Review: Don Wraps Up Fantasia 2017

 

So, the time has come and the Fantasia Festival 2017 is now over, with this being the last day of movies being screened; so let’s take a look at several of the films premiered during the course of the festivals’ run:

 

Punk Fu Zombie
Announcing his presence with a vengeance, Canadian filmmaker Gabriel Claveau has provided his first feature film as a decidedly overt homage to a host of glorious B-films of the past as is widely evident in Punk Fu Zombie. Bravely mixing sharp political commentary with the splattery B-movie glory days of the past, the film shows all the signs of being a classic in the hallowed circles of it’s own insulated fandom.

Hochelaga, Quebec, Canada, 2048. It’s been over 20 years since Quebec finally gained independence through the efforts of a movement led by the powerful Charles Maurice (Stéphane Messier). His eventual rise to Prime Minister, however, may not have been all that legal. This major political upheaval will shake up the social classes and bring out demonic creatures that attack the population. One man will become the beacon of peace amongst the chaos overtaking this new country. That man is Zach (Xavier Dumontier) Charles’s son, an irresponsible bum who becomes the leader of an elite team whose mission is to re-establish peace between the ninjas, punks and rat-people who are trying to survive this zombie infestation. Growing up during this adventure, Zach will quickly discover that the enemies aren’t necessarily who they seem and that his dad may not be the messiah he built himself up to be.

Frankly, this one wasn’t all that bad but doesn’t really have all that much to really like. One of the best aspects here is the enthusiasm this one dives into the material with, coming with the idea of the zombie invasion and a post-apocalyptic storyline all set alongside some rather nice social commentary concerning the government’s treatment of the citizens. That does manage to get some great zombie action here with the troops encountering them out in the wilderness and the big final showdown where the true threat leads the remaining zombies against the last troops left which really allows this one to wallow in plenty of silly special effects featuring all the limbs being ripped off, the blood spurting in streams and splashing all over the place while the terrible CGI for the laser blasts, explosions and other inclusions make for a fun time with the inherent goofiness of it all. The fact that this one is so goofy and silly might be an issue for some, and along with the really troublesome final half that seems to wander through way too many ideas without the budget to cover it all, this one does get lowered because of these issues yet doesn’t really detract it all that much.

Punk Fu Zombie had it’s premiere screening July 18, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.

2/5 Zombie Heads

 

 

 

Kodoku Meatball Machine
One of the biggest names in the underground Japanese splatter scene, director Yoshihiro Nishimura has crafted a career for himself directing or providing the effects for a slew of over-the-top, high-energy exploitation affairs that mix bizarre imagery, cyberpunk ideals and messy, grotesque splatter effects. His newest directorial effort, Kodoku: Mîtobôru mashin, or known internationally as Kodoku Meatball Machine, is a worthy sequel to the original film that kickstarted the Japanese splatter genre.

Lonely Yuji Noba (Youji Tanaka, from “Kill Bill 1 & 2”) only wants to gain the affection of bookkeeper Kaoru Mita (Yurisa.) who he sees everyday. Struggling in his job, he soon finds his life complicated by the arrival of a strange alien ship in the Tokyo sky. Shortly afterward, the ship releases a strange organism into the city which starts to turn the citizens into a mixture of human and insectoid alien beings who begin to tear both each other and the unturned citizens to pieces in gory fashion. Himself partly turned due to the cancer in his body keeping him from being a full-on creature, he decides to fight off the creatures in order to save the woman he loves who is still left alive in the city.

Frankly, this is one of the craziest and most bizarre films in Nishimura’s catalog. Much like the original, this one trades on a never-ending series of utterly extreme, over-the-top gore gags that are just insane, focusing on the prosthetic effects for the cyborg creatures which are as colorful, unique and creative as can be expected. The deformed creatures, a fantastic mixture of cybernetic alien parts over their human frame which results in some utterly unique and downright bizarre deformities that pile on the screen with such ravenous creativity that it really prevents this one from ever dragging or featuring any kind of lull. As well, that it features some of the craziest, most jaw-dropping action scenes that ever occurred that are filled to the brim with some great gore-gags throughout here which provides plenty of high-intensity delirious thrills. The main issue here is that there’s such a nonsensical and confusing ending tacked on where it shows the bizarre alien infomercial gives this a rather obvious tonal shift that’s rather a downer to end this on. Beyond this, there’s not much to dislike here.

