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Hannibal Reports On Fantastic Selection Of Films @ Brussels Int'l Fest Of Fantasy, Horror, and SF!!!

Published at: March 21, 2002, 2:38 p.m. CST

Hi Harry,

Hannibal here. I promised you last year that I?d return from my permanent state of hibernation to bring you the news on the 20th Brussels International Festival of Fantasy, Horror and S-F Film. And this is just what I?ll do.

As usual, the festival takes place between the 15th and 30th of March and this year more than ever, the films are very diverse with a lot of films from Asia and Europe. The weird thing is, that I?ve liked all the films I?ve seen so far, so forgive me for being overly positive. The festival has been very kind to me so far ?

Let?s get down to it:

the opening film of the festival was Mark Pellington?s The Mothman Prophecies, but since it has already been released in the States I won?t go into it any further. I really enjoyed it and I thought it was a well-directed and exciting horror-thriller which unfortunately was let down a bit by a so-so ending. Still: 7/10

Mamoru Oshii's AVALON

The first ?big? film of the festival was Mamoru Oshii?s much-hyped Avalon. Oshii himself was present at the screening and introduced the film to the audience. He even played a clip from his fantastic Ghost In The Shell and even though we didn?t understand one word of his introduction we cheered on his every sentence. Great guy!

Onto the film then. Avalon takes place in a similar apocalyptic future as Blade Runner or Judge Dredd. The cities are drab and depressing and the only thing that keeps the people happy is a new virtual reality war-game called Avalon. There even are some professional players, who make a lot of money playing the game. Ash is one of those players. Her life is really crappy and the only thing besides playing Avalon that makes her happy is cooking elaborate meals for her dog. One day, Ash hears something about a secret level hidden in Avalon, and she decides to form a posse in order to finish the game and enter the hidden level, but first she has to do some big battle with many different virtual enemies. And who?s that cute little ghost?

This film really amazed me. The story reminded me somewhat of The Matrix, but with a twist. There is a lot of cool gunplay and the battle-scenes are very exciting. Virtual enemies, when killer, dissolve into 2d images, which looks really cool. The overall visual style is awesome, Oshii uses a lot of greys, blacks and browns, and near the end of the movie there is a change of style that can only be called a stroke of genius. The story, acting, and special effects are all very well done, and the fact that this film is in Polish (!) only adds to its overall strangeness. Watch this film, it?s absolutely fantastic. 8/10

After the screening, Oshii did a Q&A with the audience, which was pretty neat (and kudos to the translator), but he didn?t reveal anything shockingly new. When asked what his next project will be, he said that he is working on something right now, but he can?t tell us what it is because his producer had sworn him to secrecy. Bummer.

The second film of the night was Argento?s new film Sleepless, but I missed it so I could attend the Q&A with Oshii. Maybe someone else can fill us in on that film.

SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS

The last film of the night was the stunningly original Series 7: The Contenders, a fantastic film that really blurs the line between fiction and reality. The film felt so real that halfway through it I felt dirty and wanted to change the channel. It?s like watching America?s Greatest Police Chases and realising you actually like it. Great film 8.5/10

PULSE

The next film I caught was Kiyoshi Kurosawa?s Kaïro (aka. Pulse). It?s an absolutely terrifying and very entertaining ghost-story that takes place in modern-day Tokio. It all starts with a mysterious suicide of a young boy. His friends are desperate to find out why he killed himself but they don?t have to search very hard, the answers start presenting themselves. It appears that ghosts are roaming through the city. They are everywhere and manifest themselves in dark places and on computer screens, which altogether makes for the most terrifying movie experience I had since The Blair Witch Project. Especially the first half of the movie scared me half to death. The tension was unbearable even though there were no shocks or boo!-moments. I can?t really explain what it was that scared me so much, but I guess it was the movie?s unpredictability. The ghosts could appear at any given moment, and even in broad daylight you?re not safe. Besides, any film in which ghosts can be contained rooms secured with red tape, is bound to be original. Kurosawa really outdid himself with this film, it?s merely a shame the movie becomes somewhat ridiculous near the end, when he tries to explain what it is that causes the ghosts to appear. Still, a very well-made film with a lot of tension and some (un)intentional humour (it?s really funny to watch a kid trying to install a Japanese version of Windows) and the audience seemed to enjoy it. So did I. Check it out: 7/10

FRAILTY

Next up was Bill Paxton?s first directorial effort Frailty. Along with the film, he sent a lengthy video in which he introduced the film and discussed its themes. It looked as if he was really proud, and he should be, since it was a very well-made, but slightly predictable thriller, in the same vein as A Simple Plan, The Gift or Night Of The Hunter. Matthew McConaughey plays Fenton Meeks, a man who claims to know the identity of the notorious serial-killer the ?God?s Hand Killer?. Local policeman Powers Boothe sits down with him so he can tell the story. Fenton tells him of his youth, and how one day his dad (Bill Paxton himself) had a vision in which God told him to ?find demons and kill them?. Fenton and his younger brother Adam have to help their dad with his terrible mission. Adam is soon won over by Paxton?s vision but Fenton believes his dad had gone nuts.

