Fantastic Fest 2015: Day Four

On the fourth day: video-game documentary Man vs. Snake; French body-horror Evolution; and Danish zombie flick What We Become.

Evolution (France; Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015)

Co-written and directed Lucile Hadzihalilovic, one of Gaspar Noé’s occasional collaborators (she participated in Enter the Void, but I won’t hold that against her), Evolution seems to have a polarizing effect on audiences. I loved it, myself: breathtaking cinematography and hypnotic rhythm lulled me into something of a trance state. Or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Either way, this is exactly the sort of thing I go for.

However, I totally understand why viewers might find themselves alienated. The plot–about a coastal colony consisting entirely of young boys and young women, the latter of whom are not entirely what they seem–moves so slowly as to border on excruciating, and the film itself seems to adopt something of a pretentious air. (I certainly didn’t think it was as deep as the guy who introduced it did.)

I think this one is going to have a very, very limited audience that will treasure the hell out of it.

Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler (U.S.A.; Tim Kinzy & Andrew Seklir, 2015)

Man vs. Snake isn’t so much about Nibbler–an obsure arcade game released in 1982, something of a cross between Snake and Pac-Man–as it is about Tim McVey (no, not that Timothy McVeigh), who became the first person to score a billion points on a video game, and did it on a Nibbler machine back in the mid-’80s. Twenty-five years later, McVey gets back into the competitive arcade-game scene to reclaim his world record from Italian Enrico Zanetti. Along the way, Canadian Dwayne Richard, the bad boy of competitive arcade-gaming gets involved.

McVey first set the record at Twin Galaxies, the Iowa arcade that served as the self-proclaimed center of the video-game universe, and still lives in that part of the state, which means that some of the characters who figured in The King of Kong, such as Walter Day and Billy Mitchell, also have roles here. Indeed, Snake often comes off as Kong‘s nicer cousin. Directors Tim Kinzy and Andrew Seklir milk the good-natured rivalry between McVey and Richard for all the drama it’s worth, which isn’t much; they don’t have the same dynamic their Kong counterparts, Steve Weibe and Mitchell, had. Snake‘s real conflict isn’t McVey vs. Richard or McVey vs. Zanetti, but McVey vs. himself.

Still, Snake tells its story in an engaging fashion with good humor. Sadly, the video-game-obsessive-documentary niche seems oversaturated at this point, and it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself. But I’m really glad I saw it.

What We Become (Denmark; Bo Mikkelsen, 2015)

The vast majority of zombie films I’ve seen–especially the ones that are actually good–have been character-led dramas that tend to use the zombies as a secondary environmental challenge. It’s not that the zombies aren’t important, but they don’t drive the conflict or the drama. The important conflicts are between the characters. Yet so many filmmakers and producers position their zombie films as character pieces as if such things are rare occurrences. Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, What We Become is like this. It’s a zombie-apocalypse movie set in an affluent Danish neighborhood focusing on the standard “what have we become?” tropes. As such, it doesn’t do much that you haven’t already seen. Not even limiting the gore or keeping the zombies off-screen until the final act is particularly novel: see The Battery and Plague.

However, it does these things much better than your average zomb-pocalypse, thanks to Bo Mikkelsen’s strong technical skills (the editing is fantastic) and a fantastic cast.  I don’t think it would have much appeal beyond zombie fans–it just doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself within its subgenre–but it’s pretty good, as long as you don’t expect something revolutionary.

Top five movies of the festival

As of the end of day four:

  1. Green Room (day 2)
  2. High-Rise (day 3)
  3. Evolution (day 4)
  4. Darling (day 2)
  5. The Glorious Works of G.F. Zwaen (day 2)

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