In a world were studios are more endowed towards spinning millions from TV, toys and films of the past, it’s bliss to discover that there’s a flipside to the trendy coin of retro. This year’s CPH:PIX Festival had a good selection of independently produced, highly entertaining films that all take their deliberate offset in glorious genres of the past. Bloody-Disgusting’s Michael Panduro was on hand at the festival.
One thing that’s nauseatingly hip these days is going retro in filmmaking. Every toy I played with as a kid and every crappy TV-show I watched is being turned into a billion-dollar movie, whilst the legacy of all the films I love is being destroyed by crappy remakes. Thankfully money-driven bullshit trends tend to give birth to cool ideas as well – you just have to wade through the sea of dung to catch them.
Case in point: This year’s second annual CPH:PIX festival, right here in Copenhagen, Denmark. The festival’s ridiculously massive program was filled with retro-titles stacked in between local and foreign blockbusters, loads of European art-house fare and more than adequate amounts of Latin-American, Asian and eastern European films. Retro-titles that have already hit US shelves, like House of The Devil, Black Dynamite and Grace, but also films that are still in their initial festival run like the more awesome than awesome Amer, The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre and Solomon Kane – and we even had our very own world premiere of a new Star Wars flick.
The vast majority of these films are great fun – some even stick out as small landmarks in modern genrefilm if you ask me. What separates these independent lo-fi flicks from their annoying, loudmouthed brethren constantly being ejaculated by major studios is well-measured self-awareness over mindless self-indulgence. Ti West obviously knows exactly what he’s doing whilst playing around with 80s clichés in House of The Devil, and even though there’s a bit more parody than actually suits it, Black Dynamite, is a pretty awesome, well-written and fun blaxploitation-ride.
Besides these two and Amer, which I’ve already hailed as a stylistic masterpiece in these pages (and which notably won the main prize at this year’s festival), I’d like to guide some attention towards the horrible badmouthed Solomon Kane. I honestly have no idea why people are bashing Michael Bassett’s gloriously rendered dark fantasy! I mean, sure it has some crappy CGI in the beginning, but that stuff gets better towards the end (The Balrogg in this one is way cooler than the one that shouldn’t pass in Weta-land). And disregarding minor pacing issues and CGI – which in all honesty a film like this should be totally devoid of – Solomon Kane sports lots of cool stuff like awesome monster-designs, evil knights, moody tone and cool weapons and villains. To me, Kane ultimately is the best Willow-Conan-type-throwback I can recall in recent years. Although far from amazing, the film is entertaining as hell, and unlike The Mummy, Van Helsing or crappy stuff like Minotaur it knows exactly what it sets out to deliver. In my opinion that counts for something.
If anything, this year’s festival has reminded me that there is still gold to be found in rivers of shit. For every G.I. Joe disaster, every Transformers catastrophy and every pathetic Wes Craven remake, there’s pretty sure to be that little film that could – that nostalgic gem, be it Hatchet, Amer or House of The Devil. Praise whoever can be praised for independent filmmakers who still love and care for genrefilm.