Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world, starts here in Austin in just two days! Over the next several days, I’m previewing the movies I plan on seeing and blogging about over the course of the week long festival.
Kim Ji-Woon is one of Korea’s most fascinating directors, and a new movie from him is always an event. Whether it’s the stylized horror of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, the intense action of A BITTERSWEET LIFE, the wild spaghetti western madhouse of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD or even the dark psychodrama I SAW THE DEVIL, he has consistently delivered some of the most challenging, gorgeously shot, innovative genre movies to come out of Korea.
Originally planned to be a three-part omnibus directed by Kim Ji-Woon, Yim Pil-Sung (director of HANSEL & GRETEL and ANTARCTIC JOURNAL) and Han Jae-Rim (THE SHOW MUST GO ON), production started on DOOMSDAY BOOK in 2006, and then fell apart when Han’s film (a retelling of an O. Henry short story) proved to be unworkable. With only two-thirds of the movie completed, it was shelved. Then, after a new influx of cash in 2010, Kim and Yim worked together to complete the movie’s third segment. Now their collaboration about the end of the world is finally ready for the big screen.
Outlining three ways in which the world ends, DOOMSDAY BOOK starts with Yim Pil-Sung’s “A Brave New World,” a rollicking, hilarious tale about rampant pollution that leads to an outbreak of zombie-ism that robs man of even his ability to choose to die. The second short, Kim Ji-Woon’s “The Heavenly Creature” is about a future where robots have become our main source of manual labor. One android, which resides at a Buddhist temple, achieves enlightenment, and the company that produces robot workers realizes that it’s got a crisis on its hands. The movie wraps up with the two directors collaborating on “Happy Birthday,” about a young girl whose wish results in a giant meteor heading straight for the planet Earth. Injecting welcome doses of comedy into three hard science fiction scenarios, this two-fisted dose of apocalypse is the smartest sci-fi flick to hit movie screens all summer. (NYAFF)
The Lucas Clinic exists to serve – or prey upon, depending upon your perspective – the most celebrity obsessed elements of our society. Striking exclusive deals with major celebrities to harvest their illnesses, the Clinic offers a most intimate communion between the famous and their admirers. For a price you can be infected with the very same viruses that grew within their very cells. What was part of them can be part of you.
Syd March is an up and comer within Lucas, a salesman adept at capitalizing on patients’ yearning for connection. He’ll tell you exactly what you want to hear as he injects herpes into your lip or influenza into your veins. But Lucas isn’t enough for Syd. Whether for boredom or greed Syd is playing both sides of this particular game, peddling Lucas’ wares by day but also infecting himself with their most rare and elusive offering so that he can incubate them within his own body, break the patented copy protection and sell them on the black market. So when he sees the opportunity to harvest a new virus from the famed Hannah Geist – Lucas’ top seller – Syd sees a chance to profit and injects himself with Hannah’s blood. And then Hannah dies.
Brandon Cronenberg makes his feature debut with ANTIVIRAL, a film that would do his father David proud. A jet black satire of celebrity obsession run through with enough needles and body fluids to make even the most hardened squirm, ANTIVIRAL is an icily precise affair. Star Caleb Landry Jones (THE LAST EXORCISM, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) delivers a mesmerizing performance as the inscrutable March, his physical breakdown as the virus takes hold an alarming yet compelling sight to behold. (Todd Brown)
The future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One – a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed. During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson, a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture – a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.
Since 1974, Sigurdur “Siggi” Hjartarson has run the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of mammalian penises. Siggi’s private collection runs the gamut from microscopic to gargantuan, including penises from whales, dogs, pigs, bears, bulls and hamsters. Siggi believes that his museum—and his legacy—will be incomplete without an important addition to his museum: a human penis of “legal length.” After years of searching, he tracks down two donors: an aging Icelandic philanderer and a weirdo from California who refers to his penis as “Elmo.” Siggi’s quest for penile perfection morphs into a race against time as the donors compete to become the first human to have their members severed and preserved for posterity.
With THE FINAL MEMBER, co-directors Jonah Bekhor and Zack Math have created one of the most unique and memorable documentaries in recent years. The film initially seems like a quaint exploration of a single man’s weird obsession, but evolves into a deep character study of three dudes who are pathologically obsessed with male genitalia—human or otherwise. Siggi uses his museum to break sexual taboos and educate the public. The Icelandic ladies’ man wants to preserve his rapidly aging penis before it shrinks down to the size of a raisin. Unlike his aging counterpart, the cowboy wants to chop his off before he dies. THE FINAL MEMBER delivers everything one could want from a documentary—it’s emotionally engaging, funny, and highly disturbing. (Rodney Perkins)