Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18

The final Friday of Fantasia 2010 brought us one of the highlights of this year’s festival: director Christopher (Creep) Smith’s necromancer plague drama Black Death. Playing as the perfect accompaniment to Ken Russell’s The Devils, Black Death is a very subdued and naturalistic take on pestilence and witchcraft.

The film uses the backdrop of medieval superstition as a metaphor for modern-day religious propaganda and state sponsored fundamentalism. With influences as far ranging as In the Name of the Rose, Wicker Man, and Witchfinder General, it turned out to be a crowd pleasing and blessedly subtle take on an oft covered theme that stands out as one of the best of the sub-genre. Check out McCannibal’s Black Death review here.

The midnight showing of The Butcher Brothers’ The Violent Kind was a little more hit and miss. The crowd seemed torn as large portions of the audience were guffawing and laughing at the film, with other viewers seemingly enjoying it on its own merits and shushing the vocal minority. While entertaining in parts, I found the movie a mishmash of influences both genuine and contrived. Read my The Violent Kind review here.

Saturday afternoon I saw the surprisingly fun Canadian vampire flick Suck. In a word, it doesn’t. While it’s fairly lighthearted and will surely appeal to all the newly minted teenage vampire fans, it’s also a rock and roll road movie populated by old time heavy hitters like Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Moby. It comes across as a labor of love, and the filmmakers themselves still seem surprised that they were able to attract such huge names to their project. Oh, did I mention Malcolm McDowell plays Van Helsing? Review coming soon.

Fantasia 2010

I had to skip the screenings of Neil Marshall’s Centurion and Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism, but Pierre was on hand and didn’t come away all that impressed:

The crowd came out in droves for Neil Marshall’s Centurion, which recalled (although didn’t surpass) the frenzy that accompanied the director’s sophomore feature, The Descent, when it screened at Fantasia in 2005. Marshall was there to whet the crowd’s appetite, along with writer and Centurion actress Axelle Carolyn, and suggested a possible drinking game where viewers could take a shot every time someone in the film gets stabbed in the back (to be tried at home, natch, since no one would think of bringing alcohol to a Fantasia screening). The movie unspooled over ninety minutes and proved itself to be a decent actioner although it was the exception in Marshall’s otherwise consistently enjoyable filmography.

The Last Exorcism (see Sean Decker’s earlier The Last Exorcism review here) ran late due to heavy security – staff searched the audience for video cameras and any other mobile recording devices – since the movie won’t open for another few weeks. The film’s distributor also had viewers sign a release authorizing them to use the crowd’s reactions – shot with infrared cameras – in their marketing campaign, which also slowed down the process of getting asses into seats. As for the movie itself, it’s a typical video verité movie that blends elements of The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist with predictable results.

Saturday’s midnight show was packed, and the already excited crowd was whipped into a froth when they found out from producer Rob Cotterill and cinematographer Karim Hussain that they were about to be the first people in the world to get to see the official trailer for the feature length version of Hobo With a Shotgun. After Hobo With a Shotgun won Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse faux-trailer competition, director Jason Eisener and his team followed up with the wildly popular Treevenge, which led to them being offered the chance to expand their core Hobo idea to feature length – the trailer we saw was the result.

It starts off with the Hobo (Rutger Hauer, looking believably bummy!) in a labor and delivery ward talking to the swaddled infants about how they’re likely to end up whores and murders and drug dealers because the world they’re being born into is so corrupt. To rectify the situation, the Hobo sets out to reclaim the streets with some good old fashioned vigilante justice! And the retribution meted out by Hauer in the trailer is gnarly indeed! We see feet shattered with a sledgehammer, heads decapitated by barbed wire, entire bodies juiced by heavy machinery, and a whole lotta gooey shotgun blasts! The seedy look of the film maintains a grindhouse feel but is also remarkable for the saturated lighting and high degree of stylization. This is gonna be one helluva fun movie to watch. We’ll let you know as soon as the trailer becomes broadly available.

Sunday we caught Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer director Jon Knautz’s follow-up effort. The Shrine. During the Q&A Knautz said he was going for a straight horror film that builds tension and is genuinely frightening. Pierre didn’t like it all that much (see his The Shrine review here), and while I agree with his points, I disagree with his overall assessment and found The Shrine to be one of the more fun straight horror flicks of this year’s Fantasia. However, it’s worth noting that The Shrine is a movie that depends on its twist ending, and in this case the last act surprise completely worked for me and ultimately sold the whole film. Your mileage may vary with how quickly you pick up what’s going on or whether you’re able to understand the one sentence that unveils the twist (I know a few people I talked to missed the payoff because the accent and volume made the line hard to decipher). I’m confident that any horror fan willing to spend the first hour with The Shrine will be glad they stuck with it by the time the credits roll. Personally I would give The Shrine 3-1/2 daggers, just based on the fact that they kept the trick ending well hidden and for the quality of the genuinely frightening final monster. Personally I can’t wait to see what Jon Knautz and his collaborators come up with next.

Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18
“Black Death director Christopher Smith and producer Philip Robertson”

Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18
“Butcher Bro – Phil Flores (on the left)” — “Tony Timpone and Suck director Rob Stefaniuk (on the right)”

Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18
“Neil Marshall and Axelle Carolyn”

Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18
“Producer Rob Cotterill and Cinematographer Karim Hussain”

Fantasia 2010: Days 15-18
“Shrine Director Jon Knautz and Star Aaron Ashmore

Evil Andy

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    Regarding BLACK DEATH. Any news on a North American release?