Tag Archives: film

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Seven

Son of a bitch.  I just wrote up a huge long post and WordPress ate it.  Sorry, I’m not going to do it all again, here’s the highlights though.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (7/10)

  • HK movie starring Andrew Lau
  • Sequel to Fist of Fury (Bruce Lee) or its remake Fist of Legend (Jet Li)
  • Starts off strong with kung fu WWII action scene
  • Then goes noir with a lot of hanging around a nightclub unsubtly called “Casablanca”
  • Masked avenger subplot a la Black Mask, but should have either been cut or gone into more, it was an odd thing to be a small sideline
  • End fight scene in Japanese dojo a shout-out to earlier Fists movies, but wasn’t nearly as good
  • Starts strong, then goes downhill

Bedevilled (8/10)

  • S. Korean movie, didn’t know what to expect based on blurb and pic
  • Self absorbed bitch Hae-won living in Seoul goes back to the island she grew up on, which has only about 9 souls living on it, eking out a 12th century subsistence lifestyle
  • The men abuse, the old ladies enable, and the one woman friend of Hae-Won, Bok-Nam, and her daughter are the ones to take the brunt of it
  • Hae-won keeps to her “not my problem” policy as bad things happen
  • Slow build and then in the last act the payback begins
  • Very well done movie, not a typical slasher/revenge movie, great indictment of those who stand by and won’t speak up when others are doing bad things

Red (8/10)

  • Based on Warren Ellis graphic novel
  • Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren are retired secret agents who get provoked by Karl Wagner et al. and have to swing back into action
  • A straightforward but well done comedy actioner, much better than the “Expendables”/”A-Team” kind of crap we’ve gotten lately
  • In theaters soon – heck, I may go see it again when it comes out

The Last Circus: Balada Triste (3/10)

  • Strongly hyped by Harry Knowles (AICN founder, FF co-founder) in slavering terms
  • Balada Triste = Sad Trumpet
  • Spanish film by Alex de la Iglesia about a kid whose clown dad is killed in a battle during Spanish Civil War, which is fun
  • Forget that and skip forward, now he’s a sad clown and working for a circus, he falls in love with a circus performer who has a violent happy clown boyfriend
  • He gets his ass beat
  • Both he and the other clown get all deformed and have Joker transformations
  • They fight over the “sad strumpet” a lot and are all surreal
  • I want to cut myself
  • Some people justified the movie’s weaknesses because of its “compelling imagery” but just because you’re Spanish doesn’t mean you’re Guillermo del Toro
  • Q&A indicates that Knowles loves this because of the comic book references
  • Worst film I saw at the fest, agreement on that assessment from the people I was attending with

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Six

Day 6, I wasn’t going to mess around – I put down five movies like they were unruly hookers.

First up, the awesome Rare Exports (8/10).  Scandinavians have weird myths, and this one delves into the early Swedish myths of Santa Claus – think less “jolly old Nick” and more “demented goat-beast.”   It’s the tale of a boy and his (modern day) reindeer-ranching village as Christmas approaches.  Some Americans (those goddamn Americans are always behind it) are blasting up on a nearby mountain, and it appears wolves have eaten all the reindeer…  But then you find out that the mountain may be where the natives froze and buried Santa because he was so nasty….  And next thing you know there’s fifty naked old guys running through the snow chasing a little boy.  This was a very enjoyable movie, it never goes over the line to slasher horror but you really think that any minute it’s going to…

There was a cool short before it, Unholy Night,  that similarly deals with the Icelandic Santa myths, in which there are 13 Santas, one of which is named “Meathook.”  You can imagine how that ends up.  They want to parlay the short into a film with all 13 Santas.  Sounds like a winning idea for a one-season Showtime special to me!

Then it was time for Mutant Girls Squad (6/10), the newest from the three Japanese psychos behind Tokyo Gore Police, Robogeisha, and Be A Man! Samurai School.  It’s Troma-esque schlocky gore.  I didn’t find it too engaging.  It was better than last year’s Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl at least, but there’s only so far the sophomoric imagery takes you – “Girl with a chainsaw coming out her ass” and “Girl with katanas coming out of her breasts” were two of the characters in this flick.  It was enjoyable in a middle school kind of way for the first hour, and then I got sleepy.

Next was a real high point, Drones (9/10) – like Office Space, but with aliens!  Kinda.  A true low budget success, we get a tale of intergalactic domination told only with office workers in cubicles.  The writing is the real star here, and the film is clever and engaging.  The protagonist, “Brian”, discovers in short order that both his best friend and his girlfriend are alien infiltrators, but from different races that oppose each other…  But it doesn’t go all “Bros vs Hoes,” it’s a good-hearted film where the characters pull together.  Very, very funny.  We all came out of that showing reinvigorated and chatty.

