Fear Me Not (Den Du Frygter, 2008) – [rate 3.5]
I didn’t score this movie as well at the festival, for a simple reason: it’s not really a fantastic film. Sure enough, it’s about the world as we perceive it and how our perception of it shapes our reality. But isn’t any drama with an intro-spective main character? You could compare this one to Special, but that one has a fantastic theme to itself, even if you take the drugs and their effects out of the equation. Fear me Not doesn’t but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Quite the opposite in fact, it’s engaging, well-paced and has a cool style about it that reminded me of Haneke movies.
The story is kept small and plays out in few locations, with a focus on the characters and their changing situation. A good story about grief and growth, this one is recommended for anyone with a taste for gloomy scandinavian drama.
Dante 01 (2008) – [rate 4.0]
Think French mashup of Cube and the Fountain with an odd Christ-theme and you’re probably pretty close to Dante 01. In a remote space station, prisoners of the worst kind volunteer to be guinea pigs for experimental drugs, to escape a death sentence. An original premise for sure, but it works ok and the actors perform well enough to prevent you from being distracted by such incongruity with reality.
The story may come across as somewhat unsatisfactory, especially once you see the ending, but it actually makes sense in a metaphorical sense if you give it some time to simmer and stew in your mind. Clever and novel, I liked it a lot, but I’m certain it’s not for everyone. Don’t go and see this if you expect to see some Event Horizon action and fx. Do see it if you’re into stuff like Solyaris or Pi. (though truth be told, Marc Caro isn’t a Tarkovsky or Aronofsky just yet)
Embodiment of Evil (2008) – [rate 2.5]
You either love it or hate it, no middle ground, though loving it doesn’t make it a good film. That much is safe to say about this hommage to the B-movie days of actors like Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price. The devil is about to be released from prison and when he gets back to his dungeon, he is welcomed by his gothic followers and gratuitous sex and violence ensues.
It’s like a Dario Argento and Ed Wood mashup and unless you enjoy watching movies of either (or rather both), you’re probably better off giving this one a pass. Suffice it to say it made me chuckle and remember the good old days, whereas it made my girlfriend hurl and spit with anger at time wasted.
Chemical Wedding (2008) – [rate 2.5]
All through Chemical Wedding, I had a feeling of “for television”. A TV movie, but a very good one at that. Decent actors, nice locations, a strong – if somewhat eccentric – episode of a british crime mystery series perhaps. The overall premise isn’t all that original and the logic of the story is full of holes, but that hardly ever stops horror movie directors.
What’s missing in Chemical Wedding is real mystery, threat or excitement. The story unfolds, but there is hardly anything to be anxious about and that’s sort of the point of a thriller or horror movie. And since this doesn’t succeed in being either, it is sort of a tame supernatural drama, which may be the one genre with even fewer good movies in it than black-and-white space opera western musicals.
Stingray Sam (2009) – [rate 3.5]
Most of what’s really great about Stingray Sam was already featured in American Astronaut, which was one of my favourites in a previous edition of the AFFF. Still, the movie takes this zany universe of cowboy astronauts a step further and blends in Terry Gilliam-like animations to help the story along.
The movie was shot as a six-part series, intended for broadcasting on mobile phones. The quality of the images does nothing to betray this fact, everything looks crisp and ready for the theatre, but the pacing of each episode is clearly geared to keep the attention of the instant message-generation.
As black-and-white space opera western musicals come, this one has to be one of the best. It’s genuinely funny and though the style may seem a bit childish in some scenes, the humour certainly isn’t and its fake innocence only serves to increase the estranging effect of the setting and the utterly unlikely story.
The plot really doesn’t even matter all that much, it’s not what keeps your attention on the screen. This movie/series is about being transported to another universe, in every possible way, even though there’s a lot to recognize. Recommended for anyone with a sense of humour.
Strange Girls (2007) – [rate 2.5]
Considering the low budget debut for what it is, Strange Girls isn’t bad. The actors aren’t horrible, but not exactly smooth professionals either. The story is a patchwork of cool ideas, but sadly more often than not stolen from other movies. There is a difference between a quote or an hommage and plain theft and the writer and director of this movie seem to be oblivious to such differences.
If you don’t watch a lot of movies, or if you have been living in a cave for the past 20 years, Strange Girls might actually seem like the promising debut with some interesting ideas, but the only asset of this film that is its own is the basic plot. Two sisters, identical twins, live life as one, refusing to communicate with their surroundings.
