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.
Li Xianje is a video game-loving slacker, who coasts through life at his own pace, thanks to a rare condition known as Temporal Dilation Disorder. TDD causes time to pass more slowly than for everybody else – minutes feel like days, a day like an entire lifetime. It proves a lonely existence until he meets the beautiful Wang Qian, who shares his affliction. However, when a tragic car accident snatches her away, Li will do whatever it takes to be reunited with the woman he loves. Perhaps a mysterious video game is the answer – a game rumoured to hold the secret to time travel. If he can beat the game, he might just be able to save Wang Qian.
Adapted from a hit animated short that appeared online in 2009, director Li Yang teams up with TV ad man Frant Gwo to expand his unique, frenetic vision into a feature-length blend of live action, hand drawn animation, epic CGI landscapes, crude cut-outs and East-meets-West pop culture iconography. Jaycee Chan, son of martial arts legend Jackie Chan, stars as bewildered, heart-broken “Devotion Lee”, who must become the kind of ass-kicking name-taking hero he’s only experienced in video games, if he is to succeed in his mission.
The result is a wholly unique and exhilarating experience, a gorgeous visual odyssey packed with comedy and adventure, that remains, at its core, a beautifully touching quest for love played out with the unabashed romanticism only Asian Cinema can get away with. At a time when China is spewing out nothing but nationalistic period dramas and crass consumerist rom-coms, LEE’S ADVENTURE proves fantasy, sci-fi and imagination are still alive and kicking in the Mainland. (James Marsh)
While it is very tempting to refer to Eron Sheean’s ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY as a sci-fi thriller, that would simply not be accurate. Because while it is very much a fictional story that revolves around science, the science in this film – shot on location at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics – is all as real as can be. Call it a scientific thriller, if you will, with all of the science grounded in reality.
THE DIVIDE screenwriter Sheean makes his feature directing debut following a string of acclaimed shorts with ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY, the story of geneticist Dr Geoff Burton obsessively struggling to find a cure for the rare genetic ailment that killed his infant son years before. Though brilliant, his obsessions and often unorthodox working methods have left Burton’s career in a shambles, forcing him to relocate to Germany to continue his work.
It seems a promising move at first, a well equipped lab with a sympathetic administration and a former student in a key position, but Burton is soon swept up into a web of deceit and jealousy when he discovers that his former student may have found the solution he has searched for – and another researcher may be stealing it.
An icily precise thriller anchored by a subtle, nuanced performance from Michael Eklund (THE DIVIDE, THE DAY), with support from indie faves Karoline Herfurth (PERFUME, WE ARE THE NIGHT) and Tomas Lemarquis (NOI THE ALBINO), ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY offers up a surprisingly human take on science, a story ultimately more concerned with its characters than the tools they wield. It is a refreshing, yet challenging approach. (Todd Brown)
Santiago Fernandez is an aimless young man content with spending hours on the couch playing Grand Theft Auto and fantasizing about an exciting life of crime and gun fights. By night he DJs at a club owned by ruthless Argentinian kingpin Che Longana. One evening, Santiago finds himself trapped in a bathroom stall as Longana holds a secret meeting to make known his offer of $300 million pesos for the head of Machine Gun Woman, an ex-girlfriend turned hitwoman who has it out for him. When he is discovered eavesdropping on the conversation, Santiago’s only choice to avoid being executed is to lie, claim he knows Machine Gun Woman and offer to bring her in. When he is given 24 hours to make good on his claim, Santiago’s life turns into a violent video game of its own complete with missions, guns, sexy women and brutal violence.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF MACHINE GUN WOMAN is that latest film from Chile’s Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, a man who is no stranger to Fantastic Fest. His first three features (KILTRO, MIRAGEMAN and MANDRILL) have blown audiences away in years past and he also has a segment in this year’s THE ABCS OF DEATH. In a departure from his string of Marko Zaror actioners, Espinoza has crafted an incredibly entertaining exploitation film all centered around a beautiful Chilean goddess clad in small swaths of leather and, of course, machine guns. As Santiago tracks down the killer, he is thrust into a strange criminal underworld that frequently erupts in unexpected violence and when he comes face-to-face with her, all bets are off. Espinoza keeps BRING ME THE HEAD OF THE MACHINE GUN WOMAN fast and fun from sexy start to explosive finish. (Brian Kelley)
Chances are you’ve come across one in your lifetime. Your neighbor may be one. Your co-worker may be one. There could even be one in your family. Sometimes they operate alone and sometimes they involve their loved ones. The moment they wait for is over in what seems like the blink of an eye but there can be months of planning, designing and building leading up to a night of terror.
These people are home haunters.
The idyllic East Coast town of Fairhaven, MA is the home of several home haunters, individuals who are obsessed with turning their properties into elaborate and horrifying spectacles every Halloween. THE AMERICAN SCREAM follows three of them – a perfectionist IT professional whose wife and children help out with varying levels of enthusiasm, a friend inspired to create his own haunt, and a father and son duo- as they prepare for the big day. Their passion is immediately apparent and their methods are varied with some opting for obsessive attention to detail and others more concerned with overall effect. The common link between them all is an artistic genius bred from the love of scaring the pants off their friends and neighbors.
Director Michael Stephenson (BEST WORST MOVIE) has crafted another extraordinarily entertaining and heartwarming documentary with THE AMERICAN SCREAM. Despite bumps along the way in the days leading up to Halloween, the payoff captured is something truly special. In the end all the mishaps, slips, spills, scrapes and creative differences don’t matter. What really matters is the sense of pride a home haunter feels by bringing together his or her community to experience the product of months of hard work. That and the look of frozen terror on the faces of men, women and children alike. (Brian Kelley)
When a comet threatens to destroy their planet, the citizens of Hondo send General Trius (Nils d’Aulaire) to find a new planet on which they can live. After landing on Earth somewhere near Brooklyn, General Trius chooses to ignore his mission to eliminate the indigenous peoples after wandering into a megastore and hearing music for the first time. He assumes the name Bill and starts a family and one-man bluegrass act.
His peaceful life is disrupted when the Hondorians send a representative- a bumbling fool named Kevin (Jay Klaitz)- to Earth to assassinate General Trius and clear the way for an invasion. Bill finds it easy to subdue Kevin with music and the two form a band called Future Folk that becomes popular in New York bars. The problem is, though, the Hondorians have no intention of calling off their plan to eliminate mankind.
THE HISTORY FUTURE FOLK, the feature debut of directors John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker, is the impossibly charming and clever origin story of the real life “Acoustic Space Aliens” who have been perfecting their act for more than 6 years in the New York City area. For all of its sci-fi elements, at the heart of the film is the immediately lovable personality of Future Folk, whose songs are enormously catchy and lyrics are full of the wit on which the movie the built. The deep love d’Aulaire and Klaitz have for music is apparent in every scene and while watching their musical performances in the film one starts to believe that two guys with a banjo and a guitar (along with some fancy red spacesuits) really could save the world through sheer charisma. (Brian Kelley)