Harry's Saturday @ Fantastic Fest 2008: CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, FEARS OF THE DARK, SANTOS & SEVENTH MOON & NACHO!!!
Hey folks, Harry here… FANTASTIC FEST is that. A Fantastic Fest. There’s so much going on that I’ve completely lost track of family and friends. I mean, allegedly Moriarty is here. I’ve seen him like… three times. I friggin flew him in for the fest because we never get to see each other these days and figured 8 days of Fantastic Fest would provide ample time to hook up and catch up.
My father is seemingly on a separate festival orbit, same with Quint and so many others. It’s crazy – I remember when FANTASTIC FEST had an “A” trajectory that everyone I knew went on that had the VIP badges, but these days… at all times there’s seemingly 3 different films that we all want to be watching. And it’s the rare One time screenings that folks usually sync up, but even then – folks are in 3 different halls because there’s a Triple A Circus here, people aren’t in front of ring 3 staring longingly at an odd angle at the center ring wishing they were right there. The show is great, wherever you may be.
I’ll give you a taste for today. I usually just write up single reviews, but I wanted to give you a flavor of this Saturday for me.
It started slightly behind schedule, getting to the glorious Alamo South slightly behind schedule for the film I was aiming for… TERRA – a Canadian animated science fiction fantasy looking thing… I’ll try to catch it elsewhere.
I headed out to the lobby to look for Yoko, whom I had somehow misplaced. Where was that wife? I was convinced that she had gone off on another slate of films, but instead she was on a brief attempt at a personal fetish she was looking to wrap her lips around, no, nothing that I have to contact a lawyer about, but the best trasy chili dog in town. But SANDY’S cash only policy destroyed this quest and she returned to the Alamo finding me chatting with Angela Bettis and Kevin Ford, who were headed for the first screening of the Director’s Cut of CONQUEST OF PLANET OF THE APES. As Yoko arrived, they made their exit – and my sweetie was hungry and there was only one Alamo Screening that we could go to – and ya know… why the fuck not go see a cut of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES that ain’t nobody ever seen.
And Going Ape was exactly what Yoko was up for. How cool. That’s my gal.
This director’s cut was being shown off of the upcoming Fox BLU-RAY of the PLANET OF THE APES saga. I’m sure the last time I saw CONQUEST was when Fox put that big DVD set out – but I have to say, I’ve never loved CONQUEST, until this screening. The film is bloody, apocalyptic and the scariest anti-whitey film ever made (although BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH is pretty fucking awesome too!)
And the way the film ends – it pretty much completely negates the need for BATTLE. The audience got into it… cheering Caesar on with ape grunts – it was fabulous and the experience made me wish Fox had me on their Blu-Ray list, because waiting for the actual release date for this disc and it’s brothers is going to be the longest short wait of the year.
From there, we strolled from there to Screen 1 for FEAR(s) OF THE DARK. But before I get into that breathtaking animated film – we were treated to an extended unfinished sequence from Walt Disney’s BOLT – yup, that film that Quint has been jet-hopping to get the scoop on. The sequence we saw was described as being the “Michael Bay” sequence of the film, where BOLT is shown from his television show where he’s KRYPTO on steroids and cute cream. The sequence reminded me of the dynamics of THE INCREDIBLES’ action – not necessarily that perfect, but damn close enough to leave the audience cheering and applauding enthusiastically. After that was the short film ROJO RED, an ingenius short about the weave of our reality and what happens if a kid were to find a loose thread in the fabric of existence. It’s kinda awesome!
After that, we were fired up for FEAR(s) OF THE DAR, which is about… fears… not just fears of the dark, well… kinda. DARK doesn’t just mean the absence of light in the visual spectrum, but the absence of light thoughts – of frivolity – of joy. The film isn’t for your average Saturday morning set, but for those of us that love intense stories about the things that give us pause… like a deranged lunatic with 4 bloodthirsty killing beasts – when he lets go of each individual beast in separate vignettes spread between the tales of this anthology… you’ll get something horrifying. I’m a particular fan of Doggy #3, sick. In addition – the animation is amongst the most atmospheric, moody and haunting works I’ve seen go at 24 frames a second. A graphite and charcoal look layered for an awesome level of detail and unease.
