|09.21.06||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2006|
So here we go! Fantastic Fest 2006! Twice as long as last year, twice as many movies, twice as many things that I'll have to miss due to constrictive scheduling... Oh well! I'll cry about it later, right now I'm too busy enjoying a genre film festival held entirely at the Alamo!
We'll see how long these notes end up being. With 8 full days of this, they might get pretty brief depending on how much sleep I'm getting. This wont be coverage for any site though so at least the pressure to form complete sentences and spell check is off... which is nice.
So my first movie of the fest, after getting my badge (which is a bottle opener shaped sort of like a hatchet), poster, tshirt, little chainsaw keyring, and envelope with various little bits of goodness (alas no spare SXSW bag this year though), was a movie called Haze. It was made by the dude behind Tetsuo: The Iron Man, which sort of stands in infamy for me. When Netflix first started up, a friend of mine joined just to rent that movie. I was a little traumatized by it. Since then I think I've only seen one or two more of his (A Snake of June being one of them), but recognize that he's pretty influential in both Japanese and western cinema for breaking some ground. A film of his played here last year (Marebito) that I was strongly warned against seeing so I didn't. This year though, I decided to throw caution to the wind and check him out.
The thing is, and I don't know if this is just this one and Marebito or an ongoing trend in his work, Tsukamoto has shifted into these really miniscule budget small DV films with him doing pretty much everything but holding the camera (he can't because he's the star... pretty much the only actor). So working in that world kind of limits some options and creates a specific kind of film that either works or doesn't work depending on the viewer. This is my rationalization for why some people hated Marebito bad enough to tell me not to see it even if i was paid, and others thought it was pretty good.
Haze is... well I take it to be a nightmare film. It probably has some deeper, much more significant meaning to it but... for me it's just a nightmare. The film starts off with no exposition, no character background, no establishing shots, no nothing... it's just him in this tight space getting injured. It actually reminds me of that movie Cube in a way because it doesn't bother with any sort of set-up, it just starts. But, unlike Cube, Haze is only 50 minutes long so it never bothers to stop and inject any sort of lame reasoning or outcome to it... it's just scene after scene of Tsukamoto in these maliciously designed spaced being physically tortured for no reason. One scene in particular has him stuffed into this corrider so tight that his mouth is forced open against a metal pipe, buth barbed wire under his heels so he has to stand on his tippy toes and slide down this corridor, scraping his teeth on the metal, to get out. The sound effects are particularly effective.
However, there's some weird little dialogue toward the end then it gets even weirder right at the end and it kind of left me like... well on one hand I had to admire it because it didn't bother with any of the traditional horror movie filler... it just got straight to the point and did its thing. But on the other hand, it felt kind of like an empty gesture. With nothing to latch onto emotionally or with any sort of commitment to his character, it kind of came off as an unsettling video art installation piece. Without any real narrative, it's basically just sitting through watching torture, which is pretty torturous in itself.
So I ended up thinking it was OK... nothing to call to the heavens but... I dunno... I'm don't feel completely cheated of my time.
What's interesting to note is that since this film is only 50 minutes long, they paired it with a 30-minute short beforehand called Oculus.
Oculus is actually a pretty cool idea... this guy locks himself in a room and videorecords himself in an effort to prove that a particular mirror is haunted/evil. While he sits there he tells us all about the mirror's history and it killed his parents blah blah blah and he slowly goes insane. Now... this would actually make a pretty cool short story I think... On the page, all of that interesting exposition while he sits in a white room with videocameras running would come off pretty well... I actually got sort of a Richard Matheson meets Stephen King's Room 1408 meets Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves vibe from the idea and execution... it's just a shame that it's a short film instead... Not only is it up to this one actor to pull the entire short off, it's kind of forced into having to be too long in an effort to sell that he's slowly going insane... It's something that works in your head as an idea but the end product gets old.