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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Film Reviews - Fantastic Fest Round Up - Day 2

By Adam Ruhl

Well the first full day of the festival has come and gone and I am exhausted. It's only going to get busier from here, but Friday was jammed packed with great films. Let's get right to them.

We Are What We Are

A suspense masterpiece from the director of Stakeland Jim Mickle; this film about a family with an unusual religious practice is beautifully shot and written. I was captivated by the twists and found myself cringing at all the right moments. In tone I equate it with Silence of the Lambs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think this film is going to draw a lot of attention when it finally is released. It’s a remake of a 2010 Mexican film but quickly diverges off on its own path. We Are What We Are is a really great chiller that left me haunted.


Escape from Tomorrow

There’s been a lot of hype around Escape, mostly stemming from covert shooting in “the happiest place on earth” and the “will they, won’t they take legal action” thrill. Escape was not at all what I was expecting from the trailer, less surreal and more straight forward “bad dad” humor to it. It was still an enjoyable movie with a lot of laughs and good performances all round. My advice is see the movie regardless, but if you can see it before it’s wide release. The experience benefits from the guilty pleasure that you’re watching something that might ultimately be taken away.


Grand Piano

Actor, hobbit, and Fantastic Fest fanatic Elijah Wood had the world premiere of his new film Grand Piano at Fantastic Fest on Friday. The film follows a concert pianist trying to make a big comeback five years after freezing up mid performance. During the concert he is faced by an assassin who has a laser scope pointed on him and threatens to shoot him if he plays any wrong notes during the concert. This was a taught, amazing film and a must see. At several points in the movie the festival audience broke out into applause, I kid you not, from the edge of their seats. During the Q&A after the director revealed that just today Magnolia picked the film up for US distribution so look for it soon.  Yes, right now the trailer only seems to be available dubbed in Spanish, you'll still get the feel.


Witching and Bitching

This is the unusual American release title for the Spanish film The Witches of Zugarramurdi (translated). Witching is just starting to play the American festival circuit so I’m not sure when or if it will become widely available. I caught it at a midnight showing and thought it was a lot of fun. The plot follows a group of men post-jewelry heist who are trying to escape to France. Similar to From Dusk Til Dawn on their way they end up in the midst of a bunch of monsters, this version though has witches instead of vampires. In the small town of Zugarramurdi they encounter a coven and have to fight for their lives before they’re eaten. It’s a comedy with a lot of energy and all the actors going way over the top. Hopefully this gets a US release because it’s a really fun gross-out horror-comedy.



Detective Downs

The title is politically incorrect but the film itself walks the line between being offensive and being true to the protagonist’s world. Robert Bogerud is a man with downs syndrome who works as a private investigator. After much trouble finding a case he is approached by a woman whose husband has gone missing. The story is well crafted and the actor playing Robert (Svein André Hofsø Myhre) does a fine job with the character but there’s too much humor based on his condition for comfort. That along with characters using multiple variations of the word ‘mongoloid’ made for an uncomfortable experience at times. I would still recommend this Norwegian film for Svein’s strong comic sensibility.

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