Fantastic Fest 2011 Day One

I was way too busy watching movies over the last week to blog about it, but now I’ll catch up!  I saw lots of great genre stuff at Fantastic Fest.

Having a VIP badge this year means that I didn’t have to get up super early to go wait in lines – plus, they got their Web ticketing system mostly working this year. So I got a lot more sleep than usual!

Let The Bullets Fly (6/10) – I wanted to kick off the festival easy with something I was pretty sure I’d like, and you can’t go wrong with Chow Yun Fat! In this 1920s era Chinese film, bandit “Pocky” Zhang moves into a town pretending to be its new governor, and is immediately set at odds with the local crime boss, played by Chow Yun Fat. This movie was funny, and the humor was actually more subtle than the average Hong Kong movie (where smacking someone with a big fish is often considered the most subtle form of humor). There really wasn’t much action though, so if you are really hoping to see the bullets fly, this isn’t that kind of film. And it had some pacing problems.  But, it was fun.

Helpful note – the hand sign we consider to be “hang loose” here in the US is Chinese for “Six.” So when you see the big carved wood “hang loose” sign and wonder WTF is up withit, that’s the deal.

Haunters (8/10) – Like a Korean take on Unbreakable, this was my favorite of the day. In an otherwise normal modern day Korea, there’s a guy who can control people just by looking at them, and he misuses his power for, you know, petty theft and thrill killing. But then he comes across our hero, an everyday worker who is immune to the control power. Conflict results! One of the most notable things about this movie was the diversity – the hero’s two friends are from Ghana and Turkey and in an early “working at the junkyard” scene there’s a lineup of workers and only like one or two of them are Asian. It was actually shocking; in general Asian movies largely pretend other ethnicities don’t exist, or at most throw in a couple evil white guys, so that was really remarkable. The Koreans are turning out some great thrillers nowadays and this was taut throughout, and the lead, Koo So, really sustained the story’s sometimes contrived spots with his performance. Warning, there’s only arguably a brief appearance from anything  you might consider a “haunt,” this is not a horror movie.

Polvora Negra (5/10) – “Black Powder” is a Brazilian revenge story somewhat similar to El Mariachi – Carlos is shot and left for dead and later comes back to wipe out a complex nest of backbiting crime figures in a small Brazilian town. The cachaça and the blood flow freely, but it is a bit plodding in places, lacking much of a dramatic structure. Has some good scenes and all the characters are interesting, though.

House By The Cemetery (5/10) – While the other three movies today didn’t exactly deliver on their titles full force – the bullets flew only mildly in Let The Bullets Fly, there was a dearth of haunting in Haunters, and though there was some shooting it didn’t really involve black powder in “Polvora Negra,” House By The Cemetery delivers exactly what it says, a house right by a cemetery. This Lucio Fulci classic has been restored in preparation for a blu-ray release. A family moves to a spooky house in New England whose previous occupants killed themselves or otherwise died in mysterious circumstances, and the dad is picking up on the research of the previous owner… And then there’s decapitations and stabbings and the like galore. Complete with imaginary friends and screaming children and creepy dolls. It isn’t a brilliant plot and it is a bit dated, but it’s fun. You can get the DVD of the old version from Netflix.

Day 1 was a success! I didn’t see anything that I just totally fell in love with, but all four movies were decent.  It started late, so only four movies, but no such weakness tomorrow!

Obligatory RPG related note – Haunters was definitely the best movie of the day, and could be good inspiration for a weird modern RPG setting or scenario akin to Mutant City Blues.

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