Terra ----- This Canadian-produced animated feature came out of nowhere, completely surprising me with its impressive cast, gorgeous music, and stunning visuals. Lack of a complex story (It's a kids movie, after all) and character development couldn't repress my enthusiasm for this excellent entry in this year's under-represented category of the festival. Visually, the creators have managed to create a gorgeous and completely alien world that is internally self-consistent, in part due to the majority of the art design being the work of a single person. It was a pleasure to get the chance to see this, since from the sounds of it, we may not see it in theaters until at least mid-2009. Fortunately, during the Q&A, it was mentioned that they are working on a 3D re-rendering and initial tests are working out well with that. This was a beatiful film in 2D, so I can't wait to see the 3D version. Zombie Girl: The Movie ---------------------- If you haven't heard of Zombie Girl, then welcome to AICN, because this must be your first visit. I first heard of Emily Hagens on AICN sometime in 2005 when Harry wrote about a twelve year-old girl making a zombie film and wrote in glowing terms about the project. I then met Emily and her mother Megan at the first Fantastic Fest in 2005 and and attended the premiere of Pathogen in March 2006. As I've known them, I've always been impressed to see Megan and Emily together displaying a very strong mother-daughter bond. Children excel with the support of their parents, and Emily has some of the most supportive parents out there. One day, when she's onstage to accept her Oscar for best horror film (when our master plan to infiltrate the Academy and add the category is complete), Megan should be the very first person she thanks. The point of this winded introduction is to highlight one of the most important goals in documenting Emily's journey. With 88 minutes of footage cut from 146 hours of shooting, Zombie Girl demonstrates how tough it is for ANYONE, much less a young teen, to make a movie, and it shows clearly just how much Megan was involved and supported the project. At the same time, it's clear that Pathogen was clearly under Emily's control and entirely hers; this wasn't a high school science project where the parents did all the work. I think Zombie Girl is an excellent documentary in that it is fun to watch, it's informative, and it captured the power of the relationship between these two wonderful ladies. JCVD ---- Can I just say HOLY MERDE! I've never given Jean Claude much attention. I actually liked Timecop, but that's been almost 15 years ago. Since then, according to IMDB, he's done some 22 films that I've never heard of (with the exceptions being Universal Soldier and Street Fighter). I wouldn't describe him as washed-up, but his credits certainly don't make him out to be the same kind of star as Stallone, Scharzenegger, or Steven Seagal. It never occurred to me to think that Van Damme might be unhappy with his career or his life. I do hope that JCVD does not end up being the best film of his career, because I want him to go on now and make better and better movies, with this one being the springboard to a renewed career. The premise is simple: JCVD is in the middle of a child custody battle with the latest of his many wives. He's out of money, his lawyers are about to drop the case, and the judge is inclined to give custody of his daughter over to the ex. Even his daughter doesn't want to live with him, because her schoolmates tease her about her dad. His agent can't find him a decent production, the scripts he's working are full of holes and don't make sense, and the untalented directors don't respect him. He's at rock bottom, and then he goes into a post office to arrange a wire transfer to his law firm where he encounters a real-life hostage situation and due to an unfortunate mistake, the police believe HE is responsible for the crime. As the events are replayed from different perspectives, we see Jean Claude in a desperate situation, playing a hero as he tries to protect the hostages while his fame and the mistaken identity forces him to take up the role of a sort of negotiator. This would be an interesting and passably decent film on its own, but during the crisis, he takes a moment to step away and address the camera directly in a confession that nearly had the entire audience in tears as he spoke bluntly and personally about his failures and regrets from bad roles to failed marriages to his drug use. Either the entire thing had to be completely true, or