Of course the question on everyone’s mind is… How’s the Charles Burns directed/written sequence? HOLY SWEET WET SPOT! Man, this thing is fantastic. It is drenched in Kafkian horror meets Gynophobic nightmares I never contemplated before. Adult, psychological and truly the inky dark shit of a genius’ Id. Burns’ style translated to animation is beautiful. The lines, his way of shading, his use of negative and positive space… a thing of majesty. If you’ve ever bought a work of his, you owe it to yourself to run to this film – immediately.
Then there’s the moving Rorschach while a woman’s inner monologue frets about the litany of items that frays her nerves – it brought out my fear of irrational fearful fucks in the world that are genuinely fucked up and occupying our world with us.
There’s more, but you should get the idea by now, this is wonderful work. The various styles and tales flow into and out of one another. For those of you that loved A SCANNER DARKLY – this film is not to be missed.
In the next cycle of musical screens – Yoko and I split – she headed to see the fantastic Korean film CHASER, a movie that she and I have seen a few times already, but never with an audience. She loves the film, as do I, and just wanted to see if the movie works as awesomely for a crowd as it does for her personally. Before I go into what I did, let me address CHASER. This film is somewhere between the greater glory of films like SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE and OLDBOY – with a movie like MEMORIES OF MURDER. It is in that sort of world. Set in a bad world of Seoul – focusing on a small time pimp, who used to be an officer and his desperate investigation of where his whores are disappearing to. The movie is very 1970’s American Cinema feeling. You could see it after TAXI DRIVER type of film. GREAT GREAT FILM.
So, why wasn’t I there? Well, a dazzling filmmaker from FANTASTIC FEST 2007 was back at our fest, not with a new movie, but a collection of his previous short films. The filmmaker in question was Nacho Vigalondo – whose first feature film was TIME CRIMES, due in cinemas everywhere this Fall. TIME CRIMES is being remade, we think for Tom Cruise, produced by Steve Zaillan and being written by that notably talented bastard behind CHILDREN OF MEN.
What are these shorts? Here’s a few, minus the subtitles – which I don’t think are online:
The above short is about a couple watching a UFO and taping it. Turns out the boyfriend/husband is taping over a sentimental tape that has 6 hours of their past on it, and an argument grows.
Next is Part 1 of Nacho’s epic Phillip K Dick inspired Trilogy – showcasing Nacho’s wit and ability to take the mundane to the fantastic. It is subtitled.
Next is a short titled A LESSON OF CINEMA – and is a very funny short, if you know Spanish – enjoy – as the humor comes mainly from Nacho’s awesome dialogue and innate ability to understand the most essential powerful tools in cinema.
The last that I’ll share in this column with you is 7:35 IN THE MORNING – the short that Nacho directs and stars in that earned him an ACADEMY AWARD nomination for Best Short Film. It is genius – and after some searching I did find an English Subtitled version on YOU TUBE:
After the screening, I spent some time chatting with Nacho – a genuinely brilliant filmmaker and storyteller that has a passion for intelligent, quirky low-budget science fiction – and told me he’d be happy in that realm for the rest of his career. Here’s a filmmaker that in this one hour & a half presentation, I saw begin with a cute level of promise – and evolves over the course of the shorts into the man that made the brilliant TIME CRIMES. A film that I can’t wait for the rest of you to see. But Nacho admitted to me that he was so uncomfortable screening these shorts for an audience, but the fact is – even when Nacho had next to no financial resources, he never lacked for the most important resource – ingenius inspiration. He promises to have a new film for our festival in a year. I hope the fates conspire to bring that promise to reality – as Nacho is the real deal.
