Hey folks, Harry here... When I came home from Monday night's FANTASTIC FEST, I'd seen 2 fantastic movies, but instead of writing them up, I chose to knock out one of the DVD columns - I'm actually further along than that, but that next one still has a few to get done. That said, I knew when I got up today - I would be writing about the two amazing flicks.
Monday was the day I caught up with sleep - getting 3 hours a night for the first 5 days of FANTASTIC FEST was making it where Espressos were becoming a lifestyle requirement - and I don't like getting hopped up on caffiene. As a result, my first movie of the day wasn't until 6pm. But it was a doozie.
ANTIVIRAL is the premiere film by Brandon Cronenberg, a film that proves that cinema can have a genetic code. ANTIVIRAL is a supremely fascinating, exquisitely put together film that is science fiction, it is horror, it is satire and if is flatly amazing. ANTIVIRAL is also the very best Body Horror film I've seen since the very best of his father's work - and it can stand toe to toe against David's best.
That is extraordinary news. ANTIVIRAL is also the first film of FANTASTIC FEST to do something to me that happens occassionally at a Film Festival. Let me explain.
When you attend a festival, you digest movies like I used to devour food at All You Can Eat Buffets. Film after film - and sometimes... sometimes you see a movie that stimulates your noddle in such a fashion that you just have to stop and collect your thoughts. The mental orgasm was so strong from this film, that my neural clit was too sensitive and needed cool down time.
This isn't a high energy flick. Stylistically it reminds me quite a bit about LOOPER, that brilliant Michael Crichton flick. You're dealing with a company called THE LUCAS CLINIC. In the future, our celebrity obsessed culture is going to continue to lap at the trough of various celebrities in life. Genetics and Biological advances in culture have created new levels of sick Celebrity obsession.
The blacker than black satiric smile behind the film is delivered with such a confident casual manner that it doesn't cause laughter, but you'll smile at the wrongness of this particular future society. I know, we're there. People getting KARDASHIAN credit cards and HONEY BOO BOO clothes for children. It's too much, people always seem to graft onto celebrity for the oddest reasons. Sometimes to feel better about themselves, sometimes to fantasize and live vicariously through their ups & downs.
About 3 years ago, Yoko made a clean break from Celebrity Addiction to sites like PerezHilton and that sort of thing. Places that feed us the the lives of Celebrities as if we had a right to observe these people as though they were zoo animals. It all seems very Roman in a way. But she's never looked back.
Well in the future of this movie... people seek COMMUNION with their favorite Celebrities via viral infection. You see, when Paris Hilton gets a mouth sore.. her fans want to experience her mouth sore, so they go to the Lucas Clinic, which would have an exclusive deal with this or that celebrity - and they would be willing to inject you or contaminate you with the actual viral strain that came from that celebrity. They've also genetically engineered the viruses with a "copy protection" so your virus doesn't spread to others - that way everyone that wants to feel as shitty as their favorite celeb, they've paid for it.
You'll also discover meat markets that serve up slabs of your favorite celebrity's grown meat based on their genetic code. Ya know, eat a slab of Scarlet Johansson.
Now, you need to know - Brandon Cronenberg made this film without referencing any real celebrities - that makes the film feel less comedic.
The film focuses upon Caleb Landry Jones as Syd, he's a salesman for the Lucas Clinic that seduces clients into the dream of personal celebrity communion, but the work is a bit lifeless for him, so he has a side business, he is reengineering some of the Celebrity Viruses to sell on the Blackmarket - engineering the copy-protection out.
Caleb Jones is a perfect actor for this film. He's so disturbingly casual about all of this. There are no moral discussions about what any of these people are doing, this is simply the world as it is. Now in the course of being a part of the blackmarket - Syd ends up tied to one of the biggest celebrity news stories ever... he has the virus in him that killed Hannah Geist, a stunningly beautiful celebrity.
By the time Malcom McDowell shows up, initially off screen, but with that awesome voice of his... Well, I was happy as hell. I love films like this. Films that depict a future for humanity that is sicker than we could imagine, yet completely probable. This is great stuff. Wonderful.
Where the film leaves us at the end. SO DISTURBING.
After the film, I took a break - had some drinks and mulled over the film. It's beautiful work, but if you're a germaphobe - it'll make you squirm like eggs on a sizzling pan. The film is hypnotically powerful. Shocking and delightful. Now, I wait in the greatest anticipation for Brandon Cronenberg's next film. This one is not to be missed.
When I returned for a movie, it was HERE COMES THE DEVIL by Adrian Garcia Bogliano, the director of PENUMBRA, which blew people away at Fantastic Fest 2011 and is available for viewing on NetFlix Instant right now. HERE COMES THE DEVIL is even better.
As I was watching the film, HERE COMES THE DEVIL swept the Horror Awards at FANTASTIC FEST - winning Best Horror Film, Best Horror Director, Best Horror Writing, Best Horror Actor & Actress. I believe, this is the first film to sweep its genre at FANTASTIC FEST - and yet after having watched the film, I get it.
The film focuses on a young married couple vacationing with their kids in Tijuana, Mexico. NO - it doesn't go there, sicko. On their way home from a good trip, they pull into a rest stop and let their kids wander off to explore a big bouldery hill beside the rest stop by themselves. BAD IDEA #1. The kids go missing. The parents get a hotel room and yeah. It's bad. They're distraught, angry with one another - and well... the kids are gone. The police do a search and eventually find them. Whew.
Over the course of the next few acts things begin to get progressively more fucked up. The daughter has missing panties from that night. Then the doctor lets the mother know that the daughter does not have a hymen. Then the therapist tells the mom that there is evidence of sexual trauma... And the parents begin to go a little insane.
After the Parents' insanity, things progressively get worse. The school calls to say the kids haven't been attending class. She follows them. It's scary.
Then there's the noises in the house. Violent noises and moaning. One night the babysitter was gone and the kids were safe, but man... the Babysitter's story - FUCKED UP!
The film begins taking supernatural turns, and they're genuinely frightening turns. Things begin to become revealed that makes you reconsider things, but then the twists keep contorting the film until by the end... we're chilled to the bone. This is an exception Horror film. One that I could easily see getting remade domestically - and it would most likely lose the intimacy and the emotional resonance of this small, but brilliant horror flick.
HERE COMES THE DEVIL has a title that makes it feel like it would be funny, but instead - the way the film plays is just starkly horrific. What a great night!