This year’s Fantasia is taking a while to get off the ground horror-wise, and it wasn’t until the second evening of the festival that we saw the first real horror related film of this year’s program, the documentary Herschell Gordon Lewis – The Godfather of Gore (review here).
The movie was thoroughly entertaining, containing tons of stories straight from Herschell, his collaborators, and high profile fans such as John Waters and Joe Bob Briggs. The screening was attended by the filmmaking team, Jimmy Maslon, Mike Vraney, and the always hilarious and informative Frank Henenlotter. The man himself, H.G. Lewis was also on hand to answer questions, and lead the Fantasia audience through a rollicking rendition of the 2000 Maniacs theme song! Yeeeeee-Haw!
Saturday was the first of many full-day movie watching sessions, and included the Greek zombie apocalypse flick Evil in the Time of Heroes, dysfunctional British family crime comedy Down Terrace, and the first of many subversive as hell Serbian films Life and Death of a Porno Gang. We missed Nishimura-san’s Mutant Girls Squad, but heard from others that it’s everything fans of Tokyo Gore Police are used to (cue the arterial flood!)
Evil in the Time of Heroes was pleasantly gory, but the wacky visuals, confusing spacial and temporal direction, and the large, underdeveloped cast left Paul and me utterly confused as to the plot of the film. We heard after the screening the movie we saw is a sequel to the low budget Evil by the same director (Yorgos Noussias), which may explain some of our bewilderment. If you’re in the mood for some CGI gore on an epic scale, or if you just want to track the progress of Billy Zane’s male pattern baldness, this one might be worth checking out.
Next up was Down Terrace, while, despite not being horror related is highly recommended viewing. The film was directed by Ben Wheatley (BBC’s “The Wrong Door”), and produced by Andy Starke, half of the duo behind Mondo Macabro, and while it has nothing in common with the type of fare he and Pete Tombs usually unleash upon the world, the hilarious and surprisingly poignant performances, the Cohen brothers meet Coronation Street sensibility, and the inevitable, but nonetheless shocking ending add up to what feels like might be one of the best films of the festival. While we often see a lot more than just horror fare at Fantasia, we don’t often go out of our way to recommend non-horror flicks to our readers, but if you get a chance to check this one out, rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
Now, just to make myself a liar, we also have to recommend a second non-horror related entry, though this one is certainly a kissing cousin to our beloved genre, and frankly, who but horror fans are going to give The Life and Death of a Porno Gang a home? The movie tells the story of Marko an aspiring Serbian filmmaker who, desperate for work in the film business starts shooting porno. His lofty ambitions lead him to create a wanky (literally!) conceptual sex movie (which reminded me of the 2006 high art meets skin flick Destricted). His producer is predictably unhappy, and demands repayment of the movie’s financing. This leads Marko to flee Belgrade by assembling a hodge-podge of talent for a traveling porno-cabaret act, consisting of a couple of prototypical gay guys, a fat chick, a couple of junkies, a transvestite, and a his porno-hot girlfriend. In this stereotypical depiction the film reveals a somewhat more mainstream sensibility than is it’s aim, but what it lacks for in character depth and plot originality, it more than makes up for with it’s gruelingly nihilistic mood. The first half of The Life and Death of a Porno Gang tries to illicit a spirit of youthful fun and rebelliousness as the troupe travels the countryside partying and screwing and doing drugs. This is meant to contrast against the latter half of the film that chronicles the gang’s downward spiral into addiction, disease, and snuff filmmaking. The message of the film seems clear: your career choices in a post-Milosevic Serbia run the gamut from porn to murder, neither of which pay well, and your only escape is drug addiction and death. It’s a grim message wrapped up in a candy coated party bus replete with pink neon lighting, and the kind of movie John Waters would have made had he been a native of Belgrade rather than Baltimore.
Today’s dance card is already full, as we’ll finally get to check out Rubber, the serial killer tire movie that everyone’s talking about, and the I Spit on Your Grave remake, which will be attended by both remake director Steven R. Monroe and the director of the original Day of The Woman Meir Zarchi. That’s double the rape-revenge for your pleasure folks!
“Mladen Djordjevic (director of The Life and Death of a Porno Gang), Dejan Ognjanovic (co-programmer of the Subversive Serbia program), Karim Hussain (director Subconscious Cruelty)”
“Yoshihiro Nishimura (director Mutant Girls Squad), and Marc Walkow from the New York Asian Film Festival”
“Yoshihiro Nishimura, Mitch Davis, Frank Henenlotter, Mike Vraney, H.G. Lewis, Jimmy Maslon”
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