This brought me to the 7ish time frame. An absolutely brutal selection period at Fantastic Fest. On screen 1 was LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – universally being praised as GREAT. The British DONKEY PUNCH, again – consistently praised highly! There’s Sony Classic’s VINYAN – again a brilliant film according to nearly all that have seen it. And then there was my choice, the second feature of Nicolas Lopez’s SANTOS! Again shot in Chile – only this time with resources spanning the globe – from Chile, to Spain to even Austin, Texas and Japan!
Before the film, Nicolas Lopez gave Tim League an air sex’d Blow Job with COF followed by lathering. Following that was a film that – well Followed That Up Nicely!
The film is an original take on the Superhero Genre – filled with effects from Troublemaker Studios. The resulting film reminds me most of the work of Ralph Bakshi… it’s his lost SUPERHERO TALE. An epic story spanning decades in a dire future that a pair of best friends in Chile exist in. Why Bakshi? Remember the crudely hilarious juvenile-infused sometimes offensive genius of Bakshi? That’s Nicolas Lopez’s SANTOS!
I’m not going to offer a finished review, because the print we saw did not have TIMED subtitles burnt into the print – and when you have someone manually advancing the subtitles – that didn’t have a week or two rehearsal time… well, the timing gets slightly off and you’re not always sure whose subtitled dialogue was whom’s.
What I can tell you is this movie is gorgeous, unique, grotesque, hilarious and has 14 levels of shake your head laughingly WRONG images, ideas and scenes.
Last year at FANTASTIC FEST we had the littlest Superhero movie I’ve ever seen – if MIRAGEMAN was the televised DR STRANGE from the seventies, SANTOS!, is an unrestrained HANCOCK by Bakshi.
The next film was in the same screen, so I cracked open my laptop with the intention of getting through my email, which I hadn’t seen a single ounce of – when Nicolas Lopez begins humping my leg, which my kneegina was oh so aching for. Actually we were just catching up on his journey from PROMEDIO ROJO to SANTOS! In the midst of that conversation, a very tall man introduces himself as Ed Sanchez, the director of our next film and most notably one of the men most responsible for THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – a film from the early days of AICN.
I had no idea that Ed was a basketball scholarship shooting film rather than hoops. At that point I realized… OH – SEVENTH MOON is that Haxan film I’ve received a few million publicity emails from. I hadn’t connected that that title was that film. Yoko hated the trailer for the film and honestly – I felt very awkward meeting Ed because I had the distinct feeling that I was about to fucking LOATHE this film.
Now – for those that haven’t been with AICN since the earliest days – AICN and BLAIR WITCH PROJECT were kinda joined at the hip back then. I was covering the film even before it played Sundance, I wrote and covered and played P.T. Barnum with the best Fiji Mermaid of a film I’ve ever been handed. I loved playing that the premise was genuine, that it was found footage edited by Ed and his partner. I didn’t know them, but I knew the potential the film had to be something particularly unique in horror and modern film.
But that was nearly a decade ago. Between that moment in 1999 and now – there was only one directing credit – a movie called ALTERED that frankly… I kinda hated.
Fandom is a fickle place – and while BLAIR WITCH PROJECT had a period in time where it was the most awesome thing ever for those that felt that, it’s tremendous level of success also brought 50 Armored Cars of Cash with a side order of 6 dumptrucks of backlash. I think had I realized this film was this film – I would have avoided the screening altogether. But I was here, I was seen to be here. What the hell, the worst that could happen was that it could suck fucking ass.
SEVENTH MOON is not a reformat of BLAIR WITCH. There’s no gimmick at work here. Ed does do his handheld camera work, but not as a character in the film… and that’s just one of the tools he’s playing with. SEVENTH MOON is a taut education in how to fucking make an intense horror film on a budget. I wish to fucking God that the last X-FILES movie had an ounce of this film in it. Cuz damn!
