Kimblebee at Fantastic Fest 09, Day Two - Kamogawa Horumo, Hard Revenge Milly, Zombieland and Doghouse
28th Oct 09
We went to the Alamo Drafthouse nice and early to pick up our tickets for the day's screenings, but by that point both secret screenings had sold out, so in the end we got tickets for Kamogawa Horumo (Battle League in Kyoto), Hard Revenge Milly, Zombieland, Master Pancakes: Total Recall and Doghouse.
We went into the first film, Kamogawa Horumo, pretty cold – even the write up in the programme didn't give anything away and warned against watching any trailers for it online as it reveals too much about the plot. The film centres on a secret club held by Kyoto University, and in the process of luring new recruits in the form of the usual school stereotypes (the jock, the geek, the pretty one, etc), these unsuspecting freshmen are left in the dark as much as the audience in terms of revealing what the club is actually about. After a few parties with free booze, however, the pledges willingly join up.
What you think will be just another coming of age story where young students discover their true identities and fall in love, blah blah blah, completely takes you by surprise with the rapid introduction of the real meaning behind the group – a secret, underground fighting squad where they must train tiny demon trolls (collectively names Oni) to battle each other in order to keep the Gods happy.
What seems like a ridiculous premise is in fact pure brilliance due to the execution, direction and special effects, and I defy anyone who watches this film to not be completely in love with the cute Oni characters by the end of the film. The balance between comedy, action, and fantasy works well in this move, making it difficult to pigeon-hole in a particular category, which makes it even more fantastic! If the above still of the film doesn't immediately compel you to watch this movie, I urge you to do so – not just for the Tamagotchi generation, Kamogawa Horumo is guaranteed to entertain audiences of all ages. One of my highlights of the Fest.
Hard revenge Milly
Our second film of the day was a two part, Kill Bill style, Japanese, action/ revenge movie – Hard Revenge Milly / Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle. The first part is perhaps the most succinct, starting with the backstory of how a local gang torture and kill Milly's family including her husband and baby (which they set fire to and then throw against a wall – nice), before gutting our heroine and leaving her for dead. One thing that this type of film likes to regurgitate is the ineptitude of these so-called 'deadly assassin gangs' that never check to see if the victim is dead. Big mistake. But needless to say they get their comeuppance in suitably grizzly ways and Milly (who plagiarises The Bride from Kill Bill a little too much) proves to be tougher than initially given credit for and wreaks her bloody revenge.
The Director and Writer were in attendance and before the screening the audience was treated to sample some of the filmmakers' special recipe cooked beef. Towards the end of the film a particular event occurred, and it all became clear why we were given barbequed meat in the first place – I'm not revealing anymore, you'll have to go and see it for yourself to find out what happens...
If you liked Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl, you'll love Hard Revenge Milly as it knocks both into cocked hats in terms of plot and action, especially considering it was made on a shoestring budget.
We then headed across to the Paramount Theater to see the World Premiere of Zombieland. Outside we were greeted by a swarm of wannabe zombies, and all of a sudden everything started to feel a little more like home. The movie was introduced by Director Reuben Fleischer, and we were also very fortunate to have the stars of the movie in attendance – Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland), Emma Stone (Superbad), and the legend that is Woody Harrelson (who needs absolutely no introduction here whatsoever!)
The film was an absolute blast from start to finish, and dare I say it, possibly one of the best zombie movies of the last 10 years. Set in Texas (which made it even more special to be there when it premiered), the film sees four characters unite in unlikely circumstances to stand against the army of undead that pollute Zombieland, each with their own motives and goals.
With a cameo from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane's Amber Heard, and a very special appearance from Bill Murray, there are gags-a-plenty in a movie where comedy takes paramount over horror, making the few shock, nasty moments that much more shocking and entertaining. A postmodern how-to in zombie survival featuring some very quotable one-liners ("Nut up or shut up") and just enough gore, Zombieland really is the zombie movie to beat all zombie movies.
Master Pancakes: Total Recall
On our exit we were greeted by yet more zombies and movie promoters handing out Twinkees, Snowballs (it will all make sense when you see the film) and posters. We then headed to a super cool bar (complete with balcony and live band) on 6th street called The Olive Garden for a quick drink before scooting across the road to the other Alamo venue (The Ritz) to catch Master Pancakes: Total Recall.