Kodoku Meatball Machine had it’s premiere screening July 21, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.

4.5/5 Zombie Heads

 

 

 

Broken Sword Hero
It should be noted from the very beginning that this is clearly a vehicle for 4-time Muay Thai champion Buakau Banchamek, as he employs so much screentime here that director Bin Bunluerit is not at fault for committing to him as the country’s next Tony Jaa. An absolutely close call does come here, but it’s not for trying as this Thai effort, Thong Dee Fun Kao or Broken Sword Hero, brings his skills to the forefront considerably.

During the Ayothaya period, young Joi (Buakau Banchamek, from “The Sword of Ayothaya”) finds himself continually at odds with Cherd, (Nantawut Boonrubsub) the governor’s son who continually beats him down. By the time he’s reached the age of adulthood, their battles are now so one-sided that Cherd commissions an entire army to help him deal with his enemy and forces him into hiding deep in the jungles of Thailand where he changes his name to Thong Dee to avoid his captors. Training with various masters of the craft, he learns various forms of Muay Thai which enhance his skills to the point of him being able to take on his age-old enemy one last time for the fate of the country.

In terms of being a showcase for Banchamek’s Muay Thai skills, this one certainly works exceptionally well. His continuous fighting, from the opening montages showing him beating up the guards or other fighters around the villages, the forest battle when he saves the traveling camp under attack or the spectacular final battle that forces all his skills to be put to the test, the amount of full-contact martial arts prowess on display here is rather fun. The story is basically an extension for allowing that to happen as being constantly trailed and letting the fights develop from the army on his every step, but it draws up a distressing plot point. This develops into going from one boxing camp, spars with the master’s best student as an audition, trains, gets into a bigger fight and then moves on to the next one in order to save them which gives this an incredibly scattershot story. Granted, you’re supposed to be focusing on his throwing elbows into peoples’ faces or kicking someone in the stomach those themself are somewhat disappointing by the fact that there’s way too much slow-motion during these scenes which does lower their impact only slightly since there’s still a lot to like about this one overall in spite of these issues.

The effort screened July 23, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.

3.5/5 Zombie Heads

 

 

 

The Night Watchmen
After a minor departure away from the genre, Mitchell Altieri, one-half of the popular late-2000s horror directing duo The Butcher Brothers alongside Phil Flores, finally returns to the genre once again with the spectacular horror comedy The Night Watchman. Offering plenty of humor alongside it’s horror-based thrills, the acclaimed effort finds itself a part of the prestigious Fantasia Festival.

Just starting a new job, ‘Rajeeve’ (Max Grey Wilbur, from ‘Thrill Kill’) joins up with the other night-watchmen in his stead, Ken (Ken Arnold, from ‘Lovely Molly’) Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts, from ‘Law & Order: SVU’) and Luca (Dan De Luca, from ‘Crazy Eights’) to work the nightshift at a local warehouse. When they receive a strange casket delivery by accident, the inept group finds that a series of strange incidents around them has them convinced something strange is going on, and it soon dawns on the group that a gang of clowns killed in an overseas accident have been turned into vicious vampires and begun feeding on the staff. Soon, with only Karen (Kara Luiz, from ‘Jerks with Cameras’) left alive with them, they must band together to save the city from the vampire threat.

This was quite the entertaining vampire-based comedy. This does have a great sense of comedy with the group being so inept and lazy that it really provides some nice laughs that really carries throughout the whole film once they become involved with the vampires. Letting this one stay trapped in the warehouse and featuring plenty of encounters that are rather nice and bloody, this one moves along rather nicely with a pronounced threat that still has a lot of laughs. The vampires are vicious and aggressive, giving this the kind of imposing threat that’s at the forefront of the film and also provides this one with some nice bloodshed as well. There’s a few flaws to be found, starting with a few rather lame gags and storylines that don’t need to be there because the film is so short and doesn’t really stand-out all that much. However, there’s not a whole lot else to really hold this one down.

