September 30, 2011


The storm clouds a-gather.
Fuck yes. After my two film day yesterday, today was packed with awesomeness. PACKED. I got to one of my most anticipated films at the Fest: Nacho Vigalondo's Extraterrestrial! HUZZAH! I have spent the entire day watching movies. I am exhausted, a little sickly, sore and I feel fuckin' FANTASTIC. Let's kick this shit off. 

The first film of my packed day was the night-club set French thriller Sleepless Night. It's a tight film, chronicling one corrupt cop's fight to rescue his son from drug dealers he stole from. Things are kept taut throughout, as the corrupt cop has to deal with the drug dealer and his crew, the buyer, his equally corrupt partner, an Internal Affairs investigator and one honest cop. They all collide in a massive and packed nightclub over the course of one night. It's an economical thriller that sets up a goal for the protagonist and then goes about placing obstructions and complications in front of him - and keeps on throwing them at him. It manages to make you feel some sympathy towards this corrupt jerk of a cop - mainly due to the unbelievable amount of violence and pain he has to go through to get his son back.

Next up was an interesting Korean take on individuals with superpowers, Haunters. It's a much smaller film than I initially thought it would be, focusing on two individuals with extra-normal abilities who are as opposite as is possible. the one-legged Cho-In has had a brutal childhood, moreso after his parents discover his freakish ability to control anyone he can see. His father tries to kill him but instead ends up dead himself and Cho-In on his own. 20 years later, he's alone and living from hotel to hotel and taking money from loan offices to live. Kyu-Nam works at a scrap-metal yard with his two best friends, Bubba from Ghana and Al from Turkey. After miraculously surviving being hit by a truck, he's fired from his job but gains employment at a loan office. And that's when Cho-In and Kyu-Nam come into conflict; Kyu-Nam is the only person that Cho-In cannot control. This is the set up for the rest of the film as Kyu-Nam takes it upon himself to stop Cho-In and their conflict escalates further and further with Kyu-Nam's amazing ability to heal and Cho-In's ruthless control of people. It works, for the most part, although the tone veers wildly from serious & creepy to cheesy and humorous.

After Haunters, and Day Six of the Fest, I was really feeling the fatigue. I felt like I'd hit a wall - my brain was sludgey and sparking off in random directions, my limbs felt heavy and I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. But I've got three films to go! Also, it rained briefly. I love the smell of rain on hot concrete. I loaded up on caffeine and sugar and headed into my next screening.

Director Nacho Vigalondo answers questions
from Ain't it Cool News honcho (and Fantastic
Fest co-founder) Harry Knowles
Finally. This is one of the films I have been hanging out for all Fest and could not be happier I was getting into: Nacho Vigalondo's Extraterrestrial. This is the follow-up film to his debut Timecrimes, which blew me away a little bit when I caught it at the NZIFF a couple of years ago. But Extraterrestrial is an entirely different film to that, while still feeling like a Nacho Vigalondo film. Where Timecrimes was very serious and complex, Extraterrestrial is a rom-com... that just happens to unfold while a giant UFO hovers over Madrid. It pretty much all takes place in and around one apartment as Julio and Julia wake-up after a particularly drunken one-night stand together. They've been passed out for the entire day and soon notice something's wrong: there's no-one around anywhere and all cellphone and TV reception is cut off. Oh hey, that's why - there's a ruddy great flying saucer hanging out over downtown! Things become even more complicated for Julio and Julia when Angel, Julia's neighbour who carries an obsessive torch for her, and Carlos, Julia's boyfriend, show up. There are lies and fast-talking in an effort to cover things up and they spiral out of control, just like in a typical rom-com. The film is carried largely by it's charm, both from director Vigalondo and the two leads: Michelle Jenner as Julia and Julian Villagran as Julio (he also took out Best Actor at the Fantastic Fest Awards). Extraterrestrial is a very different film to Timecrimes but still not what you'd expect. I'm looking forward to seeing it again and what Vigalondo brings out next.

Actor, producer & Elijah Wood ass-kicker Dominic
Monaghan chats to's Drew McWeeny
Careening straight from the Q&A with Nacho and Knowles I headed straight into the Dominic Monaghan starring (and produced) post-apocalyptic film The Day. Another film set almost entirely in one location, The Day finds five survivors of the unnamed apocalypse holed up in an abandoned farmhouse. However, all is not as it seems and they're soon under attack by bloodthirsty (quite literally) cannibals. It's a very low budget affair, and it unfortunately shows in some pretty terrible digital blood FX. I kind of hope this type of thing is in an "unfinished" stage and with the film having been recently picked up for distribution by WWE (yes, the wrestling guys) they can go back and touch this stuff up. The Day is ok, everyone involved obviously believing in the project in one way or another though the script could have perhaps been tighter, with some pretty obvious attempts at increasing the tension standing out. Although I appreciated that we are all but dropped into this post-apocalyptic landscape with no explanation given as to the mass-extinction event that led us here; for these types of films, I don't believe the reason behind the existing world is necessary or all that important. They're about survival and what people are ultimately willing to do to survive. The ass-kicking Ashley Bell is the odd-one-out in this otherwise tight group, carrying around a history she'd rather not reveal or revisit. It's a noble effort, especially with such a low budget and for being shot in 13 days, but it needed a little more tightening and cleaning up to really hit home.

After The Day I'm feeling a little post-apocalyptic myself. I'm definitely getting sick. I can feel it - exhaustion, throat closing up... but dammit! I'm not going to let a little thing like that stop me! No, I've still got the midnight show of Zombie Ass to go! Noboru Iguchi's Zombie Ass is exactly the type of film I would only expect to find at Fantastic Fest. This is a bizarre horror sci-fi comedy fetish film about five young people coming across a village infested with zombie-alien-parasite-butt-worms. Heroine Megumi lost her younger sister Ai when she committed suicide after being bullied at school; since then Megumi has studied karate continuously and is still getting over her guilt. Heading off on a camping trip with a bizarre collection of friends in an effort to out-run her guilt, they stumble upon the weirdest zombie infestation ever filmed. Iguchi indulges his obvious love for the female bottom (as he put it: "I love ass") and poop and fart jokes. This is a schlock Japanese exploitation flick, with Iguchi championing his own fetishes and wicked sense of humour, carried through with a crazy digital score and outrageous over-the-top, well, everything. I have to say, I enjoyed Zombie Ass, just for the fact that it is so out there and very much for a particular audience. A singular film.

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