Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: V/H/S VIRAL- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson, and Todd Lincoln 
Synopsis: The third installment of the found footage series.

When the first V/H/S was released, it did something that no other mainstream horror film had done in recent memory. Instead of one cohesive plot line, it was a anthology of a few shorts strewn together with an interlude of a fourth story. It gave the chance for smaller, indie directors to showcase their stuff and gave the audience a new kind of horror movie for the Halloween season. The first installment had mixed reviews, while the second improved on the flaws of the first and was much more entertaining. Now, we have the third installment, aptly named V/H/S VIRAL, and unfortunately, the series has completely derailed.

There are still three shorts in VIRAL, each with its own themes. However, instead of having a storyline where characters discovery these other stories, like the first two films did, the "wrap around story" is just another short, completely independent of the others, and needlessly chopped up. The filmmakers could have made this the closing short instead of trying to use it to tie all the others together. Also, it seems that the filmmakers completely negated the found footage aspect. A couple of the shorts started off as found footage, but then halfway through, seem to drop it all together and just went with the shakey cam action instead. There was no commitment, either stick with the found footage aspect or do something completely different.

The shorts themselves were either a hit or miss. The first deals with a crazy magician with a demon possessed cloak. It was silly, boring, and the two leads looked as if they were told this was a melodrama and came off as severe overacting. The second short was made by Fantastic Fest darling, Nacho Vigalondo. This was the quirkiest of the three. A man opens up a portal into a parallel dimension. The other world, including his counterpart, look almost identical, and he decides to switch with his counterpart for 15 minutes to, of course, disastrous results. Initally, the atmosphere and mystery were great, but then the plot takes a turn into the absurd and never quite recovers. The third short was the strongest of the set, and it follows some high school boys as they go down to Mexico to party and film themselves skateboarding only to run into a cult-like, demon worshipping group. The film is almost entirely shot on Go-Pro cameras, but the editing keeps the tension high and the action moving. It was clearly the strongest of the set.

What really makes this film the worst in the series is how in cohesive it feels. The others had at least a story which tied the shorts together. The filmmakers could have easily taken the idea of teenagers wanting to make or find a video to become the next internet sensation. Just a simple story like that could have easily fixed the unevenness in the film. However, this feels like a couple of segments stuck together with no real purpose or follow through. This series has clearly worn out its welcome and should have stopped with the second film.

Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: ABC's OF DEATH- Jonesy's Take

Directed by a bunch of people
Written by a bunch of other people
Starring: So many people
Synopsis: A compilation of shorts each featuring a death starting with letters of the alphabet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: CUB- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Jonas Govaerts
Written by Jonas Govaerts and Roel Mondelaers
Starring: Maurice Luijten, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Evelien Bosmans, and Jan Hammenecker
Synopsis: A cub scout group encounters a violent, feral boy living in the woods. 

Everyone knows when a group of kids go camping in a film, chaos will ensue. There's always a murderous entity lurking beyond the trees ready to torture and kill the group at a moment's notice. Director Jonas Govaerts is known for his short films, but here he takes a chance on the classic terror in the woods with his first feature with marginally successful results.

Sam (Luijten) is a troubled boy who is a beacon for bullies within his scout group. He's not very confident, over imaginative, and always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before his group leaves for their annual camping trip, the two leaders, Chris and Peter, warn the boys of Kai, a feral boy lurking in the woods killing people at will. Of course, most know this is just a campfire tale, but as Sam is quick to learn, Kai is real. The first half of the film plays well, as the characters are being established and the mystery surrounding Kai is slowly revealed. Unfortunately, the film loses traction the closer it gets to the climax.

The film almost relies completely on Luijten's performance. Through other character's interactions and conversations, we begin to learn the history and sympathize with Sam's situation. Luijten has a quiet presence, but his performance is complex and is the highlight of the film. The other characters are equally fleshed out and dynamic making the characters the most interesting part of the film.

However, as we see more of Kai and what his situation is, the anticipation of the climax of the film begins to build. However, the plot becomes convoluted during the last third where Kai's intentions seem to change on a dime, and the movie becomes a bit of a mess. It seems that the plot initially wanted us to learn more and feel sorry for Kai, but then forgot to flesh out that plot point. There were also aspects of a some great and creative horror elements used by the bad guys, such a fairly creative traps set in the woods, but those elements weren't used to their full potential.

Govaerts has the potential to become a great genre filmmaker. He has a knack for creating fleshed out protagonists, but has trouble developing interesting antagonists. Individually, the horror elements are fun and creative, but they just didn't mesh well together in the end.

THE SKELETON TWINS Review- Jonesy's Take

Directed by: Craig Johnson
Written by: Craig Johnson
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, and Luke Wilson
Synopsis: Twins come back into each other's life after an almost tragic accident.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH Review - Javi's Take


Directed by: Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard
Starring: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Ray Winstone, Kylie Minouge
Synopsis:  A look at musician Nick Cave's creative process  while he ramps up a performance at the Sydney Opera House.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jonesy's Anticipated Fantastic Fest 2014 Films

Starting tomorrow, movie buffs from all over Texas, and the world, will descend upon Austin for the magnificent festival that is Fantastic Fest. It's a wonderful week of movies, beer, and more movies all in the confines of The Alamo Drafthouse. This year I will be covering the first half of the festival, while Javi will be at the second half. So, you can expect tons of coverage all over this site this week.

Now, onto my most anticipated films for Fantastic Fest 2014!

Javi's Most Anticipated Fantastic Fest 2014 Movies

This year is the 10th anniversary of the wonderful Fantastic Fest. To celebrate, they got an amazing line up of both new movies and some incredible repertory screenings as well. This year will be rad since I'll be there for the second half of the festival, and while Jonesy will be covering the 1st half.

Check out some of my most anticipated movies of the festival after the break.