When I arrived at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline theater today, which is hosting FANTASTIC FEST while the Alamo’s South Lamar location undergoes extensive remodeling, it was about 12:45pm. My first screening wasn’t until 5:45pm, and being the Festival Co-Founder, it’s not like I had to be there much before that screening, but I wanted to. Why? Because hanging out at FANTASTIC FEST is every bit as important as seeing the films.
I wasn’t in the Lobby more than about 15 minutes before this gentleman introduces himself and begins to chew my ear about this Ugandan film movement that is going on that he’s vitally thrilled by. It has popped up in the slums there, where they’re emulating Hollywood action films, with their own spin – and he swears they’re unlike anything I’ve seen. Across his back looked to be a leather quiver and when I asked him about it, it turns out it was movie posters made from some strange African bark and painted… They looked… so… cool. We traded info and he promised to hook me up with some insane Ugandan Slum-made Action Flicks – and I’m giddy at the prospects.
Film is a universal shared palate for our Dreams – and that is never more true than at Fantastic Fest.
Lunch was spent sharing drinks and food with friends I’ve made at this fest from all over the place. The conversation? Hopes and dreams, fears and giggles over what we were to see over the next 8 days.
However, the 5 hour wait for MACHETE KILLS was over before I knew it. Talking with Film Geeks melts hours like butter on a stove.
Heading into Theater 4 for MACHETE KILLS, I was thinking about how much I was hoping this film kicked the first film’s ass. I enjoyed MACHETE, but I wanted it to be more than what it was. Here… we get that!
It begins with a trailer for the sequel to MACHETE KILLS… but I have to let you discover that joy for yourself, or much later in this write up. But the trailer got cheers and set the tone for the absurdity that was to follow. MACHETE KILLS feels like a Roger Moore era-BOND film… Mainly… it feels like MOONRAKER, but if instead of The Saint & Dr Goodhead, we have MACHETE and Ms. San Antonio (pssst – that’s Amber Huh Huh Huh Heard). Oh – and the craziest absurd action you’ve seen in a good long while. With the most playfully giddy gore you’ve seen in a flick for a while.
The cast is just insane. But punctuated by a character named The Chameleon – when you see who all plays this singular character… you’ll not only laugh, but kind of be in awe. Once you see the very obviously Mel Gibson eyes in the Mexican Wrestler mask… you’re going to just begin a giggle – that’s gonna continue for the rest of the movie.
How’s Mel? He fucking fantastic! Robert’s inspiration for his character probably has some origins with Drax from MOONRAKER… but given that Robert’s met both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, he discovered that they all shared personality traits with Bond villains, but also a deep geeky love for STAR WARS – so he put it all up in a blender and cast Mel – and man… the result is an awesome awesome super villain for Machete to attempt to bring down.
Now – if Mel Gibson is the Bond Villain of the film… who is his JAWS? Heh.
FANTASTIC FEST LEGEND… MARKO ZAROR!!!
6’3” – Marko Zaror moves like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ve been saying that for years – and I’ve been bending fucking Rodriguez’s ear to cast him for years, and when he did… he just kept adding more and more scenes with him because… HE IS THAT FUCKING AWESOME!
But… since he’s fighting MACHETE… he’s gonna… well… you’ll see.
President Rathcock aka Charlie Sheen aka Carlos Estevez… I kind of flat out love. And I have to admit, it would be a remarkably refreshing United States if the President could say and fuck whatever he wants. I mean, what’s the fucking point of being President if you have to act like you’re on a visit to your church going grandmother’s on Easter for 4 year shifts at a time. Sheen hasn’t looked this good or fun in a film in so long that I was absolutely not looking forward to him being in the film, but he’s great.
Demian Bichir is great as Machete’s initial target, I didn’t recognize him at first… but as he cycled through various personalities – I remembered him from Soderbergh’s two-part CHE as Fidel Castro, but more so for his wonderful turn in WEEDS, but he’s been around since the original RED DAWN making film, but as Mendez The Madman, he gets the opportunity to steel a whole lot of screentime and become one MACHETE KILLS’ brightest roles. Bichir’s “MEXICAN STANDOFF” destroyed Yoko with laughter which required her some time to recover.