SEVENTH MOON is about a honeymooning couple played by Amy Smart and Tim Chiou – who have decided to travel to China to spend their celebration of their blissful union drenched in a non-traditional Honeymoon. They’re there for the Hungry Ghost celebration and ceremonies. One of those awesome Tao/Buddhist things that us Westerners never really understand, but watch with amazement.
They leave the fest with their tour guide to join Yul’s (Tim Chiou) family. It’s a long drive through a remote region of China – where the roads are not all that, and the maps are not the best. The driver grows frustrated when he realizes that he’s not exactly sure what the village out his window is, but tell’s Amy’s character of Melissa that he’s going there to ask for directions so he can get his bearings.
He doesn’t return, and after an hour… she wakes her husband , who was asleep due to alcohol ingestion and general tiredness. At the village, they discover it seemingly abandoned – with live animal offerings staked out. But offerings to what?
The film that follows this set up is a superior independent horror film of wonderful craft. It is genuinely scary. A white knuckler. I’m saying this is a film that has elements of some of the best horror out there, but never feeling like a ripoff.
He mixes techniques from Val Lewton with aspects of the intensity from the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with the smarts of something you might expect from Anthony Shaffer. The “creatures” have stages of reveal and for a bit, they reminded me of the creatures from THE DESCENT, but the more I saw, the more they freaked me out – ala Pazuzu. Spectral Motion did a great job on these creepy fuckers.
And the “CAR” scene, you’ll know it when you see it is amongst the most intense ‘FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK’ sequences I’ve seen in Horror in a very very long time. And my wife has the bruises on her thigh – shaped like my hand to prove it. Glad I have good blood pressure, because otherwise, it could’ve been tragic.
I don’t think anybody came to this screening thinking they were going to see something this fucking good. A film with no torture, no extremes of gore, just great levels of tension and fear. I know it’s hard to believe, but Ed really pulled off one helluva good horror film. I honestly didn’t think he had it in him.
With that – we decided to call it a night. There was some awesome stuff coming up at midnight, but Yoko and I were low on sleep and decided to go ahead and head home. Besides, I’d never have finished this for you good folks had I stayed.
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Sept. 21, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST
by The Rabbit Of Carrot Shaped Doom
I like the sound of this SEVENTH MOON movie. I would also like to add that I am a fan of the ALTERED movie you mentioned in your article. I thought it was a very good movie which relied more on tension and suspense than gore, which is a rarity in horror movies today.<p>One wishes he had been able to attend this Fantastic Fest. It sounds bloody marvellous!
Sept. 21, 2008, 8 a.m. CST
I got a fever and the only perscription is hyperbole.
Sept. 21, 2008, 8:02 a.m. CST
by Sherlock Holmes II
...how come they didn't mix it up a bit? It just seems like they chose all the action fillums. Couldn't they acquire prints for Thirst or Stork or Barry McKenzie Holds His Own(funniest movie EVVA! Hellooo, BANG!BANG!BANG!)? AND Although I hate endless presumptive BANter about influence's in certain fillums, anyone notice the similarity between the climactic old-room scene of Thirst and the scenes of possessed interiors of the Evil Dead sequals? I'm talkin'bout the ole' corkscrew-camera antics!
Sept. 21, 2008, 9:52 a.m. CST
I was afraid there'd be one or two people somewhere in the crowd that love not being able to see anything that happens in the movies and hails this movie as incredible. But I never expected Harry to hail this as the next coming of Christ. Not only is this the worst film of the festival (so far), it's one of the worst movies I've ever had to sit through. Plenty of the audience at that screening agree as no less than 6 of us would have left before the movie was over, but were waiting on our credit cards to come from paying for food. Seriously folks, this is shaky cam to the extreme that you cannot tell what is going on at all in the movie. On top of that the film is so dark you rarely have more than an eighth of the frame with anything lit enough to see. The shaky handheld stuff worked in Cloverfield and dare I say The Blair Witch Project because it was from the perspective of one of the characters, we see what whomever has that camera sees. By moving that away from 1st to 3rd person, you're cheating the audience out of a movie - you can't sympathize with these characters here because you're never given an image to hold on to. Without images, you don't have a movie. This movie is a failure at every level from script to finish and I'm afraid to ever find out how much money they were allowed to waste on this shit.
