Fantastic Fest 2012: Day 4

Harry Knowles and James Nunn

Harry Knowles (Ain’t It Cool News) with James Nunn (director of Tower Block)

I’ve reached the point in Fantastic Fest when I’m actually a little sad that I get my first pick for the first time slot of the day, because that means I can’t sleep in. However, my body is starting to adjust to eating like a Roman emperor for days on end, so I suppose that’s something.

Here are the films I saw yesterday:

Sure this film looks low budget, but you would never, ever guess that it cost a measly $30,000. It’s also a lot of fun. If Magnum P.I. were Korean and dropped into an episode of Dr. Who, the result might look something like this. The story involves a private detective who stumbles across a nefarious murder plot involving a time traveler and a dead girl, and he must catch the villain before the girl dies again. Young Gun in the Time has some pacing issues (ironically), but otherwise is a clever little comedy with a sprinkling of truly impressive scenes. In particular, watch for one of the best enclosed-space brawls ever. Bonus: it passes the Bechdel Test!

Imagine a world where a movie actually knows a bit about genetics. Luckily, you now live in this world: this thriller-drama was made in collaboration with — and filmed at — the Max Planck Institute in Dresden, Germany. While the movie does eventually leap to movie-science for its miracle exemption, it gets astoundingly close to the leap with actual science. It also explores the intersection between human foibles and science with an incredibly sharp eye, knowing full well that science itself is neither good nor bad. The film runs into some problems when the methodical pacing sometimes dips into outright slow territory, but otherwise I felt this was a very strong film overall.

Many action films are Straight Male Wish Fulfillment Delivery Mechanisms of some sort, but this one is nearly the textbook definition of the concept. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as that’s kind of the point here. Deliberately structured like a GTA-style game, Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman is the tale of an Average Joe who is forced by Bad Guys to track down an elusive, deadly, and scantily-clad hitwoman. The film is absolutely completely aware and comfortable with what it wants to be, and lunges for that goal with gusto. The result is a metric fuckton of fun. The film was made for pennies, shot in 15 days in Chile, and is a treat for fans of grindhouse-style cinema.

Tower Block is an example of a very familiar story told very well. The plot involves apartment building residents coming under siege when a sniper targets their building; the result is the trapped-people-must-cooperate plot we know so well from films like Assault on Precinct 13 and Attack the Block. What separates the wheat from the chaff in this film subgenre is the writing, particularly when it comes to characters. Tower Block benefits greatly from a tight script by Dr. Who writer James Moran. The characters never feel like archetypes, and they push and pull each other in sometimes surprising ways. Bravo to the excellent ensemble cast, too. Great, solid stuff. Worth some work to track down.

This Brazilian film is nearly a chaos of style over substance, particularly during the opening half hour where it introduces dozens of characters and is nearly impenetrable. However, it eventually settles into an actual plot and becomes a interesting exercise in the double-crossed crime subgenre. Much of it is stuff we’ve seen before, but the film benefits from outright verve, some fun supporting characters, and a couple truly fun plot elements.


I got a chance to chat a bit with the Norwegian filmmakers behind a documentary named Exorcism in the 21st Century. It turns out that even Norwegians hate Aquavit. They were also fascinated with the concept of “hell house” haunted houses.

The folks behind American Scream took over an empty storefront by the theater and set up a tiny haunted house for the Fantastic Fest attendees. It wasn’t terribly elaborate or scary, but the final room was a party. Every haunted house should end in a party! Bonus points if the haunted house goes all Satre and makes it a party that you can never leave.

I personally got to shake James Nunn’s hand and thank him for Tower Block. I hope to do the same thing to James Moran when I see him at CONvergence next year.

One of the best short films I’ve seen all festival is online. Watch it, especially if you like James Urbaniak from The Venture Brothers and/or dig female filmmakers.

I was accosted by drunken Argentinians at The Highball last night. Actually, everyone was accosted by drunken Argentinians at The Highball last night. The theory is now that it takes two drunken Argentinians to replace one Nacho Vigalondo, who is sadly not at Fantastic Fest this year.

Harry Knowles Being Assaulted by Valentín Javier Diment

Harry Knowles being accosted by Valentín Javier Diment, director of Memory of the Dead.

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