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FantasticFest 2019 (09.19.19 - 09.26.19, 35 movies)
Date Viewed Movie Director Notes
09.19.19 Jojo RabbitTaika WaititiAhoy Fantastic Fest! The fifteenth one, fourteenth for me! I didn't write any of these during the fest for the sake of sleep and having fun so unfortunately these will not be immediate reactions but oh well.

So... Opening night film with Waititi and Stephen Merchant as guest. This was really good. I feel like Waititi gets a little better with each film. Here he shows a great balance of humor, pathos, message, and entertainment. Everyone gives great performances (including Scarlett Johansson who was actually asked to act for this, and both the main kid actors). Waititi also gave a charming and funny Q&A, clearly too wild for Evrim Ersoy to handle.

I feel like Fantastic Fest has moved to a new era that more or less began when Tim League stopped being the person to introduce and close the festival. I really like Evrim's personality and his taste in film but it is a tiny bit less crazy, less unique, and i guess less edgy with Evrim and Annick at the helm. I like it a lot better than the years where these crazy Japanese Weird movies would play... certainly most of the logistics of the fest are now in a pretty good place (of course there are slip-ups here or there but for the most part it's been ironed out) and the tenor of the festival feels pretty assured. I like how few secret screenings there are, I like how much repertory programming was in this year, I like the scheduling and boarding process. The lobby still gets clogged and hard to move through - I feel like they should move to keep the back passage behind the press area as a dedicated entrance during boardings - but for the most part I feel like things have gotten into a pretty solid routine. Part of me misses the good old days but probably mostly due to nostalgia and a smaller attendance which afforded more spontaneity... but those days are gone and these are probably better.
09.19.19 First LoveTakashi MiikeThey gave Takashi Miike a lifetime achievement award and showed two of his movies. I saw this one, which is kind of standard Yakuza fare. I applaud him for being so versatile and prolific but have never been such a mega huge fan. This was good; no complaints. I'm trying to think of what sets this apart from Outrage or any other Yakuza film that I've seen though and I can't really... other than things getting a little bloodier at the end and there being a few good kills. I definitely liked it, but it didn't blow me away.
09.19.19 Blood MachinesRaphael Hernandez, Savitri Joly-GonfardThis is like a sequel to a Carpenter Brut music video that had a nice visual-effects-heavy vibe and halfway story. I would've liked it more if it was like a long music video that made as much sense as Turbo Killer (the original video). Instead, there's a bunch of bad acting to try and sell a story that still didn't make any sense. The effects were pretty cool and I'm all for naked women but I did find a kind of misogynistic vibe to it which was kind of a bummer. And really I think my main problem is that there isn't enough music. It never cuts loose like Turbo killer does. I did like the weird laser gun where the lasers stick around and the miniatures of the ships are pretty cool. Just wish it either succeeded on a story level or didn't worry about narrative and delivered more of a visceral music video experience.
09.20.19 Reflections of EvilDamon PackardDay Two!

First AGFA screening, this over-two-hours piece of "outsider cinema" is about a... homeless man? who... can't catch a bus? Honestly, I am not sure what this is about. The director stars in the film wearing crazy amounts of headphones and a pillow under his shirt to make himself look fatter. I guess the story is he used to be ok, just trying to sell watches on the street, but the evils of the world make him into a combustible ball of rage and over-eating? But there were protracted sequences of things like... dogs barking at him... and him running after buses as they drive away... and him vomiting on the street near an old nazi couple trying to watch television?

Toward the end, he goes to Universal Studios and films the whole ET ride. He also freely uses television clips, commercials, Spielberg movies... dubbing his own name over a clip of Tony Curtis talking about some classic film. There are enough touches in here to make me think the guy actually knew what he was doing, but the film is so rough and hard to take that it's kind of a mystery as to what's going on. It KIND OF feels like a crazy person made this movie.