The story is told in flashbacks and had a lot going for it. The characterisation of the father and his two sons is very well done, and even though McConaughey is credited first, it?s actually Paxton who has the biggest part. But?s it?s the two young kids (Matthew O?Leary and Jeremy Sumpter) that really shine. Halfway through the movie there is one terrifying scene in which the father orders his boy to kill an alleged demon with an axe. The way this scene is acted and shot is really awesome, just watch the horror on the young boy?s face. Great stuff. Obviously, as we near the end, the plot thickens, and there is a twist-ending, that unfortunately we see coming. Still, kudos to Paxton for and I?m looking forward to his next film. 7/10

FULLTIME KILLER

Onto the last two films in part 1 of my report. First up, there was the Hong-Kong actioner Fulltime Killer. The film tells the unoriginal story of two rivalling hitmen (a newbie and a seasoned professional) who battle it out for the love of a woman. So far so blabla, but the story wasn?t really the point. It was about ACTION, and in that area, the film really delivers. There are couple of highly stylised shootouts (in a train station, the on a parking lot, ?) a lot of posing and running around with guns, and a couple of very beautiful women, in short: your typical Hong-Kong action film. Great fun, but not very original. 6/10

THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE

The last film was Guillermo Del Toro?s perfectly wonderfully stunningly fantastic El Espinanzo Del Diablo (aka. The Devil?s Backbone). I liked this film so much, I can?t describe it in words. The story, the mood, the photography and the acting were perfect and even though I couldn?t understand it all (the film was subtitled only in French), it was one of the best films I?ve seen in a long time. It reminded me a bit of The Sixth Sense and The Others, since it was more of a classic ghost story. There were a few good shocks, but to me it were the beautiful dialogues that stood out. Spanish was the perfect language for the film, since it added to the mood, much like Polish did to Avalon. I can?t wait to see this film again with English or Dutch subtitles. People, check this out!! 10/10

This concludes part 1 of my festival report, I?ll be back in a week or so with a write-up on the rest of the film I?m planning to see. They?ll be showing Itchi the Killer and Versus next week, so that may be of some interest.

Until next time, take care of yourself,

Best regards,

Hannibal

(currently residing in Brussels, Belgium)

Readers Talkback

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  • March 21, 2002, 2:54 p.m. CST

    I want The Devil's Backbone on DVD, dammit!

    by the_pissboy1

    Why isn't this movie on DVD yet? Damn, it's one of the best films of 2001, so why isn't it out?

  • March 21, 2002, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Am I crazy...

    by Keyser195

    ...or did this review confess to not understanding any of the subtitles in "Devil's Backbone," before saying that the highlight of the film is the dialogue? Eh?

  • March 21, 2002, 3:14 p.m. CST

    Uh, Brussels mean anything to you?

    by slate76

    The guy can read French because he is currently residing in Brussels, who's current primary language is French, does that mean anything to you?

  • March 21, 2002, 3:40 p.m. CST

    love...love will keep us apart...again

    by FlickChick

    Series 7 is out on video and DVD and should DEFIFINITELY be checked out if only for the gimmick/premise. I like reality T.V. (hides head in shame) BUT really the brilliance of this film is in the actors pulling off these quirky (can't believe I just used that word) characters who feel like real people. PLUS this film fulfills a twisted fantasy of mine of putting guns in the hands of folks on these reality shows...This is TEN TIMES better than Survivor...Okay, that ain't saying much. I saw on the DVD that it was initially going to be a TV show on Fox...Fox shoulda' jumped on that!!

  • March 21, 2002, 3:58 p.m. CST

    Pulse

    by Specimen

    Is an incredible incredible film. I wish there were someone here in the states releasing it into theaters. Only seen it on code 2 DVD.

