Fantastic Fest

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY 666

Big day, big fun, big computer-generated tentacled ghosts.

I felt a little misty as I toppled past the three-quarters mark in this year's fest. Today was a flexing abdominal wall of movies and it makes me wish that this fest happened all year round and I was an independently wealthy Alamo patron that could just sit and watch movies all day for decades until they named my favorite seat after me and let me shower in the bathroom. Watching so many good movies today made me realize I'll be very sad when the fest is over and maybe I will cry even though I'm extremely masculine.

The first show of the day was Larry Fessenden's sub-zero horror boiler THE LAST WINTER. I respect Fessenden's drive and the niche he's carved in the independent film industry, but sometimes his movies hit me sideways. THE LAST WINTER was an impossibly impressive presentation with cinematography that makes you want to run straight up to Alaska. The performance from the always-underrated James LeGros was perfect, and the film had some of the best slow-build horror movie pacing I've ever seen. The ending didn't entirely work for me, but I'd have to say that if I was going off the first 9/10 of a movie, this would easily be my favorite of the fest.

My testosterone boiled out of my pores during FLASH POINT, which may not have had the most action I've ever seen in a movie, but it definitely had some of the roughest. In these days of motion picture computer trickery, it's incredibly refreshing to see a good, slow-motion boot to the face. The crowd ate it up and I was also particularly fond of the detonating turkey dinner. Donnie Yen is a true icon of the knuckle sandwich and I look forward to everything that's coming from him.

I was pretty excited about seeing Kiyoshi Kurosawa's RETRIBUTION. I've been a fan of his since I first saw CURE, and the description in the FF guide made this one sound like another worthwhile entry. Then I watched it. Then it was over. That's all I have to say on the matter.

THE COLD HOUR (LA HORA FRIA) was next, and this was pretty far beyond my expectations. Though the entire film takes place in a fortified bunker, the claustrophobia I'd anticipated wasn't there, or at least it wasn't the movie's focus. Instead, this was a delicately crafted study of characters and their relationships with some mysterious horror injected at the right spots. Also, like a lot of Spanish movies, they don't let the fact that the protagonist is a child keep the film from going into some pretty grim places. Three cheers for not being nice to children!!

I was lucky enough to catch another Spanish horror film right after this one, and I have to say it's among my favorites of the fest: THE BACKWOODS. It was introduced by festival party-boy hero Nacho (TIMECRIMES) Vigalondo, who substituted for director Koldo Serra and talked a bit about the feature. I'd seen a segment of the film before, but I wasn't aware what a tense and '70s-influenced story this was, a very involving survival thriller with some great performances from both big names like Gary Oldman and also some new-to-me Spanish character actors. Everything was played straight and there wasn't a bad second. The Spaniards triumph again.


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