The Night Watchman premiered on the festival screens August 2, 2017.

4/5 Zombie Heads

 

Review: Dead Man Tells His Own Tale (Fantasia 2017)

It’s hard for a horror film to be a comedy, while keeping all of its horror aspects intact throughout. If you have too much of one, you lose some of the other. Even harder then, is to balance these two genres and make the entire film be a commentary on sexism and misogyny in the modern world while not taking away from the experience by pushing that angle too far either. Yet, I found myself surprised by the deft touch, thematic balancing, and care put into this movie.

 

 

Dead Man Tells His Own Tale is directed by Fabián Forte, co-written with Nicolás Britos; the film stars Diego Gentile, Mariana Anghileri, and Emilia Attías. Fabian stars as Angel Barrios, a sleazy advertising director who is big and important enough to get what he wants. He uses his position to sleep with the women who roles, holding this double standard to his wife despite her wanting an open relationship. He’s a scummy douchebag who eventually gets what’s coming to him when he’s killed by women who turn out to be Celtic Banshees, and resurrect him as their zombified slave to do their bidding. Now the tables are turned, and women are completely in charge of him and his life.

 

Despite him being enslaved, the rules set upon him actually make him a better person. He can no longer lie to woman, he can no use foul language to them, and interestingly enough, there’s a scene where he seems to understand exactly what his wife is feeling about him as a husband and a person, and she hilariously freaks out know that everything the Angel she knows would never, ever say something so touching and heartfelt. It’s makes for a interesting dynamic throughout when he’s presented with situations he’s faced before, but can only go about them in ways he never has. There are some hilarious scenes later on when Angel meets other men enslaved by the coven as well, and the interplay between them is a huge laugh. Towards the end, the film starts to get more into the horror aspects of things when the coven starts to carry out their plans. The Banshees are legitimately terrifying, and I wish there were more of them in the film. The only big gripe with this film is the ending, in which everything just abruptly ends. The whole movie led to the final moments, and when the moment comes, it just happens and then the credits roll. It’s a very vague, ambiguous ending that’s open to interpretation. Despite it being somewhat hopeful, it could have transitioned smoother.

 

Dead Man Tell His Own Tale is a smart and funny film that has a lot to say about today’s sexism and misogyny, while keeping itself grounded in it’s horror and comedy roots. The characters are fun, the situations are hilarious and it’s commentary on today’s world is done with deft touches. This film has a lot of heart and love poured into it, and it should be commended for that. It doesn’t have a definitive answer for the imbalances and injustice people face and are discriminated for, but it leaves the door open to discussion and interpretation.

 

3.5/5 Zombie Heads

 

Review: Dead Shack (Fantasia 2017)

 

 

Filmmaker/Musician Peter Ricq, known for his work on the animated shows The League of Super Evil as well as Freaktown where he worked with fellow filmmaker/writers Phil Ivanusic-Vallee and Davila LeBLanc, now tries his hand at live-action horror fare for his first feature, Dead Shack. Aimed at mixing dark comedy with big horror themes, the film shares its festival run with the prestigious Fantasia International Film Festival.

Taking a relaxing trip to the woods, a young kid joining his best friends’ family on a camping vacation in the wilderness finds their next-door neighbor is keeping a cannibalistic secret with her and must find a way to force their parents to believe them in order to get away alive.

 

 

For the most part, this here wasn’t all that bad of an effort. One of the more impressive elements here is the rather fun action that pops up, as this delivers some rather fun and enjoyable action scenes that come off quite nicely. Giving this one some solid gore from the unique and novel methods of dealing with the zombified creatures, these scenes make this one highly interesting as well as providing this one with plenty of solid, genuine laughs that come from the solid cast. They give this one a lot of it’s warmth and charm, which is what makes this one the overall appeal by having a lot to like overall by having the friendly banter between everyone and going for the joke is what causes this to be as funny as it is. There’s a few pacing issues to be had and the low-budget nature of the shoot does crop up at times where the darkness creeps in a little too much to make the film hard to make out what’s happening, but overall there’s still plenty to enjoy here.

