The penultimate day is reviewed.
Considered the stimulus for the now-unique brand of Australian outback horror, the long figured lost movie Wake in Fright (1971) reemerges in a new 35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archives of Australia. While traveling to Sydney for a holiday with his girlfriend, reluctant schoolteacher John Grant (Gary Bond) stops for a night in the small mining community of Bundanyabba, or “the Yabba.” After losing all his money in a penny-tossing competition, he falls victim to the town’s “aggressive hospitality,” effectively stranding him there. A trio of local good ‘ol boys, who enjoy drinking, brawlin’, and kangaroo hunting, look after Grant. The new friends feature a young, bombastic Jack Thompson, in one of his earliest movie roles, and the always reliable Donald Pleasence as a sex-obsessed doctor. Grant’s vacation quickly descends into madness as alcohol, debauchery, and even cruelty consume him. Living up to its reputation, the excellent Wake in Fright deftly outlines how quickly a man can lose his identity and reason.
With the aide of homicide cop Pete (Ron Perlman), crime scene photographer Aiden (the likeable Josh Lawson) haunts the streets of Detroit, looking for images. Immersion within the darkness of society leads the downtrodden Aiden to experience perverse revenge fantasies. Despite his behavior, Aiden stumbles into an affair with his neighbor, the relationship rebounding Virginia (Emma Lung). Aiden attempts to hold on to his tenuous relationship even while his fantasies slide over into reality. First time feature director Charles de Lauzirika expertly manages the interplay between the real and not real by crashing the fourth world and crafting creative tonal shifts. The script (by de Lauzirika from a story by Robert Lawton) interjects clever humor within the fast paced tale. A Walter Mitty tale by way of Chuck Palahniuk, Crave promises a creative, entertaining thriller.
Directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson propel the childhood game of war to its logical extremes and beyond in the seemingly preposterous but amazingly good I Declare War. A group of 13 year olds congregate to play war in the woods. Fueled by their imaginations, they transform sticks into guns and water balloons into grenades to engage in combat. A tactical genius, PK wins every contest. Perhaps his only weakness are his feelings for his best friend Kwon. Wanting to torture him for information and to trap the legendary leader, the ruthless General Skinner kidnaps Kwon. The neophyte commander underestimates the lengths that PK will do to rescue his friend. The diverse cast includes a priest, a bully and a mysterious girl. Lapeyre (who also penned the screenplay) and Wilson deliver a magnificent and sincere portrait of war intertwined with teenage angst and fantasies.
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, started here in Austin on September 20. During the course of the eight day festival, I’m blogging about my cinema experiences.