So... that happened.
09.20.19 Nail in the Coffin: The Fall and Rise of VampiroMichael PasztI don't watch wrestling but I do enjoy wrestling docs. There was that competition show on MTV back in the day too where people would train to be WWE stars. Basically anything behind the scenes about wrestling I enjoy way more than actual wrestling. As Noah said in his intro for this though, most wrestling docs are total bummers. This one has a bit of heart though, since it's not only about Candadian Luchadore superstar Vampiro but also his daughter and their relationship. It's mostly usual stuff: history, height of fame, drug use, career highlights, what's he doing now, etc.; but he's very charismatic and candid which makes for good viewing.

He was in the theater; this was his first time to see the film. His repsonse: I didn't do THAT many drugs. His Q&A was great... very positive attitude. He even called out Noah for missing a guy who had his hand up for a while. "That's Vampiro coming out." Good stuff.
09.20.19The Death of Dick LongDaniel ScheinertSpoiler alert on this one. Fair warning.

This is ostensibly a dumb-people-trying-to-get-away-with-a-crime movie with the added layer of a mystery about what crime they did unfolding as the movie progresses. The dumb-people part is pretty funny in an Alabama version of Fargo sort of way but then about halfway through the movie you learn how Dick Long died. From having a horse fuck him.

So... my immediate thought was that they probably thought this was the right audience for this film. That doc Zoo screened at SXSW a dozen years ago about a real guy who really died by having a horse fuck him. But I kind of feel like it played the opposite... almost exploitative of that real guy by making a dumb comedy about it. Plus the reveal makes the title into a terrible pun.

So the reveal kind of deflated the movie for me. Not that I was offended by the horse fucking or anything, but I guess more that the movie had to go to such an outlandish place in order to justify itself. I guess you could say it left a bad taste in my ass. i mean mouth. I mean
09.20.19 Color Out of SpaceRichard StanleyThis was my most highly-anticipated film of the fest. I love Hardware to death, I find Richard Stanley incredibly interesting; the Lost Souls doc and his Q&A at the fest a few years ago stands out as a highlight in recent fest memory for me. Add to that a lifelong love of Lovecraft (me getting back into the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG also contributes) and I the idea of taking Lovecraft, Stanley, and Nic Cage and putting them in a movie together is magic. Plus the poster is stellar.

So how's the movie? I'm happy to report that it's really good. It feels modern rather than like it's trying to capture the 1920s too hard, but the horror feels cosmic and strange rather than becoming a slasher halfway through. Nic Cage gets to be both understated and gonzo. Stanley has the budget to deliver a fully polished and gorgeous film that can play to mainstream audiences as well as Lovecraft-philes.

In particular, I love how the effect of the color manifests in the surrounding landscape and nature. The flowers and trees... and also, the thing in the attic toward the end is like, right out of From Beyond. It's so good!

Yay! I'm very happy! Also, the horse in this is named Comet. What are the chances that there are two movies in a row this fest with horses named Comet? Good thing no one fucked this one.
09.20.19 DeerskinQuentin DupieuxDay two ends with a new one from Quentin Dupieux. I think he's another one that just gets better and better with each film. While I liked Wrong, I feel like his mix of reality and surrealism is getting closer to Bunuel's best work as he goes on. This one is about a guy who's so enamored with this fringe deerskin coat that he basically reinvents himself, first as a filmmaker then as a murderer as he embodies the deerskin that he wears. The jacket starts to talk to him, telling him that it must be the only jacket in the world.

It makes no sense, but it's funny! Maybe you could pull some social commentary out of it but mostly I think it's just fantasy juxtaposed with reality. I had a great time with it.
09.21.19The Ship of MonstersRogelio A GonzalezDay Three!

This is the first of this Morbido Crypt Mexican Genre series they programmed for the fest. This one is pure late 50s sci-fi with some humor and monsters and romance and musical thrown in for good measure. The Morbido Crypt guy introducing the film mentioned that many films of this era had so many genres packed into them in an effort to give something to each member of the family going to see it. This is something that I've heard to describe Bollywood cinema (and tend to agree with) so it's interesting to see another country take on the same strategy. Of course, this is like half as long as a Bollywood movie so maybe Mexicans aren't as patient as Indians I dunno.