he's a MUCH better actor than any of his roles have previously managed to demonstrate. After the crisis is over, thanks to Van Damme's heroic efforts, he is arrested by the police anyway, for extortion, since during the 'negotiation' he demanded that money be transferred to his lawyers. The one selfish act that he made during the ordeal, and he was rightly punished for it, sentenced to a year in prison. In the end, he's teaching karate to the other prisoners and receives a visit from his mother, who has brought his daughter to see him. JCVD is remarkable for its ingenuity, its honesty, and most importantly for its message of hope, that while you can't erase the past, you can overcome your mistakes and failures, make atonement, and make a fresh start. The Burrowers ------------- When I read something comparing The Burrowers to Tremors, I was really worried. Between the various movie incarnations and tv series, Tremors has covered a lot of territory, and I wasn't in the mood to see anyone beat a dead horse. That made the Burrowers an even bigger treat, since I don't think it was really anything like Tremors. Writer-director JT Petty has put together a fantastic cast including Doug Hutchison (The Green Mile), William Mapother (Lost), Sean Patrick Thomas (The Fountain, Barbershop), Laura Leighton (Law & Order:SVU), Karl Geary (Hide & Seek, Mimic 3), and the immortal Clancy Brown. After an apparent Indian attack on a small homestead, four cowboys set out to track down the culprits and hopefully retrieve any captured survivors. On the way, they join a small army company and then begin to encounter the creatures that were actually responsible for the attack. They continue to learn more about the assailants as their numbers are whittled away and the situation grows more desperate. A most unfortunate and unhappy ending sets up the possibility of a well-deserved sequel. Almost every frame of this movie is stunning, from the scenery to the loving attention to detail in costume and makeup. The sole exception is the monsters themselves, who I think are displayed in too much detail. The creature design was unique, but not exactly terrifying, and I think a greater feeling of suspense could be maintained by sticking to the concept of 'less is more'. Feast used that idea with devastating effect, and here it would be better to save the full creature reveal for a sequel. The creatures aren't the heart of this film, anyway. It's the examination of the attitudes and conflict between the various ethnic and social groups including protestant whites, Irish Catholics, blacks, native Americans, military, and local law that makes this film, delivered with razor-sharp dialogue that deserves its own category of award. The word is that this will be a straight to DVD release, and that's an enormous shame. This could be the very best horror film to hit the screens this year, if only it's allowed distribution. Regardless, I will own the DVD as soon as it's available. It's easily the best thing I've seen at the festival this year, and in this lineup, that's quite an achievement. -Augustus Gloop
Sept. 23, 2008, 11:09 a.m. CST
I thought Sledge Hammer killed him in Las Vegas a few years ago.
Sept. 23, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST
Only if the paint did a single spinning back kick.
Sept. 23, 2008, 2:50 p.m. CST
Good flick, though a little slow at times. But really well done.
Sept. 23, 2008, 3:10 p.m. CST
by Tom Cullen
Trust me, I know what I didn't do. <p>Also, I'll take Van Damme over Seagal any day, at least Van Damme had some small degree of personality and charisma, unlike old wooden face.
Sept. 23, 2008, 4:22 p.m. CST
by Drunken Rage
You're kidding, right? Right?
Sept. 23, 2008, 4:50 p.m. CST
Yes, JCVD is a boring movie with a gimmick that has suckered so many people in.
Sept. 23, 2008, 4:52 p.m. CST
Out of nowhere - Very OBVIOUSLY thrown in to say "Hey look! We made Van Damme act and shit!" So out of nowhere and pointless. And LOOOONNNNGGGGGG
Sept. 23, 2008, 7:29 p.m. CST
Sept. 23, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST
He blows the endings for two films here...
Sept. 24, 2008, 5:38 a.m. CST
and you will have something fun to watch. Zombie Girl reminds me of Chris Smith's "American Movie". He documented a director named Mark and his freind around while they Filmed/Worked on Marks independant horror film "Coven" <P> Coven sucks balls, but "American Movie" is a fun watch. Pretty much a forgotten film now- both of them, but hey some of us still remember. Thats exactly what Zombie Girl is/sounds like.