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Undercover Quint scoops on AFM with looks at SAW & ONE MISSED CALL!!!

Hey folks, Harry here... Had fun with Quint the other night, he popped onto AOL IM land and I asked him what he had seen at AFM and he told me, "SAW" and I said, "Saw what?" and he said, "SAW," and I said, "Saw what?" this went on for like thirty minutes and I was very pleased at myself for aggravating him so. That being said, what ever he saw, he liked it lots... but not nearly as much as Miike's new horror film, ONE MISSED CALL, which apparently is mighty kick ass! Here ya go, enjoy...

Ahoy, squirts. Quint here, undercover at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. Let me first say, from a Tropical climate resident (Austin barely makes it, just in the cusp of the Gulf of Mexico), LA is totally unprepared for a little rain. It rained straight for 24 hours and it was like God besieged this city with all his Old Testament wrath. Car wrecks, crumbling streets, mudslides... Anyway, I thought it was funny to see this chaos as I went from theatre to theatre on the Third Street Promenade.  

Just like last year, I was able to sneak a Buyer's Badge out of the AFM with my picture on it. Press is allowed at the AFM, but they are only allowed to see certain films. Screw that right in its ear! So, I had my badge and I had all the access it afforded me and I used it to see two great, great horror films: Sundance favorite SAW and Takashi Miike's stab at a mainstream mixture of THE RING and JU-ON: THE GRUDGE. I prefer one over the other, but both films are solid examples of what the horror genre can offer.  

SAW  

I heard a lot about this film and OPEN WATER out of Sundance. Lion's Gate picked up SAW and I saw the film as soon as I could here at the AFM. The flick opens with two men in a pitch black room. When the lights are found we are shown that the two are chained to opposite sides of a filthy bathroom. Laying in-between them is a man with his head blown off, gore and blood sprayed all over the floor and objects in both his dead hands: A tape recorder and a pistol.  

They both discover that they have a mini-cassette tapes in their pockets labeled "PLAY ME" and the film takes off from there. I won't go into much of the plot as this film does have distribution through Lion's Gate and you should have a good chance of seeing it in the near future in a theatre near you. Suffice it to say, these two men (played by the Dread Pirate Roberts himself, Cary Elwes and Tobin Bell) are at the whim of a serial killer known as "Jigsaw" for reasons I'll let you figure out on your own.This sick fuck abducts people and puts them in a terrible situation where they have the ability to save themselves, but at a very, very high cost. That could be murdering an innocent or causing serious pain and harm to yourself.  

While watching this flick I was reminded a lot of CUBE, a past film fest favorite... not for any visual resemblance or even a similar tone (in both respects, SAW is more like SEVEN), but more in the pacing and uniqueness of the story. It's different, exciting and unconventional. It really keeps you on the edge, never knowing what to expect. About the time that fucking creepy-ass doll pops up I found myself just shaking my head... in a good way! "What the fuck am I seeing?" you know?  

The real success of this film is in the atmosphere and tension. It very much felt like director James Wan adapted the tone and style from the fantastic horror films coming out of Asia at the moment. JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, THE EYE, THE RING... They're in a fantastic upswing and showcase what is very much missing from modern US horror films: real terror. SAW feels like one of those films.  

SAW isn't perfect, unfortunately, but it's so much better than anything coming out of the studio system that it's hard to really count the moments of spotty bad acting and occasional spattering of bad writing. They pop up and disappear so quickly that it doesn't pull you out of the film.  

Surprisingly enough, the finger for bad acting has to be pointed at the one you'd least expect, Cary Elwes. I think it may be quite possible that Elwes was concentrating so hard on keeping up a good American accent that it really took away from his performance. He's perfectly fine in one scene, but then goes totally over the top in the next, then back again.  

Danny Glover is very strong in the film. He plays a cop on the trail of the Jigsaw Killer and actually plays it with good amount of quirk and subtlety making a very solid character. It would have been very easy for him to fall into his Murtaugh character... the by-the-book vet on the trail of someone a little bit out of his league... but he doesn't. He makes this detective character his own. And this character goes places you won't foresee.  

