Fantastic Fest 2015: Day Seven

Day six gives us: Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen in Men and Chicken; the superhero farce Lazer Team; In Search of the Ultra-Sex, assembled from scraps of porn movies; the Turkish horror film Baskin; and the horror anthology Southbound.

Short film: Deathly (Mike Williamson, 2015)

Cameron from Ferris Bueller (he has an actual name, you know; it’s Alan Ruck) stars as a recently widowed man in this E.C.-style short. Pretty neat.

Southbound (U.S.A.; Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, 2015)

Another anthology, this one from a few of the filmmakers who’ve contributed to the V/H/S series (such as David Bruckner and Radio Silence), the five stories linked by the theme of travel and the narration of radio D.J. Larry Fessenden.

As a sum total it’s a very strong effort. Some segments are better than others, obviously, but I can’t say I actively disliked any of them. The Bruckner-directed middle segment, about a man desperate to save the life of the young woman he ran over and the emergency-response person, is probably the strongest; my least favorite was the second one, about an all-girl rock band whose tour bus has a blow-out and receive help from some particularly strange strangers.

Southbound is a good example of an excellent middle-of-the-road horror movie: it’s not particularly intense, more “fun” than “scary,” and relies more on effects-driven unease than existential terror. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but it’s not: many of my favorite horror movies, such as Dawn of the Dead, fit the “M.O.R.” label.

Lazer Team (U.S.A.; Matt Hullum, 2015)

Aliens inform the U.S. military that a champion representing Earth must face a champion from another planet in combat to the death, with the loser’s homeworld getting the Eludium-236 Explosive Space Modulator treatment. The aliens send a super-powered suit of armor for Earth’s champion to wear, but it ends up in the possession of a group of idiots (a teenaged dudebro, a middle-aged dudebro, the middle-aged dudebro’s moron friend, and a sheriff’s deputy).

Fans of the ’80s style of “heroic idiot” comedy–basically, imagine a cross between Police Academy and The Avengers–might find Lazer Team funny, but I really didn’t. I laughed a few times, but not on a consistent basis. The humor is just too damn stupid; I counted five separate crotch-shots. But there’s an audience for it out there. Hell, I know people who actually liked Pixels, which proves there’s an audience for everything.

Short film: The Chickening (Nick DenBoer & Davy Force, 2015)

I bet you didn’t know there’s a version of The Shining out there with chickens, did you? Well, there is, and you need to see it right. Fucking. Now.

My rating: Pro.

Men and Chicken (Denmark; Anders Thomas Jensen, 2015)

Anders Thomas Jensen’s first film in something like a decade has been getting a lot of attention because it stars Mads Mikkelsen (if you don’t know who he is you are probably not reading the right blog). And don’t get me wrong, he’s fabulous here; even if it weren’t for the curly hair and prosthetic harelip I’d have a hard time reconciling his character here with the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Le Chiffre.

But Men and Chicken is about more than Mikkelsen playing a compulsive masturbator; you could probably argue that he isn’t even the main character. He and David Dencik star as brothers who discover they have three more hitherto-unknown brothers even more eccentric than they. It’s a hilarious, heartbreaking meditation about family and loneliness.

Short film: Fuck Buddies (Nate Wilson, 2015)

I hated this one for personal reasons. I just don’t need to see a movie like this at this point in my life.

Short film: More than Four Hours (Bryan Poyser, 2015)

Whitest Kid U’ Know Zach Cregger plays a math teacher who accidentally takes a Viagra instead of a Xanax. Hilarity ensues, mostly.

In Search of the Ultra-Sex (France; Nicolas Charlet & Bruno Lavaine, 2015)

This is the one where the filmmakers assembled the film with scenes from hundreds of porn movies (and, um, Samurai Cop) and then dubbed their own dialog, Mad Movies-style, to fit a story about “the Ultra-Sex,” whose theft causes everyone on Earth to become uncontrollably horny.

It’s not that In Search of the Ultra-Sex isn’t funny. It’s more that it isn’t consisently funny, and drags out its gags for far too long, and is waaaaay too padded (a grating, grating flaw for a film barely of feature-length). The gimmick behind its creation constantly threatens to overshadow the film itself.

But when it is funny, there’s nothing like it on Earth.

Baskin (Turkey; Can Evrenol, 2015)

Can Evrenol’s feature debut shows a lot of influence from the New French Extremity, chiefly a tendency to spam the audience with bursts of violence and grotesquerie. When it works, it really really really works; much of the third act is hard to watch, and the makeup job on the main antagonist is so good I have to wonder if it actually is a makeup job.

Unfortunately the other thing it has in common with New French Extremity is a tendency to not prioritize a coherent narrative. Nominally the story is about some brutal dickhead cops who respond to a report of a disturbance in an obscure neighborhood, and they find some horrifying shit going on underneat a derelict police station. There’s also this subplot about the protagonist’s dreams and childhood and such. I’m not sure if it was just me being tired as hell during the midnight slot, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how the various plots were supposed to fit together. Also, it was a bit slow for a midnight movie. Act one dragged a bit, as did act three.

I understand I’m being pretty critical of Baskin here but I did actually enjoy it quite a bit and Evrenol has announced himself, at least to me, as a director to watch.

Top ten movies of the festival

As of the end of day seven:

  1. Green Room (day 2)
  2. The Witch (day 6)
  3. High-Rise (day 3)
  4. Der Bunker (day 5)
  5. February (day 5)
  6. Too Late (day 6)
  7. Evolution (day 4)
  8. Darling  (day 2)
  9. Men and Chicken (day 7)
  10. The Glorious Works of G.F. Zwaen (day 2)

Moment of Zen

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