Archive for November, 2011

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. II)

Posted in Events, Fantasy, Horror with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

After the success of the morning sessions, and finishing with a nice lunch time at a Jap restaurant outdoors, my friends suggested I could try to find tickets for this film. They were available , so were for the last Livide projection, thus I bought tickets for the two of them. I felt really pleased for this unexpected possibility of extending my festival experience. Unfortunately marathons for the day after were sold out.

After a couple of carajillos and a beer this is what we swallowed.

THE DAY HE ARRIVES, Book chon ban hyang (2011)

Asian cinema is a still pending subject for me. I’ve enjoyed some of these already modern but already  horror movies, even their western remakes, from The Ring to The Audition, Zatoichi, Dolls or Battle Royale

Regarding classics, I’ve seen some of Kurosawa’s but it wasn’t the right time. The slow rhythm of the stories require me to be in the mood, and I wasn’t, in fact I was imposed to see some of them, thus I didn’t get to enjoy them.

I’m an objective and positive person, otherwise, after the experience lived with The Day He Arrives, I’d give up on Asian films.

During the projection I passed though all kind of mental states. From concentration and interest, to astonishment, flipping with part of the audience passionately clapping, and eventually wondering whether I’m so stupid I didn’t get the message. Well, apparently I’m not, two of my friends took a nap, and I was exchanging glances with another friend who was in same state as I was. Total disaster, poor people, they even apologized for such crap.

A film teacher and temporarily retired filmmaker, Sang-Joon, is spending few days in Seoul, mainly to enjoy his old friend and mentor, Young-Ho. Basically the film recovers his encounters with students who recognize him and try to approach him, and the nights plenty of booze and deep thinking conversations with his friend, and a close acquaintance of his, all this put aside when the beautiful owner of one of the taverns turns up into scene.

Somehow it reminds me of the brilliant Groundhog Day, in the sense that each day Sang-Joon spends in Seoul is a repetition, with slight changes. High spirits get low, the barmaid and he get close up to physical contact, and everybody around him seems to get tired of him. Apart from that, nothing else happens.

Thus, there I was, flipping for around 80 minutes, without understanding much, giggling due to extreme zooms, weird takes, and uncomfortable silence. Really, it was a waste of time, and my feelings were awkward. If you get to see this film, and understand something else, please, let me know.

LIVIDE (LIVID), Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (2011)

After such crap, the group divided, some attending the remake of The Thing premiere, and we heading to shit in our pants with a dose of French horror.

After the wild A L’Interieur, commented a couple of years ago in this blog, the expectations were quite high. Truth is we didn’t get disappointed, but Livide doesn’t reach that level of insane brutality. Still, it was worth seeing.

In a French town by the sea, lately disturbed by the increasing rate of children disappearances, today’s Lucie’s first day as social worker trainee. Her boss, madame  Wilson, a rough woman, guides her in the route to follow, introducing her to the old people barely able to take care of themselves, she’ll have to take care on a daily basis. Basically her duties are visiting the patients and supply them with medicine.  But she’s asked to wait outside in one of the stops, at a very old mansion almost in ruins. Wilson comments Lucie is still not ready for such challenge, immediately awakening the young girl’s curiosity, who will cross the fence and get into the house, to discover the horrible picture of a very old woman, Mrs Jessel, in a deep coma.

Wilson explains Lucie, Madame Jessel used to be a very established and strict ballet teacher who amassed a vast fortune hidden somewhere in the mansion.

When telling her boyfriend about this shocking experience to her boyfriend, frustrated for working as a fisherman and sick of his boring life, he quickly convinces her and another friend of breaking in the house and look for a treasure which will allow them to have the good life they deserve.

As you can imagine, the apparent static house will immediately react against the breakage, with surprising and horrible consequences for the three of them.

I did like Livide, although many people got really disappointed. It’s easy to set comparisons with A L’Interieur considering both are tagged as horror films, however they are completely opposed. The greatness of the first one was perhaps the fact that the crazy and brutal story was focused on an act of revenge by an insane woman, but keeping close to what we could call reality. I mean, not likely, but something like that could ever happen. We all know world is falling apart and everything can be possible.

Livide is totally different. A haunted house and its hidden secrets are the main protagonists in this story, opening a door to a series of brutal and supernatural events. We’ve seen many stories of haunted houses, and evil powers acting against people unlucky to be there at that time. It’s a repeated pattern, and probably that’s why great part of the audience got upset.

In such way, I must admit Livide is not so original, and the fantastic element is a bit forced. There are still some details I’d rather not reveal, which I still don’t comprehend, and in my opinion, are completely unnecessary.

As a horror movie, it’s pretty enjoyable, anyway. Plenty of disgusting and brutal moments for your pleasure.

The roughness and spontaneity is lost in Livide, on behalf of a more twisted story, combining horror with fantasy, but not being totally consistent nor shocking as A L’Interieur.