You can catch the film’s premiere screening at the Fantasia Festival July 22, 2017

4/5 Zombie Heads

 

 

Interview: Peter Ricq (Dead Shack, Fantasia 2017)

The Don interviews the director of Dead Shack, Peter Ricq.

 

 

DA: Hello, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. What can you tell us about your new film Dead Shack?

PR: Dead Shack is a Horror film with a lot of comedy moments in the vein of Evil Dead 2, An American Werewolf in London, Reanimator and Fright Night.

DA: Where did the inspiration for the film come from? Where there any unique stories about it’s conception?

PR: I was trying to develop these 80 million dollar movies for many years and knew that it was never going to happen. After watching the Fright Night remake in theatres, it reminded me how much fun those types of movies were and how they affected me as a child. I remembered how many small horror films were some of my favourite films of all time and that I’ve watched them over and over again growing up. I went home and wrote the outline to Dead Shack in three days, did nothing else and wrote it knowing that I wanted very little locations and few characters like Evil Dead 2.

DA: How did you come to be attached to the project? Was this something you always wanted to do or were you brought on board later on?

PR: Quite the opposite, I was the one trying to get people attached to the project. It was never easy. Each step was a battle, no one wanted to be involved and so I worked harder to prove to people that that is something worth making.

DA: Coming from a heavy background in animated fare, was it a big step going to a live-action feature?

PR: I started doing live action music videos since 2007 for my bands HUMANS, Gang Signs and Ladyfrnd. The goal was always to learn on these music videos so that one day I could make the jump to a feature live action film.

DA: Did having your partners from the animated series involved in this film make for a smooth transition?

PR: Phil and Dav are my creative partners. We work on almost everything together and trust one another so it was always the plan to have them work on Dead Shack with me. It’s easy because we’ve done so many projects together since we met in university.

DA: Being a live-action film, did you come across any unexpected hardships while shooting the movie?

PR: Yeah, the cold was horrible. That was probably the worst, also the rain and mud where all the cars got stuck oh and then the snow.

DA: Were there any fun on-set stories about the filming that were especially memorable?

PR: There’s a lot of shots in the film where people had to step in as the kids because we couldn’t have them on set anymore. It was fun to have everyone play the kids at one point or another and in the end, you can’t even tell in the film.

DA: Now that the film is coming to film festivals, what’s the expected timeframe that others will be able to see this?

PR: I think it’ll be around Halloween but don’t quote me on that.

DA:. Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with our readers?

PR: Yeah, lots. HUMANS is releasing new videos and music leading up to a new album next year and so is Gang Signs. I’m finishing the sequel to Once Our Land. We are turning Once Our Land into a feature animated film. I am finishing a script to a Vampire Movie similar to Dead Shack. Phil, Dav and I are working on several other horror films one that is a hybrid between dazed and confused and The Thing. So yeah, lots to come!

 

 

 

Review: The Night of the Virgin (Fantasia 2017)

 

Getting off the ground rather quickly, La noche del virgen/The Night of the Virgin, the debut feature from Spanish filmmaker Roberto San Sebastián, manages to combine all his influences into one screwball effort. Although certainly showing novice status from time-to-time, the film still offers plenty to like within, which makes it a natural to air as part of the prestigious Fantasia International Film Festival.

At a New Year’s Eve party, Nico (Javier Bódalo, from “Ghost Graduation”), a naïve twenty year old, sets out ready to lose his virginity at all costs that same night. In the middle of the party, his gaze crosses Medea (Miriam Martín, from “Todos estamos invitados”), a cunning and attractive mature woman. What promised to be an epic sexual debut full of lust and lack of restraint, ends up turning into his worst nightmare; as nearly every situation imaginable begins to intrude on the couple, from the noisy neighbors upstairs, to the ex-boyfriend Araña (Víctor Amilibia, from “Feel, Not to Say”) interrupting matters. However, that’s only the start of the nightmare, as the evening soon turns full of blood, sweat and varied discharges.