Anyway, this was really fun and actually funny. The monster designs, while very cheap, are still endearing. This is a great Sunday Matinee type movie, or Saturday as the case might be.
09.21.19 Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and MonstersGilles Penso, Alexandre PoncetDoc about Phil Tippett. He worked on Star Wars and Jurassic Park and Dragonslayer and any other stop-motion film in the last generation. This was good in an expected way. Solid construction, telling me about his life (a little bit) and career (mostly). His work really is impressive. I liked the scene where he I guess explained how Go-Motion worked and I didn't understand a word he said. I guess that's why he's him and I'm me.
09.21.19The LodgeSeverin Fiala, Veronika FranzSpoiler alert.

The new one from the people who did Goodnight Mommy. I'm pretty sure I liked this one better than that, although I wouldn't say I loved this. I did appreciate how they basically presented three options for what's going on rather than two in Goodnight Mommy, but I also felt disappointed that they went with evil children yet again. Even before the reveal though, this felt like a remake or new-and-improved version of Goodnight Mommy for English audiences. I guess it's fine that this just replaces their other movie for me, but it would've been cool if they just told a different story.

That said, I did enjoy how the reveal happened earlier in this film and how the film develops a little past that to come to a nice and chilling conclusion, giving some come-comeuppance to those goddamn evil children.
09.21.19The McPherson TapeDean AliotoAnother AGFA screening, this one of a... I guess infamous shot-on-VHS alien encounter tape that was passed in bootleg form amongst the UFO community for years.

Several notable things about this. The first is that the whole thing was filmed in one take with just a few cuts for time. The next is the complicated tale of messed up distribution which led to it being bootlegged in the first place, and the last was that there was a guy who didn't believe it wasn't real during the Q&A. Like, Joe Ziemba was like "oh shit" when he started going on about disinformation campaigns and stuff. So then the director says he can prove that it's fake and asks the guy to come up on stage. He asks for his wallet and reads his ID and says "Hey I know you, you were the main actor in the movie" and I totally didn't recognize him. So that was really fun.

But yeah, he hired improv actors and they totally nailed it. It really felt like a real family to me. The aliens looked like kids in masks (which they were) but otherwise the film is really effective for such a minuscule budget! Plus it pre-dated Blair Witch by like a dozen years. Pretty crazy!
09.21.19 We Summon the DarknessMarc MeyersEarlier in the day there were autograph hounds hanging out across the street trying to get Michael C. Hall to sign their Dexter posters. Since I hadn't read the program too closely, I thought all those actors were here for this movie. It wasn't until I got in the theater and the guy doing the intro was all like "You guys ready for some heavy metal!?" that I realized I had been mistaken literally all day. This was neither the movie with Michael C. Hall in it (In the Shadow of the Moon) or the movie with Martin Kove in it (VFW), but instead the movie with Alexandria Daddario that was kind of like a slasher version of Heavy Metal Parking Lot. All goddamn day I was thinking it was that Shadow of the Moon movie. Oh well. I guess that's what happens when all these movies have random-ass names and I don't look closely enough to get their meaning.

Over the years, it seems like there've been thirty films with similar titles... like "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" or "Why Don't You Go Play in Hell?" or "What's the Deal with Tuna?" They all run together after a while. I feel like you could make a horror movie set at a film festival and call it "What did you just see?" or "What are you seeing next?"

Anyways, this was ok. Spoiler alert.

This group of girls go to a concert and there are satanic panic-style murders going on and they meet a group of dudes in a van but the girls are the killers not the dudes. Except they kind of suck at killing people... and it's this church group doing it just to get more money and publicity... and the last half kind of gets by-the-numbers to me. It was ok, fun enough... but not great.

I kind of think that Alexandria Daddario exec produced this just so she could star in a movie she didn't have to show her tits in. Which I'm all for... she certainly gets to act here... but it's kind of standard fare.
09.22.19 Memory: The Origins of AlienAlexandre O PhilippeDay Four!

