Fantastic Fest

Friday, September 21, 2007

Zack goes to FF 2007: DAY ONE

All right...Lars, Henri, Tim and I don't actually have to "go" to Fantastic Fest since we're already in this building all the time, but I'm approaching this year's festival from the point of view of the non-Alamo-employed attendee. This will give me a more objective experience, result in my ability to use our fine public restroom and -- equally important -- allow me to be totally honest about my FF07 viewings.

First off, the opening party was pretty incredible, albeit not in the standard party fashion. Usually, a memorable bash conjures images of drunken camaraderie, lampshades on heads, dancing on furniture and making new pals. But here at FF, "party" = a gut-blasting cannon, a full array of smoked goat meat, pepper spray on tortilla chips, an arc of flame, pinatas filled with animal skulls and making new pals. Though some badgeholders initially looked a little disoriented by some of the gathering's finer features, fun was had by all, including visiting special guest George Romero. Also, big thanks to Dorkbot for bringing in all the great modern inventions, especially the one that misfired and shot me in the penis.

At this point, everyone stampeded inside to kick off the celluloid proceedings. And yes, the attendance scales were tilted heavily in the direction of Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD. But a few of us ended up in theater 3, watching a movie I'm unlikely to properly describe: HELL'S FEVER. The first thing to note about HELL'S FEVER is that it's the only title in this year's FF lineup that wasn't viewed by a single member of the programming staff. Rather, it was included sight unseen after winning a major award at the Rome Fantafestival in 2006.
As Weird Wednesday's Lars pointed out, "Europe must be a very different place."
HELL'S FEVER is a fascinatingly stilted wedge of gory genre cheese, delivered in broken English by a troupe of European actors who play through every scene as if they've just met each other for the first time. The dialogue is from another dimension ("He has the intelligence of a 10-years-old!") and characters react to each other with a tourettes-level lack of rational emotion. The plot was filled with anti-logical twists and disappearing/reappearing characters and threads, and the entire audience was howling with laughter by the 15-minute mark. This is really a movie that has to be seen to be believed, another jewel in the Platinum Turkey crown, vying for a position alongside stilted greats like LADY TERMINATOR and TROLL 2. Recommended!

My next screening was TIMECRIMES, which is also from Europe but earns none of the same descriptive swipes as HELL'S FEVER. Rather, TIMECRIMES is a perfectly paced and constructed film, a tightly wound puzzle with great performances and just the right measure of humor. I don't think there was a single person in the room that wasn't thoroughly impressed, especially after writer-director-star Nacho Vigalondo's very spirited Q&A, in which he discussed murdering girlfriends, car wrecks, weeping, Blondie, morality and the unlikelihood of creating something both marketable and artistically substantial. He also slipped into gurgling sounds a couple times to illustrate his assertion that: "I don't understand English so perfect, so just treat me like I am a retard." What a man.

The final stop of the night was to watch shockingly strong religious-apocalypse film END OF THE LINE. Directed by Toronto's Maurice Deveraux (who was excited to be in attendance), this movie is pure and vicious, a pretty unrelenting exploration of a great expanse of nightmare territory. Most of the film takes place in the blackened subway system as dozens are murdered by a wingnut sect of misguided grinning zealots, but there are several unforeseeable surprises and the action is consistent. A certain "family" scene was so severe that you could hear toes curling throughout the theater. A really solid portion of this year's festival.

At the end, we went home, compared our experiences and fell asleep dreaming of severed hands, disgorged fetuses and fuzzy kittens.

More soon,


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