 

 

This is one of the hardest films from the festival to really get a hold of, as it’s nearly impossible to talk about this film without spoiling what goes on. Frankly, the general tone is gross-out comedy meets body-horror, with a touch of a coming-of-age story; yet these seemingly disparate elements come together rather nicely. The first half, with Nico in the club trying to find a girl to come home with, is a fine comedy tale as the rejections start to get more personal and weigh on him more. Yet once they leave and enter her apartment, this turns into a fun enough gross-out horror/comedy. Once there, literally every sort of bodily fluid imaginable is discharged and graced across the screen, which is what makes for a fun time here; the continuous one-upping nature of the scenes gives this a demented, deranged tone that eventually begins to feel insanely funny. Capitalizing on these gross-out gags are some terrifying moments in an agonizing pregnancy sequence. A mutant infant crawling around and the final reveal with the ritual sequence, shows the filmmakers took great care with the claustrophobic setting, as the decrepit apartment is given plenty of coverage to let loose with the onslaught throughout.

 

 

Granted, this is one of the most extreme, obscene films around and that makes for a troublesome point here. The film is absolutely unapologetic about it’s gross-out content, spewing forth vomit, blood, menstrual fluids and much, much more throughout, and in quantities that no human body would ever be able to contain. That alone makes this such a niche film, that it’s very nature would be an endurance test of insane proportions for most to even undertake. This doesn’t shy away from any form of bodily discharge conceivable, and thus that gives the film a deranged quality that could only appeal to the more adventurous genre fans, and even then the film is a tough sit-through. It’s also not helped by the main overriding factor against this one in that it’s just too long. There’s nothing that can be said here to defend its length; the film just drags on for no reason until it reaches an ungodly length of two hours, and there are plenty of scenes here that can be removed or trimmed down. This would be even more concise and effective with a half-hour shaved off immediately, as the jokes and gags here go on far longer than they should, rendering the joke far from funny anymore.

However, even under the auspices of the films flaws, this is still one of the more engaging and visceral films in the genre. It does have it’s flaws, but there’s more than enough to have a good time with The Night of the Virigin. And if you’re a fan of extreme cinema only, this is still a hard one to get through.

The Night of the Virgin screens July 22nd at the Fantasia Festival.

3.5/5 Zombie Heads

 

Review: Savage Dog (Fantasia 2017)

Scott Adkins is Martin Tillman, an Irish prizefighter and prisoner in 1959 Indochina, a land clad with an array of criminals and danger of all kinds. While in prison, Martin fights in tournaments being gambled on by these criminals. When he is due for release, the four tyrants who run the jail want to keep him under their thumb and fighting; but Martin is not having it. When the “dog” turns “savage,” heads are going to roll.

Savage Dog is straight-up fun. Although ridden with cliched tropes expected in the fighting B-movie subgenre of the 80s and 90s (Bloodsport, Best of the Best and films of sort), Savage Dog is entertaining enough and well made to be a better than average action-packed revenge film. Written and directed by Jesse V. Johnson, Savage Dog has gore-geous special effects, a solid cast and swift pacing.

The supporting cast next to the on-point lead, Scott Adkins, adds to the charm of Savage Dog. Marko Zaror as the vile Rastignac the Enforcer and Vladimir Kulich as the warden, Steiner, were standouts as two of the four main antagonists. Their presence was looming throughout the film, as the actors honed in and brought these characters to life. I really disliked them, which is a success when creating a heel. Also on board for the flick is the legend, Keith David. I love Keith David; from Carpenter classics like The Thing and They Live, to his voiceovers in animated features and television. In Savage Dog he does a fine job portraying Valentine, a bar owner and the narrator of the exposition. Others on the cast do a sufficient job (Cung Le as Boon, Charles Fathy as Amarillo), while others have forced scenes at times (Juju Chan as Isabelle and Sheena Chou as Samsip-Sam). Regardless, they all come together and put on a successful performance.

