LAFF 2011: Final Wrap on The Beyond and Fantastic Films of LAFilmFest

Festivals Editor; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
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LAFF 2011: Final Wrap on The Beyond and Fantastic Films of LAFilmFest

LA Film Fest had a lot to offer this year for devotees of Fantastic Fest's brand of cinema. While the midnight section (known as "The Beyond") only featured five films, they were an excellently chosen few. But some key gala screenings and a few of the International Showcase offerings fell quite well into the ScreenAnarchy world as well. Here's a final wrap on LAFilmFest 2011 with a look at some of these films:

From a glance at the posters and marketing materials, you would be excused for believing the upcoming Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, LAFF closer, was directed by Guillermo Del Toro. In fact it is actually "presented" (aka produced) and co-written by him - but director Troy Nixey's film certainly does evoke the Del Toro style. Pollen swirls magically in the gardens as young Sally (played well by Bailee Madison) explores her whimsically creepy new home. Little does she know there is evil afoot as a contingent of tiny monsters lies in wait for Sally to go to bed so they can viciously steal her teeth.

The film was originally envisioned for a PG-13 rating and the subject matter shows it. Though the film was given an R for "pervasive scariness" - it really doesn't seem justified. During the pre-screening presentation, Del Toro seemed fine with the decision, quipping that giving him an R for that reason was like giving him an award for sexiness. However the rating will likely hurt the film in the box office as it is most definitely aimed at kids in the 11-15 sweet spot. While there are certainly some great scares, kids will better connect with the young protagonist and will more easily overlook some of the plot conveniences that might trip up their parents.

Though both Todd (here) and Peter (here) have previously reviewed the film, I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring and call Ti West's The Innkeepers the most enjoyable horror movie in years. This story about a haunted hotel is like a great roller coaster ride. Being all strapped in and relatively sure that the coaster isn't going to fly off the tracks allows you to just sit back and enjoy the chills as they go tingling up your back.

Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath are a couple of filmmakers who know the way to get a movie made is to just get off your ass and do it. Their co-directorial debut (Patrick directed the indie zombie horror Die-ner (Get It?)) is an accomplished work made on a shoe string budget with the majority of action shot at Dallas's house. The knock-out cutie pie Suziey Block stars as a Silverlake barista (which she really is) who is being stalked by an unknown danger (this part they made up). The film culminates in a hauntingly incredible 20-some minute continuous shot that needs to be seen to be believed. Keep an eye on these young filmmakers as they will surely be up to more great work soon.

Both Ard (here) and Charles (here) have had their say on Noboru Iguchi's latest Karate Robo Zaborgar. Judging from the scenes that run during the film's credits (be sure to stick around), this film is an almost identical representation of the 1970s TV show - but with a good amount of Iguchi humor thrown in. The beauty of the film comes in just how little it takes itself seriously and scenes such as the clueless male doctor trying to feed his son from his own teet will have you rolling on the ground. But the film is maybe a bit too ambitious in scope - flashing forward 25 years for even more plot and dragging on just too long after most of the jokes have worn a bit thin.

Speaking of films that flash forward and are too long, I am still completely baffled by the aptly named Eternity (Tee Rak). A Protégé of Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe), Sivaroj Konsakul certainly inherited Pen-ek's propensity for the long take. This movie is an incredibly slow meditation on love and its relatively drab cinematography does little to relieve the boredom that quickly sets in. While the performances by the likable leads occasionally evoke emotion, I was completely lost by the plot's temporal jumps and still haven't been able to unravel what it was all about.

By now you have certainly heard a number of great things about Joe Cornish's Brit-teen alien invasion action-er Attack the Block (if not see Todd's review here and Shelagh's here). Well this Edgar Wright produced film (which he called "Super 8 Mile") finally made its non-sneak LA premiere at a gala screening at LAFF. The movie is every bit as fun as has been reported with a cast of incredibly accomplished young actors led by the soon-to-be-star John Boyega. Many have noted that the tough English slang might make it difficult for the film to really break into the mainstream - but even if you don't catch every reference, you will certainly be able to understand what is going on. If there is any place in Hollywood that is going to make this movie the hit it deserves to be, Screen Gems would seem to be the best case scenario. Go see this movie when it opens July 29th.

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