Disconnected from life and the world by choice and only communicating by letter and by reading books, they live in a fantasy world with each other as the only party worthy of conversation. The story uses their isolation as a fair enough excuse for some socially unacceptable behaviour, but after a good start the story starts to run out of ideas and even shows some of the ideas that would have been better left out.
Seventh Moon (2008) – [rate 2.0]
Set in China and focussing on a newly wed couple, using their honeymoon to visit the groom’s family, the movie start off well enough, although the couple seemed more like two people on their third date than newly wed (or on a collision course with divorce). They happen to arrive on the day of a festival, not unlike traditional Halloween and getting lost in the countryside on that particular night turns out to be a very bad idea.
Having the whole affair shot in shakeycam, fairly lousy acting and poor grime don’t help the movie. A plodding plot also serves to diminish any potential it may have had. The end result is a fairly pointless movie, with some vague life lessons about sacrifice but you won’t miss a lot if you don’t go and see it.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) – [rate 3.5]
The opening sequence for this Asian Western (Eastern?) is really strong and worth seeing even if you don’t have time to see the whole thing. From there on, a really good western unfolds with lots of familiar spaghetti western material, with Asian-style fighting, weapons and motorcycles added in for good measure. The characters fit the style and no excuse for a fight feels forced, though obviously there’s a lot of fighting all the same.
The only real downside to the movie is the illogical sequence of events leading up to the ending. The ending scene itself is actually pretty good, but the first few minutes of it leave you wondering what just happened and why it isn’t happening anymore.
The violence is a bit more graphic than you might expect from a western, but then most of the ones you know were shot in or before the 80’s, so I guess that’s just a sign of the times. The addition of all the Manchurian attributes to the typical western fare works really well. Watching gunfights interspersed with martial arts, watching horses chase motorcycles and vice versa and having both steam trains and jeeps with mortars in the mix never really breaks immersion and makes for a nice spectacle.
A bit too long perhaps and with a bit too much repetition as a result, but overall recommended for whoever likes westerns. Maybe even more so because this genre really belongs in Asia to begin with (think Seven Samurai).
Edison and Leo (2008) – [rate 2.5]
The animation is right on target, the characters have plenty of character and the story isn’t just straightforward in this animation movie. Some scenes looked a little rushed and reminded me of Robot Chicken episode, but even that didn’t detract from the overall movie. So why the low rating?
Well, there really is no point in watching this well-made movie. It’s not a nice family picture, since there is some seriously graphic violence and sexual material in it that makes it unfit for the young. But the story doesn’t have the depth, background or sufficiently rich ideas to recommend it to your friends, more so since you’ll be sending them to see stop-motion animated puppets.
If such a movie is to succeed, it needs to tell a good story in an inspired setting like Strings (2004). Or it needs to have memorable and loveable characters like Wallace and Gromit (1995). Policital satire also works, as in Team America: World Police. But Edison and Leo is a somewhat simple story about the unknown (and fictional) side of Edison and his family background.
It’s well-made, with nice effects, sound and voice-acting, but I really can’t think of a reason to go see it and I would only recommend it if you really like animation or if you don’t care about brutality and (mild) sex in the movies your kids watch. They might learn something…
Book of Blood (2008) – [rate 1.5]
I happen to be a fan of some of the work of Clive Barker. And even though I like his fantasy (like Weaveworld or Imagica) better, I do greatly appreciate his horror (Cabal, The Great and Secret Show). Book of Blood is some of his old work and fits right in with the material in movies like Hellraiser (1987) and Nightbreed (1990). But Book of Blood misses the mark rather severely.
The chemistry between the characters just isn’t there. And the special effects serve to do nothing but repeat the point of the movie, that has already been made 4 times in dialogue. I’ll spoil it here, since someone already says it in the opening sequence. The dead have highways, the highways intersect and at some of these crossroads, the dead spill over into our world.
A female researcher, with some experiences in her past, writes about the paranormal and has her eyes on some haunted house. She meets an apparently psychically gifted student and they end up in the house, along with one of her colleagues. Drama ensues, the dead walk and it all ends predictably.
Only if you really like Barker’s stuff and don’t mind sitting out a poor plot and aren’t expecting amazing effects would you want to watch this movie. Nothing sparkles, but I suppose it isn’t a real bomb either. It would have been better if it had been made just like this in the 80’s, where it really belongs, considering the competition it has to live up to nowadays.