Brussels 2013 Wrap: Blood, Guts, Singing Filmmakers
I'm not sure when or how the festival tradition started (nor do I want to know), but literally every director who takes the stage to introduce their film is immediately met with a resounding chant from the audience of Chanson! Chanson! (That's "song" in French.) Most did not have a chance to thank people or say "enjoy the film." If you go to BIFFF as a filmmaker, you must sing.
The reactions to this demand varied widely. Neil Jordan reluctantly went through a verse and refused to go on, despite the audience's outrage. Community director Jason Ford won the fest from what I saw with a crooning rendition of Can't Help Falling in Love With You. And while I missed it, I wish I had gone to the Vanishing Waves screening just to see director Kristina Buozyle and actress Jurga Jutaite sing what they described to me as, "Lithuanian pop shit."
So genre filmmakers take note; If you go to brussels, warm up your singing voice, or prepare to get boo'd.
Anyway, onto the films, most of which I enjoyed in a full stadium with by far the most rambunctious, enthusiastic audiences I've ever witnessed at a film festival.
I actually agree with most of what our own Kurt Halfyard already wrote on this one, with one major exception; the marriage of Anne Rice and Mike Leigh that he mentioned worked very well for me, and Jordan's fascination with the act of storytelling added just the right amount of passion and nostalgia to the proceedings. Very gory and equally sensitive, this was easily one of the highlights of the festival.
Kiss of the Damned
A loving homage to Jean Rollin-style euro-horror, there are many great elements to Xan Cassavetes' erotic vampire tale. I only wish that the damned (ahem) thing weren't so inconsistent and all over the place in terms of story, acting, style and pretty much every other aspect save for the groovy score. It's all good fun anyway, but still nowhere near as imaginative or wacky as, say, Rollin's Fascination.
Mars et Avril
It's beautifully rendered and visually stunning, but too many offhanded metaphysical musings and not enough story or genuine drama make Martin Villeneuve's futuristic melodrama a bit of a drag to actually sit through, despite a couple great moments.
From my full review: "The aptly titled Aussie sci-fi thriler Crawlspace is probably about as much fun as a blatant mash-up of Aliens, Scanners, Event Horizon and the last Doom video game can be. Executive Produced by Greg Mclean (director of Wolf Creek), the film certainly crosses the line between homage and rip-off several times, and offers very few ideas of its own, but it still manages to wrap all of the aforementioned titles up into well-directed, diverting package."
I can now report that special effects on the level of a made for Syfy channel movie do not actually benefit from being in 3D. The technology also does not help correct awful pacing, lame characters and lazy dialogue that's not even unintentionally fun. I hope Big Ass Spider is better than this one.
Trap for Cinderella
Another festival highlight. From my full review: "Iain Softley's Trap For Cinderella harks back to elegant, suspenseful mysteries like Vertigo and Diabolique. In the shadow of those films, it's not particularly groundbreaking, but it's so stylish, intriguing and well-made that innovation hardly seems necessary. After all, the old adage warns us not to fix things that aren't broken, and Softley complies admirably. Were it not for a couple scenes involving cell phones, some pop songs, and the film's fairly copious amount of nudity, it'd be easy to mistake the movie for a lost, sleeper gem from the 60's. Alex Barber's excellent, desaturated 35 mm photography only adds to the retro feel. It's a deft, remarkably assured work, and certainly not the type of film I expected from the director of K-Pax."
From my full review of this odd, found footage horror/comedy: "...Cult is not a very scary movie. That said, I'm not sure that it's actually trying to be. In fact, by the end, I was completely baffled about its intentions. While the film is ultimately too middling to fully recommend in a "so-bad-it's-good" type of way, it's also a too wacky to completely dismiss."
Jorge Torregrossa's apocalypse version of The Big Chill is well-acted, quite moody and reasonably involving. Unfortunately, except for one incredibly well-staged chase scene involving a pack of hungry dogs, very little about it is particularly memorable, especially in the shadow of Lars Von Trier's much better Melancholia. The film involves a group of old friends wandering through empty spaces after the apocalypse has apparently taken place. They start to argue and learn things about each other, but before this drama really gains steam, they start vanishing one by one. Maribel Verdu is lovely as always.
It's far from perfect, but I perhaps admired this scrappy, twisted indie film more than any other I saw at the festival. From my full review: "Found is one part earnest coming-of-age melodrama, one part blood-soaked video-nasty. While director Scott Shcirmer's (adapting a novel by Todd Rigney) isn't completely successful navigating this tonal tightrope, there are enough memorable, and even brilliant parts of the uneven whole to make the film well-worth watching. That goes triple for those who grew up watching horror movies in the 80's and 90's... In the end, the parts the film gets right linger longer than those it doesn't, making Found a compelling, unique and, yes, totally sick portrait of a serial killer. "
Points for a reasonably clever script, but Miguel Larraya's completely indifferent, uninspired direction renders this Spanish slasher totally forgettable. That is, except for some sex scenes with beautiful people towards the beginning. Also, this film lent some credence to my theory that you can tell how hard a director is trying based on how they direct "the big party scene." If it looks exactly like a beer commercial, you might as well turn off the movie right then.
Watch the trailer. If you're looking for costumes, swords, soft-core nudity, werewolves and cheap gore effects, look no further than this "re-imagining" of Little Red Riding Hood. If you want production value, wit and imagination, please be on your way.
Yes, Jessica Chastain was great here, and it was a lot of fun to see her play against type, but everything else about this movie, from the cheap jump scares to the obvious plotting to not-very-scary CGI creature was totally misguided. The conclusion is a bit bold and interesting for the genre, but by then, it's too little too late.
John Dies at the End
Source material and acknowledged third-act flaws aside, the first hour or so of this movie is modern-American-pop-surrealist filmmaking at it's finest. I'll acknowledge the film's flaws, but I'm not going to get angry about any of them.
This Europen retread of the children-seeing-malevolent-ghosts formula is pretty to look at, but mostly dull and cliché... until the last ten minutes! I loved the final twist so much I'd almost recommend this one if you can still keep your expectations low. At the very least, it's more fun than Mama.
An interesting riff on the Deliverance formula, this time set in a decaying community in the U.K. which two well-off student filmmakers visit in order to make a documentary. I'll let you guess how that goes. There are some great ideas here, but there are also some baffling ones, and with shaky plotting and bland protagonists, the movie never quite lives up to the concept's potential.
The Human Race
From my full review: "...we're in Battle Royale territory here, and while the movie is never as biting or hilarious as that survival-of-the-fittest fable, Hough orchestrates his own film with a sure hand and brutal conviction to the demented premise. The Human Race is not a film where a character's fate is predetermined based on their "type," whether they are young or old or whether they are good or bad. In fact, probably one of the most effective aspects of the film is Hough's insistence that we do not live in a benevolent universe where the good are ultimately rewarded and the bad punished, or that anything actually happens for some lofty, higher purpose. Sometimes life is just shitty for no good reason."
What can I say? From my full review, which attempts to recreate the experience of seeing Yudai Yamaguchi's latest: ">>Mr. Postman + Tebana minus Sankichi, PLUS SANKICHI again and again and again, off the bridge, never InTo river, and again, because of
OR MILLION TIMES SHIRO! BLAM, Wack **&%! **&? **&! ... oh, just a dream. NOT A DREAM!! We'll return. ++####### Times Square Balboa bourgoise choP! abcdxyz (zyxdcba), American Money! $ $ $--->
Additional ScreenAnarchy Coverage of BIFFF 2013:
BIFFF 2013 Preview: Russian Zombies, Japanese Werewolves and More!
Ghost Graduation Wins Big at Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival