With all the hype and expectations that have been snowballing during the past fifty-one weeks, Fantastic Fest delivered with an amazing trio of films on opening night. You couldn't have found three more diverse films that defined the essence of what Fantastic Fest is all about. We saw the latest film from a living legend, a Spanish newbie's first born, and a mind-blowing Korean animation movie that stabbed your senses like needles.
If it were only one night I could depart feeling joyously satisfied and honored to have witnessed such a trio of films in one evening.
But Fantastic Fest is not just one night. In fact it's eight (including screenings during the day). I've got seven more jaw-jarring, mind-blowing, ass-kicking, hair-raising films to experience and I absolutely can't wait to get back to my seat.
So what was on the menu last night?
The festival kicked off with George A. Romero's new zombie flick entitled DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007). The buzz I was hearing on this one was mixed but that didn't damper my excitement to witness another undead creation from the godfather of the living dead. To sweeten the deal, Romero was there live in person and was the usual charmer I've known him to be.
DIARY OF THE DEAD was one of the better zombisploitation movies I've seen in awhile. It's much smaller in scope and budget but that is at the heart of its charm. It had a very authentic feel to it while still remaining alarmingly scary. I wasn't the biggest fan of Romero's last picture LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) so it was nice to walk away from this one thinking, "Ya, he's still got it."
Romero was there to give a Q&A afterwards and although Tim League got on the audiences' case about coming up with lame questions George managed to salvage a very enlightening and entertaining discussion.
My favorite film of the night was the second feature of the trio. It was a Spanish film called CRONOCRIMENES or TIMECRIMES (2007). The director Nacho Vigalondo was in attendance as well. He opened the screening by admitting this was his very first feature film. Prior to his feature film directorial debut, he had directed a short film entitled 7:35 IN THE MORNING (2003) that had garnered an Academy Award™ Nomination. He also admitted that they just finished the movie less than a week ago so we were literally the first people to see the film. Not even the cast and crew had yet seen it. Very cool!
The film was the pure example of what makes Fantastic Fest so great. It's a little known film that probably won't get seen (hopefully it will!) by too many audiences in the USA yet it's masterfully directed, exquisitely written, with performances which sell every frame. It's a time-traveling caper that has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat through the entire eighty-eight minutes. It was smart and very cool at the same time. Although there's many many films yet to see, this one is my favorite so far.
"An animated film from director Joe Beom-jin about a futuristic world powered entirely by human feces. With the government anxious to control this sole, important source of energy, they install special sensors on its citizens' anuses to monitor production, while controlling the populace by distributing addictive popsicles called "Juicybars."
Think that sounds weird? You have no idea. This was a very cool, savory, explosive, dynamic, violent, perverse, macabre, and unmitigatedly bizarre film. Once again, this film hallmarks what makes Fantastic Fest so incredible. This is a film that I would not have been likely to see outside of an event like Fantastic Fest.
Did I like it? Yes. But I'm not really sure why. It's just so mind-blowing. The animation is surreal. It's highly stylized and very artistically executed. The story is a tad thin but what do you expect from a world rewarding defecation with mind-altering "juicybars." Isn't that enough to sustain a ninety minute film. Apparently it was because I was glued to every frame. I couldn't blink. I was mesmerized while being flogged with thoughts of "What the hell am I seeing?"
For a cinema connoisseur like myself to have an experience like that is priceless.
Here is a different trailer than the one I posted last night. This is the official Fantastic Fest trailer for the film that has been playing at Alamo Drafthouse theaters for the past few weeks.
Tonight I've got another trio of films to wallow in. I'm sure they're all going to be as amazing as last night's lineup. I already can't wait. Get me to my seat!