my Movie
FantasticFest 2005 (10.06.05 - 10.09.05, 16 movies)
Date Viewed Movie Director Notes
10.06.05 StringsAnders Rennow-KlarlundAnd so begins the first annual FantasticFest here in Austin, held at the best theater in town (Alamo South Lamar) spanning four days of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic film. Actually, they programmed too many films. There's 24 films being shown and only enough time to catch 19. Still though, it's a real treat and I have a feeling based on today's attendance that it being the first year gives those of us lucky enough to be around all the more glory. Sort of like being at QT1 or something.

Anyway, it was the first full-on perfect autumn day outside today. Never got out of the 70s, a brisk breeze constantly blowing through, not a cloud in the sky. I got to the theater about an hour early and got a choice parking spot right in front.

They had several doors to the lobby open creating a crossbreeze. Some of the AICN folks were already there, a few guys I sat next to all through QT6 and have seen at film events since then, and the Feast/Project Greenlight people were there to pick up their badges. Stan Winston had brought a model for the giant robot and Zorgon ship used in Zathura, which were on display in the lobby. Since this is the first year, I could actually buy my way into the cool-people circle and get a VIP badge which lets me sit down first, get into the party after the Zathura premiere tonight, and a free poster/t-shirt (in a SXSW bag with Exploding Dog artwork on it!!!). Of course, they have a special VIP poster that's different from the badass black poster i spotted last night but completely forgot to gank one on my way out, so I had to fork up ten more bucks to get the most badass poster. They also have a clearly-more badass golf-style shirt that i want as well...

After hanging out in the lobby and chatting with a few people, they casually let us know that people with cool badges could sit down. It seemed like everyone was in a rush to see this movie with Robin Williams instead of Strings... they are crazy. Strings was up there on my list of films to see when I sat down with the schedule and planned out what I'd watch when. I'd heard stark raving good things about this film and also that a 35mm print of it in the US is pretty much a miracle. According to Harry Knowles, the film's only been screening on film one other time in America...

So when the lights dim, Tim League, Alamo Owner and all-around cool dude, gets up and says that we are the most discriminating audience because this is the film he would be seeing right now and he's gonna try to sit with us and watch it if he doesn't get pulled away. of course he got pulled away. It made me wonder for all the cool stuff he puts together and hosts and documents and stuff like that, his life must be so hectic that he probably doesn't get a chance to just sit and watch movies much anymore. I'll come back to this at the end of this entry.

Before the film started, they showed a short called Moongirl directed by Henry Selick, who directed Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and the animation stuff in Life Aquatic. Well, apparently he's converted to CGI for this short, a 9 minute story about a boy who's fishing by moonlight with his pet squirrel and manages to hook this massive catfish constellation of stars. The celestial fish drags him up out of Earth and flings him at the moon, crashing through the canvas exterior into the hollowed out core where this huge merry-go-round lays dormant. Immediately, jagged monsters made of shadow try to get in but a girl and her pet (giant) cat keep them at bay while they repair the hole. There's a bit of talking and some stuff with lightning bugs and a pretty cool little action scene where the shadow-monsters try to steal the lightning bugs but they get them back and eventually use them to fuel the merry-go-round. It's revealed that the boy is now Moonboy and must stay there until the next kid comes flying up with fresh lightning bugs, that fresh lightning bugs is, in fact, what makes the moon light up.

I enjoyed this short more than I thought I would. I really liked the childish simplicity of logic here mixed with ideas that would be really really tough to pull off with any medium but CGI. They Might Be Giants supplied the score and the character design reminded me a lot of Psychonauts, where the kids have huge eyes and wide heads but are very personable and quirky.

Then Strings started. Put simply, this is a marionette epic. What elevates it to a really great movie is that the marionettes are aware of their strings, and in fact have a whole mythology set up around them, tying their mortality directly to them. At once they acknowledge that they are dependant upon these spiritual/physical links to the heavens up above but also act with complete free will like any live-action character in any other story. There's a whole system set up around the strings that constantly creates striking visuals or cool ideas... you see how marionettes are born, how they get hurt, heal, grow old, and die. There's a military general character who is very tough and therefore has much thicker strings than other people. A newborn baby's strings are whisper-thin. It's a really great use of the medium. On the other hand though, there's a really epic story going on with these characters, involving a war between factions, political intrigue, backstabbing, love, etc. etc. This could be Dune but with puppets, Hamlet but with puppets, or Braveheart... but with puppets. This mixture makes everything very strange and beautiful. The director keeps coming back to these landscape shots of beautiful scenery obscured by thousands and thousands of strings, each leading down to control some marionette. it's really striking to see. I was really impressed with it.

Afterward Harry wheeled around and geeked out on it a bit with me. We both loved how the city gates and prisons are nothing more than bars that raise, since characters can't pass under them, and how the ability to jump really high is like a super power. Very cool concepts based on what life would be like if you had strings going from you straight up to heaven. None of the buildings have rooves or anything, and in the final climactic battle when they set a forest on fire, just pushing people against them is lethal because the flames catch their strings on fire. There's an absolutely beautiful shot of the army getting mowed down seen only by strings burning and breaking and falling.

Here's another cool thing. Tim mentioned that VIP people didn't have to leave the theater before the next show, which was the Zathura premiere. Sweet! I have the best seat in the house! Except, since there was security there to check for cameras or recording devices, they made us leave but we got directly in front of the line and got to go right back in. I feel so special.

When i was out in the hall, Kier-la approached me and asked me how the movie ended. She said she was watching up above (presumably in the projection room) but got called away during the end. Again, I wondered how often these really cool, super-film literate people get time to just sit and enjoy a film. To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Kier-la i didn't think she was attractive at all. I don't mean this in a bad way but she seemed to me to give off a very lesbian feel. However, when I approached her to ask about her horror trivia game, I was struck by how cute she is. Her face is absolutely adorable. and now I'm finding that the more I talk to her, the hotter she gets. For real. It's not like... a "thing" or anything, I won't be stalking her or anything like that... yet.

It also kind of helps that she could kick my ass in any sort of movie trivia/conversation/debate/whatever. Explaining how the movie ended to her I actually got a bit nervous because I wanted to do it really well and be all interesting and emotive. Best to just stop typing at this point I think...

Randomosities from my notebook:

-Now that I know that Sunny from Alamo downtown has a kid and a guy, my favorite waitress there is blonde Carrie. I also have a favorite waitress at South Lamar... she's been my favorite since like the second time i went there for the Godfather feast but I never knew her name till tonight. what is it? Carrie!!! OMG star-alignment coincidence-or-is-it!
10.06.05 ZathuraJon FavreauAfter that, I took my same seat for the Zathura premiere. They had original planned to show the movie on two screens to accomodate everyone but it looked like just the one screen was just shy of being full. This may not bode well for FantasticFest, but the crowd gave a really good reaction so I think the filmmakers present felt sufficiently loved. Plus it's a thursday... I'm curious to see if the fest gets busier during the weekend.

This was like the big premiere of the event. They brought out this huge FantasticFest banner and Harry gave an intro and explained how tough it is to program event-heavy films early because they're usually just not done until a few weeks prior to release. Luckily though, Favreau used a lot of practical effects on this one and aside from a few effects not being done (they all looked done to me though) and a few pacing tweeks, the movie was pretty much complete. In attendance was Favrea, producer/Ralphie Peter Billingsly, the editor (sorry buddy, forgot your name), and actor/Punk'd-or Dax Shepard. I'll get to the Q&A after the movie though.

My first and still probably my biggest surprise with this movie is how good the script is. I am not a big David Koepp fan at all... and fully expected this to be klunky with the characters like Panic Room but to my pleasant surprise it wasn't at all. The first ten minutes have some really top-notch character establishment stuff that all seems natural and real while at the same time economical and efficient. Tim Robbins' small role still has a little meat to it and his interaction with the kids was great. There are a few lines right off the bat (like the teenaged daughter, whom Robbins has just woken up, saying she's hooking up with her boyfriend later. Robbins: I don't like you saying that. Daughter: It's just an expression, it doesn't mean anything. Robbins: I hope it doesn't. Daughter: it doesn't. Robbins: I hope it doesn't. Daughter: It doesn't! We should've never watched Thirteen...).