Then there’s the ladies.
One of the things I love about Robert Rodriguez is the ambition of his casting. Here, Robert casts the craziest cast of femmes I think he’s yet put upon film – and man does he have the most fun dressing these crazy ladies up! Amber Heard, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Electra Avellan, Emmy Robbin and there’s still more! I mean they’re all playing bloodthirsty whores, secret agents, Cartel hussies, Revolutionaries, Beauty contestants… and then there’s LADY GAGA – and I can’t really explain her – but it’s kinda like when I was at the World Premiere of Emmerich and Devlin’s GODZILLA and that model was sitting two seats over with a pillow on her lap with the “Yo Queiro Taco Bell” dog watching the world premiere upon it. You can’t really explain how the Taco Bell Chihuahua was there… but along with Muhammad Ali – it really made that room absurdly entertaining. That’s what Lady Gaga brings… the WHAT THE FUCK?!?
In fact much of MACHETE KILLS is about defying expectations and making you wonder why so many films cost SOOOOO much more but are often times, far less entertaining. Stay through all the credits – the movie plays with you from beginning to end. There’s a point of exhaustion that begins to hit about 25 minutes before the end, but it passes quickly and hops right back on track!
Danny Trejo? He’s fucking MACHETE! In person, Danny Trejo is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever had sitting on my living room couch, but the legion of Indie films on Blu Ray that I get – of wildly varying quality – I never forget how Rodriguez just shoots and directs him better than anyone. And he knows how to treat his star, by surrounding him with actors and names that just makes him feel like he’s the center of the universe. BY the end of the film though, I was just dying to see the third installment. It looks like it could give GALAXY OF TERROR or STARCRASH a run for its funky awesomery!
The next film on the night’s docket was a remake of an Ozsploitation & Horror Classic by Richard Franklin’s seminal PATRICK! PATRICK doesn’t have a sterling reputation on a site like IMDB, but in my estimation, I like the hell out of it. The film was playing with crazy powerful telekinetic & telepathic prowess – and as a big X-MEN kid, I thought it was a whole lot of fun, but really the fun of that film is in the disturbing looking Robert Thompson and Franklin’s shot selection, which was particularly fun. But it isn’t GREAT. It’s real good.
PATRICK (2013) is GREAT! Directed by Mark Hartley, who has been to Fantastic Fest before, but with his documentaries upon Ozploitation (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD) and Filipino Cult Cinema (MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!) – but what sets this apart from Franklin’s original is the superior script by Justin King, the amazing score by the great Pino Donaggio, a great cast featuring Charles Dance, Rachel Griffiths and Sharni Vinson!!! And then the atmosphere of the film… a Cliffside Coma Patient facility next to a Lighthouse on a foggy point… It’s a modern day film that if not for the technology, you could easily believe this film was set in the distant fog of yesteryear. A film that makes you think about gothic tales and crazy horror.
If you’ve never seen the original and have no idea about the plot – Sharni Vinson plays a young bright & sweet nurse, that’s running from a relationship gone astray. She gets hired at The Roget Clinic. Hospitals are creepy. Morgues are really creepy. But a place filled with COMATOSE emaciated people… FUCK THAT! I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone with a loved one in that condition. I wish all were better. But – the creepy part about comatose wards is just the notion of that reality and wondering truly if something is going on in there. It’s also prime for alien takeovers, zombie awakenings… you name it, but then… films with coma plotlines are almost always creepy as hell.
PATRICK is like if Carrie White were in a Coma with a crush that could stand no competition. It’s a really fun and scary movie. Mark Hartley has made a great remake of a really fun classic cult flick. That doesn’t happen too often, so let’s celebrate it!
Then the last film of the first day of FANTASTIC FEST 2013 was WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL – which was the very best film of them all!!!