I dig it, honestly, but sometimes when your starting register is so powerful and remarkable, audience will become very demanding, and reaching such level is not something easy.

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. I)

Posted in Action!, Events, Just Fun, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

What a mess! Once again, it’s taken me longer than expected to update on this festival I attended a month ago already. My apologies!

Wish I could talk about more films from Sitges Film Festival 2011 edition, but unfortunately, not press registration, bad planning, and lack of time and money, only allowed me enjoy a wonderful Saturday in town. Can’t complain though, for I had tickets for just two films, and ended up attending 4,with a result of 3 positive and worth seeing, and one a total joke.

I’ve not too much experience regarding film festivals, but I’m starting to think they’re as worth attending as music festivals, especially if contents are related to genres you love.

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m trying to get more involved in the future, in order to discover new proposals, and opening to new stuff. And of course, the possibility of meeting friends and share interesting conversations regarding all this marvelous world is simply priceless, and helps you realize how much you still can learn, and set new targets you to focus on.

So here it is my Sitges experience I want to share with you. Hope you enjoy.

DRIVE, Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

There are many components in this explosive cocktail as not to fail: Ryan Gosling, cars, pink neon credits, 80s inspired soundtrack, violence and blood…  Nothing could be wrong, and in fact it didn’t, Drive is gonna be the hype of the year, but it’s worth it, believe me.

The Driver, by Walter Hill, as a strong source of inspiration comes to mind immediately. And of course, memories of Bullit or Vanishing Point also spark underneath.

The driver (Ryan Gosling) is a workaholic. He devotes his life to work with cars, as a mechanic in a repairing shop owned by his mentor, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who also introduced him into Hollywood as a stuntman for car action scenes. Moreover, he performs occasional driving for robberies requiring a professional driver for the getaways.

He’s a guy with no identity, no attachments, not relatives known, and not a very talkative person or emotional either. Until he gets acquainted with his neighbors. A young woman, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her kid, Benicio. A kind of platonic story starts, with the shadow of Irene’s husband, serving prison for armed robbery.

In the meantime, Shannon is making business with dangerous people, in order to get enough money to develop a car prototype the driver would race with, involving lots of money. The associates, Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose, are the kind of guys you don’t mess around with, and they accept to invest, supervising and nosing on the preparations as to ensure their money is safe.

Eventually Standard, Irene’s wife, is released from prison, which means the friendship among neighbors should logically come to an end, for obvious reasons. But nothing was said to be that easy, and Standard is attacked and beaten for unfinished business, up to a point if he doesn’t carry out a robbery at a pawn shop, his family will suffer the consequences. And who will do the driving? Easy to guess.

What seems to be a non risky job, turns out to be a trap, and the driver will be forced to apply all his skills and cold blood to get Irene, Benicio and himself out of danger.

The way the plot is developed is perfect. Opening with a robbery as a way of introducing the driver to the audience, as cold, calculating, and professional, is enough as to catch the bait.

Although the start of the film is powerful, according to the typical pattern of the action movies, with the first 5 minutes creating tension, the following change as to introduce us to the actual plot is radical in its rhythm, focusing on the strong attachment among the driver and his neighbors, Irene in special. There are some moments you can think of another cakey love story, as the tone is very evocative, takings are very artistic, and the whole thing is kind of bucolic. But it’s a good technique, to enhance the super blow to come.

Really, Drive is the perfect shot of action. It’s violent, dynamic, surprising, bloody and mean. Beware! It’s not to be related to last year’s major action releases, such as Expendables or Machete, better considered as just entertainment and a great laugh. Drive is serious in its story, not aiming to be taken as a joke. Characters are not super heroes but just the opposite. Standard is a vulgar robber, the driver is a mechanic and Irene is just a waitress. If you think of the mob side, involving Albanian mafia, believe me, there’s no glamour or attractive in that.

The cast is something to take serious. With Ryan Gosling, absolutely brilliant, confirming, not only he’s the most wanted man in the world, but also a great actor, with a promising future ahead, but also featuring one of the current hottest goddess Christina Hendricks, a rough Ron Perlman, and the innocent but seed of the whole mess, Carey Mulligan (truth is her performance is not so consistent).

Release date in Spain is due to the end of this month. Sure I will repeat and will go to the cinema to watch it for the second time. Believe me, this hype is worth seeing, and most likely is to be one of the films of the year. hope you like it!

KILLER JOE, William Friedkin (2011)

After an extense career as director, featuring more than 20 films, including classics such as The Exorcist, The Cruising or The French Connection, Friedkin is not expected to prove anything. Perhaps, because he can do whatever he wants, he’s delivered this shocking black redneck comedy this year, away from social politeness.