Sept. 21, 2008, 10:21 a.m. CST
Back when I first saw it in the early seventies. Ihad also known the studio forced the director to put a "can't we all just get along?" ending to the movie instead of the actual darker ending. I will look forward to the new version to be released as well.
Sept. 21, 2008, 10:33 a.m. CST
I've read that there's an extra 8 minutes in CONQUEST. Could you perhaps enlighten us on it's content other than telling us it's violent? Or maybe tell us how violent this material is and give a couple of examples.
Sept. 21, 2008, 11:28 a.m. CST
Dar Williams isn't very scary at all.
Sept. 21, 2008, 2:41 p.m. CST
It's soooo brutal..the way they use flamethrowers, to teach the apes how to make a cup of tea!!!!!!
Sept. 21, 2008, 4:21 p.m. CST
was terrible. Not scary, not creepy, not anything. Just a serious of shaky cam smudges and far too many black screen shots where you have no real clue what's happening.<br> <br> I like BLAIR WITCH, and I liked ALTERED, but this one is not worth watching. It's like you take the creatures from THE DESCENT out of the cave and put them in a field in China chasing after Tony and Amy and that's about it.
Sept. 21, 2008, 4:43 p.m. CST
I don't like the Exorcist but damn if it didn't lead to some great ripoffs. Manhattan Baby!
Sept. 21, 2008, 5 p.m. CST
new album on tuesday.
Sept. 21, 2008, 6 p.m. CST
If you love seeing what Australia was doing in the 70s and 80s check out the short "You Better Watch Out", to see what they're doing now.It played on Saturday night and it plays again on Wednesday, the 24th at 6.25pm, Alamo S Lamar 1. Drak, dark humor.
Sept. 21, 2008, 6:04 p.m. CST
by Uncle Stan
Sept. 21, 2008, 6:05 p.m. CST
by Uncle Stan
Sept. 21, 2008, 6:31 p.m. CST
by birdy birdman
it's true, the camera work in this film made more recent tony scott stuff like domino look like PTA, really really terrible ... the posts above elaborate it perfectly ... this is somehow below straight to dvd ... harry i respect your opinion but please rethink your praise of this film.
Sept. 21, 2008, 7:03 p.m. CST
Glad to hear you liked Chaser Harry! Just watched it and it blew me away.. very dark and uncompromising with some jet black humour! God those Koreans dont do uplifting do they?
Sept. 21, 2008, 7:52 p.m. CST
...smells like sex in here.
Sept. 22, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST
was a disjointed poorly filmed MESS. I was embarrassed for the actors. MAYBE, the script made sense, but the end product was painful to sit through. In a festival with so many (great) options, it hurt me to waste the time slot on something so poorly executed. OUCH.
Sept. 22, 2008, 7:25 p.m. CST
Can't you just feel the hesitation behind the words Harry wrote? The review felt like he was being nice because of the history he has with Blair Witch. Read the review again and you'll see the change in the writing, the change in tone. Harry's reviews are emotional and this one really lacked it.
Sept. 28, 2008, 8:31 p.m. CST
I have wanted to see the legendary "evil ending" for about 25 years. I will pay whatever stupid price is demanded for such a DVD. Had I known this was going to be shown, I would have gotten my ass on a plane.
Oct. 3, 2008, 6:49 a.m. CST
by Red Dawn Don
Read a review over at IMDB. As soon as I read this sentence I knew it was not my type of movie: "The cinematography in this makes the Blair Witch look like it was shot on a tripod."
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