Hey folks, Harry here... Thursday was a bit mainstream, so today - I decided things should get... a little more non-traditional. I thought to myself, if I see Shunichiro Miki's THE WARPED FOREST - I'm sure to get a proper WHAT THE FUCK look on my face - for the first time at this year's FANTASTIC FEST.
If you saw THE FUNKY FOREST - this WARPED FOREST was directed by one of the 3 directors that worked on that film. Specifically the sci-fi-esque sequences of THE FUNKY FOREST. The film was introduced by the International Film God known as Todd Brown - and he continually stressed the bizarre nature of this film, but also that Shunichiro Miki paid for the entire film through money he made as a very popular Japanese Commericial director.
I mainly picked the film, because I kind of knew that Yoko would love it - because she loves adorably bizarre sexually deviant absurdities, afterall, she married me. I was pretty sure the cute perversion that I was anticipating with THE WARPED FOREST would have her squealing in delight and I was right.
The film's tone is almost like that of a children's film. Giants and Tiny people live together. There's a strange upside-down pyramid with a ball twirling around it in the sky. And everyone seems to be addicted to suckling from the teats of a lime colored fruit that grows on these trees:
The fruit has a very vaginal juicy look - and some have a pulsing anus in their rinds - and the denizens, while nursing these will have a finger in the fruit's ass. Now This world has all kinds of weird shit in it. One man goes to a brothel to seemingly be pleasured by a gorgeous lady... only to discover that she has an 8 legged white catbus-like critter that has two tails with some manner of orifi at the end that attaches to a man's nipples and sucks and pull so hard that his chest is quite distended.
What's the plot of the film. I'm not sure that's the point of the movie. Shunichiro's feature is a bizarre experience that might be akin to masturbating on shrooms as your significant other sings Disney songs. I haven't even mentioned the Penis Rifle or the critter it captures. The film is OUT THERE. I mean past just about everything you could imagine. Surreal eroticism meeting performance art, THE WARPED FOREST is exactly the kinds of experiences that I love FANTASTIC FEST for. I simply can't imagine many places getting the extraordinarily pefect weirdness that this film has. So many movies you can imagine where they'll go. This... your mind is racing just to process and give meaning to the extremely creative and pleasantly erotic images of the film.
After that - the mighty Luke Mullen introduced THE COLLECTION directed by Marcus Dunstan. He and his fellow screenwriting creative partner, Patrick Melton have a long history with FANTASTIC FEST. At the first FANTASTIC FEST we premiered John Gulager's FEAST... And since that point, well Marcus and Patrick have gone places. They've written upon SAW IV, SAW V, SAW VI, SAW 3D, the two FEAST sequels, PIRANHA 3DD... and if rumors are true, they did the final rewrite on PACIFIC RIM for Guillermo.
This is a very high body count, very heavy practical gore effect celebration movie. Yes, it involves a mastermind sick fuck, that gets his kicks through experimenting through a variety of tortures and killing methods to masses of people. Apparently he created a club, one of those secret, down the alley, have the password kind of places - that he's modified to be able to cut everyone in the club to pieces. He uses the pieces to create floaty tank abstract and surreal human piece sculptures. He keeps people in footlockers till he's ready to deal with them. And some, he simply collects.
This is a sequel to THE COLLECTOR, in that Josh Stewart played Arkin, who got plenty fucked up. In this film we start off at the incredible club of death - which frankly just farts in the face of BLADE's opening club death sequence. In that opening we meet our Girl in Distress who ultimately lets Arkin out of his box. She gets trapped and Arkin escapes. A team of mercenary types show up to engage Arkin's services in helping to get her out. As a result, this becomes a fun addition to the Action Horror genre. I much preferred this to the SAW films. THE COLLECTION is a very fun audience film, but be ready for a whole lot of red meat. I called this film a Meat Grinder Horror Film - it grinds it out from start to finish.
This is luckily getting a release from the same company that released William Friedkin's KILLER JOE. THE COLLECTION isn't a great high brow film. This is a movie that wants to fire its audience up and never let it get bored. The gore originality is high - and the performances are solid. In particular, Josh Stewart really throws his everything on the screen in this. By all means if you like Horror Action, give this a look!
Then finally, I saw Massawyrm's first screenplay to be turned into a film... SINISTER. Now, the film has been being sold as "From the people what brought ya that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY" and yes, they have a shared producer, but this isn't at all that kind of horror film. In fact, I would probably classify SINISTER as a Investigative Occult Mystery. In some ways, this is totally a NIGHT STALKER episode - but if Darren McGavin had been a True Crime Novelist with a beautiful wife and 2 kids. Only, it isn't McGavin, it's Ethan Hawke.
Only, it isn't a touch camp like that classic. Instead it has a very earnest feel. Ethan Hawke has moved his unsuspecting family into a house that's previous family had been murdered in the backyard. Hawke's Ellison had written a huge New York Times Best Selling novel - and has been in a slump ever since. Moving his family from grisly murder scene to grisly murder scene - all with the purpose of investigating the murder with the purpose of selling a novel. Some may not like his character. He does deceive his family, puts them in dire danger, but he also is doing all of this out of a desire to make it big for them. When Ellison discovers a box of Super 8mm films that seem to show things... stuff that's probably best not to know about going in.
Now I need to be clear, SINISTER did not scare me. Instead, I was shocked to find a wonderful family dynamic here. I have to admit it, Massawyrm aka C. Robert Cargill, did a great job on the script. The film is far more mature of a work than I was honestly expecting, but I was disappointed that I didn't love the movie outright. The selling of this film has been with bloody smears that have a face. We've seen them move. Then, the reviews I had read had stressed the sheer nightmare factory that the film was to contain - and fully ignore that the vast majority of the film is sheer criminal investigation and family drama... that's not a bad thing. In fact, as handled the mystery and the character work between Ellison and his wife and their kids. Well, you have to care about them for this to work. And you do.
Ultimately, just realize that the film has disturbing imagery, very sobering. As the film went into its final act, I had a bit of disconnect. I saw where the story was going and it ultimately left me a bit cold. But the first 90%... gold. The film is still weeks out, so I don't want to delve into spoilers... but just expect a more purposeful and dramatic film, than the average horror film. Look for Vincent D'onofrio and ol Senator Fred Thompson. But my favorite character was ol Deputy So & So played by James Ransone. Ransone stole every scene he was in. Such a great dynamic between him and Ethan Hawke.
I'm proud of ol Cargill, but in talking to him after the screening, he was disappointed I had some problems with the end. I think in some ways my friendship and conversations with Cargill over the years had me working to figure it out, instead of relaxing and just letting the story get told to me. I'll see it again. Now that I see what the film is, I admire a great deal of it. Cargill definitely has a future in the medium. God help us all.