Somehow I slept like a baby last night, filled with dreams of a better festival day and I awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed...and a bit late. Oh well. Writing these daily blogs adds another few hours to my festival day and I can miss a few films without wanting to die of shame. It happened, and it’s likely to happen again. That being said, I had a big day today starting off with…
The Belgians! I didn’t even know they HAD a film industry. If all my beer was as strong as Chimay, Duval
and Delirium Tremens
, I don’t know when I’d find the sober time to make a film. “Left Bank”
is that sober (presumably) Belgian horror film. Maybe they should have had ONE more drink before setting out to make this one.
The titular left bank is a new suburban area on the edge of a river in Antwerp. A young girl named Marie
) is training to be a professional runner but as it turns out, she has some health issues and has to very reluctantly bow out. Fortunately, she’s met a hot young archer at her athletic club and she moves in with him in his apartment in the…(*spooky voice*) LEFT BANK
. As it turns out, the previous resident was a young woman who disappeared and was never found. Marie
finds a box of papers left behind by her that starts her off on a strange mystery about the history of the archery club that her boyfriend is the head of, the apartment building they live in, and…(*booming spooky voice*) THE LEFT BANK
Can you say, “The Wicker Man.”
No, not that Nicholas Cage
atrocious remake but the original with Christopher Lee
and Edward Woodward
(that I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I didn't like either). Imagine that mixed with a lot of the tone of the Japanese horror film “Dark Water”
and with a cute female lead who seems more comfortable with her clothes off than on. That more or less sums up “Left Bank”
and the best thing about all of that is the nude scenes. The rest...let's just say that anyone who has seen either version of “The Wicker Man”
isn’t going to find themselves the least bit surprised by anything that happens. While I really dug on the performance and...um...other assets of the lead Eline Kuppens
, and I thought the score was effectively creepy, in the end I was left with a ‘haven’t I already seen this and didn’t really like it the first time?’
type of feeling. Oh well.
I technically had a long break here because the next movie I wanted to see would have run over into the next movie I REALLY wanted to see so I watched about an hour of it than headed outside to the Alamo’s new and cozy outdoor seating area for some R&B&R. Let me give you a hint. The middle B doesn’t stand for blues. Eventually the time came to get in to see one of the most positively buzzed films of the festival...
Let the Right One In
Vampires? Really? After seeing the lackluster first episode of HBO’s new “True Blood”
and hearing the nonstop chatter about gorram Mormon vampire series Twilight
, I was pretty much DONE with vampires for the year. To my surprise, the Swedes prove they must have lots of time to think up new takes on old ideas while they huddle together trying to keep from freezing their butts off. Must be all the chocolate.
is a 12 year old with nothing to do, no friends, a separated family, and a bad haircut. He lives a stoic life in his lonely apartment building with a distracted mother and is just as alone at school. His closest thing to a relationship with anyone else is the group of bullies who regularly harass him and beat him up. One day in the tiny playground outside his apartment where he sits alone most days, he meets a strange young girl named Eli
. She makes overtures of friendship, and then runs away. As this is about as much human contact as Oskar
gets from kids his own age; he is fascinated by her despite himself. Only thing is, Eli
is responsible for the mysterious killings that have been going on in their small town: she’s a vampire and in the classic sense. But, and it's the important thing here, as she says herself, she’s twelve but has been twelve for a very long time and her motivations towards her burgeoning friendship with Oskar
are pure. She wants a friend that is, sort of, her own age. Where can something like that lead?
Imagine “My Girl”
if it was much better, covered in snow and was a bloody vampire story. It’s sweet and thought-provoking while still delivering the vampiric goods. While too slow for the crowd that goes into every horror movie hoping for a “Feast”
or “Friday the 13th”
, “Let the Right One In”
surpasses most of the horror genre entirely in the quality of work put into it by everyone involved. The little boy who plays Eli
is so convincing (and justified) in his calm hatred of the people who treat him badly that you can see how he and this vampire might actually be soul mates. Whereas Mina Harker
never could accept it, trust a dude who’s not getting any to be able to accept almost any female (or whatever is close enough) affectionate contact even if she IS a mass murderer. What the hell. People are overrated.
“Let the Right One In”
is a quiet, pensive, beautifully shot and scored film that will unfortunately likely be slow in building an audience. It’s not a slam-bang horror but more like the thoughtful classic “Martin”
by George R Romero
from the seventies. Eventually it’ll be considered a classic but first you’re gonna have to find it
and see it.