Then we watched The Dead (7/10).  Fair warning, the people I was with liked this film less than I did.  They shot a zombie outbreak movie in Africa, on the border of Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso.  An American military man involved in some brushfire war there gets stranded when a zombie outbreak happens.  He travels across the country, teaming up with a local military man for much of the journey.

This film just didn’t have the bite it should have.  First of all, “zombie outbreak” is only about a 6 on the 1-10 scale of fucked up shit that happens in that part of Africa every day.  The filmmaker shied away from showing any of that, possibly out of ultra sensitivity to the inevitable charges of racism that would follow.  (They talked about some of the Internet nimrods that are already tooting that horn; there is absolutely no reason for it but people like to bring themselves some measure of fame by crapping on other stuff.)  Second of all, they talked about the transformation of the main character from selfish to altruistic over the course of the film, but the movie I saw doesn’t support that one bit (that he was that selfish, or that he changed).  I did like how the people in the movie weren’t all “turn on each other and be more dangerous than the zombies,” that’s such a cliche now; seeing even disparate people band together despite their differences (besides black/white, they were on opposite sides in a war a day ago) in the face of such a threat.

A side note, they started this movie way before Resident Evil decided to have its newest incarnation in Africa, so no copycat charges please.  I think some of the problem may be that they just couldn’t get some of the scenes they wanted in the can; between customs delays and bribery and being held at gunpoint and knifepoint and suffering from dysentery, they really had a hellish time trying to make a movie in Africa.  There’s a scene where he finds a baby and gives it away to some soldiers about one minute after; the director expressed his frustration that they wanted to do more with that but just ran up against the limits of their time in country.

Finally, we had Rammbock (9/10), a German zombie outbreak movie.  A sad sack going to bug his ex-girlfriend gets caught up in an outbreak and he and several other residents of the townhouse barricade themselves in and have to help each other.  This film also had a fairly positive view of human nature post-zombie, though there was the one “Mr. Twitchy” who endangers everyone by being a big selfish tool.

I thought their take on the zombie outbreak was a very compelling one. It’s a disease, and the result is 28 Days Later style fast-zombies, but you find out that being bitten isn’t 100% fatal, and that an infected’s immune system might fight it off if they stay calm and avoid adrenaline rush.  So you have a reason to not just kill anyone bitten, and a reason to be seeking after sedatives and other McGuffins.  It opens up a lot of interesting avenues that the now-traditional zombie disease closes, and I’d be interested in seeing more riffs on it.

It was also clever in that all their attempts for random townspeople to confront zombies with violence end badly – they really have to use their brains, they don’t all go Ash like so many movies depict.

This was one of the best days of the fest!  But even better is yet to come…

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Five

Day five, and the second week of Fantastic Fest.  All the weekend partiers have left, and Fantastic Arcade rolls up its mat.  Now it’s just the hardcore movie watchers.

First, I saw The Man From Nowhere (7/10).  Somewhat of a South Korean riff on The Professional, starring Won Bin, which according to the movie blurb on the FF site I guess I would know if I were a teenaged South Korean girl.  I’m not, so I could give a crap.  But the movie was decent.  It starts out with some reclusive guy running a crappy pawnshop in an apartment building; his junkie neighbor has a little kid and then the bad men come and it turns out he’s ex-special forces and then he becomes the KILLDOZER!  The bad guys basically snatch kids, use them for various criminal schemes, and then harvest them for their organs.  I enjoyed the movie but can’t help but feel like since they had Korean pop star Rain in the bloody Ninja Assassin last year at FF this was a deliberate attempt to duplicate that.

Next, I watched a movie about a cannibal family in Mexico called We Are What We Are (7/10).  It was interesting, not a slasher flick, but a serious movie about a family that is – well, it sounds weird to call them “normally” dysfunctional, with the crazy mom and the brothers both wanting to bang their sister, but they’re not all Texas Chainsaw Massacre crazy.  They are cannibals, and seem to believe strongly that they have to, from time to time, eat someone in a ritual manner.  Interestingly, the corrupt cops and locals seem to treat cannibalism as a pretty common thing there – when a would-be victim escapes and finds a cop, the cop radios in a “code 17 in progress,” which one would think is a pretty low number for “cannibals on a rampage.”  I liked that they left a lot unexplained, like the exact nature of the ritual and what exactly happened to the father (he dies in the first 30 seconds of the film, but it’s never clear who did it and how).  The main thing that seemed off was that in the end when the cops are on their trail, they somehow home in unerringly in packs to their one apartment in a whole barrio.  As a bonus, thanks to the Alamo’s extensive menu I ate a big bowl of puerco guisada while watching it, and my cackling discomfited my neighbors.