Overall, this is a very strong film with one hell of an ending. It's one of those endings that hits you right in the guts... it's so well earned, yet totally unpredictable. I'm very excited this film is coming out and will be keeping a close eye on James Wan's upcoming work.  

ONE MISSED CALL (Chakushin ari)  

This one is my favorite from the Market. I'm a big fan of Takashi Miike's films, have been since I saw ICHI THE KILLER at the Vancouver Film Festival back in '01. CITY OF LOST SOULS, the DEAD OR ALIVE series, AUDITION, HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, VISITOR Q ... Miike is hands down one of the most diverse and productive filmmakers working in the world today. I do admit that Miike is an acquired taste... you seem to either really love him or really hate his work... but I think ONE MISSED CALL might be an exception.  

ONE MISSED CALL is Miike's attempt at a mainstream Japanese horror film very much in the tradition of THE RING and THE GRUDGE and he pulls it off beautifully. When I say "Mainstream" it really is just that. The story is straightforward with no sign of milk-shooting nipples or cow-headed men in diapers. Miike concentrates on just pushing the story to its conclusion and amping up the tension with each passing minute. Check out the Japanese website for a small taste (the trailer can be accessed by clicking on the Fifth button from the RIGHT on the bottom of the page... I haven't seen it as I'm stuck on dial-up while I'm out here, but give it a shot).  

The story itself is a bit familiar and owes a lot to THE RING. A cell phone rings. The ring tone is odd, a creepy almost childlike melody that really stuck with me (and I would KILL to have that be my personal ring tone). The missed call is dated 3 days in the future and is the owner of the cell phone's own voice saying something odd... then screaming out in terror. At that moment 3 days later, no matter what the person does they find themselves repeating what they said and then dying in grotesque and frightening ways.  

Miike milks this concept for all it's worth. His angles are exciting, the colors are vibrant, the pacing perfect and atmosphere achieving a new level of scary. My favorite film from last year's AFM was JU-ON: THE GRUDGE... a lot of people have gotten to see it since I did back in the day and the film is being remade right now. Matter of fact, I spoke with a guy from the American Cinematheque today who informed me that they are going to be releasing JU-ON: THE GRUDGE on DVD in JUNE! Good news!  

The level of tension and horror that JU-ON achieved is matched and at times outdone by Miike's ONE MISSED CALL. In the end, I don't think ONE MISSED CALL is as strong a film as JU-ON (the very, very end of the film in particular is a bit out there), but good god does it give it a run for its money.  

Miike has made the scariest film I've seen this year and I can not wait to see it again!  





 

That's it from me, squirts. I got some more AFM coverage coming in the next few days. 'Til then, this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu!  

-Quint

email: Email the crusty seaman here, unless you're a scary Japanese ghost woman! Then email Rav instead! He could use the company!!!












Readers Talkback
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  • March 3, 2004, 8:16 p.m. CST

    YOU'VE BEEN SERVED !!!!

    by jackburtonlives

    that's right.... FIRSTTTT!

  • March 3, 2004, 10:34 p.m. CST

    Mydatewithdrew.com HBO Comedy Festival

    by Sam-80

    Premiere it rocked!!!!!

  • March 4, 2004, 12:33 a.m. CST

    Saw...

    by Dru

    I don't get it. The film didn't get a lot of good reviews during Sundance. Still, I'm looking forward to this. I'd always thought Glover was the other guy chained to the wall; at least, that's what I understood from the early reviews. Ah well... I wanna go back to Japan. Out.

  • March 4, 2004, 1:19 a.m. CST

    Asian horror makes Western horror look like the sputum it is.

    by Cash Bailey

    Even the bad ones whomp the hell out of shit like CABIN FEVER and WRONG TURN.

  • March 4, 2004, 7:42 a.m. CST

    I have to agree with Quint.

    by Psyclops

    I haven't been scared by an American horror film in years (the only exception being Brad Anderson's SESSION 9). The problem is that most of the genre films that have been released in the last decade have been nothing more than watered down slasher flicks of the teenie-bopper variety. Even worse, they're not scary. I saw THE EYE in theaters last year and let me tell you, one scene that takes place inside of an elevator in that movie was scarier than both WRONG TURN and GOTHIKA combined. We need that feeling of unrelenting terror injected back into the genre... and we need it quick!