LFF 2016 Roundup

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LFF 2016 Roundup

Post by WraithApe »

I saw 19 films at all in this year's festival - almost a FF's worth of film! A couple of stinkers, but lots of good stuff, as always: the programming seems to get better year on year. Here're my capsule reviews of some of the horror fare on offer:

Creepy - 5/10

A return to the horror genre for Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this slow burning mystery / thriller initially intrigues but spirals into mediocrity, almost in slow motion. You could shave at least half an hour, possibly even an hour, off its run time, and it wouldn't hurt it at all - in fact, it would make it much tenser. As it is, by the time it moves into its macabre third act, the pace is so glacial that its impact is barely felt. Another facet of the pacing, the understated sobriety of the acting and cinematography is that some preposterous implausibilities go almost unnoticed. The actor who puts the creep in Creepy though, delivers a genuinely creepy performance.

The Eyes of My Mother - 7/10

Unsettling neo noir / horror that defies expectations at every turn. The choice to shoot in black and white is a stylistic one - evoking the remote pastoral eeriness of Night of the Hunter - and the DOP gets some beautiful shots. But It's also a plot device: creating certain ambiguities in interpretation and keeping you in the dark about exactly when and where the movie is set - it gives it a sort of timeless quality.

Raw - 8/10

Gleefully visceral body horror which follows Justine's freshman year at veterinary school. After a particularly vicious hazing, Justine starts to explore her identity, going from wallflower to hellraiser, in a way that recalls De Palma's genre classic, Carrie. There's a rich vein of jet black humour in this, which is meat and drink to the French. Also some surprisingly tender moments amid the carnage, with musings on feminine identity and coming of age.

Dearest Sister - 5/10

A bit of misfire for me. The central idea of lottery-number-whispering ghosts just seemed too ridiculous. I'm told this is a thing in Laos but I didn't find it made for a particularly creepy or effective ghost story. If anything, it detracted from the more interesting examination of class conflict and the tensions created by Westernization; the rapid rise of aspirational material culture in urban areas.

The Wailing - 9/10

Memories of Murder meets The Exorcist, with a splash of Gu! Complex and sprawling, it's a weird and wild ride. It moves from quirky police procedural and murder mystery through to occult horror, going from comedy at the start to full blown darkness by the end, taking in questions of faith - both personal and institutional - along the way. It's not a straight transition though; even in Jong-Goo's darkest hour, some humour is allowed to seep through. I particularly liked 'rake-head' and the way the shaman, Il-Gwang, appears on Jong-Goo's mobile phone with caller ID "Shaman".

The significant tonal shifts in this movie might threaten to destabilize the whole thing if it wasn't so deftly handled. Great performances all round and the cinematography is excellent throughout - some spectacular scenes, particularly the parallel ceremonies of Il-Gwang and The Stranger (which is also an exercise in the fine art of misdirection). As the film picks up pace towards the end, the twists pile up and you're never sure which way it's going to go, keeping you on the edge of your seat right to the end. For such a long film, it fairly flies by!

I had thought Train To Busan might be the crowning achievement of Korean genre cinema this year but I think this one probably tops it. It's the second film I've seen from Hong-jin Na, following his impressively brutal debut feature The Chaser. I really want to check out his other film, The Yellow Sea, now as well.

Callback - 8/10

Hinges on an outstanding central performance from relative newcomer Martin Bacigalupo - in Larry De Cecco, he creates a character that will not easily be forgotten by anyone who sees this film. From the outset, it's clear there is something jarringly 'off' about aspiring actor Larry. His manner of speaking is strangely stilted and his eyes never smile, fired instead by an incessant inner rage. His interactions with other people betray a lack of empathy and interest - it's almost as if he's just imitating being human. Imitation is a major theme in the film. Bacigalupo pulls off the trick of playing a character playing at being someone else (literally, as he's an illegal immigrant in New York with a fake ID, but also figuratively - it's apparent early on that Larry is psychologically disturbed, so his imitation of American idiom isn't just his struggle to master a foreign language but a struggle to present the face of normality to the world, which often fails alarmingly.)

It's a film with a great sense of place, presenting a grimy, down-at-heel New York, far away from the bright lights - this is the New York he inhabits and strives to transcend. The classic shot of Manhattan across the water is always an unreachable, distant utopia of wealth and power and I think in that sense, the film deals with the damaging influence of the American Dream as a psychic blueprint - a twisted version of which drives Larry to do what he does.

Not an easy watch by any means, but the darkness is leavened by some hilarious dialogue (as well as starring, the screenplay was written by Bacigalupo), mostly centered around Larry intoning catchphrases from commercials he's auditioning for with his hollow-voiced deadpan delivery. The end is cleverly timed and finishes on just the right note, but I still felt short changed: as loathsome as De Cecco is, he's also utterly compelling. The film scooped best film, actor and screenplay awards at Malaga and it's not hard to see why.

The Void - 2/10

A huge disappointment, given this was one of the films I had been looking forward to most prior to the festival (admittedly, mainly on the back of the poster!) I don't think it has an original bone in its body, liberally ripping off Hellraiser, The Thing and Phantasm among others. There's a fine line between homage and pastiche and this one falls decidedly the wrong side of that line. It's like the film-makers had a bunch of ideas for cool scenes and hoped if they just threw them all together it would somehow work. Sadly it doesn't. There are numerous loose ends, nonsensical plot points and poorly drawn characters who you don't care a jot for. It's also tiresomely conventional as a horror film, recycling well-worn tropes without coherence or invention, before dragging itself like one of the mad doctor's blasted creations to a risible conclusion.

Phantasm: Remastered - 8/10

An old master shows the apprentice how it's actually done. Endlessly quirky and inventive horror sci-fi... death by flying silver ball is especially entertaining! We saw the new remaster, restored from a 4K scan of the original film and presumably (hopefully!) tied to a major blu ray release. Like a number of the audience, it was my first time seeing Phantasm - and my introduction to Don Coscarelli, who was there in person for the Q&A and seemed like a thoroughly nice guy - but it definitely won't be my last! Just a trip from start to finish with a fantastic soundtrack, that was something like the lovechild of John Carpenter and Goblin.
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Re: LFF 2016 Roundup

Post by sherbetbizarre »

Many thanks for the roundup!

The only one I saw was Paul Verhoeven's French thriller ELLE, with a great performance from Isabelle Huppert, who carries on with her life after a violent rape as if nothing happened rather than call the police. Her actions are certainly head-scratching at times, and a few people seemed nonplussed at the whole thing afterwards, but it's a film that certainly stays with you afterwards and gets you thinking, 8/10.
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Re: LFF 2016 Roundup

Post by ian »

I came along for Raw since I will miss it at Celluloid Screams, didnt like it much. Found it all too obvious and understood zero of the characters' choices or reactions, right from the outset.
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