So now i thought back to how Jumanji started... with these weird period kids burying this box in a spooky graveyard or something and a statue of Colonel Sanders lit by lightning strikes. This movie is clearly another beast entirely from Jumanji. They still both have magical boardgames and like, really scary dangerous situations for kids to be in (I think Chris Van Allsburg has cornered the market on that. His children must be MESSED UP), but after that this movie leaves Jumanji in its dust.

When the game stuff starts, it's done like any well-crafted action movie. Really the only thing classifying this as a "family film" is a few lines toward the end regarding brothers being there to help eachother and that's what brothers are for. If you cut out three minutes of this film, you have a very entertaining sci-fi action movie. Granted it's still kinda light-hearted, but who cares... the Post Apocalyptic movies are coming later.

The Q&A was fun... Favreau was pretty open with his answers, Dax was funny, and the editor pleaded with us not to suggest any changes; he wants to go home. The effects were really a tight interweaving between practical and CG, sometimes even putting a guy in the robot suit but CGing his arms in and his legs out, still keeping the weight of the torso's movement though. I can't tell you how cool it was to see giant lizard guys actually there being photographed by a camera rather than moving all smooth and silky CG-style. Plus having the robot and the space ship out in the lobby helped as well.

After the questions stopped coming, I went out to my car to get a camera to snap some pics of the props. I saw all the celebs getting into their Navigators to head to the afterparty. Here's where the decision came in: go to the Elks lodge and play vintage boardgames and try to get 20 seconds of face-time with Favreau and maybe having to settle for Dax, or stay and watch Wolf Creek?

Randomosities from my notebook:

-Dax told a story about being in a theater watching a movie and having this little girl stand up in the middle of it and say "I love this movie SO much!" like she couldn't handle keeping that emotion bottled up anymore... and that's everything good about movies right there
-Dax also did a full-on impression of Mike Judge and his favorite direction to give to Dax during the shoot of his new movie Idiocracy: "Dax, in the next take, could you be a little less gay?" it was funny.
10.06.05 Wolf CreekGreg McLeanI've been wanting to see this movie since Australian night at QT6, when Quentin told the story of his favorite Aussie actor John Jarratt. Jaratt was the star of the giant Croc movie he showed that night called Dark Age, and the story, in a nutshell went like this: He's his fave actor so when Aussie press asked him who his fave actor was he named John Jaratt. They were all surprised because, unbeknownst to QT, Jaratt had become sort of a TV handiman with a show where he basically guided you through building shelves or fixing your sink, that type of stuff. Well, QT persisted and the next day all of the Aussie press had headlines: HANDIMAN JARATT HAS HANDI-FAN TARANTINO. Cut To: Greg McLean trying to get this horror movie called Wolf Creek togather, about a group of kids who get abducted by some random dude out in the middle of nowhere. McLean was trying to convice the studio to hire none other than John Jaratt for the random killer role but they were laughing him off, saying he's just a has-been with a handiman show on TV. The QT headline hits and what do you know, Jaratt gets the gig. Jaratt's so good in the role that his career is now going through a resurgence! (as an epilogue to this particular tale of coincidence... after I watched Jaratt in Dark Age that night at QT6, I went home and checked the news and wouldn't you know it there's an announcement that Greg McLean, producer/writer/director of hit horror film Wolf Creek, has announced that his next film will be a Giant Croc movie!)

Exhale.

So ok, i am hardcore, I am die-hard. I didn't go to the party because I wanted to see this movie so bad.

Kier-la intro'd this one, saying that she tried really hard to get it because the Weinstein company bought it without even showing it and have been very secretive about it since then, generally giving the impression that it's really good and they know it. She also mentioned that the gore is supposed to be pretty grisly, citing Irreversible and Funny Games as movies it's been compared to. Ahh Kier-la, my crush grows. The guy next to me said that she was invited in to one of his film classes to talk about the birth of exploitation film. I SO want a film-scholar girlfriend right now.

ANYWAY, the show started with an Australian animated short called Ward 13, which is a big escape sequence where this guy with a bandaged up head runs and fights with deranged doctors that are turning their patients into monsters. It's really bizarre but very fast-paced and actually had a few funny gags thrown in there. Highly surreal.. like Mr. Bob meets Jacob's Ladder.

Then Wolf Creek started. The film takes a very 70s approach: lots of long lenses, lots of sunset lighting, a cutting rythm that doesn't really explain what's going on but more like gives glimpses of scenes that aren't really important enough to know all the details anyway. Then they break down in the middle of nowhere and a guy comes along and offers to town them back to his place and fix their car.

Now, at this point, about 50 horror movie cliches and pitfall cookie-cutter situations are probably flashing through your mind. You can probably guess how the rest of this movie goes. In some ways you would be sort of right but for the most part you are dead wrong, dude. First off, the movie doesn't devolve into typical third-act Hollywood horror filmmaking of today. There's no lightning storms or big twists that a good guy is really a bad guy or anything like that. OK there are a lot of "this key won't start this car!" going on but it's shot in a really great gritty naturalistic way. It's really more akin to films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes where you just watch as events unfold. It never quite becomes apparent that these are just characters in the movie you're watching, which is quite an achievement for a horror film!

Also, some of these cliches do get flipped. Maybe it's because it's Australian instead of Hollywood-churned-out, but the sequence and way that events unfold didn't feel comfortable to me, it didn't feel expected. For example, the kids are made up of two women and one dude... and there's like a good half hour where we don't see the dude AT ALL. We don't know if he's dead, alive, escaped, whatever... he's just not dealt with for a solid half-hour. There's also a great interchange between the women, where one seems to take the familiar "strong girl heroine" role but then gets completely stripped of any power, both figuritively and literally. We don't even see her die... that's how unimportant she becomes and the film treats her likewise.

Maybe I'm reading into it a bit much but I just really had a great time with this movie. It's really what I love about horror films. The gore/violence was not as traumatic as Irreversible (haven't seen Funny Games yet but i've read about it and it's on my list), but John Jaratt does make one hell of a bad dude. There's a GREAT scene involving him and a high-powered rifle. There's two great scenes involving him and a high-powered rifle actually, but one in particular... I can't really think of a better way to execute that scene.

exhale.

Randomosities from my notebook:

-"head on a stick"
-the dude has an awful lot of drool
-weird eclipse shots thrown in for no reason.
-they just end it!
10.06.05 FeastJohn GulagerFor a midnight show, they had Feast, the third Project Greenlight movie. As soon as I came out of the theater from Wolf Creek, I saw producer/Project Greenlight star Chris Moore standing next to a big Feast poster. I went up to him and brought up the remake of Race with the Devil, which he's directing and AICN writer "Moriarty" is writing. Moore is just as personable, sharp, and witty talking to lowly fans like me than he is in the show. I actually really hope his movie flies and does well. The original is really fun and, while I'm generally against remakes, since i got to talk to Chris Moore about it in person and he was nice to me and thanked me for wanting to see Feast I now want it to do well.

Actually pretty much all of the Project Greenlight guys were there: Gulager, the two writers, the editor, the non-tall producer guy... the tall producer wasn't there I don't think, and the casting director of course... It was weird to see them all just standing there and not intercut with them talking into a camera doing an interview.

Again, Harry intro'd the movie, recommending that we all order a bucket of beer because the whole movie takes place in a bar and if we don't order now we will certainly want some later. He also said that this cut would be VERY early and no way is this movie coming out this year. Again, it's funny because the movie seemed pretty damn done to me. Maybe there's a few minor pacing tweaks to make and stuff like that, but the movie played with all the effects and music and everything.

The movie is what it is. Some of the AICN guys didn't like it at all, but I personally got a kick out of it. Granted I have seen three good movies in a row today and was in a place so open and ready to like a rowdy gorefest midnight movie that I probably could've been happy with Madman Marz again, but you know... not every movie has to be the best movie ever made. Some movies are OK just being stupid fun movies.

The film did get a lot of audience response though, I think everyone involved with it was happy that we seemed to like it that much. The clips shown on Greenlight illustrate what kind of movie it is pretty well. It's quick, it's sloppy, it's filled with quick shots and fast jerky movement to hide the fact that it's really just one set and a guy in a suit grabbing at the actors and drenching them in blood, but I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do: it entertained me for an hour and a half, had some good gore, some hot chicks, and some smart-ass lines. I think maybe my favorite moment comes when one of the hot girls (i guess there are three but I don't think Krista Allen or Navi Rawat can act their way out of paper bags) is trying to clean up the absolute you-can't-do-that-on-television full-body coating of blood... so she's in her aquamarine bra rubbing down her red-stained cleavage and it cuts to Balthazar Getty and his movie-brother just staring at her. It's a nice little beat that draws out on her cleaning herself up long enough to satisfy all those urges. What's funny is she catches them looking, makes some comment, then goes behind clear-plastic flappers and gets down to her panties as well.

