Monday, August 3, 2015

Demolisher, The (2015)

Director: Gabriel Carrer
Notable Cast: Ry Barrett, Tianna Nori, Jessica Van, Duncan McLellan

We’ve been seeing a lot of the old coming in with the new with genre filmmaking lately. Films such as Hobo with a Shotgun, Astro 6’s Father’s Day and Fantasia favorite Turbo Kid are prime examples of the retro revival craze. Immediately upon reading the synopsis for The Demolisher one can hope for a film similar to 1980’s The Exterminator. The Canadian production that was filmed in Guelph and Toronto, Ontario was directed by Black Fawn Films’ Gabriel Carrer who seems to have graduated from low budget filmmaking after Desperate Souls and If a Tree Falls. However, whether we can say that this transition to a bigger budget was smooth or if we can expect a nostalgic throwback to exploitation type action films of the 70s and 80s is another thing. The Demolisher is much more like today’s modern films than a throwback. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the same can’t be said for the film itself. 

 The Demolisher follows Bruce (played by Ry Barrett) whose ex-policewoman wife Samantha (played by Tianna Nori) was left confined to wheelchair after a run in with a cult-ish gang. Using her riot gear, Bruce’s rage steers him to hunt down the gang (or possibly a gang) to exact revenge against those who crippled his wife. The vigilante’s mental health soon deteriorates as he sets his eyes on an innocent woman named Marie (played by Jessica Vano) after she finds a necklace he lost and his paranoia causes him to shift from being a vigilante to something way worse. 

Instead of focusing on excessive violence, The Demolisher is a film that explores Bruce’s psyche a lot more. So much of the actual violence is nothing but slow motion that we actually forget that it’s supposed to be violence to start with. As a matter of fact, sometimes it feels like a third of the whole film is slow motion which grows tiresome very quick. To accompany the violence and slow motion is the repetitive music. In moments of impending doom or Bruce’s brooding hate is when you can here this loud music and in different scenes it changes, but stays repetitive. Commonly in film are scenes of slow motion that uses this formula, but this is just overkill at this point. While the film clocks in at under a hour and a half, the dialogue is very minimal. For the longest time, I thought the leads were complete mutes! The shock of Samantha’s event had left the main two leads speechless via shock. Carrer had decided since this isn’t a throwback at all to make this a serious venture. The Fantasia audience was much like the characters in the film very quiet throughout until the film’s climax. It’s not all bad news though. The best aspect of the film is the performance by our lead cast, especially Ry Barrett whose descent into madness is riveting. The scenery and cinematography are both excellent too. One thing that I need to take a stab at though is the plot. The best comparison one can make is a knitted sweater that was made so loosely that you can still see the threads just hanging out or one can say that there isn’t really much a plot to start with.

I was quite excited to see The Demolisher originally but all it really did was demolish my expectations. The trailer had been misleading as to make not only me, but other fans of retro action and exploitation films expect a man on a rampage through Toronto. Instead The Demolisher is more so about the deterioration of one man’s mind and morals after his life is changed completely after a traumatic event. Take out whatever violence there was and you would have probably had a drama film. The Demolisher isn’t necessarily a complete waste or even a terrible film but it could have also been way better as it still leaves for something more to be desired. Netflix and Redbox is a better alternative than an outright purchase because The Demolisher just doesn’t live up to the name.

Written By Elise

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Police Story: Lockdown (2015)

Director: Ding Sheng
Notable Cast: Jackie Chan, Jing Tian, Liu Ye

While the Police Story franchise remains one of Jackie Chan’s most notable series, thanks to its blend of charm, action, and dramatic flair, the series has become something of a ‘title only’ sequence of sequels rather than the full on follow-ups that comprised the first four films. New Police Story indicated a new direction for the franchise, one that moved away from the massive stunt spectacles and often charming humor (no matter how dumb) and towards an even more serious blend of thriller and drama. It still featured plenty of the action and silly concepts we’ve come to expect from Jackie’s films, but it definitely evolved the series. The latest entry, Police Story: Lockdown (or as it’s known most places Police Story 2013) fully embraces the darker and more serious elements of the series. With no relation to previous entries, Lockdown is more thriller than action film and the move makes for some intriguing choices – for better and worse.

Zhong Wen (Jackie Chan) just wants to reconcile with his daughter (Jing Tian). So she sets up a meeting for them at one of the new big clubs in town run by her new boyfriend Wu (Liu Ye). Unfortunately, a group of highly trained criminals is about to take down the factory themed club for some hostages. What Zhong Wen doesn’t know is that there is a more sinister plan afoot by the criminals and it has to do with an incident from his past…

He doesn't need guns, he just likes to show off.
Sporting a whopping 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and receiving its fair share of backlash from fans, it makes me wonder what exactly the critics and fan base were expecting from Lockdown. One might guess that it was the title Police Story attached to it that carries a handful of expectations. However, despite its flaws, Lockdown is rarely as bad as those reviews make it out to be. It’s different, sure, and it’s certainly not perfect (we’ll get to that in a minute), but it’s far from being a bad film. Perhaps if the title were Crime Story: Lockdown, people would have had proper expectations on what genre this film is…as it definitely isn’t an action comedy.

