Tag Archives: Fantastic Fest 2009

Review: Smash Cut (2009)

smashcutDirected by Lee Demarbre

Starring: David Hess, Sasha Grey

Somewhere on his car, Lee Demarbre probably has a sticker that says “WWHGLD” – What would Herschell Gordon Lewis Do?

The man behind zero-budget schlocker Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter has placed the man that turned a cow tongue into a star up on a pedestal in one of Fantastic Fest’s quirkier outings (and that’s saying something).

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Review: House of the Devil (2009)

hotdDirected byTi West

Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Greta Gerwig, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov

There are three theories about how Ti West made House of the Devil evoke the 1980s so successfully. One, time machine. Two, deal with the horned one. Three, astonishing horror director. Considering what a masterful retro supernatural chiller it is, option two seems reasonable.

This isn’t just an homage to early 80s creeping horror: It’s a reproduction so exquisite that some members of the audience were convinced that they must have rented this on VHS in 1986. West has channeled that Satanic cult scare that Geraldo Rivera whipped up and the whole cinematic genre of unease that it summoned. As West told the audience attending Monday night’s Fantastic Fest screening, there’s a lot more to recreating a decade than “some douchebag flipping a Rubik’s Cube.”

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Review: Cropsey (2009)

cropseyDirected by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman

Everywhere has its myth to scare kids away from the bad places. Along the border, it’s La Llorona near water. In England, it’s the boggart on the moors. On Staten Island, it’s Cropsey at the abandoned asylum. But this unnerving documentary asks: What if Cropsey is real?

The starting point here is the trial of Andre Rand, charged with the 1987 abduction and murder of 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger on the sleepy island. But just as the community started to connect him to more missing children, and this puny outsider filled the mythical role of Cropsey for the local kids, filmmakers Brancaccio and Zeman aim broader. Their Staten Island isn’t a leafy suburb off Manhattan, but a polluted dumping ground and a secret burial ground for mob corpses.

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Review: Fireball (2009)

fireballDirected by Thanakorn Pongsuwan

Starring: Preeti Barameeanat 

Extreme basketball doesn’t sound like the basis of a great action movie. But just for a moment, imagine Yao Ming going for three points when he’s taking an elbow slash to the face.

Fireball may be a bybrid martial arts/sports movie, but this is no Shaolin Soccer. Instead, it’s a gritty and stunt-heavy actioneer set in the wild world of fireball, a no-holds-barred street basketball game run by the local mob bosses. Forget dribbling fouls: This is five-on-five meets muay thai, and if players die in the game, that’s just fewer team members to split the winnings.
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Review: Mandrill (2009)

mandrillDirected by  Ernesto Diaz Espinoza

Starring: Marko Zaror

For anyone that yearns for the days when heroes were cool and lantern-jawed, heroines wore cocktail dresses, and every punch sounded like a baseball bat smacking beef, fear not. Mandrill is here to kick some ass and wear a big fat tie while he’s doing it.

Mandrill (Zaror) is a hit man, the best in the business in all of Chile: But he’s also a man on a mission, seeking the one-eyed killer that slew his parents. Forget any Fugitive chest-beating: Inspired by his lascivious uncle Cheno and the cheesy Johnny Colt detective movies of his youth, he’s become a red-blooded pastiche of unflinching masculinity.

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Review: Kaifeck Murders (2009)

hinter_kaifeckDirected by Esther Gronenborn

Starring: Benno Fürmann, Henry Strange, Alexandra Maria Lara

Ah, the countryside, so serene and peaceful. Yeah, right, unless it’s the remote Bavarian village of Kaifeck. Like Tom Waits sang, there’s always some killing you gotta do around the farm.

Photographer Marc Barenberg (Fürmann) and his son Tyll (Strange) are on a tour of the Bavarian hinterlands. They’re looking for the last traces of rural culture and folklore, and they find that in spades in the mist-shrouded Kaifeck. There they still celebrate the old ways, like the annual Epiphany festival, where the locals dress as wild spirits or percheta to chase away the devil.
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Review: House (1977)

hausuDirected by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Part of the appeal of Japanese cinema to the occidental audience is that it is a little more likely to catch a viewer jaded by Western conventions off guard. And then there’s House.

The last film to see the inside of a US cinema that made this little sense was probably Transformers 2. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 oddity has previously never escaped Japan, and there are probably good reasons for that: Not least that it’s completely insane, borderline incoherent, and shot with so much visual panache and mid-70s excess that it comes off like Ringu on a Pixy Stix-fueled hug-a-thon.

It’s in many ways a fairly conventional Japanese supernatural horror film. Seven schoolgirls travel to visit an infirm old aunt and start getting picked off, one-by-one, by the occult forces that lurk in her home. But Obayashi abandons any pretense of horror, instead shooting in a neon palate and day-glo mindset that may have inspired such more recent oddities as Happiness of the Katakuris or Big Man Japan.

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