The Smiths are pure white trash. Dumped from his mother’s house, Chris (Emil Hirsh) asks his father for money and shelter. He’s in debt with Digger Soames, the kind of big guy you cannot play with, and his life is in risk. Ansel has no money and if he had, he wouldn’t spend a dime on his stupid boy, his wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) would not allow it.

The only solution is contracting Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill Chris’ mother, so they’d be able to claim for her life insurance policy money, pay the killer, clean the debts and share the money among the family.

Problem is that Joe Cooper only accepts prepaid jobs. But he finds a way to ensure the payment. Dottie, Ansel’s 12 year old daughter, a night walker and a very special girl, still virgin, will be the pledge.

As soon as the agreement is done, Chris will regret having ruined his sister’s life in the hands of the killer and will try to put things into order.

Killer Joe is an excessive story. The protection of the underage is not valid here. Dottie is to fulfill Joe’s requirements and is a grant for payment. Everything is unacceptable and morally wrong. But who cares? Anything goes.

Dialogues and situations are so way out of line, so absurd, while watching the film I was totally shocked, so astonished, I found myself laughing nonstop. The way all things are messed around, how situation is getting more and more twisted is insane.

Such extreme the contents are, don’t think this film is being released at any cinema. Positive Friedkin wasn’t looking to be acclaimed nor praised, he just doesn’t care.

Therefore, if you are sensitive to certain subjects or morally concerned as not to understand this film as a joke, don’t waste your time watching it, otherwise you’ll get angry and disappointed. I had fun though.

THE FOG, John Carpenter (1980)

Posted in Directors, Horror with tags , , , , on November 2, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Fall season and Halloween knocking at the door have caused the need to swallow Carpenter’s classics again, and together with Cronenberg’s, I’m trying to gather all his films.

No doubt he’s one of the top masters in horror/sci-fi genres, and personally I’d include him in my top 5 of directors.

The Fog was created during his golden decade, and although wasn’t as shocking as Halloween or The Thing, nor so genuine as Escape from New York or They Live, this horror tale is equally enjoyable.

About midnight, April 21st, in Antonio Bay, in California. People from this nice fishing town by the sea are hosting the centennial  of its foundation.

During the witching hours lots of weird incidents occur all along the town. Empty cars horning, TV sets switching on, glasses breaking… during that crazy hour, in the church Father Malone discovers a hidden diary written by his own grandfather. The real terrible history of the town is depicted on those pages. The disgust caused by the upcoming leper colony close to the town led by a rich man named Blake, and the seek for the gold these people were shipping, forced the founders  to sink their vessel, Elisabeth Dane, by crashing it, with all the crew dying hopeless.

During the celebration night, a glowing deadly thick fog, bringing out nonhuman creatures resembling pirates, seeds panic and death over the town. Blake and his subordinates are back for revenge.

The owner of the local radio station settled at the old Lighthouse, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), on one hand, and another neighbor, Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), on the other, will soon realize something threatening and evil comes with the weird glow, and will put all their efforts  to protect the town.

After the huge success of Halloween, John Carpenter decided to continue working on some horror theme title.

The Fog wasn’t generously budgeted wither, but the director managed this wasn’t an obstacle for delivering a story in which supernatural powers were involved.

Truth is that, probably for this reason, we are not standing on front of a slasher, gore film. Executions are not super obvious and lack of blood unfortunately lessens the impact these could have caused.

Same with Blake and the foggy creatures. When I commented on Assault on Precinct 13th, I was supporting and cheering the fact that none of the gang members was highlighted. Faces weren’t important, the plague-like effect of all of them creeping and moving incredibly fast around the police station as an unnatural threaten was the point. However in this case, these weird creatures are already non human. Their terrible appearance should have been more exploited in my opinion.

One of the features of this film I like most, apparently was added after filming and editing. Carpenter didn’t find the story catchy enough and decided to add the initial scene. Kids gathering around a bonfire close to midnight, and this old fisherman, Mr. Machen, telling about the story of a clipper vessel, crashing to the rocks, due a thick fog, and a deceiving light caused by fire, and warning the kids that if such fog returns, the men at the bottom of the sea, will accompany it to Antonio Bay.

This scary tale tone provided since the very beginning, introducing the audience to the events about to happen, is simply brilliant.

I’m wondering the loyalty and boundaries among Carpenter and the cast. Many actors participate in several of his titles. You see Nancy Loomis in Assault, Halloween and The Fog, for instance, or Tom Atkins and Adrienne Barbeau.

I really love Janet Leigh and her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, working together under Carpenter’s command. Two actresses, whose roles in horror, made them legend. Excellent!

Never seen the remake released in 2005 and don’t feel like watching it. A cast billing tv series gorgeous actors and actresses, I really don’t find much appeal.

The Fog might be more innocent than Carpenter’s previous work, dealing with the unnatural is not easy and as commented, possibilities seemed to be reduced due to low budget, still, it’s a funny horror movie, perfect for a cold dark Sunday, with the lights turned off.