This is (another) making-of doc about Alien. It's from the guy who did the doc about the Psycho shower scene. I liked this a lot but a couple things about the Q&A bugged me so let me get them out of the way first. The first is that he kept saying stuff like "another behind-the-scenes making-of doc would be fine but it's not what we do" I guess to try and say that this movie looks at Alien with a focus on the inspirations and mythology that the creative forces behind the film drew from, but you know it's also a behind-the-scenes making-of doc so don't pretend "it's not what we do." And the second thing is the last time he was at the fest for the Psycho doc he said not only did he do a whole movie about one scene, he could do a sequel too! Well?????

Anyway, this was really good. You can tell that the movie was built around the chest-burster scene (not my own insight, he said as much during the Q&A) because that part of the film is built just like the psycho doc with different people watching the scene, pausing and breaking down shot by shot, photographing the subjects in a way that also shows the screen they're watching, etc. But the rest of the stuff draws from everything between mythology and Lovecraft. They pull in stuff that overlaps with the Jodorowsky's Dune doc, they pull in Giger's backstory, do a bunch of stuff on Dan O'Bannon (one of the coups of the film is that O'Bannon's widow agreed to be interviewed and open up the vault of Dan's records to be photographed).

Overall, this fits nicely with the bevy of material already available surrounding the making of Alien. If you're obsessed or already very familiar with that movie, I doubt you get much new here but at the same time it's very interesting and entertaining to watch.
09.22.19 She MobHarry WuestNext up was a lecture in conjunction with Kier-la Janisse's Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies which did the great Feminist Horror panel last year. This year it's The Morbido Crypt's guide to Mexican Fantasy and Horror Cinema by Abraham Castillo Flores, head programmer of Morbido Fest in Mexico City.

I really liked Castillo's intros for Ship of Monsters and Trampa Infernal. This lecture was also very good, full of info about Mexico's genre film history. If I had one critique it would be that it went a bit fast, with a bunch of names and titles organized by decade. Usually with these things I try to absorb everything but take away one or two films that seem especially worth tracking down. With this one, the films went by so quickly that I didn't feel any reach out and grab me and make me want to see them. Still, it was very interesting and the sort of thing that stands out in the fest as being a little different. Yes, it means one less entry in this journal, but whatever. I hope they continue with this tradition and keep bringing Kier-la back with different guests every year.

After that was another AGFA screening partnered with Something Weird video, this one being a sexploitation film about a lesbian gang that kidnaps a gigolo because he's bagged a sugar mama. The leader of the gang, Big Shim, also plays the sugar mama. Otherwise, it's one of those mystery films with fake credits because it was all semi-legal.

The movie was mostly fun. Sometimes the boob scenes go on a bit too long for those in the theater not fapping but that's par for the genre. What was more interesting is the Q&A afterward where different film anthropologists in the audience chimed in with nuggets of uncovered information about the film and those involved. I love that people out there care enough to try and track this stuff down. Something about this part of film history is very alluring to me.
09.22.19 Dolemite Is My NameCraig BrewerFirst secret screening!

Thanks to the free beer available, everyone knew it would be something from Netflix. Of all the options, I'm happy we got to see this because it's a movie I was actually looking forward to seeing and feel like it played great with an audience. I like Rudy Ray Moore, Dolemite, and movies about making movies so this is right up my alley. I thought of it as a more enjoyable version of Badaaaassss! (that movie about the making of Sweet Sweetback's Badaaass Song). Eddie Murphy's great, the script is great, Craig Brewer did a good job making it, the music's great, most of the matching shots look very close to my memory of the original film. It put me in a mood to revisit the first two Dolemite films for sure.

Really it was a highlight of the fest. The movie is so celebratory, it just makes you feel good. You feel like you're hanging out with friends watching them succeed. Good times.
09.22.19 Trampa InfernalPedro Galindo IIIThis is another Morbido Crypt screening. This one is a slasher where the killer is like an amalgamation of Rambo, Michael Meyers, and Freddy Krueger all combined with a little Predator thrown in for good measure. That's kind of the only notable thing about it... otherwise it was pretty standard fare, if not five years later than what America was doing. Just a bunch of kids dying in the woods. Still, not bad...
09.23.19 VivariumLorcan FinneganDay Five! Second half!

