Fantastic Fest — Day 1 Reviews
Only caught two movies on Day 1. Rain outside was torrential. Also, the festival staff was a bit disorganized at first, and the lobby in the afternoon was literally just an impossible shoulder-to-shoulder mob. Hopefully that will get fixed as they work out logistics better. Still, the staff was incredibly nice, professional and helpful, making the tiring day a pleasant experience. And even when I don’t like the movies I see, being at the festival is always one of the highlights of a given year.
DIDN’T SEE: Kevin Smith’s TUSK was an immediate sellout. Consensus was that it’s some wacky-ass shit, but most people seem to think not in a good way.
This is a microbudget sci-fi film from New Zealand that is technically quite impressive and a fine example of what a talented filmmaker can do with extremely limited resources, as a convincing near-future scenario is established. A rising young executive for a major news media corporation discovers his company is experimenting on the general public with a drug that can alter such things as consumer tastes and political viewpoints.
There’s room there for some excellent narrative speculation on the way that profit-driven media deliberately shapes people’s beliefs and actions (good old Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, basically). Sadly, the script decides that what it would rather be is Inception Jr., and soon we are caught up in one of those ridiculously convoluted “Is this reality or not?” stories that are never nearly as clever as they think they are, and by the end you’ve simply given up keeping track of who’s doing what to whom.
DARKNESS BY DAY
An Argentinian horror film that we were promised would provide bloodcurdling, sleep-with-the-lights-on terror — so the disappointment was all but guaranteed from the start. Again, it’s a movie whose technical achievements (in particular, cinematography and sound design) were simply glorious. But while I usually love the slow-burn approach to horror, this movie forgets that for such an approach to work, the movie does eventually have to ignite at some point.
So this young woman is taking care of her father’s (a doctor) estate in a remote coastal region while he’s off seeing to patients who are suffering some kind of blood disease. One day her cousin is dropped off at the house, and it’s immediately obvious that Something Is Off with her. It’s also immediately obvious what that something is, but the movie still thinks it’s surprising us when it’s revealed at the climax.
Gorgeous shots of cloudy moonlit skies and the surround sound of rushing winds blowing through forests make for eerie atmosphere so thick you could cut it. But nothing like a solid story ever takes hold, and little of interest ends up being done with the premise.
Watch this space for my Day 2 reviews.
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