Fantastic Fest

Monday, September 24, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY FOUR

Another pulse-pounding day of sitting in the dark, looking up.

Things started off well with off-kilter Japanese horror drama DEATH NOTE, which plays like a thriller where one of the central characters happens to be an anti-gravitational grinning CGI goth demigod that only eats apples. It was well-written and paced right, though it took itself places that I'm not sure wrapped up right when all was said and done. Still, it makes sense that this series of films is a huge success with the teens of Japan, and I hope you join me in fearing the inevitable U.S. remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Richard Grieco.

As I look back on Sunday, September 23, 2007, I will always fondly recall visions of rubber beasts, floating death gods and gay punk bikers...but I will mostly remember the slow-motion emotional tsunami that swept over the audience during the best parts of John Paul Kinhart's excellent documentary BLOOD, BOOBS AND BEAST. This was a film that I'd really hoped to see play the festival, and I must admit I was a little nervous about turn-out as it was playing against the much-ballyhooed SON OF RAMBOW. My fears were unfounded and a respectable crowd turned out to learn about the accomplishments and struggles of all-too-often unsung genre micro-hero Don Dohler, creator of VHS-era treasures like ALIEN FACTOR and BLOOD MASSACRE. Dohler is a really fascinating subject, and the documentary is a really well-handled exploration of a complex and troubled point in the Baltimore director's life. Funny, tragic, creatively structured and personally involving, BB&B is definitely among the best chronicles of genre filmmakers and their craft.

I'd waited almost a decade to see CRAZY THUNDER ROAD. The movie's a legend among a very anemic cross-section of exploitation nerds, but has never seen a U.S. video release and there hasn't been enough of a demand to result in a bootleg market. Anyway, patience was rewarded with the opportunity to see the film for the first time in a 35mm subtitled print, and there were a surprising number of people on hand for the experience. The film was schizophrenic, loud, cro-magnon in all the right places and incredibly ambitious (and seemingly expensive), especially for a student project. The costuming and set design were the type that make you want to redecorate your house with a blowtorch and nailgun, and though the storytelling took some leaps and liberties, the overall effect worked really well for me. There were some folks in the crowd who didn't warm up to it, but when you're making movies about post-apocalyptic fascist homosexual street gang vengeance, you can't please everyone.

Last up for the night was our late-entry secret screening: DAI-NIPPONJIN (BIG MAN JAPAN). From what I can figure, some bunk rumor got out that we were gonna be running 30 DAYS OF NIGHT or BEOWULF or PATRIOT GAMES or something because there were people lined up down the street and this is a title that has gotten no coverage or build-up in the American press. Well, unless everyone was really hungry for Josh Hartnett, I can't imagine there was much disappointment. DAI-NIPPONJIN is a light and funny mockumenary/parody that exists entirely on an uphill slope to craziness. The first third is so dry and quiet that your brain hits a brick wall when the protagonist suddenly transforms to an 80-foot-tall tattooed sumo-beast with a Kid N' Play haircut. By the end of the feature, our socially outcast hero has battled a very inventive assortment of monsters and performed incredible acts of superhuman cowardice. The ending is so major that it had people howling and bouncing in their seats, and served as a truly delicious icing on my Sunday viewing funcake.

Then I went to bed.

- Z


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