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Harry's Day 1 @ FANTASTIC FEST: Van Diemen's Land, MERANTAU, Solomon Kane & PARANORMAL ACTIVITY!

Hey folks, Harry here with my first report on FANTASTIC FEST 2009. FANTASTIC FEST is a weird Festival for me. Because I'm one of the Founders of the festival, one of the programmers and overall planners of the festival... well, there's a full year worth of work that goes into these 8 days. But I feel like its biggest fan. It is my favorite 8 days of the year. There's a little stress - mainly dealing with whether or not the screenings go well for the various folks that trust us with screening their films, but frankly - that rarely ever gets to me, because the audiences are so fired up and drunk in love with film - that it usually goes... well... FANTASTIC. When I went to see my first film of the day, the Australian true convict escape cannibalism film... I didn't even know that much about it. I walked into VAN DIEMEN'S LAND completely cold. I was choosing between that and a Russian Anime film - and frankly - I'm not the hugest fan of anime, with the exception of very few specific companies and talent. I didn't even know that VAN DIEMEN'S LAND was Australian. I really try to know as little about the films in advance as possible. Go in as an open vessel I say. VAN DIEMEN'S LAND isn't a film for everyone. This isn't a gory chop fest. It is a very realistic approach to the true story it is telling, which is the fastest recorded situation involving Cannibalism in history. They basically went without food for 3 days, and started eating ass, legs, arms and what not. It is a first film, made on a micro-budget by first time director Jonathan Auf Der Heide - and the result is a sobering, somber tale of a desperate escape from a penal colony in 1800's Tasmania. I'm not real sure where they thought they were escaping to, but they thought East was a good idea. The landscape is stunning, the forest unforgiving, bitterly cold and hard. It also gives off the impression of a never ending pattern that would drive one mad. When you see the actors in water - you can tell it is bitterly cold because of the lack of color in their faces, the chattering of their teeth and the blank WHAT THE FUCK look as they struggle to swim to the otherside of it. Remember, Tasmania is very close to Antartica - water temperature isn't conducive to much beyond death, hypothermia and dick shrinkage (which is seen in the film). The deaths are brutal. The humor of cannibalism is explored, as well as the somber itch for more meat. Overall - the film was great. I loved how realistic it was - and the film is opening this weekend in Australia. So you Aussie readers can check this film out right now! Go support it, it is a local miracle of independent filmmaking! After that - it was time for MERANTAU. All I knew about this film was that it was an Indonesian Martial Arts film - and that in the 14 years of doing this online movie talk thing, I had never seen an Indonesian Martial Arts film. Sign me up. Another fact that got me to see this instead of the big opening night premiere at the Paramount was the little factoid that International Eye Candy writer Todd Brown (of TWITCH) wrote the festival write-up and he has a notorious habit of picking exceptionally good films as a programmer of FANTASTIC FEST. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much. The simple logline of the movie is. Tomato Picking Martial Artist Goes To Jakarta, where things go... badly. Yes. That is a perfect description of this film. But... Because I fucking loved this movie, you're gonna hear more. The lead martial artist was a Truck Driver for a Telcom company until the director of this film, Gareth Evans, discovered him. When he shot his screentest, he thought he was shooting for a documentary, but really Evans was filming him to try to raise the financing for this awesome badass movie. This Truck Driver also happened to be an incredibly well trained Silat artist, which is a form of Indonesian Martial Arts - not quite as spectacular as Muay Thai, but brutally awesome! Iko evokes a bit of Tony Jaa - there is a vague similarity in their faces. So, since I brought up Muay Thai and Tony Jaa... How does this film compare to those? I think it compares very favorably to ONG BAK 1 and TOM YUM GOONG. Personally - I prefer the overall story, characters and overall outcome of MERANTAU to those two films, but it can't compare to the unbelievably fucking badassness that is ONG BAK 2 - coming later in October (yes, AICN will do wide screenings for that like we did for DISTRICT 9 and tonight's PARANORMAL ACTIVITY!) Iko plays Yuda, a young Tomato farmer that is going on Merantau - I think Merantau essentially is a spiritual quest for one's self - that involves leaving home and finding your place or center or purpose in this