Fantasia International Film Festival
LACE CRATER – Opens in NYC + VOD on July 29th; in LA on August 5th
Dir: Harrison Atkins
Lace Crater is the most thoughtful and intimate portrayal of a woman getting an STD from ghost sex that I have ever seen. Ruth (Lindsay Burdge) is on a getaway trip to the Hamptons with her friends with plans to do drugs, relax, and get over a bad relationship. Her bedroom is rumored to be haunted and a strange reoccurring noise turns out to be a ghost wrapped up in burlap. Under the burlap, is an attractive man ghost and after a night of conversation they end up spending the night together (what happens in the afterlife stays in the afterlife). It seems like just the pick-me-up Ruth needs until she returns home and begins experiencing weird symptoms and sickness.
Harrison Atkins feature directorial debut is a fun and creative comedy/mumblecore/genre crossover film. As he drops Ruth down the rabbit hole, Lace Crater takes on an almost Cronenberg feel, with a supernatural STD serving as some kind of metaphor for sex and shame. Lindsay Brudge is the heart of the film, living out the skin-crawling body horrors that are inflicted on her. In the midst of all this serious terror, are some fantastically funny conversations and the film walks an incredibly fine tonal line. Look for appearances by Chase Williamson (John Dies at the End) and Producer Joe Swanberg (You’re Next, lots of other stuff).
Dir: Yeon Sang-ho
Hae-sun, a young woman in Seoul South Korea, catches her boyfriend trying to pimp her out on the internet for rent money. After a big fight, she finds herself homeless and forced to seek shelter for the night in the central subway station along with the many other homeless people. Unfortunately, earlier in the evening, one of those homeless men came in with several bites and died, only to come back as a maniacal, flesh-eating zombie. By the time she arrives, a full outbreak is under way and she barely escapes with her life. Elsewhere in the city, her no good boyfriend and he father are also trying to survive, find her, and get to safety.
I was pretty burnt out on Zombies. I’ve seen everything from the height of Romero, to The Walking Dead, all the way down to Zombeavers and everything in between. Seoul Station brings the tired genre roaring back to life (or undeath) with its stunning visual style. The art is incredible; it is a cross somewhere between anime and Ralph Bakshi. Everything is realistically drawn, the zombies in this film are pure nightmare fuel. Writer/Director Yeon Sang-ho makes tremendous use of the animation medium to go inside, around, over, and under a zombie attack in an entirely new and exciting way. Blood splatters, people are eaten, survivors run for shelter and I don’t think it’s ever been more real than as it’s drawn here. Seoul Station is dark, dark in the way that only great Korean cinema can be.
ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM: GRADUATION
Dir: Eiichiro Hasumi
Last year we were treated to the live action adaptation of a very strange Manga. Assassination Classroom’s set up is hard to describe. A bright yellow, tentacled space alien blows up the moon and is intent on blowing up earth. However, he is surprisingly friendly and agrees to teach a class full of grade students, both in assassination techniques and general study topics. If they can murder their alien teacher (who they also come to like and respect) before the end of the year, then the earth will be saved. In the first film they actually ultimately failed in their task but were granted a reprieve; a whole extra semester to try and succeed and that is where this film picks up.
The students are all back and planning for their graduation. Their alien teacher is back too for further instruction and to be their target. The movie is a bit episodic, following their attempts to kill the alien at a fair, learning more about his origins (which consists of a surprisingly touching flashback), and trying to find a way to prevent the destruction of Earth without killing their teacher.
If you have any sense of humor or fun at all you will watch this movie and the first one, preferable in chronological order. As completely ludicrous as the premise is, the alien is hysterical whenever on screen (I’ve never really seen snappy come-backs come through in subtitles quite like they do here). The alien’s face looks like the ‘roll down prices’ smiley face from Walmart, always grinning manically even when talking about horrors. The effects are cartoony, but really good overall. It’s not as madcap as the first one but fixes a lot of the original’s plot holes and bizarre circumstance with clever retconning. Assassination Classroom Graduation moves at a million miles a second and every moment is an explosive wonder.
Dir: Craig Anderson
It’s Christmas time in Australia (or it may be the American South? Dee Wallace is American but her children are all played by Australians. I wasn’t ever sure. I digress) and Diane (Dee Wallace) is having the family in for Christmas before she sells the family home and travels to Europe. The children don’t get along, one is religious, the other is not, etc. All that is interrupted when a bandaged stranger named Cletus appears at their door with a letter for his ‘mother’. The letter says that Diane tried to abort Cletus twenty years earlier and he was rescued by an anti-abortion activist; who raised him. Diane violently rejects him and has Cletus tossed from the house. Unfortunately for them all, Cletus has been raised by a radically religious, vengeful man and he’s going to get some righteous revenge with a hatchet!
Don’t let the abortion motif fool you, there’s not a real political message here. The whole thing just provides a twisted set up to a more or less typical isolated-house-late-at-night slaughter fest. Dee Wallace stars and also serves as producer, adding class and credibility to the production, but once the hatchet starts flying the film goes mostly by the numbers. The kills are plentiful, but a little generic and, weirdly, the film often cuts away from gore or only shows the aftermath of an attack.
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.