The 16th annual Fantasia Film Festival is concluded in Montreal, Canada. The festival is so packed this year that it’s overwhelming to even begin looking at the film schedule. The horror lineup spans across subgenres and budgets and this is precisely what makes Fantasia so special. Giving equal attention to major productions and low budget indie films, Fantasia has something for everyone.
In its 16th year, there are over 160 screenings during the three-week festival, and it would be insane to even attempt reviewing them all. I’ve been running to the various theaters to catch each flick, and I still can’t watch them all. Although it would be ideal to write full reviews, it would take way too many days, and way too many cups of coffee. What follows are mini-reviews on what I’ve seen so far at Fantasia 2012 including ParaNorman, Hidden in the Woods, Replicas, Chained, and Excision.
HIDDEN IN THE WOODS
Before the 20-minute mark of Hidden in the Woods, a man rapes both of his daughters, kills his wife, locks up his inbred son, kills two police officers, deals drugs, and goes on a murdering rampage with a shotgun. I rarely despise a movie for being gory or gruesome. I usually don’t mind rape on screen. However, Hidden In The Woods is a vile excuse for film, and its overly obsessive fixation on rape and perversion is nauseating. The film is “inspired by actual events”, and I understand the need to show audiences the true horror that exists in our world. But, Hidden in the Woods is a tasteless display of phallic urges. Every male in the film, with the exception of the inbred, is a rapist, and it doesn’t help to have the lead female’s tits popping out and sucking dick in a back alley.
I’m an advocate for the Rape and Revenge subgenre. I love The Last House On The Left, I Saw the Devil, and I Spit On Your Grave. Hidden In The Woods, on the other hand, takes “revenge” out of the subgenre, leaving only rape. The treatment of women on screen in this movie sets female rights back about 40 years.
Jennifer Lynch keeps improving with each film she makes. Chained is not only her best effort yet, it’s a genuinely chilling, on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. The film follows the story of a young boy, Rabbit (Eamon Farren), who is abducted by a serial killer named Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) at the age of 9. Rabbit is chained to a wall, thus becoming a slave to the malicious, yet oddly human, Bob. Chained is packed with disturbing visuals as Rabbit is forced to watch Bob rape and murder random women.
Vincent D’Onofrio is brilliant, and his acting carries the film. From his any town USA accent to his childish mannerisms, D’Onofrio delivers a bone-chilling performance. However, there are dull moments scattered throughout Chained. Once in a while, the camera cuts to what is supposed to be a hidden video camera inside Bob’s home. These shots add nothing to the story, and don’t fit within the plot. Ultimately, they take the audience out of the film, which is unfortunate considering how strong the mood is. The biggest issue with Chained is that Lynch sets up for a grand epiphany finale, but instead delivers an odd twist that doesn’t fit with the scope of the film.
This is a novel take on serial killers, and despite the unnecessary twist at the end, Chained will send shivers down your spine for the first 70 minutes.
Excision is a twisted, ominous, and beautiful ode to teen dramas that help many adolescents get through their high school struggles. It explores issues of raw teenage angst, solitude, and the always-troubling nature of sexual curiosity as seen through the lens of a sociopathic teenage girl. Anyone who has been through high school will instantly relate to Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) and her bizarre, fetishized, gore-filled, sex dreams.
The plot is captivating and AnnaLynne McCord’s performance is mesmerizing. The camera work on the other hand is motionless and tiring. Nearly every shot is a straight on close up of a face, centered in the screen. The rule of thirds is totally disregarded, and while I understand it is an artistic statement, it comes off as pretentious. This stagnant cinematography is used to contrast it from the beautifully shot dream sequences, but a little variation would have been nice. Excision is a fantastically disconcerting film that suffers from its own artistic merits.
Fans of Coraline are undoubtedly looking forward to ParaNorman, but let’s get this straight, ParaNorman is not directed or produced by Henry Selick, nor is it written by Neil Gaiman. These are two of the most renowned individuals in their respective fields and it would be unreasonable to expect such greatness from ParaNorman. Regardless, ParaNorman offers absolutely groundbreaking stop-motion animation. The camera angles, the exterior shots, and the character details are astonishing. The first 20 minutes are engaging, fun, and witty, with a nod back to classic horror and B-list monsters. Unfortunately the story lacks depth and preaches a morality upon the audience.
The first rule of writing for children is not to shove moral lessons in their face. Obviously, there is need for a subtextual lesson, but kids hate being lectured. In ParaNorman the “don’t judg a book by its cover” lesson is constantly brought up, the same cliché that has been done to death in childrens’ stories. Despite the flat story, and the general preachiness, ParaNorman is a fun movie, and a must see simply for its revolutionary stop-motion animation. It really is amazing how much time an effort went into making this movie, and for that alone it is worth watching.
The home invasion subgenre is becoming increasingly popular in modern horror. The subgenre strikes at a primal level of fear by placing viewers in a real life situation, something that could happen to them: strangers breaking into a house and terrorizing the inhabitants. Replicas fits perfectly into the home invasion mold, capturing the real sense of dread that one may experience in such situations. Unfortunately, the film adds nothing new to the genre at all.
Replicas is simply a well made movie, but in an industry that demands constant innovation, the film falls short by sticking to the same plot, the same outcome, and same old routine that we’ve seen so many times before.