Well, the second half of my Fantasia experience was only moderately better than the first, I hate to say. It’s not that the films I saw were bad (with one exception), they were just so very, very far from memorable. And, hell, that’s what I look for from Fantasia: films that stick in my mind for their boldness and originality. There just wasn’t anything like that for me this year . . . well, at least not among the ten films I saw . . .
Anyway, on with the mini-reviews. This time we’re looking at Dead Bite, Grabbers, Excision, and Sleep Tight.
Don’t forget to check out part 1 of the 2012 Fantasia Post Mortem.
Thai film Dead Bite was written, directed and stars one of Thailand’s biggest hip-hop stars, Joey Boy. It should come as no surprise that I’d never heard of the guy or his crew, who, along with a bevy of bikini models, round out the cast.
Joey Boy et al are sent on a cruise with bikini models and end up on some isolated island. From there things get a little nuts as wild people come storming out of the jungle, zombies coming wading out of the ocean, and a demonic mermaid makes an appearance here and there.
Dead Bite is not meant as a serious film. It’s clearly an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sorta movie in which the filmmakers figured that, if they have fun, the audience will as well. They’re mostly right, but they maybe overreach a little by trying to inject an actual story into the madness, along with a few scenes that—well, I’m not sure if they were meant to be heartfelt and serious or just more goofiness.
Dead Bite is fun enough for a single watch, but the biggest laughs come from the absolutely baffling subtitles. At one point, in response to a bikini model calling all men bastards, Joey Boy says, “Well, there are good bastards, and there are bastard goodies.” You tell me what the hell that meant.
If you like your horror a little light-hearted and a lot nutty, give this one a whirl. Best viewed with a group of friends and a few beers.
This Irish monster film was, by far, my favorite of the festival. But, though the movie was loads of fun and well-made, it really wasn’t anything groundbreaking, so the fact it was my fave really doesn’t say much for my viewing choices overall.
Anyway, Grabbers is well-worth a watch (if it ever makes it to North American DVD) and I actually look forward to watching it again with friends and family.
The plot is equal parts Tremors and Hot Fuzz, with a small Irish town besieged by a brood of alien squid-like creatures. The cops involved soon figure out that the aliens are allergic to alcohol and proceed to get the entire town blotto so that they can protect themselves from and gang up on the monsters.
Originally, I’d written here that it seemed odd that all the kids appeared to have been left to fend for themselves while the adults are getting hammered, but the film’s screenwriter, Kevin Lehane, very politely pointed out that the kids are seen leaving on the ferry early in the film. So I stand corrected. Thanks, Kevin!
Overall, Grabbers is a simple, straight-forward, sci-fi creature comedy that accomplishes everything it set out to do.
Excision is a frustrating film. It isn’t really bad, but I simply can’t recommend it either. For the most part, it’s ending is what undoes it—at least for me. It’s one of those endings that either works for you or doesn’t and, for me, it didn’t work at all.
Excision is a coming of age story with a twist. Rather than following the usual misfit teen, the kind of sad-sack we’re all supposed to empathise with, we follow here someone who actually isn’t quite right. Sure, Pauline’s family life isn’t ideal, but, really, she’s more messed up than the rest of her family. Her younger sister, in particular, has reason to be angsty, but is surprisingly well-adjusted considering she’s essentially dying of cystic fibrosis.
For those of you who’ve watched the trailer, you’ll wonder at all the blood and gore. You should know that it’s all part of Pauline’s creepy fantasy life. Through her gory reverie, we’re supposed to see that Pauline is more than just a misfit and is actually quite disturbed. These scenes are also all meant to lead up to something, and they do . . .
But what they lead up to just felt forced, unbelievable. To accept the ending, one must first accept that Pauline is completely bat-shit insane—and also has less understanding of basic human physiognomy than an eight-year-old. For this ending to work, it’s not enough for her to be nuts, she also has to be staggeringly stupid.
The film looks good, is fairly well-written, and sports some strong performances—especially by AnnaLynn McCord, who played Pauline—but that ending is borderline insulting.
I included a mini-review of Boneboys on TheFibalGirl.com
Sleep Tight was directed by Jaume Balaguero, who previously directed the excellent REC and REC 2, so I had high hopes. I won’t say I was disappointed exactly, but just twenty-four hours after watching Sleep Tight, it’s already fading from my memory (so I better write this quick, I guess).
Sleep Tight follows César, ably played by Luis Tosar, a concierge in a Barcelona apartment building. His building, however, is not locked down and overrun with rabid tenants. Instead, it is terrorized in far subtler ways. César, you see, believes he is incapable of feeling happiness unless all the people around him are unhappy as well.
He has managed to make many of the tenants unhappy by messing with their lives in small ways, but one woman, the lovely Clara, proves the single hold-out. She keeps on smiling, despite César’s best efforts.
César’s ploys seem childish at first. He feeds one tenant’s dogs the wrong food, making the mutts sick. He unleashes cockroaches in Clara’s apartment. He allows another tenant’s plants to die. Eventually, though, we learn that his machinations are a tad more destructive as his layers are peeled back, as though from an onion rotting from the inside out.
But . . . with the exception of one or two scenes, Sleep Tight offers little tension—and this is a thriller, after all. Sure, it’s a subtle sort of thriller, one that goes for unease rather heavy suspense, but this one never quite reaches that high point. It simply limps along for most of the film, with César playing his sad little pranks, then throws a couple of nice surprises our way—but those surprises are too few and too far between.
If you like psychological thrillers—especially those that view the story from the antagonist’s perspective—you might want to give Sleep Tight a shot. But if it never makes it up here, don’t worry about it and watch Spoorloos (aka The Vanishing—but not the one starring Kiefer Sutherland) instead.
So that’s that for another year. Not sure if I’ll still be in Montreal for next year’s Fantasia but keep an eye on the site and find out . . .