Tonight’s secret screening was Cloud Atlas, which I reviewed in full from TIFF. A secret screening means something different to me than it does to everyone else. To most people it’s forbidden fruit they finally get to taste. For me I just have to be there if it’s something new to report on, but most likely confirm that I’ve already covered it. Release dates mean nothing in my world. But here are three more Fantastic Fest movies and a bunch of worthwhile shorts.
This short that played before Errors of the Human Body (see below) is a feature quality film save for its length. No wonder it aired on Futurestates.tv in a professional context. It’s a sci-fi story set in a future where the education system is exclusive and a single mom can’t keep her job past a certain age. This mother (Jacqueline Kim) works for a company developing a transplant procedure to put a person in a younger body, so she volunteers thinking it will improve her job prospects to pay for her daughter’s school. Heady stuff, right? The script by director Jennifer Phang illustrates this world through the characters it affects. There are minimal visual effects with a hologram (James Urbaniak), otherwise the focus is on the future ethics and moral disparities of the education and gender politics. All the actors are giving feature quality performances, and they’re pros we’ve seen before. These are no local friends doing a favor for an aspiring director. This is a high-class production and I’d love to see more from Phang.
Come Out and Play
This remake has a strong premise and reasonable execution but doesn’t really stand out. Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Beth (Vinessa Shaw) wind up vacationing on an island empty save for murderous children and a few traumatized adult survivors. It’s fertile ground for suspense and an impossible survival situation, because how could you kill a child even in self-defense? Indeed the original film was called Who Can Kill a Child. But also, you know, Children of the Corn. Come Out and Play is rather slow though, less in a slow build way and more in a padding it out because this is all we’ve got. Also the characters are kind of idiots. Beth is seven months pregnant, which causes a problem when she’s running from killers, but also some unearned sympathy. Why would you travel at all, let alone to far reaching destinations, in such a fragile state? Your’e asking for a movie miscarriage. The actors are good and it’s a high-class grown-up thriller, not some slasher knockoff. It’s just not great is all.
Errors of the Human Body
Michael Eklund rightfully won a Best Actor Award in the Next Wave competition for his performance in this film. Eklund plays Geoffrey, a scientist working on a cure for the disease that killed his infant son, costing him his marriage. It’s a slow burn but always compelling exploring the German science lab where he’s working. His potential love interest Rebekka (Karoline Herfurtl) and a competing researcher Jarek (Tomas Lemarquis) provide fascinating lab talk, and keep things accessible so we’re happy to wait for Geoffrey to crack. Eklund gives a subtle, moving performance, and he cracks real good. Director Eron Sheean crafts a mature script and complex characters along with co-writer Shane Danielsen. The science is thematically tied to the characters’ emotions, which is the best kind of sci-fi.
Boy, some of the short films in the shorts programs and preceding features are really feature quality work. Standouts in this collection include Bio-Cop, perfect satire of ‘80s horror/action like Maniac Cop and Robocop with great gross-out makeup effects and degraded video from Astron-6. Tea Party is a funny naughty puppet movie with great puppetry, and Hell Cat is another laugh with a well-trained cat with a CGI mouth. But taking it to the next level, Record/Play is a beautiful, elegant time travel script by director Jesse Atlas. The German horror film Spitzendeckchen looks beautiful with rich production design and color pallet. Even Sudd has well done animation and black and white photography, even if I wasn’t into the story of erasing animation from your skin. But vravo to Fantastic Fest for really finding some high class shorts to exhibit.
I was going to skip this movie because I was so turned off by the premise, but enough people told me it was great that I gave it a chance. It turned out to be only okay, which was still better than I thought it would be. When I heard it was about a loser who tries to fix a criminal situation and only makes things worse, I thought that’s the story of every botched crime movie. F*** Up is a little better than that. It’s not smug about any perfect plan if only this one guy didn’t screw things up. It’s a solid drama with a little good action. Also, to be fair, I’m pretty exhausted by now. Maybe I would have liked it even more if I’d seen it fresh. Jack (Jon Oigarden) is supposed to be the f*** up because his plans always fail but I think Rasmussen (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) is a f*** up for leaving his drugs lying around where the cops can find them. But then, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if he got busted. Drugs are bad. You shouldn’t do drugs.