Having never seen Totall Recall before, the idea of a screening with some of the top local comedians doing a running commentary sounded too good to resist. I only managed to stay for an hour in order to get back to Sth Lamar to see Jake West's midnight screening of Doghouse, but from what I saw of the Master Pancakes gang, they're a pretty talented bunch – throwing in some witty internal monologue and generally ripping the plot (and the actors) to shreds, with hilarious consequences.
We then dashed off in a cab to support our good friend Jake West for his screening of Doghouse. I was a little aprehensive as to how this would play, both in terms of the broad dialects in the film and its very British humour, but the Fantastic Fest crowd loved it! And the screening sold out in no time at all (which is no mean feat considering it was a midnight screening and up against the notorious 'Meet the Japanese' Karaoke party).
The latest in a recent flurry of Brit Horror Comedies, Doghouse makes Lesbian Vampire Killers and the likes look amateurish. Written by grahic novel writer Dan Schaffer and Directed by Jake West (Evil Aliens, Pumpkinhead 3), Doghouse tells the tale of a group of high school buddies-turned-grown men, who each have suffered at the hands of their women; one is in the process of getting divorced, one struggles to remember the names of his succession of one night stands, and another resorts to playing self help cassettes on a loop to drown out his missus' constant nagging.
The guys decide to get away for the weekend to a remote, rural village (apparently full of women) in order to forget about their troubles and rekindle their friendships through some good, old-fashioned male bonding. Trouble is afoot however, when the boys realise just how quiet the village is and that things are about to take a turn for the worse.
Starring Brit hardman Danny Dyer (The Football Factory, Severance), this tale of six best friends who take a trip to rediscover their true identities is well-written, funny and politically relevant; as Jake addressed in the Q&A after the screening that the film is to be taken as reaffirmation of women's empowerment – pitting the female mutant characters' strength and cunning against the male characters struggle with even the simplest of tasks, including operating a remote control.
After the Q&A we headed over to the Highball to see the end of the 'Meet the Japanese' Karaoke party – inspired by the abundance of brilliant Japanese films shown throughout the day. I was gutted to find out that we had missed out on Tim League's turn on the microphone – I'd heard many a tale of what a Karaoke legend he is (if only for effort rather than just pure singing talent).
Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl
Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl and Smash Cut were also showing that evening, but we decided to skip them as we had seen them at Frightfest back in August. I went into Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl expecting something of a similar vein to Tokyo Gore Police (as they share the same Director and special effects artists, Yoshi Nishimura), however this was much more off the wall from the rather serious previous effort from Nishimura (from what I can remember). The plot centres around Monami, a new student at the High School, gives Mizishima a box of “home made” chocolates on Valentines day - “home made” being the dodgy, operative words in that sentence, as she has included the magic ingredient of her own blood – how romantic.
As the title so easily gives away, this isn't your average boy meets girl story, it is more of an unfortunate love triangle, with catastophic and trippy consequences. Needless to say the other girl, Keiko, ends up meeting her untimely demise whilst at school, but luckily her (mad) professor of a father puts her back together again. What seems like a paint-by-number job in terms of plot devices is actually full of mad (but often amateurish – in a good way) special effects and mental plot twists that will have you checking your head for brian leaks all the way through. Not quite in the same league as Tokyo Gore Police or Machine Girl but definitely a fun midnight movie and worth a watch.
Next up, Smash Cut. Lee Damarbre directs this postmodern slasher movie which stars the legendary David Hess (Last House on the Left and House on the Edge of the Park) as a hack filmmaker who is in despair after his mot recent film gets slated by critics for its shoddy effects, after which he has a moment of clarity and realises that real corpses and blood are much cheaper and more realistic than any special effects.
The film also stars renowned Porn Star Sasha Grey (The Girlfriend Experience), who, surprisingly, keeps her kit on, which is quite refreshing! Hess keeps his eerie charm as the guy that you can never quite trust but still keeps you entertained nonetheless and a guest appearance from horror legend Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) as a studio exec came as a nice surprise. A perfectly enjoyable movie if taken with a pinch of salt, but one that comes more under the comedy umbrella than horror in my opinion.