life. At least, that's what I'm going to say Merantau is. Basically, it's kinda like Kaine from KUNG FU (minus the searching for the lost brother thing). When he gets to Jakarta - he has his wallet stolen by a street urchin (my phrase for thieving little fucking brats) and he chases him down... gets his wallet back, to witness a dance club pimp bastard shaking down this kid's sister for 100% of her tips. Yuda... being a heroic martial artist - makes this guy whine like Jesus did with water. But the girl doesn't react well, because she basically got fired as a result of him making her boss feel like the helpless pussy he is. Go their separate ways. THEN - later - Caucasians meet with Club Pussy Man, they were told there would be 5 fresh girls to take in their Human Trafficking and Prostitution ring. But there are only 4 girls. Big badass Caucasian bastard says if he doesn't get 5, he'll start cutting on people, so Club Pussy Man heads out to find the 5th girl. Our adorable girl ends up being captured, our hero sees this - dares to interfere... and gets his ass kicked a bit by the 5 guys. They take the girl in the club leaving Yuda with his face in a puddle. There is a shot that tracks him rising up from that puddle that is one of the most awesome tracking shots I've seen. You get the sense that there has been a spiritual awakening that unleashed the spirit of fucking some people up... and it heads into the club. From there, I'm not going to tell you a thing. That takes you about 45 minutes in - and it is non-stop AWESOME after that. This is a tremendous Martial Arts film. Outstanding! It screens one more time at FANTASTIC FEST - and if you're looking for a badass Martial Arts film - MERANTAU is the route to go. October 1st: 1:45pm. DO NOT MISS IT! After that was SOLOMON KANE - I love this film. I've seen it a couple of times now - and I love this small SOLOMON KANE story. It isn't a direct adaptation of an existing storyline - but rather the set-up to introduce the character to all the people that don't know him. By the end of the film... You should be dying to see him having an amazing African or Salem adventure. I know I am. I introduced the film with Michael Bassett, but then was called upon to hit the opening night party, before coming back for the last 40 minutes to conduct the lively Q&A with the very frank Michael Bassett. While at the party, I ran into GENTLEMEN BRONCOS director Jared Hess and his lovely wife and co-screenwriter Jerusha Hess... along with cast members Michael Angarano, Mike White, Jemaine Clement and Sam Rockwell (who is having a great damn year!). This was the inaugural party at the Alamo Drafthouse's HIGH BALL... an amazing 60's Vegas-esque Bowling Alley, Karioke, Skee-Ball, Dance, Booze-Swilling House of Debauchery! Definitely try the Old Fashioned! Awesome drink. An hour flew by - and I found myself desperately wanting to stay longer, but I had a Q&A and another film to introduce, so I only had 3 drinks before leaving. The last film that I saw tonight was PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Tonight, all across the country I had a video introduction that was playing before the film - as we tried to bring this FANTASTIC FEST selection to as many of you as we could. I can't speak for how it went, but it seems to be a Trending Topic on TWITTER, so... what the fuck - people are talking. Originally tonight I had planned to see REC 2. But Yoko really wanted to see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, because I had been telling her it would be too scary for her, and I think she wanted to prove me wrong. But I know my wife. And upon reflection, there is no place on planet Earth that I would rather be, than in clutching distance to my wife during PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. How scared did she get? During the last moments of the film, she grabbed my arm, bit into it and screamed. And I had to seriously keep from howling in laughter. The audience was STUNNED. Even after it was over, they didn't know how to react, but when the R-rating screen came up, they just started clapping and cheering - and it caused people to have WHAT THE FUCK conversations afterwards - and people were admitting to being terrified. NOW - Annette Kellerman is 9 months pregnant and due this coming Wednesday. She was scared, but it did not cause the birth of her son... dammit. How awesome would that be? I'm pulling for the baby to be born during REVENANT, Quint is pulling for ANTICHRIST... but there's a large betting pool for which movie causes her water to break. It's one of the sideline entertainments of this year's fest, much to Annette's mortification. Had a great fucking day 1. Truly tremendous. If you're attending FANTASTIC FEST - send in reviews of the films you loved, hated or admired. And if you're here... I'll see you around!