The high point of the day was Stake Land (8/10), a post-apocalyptic vampire movie like unto I Am Legend, or The Road with vampires.  These are more feral vampires only slightly differentiated from fast zombies, not “sexy prince of the night” vampires.  A guy named “Mister” and a kid named Martin travel across the mostly-wasted American countryside, where only small enclaves of humans still hold out against the hostile world.  They slay vampires in roughneck style, and directory Jim Mickle must be making John Carpenter jealous, since he knows how to make it look good.  It has rednecks throwing vampires out of helicopters as a terror weapon.  And nun raping, lots of nun raping.  (All the men seem to be all over the old nun, played by Kelly Gillis, as opposed to the oddly fresh-faced young women for whatever reason.  Maybe it’s because they all touched themselves to Top Gun too.)  More dangerous than the vampires are the psycho fundie militia that’s taken over swaths of the area.  Dark and violent, Stake Land is a really good vampire movie.

I finished out the day with the disappointing Bunraku (6/10). It seemed really interesting at the start – Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Ron Perlman, and some Japanese chick (I really did think he was a woman for his first two scenes – really it’s some pop star named “Gackt”) star in a Sin City meets Moulin Rouge, cowboys-and-samurai action romp!  But after the initial imagery wore off, the plot really started to lag.  They have to kill the “top ten killers” and I started napping towards the end of them.  Although it had loads of visual style, it definitely needed some tighter pacing and editing in the last third of the film.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Four

This was Sunday, and I took off most of the day to go to an amusement park with my daughter; my company had rented out Six Flags Fiesta Texas for Family Day so it was too good to miss.  But it’s Fantastic Fest, so even after a reasonably brutal day in the Texas sun it was back for a couple movies!

First I saw Primal (7/10), an “Ozploitation” movie in the vein of Cabin Fever, The Descent or The Ruin, where some college kids on a camping trip to look at cave paintings way out in the middle of nowhere, Australia run afoul of a… Well, we’ll call it a “disease,” that turns people into feral “fast zombie” style savages.  This was decent; a simple premise but well done.  There is almost a tentacle rape, and the heroine takes some good punches in the uterus.  Good times.  It wasn’t an exceptional movie but I thought it was an enjoyable representative of that “camping horror” genre.

Then I saw Gallants (5/10), a Hong Kong martial arts comedy.  It was billed as “Cocoon with kung fu” because the protagonists are old, I guess.  HK humor is admittedly a bit of a different beast from American humor, but I didn’t enjoy this movie all that much.  The comedy was just goofy slapstick, the martial arts sequences weren’t all that good, and the melodrama was eye-rolling.  The most memorable part for us was that the villains had an odd penchant for carrying man-purses (much like Elijah Woods, who attended a lot of Fantastic Fest).  I suspect you are supposed to like this because the old guys are huge kung fu movie stars from the old days.  But, no.

Only two movies on Day Four, but I crank it back up into overdrive in Day Five!

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Three

The third day of Fantastic Fest kicked off for me with a large selection of shorts.  As is traditional, they ranged from the “meh” to “really good” to “that’s messed up, I need to write that down and use it in my D&D game.”  Fard and Cages were my favorites.  Pixels is fun but so slick it looks like it should be a Coke/car/something commercial.  I was just happy there was nothing as wretched as the “Mexican toilet banger” short of last year.

A small semi-related gripe – they have little Fantastic Fest promo shorts they show before the movies.  While last year many were clever, this year they are just trying to make them as gross as possible – we’re talking oral-sex-while-on-period, six-year-old-having-coat-hanger-abortion gross.  I don’t mind a bit of gross if they’re actually funny, but these are just stupid.  The FF crew needs to rethink their approach next year – I haven’t seen one that entertained me at all, while last year I liked the majority of them.  Apparently The Human Centipede has given people the misapprehension that being as sick as possible is somehow entertaining in and of itself, and it’s not.