With the proper expectations locked in place, Lockdown is a fun and dark little thriller. It’s grounded on some well-established tropes of the genre, including a mystery about the villain that increasingly builds as the film goes on, but it works in some solid ways. The setting lends itself to some striking visuals and Jackie Chan pulls out an all-star performance for the film. He’s not necessarily the most likeable of heroes, as the script points out with his familial issues, and his cool and collected performance is balanced out with a strong villain. Many of the secondary characters, some of which are very important to the plot, are not nearly as fleshed out as one might hope, but it works for what it is. Director Ding Sheng brings about a very modern style to the look of the film with lots of blurred imagery, sharp angles, and intriguing color schemes (a far cry from the very traditional look of his previous work with Jackie, Little Big Solider) and it’s easy to see why fans of older Hong Kong thrillers might find offense in the modern style and look of the film when the core is a bit more classic. However, Lockdown sports some downright impressive tension and plenty of shocking twists to keep the audience hooked into the story. While the “he said, she said” third act does seem to detract from the overall tone of the film a bit, the final chase sequence in the train tunnels might be one of the best emotional thriller sequences that Chan has ever been involved in and fans are certain to enjoy many moments like this in the film.

The main issue that plagues Lockdown for most of its runtime though is the odd structure and random flashbacks it utilizes to build the mystery. It’s as if the writers and director knew that the main issue from fans was going to be the general lack of action in the film so they force some unneeded action set pieces into the script. A vehicle chase sequence and a bit of hand to hand combat against a punk assailant seem utterly extraneous when it comes down to it. Sure the action is decent, but it adds nothing to the overall mystery of the thriller and it seems like fan service. All it does is take away much needed time to really build some of the subtle clues and plot devices needed for the final act to work – which it does, but it seems like a massive stretch. The best action sequence, which actually serves the characters and plot, is an intense little cage match which becomes one of the highlights of the film.

It's explosive!
In the end, Police Story: Lockdown is still a flawed thriller for Jackie Chan and company. After the impressive combination of director Ding Sheng and Chan on Little Big Soldier, I would be lying if I didn’t have much bigger expectations myself for this film in execution. However, the film is both new ground for Chan and still retains the heart and soul of some of his earlier flicks like the previously mentioned Crime Story. It isn’t a film that follows the same pattern as the other Police Story films, but it is a strong indication at the range that Chan can deliver if allowed as an actor. Keep your expectations in check and this is going to be a solid night at the movies.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bunny the Killer Thing (2015)

Director: Joonas Makkonen
Notable Cast: Gareth Lawrence, Veera W. Vilo, Enni Ojutkangas, Joonas Makkonen, Roope Olenius, Katja Jaskari, Jari Manninen, Marcus Massey, Olli Saarenpaa, Maria Kunnari, Hiski Hamalainen

Directing nothing but shorts up until now, it seems like Joonas Makkonen got the funding and freedom to make the film that he wanted. If you weren’t expecting it to be about a raging horny man/rabbit hybrid out to fuck any human vagina or anything that looks like one up in the Finnish mountains, then well I think that I need to be the bearer of some quite awkward news. Bunny the Killer Thing is a Finnish/British co-production that you’d probably compare more to a 80s Troma film than anything that has come out in the last ten years. Sexually depraved is not enough to describe how over the top and morally corrupt this film is. And how could anyone even come up with something this insane? If you find yourself complaining then this is just not your type of film and you best take your prude self over to some vanilla Hollywood brainless blockbuster. But for us trash lovers; Makkonen’s feature is more akin to a masterpiece of schlock.

Bunny the Killer Thing first quickly gets our story of the source of the creature out of the way and then moves on to meet our main cast. You are greeted by a group of young Finnish individuals and an underage teenager who sneaks in the “borrowed” ambulance from work looking to travel to Tuoma’s (played by Hiski Hämäläinen) uncle’s cabin for some drinking and sex. On the way up they stumble upon a stalled car with a multicultural group of three British men with an awful secret hiding in the trunk of their car. The Finns don’t notice and kindly decide to harness the vehicle to bring the visitors up to the cabin to hold up for the night. It’s not long until Tuomas himself is the first to encounter the monstrous human/rabbit hybrid with a huge dick that he proudly waves around. We are then treated to havoc, gratuitous nudity, death galore, bestiality, and our director’s sick sense of humor. We later learn why bunny was created and the survivors get their own run in with another new breed of criminals.