Anyway, where was I... Yeah, the show was completely right. Navi Rawat fell completely flat with her part... that casting director was a bitch.

Afterward with the Q&A, Gulager... who was just as candid and open as he was on the show. Perhaps the funniest thing he said was when someone said that it was nice to see Krista Allen in a starring role even though she's still playing a slut. Gulager said something like how a lot of actors play roles well because that's how they are in real life. Everyone starts laughing, Chris Moore covers his face with his hand, the non-tall producer turns away to hide his laugh, the non-skinny writer just laughs out loud. Gulager tries to qualify, saying how some of the classic actors really just play themselves over and over again (definitely a valid point), but then he brings it back by saying "so Krista's probably a slut, I don't know." To call your star a slut twice in one answer... that's pretty much awesome in my book.

Randomosities from my notebook:

-The movie is one of those movies where the first 5 minutes are like a machine gun with action and exposition and music and characters and then it slows down for the next hour and a half or so.

-probably the best gore scene involved a monster getting his cock caught in a door. They then chop it off and it flops around under the handicapped kid's wheelchair until someone steps on it and it explodes with cottage cheese white stuff and blood.
10.07.05 Miracle MileSteve De JarnattDay Two. It's overcast and "cold" (that means mid-50s to Texans. Since I still have less than a year spent here, my blood is thick enough to laugh at everyone going around in jackets... of course that's a small victory after spending the summer melting, but I'll take it). It seems the vigor and anticipation that brought the people out early yesterday has either slept in or stopped for coffee. I'm way early it could be because the first screenings are a choice between episodes from an anime based on Moby Dick or a post-apocalyptic movie starring Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds. Either way, half of me thinks more people should be here but the other half is glad I can stretch out for this first show and not have to watch my elbows.

Kier-la gets up to intro Miracle Mile. She tells us all that in addition to the cool premieres and sneak previews of new movies, one of the great things about going to film festivals is that you can see cooler older films that you might not have had a chance/inclination to see otherwise. She also mentioned that when they decided to put together a series of post-apocalyptic films, Miracle Mile was the first movie to pop up for her. I guess this movie plays really well and often on TV, so it's been sort of a constant loser at the game of musical chairs that is programming for festivals, because she really loves the movie but it always gets cut because she thinks a lot of people have already seen it or can easily rent it. Nevertheless, she says she loves the film and is glad that people are showing up to watch it.

At this point, I confess my growing crush to the dude next to me and he completely empathizes. "It's not at an unhealthy level though, at least not yet," I tell him. "Give it a year," he answers back and the lights go down.

Now, I am admittedly a pretty big fan of not only post-apocalyptic cinema but also countdown-till-, as-it-happens-, and even doesn't-really-happens-but-it=could-and-that's-the-message-damn-it-apocalyptic cinema. One of my favorite movies that I watched over and over again in High school was Rutger Hauer's Blood of Heroes, which seemed to combine post-apocalypse with the sports movie. I hated baseball but If i could've played the mount-the-dog-skull-on-the-spike game and be either the dude with the bolo chain or the dude with the huge jousting stick, I would've excelled I think. My problem is that, for as much as I love the genre, I am criminally negligent with a lot of the great movies. I just haven't seen them, for some reason or another, which sucks but it's also kinda cool because it means i still get to see tons of movies for the first time.

Anyway, for those that haven't seen the film (like me), Miracle Mile stars ER's Anthony Edwards as a... I guess he's a jazz trombone players, all I know is he wears a really loud blue suit and a tie that's maybe suitably skinny for 1986 but probably too skinny for 1988. He meets this girl of his dreams at the La Brea tar pits museum, showing off all those qualities that got him cast in Revenge of the Nerds, and he and this dream girl with a hedgehog haircut get all close and romantic until the scene where they keep referring to street vendor hot dogs as "tubesteaks." The girl has to work at some diner (home to the Fat Boy Burger) but they make a date for midnight, which of course he misses because a bird picks up his tossed cigarette and sets its nest on fire which happens to be precariously suspended on the hotel's power lines. This has to happen to smokers like three times a week. The surgeon general should really alter that warning to include this hazard because people really need to know the risks. So when Edwards, we'll call him Harry, wakes up, he rushes down to the greasy spoon with a bunch of flowers and completely booty calls the dream girl (heretofore known as Julie), saying it's 4a.m. and they should, like, hang out. He then gets a random call to the phone booth from some guy who mentions something about only having an hour to live before nuclear war breaks out and things presumably decline from there. So the movie is the frantic scramble for Harry to find Julie and get them both to safety before complete and utter destruction and, before that, LA traffic jams... which might be just as bad.

The whole movie is like the above paragraph. If you read that and think "sounds like a good flick, a semi-cheese movie to have a fun time with" then you will get a real kick out of it like I did.

Tangerine Dreams supplies a very lush but cold soundtrack and the tone and pacing of the movie steadily gear up as the panic starts to spread, ending in scenes of utter chaos. It's these last moments that really showcase the mixture of authentic panic and surreal absurdism that gives this movie its charm. At one point, Harry is walking on top of cars to get across a street chocked with gridlock. He jumps off a truck to another car and the roof dents in. The guy in the car proceeds to go absolutely loon, shooting a pistol up through the roof that he's so pissed just got dented, then actually leaves his car to chase Harry under other cars and into a sewer, firing off rounds the whole time. In some quick shots of people running like spooked sheep, keep an eye peeled to see a dude in a complete silver tin foil suit; I guess he was prepared for this from day one. Also watch out for small appearances by Eddie Bunker as a gas station attendant with an illegal firearm, Kurt Fuller as some dude that does a ton of drugs and goes completely crazy for no real reason at all, and strongman Brian Thompson as a gay bodybuilder helicopter pilot. i remember Thompson as being like the B-grade Schwarzenegger of the mid-eighties. He certainly has an interesting face.

All in all, I had a great time with this movie. Part of me really wishes I could make it to all four post-apocalyptic films screening at the fest but as it is I'm glad I got a chance to see this.

Random Notes
-"It's time for the insects now"
-"I fried my brain over a rumor!?"
-"Hey! I'm the guy that picked up the phone!"
10.07.05The Wild Blue YonderWerner HerzogAfter Miracle Mile, there was a bit of time spent getting into completely random discussion/debates with a few people about movies like G.I. Jane, The Doom Generation, Renny Harlin, and Joel Schumacher. I think for a casual film fan to hear these types of conversations which switch topics like once a minute but follow some minute tenuous thread of continuity that only a fanatic can recognize and follow must be really tough. I also think that, to the film geek, conversations like these are the equivalent of dogs sniffing each other's hindparts. You have a conversation like that with someone and you get an idea of their personal film ethos... you have an idea of their stance. FantasticFest seems to be a healthy breeding ground for conversations like these.

Next up was a panel on the effects used in the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. They had a whole mini-exhibit of stuff set up in the lobby that everyone took in for a while since the panel didn't start until an hour after the second round of films started. When we seated, they also had articulated masks for the minotaur and one of the ogres. At this point I should say that I am completely outside the circle of Narnia fans. I never read the books, never got that interested in the story and therefore never paid too much attention to what's going on with the upcoming film. Basically, I only really saw the panel because of scheduling the alternative films at later times and because it would be yet another exclusive thing I could tell my friends about and make them jealous.

The panel was led by the B in KNB effects: Howard Berger. Right from the start, I got a sense that Berger had a real personal attachment to this movie and all the work he's done on it. Now, I'm not really "in the loop" and I've never had hour-long phone chats with cool directors or have any cool stories about film people telling me juicy gossip or anything so I don't really know if Berger is like this on every gig they get or if this is something special, but he did seem to exude a particular excitement and reverence when talking about the characters and how he handled them and things of that nature. The thing started with Berger running through a slideshow of production photos taken in New Zealand on set for the 7 months that they shot. He then explained a lot of how and where the different effects crews took over and how they worked together. WETA did all the initial designs but the Kong started up and Richard Taylor decided to pull back and just handle all the weaponry and armor stuff and hand the creature effects over to Berger. From there it went between Berger's team and Rhythm & Hues for the practical/digital split, all working from the base of beginning WETA stuff. He then started up another slideshow and basically broke down how each of the main characters/races were handled. He went into some depth here and I thought many times that if I was a big Narnia fan then I would really really be loving this. As it was, I was very interested in hearing how it was all done, the attention to detail the team took with the creatures and handling the actors, and in particular with the emergent behavior on set. It seemed that after a while, the cyclops would not eat lunch with the ogres, and the ogres wouldn't eat lunch with the goblins... that the cliques started to segregate much like the different apes did on the original Planet of the Apes shoot. It makes a certain amount of sense if you think about it a little bit, but it stops making sense if you think about it too long so be careful.