Next, I tried to get into Red Hill and was rebuffed, so went to see the unexceptional Bibliotheque Pascal (4/10).  Some passive Hungarian hobo named Mona gets put into forced prostitution in London, in a special “literary themed” brothel where the inmates are in theme rooms and have to learn lines from – in Mona’s case – Saint Joan.   It’s hard to feel too much sympathy for her – it’s really only that she has a daughter she wants to get back to that creates any connection between her and the viewer.  And the movie doesn’t seem sure what it wants to be.  It’s certainly not “erotic” in any way; it doesn’t really go into the torture-porn vein you might go with such a premise, and the little weird bit (I won’t give it away but it’s why they claim it’s “Terry Gilliam-esque”) was too little and really just served as a deus ex machina at the end.  Even the films I don’t rave about at FF are usually a 6/10 or better on an absolute scale, but this one is not.  People I spoke with afterwards generally shared my assessment.

Now came the big event of the day – off to the Paramount to see Master Yuen Woo Ping get a lifetime achievement award and see both his newest movie, True Legend (7/10), and his first, Snake in Eagle’s Shadow (8/10), which was Jackie Chan’s breakout film as well!  The award was presented by the RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, and was an engraved Chinese sword (a “dao,” I think…).  Even through an interpreter he was very charming and got several standing ovations.

True Legend is the story of “Beggar” Su Can, one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, who developed the Drunken Fist style of kung fu.  The martial arts action is great, the actors are engaging and the locations scenic – the only weird thing about this movie is, I guess because he was focused on telling the story of a real guy rather than fitting things into one dramatic arc, the third act seems like a “bonus movie” tagged onto the end of the otherwise complete first movie.  The first plot arc is Su Can’s family being killed/taken by the Five Venoms Fist-wielding bad guy and Su being wounded and then training and then going back to get him.  At the end of that, there’s a scene dissolve and suddenly it’s an unrelated bit from later in his life where he develops drunken style and fights furriners.  Which I guess I don’t object to, as the first arc was complete and I thought the movie was ending and I got another half hour instead, but really it should have been a second movie or crafted into a single narrative better.

And I don’t need to review “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow;” it’s a classic of the genre (also starring Beggar So!) and still fun after all these years.  Master Yuen’s father played the old Snake master in it, and his stories about what it was like to direct his father (who was also a quite famous martial arts star by the time) in his first movie were funny.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day Two

Man, I’m lagging behind with the blogging, this schedule is brutal.  Fantastic Fest Day Two, and even getting to the theater at 9:30 to wait in line to pick up tickets for noon showings means you are way back in that line.

Today’s slate started out with Mother’s Day (7/10), a home-invasion film that on the one hand was a remake of the Troma dark humor/abduction horror “Mother’s Day” but on the other was an adaptation of a real life horror story, the Wichita Massacre.  Director Darren Bousman (Saw I-III, Repo! The Genetic Opera) needed something easy to get off the ground, and Hollywood loves remakes, so in traditional exploitation film fashion he agreed to do one thing while using it to do another – he had always wanted to make a script called “Wichita” he had read, about a horrific series of crimes in Kansas, but no one would touch the dark subject matter.  In an interesting twist that makes the movie seem like a sequel to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Rebecca DeMornay is “Mother,” a woman who kidnaps babies and turns them into her own little criminal family.  The three brothers are off on a bank-robbing spree when one of them gets shot, and they retreat home, only to find out that the house got foreclosed on and Mother and their sister have moved out, and the new tenants are having a big party as a storm rolls in.  They take them captive, call Mother, and the torture/murder/robbery/rape/etc begins.

I enjoyed Mother’s Day.  I am not a big torture porn fan and don’t like the Saw movies, but I thought this was a bit better in that it had more reasoning to it that most of that genre – not simply “we like to torture people because we are inexplicably into that”; they need medical help, money, escape, and to control a house full of people, and being monsters that’s the way they go about it.  And it was great having Brousman and others in attendance, the Q&A was so interesting it made me like the movie better.  For example, the movie was shot at 5 hours long and had entire characters – both victims and perpetrators – that were cut out to get it to theatrical release.  And they were shooting a bank robbery escape film in Winnipeg without a permit and got mistaken for real robbers, leading to a massive police mobilization with the cast and crew being taken at gunpoint.

Next, I saw a Hong Kong film, Dante Lam’s Fire of Conscience (7/10).  This wasn’t innovative, but I like the genre – the film brings to mind scenes and characters from the classics Hard Boiled, The Killer, City on Fire, and Organized Crime and Triad Bureau.  Star Leon Lai does his best Chow Yun Fat impression while giving bad guys the beatdown; his squad of cops takes a good number of casualties in the inevitable huge tea-house shootouts.  In the end it’s just “another film, you know, like those other ones I listed” but heck, I like all those movies, so it was nice to watch a newer one.

