Fantasia Film Festival Report
by Dierdre Crimmins
Intrepid festival goer Dede continues her sojourn to the land of french fries slathered in mayo to deliver her report from the Fantasia Film Festival:
Funeral Kings (dirs. Kevin & Matthew McManus). Not to be one for generalizations, but I generally dislike young male coming-of-age movies. Unless they are openly hilarious, or involve the pre-teen characters being chased by a machete wielding psychopath, I find them boring. I myself never was a prepubescent boy, and even at their age I found that whole population of my middle school tedious an unrelatable. This is why it was so surprising to passionately care about the young characters in Funeral Kings. The film watches four boys as they are rushing too fast to grow up. Breaking in to a trunk that contains fireworks, porn, and a gun certainly makes their haste easier. They are all around 14 years old, though they always tell girls and video rental clerks that they are 16 or 17. All of the boys are decently cast, however Alex Maizus’s performance actually blew me away. He was the one kid on screen who could convincingly convey the mixed emotions of getting into trouble versus doing the right thing. I am very much looking forward to following the brothers McManus as they go on to bigger films, and better budgets.
Memory of the Dead (dir. Valentín Javier Diment). Were I to write the liner notes for Memory of the Dead’s DVD, I would simply describe it as an Argentinian The Big Chill as directed by Dario Argento. After the sudden death of her husband Jorge, Alicia invites his closest family and friends to their home to give him a grand send off. Closely reminiscent of a giallo, the film then turns into a ghost invasion as the dead stalk the house where they have gathered. Not quite as fun as Hausu, Memory of the Dead is not quite settled on how much horror, or how many laughs it should balance. But there is a pool filled with blood, and a satisfying twisted ending, so it is worth the effort to hunt this one down.
The Victim (dir. Michael Biehn). As a Michael Biehn fan, it pains me to not recommend his directorial debut. In all reality the film is poorly paced, with an unclear plot, and poor performances. His wife Jennifer Blanc is capably cast as a woman on the run from dirty cops who killed her coke addicted stripper roommate. After running through the woods she happens upon Biehn, who has retreated to be alone and avoid his murky and possibly violent past. Sounds like it has potential, right? Unfortunately the idea for the script is the best part of the film. The characters are all one-dimensional caricatures. I was certain the mustachioed police office was an attempt at parody, but at the screenings Q&A with Biehn he seemed confused when someone asked him about the touches of humor in the film. Biehn claims that the entire film is played straight, with no intention of spoofing the genre. It is never a good sign when the director is not in on the joke.
Hemorrhage (dir. Braden Croft). This mirco-budgeted Canadian indie horror might just be the film that sticks with me the longest after Fantasia is over. It is a slow burning film which explores mental illness, and the effects it has both on the sufferers and their victims. Oliver (expertly played by Alex D. Mackie) was a medical wunderkind, before his mental health took a turn for the worse. After his parole from a state institution he attempts to find a normal life. Living in a halfway house, being trailed by his own demons, this is impossible. He attempts to woo a nurse that works at the same abortion clinic as he works, but when he is unable to relate to her, he kidnaps her and forces her to be his companion. Oliver seems like a kind soul, but kind souls do not often have a criminal record and a woman in the trunk of their car. Director Croft is adept at creating scenes that watch this ersatz couple from the outside, as observers would seem them passing by. Hemorrhage is also a great exploration of storytelling with an unreliable narrator, but I will leave it at that so as not to spoil the ending.
Alter Egos (dir. Jordan Galland). If you have seen the criminally ignored gem Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, then you can delight in knowing that director Galland has followed it up with an equally charming film about superheroes. In the world of Alter Egos there are superheroes everywhere, but they are organized by the government and the government has cut their funding. The heroes were simply too good at their jobs, and have rid the world of super villains, which has made them nearly obsolete. Add in America’s current hatred of government handouts, and you can understand why they would be stressed. Somehow our protagonist, Fridge (Kris Lemche) is also suffering from confusion between his alter ego, and his superhero self. This dialogue is quick witted and punchy, yet not unrealistic. Also, it has the added benefit of seeing some very fit men in some very tight costumes.
Resolution (dirs. Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead). It worries me when films ask questions, though you can tell throughout the film that the director not only has no intention of answer the question, but worse yet, does not know the answers themselves. I love ambiguous endings, but only when you can tell that the director themselves actually knows the answer. Resolution clearly knows both the questions, and the answers, but never quite tells you which is which, instead taking you on a horrifying plot that barely keeps up with itself. If this all sounds too vague, that is intentional. What I can tell you is that Michael (Peter Cilella) tears himself away from his lovely home and his wife to try to forcefully detox his buddy Chris (Vinny Curran) from crack. Handcuffing Chris to a pipe in the shed Chris calls home, the men settle in for what will be a tense week. The beauty in the premise of the film is that the tension is built in. Rather than sending the men out for a weekend of male bonding and arguing about incidents from their childhood, here we have a caring friend and a man who needs help. While in the cabin they have run ins with the local crack heads, Native land owners, and a dope smoking Frenchman. The film takes a great turn when someone, or something, begins leaving Michael little presents of folk lore. The film quick spirals from there with adept pacing, and undeniable chemistry between the two leads.