After that there was a Q&A session where questions were asked about what was a set versus what was location (I guess they couldn't get a stage tall enough for the initial Narnia set piece where the kids step out of the wardrobe so they had to dig down and build the set into the ground to accommodate the low ceilings), how the creature effects worked with the child actors (Berger told an interesting bit about how, for the first time the kids meet Aslan, the giant Lion who I guess is a king or something, he had his team keep the lion moving as they set up to take to continue the illusion that he was not just a hunk of fur and wires for the kids.), casting choices (Apparently, when director Andrew Adamson finally found his perfect choice to play Mr. Tumnus, the actor James McAvoy was unavailable for any sort of prep. I guess McAvoy was on a TV show or something and had full work weeks. So, because he was so gung ho to get this role, one Friday directly after he wrapped for the day, he got on a jet and spent 36 hours to fly out to LA and get into KNB's studio, got the whole body-mold/cyber-scan treatment in 6 hours, then spent the rest of the weekend flying back to England to get back just in time Monday morning to walk into work saying he had a pretty relaxing weekend), and other assorted things that I can't remember. He did say that, unlike most other gigs, in this case there was absolutely no contention between the practical guys and the digital guys. They picked up each other's slack seamlessly and smoothly, him doing stuff the digital people couldn't do and them doing stuff he couldn't do. He also mentioned that in the Minotaur head, he built in articulation of the lips and stuff even though it wasn't scripted for them to have any lines. But of course when they got on set, the director came up with an idea to have him say something or other so Berger just went over to his puppeteers and said "make him say that" and they did and the VFX crews all got real happy, saying "dude, you just saved us $150,000." I guess that was what they call a good day.

To end the presentation, they played some footage specially cut together for FantasticFest, different from the stuff shown at Comic Con. It had some temp music and some temp effects but I guess it was so new that Berger hadn't even seen it. Afterward he got up, clearly impressed, and said "that was awesome!" Because I couldn't hope to mention all the stuff they showed (if only i could've had my cell phone to take pictures with. so much would be visible in those 640x480 grainy dark shots! oh well), I'll leave the contents of the stuff that was shown as an exclusive treat for those of us who were there.

Next up came a hard choice. It was between a Turkish sci-fi comedy called GORA and the new Werner Herzog film The Wild Blue Yonder. I opted for the Herzog.

The Wild Blue Yonder is a movie that I'm convinced I'm not smart enough to understand. I've seen a few things like this, mostly shorts made up entirely of "found" footage, where I sti through it and seem to understand what I think they're doing, but also have this itch in the back of my mind that there's probably more to it and I'm probably just shallow or something. This is how i feel about Terrence Malick's work. of course, Tim League mentioned that this is the first time that Herzog's new film has been screening on this continent, so when I tell my friends about it I will have understood everything perfectly and absolutely loved it. In truth however, it had a very hypnotic effect on me and made my eyelids heavy more than once. The movie itself is a few minutes of Brad Dourif talking into the camera about how he's an alien from another world called the Wild Blue Yonder where the sky was iced over and everything was beautiful, and he came to Earth because his planet was dying out but when he got here he sort of discovered that he's not very smart. In fact, the aliens just suck. Maybe generations upon generations ago they were incredibly intelligent and important people, but nowadays they can't even succeed in building a shopping mall. The thrust of the movie however is a really loose narrative made up of various sources of documentary footage. Using a pastiche of NASA film, early flight footage, odd warehouse stuff, and lots and lots and lots of underwater photography of divers under a shelf of ice, Herzog uses Dourif's narration to tell us a story about how humans discover wormholes and take an expedition to this alien homeworld as a possible colonization spot. Nearly the entire film is blanketed by cello solos, Sardinian song, and various other "world music" types of sounds. Some of these languorous meditations go on for 5, 10 minutes before cutting to chapter breaks explaining what's happening. Personally, the most exciting parts of the film were interviews with Ph.Ds. That should tell you something.

Just because it's not exciting doesn't mean it's not interesting though... and I'm still pretty convinced that I missed something about it. There's some sort of inside information that I'm missing that will elevate this experience beyond stupification. It took me a whole other movie just to be able to form some kind of opinion on it tonight... It's really truly strange and beautiful.

Perhaps Herzog himself should've played the alien. As much as I love Brad Dourif, hearing Herzog speak always fascinates me. My favorite random quote of the moment is him saying "I don't hate the jungle. I love it" so maybe hearing his voice throughout would've kept me more engaged. Who knows...

Afterward I snuck into the last half hour of GORA. It looked entertaining but was full of Matrix gags and stuff like that. Herzog's films have a history of me not liking them at all at first but then they stick with me and haunt me until one day I wake up really liking them. I got the vibe from GORA that I would be hungry again an hour after consumption.

Notes from the journal:
-The dude towed a boat over a mountain, can't he shoot his own footage?
10.07.05 Night of the Living DorksMatthias DinterSo After Wild Blue Yonder, I had a real need for something I could laugh at and easily understand without worrying about my intelligence or anything like that. Night of the Living Dorks sounded like the perfect answer.

Beforehand, Tim League got up and explained how he assigned which films each person should intro for the fest, and how he really had no idea why he penciled his name in for this movie because he knows absolutely nothing about it, other than it won the Audience award as this year's Fantasia Festival. He also mentioned that this movie really scares him because the title is so horrible but he remembers last year being afraid of another movie with a horrible title like Shaun of the Dead, which he turned out to really like so he offered no guarantees but hoped for the best. Lucky for us all though, we are getting to see Forklift Driver Klaus first.

For anyone that hasn't seen Forklift Driver Klaus (oder Stapelfahrer Klaus in Deutch) I strongly recommend hitting up google. It's available somewhere online and, even if you can't find a version with English subtitles watch it anyway. I first saw it without subtitles and I almost think it plays better that way. It's set up as an industrial safety film about Klaus' first day as a forklift operator. Needless to say, Klaus has a very bad day. Curiously however, it seemed that Tim's print with English subtitles was also in black and white. The German version I found on the Internet was in color. Either way, it's a really good time and well worth the 9 minutes it takes to watch it.

Then came Night of the Living Dorks, which is a really horrible title. It should be noted that it's "Losers" in the German title instead of "Dorks," which at least cuts out the possibility of a penis reference. A lot of people afterward compared this movie to Idle Hands (but better) and Shaun of the Dead (but worse). Honestly, aside from it treating the zombie genre as a source of comedy, I don't see a lot of similarities. Idle Hands was all frantic pantomime mixed with postmodern sidekicks and Shaun of the Dead, no matter how much fun it had with the genre, still ended up a bit serious at the end of the day. This movie is more like a straight-up teen comedy where the stars just happen to be undead. There's the hot neighbor who's not really supposed to be hot because she's goth who burns a torch for the oblivious main character who wants the popular girl instead of the she's-actually-hotter-than-the-popular-girl neighbor who's throwing herself at his feet, there's the cool-guy-but-still-nerdy-just-not-as-nerdy-as-the-main-guy friend who's main job is to smoke, drink, and chase after hot teachers, there's the popular rich kid antagonist, and the nerdiest-of-the-bunch-brainiac-friend to round it all off. All the staples are there, it's just injected with really funny zombie humor. Think Teen Wolf with rotting flesh and detaching genitalia.

The gags are quite funny. I got a sense that a lot of them were jokes that perhaps their upper brow tried to keep out of the movie but they were just too good to give up. There's a Thriller reference in there which kills, lots of "Oops, I ate the gym teacher" type of stuff, and a great hot tub joke which would definitely be a perk of not having to breathe.

Perhaps ultimately it does fall between Idle Hands and Shaun of the Dead quality-wise, but I still think the movie has more in common with She's All That or 10 Things I Hate About You than anything Romero-influenced.