This is a sci-fi where Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots look at a house in suburbia and get stuck in a weird alien dimension where they're forced to raise a child. It's pretty good! It works on the metaphorical level evident in the summary but also as a straight sci-fi where the alien kid is really creepy and the setting is pretty cool. I particularly liked the end where you get a brief glimpse behind the curtain at the larger alien world. Very well done, and good use of The Specials music too!
09.23.19 In the Shadow of the MoonJim MickleThis was the one I thought I was seeing two days ago. Still don't love Boyd Holbrook but I liked the premise... basically mixing any genre with noirish cop shit will get me interested. Like Predator 2. Anyway, this would up being pretty middle of the road. Again, not bad... but not blowing anyone away. I appreciate that Michael C. Hall tried a philly accent. Not sure it worked, but I appreciate that he tried. More than Boyd did...Ooh yeah let me wear this fake beard... great. Gah.

So... yeah... this was like on the precipice of being pretty good. Maybe it gets too big at the end? Maybe I was bugged too much by the cell phone use in 1997. Maybe there were just a few too many plot holes or questions that distracted me while watching...
09.23.19The LighthouseRobert EggersThe second secret screening.

Don't really know why this was a secret screening. Actually I don't really know why Dolemite was either, but whatever.

I'm on record for really liking The VVVVITCH. This I thought was just ok. The trailer is pretty great, Willem Dafoe is pretty great ("shouldn't a spilled yer BEANS"), Robert Pattinson has some memorable lines ("goddamn FARTS!"). It's suitably dreary and claustrophobic and goes to all the places the trailer makes you think it goes, but it doesn't quite live up to the promise of the trailer. I don't know if I wanted it to be not as weird or way weirder or what... but for some reason it felt flat to me. Not sure why, but the further I get from it the less memorable it is.

Maybe it's just typical sophomore slump type stuff? I dunno. Willem Dafoe was really great.
09.23.19 JallikattuLijo Jose PellisseryThis Indian film is about a village that hunts a water buffalo on the loose. There's some great photography here with the entire village, mostly non-actors, coming into frame to hunt this animal through the forest/jungle. In particular, scenes of like a hundred flashlights descending down this hill are particularly impressive. The story is mostly "we are looking for the buffalo" but there's a rhythmic music through most of the movie that's very propulsive and, combined with these amazing steadi-cam shots of many may people all shouting and running and yelling, the film feels visceral and kinetic through the entire running time.

It's not something I'd seen before, which is pretty cool. On one hand there could've maybe been a little more story but on the other I like that it's so pared down and focused.
09.23.19 Bloody BirthdayEd HuntAnother AGFA screening for midnight. This one's an evil children movie about three kids born during an eclipse... so they're evil.

These kids are so goddamn brazen with their killing! I don't know how they made it through their first 10 birthdays with the rest of the town intact because they go after everyone... parents, teachers, friends, strangers... you name it, they try to kill them. You think there might be some plan or something... but no, they just love to kill. Evil!

This was a lot of fun. It made a great midnighter. I found no need for context or reason here... something about the simplicity of the premise and execution was just really really entertaining.
09.24.19The Peanut Butter SolutionMichael RubboDay six!

Another AGFA screening (there are so many this year! I didn't even see them all. I missed Tammy & The T-Rex). This is a "children's movie" made in canada about a boy who goes bald because he climbed into a burned out house and saw a ghost so then the ghost gives him this recipe for hair growth serum but the kid uses too much peanut butter so he grows hair like an inch an hour, attracting the attention of an evil art teacher who kidnaps 20 kids and puts them into child labor making expensive paintbrushes using the kid's hair that paint magical animated paintings.

