Fantastic Fest – Day 5 & 6

Hey guys, Ben here.  Horrorella is back with more reports from Fantastic Fest.  The coverage of the festival is nearing its end, so be sure to read on to see if there are any movies that sound like ones you’d want to check out in the near(ish) future when they’re released theatrically or on home video.  I’m personally looking forward to Berbian Sound Studio.

Day 5 started off with Memory of the Dead.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: Alicia undertakes a bizarre cult ritual to restore her deceased husband to life – a ritual that will see her home and friends visited by the spirits of the dead.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one.  The premise was interesting and promised a creepy and haunting flick but it just didn’t deliver.  It wasn’t terribly inspired and it took way too long.   It had some creepy moments but everything I enjoyed about it came in the first act.  This is the kind of movie you come across on TV late at night and are happy enough to watch, since everything else on sucks, but you don’t enjoy it outside of being saved from infomercials and wouldn’t seek it out on your own.

Second up was My Amityville Horror, one of my most anticipated flicks of the festival, and one of my favorites.  I enjoyed it so much that it got its own write-up, which you can find here.

Next came Unit 7.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: Alberto Rodriguez’s UNIT 7 is a gritty realistic thriller about a crew of narcotics officers in Seville, Spain who go rogue during a citywide crackdown in the years preceding Expo ’92.

I found this to be a solid cop drama with some great work out of it cast.  The enjoyment in watching this film is two-fold: seeing the unorthodox (and illegal) methods that they used to police the drug trade and watching the characters react to the consequences of these actions; seeing them learn that, despite the best of intentions, there are prices to be paid for going outside the law to do their jobs.

Day 5 closed with Taped.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: A trip meant to save their marriage turns into a nightmare when Johan and Saar accidentally videotape a police shooting in the streets of Argentina.

I enjoyed Taped.  It is a solid thriller based on a simple yet believable premise.  It is particularly interesting because found footage seems like the obvious filming style to use for such a story, and it does start out that way, with the couple on their second honeymoon taking vacation video for their daughter, but after the first 10 minutes or so, it shifts back to traditional narrative style.  The couples’ camera comes out a couple more times, but never for long.  I liked that director Van Rooijen opted not to go with the obvious stylistic choice.  I thought Taped was a great, fast-paced and very believable thriller.  It is easy to imagine accidentally getting stuck in this situation abroad and not having a whole lot of options.  Fantastic Fest staff mentioned that it has already been optioned for an American remake, so I guess you can look forward to that, if you don’t cross paths with the original any time soon.

Day 6 started off with The Conspiracy.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: Two young documentary filmmakers are drawn into a shadowy world of secret societies when the subject of their film simply disappears. Have his investigations led to his demise?

I really liked this film.  It was a little suspenseful, minimalist thriller.  It was filmed in a documentary style, not found footage, well not exclusively anyway.  The story evolves from a documentary on conspiracy theorists, so we see a mixture of footage, video and audio interviews with the subject, documentary footage of filmmakers discussing the subject, vérité footage as filmmakers start putting pieces together, and finally, hidden, shaky-cam footage are all interwoven to tell the story.  The story is compelling and interesting because it is well-researched.  Not being based on true events (and never trying to convince you of that fact), it takes established conspiracy theories and uses them as a jumping off point to develop the fictional story of the film.  This movie was a really fun ride – be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Second up was Berberian Sound Studio.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: Strange things occur after a British audio technician is summoned to Italy to work on a gory giallo film.

I am not really sure how to classify this one.  First off, I am not the biggest giallo fan.  Despite this fact, I did really love this film, though perhaps  that was because it is not a straight-up giallo.  It certainly takes cues and elements from the genre, but it doesn’t throw its full weight behind it.  It’s a more modern style with some distinctly visual Lynchian qualities, as well as the use of sound.

The film really utilizes sound incredibly as you’d imagine a film that follows a sound mixer, Gilderoy (Toby Jones) would and most certainly doesn’t disappoint there.  Instead of the standard art house flick that focuses heavily on striking images to tell its story, Berbian Sound Studiois infused with audio elements instead that have a really haunting and hypnotic quality.  You never actually get to see the giallo film being worked on (aside from an AWESOME opening title sequence), but you get so much through the soundtrack that you fill in all the blanks and feel like you can see the images being depicted anyway.

It seems that the reaction to this one has been sharply divided.  Many people complained that the film didn’t really reach a conclusion, which I can certainly understand, but that didn’t really bother me.  I enjoyed every second of the film.  Even though it wasn’t really building toward anything terribly revealing, I found it immensely satisfying.  The payoff wasn’t in the climax of the film but rather in watching the journey of Gilderoy, constantly at odds with everything around him, slowly losing himself in this strange new world.  It’s probably not going to be for everyone but I strongly encourage you to give it a shot and see what you think.

I capped the evening off with Vanishing Waves.  Summary from Fantastic Fest: A scientist with a neurological research team volunteers to experiment with a new technology which will allow him to access the thoughts of a coma victim.

 This film is like Lithuanian version of The Cell, but with a much smaller budget.  I had mixed feelings about Vanishing Waves.  While I enjoyed aspects of it, it never really came together the way I wanted it to.  Its pacing was its biggest problem.  It jumps in too fast; I wish it had spent a little more time building the characters in the beginning to make the protagonist’s motives more believable and to establish him as a good guy.  I found it really difficult to relate to him.  The film is beautifully shot and simple in its cinematography.  Director Kristina Buozyte makes good use of the dream-like nature of the story with the wandering cinematography, though sometimes that element was overplayed.  In the end, I don’t really regret the time I spent watching it but I don’t heartily recommend it either.

That’s it for Day 5 and 6!  Day 7 (which includes some Norwegian awesomeness) and Day 8 are coming soon!

by Horrorella

Be sure to check out Horrorella’s blog (here) and you can follow her on Twitter @horrorellablog.

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