DANGER AFTER DARK
If you’re a regular reader of Filmmaker, you’ll recognize Travis Crawford‘s byline. He’s often in our pages writing about cutting-edge genre films, Asian auteurist work, and unclassifiable Euro arthouse pics. (See his feature on Bruno Dumont’s 29 Palms in our current issue.)
But when he’s not writing for Filmmaker, Crawford is, among other things, programming the Philadelphia Film Festival‘s “Danger after Dark” program, the genre-section that allows him to cherrypick the best new titles as well as the essential works that have been on the fest circuit for the past year.
Crawford is the king of the long, thoughtful, exceedingly well composed email (no “lol!” or “:)”‘s for him), so when he sent the message below to his personal list, I thought I’d post it here. It’s an advance look at this year’s “Danger after Dark” titles, which aren’t scheduled to be formerly announced until next week. And, as usual, Crawford’s descriptions comprise a “must-see list” for everyone wanting to catch up on new horror, fantasy, and suspense films.
The Philadelphia Film Festival runs April 8 – 21.
“ACACIA (South Korea): Director Park Ki-hyung (WHISPERING CORRIDORS, SECRET TEARS) is chiefly responsible for the new wave of Korean horror cinema, and this is his most affecting, mature film to date, a story of a young adopted boy’s malevolent influence on his new home. The saddest horror movie since DON’T LOOK NOW. (North American premiere)
AZUMI (Japan): Yes, VERSUS and ARAGAMI director Ryuhei Kitamura is back in Danger After Dark, with this lavish, big-budget female swordplay epic. The major studio coin has allowed Kitamura to spend more on swords, hyperactive camerawork, and blood effects. Otherwise, little has changed, and fans will dig it. (East Coast premiere)
DRAGON HEAD (Japan): A huge special effects-laden manga-adapted spectacle about my favorite cinematic subect: the complete and total end of civilization. Two teens on a school trip dig themselves out of the train tunnel that has collapsed during their travels, only to find that the Japan above ground has been devastated by a mysterious plague. Grim, downbeat science fiction cinema at its most pessimistic. Thumbs up, of course. (North American premiere)
HAUTE TENSION (France): This sick and slick French slasher movie (see image above) is awash in more gratuitious gore than almost any other film in Danger After Dark history, and it’s been making quite the festival impact at Toronto and Sundance. Two girls, one crazed killer, industrial power tools, you get the picture. Much fun; it’s the opening night film. (East Coast premiere)
KING OF THE ANTS (U.S.A.): RE-ANIMATOR director Stuart Gordon‘s new film is probably his best work since that classic debut. A vicious, unsparingly brutal crime thriller about a hitman with a taste for revenge, this will likely cause lots of audience cringing, much to my satisfaction.
THE LAST HORROR MOVIE (U.K.): …and speaking of lots of audience cringing. This uncompromising British exploration of viewer culpability in the enjoyment of violent cinema plays like a cross between MAN BITES DOG and HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, only with greater wit and imagination, as a serial killer videotapes his crimes for your entertainment. Preceded by the Brazilian short film LOVE FROM MOTHER ONLY. (East Coast premiere of the feature)
LEGEND OF THE EVIL LAKE (South Korea): Lavish widescreen fantasy-horror film from Korea, that plays like the best Hong Kong genre films of the late-1980s, with a visual sensibility that recalls THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. A girl is possessed by an evil spirit imprisoned in a sword, and subsequently wreaks havoc on her tormentors. “Comes the closest of any Korean movie so far to reaching the excellence of Hong Kong examples…wildly entertaining ride (that) hardly pauses for breath.” — Variety. (North American premiere)
MOON CHILD (Japan): Former sex film director Takahisa Zeze helms this ambitious gangster film that features the eerily beautiful Japanese pop stars Gackt and Hyde. Part John Woo-styled bullet opera, part gothic vampire opus, the film is an endearing collision of various genres. (North American premiere)
THE PARK (Hong Kong): Hong Kong horror in 3-D! This colorful ghost story of a haunted amusement park is directed by Andrew Lau, the hit-maker behind the INFERNAL AFFAIRS and YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series. 3-D glasses will be given to you at the door. This film is rather, um, heavily derided in some circles, but I found it most enjoyable. Preceded by the short film TATTOO. (East Coast premiere)
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (South Korea): Gorgeous Korean horror film with enough plot twists in the final half-hour to make FIGHT CLUB and SIXTH SENSE seem wholly predictable and routine. Two sisters move back into the house with their evil stepmother, and various frights ensue. Very beautiful, and a great triple bill with ACACIA and THE UNINVITED (see below).
