Fantasia is a full three weeks long, but alas I am only able to indulge in the fest one week a year. Here is my last entry of minireviews from the 2014 festival. Until next year Fantasia, Bon Cinema!
The Infinite Man (dir. Hugh Sullivan)
By no means a horror film, THE INFINITE MAN deserves mention as one of the best time travel films I have ever seen. It is the perfect example, along with COHERENCE, of a low budget film that uses its limited resources as a way to feature smart writing and superior performances, rather than relying on big spectacles or a fast paced plot (though I do love those films too). THE INFINITE MAN features on location, three actors, and one gimmick. Dean (Josh McConville) is an uptight romantic who goes to great lengths to plan the recreation of a perfect weekend for his anniversary with Lana (Hannah Marshall). When the motel they were to stay at turns out to be closed, and Lana’s ex-boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades) shows up Dean does his best to take control of the situation. It takes him a full year, but he invents a time machine that will transport him and Lana back to the beginning of the weekend. As you can imagine, Dean’s nervous meddling nature is not the best match for traveling into the unknown through time travel and hilarity ensues. At its heart the film is a loving look at a couple that needs to work through their issues. The time travel in the film is used sparingly, and goes for more laughs than scientific explanations. Ultimately THE INFINITE MAN is one of the best films at Fantasia this year.
Closer to God (dir. Billy Senese)
CLOSER TO GOD is a modern reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The appropriately named Victor (Jeremy Childs) is a geneticist who announces to the world that he has cloned a human for the first time in history. The film then begins to deal with the fallout of that announcement and its impact on his research, his family, and the religious right. Just when you think that the personal and political outcome will be the focus of the film, it shifts. It turns out that while baby Elizabeth may only be the first successful attempt at human cloning. The repercussions of a previous attempt at creating life are still very present in his life. Though the film largely skirts most of the major ideological issues in cloning, it does so to focus more on the family drama of the created situation. The synthesizer driven score of the film, and Childs’s stone faced doctor give the film a retro feel. Though the premise of the film is clearly a classic there are some surprises to be had while the doctor plays God.
Puzzle (dir. Eisuke Naitô)
It is rare to come across a film like PUZZLE. It had all the potential to be a great horror film, but somehow manages to miss nearly every emotional beat and is so tonally confusing it stands the only film I have seen at Fantasia in five years that did not get a round of applause as the credits rolled. Dealing with a series of horrible events at a high school, the film first suffers from a confusing timeline. Each scene is introduced with a title card noting a time between that scene and… and what I’m not sure. Is it two days before the previous scene? Or two days prior to some unknown incident? I’m still not clear on that. What we do see unravel is a disjointed story of gang rape, torture, and police drama that never quite gels together. The torture devices designed by one misguided student, who must have been inspired by the SAW franchise (Jigsaw, Puzzle, get it?) are quite effective at producing pain in the victim, but they look like they are designed by Hasbro: bright colors and giant shapes abound. The soundtrack is also that of circus music. While I would be all for a twisted sideshow version of these events, the film still attempts to give appropriate weight to the truly horrific crimes shown. While it could be possible to show the rape of a young girl by her principal in this context, somehow swaying back and forth between a fun house and a real house of horror never quite sits right with the audience. The film ultimately fails at balancing the surreal with the serious.
Let Us Prey (dir. Brian O’Malley)
A strange man appears in a small Scottish town and everything goes to hell. Well, that may not be fair to this stranger (Liam Cunningham). Rather, he appears in this small town and exposes the inhabitants for who they really are, sins and all. The entire run time of the film takes place over one night and of course it is officer Heggie’s (genre staple Pollyanna McIntosh) first night on duty. On the way to the station Heggie witnesses a drunk driver hit a man with his car. When the victim vanishes it is clear that this will not be an ordinary night. As the holding cells in the station fill up, the body count starts as well. For me, the film takes a little time to pick up momentum. The mystery of the stranger is enough to stick with the story, but the dirty cop portrayals were clichéd and uninteresting. When the sergeant (Douglas Russell) returns to the station the film shows its true colors and really gets going. Because of this the second half is a bloody good time.
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (dir. Tommy Wirkola)
Sequels tend to make fans anxious. How could the sequel possibly capture everything that they loved about the original film and amplify it, without losing the originality of it? I am happy to report that DEAD SNOW: RED VS. DEAD not only meets expectations, but completely blows the original away (and this is coming from an enormous fan of DEAD SNOW). The film picks up the moment that the original leaves us. And what a way to start! On a speeding car with the Nazi zombie hanging out of the window while our only survivor races into the snow. Martin (Vegar Hoel) has returned the Nazi zombies their last piece of gold- what else could they be after? It turns out that this particular battalion of Nazis had one last mission of unfinished business which they need to carry out. It is up to Martin and his zombie fighting sidekicks (including the delightful perpetual nerd Martin Starr) to stop the Nazi zombies in the quest to finish their battle in the Führer’s name. While the first film was a send-up of EVIL DEAD this film takes on a form of its own. What comes next is much more unpredictable, but the laughs and gore are consistent and so freaking fun. DEAD SNOW: RED VS. DEAD is an amazing midnight movie, and the perfect way for me to end my adventures at Fantasia 2014.