Random Notes:
-losing your penis = funny, showing you staple said lost penis back on = funnier
-apparently being a zombie also puts you in with the ladies
10.07.05 CreepChristopher SmithKier-la came out again to intro this midnight movie about a girl with a way-too-yellow dress running through London's sewers and subway tunnels (tube tunnels? tube tubes? who knows). She basically said that this was very similar to a British movie made in the early 70s called Death Line (AKA Raw Meat), but a lot of people thought Death Line suffered a bit from deliberate, British pacing and so Creep is basically what those people wished Death Line was.

Before the movie, they played a short called Mindtrix which was basically a Geto Boys music video using Star Wars figures in stop-animation. It's about as funny as you'd expect.

Creep sets itself up like a typical monster movie, where we have Franke Potente establishing her character as someone interested in doing a line of coke, tracking down George Clooney, and fucking him. Of course she happens to fall asleep while waiting for the train and wakes up after the station's locked up for the night. Cue the trying to get out, the stalking monster, and the lots of blood and screaming.

A large part of this movie and my thoughts on it revolves around what I think is a fairly significant spoiler, so if you don't want anything ruined for your first viewing of Creep, my one-line synopsis is that, despite having a few issues with it, it's a very decent horror movie with a sufficient amount of blood and gore and hey, who doesn't like seeing Franke Potente running.

So OK, the first few encounters with this beast are of the grab-you-in-darkness variety. We see a girl and a guy get pulled quickly into the darkness, as if from some huge lumbering beast. We also see a guy get picked up by his head and killed. We also hear high-pitched scraping yells and there seems to be some correlation between the beast and gathering rats. So... when we finally see this antagonistic force and we learn that it's not any sort of monster at all but a man-Gollum of a dude that's just lived in these tunnels his whole life, I start re-examining his super-strength and seeming control over rats. Also, the film makes a point earlier of not having any curious cases of missing people or anything like that, yet on this particular night, this freakshow guy's killing train conductors left and right; he's pretty much killing everyone but Franke Potente. So I have to wonder, if he's been living down here for years and years and years, why start with the indiscriminate killing on this particular night? He seems to have a whole system of caging and torturing victims, but we never really see any carnage from people who weren't still breathing at the beginning of the movie.

I know I shouldn't be thinking at a time like this, but still... this dude has problems dragging a dead body out of a pool of water, how's he picking a guy up by his head?

Other than that though, and Potente's frequent running (it must be in her contract or something, at least her hair wasn't red), there are some really nice gore scenes in this movie. One scene in particular, you see nice full gouts of blood shoot out straight at the camera. Another scene involves a gynecological examination table and a long curved rusty blade. There's also the gratuitous explanation scene with lots of distorted fetuses pickled in jars. Be on the lookout for one that looks EXACTLY like Yoda. I swear. The last shot is also pretty interesting. Franke manages to insert a little questionable doubt there in the last few frames which really makes me wonder why I think she's so hot. I mean, she doesn't have the best body, and her face isn't like super conventionally beautiful, but she is just SO hot! who knows, it's a mystery... maybe it's all the running.

Random Notes:
-They showed trailers for Creepshow and Night of the Creeps in front of this. I've been horrible with remembering the pre-show trailers so just assume that they are all kick-ass. Because they were.
-I guess in London the sewer water is kept at a nice 80 degrees or so, at least when lead actors are swimming around there. Steam coming off the water didn't exactly sell me on the cold dankness of it. But then again, maybe the steam just meant it was "fresh" which makes it all the more urinary and disgusting.
10.08.05The Big WhiteMark MylodAnother sunny day with temperatures in the 70s. Sounds like a perfect day to spend inside watching movie after movie with a bunch of other pale long-haired delinquents and reprobates! Maybe it's because I got there after today's screening of Sin City: Recut & Extended already started, but the theater was absolutely dead when I got there. Wimps! The midnight shows tonight were also feeble... and I thought this was a movie town!

My day started with a black comedy called The Big White, starring Robin Williams in a quiet desperation role similar to William H. Macy in Fargo (that and the snow are about where the Fargo similarities end. Oh there's hitmen too, I guess that counts), Holly Hunter as his crazy but funny wife, Giovanni Ribisi as an insurance claims investigator who hates Alaska, Alison Lohman as his girlfriend, a phone psychic who is pretty ok with Alaska (her scenes play like a PG version of Jennifer Jason Leigh's character in Short Cuts). Tim Blake Nelson and W. Earl Brown (who absolutely kicks ass in Deadwood) are also in it as the aforementioned hitmen, along with Woody Harrelson, who's thrown into the mix to add that pinch of spice.

This is easily the most mainstream-Hollywood film screened to date. I can easily see this popping up on pay-per-view and Blockbuster shelves everywhere. It's the kind of movie that you expect to be quirky but it's really not. It's got decent production value, big name stars, and all the requisite character arcs and little plot twists that make a mainstream movie what it is. Now, that doesn't mean this is bad. I quite liked it, in a very comfortable sort of way. Even though there is a dead body or two and a little gristle and blood here and there, the movie doesn't send off a dangerous vibe at all. Nelson and Brown's kidnappers never quite make it past "bumbling" to authentically threatening, steadily debasing to the point where Nelson's sensitive about his cooking and they run around snapping each other with wet towels after a shower. This is what Makes Harrelson's performance as, not surprisingly, the crazy missing brother to Robins Williams a centerpiece in the film. Although there's really not much of a character there, Harrelson manages to inject real trouble into the movie, literally invading and hijacking it halfway through and driving it toward its climax. I don't think I'm alone in having no problem believing that Woody Harrelson is crazy, so he really plays it up.

It's a pretty decent flick that doesn't really disappoint but also doesn't really challenge or stick to your ribs much. Nevertheless, it's worth watching.

The short that played before it however, was not. Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher was a cartoon (yes, cartoon. not animated short, cartoon) about a 50s-esque hero type guy who fights nazis including the staple impossibly-endowed nazi dominatrix. I'll give you a hint on how it ends: he saves the day.

Random Notes:
-they played a video by Motorhead before the show. You have to respect a song titled "Killed by Death"... you just can't argue with it... are you gonna argue with Lemmy? I didn't think so.

-"Why are the flowers talking?"

-"Tastes like a rectal Polyp"
-"How would she know?"
10.08.05The Dark HoursPaul FoxAfter The Big White, I hit up the A Scanner Darkly panel next. Sorry Narnia fans but I am about ten times more looking forward to this than that. I am a big fan of Bob Sabiston's software and the unique animation style that it produces, and thought Waking Life, while meandering at times, was really beautiful. Today, producer Tommy Pallotta and (I think) animator Lance Meyers (hope I heard/remembered that correctly) were there to show a few bits of stuff, answer questions, and give us a live demonstration of how the rotoscoping software works.

Unfortunately, there were ongoing technical difficulties with the DVD player so the panel ended a bit short, but we managed to see everything they had to show once. Here's a rundown of what we saw followed by random answers to questions asked:
-An early version of the new trailer. It's a minute long and, while it doesn't show much of the drug stuff, it does contain a wink of the scramble suit. The other stuff you will all get to see when the trailer hits, so I'll spare all the details.
-They also showed two completed scenes, one short one with Keanu and Winona and another enjoyable scene with Keanu, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey, Jr., and Rory Cochrane. The difference in animating styles between this and Waking Life is pretty huge. Where Waking Life was basically a moving painting, shifting from style to style with each encounter, A Scanner Darkly looks much more consistent and realistic. Instead of random abstraction, the animation looks to adhere to the filmed details pretty closely, but still allow for the quirks and benefits of their particular interpolated rotoscoping technology. The most striking difference in animations styles to me however was in the use of colors and lighting. A Scanner Darkly looks very much close to seeing a posterized image move. It's a tight color palette making up each shot, but they mentioned that there's a good 20-50 different color shapes constantly shifting and moving in each face. The effect is pretty sweet.

Lance then proceeded to open up a scene of the film (it's always so shocking to see the DV footage raw underneath) and work on a simple example while Tommy took questions. The arduous attention to detail and sheer consumption of time that this technique eats up became evident as the panel continued and we could check Lance's progress while listening to Tommy. Basically, the whole process breaks down to individual lines and shapes of color. Each one has to have key frames set and manipulated, so if you pause a frame of the trailer and try to count how many different lines and shapes you see, then imagine having to move each one manually to every key frame in the shot, you begin to understand why animators are usually aliens and sustain themselves on gallons of Diet Coke laced with methamphetamine.