THE TESSERACT (Thailand/U.K./Japan): New film from Oxide Pang, one half of the Pang Brothers duo who brought you THE EYE and BANGKOK DANGEROUS. The lives of four characters intersect in a seedy Bangkok hotel that ultimately erupts into violence in this predictably visually stylish work. (East Coast premiere)
THE UNINVITED (South Korea): Hmm…will everyone in this e-mail list do me a personal favor and see this film? This somber Korean horror film is likely to be the most controversial entry in Danger this year — not so much because of its admittedly shocking images of children in danger, but because it takes some surprising detours throughout its narrative and deviates from any traditional horror film rhythms — but I think it’s a great film, and one which should be seen by all. The last word in post-RING Asian dead kid ghost story movies. (North American premiere)
WHO KILLED BAMBI? (France): A timid nurse with a penchant for fainting encounters a sinister surgeon with a fondness for abuse of power in this new French thriller with a subtle Lynchian vibe and the most meticulously art-directed hospital ever committed to film.
PHANTASMAGORIA AWARD: Tobe Hooper in attendance.
TOOLBOX MURDERS (U.S.A.): Tobe Hooper receives our festival’s Phantasmagoria Award, and attends the event with his first film, and his newest. TOOLBOX MURDERS, a remake of the late-70s slasher film in name only, is Hooper’s best work in years, a gory, stylish, and suspenseful shocker set in a crumbling old apartment building that houses an evil force who enjoys claw hammers and nail guns. (East Coast premiere)
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (U.S.A.): Hooper will also be here for a 30th anniversary screening of his debut film, presented in a new 35mm print. Do you need me to tell you what this is?
CENTERPIECE SELECTION: LIGHTNING BUG (U.S.A.): The world premiere of FX-artist-turned-director Robert Hall’s largely autobiographical story of a teenage horror movie fan in 1980s Alabama who dreams of fleeing to L.A. to make monsters for a living (and escape the real monsters in his own home). Not a horror film, but obviously a work of great interest to genre fans, and all are encouraged to attend. Particularly since everyone from the film will be here, including Hall, and the whole cast (including HELLRAISER’s Ashley Laurence and the lovely Laura Prepon, currently the star of some sort of television show or the other…). (World Premiere)
That’s all the genre-oriented stuff, but there are some general Asian films in the main body of the festival which are absolutely fantastic: *highly* recommended are VIBRATOR, NINE SOULS, and JOSEE THE TIGER AND THE FISH from Japan, as well as the new film from Hideo (RING, DARK WATER) Nakata, LAST SCENE. From Thailand, the wonderful LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE and from China, the award-winning UNIFORM and the moving WHEN RUOMA WAS SEVENTEEN. And I have assembled another New Korean Cinema program this year, with such excellent films as MEMORIES OF MURDER, A GOOD LAWYER’S WIFE, SINGLES, PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH, THE ROAD TAKEN, CLASSIC, and DOUBLE AGENT. And we’re North American premiering the new Catherine Breillat film ANATOMY OF HELL, which is perhaps her most confrontational work to date. And there are some great European and American Independent films programmed too, but I’m tired of typing, so just come to the festival already, OK? Can’t you see how hard I’ve been working, people? And I’ll bet you’ll all complain because there’s no Takashi Miike films this year, right? There’s no pleasing some people, I’ll tell you…”
(On the subject of Takashi Miike: Stockholm-based NonStop Entertainment acquired his latest film, ONE MISSED CALL, at the recently closed American Film Market. A Japanese psycho thriller in the same genre as THE RING and The GRUDGE, the film grossed $10 million in Japan in its first month of release partly thanks to the popularity of actress-singer Kou Shibasaki, who played the sadistic girl in BATTLE ROYALE. In ONE MISSED CALL Shibasaki plays the nice-but-disturbed Yumi Nakamura. A nasty cycle starts to unfold when Yumi’s friends receive voice messages on their mobile phones, messages that are recordings of their own imminent deaths. And the date for each message is only a few days in the future. An American remake of the film is under consideration. NonStop Entertainment bought the rights to the film from Horizon Entertainment for Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.)