There's a lot to like here but maybe my main thing was how... disdainful most adults are to the children in the film. Even the kid's dad, like, barely cares about any of it. It kind of reminded me of those old Mr. Wizard shows where he was barely tolerable of the idiot kids helping with his experiments.Maybe it's a Canadian thing? or an early 80s thing?

Also, the kid's friend puts some of the serum on his pubes and they grow all the way down his pant legs... but then the movie forgets all about it! Serious plot hole!!!
09.24.19 HomewreckerZach GayneThis is a nice little movie where Tommy Chong's daughter plays a mentally unstable fast friend to a woman in her yoga class. There's lots of uncomfortable humor as she clings to this woman and keeps her from leaving then transitions to more physical abduction revolving around deep-seated psychological issues and the woman's husband, I'd say it's a very solid low-budget festival type movie but the score really makes it feel cheaper than it is. It's just a dude strumming along on his guitar... like they recorded him jamming while watching the movie or something and just went with it. Even if they still used it in key scenes and cut out the other 80% it would've been much much better. As it is, it makes the movie feel like a student film or something which is a shame.
09.24.19The Vast of NightAndrew PattersonOne of my favs of the fest. This is a black and white low budget sci-fi film fashioned after a Twilight Zone episode (they even have a fake tv show in the same vein as the intro to the film) where a radio DJ and phone operator in a 50s small town encounters strange signals and sightings of something in the night sky.

There are a lot of really long takes, some excellent steadicam or drone work and great performances by the two leads who have to say a lot of dialogue really quickly while using vintage technology like reel-to-reel players and operator switchboards.

My only two nitpicks are that it goes in and out of the "you're watching this on tv" thing once too often and something about the quality of the black and white felt flat or dull. I think it was an intentional choice, again going for the feel of watching it on an old B&W tv, but it was a tiny bit distracting. There were also periods (during another long monologue where the audience and the radio DJ are listening to a guy on the phone) where the picture cuts out completely. It had a kind of hypnotic effect where at first I wasn't sure if it was the movie or my eyes taking long blinks or what, but it's kind of an odd choice. Maybe it's to treat it almost as a radio play? i dunno.

Other than that, I really loved this one. I thought the characters were snappy and they handled an unsettling escalation really well with no CGI. Good stuff.
09.24.19The Deeper You DigJohn Adams, Toby PoserThis is a good thriller made by a family in upstate NY. The mom, dad, and daughter star, they wrote, directed, acted, and edited it, they shot in a real house that they were actually renovating, and the music was done by various bands that the dad's a member of. They said they made the movie over the course of a year for like $9500 or something crazy like that. It looks and sounds professionally done and, quite honestly, puts most other indie movies to shame in terms of production quality. On top of that, the story is actually good, the performances are good, it gets a little freaky and funny and has a satisfying ending. It's really just a good solid movie that looks like it costs five times what it did. I really liked it.
09.24.19 Random Acts of ViolenceJay BaruchelThis midnight I probably should've skipped. I wanted to see it because Jay Baruchel directed it and is in it but I found the movie pretty muddled and not fun. The violence is not really a fun kind of gore and the story doesn't make total sense then the ending is bland and expected. This is the first movie of the fest that I didn't like. Even Blood Machines had some good things going for it, but this was a miss. It wasn't, like, hard to watch or anything... but I didn't like it.
09.25.19Die Kinder der TotenKelly Copper, Pavol LiskaDay Seven! Almost there!

I didn't really know much about this walking into it which is maybe for the best. If I realized it was a silent adaptation of an "unfilmable" Austrian novel I maybe would've slept in instead.

This is one of those movies where I didn't enjoy watching it at all but found some interesting things in it afterward. I'm glad I saw it even though I didn't like watching it. It feels pretty random and not particularly interesting or good.