-The project sort of started with Pallotta looking to get the rights for Dick's book Ubik. Apparently several people own share the rights to that and each wants complete control over anything done with it so, according to Pallotta, the chances of seeing Ubik in movie form any time soon are very slim. Scanner Darkly came up shortly after that though and Linklater got Keanu to sign on very early and, since they were going to have to animate the scramble suit stuff and the copious amounts of hallucinations anyway, they decided to go 100%.

-There is about 18 months of work put into the project to date, but although they're not scheduled to open until March 2006, Pallotta estimates that the movie will be done before the end of the year.

-The budget was 8.5 million, with all the actors getting paid scale. At its high point, 75 animators were working on the project.

-It took Linklater 5 weeks to shoot the video footage for the film, but as he did with Waking Life, he wasn't too careful about catching lighting equipment and whatnot in the shots.

-This is a tougher animation gig than Waking Life, not because it has any more action scenes or anything (although one car chase sequence was mentioned and there was a 360 spinning shot in one of the scenes they showed which looked amazing), but because they were tied much more closely to keeping the stars recognizable and consistent and also translating their performances correctly.

-Of the characters, Winona was the hardest to animate because, with guys, you can get away with a certain amount of distortion because it still somehow looks masculine. With the ladies however, it's a fine line between them being beautiful and them looking ugly and horse-faced. So Winona was a challenge to keep pretty.

-the way they actually tackle animating the movie is that the animators are divided into teams of 10, each with a lead, and are assigned scenes to work on. Within that scene, the work is usually broken by character, the lead assigning each individual animator to a person or aspect of the scene that suits their strengths.

-All work is done on Macs, with a single network server connecting them. No render farms or basements filled with nitrogen-cooled hardware. The program is straight 2D and, if thought about it in a very specific way, is basically a beefed up version of Flash.

-Charlie Kaufman's script wasn't really utilized or referenced in any way because Linklater had a personal vision for the project and the way they got the rights to make the film (the Dick estate actually gave them a deal, charging less than usual) was by basing the whole project on a very close literal translation from the book.

-The DV footage was all cut together and locked before animation started. It's coming in at about 100 minute long.

After all that, Pallotta mentioned that he wanted to see the trailer again. Unfortunately, it sort of broke midway through and that spelled the end of the panel. Still, it was pretty interesting stuff, and fun to see Matt Dentler running back and forth all over the theater with a wireless mic Phil Donahue style...

After that came Dark Hours.

Kier-la got up to introduce the film by stating that she is Canadian (Labatt Ice!!!) and she thinks most Canadian film, with the exception of Cronenberg's stuff, is crap. She hates Atom Egoyan. Canada also has a content quota for all of their film festivals, so when she was doing Cinemuerte, she'd always have to wade through frozen lakes of crappy Canadian film trying to find a few to fill that quota and get the funding. So, when she heard that Dark Hours was actually good, she was hesitant. Yeah, maybe it's good... for a Canadian film. But, to her surprise, she found the movie to be just plain good regardless of citizenship.

Now, this sort of contradicts one of Tarantino's big speeches during his last festival introducing a movie called Funeral Home during the all-night 80s horror movie marathon. According to QT, if you go down the list of great 80s horror movies, you'll find a surprising amount of them to be Canadian. Who knows, I'll let Quentin and Kier-la fight it out in a cage match some other time, right now I'm just interested in watching a horror flick.

Sweet! a Devil Times Five trailer!

Dark Hours starts out in a typical Desperate Hours vein. It starts out innocently enough with a woman psychologist discovering that the brain tumor that's been benign for two years has started growing and is inoperable. She has maybe a year to live. She tries to break it to her hubby but he doesn't have time. Apparently, if his editor doesn't get his finished book by Monday, he'll ask for the advance back. Yep, there's no time to talk, hon... I've got to bust ass up to our cabin to finish this book! of course I'll be bringing your younger sister along because she's my research assistant. You don't just sit on news like that though, do you... so she drives up to meet him at the cabin, where she finally tells them and they start crying or something. Enter the seemingly innocent kid looking to use the phone followed shortly thereafter by his older gay lover who also happens to be an ex-patient of little Ms. brain tumor. Cue the sadistic hostage games.

In an effort not to spoil anything, I'll just say that it's a decent to good horror movie, depending upon your feelings about twist endings, with several moments of top-notch violence and gore. I personally thought it was more good than bad but had several problems toward the end.

If you want a little more detail, Things were going well then I hit a BIG disappointment but then it actually managed to redeem itself just a bit before dropping another HUGE disappointment. I hate when that happens.

Oh, the short beforehand. Srendi Vashtar. 12 minutes of waiting for it to end. This is what happens when you want to make a movie but have no friends to help you. Why he decided to supply the voices for every character, I don't know. Whoever does know can probably explain the ferret with godlike powers and the importance of eating toast as well. I certainly can't.

Random Notes:
-"pain doesn't lie"
-"best veal I've ever tasted. I don't know how they do it, but they breed em with no heads! Seen it myself."
10.08.05 PulseKiyoshi KurosawaNow, this one is not very new. It's actually pretty old, pre-dating all of the staples of the current Japanese horror remakes here in the States that have now become cliche and tired. I'll begin by saying I was probably too tired to see this movie. The fourth film of the day on the third of a four-day festival... What I didn't need was this deliberate pacing. I've seen the creepy boy peeking around the corner, I've seen the girl with hair in her face, I've seen the ghosts disappear and reappear. I've clearly seen this movie too late. I did however enjoy all of the ideas the film dealt with. I really liked the genre shift toward the end (a pattern that emerged in both this, P, and Dark Hours today), and also enjoyed the whole aftermath like it was almost a war but not really. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself for anyone that hasn't seen it.

Pulse is about this website that shows a webcam of ghosts. When you see a ghost's face, you are irreversibly shocked to the point of not really being about to do much of anything for a few days and then you're compelled to commit suicide. There's also a ritual of taping up a room with red tape and after a while a ghost will appear there... and for some reason at this particular time there are now enough ghosts to appear whenever they want... or something. Like I said, I was pretty tired for it.

I did enjoy one early scene where a teenager installs ISP software, going through the ridiculous install process and accepting the terms of agreement. However, it's immediately followed by a scene in a computer lab with some of the worse faux techno-babble ever. Maybe it's just because I know that particular area (I bet doctors cringe whenever they watch ER), but I have two pet peeves in movies and faux computer babble is one of them. "Enlarge the batch file." what? Why do you want to enlarge it and what good will that do? "Use conventional memory." Just stop it.

I think I need to see this again to give it fair judgment. Sure it felt like I just watched a marathon through binoculars for two hours, but that maybe have been just me. Me and the baker's dozen of virtually identical Japanese horror films to come out since Pulse's release.

They played trailers for Electric Dreams and Tron beforehand though. I love the Tron narration: "Tron, where love and escape don't compute." Classic.

I keep forgetting the shorts. They were not very good today. The one that played before this, Popee the Performer: Great Magic, was a cheap little CG thing about magicians sawing each other in half trying to kill one another. The animation was... well let's just say I spent 10 weeks in a single class and churned out better stuff than this. the summary in my notebook: SUB-PAR.

Random Notes:
-the main kid wears a Gilley's shirt in this movie. That got a bit of a crowd response.
10.08.05 PPaul SpurrierWhy they named it P instead of Ghost I don't know. Although... I guess the choice between a constant urine comparison and a Demi Moore reference is a tough one to make.

It was up in the air for me tonight as far as the midnight show went. Originally I had planned to see Shinya Tsukamoto's Marebito, but after hearing aggressively bad things about it coupled with the knowledge that it was shot in 10 days and not really feeling like sitting through another slow Japanese horror story, I went for P, a Thai film about a black magic-using teenage prostitute.

There is a ten-minute stretch of this movie that is just awesome. It's after all the girl's childhood stuff where she's called a witch and a freak, after the stuff about how she's pretty much tricked into moving to Bangkok to become a stripper/whore to make enough money for her sick mom to eat rice, and past the stuff where she uses white magic to make her appear more attractive and become the star of the club in which she works. Of course, if you're thinking of visiting Bangkok's gentlemen's establishments and looking for extended "research" footage, then this movie may be for you. The dancing sequences in this movie, like pretty much everything else, go on forever.