The action sequences looked tough, bad-ass and were presented fluidly. The fighting scenes were choreographed with precision and come off as believable. The explosions and gunplay were reminiscent of 80s Missing in Action-esque, and added to the medium. The best part of the special effects was the gore factor, and boosts the overall rating. All the hounds out there will be excited with several scenes of bloodshed.

All in all, Jesse V. Johnson’a Savage Dog is certainly a standout in the genre. The script and direction, in addition to his skills and knowledge from being on the stunt side of filmmaking, make this movie have a specific thumbprint. I’ve never seen any other of his films, but I’m interested in seeing what else is in his repertoire and what will come in the future. Now playing at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, be on the lookout for this to be distributed soon.

3.5/5 Zombie Heads

Review: Game of Death (Fantasia 2017)

 

 

 

Certainly attempting to capitalize on the grindhouse feel, Game of Death, the new film from the Montreal team of Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Legace, offers plenty of splattery thrills and old-school style bloodshed in this quick and zippy effort. Coming together from the multinational production companies La Guerrilla from Montreal, Rockzeline and Blackpills, both located in Paris, the effort is quickly heading through the festival circuit, including the prestigious Fantasia International Film Festival.

Trying to enjoy the good life, a group of friends Tom, (Sam Earle, from “Degrassi: The Next Generation”) Beth, (Victoria Diamond, from “The Demons”) Ashley (Emelia Hellman, from “Bellevue”) Mary-Ann (Catherine Saindon, from “Say Goodbye”) Tyler (Erniel Baez D, from “19-2”) and Kenny (Nick Serino, from “Sleeping Giant”) decide to pass the time by playing a game a friend left behind known as The Game of Death. Finding out that they’re now forced to kill a specified amount of civilians before a timer runs out or find themselves killed off in gruesome fashion, they head out to start the quest for completing the game only to find some are better equipped to dealing with the situation and others aren’t and they must deal with the rapidly escalating situation before the timer runs out.

 

 

Right from the get-go, this one starts off with the kind of effort it really wants to be: the lifestyle montage of the friends hanging out together, drinking, doing drugs and trying to simply get by before immediately launching into the game. This is quite fun as the concept of the game, being on a timer and forcing it to occur whether they like it or not really makes this one work well here, for that brings along a lot of rather fun action scenes as the consequences of the game. The fear of knowing that the game is willing them to commit murder provides a nice sense of suspense as to when the clock is coming up and their next target needs to be taken out; and the need for a hospital massacre really provides this with some nice bits as well.

On the whole, there’s still plenty to go on here that makes it a lot of fun beyond that. The multitude of gunshot-wounds makes for a fun time overall, as there’s a swarm of bloodshed throughout here, and the scenes of them mutilating the corpses in order to fulfill their curse gives this one some really extreme action. From the roadside ambush that knocks off several victims at once where the game really gets going, to the different random scenes of them going around town trying to whittle the numbers down and ending up at the big action-packed rampage in the hospital where it really ramps up the bloodshed, this one works on delivering a twisted sense of black humor in the absurdity of the situation, while delivering some solid gore effects as well. These keep the film moving along rather nicely and don’t really provide all that much of a down-period overall.

 

 

While Game of Death attempts to address some significant issues about how far people will go in order to question their own humanity, ultimately the film fails remarkably in that aspect. In regards to how easy it is for them to buy into the concept of the game, there’s nothing special; the film doesn’t do anything with this golden material as it just goes on with little regard to the commentary this had set up. Mainly by going all-in on the concept of the killing rather than debating what will happen to the group as they carry out their rampage, it doesn’t provide the kind of needed social commentary the film is trying for with this storyline, as the characters don’t have the necessary weight to get this one done. Being annoying millennials who don’t have any real connection here undoes the message about violence it’s trying to convey. However, this doesn’t prevent the film from being really fun, as the positives are a lot more impactful.

Game of Death is screening starting July 15th at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

 

3/5 Zombie Heads