Now that we’ve already shared the best of the Fantasia Film Festival – Juan of the Dead, My Amityville Horror, Sleep Tight, Game of Werewolves, Hidden in the Woods, Resolution, Play Dead, Sushi Girl and Toad Road – along with Lonmonster’s mini-reviews (read part one and part two), I’ve now turned to the dark side.
Inside you’ll find the WORST of the fest (which continued through this weekend), which includes my mini-reviews for The Human Race, The Pact, Excision, Errors of the Human Body, Replicas, A Night of Nightmares, The Cat and White. Fortunately, this year the good outweighed the bad…
THE HUMAN RACE
I rarely use the word “putrid” when writing a review, but Paul Hough’s The Human Race embodies that more than any film I’ve seen this year. While the Fantasia audience seemed to enjoy the onslaught of exploding heads, personally I found Race to be an offensive, poorly assembled genre mess that does pretty much everything wrong. While it was a near-final version of the film, the effects were shoddy and the cinematography looked cheap. The screenplay was an absolute mess, which also caused the product to be just as disorganized. The film opens with the introduction of a character that dies immediately when the race starts. I get the joke, but it does absolutely nothing to get the viewer integrated into the story – it’s a self-indulgent joke that needs to be cut immediately. Back to the race, as the contestants look around perplexed the audience is tossed the rules by an ominous/malevolent voice. Before the race can get going, the audience is once again pulled out as Hough feels that he desperately needs to tell the back-story of the two protagonist (an incredibly boring story of the two of them in Afganistan). Problem is, the actual race doesn’t get going until what felt like 20-25 minutes in. One flowing, Hough follows the anti-heroes as they try and help a wounded woman, stopping the action, and then has the protags literally STOP all contestants in a house to “think”. The stop-and-go pace of a supposed action film is beyond aggravating, especially when “race” is in the title. Hough’s screenplay is loaded with moronic characters that range from a woman who hates Arabs because of 9-11 and a retarded man who screams “Poopie baby pooped his pants” (not kidding). The actual space of the racetrack, and aforementioned rules are muddled, and there’s literally no one to root for. As much as a race is about endurance, so is The Human Race.
ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY
One of the best of the worst was Eron Sheean’s beautifully shot Errors of the Human Body, that taps into the roots of classic David Cronenberg. The writer of The Divide takes directing duties as he reteams with Divide’s Michael Eklund, who plays a jerk scientist. Sheean appears to enjoy crushing audiences with mean-spirited characters who are incredibly difficult to like, but it’s unclear if he understands that it makes it hard for the audience to sympathize with them (even if they lost a baby). The film is snail-paced, but not in a good way, and ultimately the “body horror” aspect of the film is twisted in a way that it doesn’t deliver a final punch. It was definitely not the worst thing I saw at Fantasia, and there are some great moments. If anything, check it out on a boring night.
Jeremy Power Regimbal’s home invasion thriller whimpered out of Tribeca, and now I know why. Regimbal does nothing to further the genre as he delivers a completely trite and pointless home invasion flick that’s both tedious and a bore. Maybe I’m desensitized, but even a forced rape scene wasn’t hard to watch as it felt like Regimbal was just gong through the motions of something done a million times before. Leads Joshua Close and Selma Blair just look bored throughout, and the idea that the invaders just want to have the life they have is such a lazy portrayal of modern times. While it’s not necessarily terrible, it’s emotionless and ultimately useless.
A NIGHT OF NIGHTMARES
While Buddy Giovinazzo’s A Night of Nightmares is inherently a terrible movie, it’s shockingly memorable. Penned by Giovinazzo and Greg Chandler, the screenplay never slows down, as it’s jam-packed with bizarre scenes and random shocks. Albeit, none of them work, and the character’s actions are absolutely ridiculous, but there’s something in the movie that makes it good-bad. Marc Senter has some hilarious dialogue that pokes fun as the absurdity of the characters and situation, a situation that could easily be remedied if they would just LEAVE THE HOUSE (they could have drove on a flat, or even walked down the hill). Even the final motive of the haunting is ridiculous and makes little to no sense. If anything, what you’ll gain from A Night of Nightmares is less nightmares and more hilarity and laughs with your friends. It’s highly enjoyable, especially when there’s sequences an insane as a penny being stuck up a woman’s…. yeah.
Having premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Excision’s power comes from the grotesque performance by “Nip/Tuck” beauty AnnaLynne McCord. Where it fails is in its direction by Richard Bates Jr. The blocking, lighting and staging of the events in Excision come off like a cheap stage play, with the only memorable moments captured on film being Pauline’s (McCord) nightmares. The film is visually unappealing, but with the shocks and gore provided, and McCord’s stellar performance, it’s definitely worth at least a one-time watch.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival based of a short from the year prior. The biggest issue with The Pact is that it feels like a short film expanded into a feature. Instead of telling a fresh story, it plays like an expansion of already shot footage jammed to the brim with horrid exposition to kill time. Case in point: Nicholas McCarthy has star Casper Van Dien fill scenes by looking in the back of a refrigerator for food or sitting and having ice cream at his dinner table. When the scares aren’t afoot, The Pact is as bad as it gets. With that said, McCarthy does deliver quite a few horror punches and is sure to give a few viewers the heebie-jeebies. Just expect to hit fast-forward out of pure frustration.
Somebody please call Korean director Byeon Seung-wook and explain to him that J-horror is deader than dead. And once again, if you’re not doing anything to further a subgenre, maybe you shouldn’t touch it? The Cat is an absolutely tedious, ridiculous and not-scary Korean horror about a woman haunted by dead cats, and a ghostly girl. There’s zero scares, which could be the fault of the film’s sound design that offers zero musical stings during an encounter, and the CGI work is completely unnecessary making it impossible to take seriously. While it may have had 9 lives, if there was one film to signal the end of J-horror inspired Asian filmmaking it’s The Cat.
Another Korean J-horror feature at Fantasia was Gok Kim and Sun Kim’s overly long White, about a pop band haunted by a ghost. Connecting with Korean pop culture, the movie does have quite a few good scares, but ultimately it’s bloated and lacks a quality finale. If you catch this on Netflix it’s worth a watch for a few good scares, but it’s not advised to be sought out.
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