Anyway, the awesome segment of the movie that I'm talking about is after she starts using black magic to get back at the bitch in the club and this other guy who "initiated" her into the world of prostitution then moved on, when she breaks the Gremlins-esque rules of what never to do in fear of having your black magic reversed onto you. She rolls under a clothesline, she accepts payment for teaching someone magic, and worst of all she eats raw meat... after midnight. Very quickly, the main girl transforms into a full on vampire evil spirit, complete with the teeth and the extreme hunger for blood. She goes on nightly rampages for a while and the movie is really great. for about ten minutes.

After that, it turns into a possession film with all the tedious accoutrements typical to the genre. There's the priest/medicine doctor or whatever who will try to purge the demon from the girl, the caring best friend who tries to defend herself against the evil spirit's guiles but proves no match for the old "I'm all better now, thanks... now let me out!" line, and the ultimate sacrifice to rid the world of the abomination. All during this, you are silently praying for the movie to end.

It just doesn't though. Like the evil spirit, this film refuses to die. You know everything that's gonna happen, the best scenes (snake vs. pissing cock (snake wins), machete-wielding dude about to slip on an ice cube vs. pretty stripper's face with mouth full of cucumber (he misses the cucumber), extremely out of place CSI shot of internal organs... erupting or something) and all that's left is the cinematic equivalent of filling out paperwork. Yet still it goes on... and on and on.

When it finally does end, it has to come back with the longest end title sequence ever. The funny part is it's all overlapping more slow-motion shots of the main girl stripping/dancing in a g-string all sprinkled with glitter. All of us were out of our seats on the way to the door yet planted in place, unable to pass this footage up. Meanwhile, like two credits would show up every 30 seconds or so... By the end I was trying to remember the good times... that 10 minutes oh so long ago when the movie was good and I was having fun and not sitting there being bored. Ahh vampire scenes, how I missed thee. Good times...

Random Notes:
-"I killed him before he paid me"
-The girl has a pair of pants which say "pretty" right next to the crotch.
-One of the stripper character's names is "New." I found that... incredibly funny.
-"The power's back on. Now I can watch the sexy TV Karaoke ladies"
10.09.05 Sin CityRobert RodriguezIn an effort to replicate the hazy sense of zombification that seeing 20 movies in 4 days on scant few hours of sleep a night brings, my write-up for the last day of Fantastic Fest 2005 will be vague and blurry. Actually, I hope it won't be, but if it is you know why.

The Recut and Extended edition of Sin City started today at noon. It was scheduled at three hours, ten minutes. It was also playing on DLP that Rodriguez had supposedly come in and personally tweaked to ensure the best possible showing for us. Of course, rumors spread faster than QT6 ticket sales at film festivals, and word had it that Rodriguez was either gonna show up for Saturday's screening or Sunday's. He didn't show up Saturday. So I had several things to look forward to this morning. Unfortunately, none of them really panned out and I ended up food the whole time just to stay awake.

Rodriguez didn't show up. Instead Harry introduced the film, calling us all gluttons for not seeing the separate volumes separately. Now be prepared to be overloaded with Sin City goodness as all three separated and elongated stories were shown sequentially rather than the sort-of inter-woven theatrical cut.

Well, there's maybe 4 minutes of new footage, made of maybe 3 new scenes, 17 new shots, and of course 3 new title cards. I think the end credits music was new as well. That's about it.

However, I will say I still appreciate the experience for getting to see this on the big screen one more time, especially in the gloriously sharp and rich contrast of DLP. The movie just ended an hour too soon is all. I can't wait for the DVD with the Austin Paramount premiere audience alternate audio track on it. Listen for me, I'm the guy in the front row who clapped when everyone else did.

Since Sin City got out so early, I walked in and caught the last half of 1990: Bronx Warriors. As I mentioned previously, I love the apocalypse genre but haven't seen any of the four films they programmed for this fest. Bronx Warriors was originally one that I wouldn't be able to see due to scheduling constraints, but I had made myself feel better by adding it to my netflix queue. Seeing the last half of it sort of makes me really want to see the first half but also sort of not. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time with what I saw, but walking into the movie missing the entire set-up and every character's introduction brought a whole sense of mystery to what I saw. Who is The Ogre? What kind of name is Trash? Why is this guy wearing a nazi uniform? Zombies? And what is with this flat-chested dominatrix girl with the whip and spiky metal finger things? Maybe all of these questions are explained in the first half, maybe not. The trouble is, if they are, I'm not sure I want to know.

What I do know is that this dude Trash, who I guess has some girl somewhere hidden away kidnapped/in love with him, is crying an awful lot for this dying guy. That embrace is awfully tender, at least up to the point where he breaks his neck, presumably to end his pain. In fact, I think he cries more for this guy than for the girl when she gets it. Maybe it was his brother or something... maybe.

It's cool though because you watch a movie like Wild Style, made the same year, and see how demolished and abandoned parts of NYC were back then. I have no problem believing this low-budget movie didn't spend much time in making these locations seem any more post-apocalyptic than they already were. Just add a few motorcycles with skulls on them, an elbow pad with a spike on it, a few pointy sticks to spear and impale people with, and Hammer: The Exterminator (and nihilist extraordinaire) and you have a movie! Good time... totally woke me up.
10.09.05 HostelEli RothAfter Bronx Warriors let out, I was faced with a difficult decision. The next shows were Bloodshots: winners from a 48-hour short film production contest held recently, and the first four episodes of an anime called Hagukei which was apparently a sci-fi translation of Moby Dick. I really didn't want to sit through bloodshots and had unfortunately already stuffed myself during Sin City so there was nothing to do but see Hagukei.

The short that played before it, Herman the legal Labrador, was amusing. It is how it sounds: a dog lawyer puts on pants and goes to court. It's all animated of course, and has occasional chuckles with evil pizza men or something. I guess it's an Australian TV pilot episode...

Then Hagukei started. I'd heard from one other person who'd seen it instead of Miracle Mile on Friday say it started out slow but by the time it finished you wanted to see the rest of the series. Personally, by the time the second episode ended, the already-thin crowd of maybe a dozen had dwindled to 6. I sort of realized that I would have a better time standing outside watching a parking lot on a Sunday afternoon than sitting through the next two episodes of this and left. Maybe die-hard anime fans or die-hard Moby Dick fans or the exclusive club of die-hard Moby Dick anime fans would love this, but since I'm not a huge anime fan even when it's good, this was completely lost on me. I don't want to spend too much time tearing it apart so I'll just leave it at this: In the first episode credits, they listed a voice actor for Moby Dick and I had no clue if he was in the episode or not.

About 90 minutes of parking lot-observation later, a line started forming for the biggest "closing" film of the fest: Hostel.

Tim came out to introduce the film to a packed house. He explained how Eli Roth was a "friend" of the Alamo Drafthouse, and proceeded to list off all the stuff Eli had participated in (Premiering Cabin Fever here in an all-night horror movie marathon held in an abandoned Loony Bin, manning a lemonade counter as well, bringing the teenager remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark to the drafthouse, and hosting the "Olsen Twins 18th Birthday Party Bash" where he got up with his loose-fitting shorts on and announced that he'd masturbated in the back of the theater to a house filled with 14-year old girls), and said that we could all blame some of the twisted horrific stuff that goes on in this movie to Harry Knowles, who apparently passed on a few ideas to Mr. Roth via late-night phone chats.

I guess there's a tiny bit of hype surrounding this movie on the Internet right now. I personally haven't read all of the reports that say it's the goriest movie ever or that it takes horror to a completely new level or that it's the most "important" horror film of the century... but I did really like Cabin Fever and had heard the basic outline of Hostel which made me really interested to see it.

I'm trying to not mention any spoilers, but if you want to stop reading now I will just tell you this: Roth gives us what we want. Sex & violence is on the menu and that is what we get, in that order even. Each is done pretty damn well and, as long as you get that "important" crap out of your head, you are almost guaranteed to enjoy yourself.

That said, there's no way the MPAA will release the cut they showed us. Sorry, guys... but it will be a long wait for that DVD to come out and finally see the version that's creating all this hype. What's funny is that they'll probably only have to shorten a few of the gristliest scenes of gore and violence, but all the shots of beautiful full-frontal naked women will have to go. Damn us Americans.