Every night as the films go on everything gets delayed. The q&a sessions run much longer than anticipated and we all end up with more time to sit around and shoot the shit and keep up a steady intake of Stella Artois
(and not the horrific Fosters cans that everyone else keeps drinking. I know, I know, they're sponsoring the festival and I should be nice. I just can't actually drink the stuff. It's Australian for crappy beer.)
I ended up not being able to get a ticket for the film on my schedule “Seventh Moon”
, the new film by Eduardo Sanchez
the director of “The Blair Witch Project”
but it’s just as well...I frakking hated “The Blair Witch Project.”
Only brilliant thing about that film was whoever had the idea for the marketing of it. So instead, I went to see...
Finland is so close to Russia that their brand of incomprehensibility must have rubbed off at least a little. "Sauna"
is a treat for the eyes but is so awash in the touchstones of a foreign mythology that it seems like the filmmakers never really expected anybody outside Finland to see it.
A long and bloody border war between Finland and Russia is finally coming to an end. Some soldiers from either side are uncomfortably traveling together to decide on an agreement for final border definitions (or something like that.) They stumble into a mysterious and unmarked village in the middle of a gigantic swamp that has a sauna in it that supposedly will wash away the sins of anyone who bathes in it. Unfortunately, the village is hip deep in the remains of some former dark religion that originally built it and whose evil doesn’t wash away so easily.
"Sauna" is so gorgeously shot, so powerfully acted, that I would be glad to watch this again with commentary so I had some idea of what the hell was happening. I kept saying it feels like if Dostoevsky
wrote a J-horror film and that’s the best I can come up with. In many ways it defies comparison. Even with my miscomprehension, I sat entranced by the imagery and the beauty of the dialogue. Not to mention gorram creeped the hell out. "Sauna"
may be smarter than most of the fans of the genre to which it belongs. I know it’s smarter than me.
I had some time to decompress after “Sauna”
which is good because it’s the sort of movie you had to talk with your buddies about afterward to figure out for sure how you even felt about it yourself. With beer. Even more fun during the break was seeing the folks coming out of “Seventh Moon”
who didn’t like it so I could point and laugh.
It was getting late and later still as the Q&A was running extremely late but I was determined. Tonight’s (after) midnight movie was one that sounded right up my alley and finally we were ushered in to see...
Jack Brooks Monster Slayer
I can't count the number of films I've seen that tried to recreate the quirky, cult, fun magic of the "Evil Dead"
films and failed. The only film I can even think of that has reached that level of success with a similar feel was Peter Jackson
’s sublime Dead Alive
depending on what country you saw it in.) “Jack Brooks Monster Slayer”
belongs to the fan club but more so for Jackson’s film. It wears its affection for Braindead
on it's sleeve but manages to succeed because of a smart script and actors that all seem to be having a great time, and whenever that shows through it makes things more fun to watch.
has an anger problem. To the extreme. He gets annoyed and end up destroying something or hitting people. Can’t blame him really as when he was a kid he saw his parents and little sister killed and eaten by a monster. He may
still have some issues about that. Jack
works as a plumber and spends his evenings at night school for reasons unclear to even him. One night, his teacher, played with a surprising amount of WIN
by Robert Englund
, asks him back to his old, decrepit fixer-upper house on the outskirts of town to look at his antiquated water pipes. Naturally, since Jack
tends to frak up almost everything he touches (mainly from bad luck and that he hits things when they don't work) the system ends up exploding and Jack
leaves with failure, like he pretty much always does. Only this time, he accidentally helps to set loose the beginnings of a monster assault on the small town.
Right from the beginning I said, 'Hey, that's a cheap monster suit!'
and then it didn't matter because I kept laughing. This certainly isn't a high-budget horror-comedy but it's so constantly entertaining that the cheapness just adds to the charm. Jack
, played with a Ryan Reynolds
-ish type of charm by Trevor Matthews
, manages to hit all the right notes being a violent redneck, but one who admittedly has good reasons to want to punch people. The real stand out is Robert Englund
who gets possessed by the demon and similar to Vincent D'Onofrio
in "Men in Black"
, plays the big thing trapped in a human shell bit to hysterical fruition.
"Jack Brooks Monster Slayer"
isn't gonna replace "Evil Dead 2"
or "Dead Alive"
in any fanboy hearts, but it certainly deserves attention from that base and will gain a spot on more than a few of their DVD shelves. I know what I'm showing next Halloween.
Another day finished. Time to head home and rest up for Day 4 and the crazed party that is Fantastic Feud. I can hardly wait! Better get my hangover cure all prepped now.