That was followed up by Zombie Roadkill (7/10), which was put together from a series of Web shorts that are going to be running on FEARnet soon.  A campy little set, this is about some kids who are driving down a cursed stretch of road where roadkill comes back to life looking for REVENGE!  Think “Furry Vengeance but with exploding heads.”  It’s funny and totally unrealistic, and there’s a hilarious monologue from Thomas Haden Church as the park ranger where he explains that this stretch of road was built over an Indian burial ground and witches were burned here by Puritans and then the Puritans were burned and the government did experiments on child molesters and and…  Plus they gave out “roadkill” tacos afterward.  Anyway, it was short and goofy, and it’s a web series so you should probably watch it.

Do you think I’m done?  Oh, no.  This was a FULL Fantastic Fest day, which means two more movies.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days (6/10) is a sequel to the somewhat interesting vampire movie 30 Days of Night where an Alaskan town is taken over and pretty much wiped out by a vicious mob of vampires.  The sole survivor of that movie steps into what could be a “John Carpenter’s Vampires” sequel, and hooks up with some other people who Know the Truth ™ to hunt them some vampires.  They suck at it and largely get killed.

I didn’t dislike this movie as much as the other people I saw it with did.  I thought it was more well done than some of those aforementioned Carpenter ones (does he do all the editing himself, or does he have some buddy who’s a shitty editor?  Because every movie of his since Prince of Darkness has had awful editing.).  The two female leads were in attendance, and were cutely sloshed out of their minds for the Q&A.  I mean, it’s not “good” in the traditional sense, but as someone who once went on a quest to watch all the vampire movies he could get his hands on, it’s certainly not in the bottom half of that crowd.

Although we did all burst into laughter at the vampires screeching at each other like pterodactlys getting their nutsacks stomped.  In the first movie, they all spoke some weird Eastern European type of language.  In this one, only the “borg queen” leader seems to, the rest all just squeal.  There’s one scene where they seemingly conduct a lengthy conversation.

Vampire 1: “SKREEEEEEEEE!”
Vampire 2: “SKREEEEEEEEE!”
Vampire 1: “SKREEEEEEEEE!”
Vampires 3 and 4, in unison: “SKREEEEEEEEE!”

WTF.

And finally, I saw The Violent Kind (8/10) by the Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores).  I didn’t expect much from the blurb in the program, but the porn stars handing out Pabst Blue Ribbon as we entered piqued my interest and the movie really delivered a heaping helping of B-movie fun!  A biker gang has a birthday party for one of it’s founders’ old ladies up in a house in the woods, and after most of them leave bad things start to happen, from possession to home invasion to unexplained electrical failures to lap dances (well, OK, that was from earlier). It was like Sons of Anarchy meets Evil Dead II with Blue Velvet thrown in – as well as bits of everything from The Exorcist to The Faculty.  It was a lot of fun; it was probably my biggest pleasant surprise of the day.

And that’s the end of Day Two.  I liked The Violent Kind the best, followed by Mother’s Day, Fire of Conscience, Zombie Roadkill, and 30 Days of Night: Dark Days.

Fantastic Fest 2010 Day One

It’s September in Austin and that means it’s time for Fantastic Fest!

Their new online ticket ordering system totally crapped out in the face of a thousand simultaneous clicks in the morning, so we went back to last year’s “rack out early and stand in line” method.  C’est la vie.  The Alamo Drafthouse staff and volunteers run the whole thing very smoothly so no real complaints there.

My first movie of the festival was Transfer (8/10), a German science fiction movie about rich old people who make use of a new “memory transfer” technology to put their minds into virile new bodies.  These bodies are technically “volunteers” from Africa and other third world countries, who get a bunch of money for their families and four hours a day back in their own bodies for giving up 20 hours a day (and much of their freedom during those other four).  As you might imagine the “volunteer” nature of this work and the validity of its rewards are debatable.

I really enjoyed this movie.  It touches on some of the same themes as the “use my clones/imprint my brains” kinds of movies like The Island or the excellent Joss Whedon TV show Dollhouse.  But while a Hollywood movie would degenerate into chases and action sequences, and have all (morally) black-and-white characters, Transfer was a lot more nuanced – all the characters had a lot of depth and complexity and “good” and “bad” – both the elderly German couple and the Africans who were being used in this way as well.  Science fiction is properly about human reaction to technological developments (and ideally more complex ones than “shoot the robots!” and this movie was a classic, thoughtful science fiction story without being inaccessible – too many filmmakers go the other way when reacting against mass-market sci-fi and make their work deliberately weird, cryptic, and symbology-laden.