The most interesting thing about the movie came from the Q&A afterward where I learned the following:

-the filmmakers were not Austrian
-the filmmakers had not read the book
-the filmmakers didn't know who would show up when they went to Austria to shoot, ready to make the movie with just the two of them(?) but using all the non-actors that showed up
-the filmmakers only followed a loose script then put together the movie based on the stuff they got

So... the movie isn't really an adaptation or even what the filmmakers had planned to make... which makes the act of making the film a sort of performance art in a way... so watching the movie is really just a byproduct of their art, not the art itself? That's kind of how I thought of it anyway after hearing them talk about their process.

Very challenging and experimental... kind of rough for the penultimate morning show.
09.25.19 LimboTina KrauseThe final AGFA screening for me.

This shot-on-video movie is from a woman who worked in what was referred to as "Wave cinema" (?) where people would basically send in a script and a check and these people would make the movie. As such, she said she was sick of all the boobs and blood 90s horror movies and wanted to make something more artistic and experimental. So... they kind of described it as a cross between a Nine Inch Nails video and David Lynch beforehand but I don't really agree with that. It's more like the random video footage I remember clubs like the 9:30 club running on their closed-circuit video screens in between bands: just random weird vaguely goth or underground stuff that I have no idea who made it or where it came from or what it was. Some of it is kind of abstract horror imagery based around the abandoned factory where the director was squatting at the time (she said she lived there for 10 years!), some of it is an almost-narrative of a woman who... doesn't know she's in hell? and a vampire has to tell her that she's in hell? or something? Then looooots of footage kind of set to music.

Also very experimental and challenging to watch. I didn't intentionally set my schedule this way but this morning ended up being pretty rough. I don't know how I stayed awake.

That said, I did find lots of artistic merit in this. I applaud the effort for sure, and probably consider watching this more valuable than Random Acts of Violence which was largely vapid, but it wasn't the easiest hour of movie-watching of the week.
09.25.19 Dogs Don't Wear PantsJukka-Pekka ValkeapaaThis one's about a dad who loses his wife in a freak fish net drowning accident then eventually overcomes his grief with the help of a dominatrix willing to choke him into unconsciousness where he gets brief reunions with his dead wife. For being a latex-clad bondage-y type movie I actually found it less titillating and more melancholy and sweet. There were a few odd tonal moments, most involving the daughter character I guess showing the dad's complete neglect? or something? But the actress who played the Dominatrix character was compelling and I think multi-layered in an unconventional way.
09.25.19 Saint MaudRose GlassThis one was really good. It's about a home nurse who talks to god. She's paired with a woman dying of cancer then things go from there.

I think this is the only movie that had a jump scare that worked on me... really there were several moments that were either legitimately scary or deeply unsettling. In an escalating act of contrition or self-flagellation or whatever, there's a scene where Maud puts thumbtacks in her shoes that made me feel a visceral body reaction. That and the ending is really great. And there was a lot of ESG and post-punk music that I dig.

Really good.

Afterward I had more than an hour wait before the midnight movie then the next morning was extra early to be done in time for the closing night party. i didn't feel like sacrificing that much sleep to see this movie VFW so I skipped it and went home. It's the only slot I missed. Had I known that I tied my movie count on this site with last year because of it, I probably would've stayed... but oh well, I got plenty of sleep, didn't get sick (for the first year in recent memory), and don't regret it.
09.26.19The PlatformGalder Gaztelu-UrrutiaDay Eight! Last Day!

This is a sci-fi film kind of a la Snowpiercer or Cube or a Richard Bachman book where the characters are in this bizarre environment where a platform full of food starts at level 1 and the two people on that level get a few minutes to eat as much as they want before the platform lowers to level 2, 3, etc., until the lowest levels have no food and have to resort to other means of sustenance. People sign up or get assigned to X amount of months in this complex in exchange for diminished sentences or accredited degrees and they get randomly assigned levels every month.

The heavy message is that supposedly if everyone only eats their share then there's enough but human nature is such that those on the top indulge leaving those on the bottom to starve. Really though it's a maybe a comment on the system in general because we learn that the levels go down way beyond even what rationed food could supply so the whole system is corrupt in addition to people being shitty.

it really did have Long Walk / Running Man vibes to me more than Snowpiercer. I appreciate the lack of context or explanation here. Things don't go particularly well, making it fit right in to the fest. My only complaint is that the second screening didn't get any novelty food pairing like the first screening is.

