The Horrors of Tribeca 2012: Jack and Diane, Rat King, Headshot, Journey to Planet X

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Tribeca 2012 ran April 18th-29th in NYC, and Dread Central was on the scene. Here we have mini-reviews of four films that may be of interest to you as a horror fan or just on your radar as someone who loves good cinema that travels off the beaten path and into weirdsville.

As a professional geek, I am naturally caught up in Avengers madness right now. It’s a-runnin’ all through my veins. Though that may be the case, I am still duty bound to turn in my coverage of the most important film fest New York City has to offer. TRIBECA!! Now, before we jump into this, I’d like to point out that there were several films on this year’s lineup that COULD have been horror, but the shady synopses provided did not allow for a concrete decision until a viewing went down. I’ll be sure to address this…right now…

Jack and DianeJack and Diane: Before now, you knew this as that “Lesbian Werewolf Love Story”. Now you can tell people this is a lesbian romance with werewolf-ism used as an allegory for the underlying, churning, mega-destructive evil that is …LOVE. Yes, love…crusher of souls…snuffer of hopes and dreams…catalyst for many a whiny emo song. It is love that draws tomboy skater girl Jack to innocent-looking, British-sounding Diane after their accidental meeting and extended getting-to-know-you evening around the big bad city. We follow the pair as they struggle with their feelings, some new and some unexpected, and the trials they endure to attempt to be together, which are not very trying, and their attempts, not very strenuous.

Basically we are watching two young girls being two young girls as they fool around, reveal pieces of their hearts, and do their best not to be crushed. The werewolf bits come from the director slapping in scenes of one girl or the other emerging suddenly as a snarling creature reminiscent of Troma’s finest beasties. These moments are completely random and often not talked about at all. Alongside these wolf-outs (which is both a lesbian and werewolf joke) are visions of internal workings showing the beast lurking beneath the skin with coarse hairs bristling against organs and braids dragging along musculature, all in stop-motion. You’ll also find oddly placed time markers on black backgrounds which are also stop-motion and undulate eerily. These two visions are as horrific as the movie gets so those hopeful for a new werewolf epic should stop looking.

Jack and Diane is a melancholy tale of youth love, which is to say the movie is sweet, pretty, doesn’t really go anywhere, and ends with very little resolution.

Jack and Diane

2 out of 5

Rat KingRat King: These days, with technology at your fingertips at nearly every moment, it is easy to get sucked into a world far more appealing than this hurtful planet. Such is the case for Juri, a Finnish teen obsessed with gaming and the tech that makes it possible. When Juri isn’t plugged in, he is just another awkward youth, unsure of his place in the world and his affections for his girlfriend. It is these very traits that make him a perfect target for THE GAME.

A frantic call from a gamer friend he has never met in the real world thrusts Juri into an odd series of challenges that seem innocuous enough, even though Niki (said gamer bud) insists the game is after him and will not stop until he is dead. Why does he still allow Juri to play? Such is the way of this tale. Much of the movie is spent watching Juri and Niki bond over the completion of random tasks using the player name “Rat King”, with the game spitting out these challenges in single words and little else in the way of direction on how to progress under the computer’s watchful camera eye. Niki bears a remarkable resemblance to Juri, and after a haircut Juri is transformed from Garth in “Wayne’s World” to Niki’s twin. This allows the two to swap places whenever it suits them, and as Niki is in hiding from the game, it allows him to live out in the world…as Juri. The film is beautifully shot, at times amplifying Juri’s feelings of loneliness even in a crowded space, and at other times impressing the viewer with interesting locations lit with precision. The tone is generally light, striking a teen drama sort of feel, and if it weren’t for Niki’s original message of doom, you wouldn’t think there was any danger to speak of.

As the story progresses, we start to wonder what Niki’s true motivations may be. There are no real scares in Rat King, but the film moves at a brisk pace, and the striking visuals are enough to keep you engaged with likable characters as we wait for something to happen. The finale is not the strongest, and surely not worthy of all that build up, but I can see American filmmakers snapping this up for a quick remake turn-around. This story is original enough for kids to eat it up! Think Heathers with a play on The Parent Trap, gaming themes, and the threat of impending death. Many a PG-13 thriller has made it to the big screen with far less substance. Rat King doesn’t force the gaming elements until one particular scene where maze solving and a first-person shooter view come into play so extra points for keeping a light hand on that button! Here’s hoping you’ll get a chance to see this one in the near future.

Rat King

3 1/2 out of 5

HeadshotHeadshot: This is the classic tale of a cop on the edge, manipulated by the system, pushed by corrupt politicians, and turned assassin by clandestine forces. If I had a nickel, right?

Before watching, I had thought the hook of the film lay in the assassin’s perspective, which, due to a bullet to his cranium, is upside down. Obviously the filmmakers decided the audience would find watching entire scenes upside down uncomfortable so this facet of the movie is reduced to the bare minimum shot or two, which is a shame. I was looking forward to seeing how they would approach this feature! Instead, the creators adapt a Tarantino-esque storytelling timeline and end up with a mess you won’t be able to fully grasp until the final 20 minutes. Why? Who knows. The story has a beginning and an end; it is just the middle they decided to throw into a box and shake around, laying scenes out in some random order.

The film is shot well and the pacing is fair, but bursts of action and gunplay amid thoughtful silences don’t do anything to alleviate the confusion caused by scattered storytelling. In the end Headshot left me with a headache…which may be a clever marketing ploy? Either way, I recommend skipping this one.


2 1/2 out of 5

Journey to Planet XJourney to Planet X: Ever get a bug up your ass to make a movie, but you’re lacking money, filmmaking experience, actors, scenery, locations, props, and technology? Shame on you. These things do not stop people with courage. People like Eric Swain and Troy Bernier. They are scientists, and if Ghostbusters has taught us anything, it is that scientists can make miracles happen.

Journey to Planet X follows this duo as they make their dreams reality come hell or high water. Countless times I have found myself watching a low budget film that made me want to stab my eyes out and thought, “What the hell were those people thinking when they made that?!” This film gives you the answer…and that answer is, “Something pretty fucking sweet.” That laughter is just people enjoying your work…and enjoy it we did.

Journey to Planet X is a simple film that takes us from point A to Z with the seriousness given to a History Channel “Ancient Aliens” episode but with editing designed to let you know the filmmaker gets the joke…even if others do not. At the end of the day this film has something to say about doing what you love so hard that everyone around you can’t help but love it, too. I savored every minute. Here’s hoping this movie takes its proper place at comic conventions this summer and beyond!

Journey to Planet X

4 out of 5

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