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL by Shion Sono (SUICIDE CLUB, LOVE EXPOSURE, COLD FISH) is the most refreshing film of the day. Wholly original. This is the film that is not like others.
Do not read a logline for this film and think for a second that it has anything to do with the reality of this spectacular celebration of filmmaking. The film is unleashed from the projector with an excruciatingly delightful toothpaste jingle sung by the cutest Yakuza princess that you’ve ever seen. We don’t instantly know that… we’ll learn that shortly. But what Shion has done here is to pepper his film with characters, mythologies, lies, vendettas, prayers, circumstances, while also reaching deep down into the hearts of just about every soul that has ever sat in a movie theater seat has ever dreamt of. We all want to be in movies.
A lot of film is forgotten, lost, destroyed, abused and just never ever sees the light of day, but we live in a world populated with dreamers that increasingly have access to the tools of filmmaking. Austin is alive with the filmmaking bug. Folks pitch in and make a show all the time here. 48 hour film contests, workshops, big Hollywood productions and a very literate amateur film community that is constantly spawning quite interesting filmmaking voices… Well, this is a film that speaks to that wild abandon that those possessed with the passion and strange affirmation that can come with filmmaking.
Once we’re introduced to the FUCK BOMBERS – a Scooby Doo gang of filmmaking pesky nosey kids living the dream of film, everyday. They only have video cameras, but most every filmmaker begins with those tools these days. There’s also a deep passion for Bruce Lee demonstrated by them. But you don’t get the idea they ever take this very seriously. Hanging out and making film, wandering the streets to discover something filmable has become a lifestyle for them.
The opposing Yakuzi families are butting heads. It gets very bloody, but I’d be lying if I didn’t state that the jaw-dropping third act of this wonder gave me joy at a cinematic level that I don’t think I’ve felt quite this intensely since THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES sequence of KILL BILL VOL 1.
You know how in SUPER 8, the giddy excitement the kids felt when they realized they were getting great stuff – and that energy they were getting? This film is in love with film. Drunk on it, High on it and it’s giving you that high!
There are films you see at this festival that can make you love cinema at such an intense level of affection that you come home and you just keep delaying going to sleep because you’re playing scenes and moments and pieces of just WOW MAGIC that the film slapped you silly with. That’s WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL.
If you have ever shot anything playful in your life, you’re going to LOVE THIS MOVIE! This film has an ending that gives Eskimo Kisses to Quentin’s KILL BILL and Peter Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE! It’s bloody, hilarious, poignant and a complete celebration of the magical fantasy of cinematic mayhem and wonder.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL is the sort of original insanity that reminds you that life is much more interesting on the shady side, but especially when it is lit well! The absurd genius of the audacity of the third act is the sort of refreshment that hits you and reminds you that so much of film is playing in hell.
I think back on the fucking insane pussy asses that have been bitching about the WANTON DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD this summer. As buildings toppled and life destroyed… but WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL let’s us in on the glorious secret of filmmaking. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! And you’re gonna try to do it with your friends and anyone that you can fucking get to pay for it, act in it and crew it. The moment where the filmmaker realizes… COMPLETELY… what he’s doing. It’s just. It’s like seeing Danny Trejo in a real Astronaut suit. It’s like listening to Charles Dance just destroy Sharni with words.
These grown children are all playing in Hell, where terrible, horrible, traumatic nightmares can happen, where everything you see is done for the JOY of it. The Passion of it. When you’ve been on sets and worked on film, you realize that there’s a joy of the play, the putting on of the wildest show… But I have to say – IF – what happens in this movie were to really happen, I’d watch the living shit out of that OUTLAWED IN EVERY COUNTRY MOVIE. Heh. FUCK BOMBERS!!! YEAH!!!!! FUCK BOMBERS!!!! YEAH!!!!
To smile like I am at 5am, 4 hours till waking… THIS IS WHAT IT IS TO LOVE FANTASTIC FEST!!!