The acting was great.  I was impressed how well B.J. Britt, the black male lead, did with depicting Hermann the German when his personality was dominant – Hermann has what we Americans call a “big ol’ shit-eating grin” and he totally nailed it.  And the story dealt in a very complex way with racial tension in European society.  While watching this I had a brief nightmare about Hollywood remaking this movie as a comedy starring Martin Lawrence or the Wayans Brothers or something.  “Look, I’m wacky, I’m acting white!”  Shudder.

There’s a lot of ambiguity in the ending – it wasn’t clear to me exactly how it turned out for the Africans, for example – but it was a very well done and enjoyable film.

Next, I saw Golden Slumber (9/10).  It was by the director of Fish Story, which was my absolute favorite film from last Fantastic Fest.  This Japanese film was a tale of the shared experiences between friends, using the Beatles song “Golden Slumber” as a recurring theme.

I liked this movie.   It wasn’t as good as Fish Story (which, I’m not ashamed to admit, made me cry) but was still good.  I felt that some of the film felt more forced where Fish Story felt more organic in its execution of the theme (and the titular song tie-in).  I think in trying to reproduce some of the “hook” of Fish Story instead of completely being its own thing, it suffered.

But let’s not make too much of the comparison; few movies are as good as Fish Story and this one was very good.  It follows a hapless Japanese man who gets set up as the scapegoat in a plot to assassinate the Japanese Prime Minister – “Just like Lee Harvey Oswald, ” the characters muse.  This meant a lot of intrigue and chases and even action scenes, but the movie was not about the action, which makes all the difference.  And while many movies here at Fantastic Fest are about “how we all turn on each other when the shit goes down,” this movie is a celebration of how we don’t – the protagonist’s family and friends (mostly) know the man and know he didn’t do it, whatever they are told by the TV or scary government hatchet men.  So it has a very positive heart.  And humor; the helpful serial killer “Kill-O” had the crowd whooping.

But it’s also not a “District 13” kind of wish fulfillment fantasy where everyone gets their comeuppance in the end and the government gets set right…  Despite the heavy slate of coincidences, it strives to be a but more low-key and “realistic” than that.

Then, I went downtown to the Paramount to see the star-studded premiere of Let Me In (7/10).  The original “Let The Right One In” was a huge FF favorite from years past and there was a lot of trepidation about the remake.  But Tim League was out there claiming it’s “as good – if not even BETTER than the original” so I went.  I was on the fence about seeing it actually; going to the Paramount burns two Fantastic Fest slots and since many of the big gala movies are coming out into theaters in like two weeks, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay the opportunity cost.  But I heard some of the kid actors on the radio in the morning and thought the Q&A and seeing the stars would be more interesting than the average, so I went.  (Sadly, no Chloe Moretz; that would have made it a slam dunk.)

Let me be honest here – I haven’t seen the original.  Inconceivable, I know; I have it on my Netflix instant streaming queue and just haven’t gotten around to it.  So given that context…

I thought Let Me In was good.  Certainly better than most Hollywood horror movies by a long shot.  But it didn’t live up to what it could have been.  Things just seemed so…  straightforward.  Mysteries weren’t preserved for long, and times where there could have been interesting twists, there weren’t really any.  In the end, it was pretty predictable.  The young actors and actresses did a great job, though, and really carried the movie.  The director, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) did a decent job of creating mood, including one clever trick of never showing the boy’s mother’s face to indicate his level of dissociation from her, but certain elements like the environment of bullying and the enclosed nature of their small apartment complex didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked.

I don’t want to come off as too negative; it’s certainly way better than “Freddy vs Jason Round 18” or whatever crap people are putting out nowadays, I was just lightly disappointed in an otherwise good movie and felt like a little tweaking could make it a lot stronger.

The Q&A went pretty long and I got back to the Alamo too late for the fourth slot, and I didn’t really want to sit around two hours waiting for the midnight slot, so I availed myself of some of the free Ambhar tequila they were giving out and went home to let out my long-suffering dog.  So that’s it for Day One of Fantastic Fest 2010!   It’s off to a good start;  I saw three movies I enjoyed to varying degrees, from “good” to “excellent!”  (And I hear I made the right call going to Let Me In instead of sticking around to see Ong-Bak 3, which by all reports was a real stinkburger.)