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:01 a.m. CST

    by mikedeceased


  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:03 a.m. CST


    by mikedeceased

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:09 a.m. CST

    That baby is gonna be traumatized

    by StarchildAD

    somehow someway its being touched on by very evil fucking films and it will grow into an evil dictator or a stripper.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:35 a.m. CST

    I have been looking forward to Paranormal Activity...

    by Marxeffect

    but i'm a bit dismayed that it couldn't make Kellerman pop!

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:37 a.m. CST


    by wadi77

    Harry's interpretation about the meaning of that word is fairly accurate. I'm impressed.<p>I'm a Malaysian, a neighboring country to Indonesia. Our language is mostly similar. Silat is also Malaysian traditional martial arts.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 5:25 a.m. CST

    I hope PA comes to my town...

    by LastOfTheV8Interceptors

    .. however, even if it doesn't it looks like it might be the kind of flick that might actually be more creepy on a TV with the lights out. I have also heard that they have dicked with the original ending? I heard that ending was pretty intense.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 6:13 a.m. CST

    I've got to see Paranormal Activity and Merantau.

    by Mr Nicholas

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 6:52 a.m. CST

    Um, you're not really meant to do that when pregnant...

    by Mr Gorilla

    It's recommended to stay away from stressful stuff if possible, watch comedies, be happy etc - you can go right back on to the horror & violence when it's born (if you keep it out of the room) - something to do with having a calmer birth or something... OK, I'll shut up.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 9:37 a.m. CST

    You blew of Rec2 for some lame ass Blair witch ripoff

    by bongo123

    jeesus... wheres your taste man!

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Hey wadi77, we want our Balinese dance back!

    by DarthBakpao

    This coming from your neighboring country. Stop stealing and claiming our culture as yours! For fuck shake, be original!

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 10:10 a.m. CST

    Solomon Kane not getting enough PR

    by iluvsyfy

    I have reads numerous reviews from the TIFF screening and roughly 3 out of 4 liked or loved it. Most were surprised by the lack of publicity before and after and how this good a movie is so under the radar and not being pushed more. I have to agree with them. I have seen so little on the internet from movie and genre fansites concerning this apparently good movie, this site included. I know there is no U.S. distributor for it yet, and the less hype and less attention movie and genre fansites give to Kane the harder it will be to get picked up. I mean consider Iron Man 2, Avengers movie, Thor, Captain America, Batman 3, Supes or lack of Supes. They are still being filmed or have not even started and they are getting 20X+ the attention that Kane has and it is finished and apparently a good movie. Even comic, fantasy sites aren't giving it hardly any attention (and that is its target audience). I say shame on them and you for not given the movie more PR if most seem to like it.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Damn it give Solomon Kane a release date!!!

    by TheManFromDodgeCity

    Yeah. what he said.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 11:07 a.m. CST

    Isn't "Van Diemen's Land" a U2 song?

    by I am_NOTREAL

    Sung by the Edge, on Rattle & Hum? A bit obscure, and I haven't heard it in years, but it never really screamed "cannibalism" to me.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 11:14 a.m. CST

    Wait, wait, wait...

    by I am_NOTREAL

    OK, so it's also an old name for Tasmania. Sue me for assuming it was taken from a U2 song. I don't even really like U2. I would have come back sooner to fess up to my pop-culture induced myopia, but I was too busy tracking down reports of a sighting of Natalie Portman's nipple.

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 1:03 p.m. CST

    3 days before they resorted to cannabilism?!

    by HarryCalder

    LMAO! What a bunch of pussies! But seriously, sounds like a great film, as does Merantau and PA... That last sucker best not let me down... I want feces stains in me bloomers, that kinda scary...

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 1:05 p.m. CST

    Wait, "knickers...

    by HarryCalder

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Wait, lemme try this one more time...

    by HarryCalder

    ...That would be "knickers," not "bloomers," as bloomers are for chix. Joke attempt = massive fail...

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 2:08 p.m. CST

    I want to see Paranormal Activity right now!!!!!

    by SoylentMean

    To the cemetery!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 3:10 p.m. CST

    "But I know my wife"

    by Doctor Cosmic

    "I know my wife as well as a mail-order 'bride' can be known. She doesn't speak much English and tries to escape the house often. Thankfully, the sedatives in her food and drink keep working, as well as the restraints I use to keep her tied up in the bathroom when I wheel myself out to buy more K-Y, Ho-Hos, and Pepsi." Harry Knowles

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:25 p.m. CST

    Seattle screening for Solomon Kane, please!

    by Dingbatty

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 4:36 p.m. CST

    "And if you're here... I'll see you around!"

    by benlinus

    Yeah, well between the stench and the trail of Cheeto's you leave, you're hard to miss my ginger friend!

