Fantastic Fest – Day 2 & 3

Hey guys, Ben here.  Horrorella is back with her reports from Day 2 and 3 of Fantastic Fest down in Austin, TX!  Read on to see what films she’s seen.  Dead Sushi, in particular, sounds like it’d be a really fun time.  I’m looking forward to getting to check that out sometime in the near future.

The first flick of Day 2 of Fantastic Fest was The King of Pigs.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: The King of Pigs is an emotionally punishing animated indie film about a group of friends whose brutal childhoods continue to haunt them as adults.

This is an animated melodrama from Korea.  Super depresso.  It’s not go-home-and-start-playing-Harry-Nilsson-in-the-bathroom-sad but you definitely don’t feel good about life when this one is over.  The story follows a tormenting and destructive period in the lives of three school friends.  It also expresses the frustration felt by young people trapped by a harsh class system.   Ruled by and unable to escape it, the system informs and is responsible for most of the difficulties our characters find themselves in.   The film is well-animated, but the story drags a bit.  It’s definitely an interesting piece, though definitely not my favorite.

The second film of Day 2 was Combat Girls. Summary from Fantastic Fest: The debut feature from director-writer David Wnendt—is a bleak tale of two girls who, for very different reasons, get swept up in the resurgent Neo-Nazi movement in Germany.

Combat Girls is a really solid piece, though again, not terribly uplifting.  It offers interesting insight into racial unrest that still exists under the rug in Germany today.  It also contains really great nuanced performances from its cast.  This film is another solid entry into the skinhead drama genre.  It’s a story that has been told many times with American History X and This is England being stellar examples of similar films.  Despite having seen this story told before, it is still very moving and affecting, especially when it’s done as well as this.

After an afternoon of being completely bummed out, it was time for some fun with the third film of Day 2, Dead Sushi!  Summary from Fantastic Fest: Japanese splatter action comedy is on the menu when director Noboru Iguchi and karate girl Rina Takeda join forces to take on flying killer sushi monsters in DEAD SUSHI!

The latest film from Robogeisha writer/director Norbru Iguichi, Dead Sushi is just as batshit and just as fun as Robogeisha.  It’s 90 minutes of crazy slapstick, gallows humor and, of course, killer sushi from beyond the grave!  Iguichi always casts actors who can handle his brand of physical comedy well, and those talents are well-utilized here.  The sushi monsters are all puppets with some CGI enhancements here and there.  I loved the fact that they all made the same puppet noises that you heard in the 80s, think Puppet Master and Dolls.  That is what zombie sushi sounds like.  It’s awesome and made me all giddy.  Fantastic Fest staff announced that this film had obtained American distribution earlier in the day, so look for it on DVD (and possibly in a small theatrical run) toward the end of the year.

All in all, not a bad day. On to Day 3!

Day 3 started with Cold Steel. Summary from Fantastic Fest: After 17 years spent directing television series in North America, director David Wu (a longtime collaborator of John Woo) returns to his native China to deliver the heart-pounding World War II epic Cold Steel.

This film centers on a young soldier drafted into the Chinese military as a sniper to fight the Japanese.  Amid the harshness of war, he falls in love with the proprietor of a local tea shop.  There are some very politically charged elements at work here, but while Wu certainly doesn’t skimp on the action, he opts to let the story play out largely through the romance angle.  Cold Steel is a good film – well-acted and directed – but it just didn’t strike me.  I am not huge into the wartime love story aspect and that was a key component here.  I’d definitely recommend it if that is up your alley though and it would be a welcome addition to your collection.

The second film of Day 3 was No Rest for the Wicked. Summary from Fantastic Fest: A dirty cop who tries to cover up a crime stumbles upon a massive criminal conspiracy.  No Rest for the Wicked swept the Spanish Goya awards this year with an electrifying performance by lead actor José Coronado.

This is a slow-burn crime drama, heavy on the procedural aspect, which really strengthens the tension and payoff when the shit hits the fan in the final act.  There is some very strong acting – particularly out of José Coronado in the lead role.  His character was fascinatingly unbalanced.  He’s never over the top or cartoony, but you are never exactly sure what he was going to do next.  The script offered an interesting story which was a bit complex and difficult to follow in a couple of spots.  It’s definitely worth the time to get through it though.

My last film of Day 3 was The Exorcist in the 21st Century. Summary from Fantastic Fest: Norwegian documentarian Fredrik Horn Akselsen examines the work of Father Jose Antonio Fortea – an actual, Vatican-approved exorcist – in this balanced look at a largely hidden world within the Catholic church.

This is an interesting documentary.  It steers away from the cheesy hokey crap that you have typically seen on the History Channel and attempts to offer an unbiased examination of the ritual of Exorcism and its place within both the Catholic Church and modern society.  It does this quite effectively, for the most part.  The film contains footage of a supposedly-possessed woman, which the filmmakers are careful to present in a straightforward manner without dramatizing or downplaying it.  The goal was not to endorse or disprove the concept – rather to present it to the audience, along with interviews from several different priests, historians and doctors, and to let you make your own assessments.  I would have liked to have seen it run a little longer and contain a bit more information from some of their interviews, but it is still interesting and consumable by anyone regardless of their beliefs.

Also, the documentarians are awesome.  Producer Christian Falch revealed during the Q&A that the documentary had been conceived while he was traveling in Spain and was hired to be Father Fortea’s bodyguard during several exorcisms as a means of protecting the priest from the supposedly-possessed person.  He and director Fredrik Horn Akselsen then went on to say that it was a very interesting subject for them, having grown up in the very secular Norway, where knowledge of Catholic rites and exorcisms are not at all commonplace.

That’s all for now.  Day 4 was pretty awesome so keep an eye out for the next post in the next couple of days!

by Horrorella

Be sure to check out Horrorella’s blog (here) and you can follow her on Twitter @horrorellablog.

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