[Fantastic Fest '12] Corey Mitchell’s Mini-Reviews: Day 1 – ‘Frankenweenie,’ ‘Antiviral,’ ‘Dredd,’ ‘Here Comes The Devil,’ & ‘American Mary”

Fantastic-Fest-Logo

The 8th annual Fantastic Fest has begun 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 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 and 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!

FRANKENWEENIE 3D

Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with the selection of this year’s Opening Night Film for Fantastic Fest. Especially after last year’s THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II, FRANKENWEENIE just seems so, well, tame. What can I say? It’s cute.

There are plenty of reasons to appreciate this film, mainly the artistry of the stop-motion animation and the obvious love for classic horror films. There are plenty of laughs to be had as well. Otherwise, Tim Burton’s latest reminds me more of cotton candy – pleasant to look at but leaving lots to be desired.

3/5 Skulls

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ANTIVIRAL*

Syd March makes people sick, infecting them with viruses harvested to order from celebrities, but gets more than he bargained for when his most famous source dies from a virus Syd has just infected himself with.

The easiest critics’ out here is to go down the Father/Son route of the Cronenberg clan. Hell, I wrote a term paper on Brandon Cronenberg’s father, David, while in film school at The University of Texas. But I like what the younger director has done here. He seemingly takes up his father’s early oeuvre of the “body horror” conceit, sterilizes it and, simultaneously humanizes it to make it palatable for a 21st century audience.

Brandon Cronenberg further separates himself from his famous father’s work by focusing on additional key issues such as celebrity, obsession with celebrity culture, piracy, copyright protection(?), and fulfillment surrogacy. Brandon’s use of clean, sterile environments and minimal gore also differ from his father’s early works which tended to be lovingly slathered in goo and the wet red stuff. Simple shots of the actors’ blood cascading on their clean white pillows are as memorable as an exploding head or a compound fracture wrist.

ANTIVIRAL moves at a snail’s pace, but is never boring. Instead, the laconic nature of the unfolding story is a doorway for the viewer to empathize with the lead character, despite all of the wrong-headed decisions he makes. When you can feel for a cynical, lying, disease thief you know the filmmaker has hit all the right marks.

Interestingly, Brandon Cronenberg seems to pay homage to other great horror/fantasy filmmakers – George Lucas and a non-zombie George A. Romero. Okay, there is one cool nod to his father’s film, Videodrome. See if you can find it.

4/5 Skulls

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DREDD 3D

The future America is an irradiated waste land. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner.

I was a big Judge Dredd comic fan back in my college days. I blame it on Scott Ian of Anthrax. I had tons of comics and even a bad ass Dredd board game that I used to play at least once a week. As a fan of the original, gritty comic, the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd was a massive, but unsurprising, letdown.

This latest update starts off promising. It’s dark, relentless, and punishing, just like the comic. The designs look great, the aloofness of Dredd is exactly what I hoped for, and the unnecessary 3-D effects look good in the beginning.

But then the movie stalls in its tracks as soon as it settles into its locked down skyscraper setting. Far too reminiscent of last year’s hit THE RAID, DREDD severely limits itself once it is locked down. The expansiveness of the Dredd world is suddenly handcuffed and told to sit in the corner. Big mistake!

From that point on, the film devolves into cliches, MATRIXian camera tricks, and stereotypical bad guys. The sole redeeming quality turns out to be Olivia Thirlby’s mutant psychic.

If you’ve never read a Dredd comic book, you might like this one. If you are a hardcore Dredd fan, don’t expect much.

2.5/5 Skulls

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HERE COMES THE DEVIL*

Fantastic Fest veteran Adrián García Bogliano (COLD SWEAT, PENUMBRA) returns with his latest supernatural horror. When two children, who went missing while exploring a cave, are found, it quickly becomes apparent something evil has come home with them.

Wow! I was not a fan of Bogliano’s COLD SWEAT and only liked about half of his last film, PENUMBRA. But HERE COMES THE DEVIL is an entirely different beast for the insanely prolific 32-year-old Spanish director. A much more coherent tale than his other features, HCTD still plays tricks with you as to what exactly is going on. Is it a story of demonic possession, child abuse, or is something even more sinister afoot? Bogliano keeps you guessing throughout, even when you think you know where he’s going next.

Solid acting from singer Laura Caro, an excellent score, and some strong supporting characters, plus some fun ’70s horror film pastiche thrown in for good measure, make for the surprise of Fantastic Fest 2012 for me so far. Plus throw in some nods to Lucio Fulci, Tex Watson, child endangerment not seen since the ’70s (again), finger banging cave analogies worthy of a Hitchcock flick, and a grindcore closing credits song would make this an instant candidate for the Housecore Horror Film Festival in 2013.

4/5 Skulls

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AMERICAN MARY

Disillusioned with her chosen profession and perpetually broke, medical student Mary Mason finds herself drawn into a shady world of underground surgery and body modification.

One of the worst things about being a horror fanatic is that it is almost impossible to find something new and different. So, it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across something off the beaten-down well-worn path that is horror. With AMERICAN MARY, that new twist is body modification. In addition, we get a bonus close-up look into a female’s penchant for snapping just like the guys are always allowed to do within the horror realm.

Screenwriters, directors, and actors Jen and Sylvia Soska, the Twisted Twins, pull off a potent feminine perspective without the political overtones usually associated with that phrase. And they do it while wrapped in latex, blood, and black lace. AMERICAN MARY is extremely sexy, yet equally repellant in its gore factor. In reality, the gore quotient, while prevalent, is nowhere near as stomach-churning as I was expecting, and thats a good thing in this case.

Katharine Isabelle (GINGER SNAPS) is brilliant, erotic, funny, and frightening in the lead role of a medical student trying to find a way to pay her bills, stay focused on medical school, and avoid the lecherous behavior of her so-called superiors. In addition, newcomer Tristan Risk, is a major discovery as a youg woman who has undergone extensive surgery to resemble Betty Boop. In fact, her character’s physical appearance is probably the most frightening part of the film.

There are a few weak parts of the film, mainly the lead male actor. I also would have liked to have seen a longer transitory phase for Mary in accepting her new profession, but these are minor complaints.

AMERICAN MARY is a huge step fowards after DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK (which I am a big fan of), and not just from a budgetary standpoint, but from a confidence level displayed in the writing and directing by the twins. It portends even greater works of art from these powerful, creative, and risk-taking filmmakers.

4/5 Skulls

*Denotes that I watched film as an online screener.

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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.

 
  • Kunt

    i cant wait for AMERICAN MARY!

    • Corey-Mitchell

      It’s good stuff. I really enjoyed katharine Isabelle tackle such a strong, creepy role.