  • March 21, 2002, 5:05 p.m. CST

    Avalon and Battle Royale

    by JTylor

    While I'll reserve judgment on Series 7, which I haven't seen yet, I have to agree that Avalon is quite a film. It's soooo damn smart (considering that it's the same writing/directing team that did the two Patlabor films and Ghost in the Shell, Kazunori Ito and Mamoru Oshii, I'm not surprised at all) that I've seen it twice in two days and still get pulled in by its style and the story. I just wish more people could see Avalon so I could start talking it out with people. So many things to discuss! Battle Royale is truly amazing: disturbing, heartfelt, yet, at times, feeling like a violent shoujo manga, with guys and girls asking each other things like "Nobu, who do you have a crush on?". It walks such a thin line so successfully that I think Series 7 might have a lot to overcome for me to like it, since the idea that it's presenting the show as it broadcasts inserts an irony that Battle Royale just doesn't have. Battle Royale succeeds because of its absolutely sincere belief that adults and authority figures hate the younger generation and would rather not deal with us rather than take responsibility for their actions and failures. Anyway, I sincerely hope neither of these films get too mangled when they make their way to the States.

  • March 21, 2002, 5:18 p.m. CST

    Series 7, Battle Royale

    by JCUBED

    Ive seen Series 7 and I quite liked it, but Im tired of hearing how original it is. It was obviosly inspired by Battle Royale. They just change the kids to adults and made it more like our TV shows to apeal the the american public. I am still currently waiting for it to be delivered so I can FINALLY see it, after hearing about it and seeing previews for it, for like forever!!

  • March 21, 2002, 5:33 p.m. CST

    Series 7, Battle Royale

    by kingink123

    Actually Series 7 was made before Battle Royale was ever released. It was also made before reality shows like Survivor, Temptation Island, The Great Race, Etc even existed. What a wonderful movies it was... Battle Royale couldn't be any different in terms of content, direction, style, or purpose. But it was bad ass also.

  • March 21, 2002, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Series 7 was BORING

    by Keyser195

    But, before I begin that tirade, in response to Slate - the reviewer himself admitted to not speaking French, and I quote: "...even though I couldn

  • March 21, 2002, 9:08 p.m. CST

    PULSE -another great Japenese horror film soon to become a crap

    by Elgyn6655321

  • March 22, 2002, 1:34 a.m. CST

    Series 7 (minutes to watch)

    by Darth Ian Toto

    That's all it takes if you have FF firmly depressed on your remote while it's playing. You won't miss anything and your brain will be protected from inane drek.

  • March 22, 2002, 6:50 a.m. CST

    Non So Honno (Sleepless) is a great movie

    by Charlie & Tex

    Us being hardcore Argento fans, we approached Non Ho Sonno with a certain ammount of trepidation, seeing as it has been over a decade since he last produced a great movie - Phantom of the Opera was abominable, The Stendhal Syndrome was not exactly a classic & Trauma was a bore - but we were more than pleasantly surprised. It is certainly a return to form for Argento, delivering a thoroughly entertaining giallo than thrills & delivers one of Argento's most ingenious plot twists. It is great to hear Goblin finally back together, keeping their vintage sound, but combing it with a modern style. The opening 10-15 minutes are among Argento's best set pieces - the tension that is generated is truly exhilarating, even impressing a couple of jaded old hacks like us. See it in Italian if you have the chance - the English-dubbed version detracts from the experience considerably.

  • March 22, 2002, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Sleepless is crap, series 7 was dull...

    by Max Normal

    The guy above who said sleepless contained one of dario's best set pieces is dreaming, did you see a different film? Sleepless was very poor, not as poor as that stoopid phantom film dario did, but still ribbish in most ways. And he had a good actor for once...what a missed opportunity. Avoid if you've never seen a Argento film, see suspiria, deep red etc...their the real deal. Series seven is so overrated, its dull pretty dull I thought, a interesting concept badly implimented and any potential was left completely unforfilled, battle royale is so much better. oh and avalon's got a pretty crap ending, in a typically cryptic anime way...the 2d exlosions were a really nice idea though.

  • March 22, 2002, 4:33 p.m. CST

    about "Sleepless".....

    by Elgyn6655321

  • March 22, 2002, 4:36 p.m. CST

    about "Sleepless"........Part 2 (confounded ENTER key!!)

    by Elgyn6655321

    The first 15-or-so minutes were really good, with the girl running away on the train, etc. It was great to hear Goblin again, and for a little bit I thought, "YES! Argento is finally back!". But alas....after awhile it became very very dull, and I ended up not caring at all what was gonna happen.