Because of the clash of the British and Finnish cast, the subtitles might confuse you at first since it switches from English to Finnish in an instant but luckily one can adapt to this. One of the various treats that Bunny the Killer Thing gives us is the rather large cast. We have the psychos who created bunny, the young Finnish folk, some bumbling policemen and the English crooks along with some extra characters with a short appearance near the middle and the end. We get to know our main cast surprisingly well. For such a depraved film where nothing is deemed sacred, one scene in particular is presented in the absolute opposite which contrasts to the entire film, taking the subject of rape seriously (and no it isn’t by the horny bunny man either). Otherwise expect to see many of mutilated penises, heads blown off, themes of homosexuality and pukey kisses. One can only imagine how many fake cocks were even made for this feature! Makkonen might be lucky if he even gets to stay in the country after this creation comes out in theaters in his homeland. The director isn’t scared however as he already has another hopeful film in the works and is even willing to return to the Finnish mountains for Bunny the Killer Thing 2.

Whether Bunny the Killer Thing is a film well worth your cash is well up to the viewer. Any Troma fan who thinks that there is no line to cross will lavish their praise and will find themselves dying in laughter. If you’re more a fan of serious, atmospheric and suspenseful horror, then you’ll find none of that here. With a name like Bunny the Killer Thing, can you really expect that anyway? Bring your sick friends and weed out the prudes because sexual depravity and chaos is best enjoyed with liked minded individuals and Bunny the Killer Thing takes no prisoners.

Written By Elise Holmes

Elise Holmes is not your average writer. Dedicated to her Evil Dead fan site The Deadite Slayer, she is doing Fantasia Fest coverage this year for Blood Brothers! Check out her site HERE!

Tales of Halloween (2015)

Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet
Notable Cast: So, so many.

In 2009, the Halloween horror anthology Trick ‘R Treat, which has reached cult status, closed the Fantasia Film Festival to a roaring audience. Now this year the festival has been host to the world premiere of yet another Halloween horror anthology film simply named Tales of Halloween to a practically sold out crowd looking for more. With a helping of ten stories by ten directors instead of the more developed four that was in Trick ‘R Treat, we find ourselves with names such as Big Ass Spider’s Mike Mendez, Saw III and Repo! The Genetic Opera’s Darren Lynn Bousman, Autopsy and Night of the Demon’s (2009) Adam Gierasch and none other than Dog Soldiers and The Descent’s Neil Marshall. The enormous cast includes horror veterans and directors ranging from John Landis, Joe Dante, Adam Green, Lin Shaye, Barbara Crampton and even Adrienne Barbeau. But does the star power in this flick shine or simply burn out too fast? With the less amount of time per short, more creativity is required to keep the attention of the hardened horror fans. Thankfully the film does just that. 

Tricks are for kids.
Tales of Halloween takes place in an unidentified American suburb on Halloween night. Instead of starting right up, we have a montage identifying our roster of directors with their respective shorts with each one having a quick depiction of what we can expect. We are then greeted by the sultry voice of a female radio host ironically played by Adrienne Barbeau as if she was reprising her role as Stevie Wayne from The Fog. She is our main link between the tales as she counts down to midnight or so she mentions it to be “The Witching Hour”.  We are then treated to each short which runs on average to anything between ten to fifteen minutes each until the final short directed by Neil Marshall. Everything occurs on the exact same night and we can even recognize reoccurring characters in the background as the film progresses. We are treated to a variety of characters and creatures including some killer kids, kidnappers, a witch and her deadbeat husband, the demon of Halloween, aliens, and even killer pumpkins. 

What I found to be notable of the feature is that not one short was ever dull. The film keeps you engaged throughout the entire run-time. While there are no shorts in particular that will make you roll your eyes in regret, there are some that stand out the most. Out of all ten of these, the festival audience clearly made their voice clear with choosing Mike Mendez’ Friday the 31st. What obviously looks like a Jason Voorhees or Victor Crowley clone going around doing what slashers do best takes a comical turn when the brainless killer gets an unexpected visitor. While this short seems to come right out of left field (literally, they ran out of a corn field!) the directors did a solid job on keeping a consistent tone from beginning to end. Unlike some of the previous films at this year’s fest, there is less comedy employed and more camp. Fans will definitely be comparing the anthology flick to Trick ‘R Treat but in a way, we would still then be comparing apples to oranges. There is, in a way, more of an actual storyline in Trick ‘R Treat laced with humor and atmosphere while Tales of Halloween follows a campier linear path with less overlap then the anthology’s predecessor. Maybe because there are ten of them, it was important to fill in each one with their own storyline first and then move on to the next. It was indeed a treat to play a point and identify game with the notable cast, but it doesn’t just stop there. Legendary composer Lalo Schifrin came out of retirement to write Tales’ main theme which does the film justice. 

Treats are for whatever the hell this thing is.
The last question that we need to ask ourselves about Tales of Halloween is will it stand the test of time? No doubt, the film’s talent and creativity will get fans keep a slot open once a year on All Hallow’s Eve to dive into a new tradition alongside John Carpenter’s Halloween and Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat.  Tales reminds us that every October 31st, the ghouls and gals come out to play so keep your lights on, beware of strangers, and always check your candy...

Written By Elise Holmes 

Elise Holmes is not your average writer. Dedicated to her Evil Dead fan site The Deadite Slayer, she is doing Fantasia Fest coverage this year for Blood Brothers! Check out her site HERE!