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[Fantastic Fest '12] Corey Mitchell’s Mini-Reviews: Day 4 – ‘Room 237,’ ‘Henge/The Big Gun,’ ‘Wrong,’ ‘Looper,’ ‘The American Scream,’ & ‘Tower Block’

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The 8th annual Fantastic Fest has passed the halfway point of its 8-day reign of chaos in Austin, Texas. The sci/fi, fantasy, martial arts, Asian fantastic, and horror film festival offers up a little something for all genre lovers.

It is my duty to bring you the most horror and/or horror-related film reviews possible. With less than 20 feature films considered to be true horror, I will occasionally spotlight other non-horror films that will, hopefully, appeal to our readers here at Bloody Disgusting.

Be sure to be on the lookout in Austin, Texas from October 25-27, 2013, for my very own Housecore Horror Film Festival. I will be joined by my partner, former Pantera lead singer and heavy metal legend Philip H. Anselmo. We will be bringing 100% horror and heavy metal to the Lone Star state!

Check out Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 for more Fantastic Fest reviews!

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ROOM 237*

Rodney Ascher’s ROOM 237 is a fascinating documentary that explores bizarre theories about the subtext and symbolism underlying Stanley Kubrick’s landmark film THE SHINING.

I caught Rodney Ascher’s short film THE ‘S’ FROM HELL two years ago. It was cute, but ultimately forgettable. Wow! What a huge leap forward ROOM 237 represents for him. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you tap directly into one of cinema’s most amazing horror wellsprings, Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. ROOM 237 insanely dissects Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece (or disaster, depending on whom you are speaking with) as a parable of isolation, alcohol, and abuse but on at least nine different levels. And these levels are where things get very intriguing.

Ascher lets several people provide their own unique, insightful, and sometimes downright silly, interpretations of what is really going on inside The Overlook Hotel. Some of the spins reminded me of my days in film school at The University of Texas, or more specifically, my nights spent getting fucked up and trying to make sense of the subconscious imagery and underlying metaphors of a film. Other takes focus on conspiracy theories ranging from the annihilation of the American Indian to Kubrick’s alleged clues he laid out so we could realize he shot the footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing in a movie studio to the conceit that Kubrick was so brilliant that he purposefully intended for the film to have a coherent meaning if it a reverse version of the film was overlaid with the regular version and that coincidences in such a viewing were, in fact, wholly intentional.

ROOM 237 is a fun movie. It’s also whacked-out of its mind, brilliant, thought-provoking, and not scary in the least. The only complaint I have is that I simply wanted more of the theories to be expounded upon. Definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

4.5/5 Skulls

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HENGE*


Blending elements of Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto with just the right amount of kaiju monster battles, Ohata is quickly building a reputation as one of Japan’s brightest new talents.

HENGE starts off looking like yet another possession film and devolves into a silly, stupid rubber-suited monster movie. Not much redeemable about this one as its has horrible CGI effects, crappy looking sets, poor lighting, horrible looking costumes, and horrible acting. Just bad all the way around. Which is a shame because I actually enjoyed Ohata’s short film, THE BIG GUN, which preceded it.

1.5/5 Skulls

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WRONG*

Everyman Dolph Springer’s (Jack Plotnick) world is turned wrong when he awakens at 7:60 one morning to find his beloved dog missing in Quentin’s Dupieux’s latest absurdist opus and follow up to 2010’s killer tire film, RUBBER.

Did you see RUBBER? Did you love it or hate it? Me? I loved it. Thought it was the best feature film I caught at the 2010 Fantastic Fest. Of course, it helped that it had a serial killer tire that telepathically exploded people’s heads – literally.

WRONG does not have that particular bloody conceit. Nonetheless, it should satisfy your craving for the wildly bizarro. I laughed out loud numerous times at the absurdity on display, yet was strangely moved by several individual moments throughout as well.

If raining indoor offices, acid-drenched dog-napping gurus, and a gardener who returns from the dead, then this is definitely the flick for you.

4/5 Skulls

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LOOPER

In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.

LOOPER has been hyped at Fantastic Fest since last year when filmgoers were hoping it would be one of the Secret Screenings. It was hyped this year by Fantastic Fest’s main man, Tim League, with a fawning intro and a short chat with director Rian Johnson.

After a promising beginning, I had high hopes that the hype would be warranted. It’s not.

LOOPER has a strong beginning and end, and an extremely weak hour or more in between. Actually, almost half of the film is a giant cluster. Major loopholes (no pun intended) exist in the pseudo-science involved, the cinematography is dingy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s make-up job to create an illusion of a younger Bruce Willis is almost laughable.

2/5 Skulls

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THE AMERICAN SCREAM*

In a small Massachusetts community, three Halloween-obsessed households transform into neighbor-terrifying supernatural wonderlands in this surprisingly touching documentary from the director of BEST WORST MOVIE.

I thoroughly enjoyed director Michael Stephenson’s debut feature documentary, BEST WORST MOVIE, despite never having seen the original source material that it was based upon, TROLL 2. Unsurprisingly, Stephenson’s second feature documentary is another successful jaunt into the realms of homemade horror.

The real-life characters that inhabit THE AMERICAN SCREAM are at times touching, inspirational, and a tad pathetic. The passion that each individual exudes is infectious and the tolerance that their loved ones display is righteous. You immediately get sucked into their obsession and, at times, nod along in commiseration. It did, however, seem that the portrayal of the father and son bordered on mockery.

If you have a love for horror that extends beyond your Netflix queue, you need to see this.

4/5 Skulls

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TOWER BLOCK*


The last remaining tenants of a deteriorating, soon-to-be-demolished tower block must band together to survive when a killer with a high-powered sniper rifle starts picking them off through the windows of their flats.

Yet another pleasant surprise. Take ATTACK THE BLOCK, get rid of the ridiculous black Tribble-like aliens and lame attempts at “humour,” and mix in John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, and you have yourself one taut little thriller. TOWER BLOCK, written by COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES (another Fantastic fest-selected film – check out the poster in one tenant’s apartment!) scribe James Moran, avoids the temptation to whittle its surviving characters into to filmic stereotypes and, instead, brings more depth to each character and plays off of type more often then not.

Sheridan Smith is a revelation as the attractive, yet intelligent single gal down on her luck who finds her true calling. She’s sexy, vulnerable, tough, intelligent, cagey, and comes across as much more believable than say, Zoie Palmer in another Fantastic Fest film, COLD BLOODED. I also enjoyed Jack O’Connell as the punk thug that terrorizes the resident but ultimately must join forces with them.

Not as bombastic as last year’s RAID: THE REDEMPTION, yet another tale of people trapped iside a high-rise building trying to find a way out, TOWER BLOCK comes across a grittier and more believable, mainly due to the solid characterizations of its people in peril.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not head out to the bathroom around the 22:00 minute mark. You will kick yourself if you do.

4/5 Skulls

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-CM

Corey Mitchell is a best-selling author of several true crime books and is currently helping Philip H. Anselmo write his autobiography, MOUTH FOR WAR (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

Join Corey at Facebook and Twitter.

Also, be sure to check out Philip Anselmo and Corey Mitchell’s Housecore Horror Film Festival on Facebook and Twitter coming to Austin, TX in October 25-27, 2013.