  • Sept. 25, 2009, 7:38 p.m. CST

    Funny how PA gets a pass and Avatar doesn't

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 12:26 a.m. CST


    by DigitalBeachWar

    movie was great. way better than BWP

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 12:28 a.m. CST

    and i

    by DigitalBeachWar

    loooooved BWP

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 12:28 a.m. CST

    Merantau is awesome

    by kilik777

    Full reviews over at and

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 12:28 a.m. CST

    Merantau is awesome

    by kilik777

    Full reviews over at and

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 5:20 a.m. CST

    Sounds awesome

    by jebuslovesyou666

    Wish I was there!

  • Sept. 26, 2009, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Solomon Kane! Forget the rest...

    by allykatD

    Jesus, when the hell is this going to be released so the rest of us can see it?

  • Sept. 27, 2009, 1:23 a.m. CST

    Forget Solomon Kane

    by JoeBanana

    Saw this at TIFF. Don't expect this to be the next Conan, or even the next cult-action flick that only the coolest of the cool know about. It's really not much of anything. Laughably bad acting, poorly paced narrative, and action scenes that flirt with greatness but are anchored down by its PG 13 rating (like when SK stabs a guys throat and drags him along behind him, very cool if it wasn't all done in long shot with the victim barely in frame). In my group of 10 no one had anything good to say except when it came to the set design, which at least prevented the movie from feeling entirely like a direct to DVD release.

  • Sept. 27, 2009, 1:33 a.m. CST

    Come on Harry is it really that scary? Hype is killing Paranorma

    by AllPowerfulWizardOfOz

    There is such a thing as hype killing a movie to where the build up is so much from the media frenzy that I actually go into the movie biased looking for a reason to not like it and therefore not getting the experience I should have when seeing it. Paranormal Activity is starting to annoy me more so then anything because of the hype of people/critics saying how scary it is. I mean really Harry is it REALLY that scary? How much of it is the public just feeding into the hype vs it really being the real deal? Be honest.

  • Sept. 27, 2009, 2:51 a.m. CST

    Remember a little movie called Snakes on a Plane?

    by lockesbrokenleg

    It was supposed to be a big hit. Word of mouth right up to the midnight shows was good for it. Then it opened and bombed terribly.

  • Sept. 27, 2009, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Paranormal Activity

    by kolchak

    Got out of a Madison screening early this morning. Here's the deal: <p> This film effectively uses tried and true techniques that we've seen time and time again, but it does so in a way that actually manages to get under the audience's skin anyway. <p> Some of it gets borderline cheesy, but in the end the cast sells it. And it's unnerving, despite the fact that most of us knew what was going to happen. <p> Much of the appeal of the picture is that it's a slow build-up to the inevitable; packed with tension. There's also a bit of an allegorical element in there. If producers are reading - this is how you do good, Hitchcockian, horror.

  • Sept. 28, 2009, 1:27 a.m. CST

    "I really try to know as little about the films in advance as po

    by thegreatwhatzit

  • Sept. 28, 2009, 1:32 a.m. CST

    "I really try to know as little about the films

    by thegreatwhatzit

    in advance as possible." Nice foreshadowing; this same aptitude is evinced in the subsequent reviews.

  • Sept. 28, 2009, 9:11 a.m. CST

    Where's the Dr. Uwe Boll interview?

    by Series7

    Yet we got a review of fame and 30 reviews of Paranormal Activity. There needs to be a live via web cam sit down fireside chat between The Dr. and Harry.

  • Sept. 28, 2009, 3:34 p.m. CST

    Video of Harry interviewing Michael Bassett:

    by Dingbatty

  • Oct. 1, 2009, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Harry!! Watch "A TOWN CALLED PANIC!"

    by T 1000 xp professional

    youuu have to. I am so certain that you'll love it. I road tripped to Austin from Miami and took 2 buddies of mine( one is an Austinite) to the festival and we all had a blast with that movie as well as the audience. Nobody could help but to crack up throughout the movie. Highly Recommended for a good time.

  • Oct. 2, 2009, 12:35 a.m. CST

    Excited for it

    by FilmFan311

    Denver is only getting THREE SCREENINGS of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY THIS WEEKEND: Thursday at Midnight: SOLD OUT Friday at Midnight: SOLD OUT Saturday: Tix still available About to grab 2 Tix for Saturday at Midnight. driving down from the mountains for it so I hope it's as fucking good as people are saying it is.