Archive for Sitges Festival

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2012

Posted in Directors, Events, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

I woke up this morning with my body still stiff after my first film marathon at Sitges Film Festival yesterday, trying to put things in order so I can tell you about my experience this year.

First of all I have to admit Sitges is the perfect festival for me. There’s too much trash, as it compiles horror, sci-fi, Asiatic films… this is, mostly those non suitable films for standard festivals, but in essence the concept is as if tailor made.

This year I’m unemployed but unfortunately money matters here, and no press registration was available, thus I planned Tuesday evening to watch Chained and The Lords of Salem, and a morning to enjoy Antiviral and The Tall Man. That morning I added one more title, Grabbers, and in the last minute, I could attend this marathon featuring Aurora, Sightseers, Maniac and Johnny Dies at the End.

I still don’t know how to approach the 9 films I saw, because there were great ones I’d like to talk about individually in order to extend the review in depth, and others which, frankly, don’t deserve more than just a few lines. I think I’ll update these minor titles first, to go on with the good stuff.

What I can confirm is that there are several conclusions I reached this time. On one hand, talent and taste for the twisted are hereditary, as Jennifer Lynch and Brandon Cronenberg showed in their visions, and on the other, that great names are not guarantee of nothing anymore, as in the cases of Rob Zombie and Don Coscarelli. And yes, one more remark, there’s still redemption for Alexandre Aja, responsible for the script of the remake of William Lustig’s Maniac, together with his horrorsoulmate Grégory Lavasseur,  one of the best movies I saw last week.

Sitges 2012 has come to an end, but I still have lots of things to tell about, and of course, I’m counting the days already for October 2013.

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.