I’m only two days in, and Fantastic Fest is already kicking my ass. This is as it should be.
Hands down, this is the best film I saw yesterday, and is an early favorite for the festival. This film, directed by Brandon Cronenberg (David Cronenberg’s son), feels like something from early in David Cronenberg’s career, somewhere between Videodrome and Dead Ringers. Antiviral progresses coolly and deliberately, portraying a near-future world where viruses from celebrities are in high demand. It’s an ingenious concept explored well, making this film the smartest new horror film I’ve seen in a long while. If you can’t handle films with a slow pace or lots of needles, this won’t be for you, but anyone who is a fan of old school Cronenberg will likely love this.
THE WARPED FOREST
If a film adaptation of Naked Lunch were made cute and Japanese, it would look a lot like this. Director Shunichiro Miki self-funded this project, so it’s essentially a cinematic playground for a very accomplished — and very strange — Japanese commercial director. There are penis guns and vulvar fruits and people who keep money in their bellybuttons and beasts with guts of fun fur. The film is also gorgeously shot, and it seems to have some sort of point about love and relationships. There’s a strange, gentle charm to it. Worth a look.
SHORT FUSE (horror short program)
I love the Fantastic Fest short film programs every year, but in the past, it always seemed that the horror shorts set was always the weakest of the three sets. This year, Short Fuse contains an extremely strong lineup of shorts, most of which mix an ample amount of humor in with their horror. Particularly strong is the “Skinfections” series, a trio of shorts that use body horror very well to set up character and humor.
You know, I don’t particularly care for Noboru Iguchi’s films (Robogeisha, Machine Girl, etc.) in and of themselves, but I love their premiers at Fantastic Fest, and Noboru Iguchi himself is hard not to love. The man seems to constantly be bursting with joy and energy, and you can even see that in his films if you’re not too distracted by the flying limbs and spraying blood. Dead Sushi is probably the best thing I’ve seen from him; it’s not a great film by any means, but he managed to combine zombie sushi (!) with some very funny comedic actors and zippy pacing. It also looks like everyone had a blast working on the film. Dead Sushi is a very silly, fun diversion, if you’re into that sort of thing.
NEW KIDS NITRO
New Kids Nitro is a sequel to New Kids Turbo, which was beloved by Fantastic Fest audiences last year. For those of you unfamiliar with New Kids, imagine the Dutch version of white trash humor, complete with mullets and beer-swilling pregnant women. New Kids humor is ridiculously un-PC, which is part of the point (and part of why people laughed at Turbo so hard last year), but here it seems to wear thin. New Kids Nitro is clearly aware of the dangers of repeating the jokes of the previous film (as evidenced in the opening scenes), but it never really gets a handhold in new material. That said, I can also describe this film as “New Kids Turbo plus zombies”, which definitely earns a few points.
The Dead Sushi screening last night was preceded by the Extreme Sushi Challenge, during which Noboru Iguchi and friends challenged audience members to a sushi eating contest. Of course, the Drafthouse came up with three of the craziest sushi offerings we Americans can imagine: bull penis sushi, balut (fertilized duck egg, aka duck fetus), and tuna laced with ghost pepper. Trevor Trujillo, a Fantastic Fest regular who sports a dazzling mustache, won the challenge, earning a headband, a $100 gift card (!), and awe from the audience.
Actress Rina Takeda, star of Dead Sushi, was also at the screening. Since she’s a black belt in karate, she did a short demo after the film. In the category of “things I never thought I’d see in my life,” let’s add seeing a young woman whip around sushi-nunchucks whilst being narrated by piece of egg sushi that was being puppeteered by a small, round Japanese man.