For anyone that's ever done the backpack-trip-through-Europe or visited Europe on a field trip or anything like that when you were in your late teens, you probably have a subtle awareness of how vulnerable you are when you're over there. Sure everyone's nice and stuff but they're almost too nice, and when you venture out to more local-friendly places you get glimpses of surprising levels of animosity. Of course, most of the time it's because you're in a whole group of drunk horny teens running wild in another country. So the premise of Hostel seems eerily possible to me. You read about the sex-industry stuff that goes on in some countries and can't really deny a violence-correlative existing somewhere. Throw in how the American sex industry seems to be invading eastern-European countries right now and you've got a project worthy of Eli Roth's attention.

Anyway, I'm a bit hesitant to get into any of the details... some of them are really great and although the "big reveal" is neither that big or revealing, it's unfolded in a really nice way so I don't want to just say it. I will say to keep on the lookout for a Takashi Miike cameo, as Harry Knowles has mentioned a few times in his reportage that Hostel is basically Eli's reaction to seeing Miike's work.

There is one specific thing that I have to bring up though, because it's the biggest event to emerge in the whole Fest. QT6 had animated penises and retard handymen, FantasticFest has an emerging pattern as well. In the last four days, I have seen so many fingers get cut off it's not even funny. Hostel, Dark Hours, Wolf Creek, and malefique (Strings too if you count the whole hand) ALL have finger-lopping scenes. It must be finger-harvesting season or something... crazy.

Anyway, Hostel's a really fun movie that made us all cheer and yell out and got me reveling in a few moments that were just so joyously wrong that I couldn't contain myself. A few times, I'd see where Roth was going with a scene and immediately ball my hands into fists and just wait for it to pay off, because it's pretty damn sweet when it does. If/When you can, definitely see this movie.

Oh, before that they played Restaurant Dogs, Eli's student film that won him a student academy award. It starts off as a fantasy take-off on Reservoir dogs where Ronald McDonald and his crew have stolen the Burger King's Dairy Queen and this guy who just wanted a milkshake goes on a mission to save her. Then it starts to get weird, cutting back and forth from live-action fast-food violence to incredibly bizarre collage animation. It sort of hops, skips and jumps between homages to lots of different films, even lifting Army of Darkness' ending... sort of. Incredibly strange and definitely showing Eli's roots.
10.09.05 MalefiqueEric ValetteAfter an unsuccessful go at trying to get all the responsible parties behind the fest together for a group photo (sorry), I took my seat for Malefique, a movie Kier-la describes as Lovecraft meets Papillon. A group of inmates locked in the same room of a French prison discover a book of magic hidden away behind a loose brick. They start reading the book in hopes of finding a spell that would enable their escape. I talked to a guy who saw this in a previous screening and he mentioned two things about which I now feel i should state right up front: 1. one of the main characters is a pre-op transsexual and, like Bob in Fight Club, has big bitch tits. 2. In one scene, there's a talking/winking vagina.

How can it talk AND wink you ask? The only answer I can give is Movie Magic. It's quite a sight however, hopefully it won't show up in any nightmares.

So I am a huge Lovecraft fan, and enjoy some of the movies out there made from his work. SOME. Most of them however, even the ones I like, I don't think resemble his work that much. They usually take a few names or symbols and paste them onto whatever completely different horror movie they're trying to make. This one comes pretty close though. It's claustrophobic, moves from banal to fantastique, and ends... unwell. Some Elder Gods are thrown out in incantations and whatnot for good measure, and I finally get to hear how words like "ftagn" are pronounced. One notable scene involves a spell to move through stone but the book warns that the effects are fleeting. What happens next is very rewarding to a twisted gore hound like me. It was also very hazy and deliberate with its pacing... watching it on the last day created an interesting effect where time seemed to expand and contract throughout. I was so caught up in it that I didn't realize how late it was running until the last scene, where I proceeded to snap out of it and freak out a bit.

I blame the short that preceded this. It was like 20 minutes long and the story was so simple that choosing to take that much time to tell it was really pretty offensive. If there were morals and ethics laws dealing with short films, I would give the director of Domoi: The Voyage Home a ticket. It should know better.

Malefique was good though, and as usual I found Kier-la's summation to be correct (yes, I'm kissing ass. Sue me)
10.09.05The Last WavePeter WeirMy last movie of the festival was showing at Alamo Downtown, not South Lamar. Malefique ended around 11:45. Sure it was Sunday at midnight, but dealing with downtown parking is always an unknown factor when you don't feel like paying. Lucky for the dozen or so of us that made it to the end of the fest alive and still wanted to see The Last Wave instead of Creep or The Birthday, The Alamo Downtown was running late. Yeah, big surprise.

I was treated to a rare few moments of being Mr. Popular, recognizing several people coming out of the Nightmare Before Christmas sing-a-long (with pumpkin carving, bobbing for apples, and (presumably) singing). That always makes me feel good... gets me awake and psyched to see more apocalyptic action. Kier-la introduced this one as well, asking how many of us had seen it before (only one raised his hand). Well, she said, we were in for a treat. It's a beautiful trippy movie and they were stoked to get a print of it for this fest since it's not really played around much anymore. With that, we settled into the film.

It was a perfect cap to the weekend for me. It played slow and hypnotic and almost hallucinatory, fitting exactly how I was feeling after so much time in darkened theaters mixed with so little sleep. When the radio starts flooding, it makes perfect sense. When the black rain casually starts dripping down on his windshield, it's like the way all of Cast A Deadly Spell SHOULD have been. David Gulpilil gives a solidly enigmatic performance; the scene where he brings Charlie to dinner at Richard Chamberlain's house is so deliberate and quiet... perfectly creepy. Then the movie makes this grand ramp up to what should be an anticlimax (just a few grainy wide-angle shots of a wave crashing) but feels sweeping and final. I was really captivated by it.

We walked downstairs, out into the world with FantasticFest officially over, and it was raining like a sonofabitch. Then we walked out in it and it stopped.

So that's it. 4 days, 16 films, 10 shorts, 2 panels, and some episodes of anime that I walked out on. Here's a short list of the five films that schedule limitations denied me from seeing:

The Birthday: Barton Fink, Blue Velvet, and Lovecraft were all thrown around in the various reviews and opinions of this film. The thing that kept me away was Corey Feldman doing his Jerry Lewis impersonation through the whole thing. It could've been good though, who knows. The director was around and apparently maybe gave some Q&A after the screenings. Before it, they were showing a short called Oh Mikey, apparently a spoof of '50s sitcoms.

G.O.R.A. which I caught the last half hour of. Most expensive film in Turkish history, epic sci-fi comedy with a character named Bob Marley Farouk. Heard mostly great things about this and enjoyed what I saw.

Marebito: another movie claiming Lovecraftian influence. I was going to see this over P but was persuaded against it. I dunno, the write-ups made it sound good, but having a non-budget and shooting it in 10 days probably tells you something. Oh Mikey showed before this one as well.

1990: Bronx Warriors: I missed the first half of this and am looking forward to filling that in via netflix DVD rental. Good early 80s Italian Post-apocalypse fun (set in the crumbling fallout of NYC).

No Blade of Grass: This is the movie I most regret not seeing. It's not out on DVD or VHS domestically as far as I know, and I love the whole Panic in Year Zero type of film. I really wish I could've seen it.

And finally, why the hell not, here's my Top 5 Favorite Films Seen at FantasticFest 2005!

1. Strings
Epic on a story level and a craftsman level, this film treats marionettes with the most creativity and ingenuity that I've seen in film ever. You really forget they're puppets but KNOW they're puppets at the same time. It's integral yet disregarded; a really fascinating and beautiful movie.

2. Hostel
I guess you could describe Hostel as fascinating and beautiful as well, but for completely different reasons. It's stark raving fun with no reservations or qualms about being what it is: a down and dirty grimy tale of the horrors waiting out there for dumb tourists. Of course, my horse!

3. Zathura
Transcending the family to be a great film for people of any age, Zathura is a really fun ride with a smart script, excellent kid actors, and some real laughs and thrills. A fascinating story with a beautiful blend of effects work, it's as solid as solid can be. In the words of Jon Favreau: "It's something that parents won't hate when they have to watch it 50 times with their kids."

4. Wolf Creek
A deceptively deliberate and simple horror movie, again, about what can happen to dumb tourists for pretty much no reason. Ok nothing is really fascinating here but the Australian scenery is beautiful. John Jarratt's laugh will probably haunt my dreams for months to come.

5. Miracle Mile
What do you you're given the deadline for the end of the world? You watch this movie! It's all the fun that the Apocalypse should be. Fascinating and beautiful. Ok I'm done.