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Fantasia Film Festival

Fantasia 2017 Dispatch #2: ‘Museum,’ ‘Death Line,’ and ’78/52′

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Museum Review

Possibly no film festival suits our Sordid Cinema section better than Fantasia. Held every year in Montreal, this four-week showcase for imaginative indie genre films is like a wonderland for those who love their cinema of the late-night variety. What can we say? This festival just gets us, and this year we’re happy to be once again in attendance, seeing some of the craziest, most unique films from around the world.

****

78/52

Of all The Master’s masterpieces, perhaps no other is as deserving of analysis than Hitchcock’s Psycho, a labor of love that encapsulates nearly all of the major themes he explored through decades of brilliance, from voyeurism to mommy issues to an uncaring, unpredictable universe. The infamous shower scene lays bare all those ideas in a sequence that required 78 camera setups and 52 cuts, and is the specific subject of director Alexandre O. Phillipe’s documentary, appropriately titled 78/52. One of the most jarring deaths in cinema history is reflected upon and dissected by a series of industry professionals that include editors, sound guys, writers, musicians, and Elijah Wood, each heaping plenty of praise upon one of filmdom’s greatest auteurs, while also offering unique insights into the proceedings based on their area of expertise.

78/52 comes from a place of pure cinematic love, and though devotees of Hitchcock most likely won’t gain much new knowledge over the course of the film’s 91 minutes, the enthusiasm of the talking heads who marvel at such virtuosity is contagious, even if it is a bit too much at times. Will that excitement be enough to impart even a passing interest in casual movie fans? Probably not (my own friends certainly don’t seem to want to listen to me go on about my Hitchcock obsession anymore), and loose theories about metaphors and cultural impact that border on crackpot fanboyism don’t help matters either (they’re also out of place while discussing a filmmaker so precise). When the conversation turns technical, however, 78/52 is heaven for those who love the craft. This is a movie for and about those obsessed with movies, admirers who get big thrills from studying how a master of suspense elicited big chills. (Patrick Murphy)

Museum (Myûjiamu)

Fantasia favourite Keishi Otomo (of the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy) is back once again with Museum, a gruesome, over-the-top shocker that keeps the audience guessing right up until the credits roll. Based on Ryosuke Tomoe’s 2013 manga Museum: The Serial Killer Is Laughing in the Rain, this crossover between horror and police procedural about a detective who finds himself in a personal and professional nightmare excels for the most part with its a tantalizingly morbid atmosphere, replete with elaborate murders and ever-surprising twists and turns. The victims are systematically killed by a mysterious figure disguised in a trenchcoat while wearing a frog mask, their bodies left behind, posed in ungodly positions and sometimes dismembered beyond recognition. As Detective Sawamura (Shun) Oguri hunts down the killer, he quickly realizes that the clues left at the crime scenes point to his wife Haruka (Machiko Ono) and their only son.

Museum-movie

Museum borrows heavily (and I do mean heavily) from David Fincher’s classic, Se7en – so much so that anyone who’s seen Fincher’s masterpiece may find themselves wishing they were watching that film instead. It’s never a good thing when your movie is living in the shadows of one of the most influential box office successes of the 90s, but that aside, for the most part there is a lot to like here. DoP Hideo Yamamoto (The Audition, The Grudge) leads us down beautifully-lit dark alleys and side streets, through a shadowy, rain-soaked Tokyo buried under neon lights and a continuous downpour. Meanwhile, Taro Iwashiro’s pulsating score heightens the mood of every heart-pounding scene, and the young actor Satoshi Tsumabuki (unrecognizable here) brings to life a truly unforgettable boogeyman – a self-proclaimed artistic genius who suffers from Erythropoietic Protoporphyria that results in extreme burning, pain, and itching within minutes of being exposed to sunlight.

The several chase scenes demonstrate the director’s talent for staging nail-biting suspense, and the gruesome murders benefit from some outrageous practical effects. The first half shows great promise – it is methodical rather than macabre, clinical rather than cruel. Sadly however, Keishi Otomo’s latest feature squanders an effective first half by losing focus on the psychology behind the manhunt, devolving into something closer to James Wan’s Saw. Once the serial killer is unmasked, the suspense and tension dissipate, and Museum quickly runs out of gas. Entertaining as it is, it misses greatness with its bargain-basement ending – an ending so irrational, irritating and obnoxious, you’ll wonder if the journey was even worth the trip. (Ricky D)

deathline

Death Line (Raw Meat)

American-born, London-based filmmaker Gary Sherman (Dead & Buried) moved on from directing TV commercials to helm his first feature length film, titled Death Line. Released in North America as Raw Meat, this 70s horror film takes place in the London subway system where a cannibalistic sub-human survives on unsuspecting commuters, and one high profile death brings the police to investigate. Raw Meat is easily one of the best and most underrated horror films to emerge from Great Britain. Gary Sherman’s film is so ahead of its time it predates both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, and like those films, Sherman has more on his mind than scaring viewers. Here he presents a 70s London populated by a ruling class greedily feeding off the poor. This is a city that not only suppresses its lower class, but in doing so also creates in them monsters. The city above is a world of artifice and empty feeling, no different than the dark matrix of tunnels located below, and Sherman wisely takes his time in making his cannibalistic killer sympathetic – and in many ways, more likable than the other characters we follow along.

Raw Meat‘s success is due to a number of factors, not least of which is the cinematography. There is some truly spectacular camerawork on display, including a remarkable single-take sequence through the tunnels below London. Raw Meat also boasts a great comic turn by Donald Pleasance, who plays the grumpy working-class Inspector Calhoun, who is assigned to investigate the murders and disappearances of citizens commuting on the London Tube. Meanwhile, Christopher Lee plays upper-class MI5 agent Stratton-Villiers, who wants to keep a lid on the crimes being reported. If you’re looking for a dark, well acted, visually stunning shocker, you could do a lot worse than Sherman’s low-budget creeper. (Ricky D)

****

Our coverage will be continuing all throughout July, so be sure to get your genre kicks with even more Fantasia 2017 features and reviews right here!

FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL • JULY 13 – AUGUST 2, 2017

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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