Posts Tagged 2016 Fantasia Film Festival

Fantasia Film Review: As The Gods Will

(Source: FUNimation)

(Source: FUNimation)

Here’s the other Takashi Miike movie on the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival that was not Terraformers.

As The Gods Will actually came out in 2014. It does have somewhat of a premise, Gods or aliens or illuminati – or just your favorite conspiracy villain – seem to holding the world hostage by making young high school kids around the world play sadistic yet infantile games in which there can be only one winner. It’s a death-match style carnage bringing to memory the classic Battle Royale mixed with Alice in Wonderland… or perhaps Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory should be more fitting. The point is that every game looks innocent and childlike but ends up in gore, blood and guts all around. There’s a riddle to be solve.

Shun Takahata (Sota Fukushi) barely makes it out of his classroom alive, where a daruma doll with a stop button keeps turning hoping to catch the next student in mid-movement just to make their heads explode. And I mean literally explode. Eventually he will be paired with smart bad boy Amaya Takeru (Ryonosuke Kamiki) and his childhood crush, Ichika Akimoto (Hirona Yamasaki). Knowing fully well only one can become the winner… Oh, let’s not try to sell it – you want to see this one already. You know how it’s all going to go down, but the chess-like-death-match-via-brain-twisters is unapologetic, unredeeming, violent fun.

Okey, yes. It’s batshit crazy and there’s not really a moment in the film when we pause and take note that kids (or young adults playing kids, really) are getting killed left and right. And that’s probably why too much thinking might turn you off from this one. There’s something to be said about making a live action movie where people die as entertainment. You gotta have a switch to understand why this entertainment should not be taken seriously because reasoning will not get you there. It’s a good thing then, that all deaths and games are created with over-the-top nightmare images. It’s a horror movie after all.

Highs: No apologies death match style where the motives are in the background and the gore fest is fast and furious. Fans of Battle Royale will feel right at home as well as gore fest aficionados. Ingenuity wins the day against brute force. Cheat carefully and you live a day more.

Lows: Requires a strong suspension of disbelief. It doesn’t ever address the game is basically making the death of high school kids into entertainment. There is no sarcasm or hidden moral lesson to discover. The PC crowd might not want to make it part of movie night.

Strictly recommended for fans of the genre, which is a death match without apologies. However, for those fans I would strongly recommend it as it doesn’t really ever stop for exposition or reasoning. It’s on the next game, and the clock is always ticking. Not for the sensible or the sensitive. If it’s not your cup of tea, be aware it never has a moment of respite, so you might want to choose a different game… I mean, movie.

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Review: Shelley

(Source: Indie Sales Company)

(Source: Indie Sales Company)

It’s one more movie from the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival, and here’s me hoping it won’t be the last.

Shelley is another low key horror film (yes I know, “low key” is going to end up being a category soon). This one is focused on pregnancy and early motherhood. Director Ali Abbasi brings us a slow descent into horror, with a minimalistic and rural ambience and small but strong cast. Elena (Cosmina Stratan) agrees to care for the country house of Louise (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and Kasper (Peter Kristoffersen) before she learns she must leave the comforts of modern life behind. When Elena wants to charge her phone and gets told that there’s no electricity, that definitely sounded like a horror film to me.

Elena is a single mother, she’s saving up to buy her own place. Her first meeting with Louise is awkward. Louise seems to be recovering, and soon enough we learn she’s had problems giving birth. As Elena gets used to her new life, she gets close with Louise. Finally, Louise opens up to her about having children and lets her know she’s had some of her eggs frozen. A proposition is made. Elena will be inseminated so she can give birth to the couple’s child and Louise and Kasper will put in a substantial amount of money for Elena’s home.

The nightmares start as Elena feels something wrong is growing inside her. Not even local aura healer Leo (Björn Andrésen)’s intervention seems to help. Elena seems ready to weather it all, but starts feeling annoyed at Louise’s protectiveness. Of course this is not going to end up well. By the third act, we’ll get to meet Shelley, the newborn daughter.

Continuing what seems to be a trend this year for slow burn (I can’t bring myself to say low key again) horror films at Fantasia, director Ali Abbasi takes us on a slow and quiet ride where horror is a hush and a thought. The beautiful countryside becomes another character in this silent nightmare of a story. Horror audiences expecting action will be disappointed, as well as fans of special effects. There are very few and very subtle and hardly anything will jump at you.

Highs: Disturbing and disquieting but very still might describe this intimate horror story in which effects and violence are hindered to almost drops. Horror comes from realizations and strong performances but the turmoil never seems to shake its surface too much. At no point in time does the plot feel like you need to hate any of its characters. That is a considerable feat and seems almost impossible in a horror movie plot with a small cast.

Lows: Might be too quiet even to the point of frustration. The story takes its time setting up the rapport between Elena and Louise until we can believe their bonding and feel empathy for both. By the time the third act hits, the movie starts to feel a little longer than it should. The ending doesn’t carry much of an impact nor twist.

Recommended for fans of alternative horror, and horror movie fans willing to see a movie without gore and chainsaws. The slow pace works if you let it, but younger horror fans will not sit quietly through the entire film. Too bad, it’s something to be seen although it might never make you jump out of your seat.

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Review: Demon

(Source: The Orchard)

(Source: The Orchard)

Marcin Wrona’s Demon was part of the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival‘s spotlight on Polish Genre Cinema.

The horror story feels like a warning tale, although young successful groom Peter (Itay Tiran) has done nothing wrong. Unless you want to count finding a skeleton in the yard a sin. Rather than rely on scary music or garish effects, the movie tries to slowly impress upon you the idea that Peter (or Piotr as he’s called as well) has been cursed. There doesn’t seem to be a way out, not that anybody is looking for it. The problem in everyone’s minds is getting along with the wedding and pretend everything is fine.

But they’re not. Eventually the bride, Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska), is let in on Peter’s predicament. Zaneta clues in a professor from whom we learn that Peter is possessed. But whether he can be saved that’s becoming less and less possible as the night drags on and the liquor flows freely. It soon becomes evident this wedding party is headed for disaster regardless what we do.

I would save this film for someone who wants a different perspective on horror, mixed in with Jewish folklore and Polish flavour. It’s different, but still unsettling and low key enough to bring out some genuinely troubled performances. The ending is a bit of a mix, leaving most of it for the viewer to decide. There’s one shot that seems to borrow from the Shining, which I can’t really discuss here without giving it away.

Highs: Strong performances, low key effects and a slow build. There’s a sense of despair that builds tension to the breaking point without resorting to the usual cliches.

Lows: The slow build gives the movie a bit of a slow pace in some parts more than others. Horror is subtle more than scary. The sense of despair without end can become frustrating, specially at the end.

Recommended for fans of alternate films and willing to see something different. The ending can a bit of a letdown as issues tend to dissipate (or disappear completely in some cases) rather than have a satisfying resolution.

That will do for now.

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