Brock (Christopher Meloni), form the center of the film. Unfortunately, the narrative is burdened with too much extraneous material that distracts and detracts from the beautiful, wondrous, excruiating, painful, scarring and fascinating mother-daughter relationship that should be the sole focus.

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Open WindowsIf you try very hard, you can make a case for Open Windows to be a cyber-inspired reimagining of Rear Window. In the 21st century, laptops, smart phones, and surveillance cameras are to us what a telephoto lens and an apartment window were to Americans in the 1950’s: a means to look into the living rooms and bedrooms of our neighbors. That would make Elijah Wood this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, and Wood does carry some of the same nebbish Everyman qualities, though his characters, to date, have not shown the same flinty internal strength. Where this imagined connection between movies falters is with Sasha Grey as a stand-in for Grace Kelly, or Nacho Vigalando for Alfred Hitchcock. Still, Rear Window was a gimmick movie as is Open Windows. The difference is that in Hitchcock’s masterpiece, the gimmick is used to introduce the action; in Vigalando’s rather ordinary effort, the gimmick overwhelms the action.

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It FollowsThe brilliant stand-up comedian Richard Pryor had a routine about venereal disease in which he expressed his concern that drug-resistant STDs were becoming so worrisome that soon, a man would begin the act, and his junk would immediately explode. Until the day Brother Richard’s prophecy comes true, we have David Robert Mitchell’s new horror film, It Follows, which centers around a particularly virulent form of VD. To wit, have sex just one time – particularly if you are a teenage female – and an evil spirit, that may or not take the shape of someone you know, will track you down and bend you like a pretzel until you snap, penicillin or industrial-strength Trojans notwithstanding. The film works as social satire and horror flick until it doesn’t, which is to say that it never pushes past its initial premise to develop into a story greater than its log line.

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