GRIMMFEST 2016- Friday 7th October – AN Overview by James Pemberton
THE UNSEEN (Dir- Geoff Redknapp, Canada, 2016)
The first full day of films kick off with a screening of this interesting sci fi tinged horror film about a former hockey player Bob Langmore (Aden Young) who etches a living as a mill worker in a snow covered small Canadian town. Langmore however is suffering from a genetic disorder which was passed down by his dad and is rendering his body invisible. He wants to re-connect with his daughter before he fully disappears and along the way agrees to deliver a package for a local drug dealer. This puts him in the cross-hairs of many various criminal types as well as placing him on the hunt for his daughter when she goes missing. Redknapp is known more for his work as an effects guy on various big budget films, most recently this years DEADPOOL and the sense of visual effects is present especially in Bob’s increasingly invisibility which is superbly staged and often visually gruesome in parts but impressive none the less.
Combining a character study of broken blue collar lives along with supernatural sci-fi elements, a kidnapping plot and other sub plots the film does seem to try and cram a lot into its 104 minute running time and could do without some of the various tangents that at times seem rushed and unfulfilled. Yet it has a strong gritty style and essentially its an update of the Invisible Man story but set in the broken lives of a working class small town and even then its invisibility themes reflect Langmore’s decision to leave and isolate himself from his family and besides his job confine him to almost non-existence. The relationship between Langmore and his daughter is a central focus for the film and is one of its strong impressive traits, to a point that it could be retitled THE INVISIBLE DAD, though that would make it sound like a bad 80’s family comedy. A solid debut from Redknapp and a good start for the day.
SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
Naturally there’s a chance to catch some impressive shorts and the showcase certainly has an interesting line up especially as one being screened, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WILLIE BINGHAM, I already caught at this years Dead By Dawn and is even better on a second viewing (my review for it is here- http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/tag/the-disappearance-of-willie-bingham-review/). Other film in the showcase include HADA- A decently made if somewhat predictable shocker which relies too much on jump shocks and effects that are pretty predictable (3/10). QUENOTTES (PEARLIES) is a superb dark tale of a mouse who is the tooth fairy of your childhood who bought you your first coin, however the mouse in this tale is a more darker rodent who is obsessed about maintaining his collection of teeth. A Darkly comic and impressive adult fairytale (7/10).
ADAM PEIPER- Didn’t really know what to think of this, but from what is shown the director seems more interested in the visual style rather than the story which is something involving a man stuck in a repetitive dull job in a controlling 1984-esque society, possibly? (3/10). UNDER THE APPLE TREE- A nicely staged animation showing how its the worms who control the undead, impressive despite finding the overall narrative rhyming tone slightly annoying. (7/10).
LITTLE BOY BLUE- The final film in the showcase is a stylish and impressively staged adult fairy tale (yep, that term again) which manages to combine themes of child abuse, gender identity and repressed desires as well as throwing in a castration as well, both animal and human. It’s style does somehow slow the film down in parts but there’s no denying that the visual aesthetic of the short is strong and impressive and somehow part of me felt this could have even translated better as a full length feature. Still an impressive and pretty dark short film that handles tricky and disturbing material very well without descending into exploitation or shock tactics (7.5/10).
I didn’t watch the next feature WHAT WE BECOME as again I saw it at Dead By Dawn, but recommend it as its a decently made if slightly predictable zombie feature, so I had a break and caught a chance to see daylight before the main 3 evening features.
MY FATHER DIE (Dir- Sean Brosnan, USA, 2016)
Continuing the theme of Southern Gothic set out by the previous nights feature LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR, comes this revenge themed noir thriller directed by the son of Pierce Brosnan. Since the age of 12 Asher has been deaf as he had his hearing knocked out by his dad who the same time killed his older brother in a drunken rage. Asher has been waiting and training for his dad’s release and to take his revenge. Though the revenge is not going to be easy and finds Asher on a collision course with his brutish and psychotic father. Stylish in parts to the point that almost relishes the drab and bleak lives of those living in poverty in the Southern USA bible belt, to a stage that I felt it was almost bordering on almost poverty porn, white trash obsession that Rob Zombie would be proud of.
The film’s visual style, straight up brutal nature and violence crossed with biblical references hold the film together and make the prevailing confrontation and mass of destruction caused by Asher’s father in his trail of his son a thunderous tour de force. The performance of Asher by Joe Anderson is handled well spending most of the film communicating in sign language and only having the neat twist of his 12 year old voice narrating the dialogue. However as his father Ivan, Gary Stretch, portrays one of the meanest and nastiest villains. A character who is perfectly described as prehistoric by one of the Sheriffs investigating his latest crime. There are some scenes that could be cut down to tighten up the pacing and one scene that seems entirely gratuitous and unnecessary as it only furthers to portray Ivan’s nasty character which we have already witnessed numerous times. Though its a confident first feature from Brosnan with a dark theme of southern Gothic tinged biblical revenge.
DIRECTORS CUT (Dir- Adam Rifkin, USA, 2016)
Herbert Blount (Penn Jillette) presents his directors cut of a film he has hijacked from original director Adam Rifkin. However Blount’s version seems to be focused more on it’s lead actress Missi Pyle, who the budding director is very much obsessed with to the point of casting her against her will in his own version of Rifkin’s film, especially since Herbert helped put money towards the film’s crowd funding it only seems fair he can make his own version, right? At first I had the impression that this film might not work as it starts with Blount making observations on the production of the film over the soundtrack and could easily run out of steam after a half hour.
Yet once it kicks into gear the film takes a decidedly dark and comic twist with Blount’s obsession with the Pyle and his insistence of re-shooting certain scenes from the film using some crap and unconvincing visual effects. Both brilliantly twisted and funny and with a clever execution in its depiction of two films being made simultaneously, its also has interesting depictions of film-making process especially in the age of digital cameras. DIRECTOR’S CUT manages to become even funnier the further it progresses as we are witness to one man’s crappy almost stalker obsessed version of a crappy serial killer thriller and as the lead and our narrator Jillette is fantastic as the unhinged and terrible Blount, whose scuppers a scene in a brief cameo where he messes up the delivery of the one line he is given, in one of the many laugh out loud moments. It might not be to everyone’s taste and some may find it a little over reaching for its own good, but those with a dark sense of humour and interest in film-making will love this twisted and inspired film.
TRAIN TO BUSAN (Dir- Sang-ho Yuen, SOUTH KOREA, 2016)
Sok-Woo (Yoo Gong) and his daughter Soo-ahn (Soo-an Kim) are boarding a train to go from Seoul to Busan. However at the same time there seems to be outbreaks of random unexplained attacks happening in the city and before the train sets off a person who doesn’t look too well sneaks aboard. Once a conductor is attacked by the infected passenger its not long before it spreads to the other passengers, and our characters and a few other remaining passengers face a battle of survival against the undead. Much hyped since its premiere in Cannes, TRAIN TO BUSAN has been receiving rave reviews at its numerous festival appearances and its not hard to see why. It’s a fantastic big budget piece that contains numerous stunning set pieces, characters that you root for and hope survive and scenes of high emotion that play well and never feels sentimental especially in the films conclusion.
It manages to take a worn out simple premise of zombies on a train and breath new life into its rotten corpse and produces a highly enjoyable and thrilling 2 hours that places characters in a tight and isolated situation where the undead stand only one carriage away. It should be seen at the cinema and here’s hoping it gets a wider release as the 2 hours of this film produces more entertainment and excitement than many recent American made blockbusters. See it before the inevitable Hollywood re-imaging and the British re-make which will be no doubt be set on a rail replacement bus.