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.