One criticism of the fest as a whole this year is a general lack of little touches that made previous years special. Things like bringing out a food item at a particular moment in the film (like a hunk of meat during Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something like that) supplies a nice surprise and is a sign of thoughtfulness that make you feel special. The only thing like that I got this year was the free beer from Netflix for their films and a peach gummy in front of Parasite (which was just sitting there and wasn't addressed during the intro at all). I know it's a minor nitpick considering the scope of things they have to deal with to pull the festival off, but I did miss it.

Anyway, I liked this.
09.26.19 LyleStewart ThorndikeBrian Kelley's intro for this was "I'm queer and I LOVE horror movies." They did a LGBQT series this year, most notably with a doc about the guy who starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, but this is the only one I saw. I kind of wish I'd seen the other movies to understand why they chose to screen this. Maybe it fits in some weird thematic way (i mean, other than having gay people in it). Just as a random movie to see a few years after it was released, it didn't make any sense.

Furthermore, I didn't like the movie at all. It's not just that it's inspired by Rosemary's Baby or uses that material as a launch pad or presents a modern-day take on it... this movie IS Rosemary's Baby if John Cassavettes was a woman. Nothing new is brought to the table. Is it for people who've never seen the original? Is it like a blaxploitation thing? Like The Exorcist and Abby? Is there a small niche genre of gay versions of popular movies?

In any case, I largely felt like this was a waste of time. I guess it's a movie and I'm sure people worked hard on it but I don't understand why. It's just a not-as-good version of Rosemary's Baby.
09.26.19 ParasiteJoon-ho BongThis year they kind of had two closing night films. Everyone wanted to see this because The Host played great at the fest and people love Bong Joon-ho and this won the Palm D'or at Cannes and there's only one showing at the fest which is on the last day.

It's very good. I liked it very much. There's humor and heart and light parts and heavy parts. It's a bit Coen-esque actually in how it can go from kind of broad quirky comedy to serious pathos and emotion. There's also some message-y class stuff going on but everyone's pretty three-dimensional and sympathetic.

Wish I had more to say about it but nothing's coming to mind. It was really good.
09.26.19 Knives OutRian JohnsonAnd that brings us to the final closing night film! Man, that was quick! It's a weird feeling where the first few days feel so long then the final week just flies by.

Rian Johnson mentioned in his Q&A that he loves the whodunit genre but agreed with Hitchcock that all whodunit movies have a problem where there's basically one surprise in the entire movie. So he tried to fix that by making the film more into a Hitchcock-ian thriller but still keeping the framing of a whodunit and, most importantly, keeping the final scene where the detective lays out the whole explanation of who did it. I think he was successful with this. The movie feels very aware of what it is but plays with the audience as it unfolds so you often feel ahead of the characters but sometimes you're behind them and each plot twist isn't completely telegraphed. Or at least it wasn't to me.

I liked this one a lot. It was really fun to follow along, but I never felt like anything was cheated or full of holes (ahem, Looper). Plus every single member of the cast is great. Some have more to do than others, but they all fill their roles perfectly. Johnson also mentioned taking inspiration for the house from the Michael Caine Sleuth which makes perfect sense. The movie feels like a celebration of the genre without subverting or changing any of its rules. Before watching, I was afraid he would "elevate" the movie by having some stupid shit happening like having everyone be guilty or no one or not having a murder or whatever. I was glad to see that not happen.

Afterward, I did not go to the party so this is the end of my fest. I got out of there without crashing my car, breaking my phone, or getting sick so I'd say it's a clear upgrade from last year. Really I have very few negative feelings about this year. I had a lot of fun, spent time with good friends, saw some good movies (none of them really blew me away but I only saw 2 i outright didn't like), so I count that as a success.

Top 3
-Dolemite is My Name
-The Vast of Night
-Knives Out

Bottom 3
-Random Acts of Violence
-Blood Machines