The Vancouver International Film Festival is coming!!!

The Vancouver International Film Festival is coming! The festival runs September 27 – October 12. There are always very few horror titles at our festival so I usually make a point of seeing all of them if I can. I’ve highlighted below the five films listed as Sci-fi/horror. Unfortunately it looks like I will have to give up on the idea of seeing Moksha as its showing(s) clashed with other stuff and A Werewolf Boy looks a little too sugary for my liking (I may reconsider closer to festival time). I added Design of Death and A Fish alternatively; although neither are genre films they both looked most intriguing. Below is my schedule thus far with reviews to follow as close to the screenings as I can muster…

My schedule:

September 29: The Last Time I Saw Macao

September 30: Antiviral

October 1: Design of Death

October 2: A Fish

October 7: Grabbers

***ANTIVIRAL***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

Brandon Cronenberg’s (yes, son of that Cronenberg) first feature film Antiviral is set in a dystopian near future in which obsession with celebrity has reached such neurotic levels that fans eat specialty steaks and burgers created with cultured cell-lines from celebs’ bodies–and that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

Caleb Landry Jones, real-life vocalist and drummer for psychedelic rock band Robert Jones, plays Syd, a pale and haunted young man employed by a corporation which markets celebrity viruses. His employer has an exclusive licensing arrangement with the world’s biggest female megastar, Hannah Geist, played by Sarah Gadon (Cronenberg the elder’s A Dangerous Method). Against a backdrop of unhealthy VIP mania–trashy magazines and non-stop TV coverage serve as wallpaper–Syd and his cohorts at the Lucas Clinic work to exploit the desire of the most rabid fans to get closer to their idols. They extract strains of live viruses from the famous and inject them into paying customers as the ultimate form of communion: “With samples drawn directly from the source, you can be connected in ways you never imagined,” says the slick commercial pitchman. Jones gives a remarkably physical performance hauling round his freckled wreck of a body, and Gadon shines as a succubus. Malcolm McDowell (If…., O Lucky Man!, A Clockwork Orange), appears as the superstar’s personal physician, layering hypocrisy on the Hippocratic Oath.

Check out the trailer…

***GRABBERS***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

Alien invaders go head-to-headbutt with drunken Irishmen in this raucous genre romp tailor-made for a late night audience that’s tipped a few back.

Quaint Erin Island isn’t accustomed to outsiders, much less close–and grisly–encounters with the third kind. Alas, when two mismatched cops (Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, perfectly paired) investigate a pod of mutilated whales, they’re set on a collision course with squid-like interstellar uglies that are determined to drain the community’s haemoglobin. But when it’s discovered that the vampiric creatures can’t handle their booze, it becomes apparent that maintaining a high blood-alcohol content might just be humanity’s only hope of survival!

In the run-up to his feature debut, screenwriter Kevin Lehane evidently immersed himself in B-movies and video nasties. Armed with a script loaded with both riffs on horror classics and re-inventions of age-old tropes, director Jon Wright dutifully opens fire, unleashing a gross-out horror-comedy in the vein of Tremors and Slither. “A bibulous riff on War of the Worlds, of course, although it plays its gleefully silly premise poker-straight… Positively gooey with ideas… Genre fans will enjoy spotting subtle tributes to creature features of old: particularly a barroom scene that homages both Gremlins and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Enjoy irresponsibly.”–Robbie Collin, Telegraph

Check out the trailer…

***THE LAST TIME I SAW MACAO***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

João Rui Guerra da Mata grew up in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, and in the tantalizing hybrid work The Last Time I Saw Macao, co-directed by VIFF regular and Dragons & Tigers juror João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui returns. An old friend, Candy, contacts him after a suspicious murder during a paintball game, saying “strange and scary things are happening.” After João Rui arrives, it’s hard to catch up to the elusive Candy–but this gives him an opportunity to wander the streets, to the places of his childhood that have changed or no longer exist. Just as Macao, the city, is a blend of two cultures–Portuguese and Chinese–so Macao, the film, merges fiction and documentary together into an alien beast, a play of illusion and reality that earns comparisons to the works of the late Chris Marker.

With its noirish voiceovers (courtesy of both João Pedro and João Rui), conspiracy plots, and focus on rituals, the film is also laced with a subtext of cinephilia–The Last Time I Saw Macao also refers to von Sternberg’s classic, and its lead, Jane Russell, a kind of totem for the Joãos: the first scene sees Candy performing a tantalizing show to Russell’s Macao number, “You Kill Me,” standing in front of a cage containing live tigers. The Joãos put their first showstopper up front, but don’t worry–many more follow in this wild work, all the way to a Kiss Me Deadly-like ending that can only be called apocalyptic.

I could not find a trailer for The Last Time I Saw Macao.

***MOKSHA: THE WORLD OR I, HOW DOES THAT WORK?***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

The existential question in the title comes into sharp focus in the very first shot: an unkempt guy finds himself chained to the ground in a park–and has no idea how he got there or even who he is. There’s a forest of high-rise apartments in sight, but no-one answers his calls for help. Ravenously hungry, cold and tired, he needs answers. But the people who eventually happen along mostly have questions or demands of their own. One young woman slaps him repeatedly and apologizes. A bride-to-be invites him to her wedding. A Buddhist monk gives him chewing gum and entertains him with a dance. It’s only when a noodle delivery arrives that the man begins to remember–and then to understand…

Koo Sungzoo’s philosophical puzzle may be less sardonic than it first appears. It’s heroically acted by Jang Hyeokjin, who’s on-screen throughout, and maintains a high level of beauty and sadness. There are echoes of Buñuel (Simon of the Desert), of Poe (William Wilson) and even of Vincenzo Natali (Cube), but this is really one of a kind. — Tony Rayns

I could not find a trailer for Moksha: The World or I, How Does That Work?

***A WEREWOLF BOY***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

Somewhere on the West Coast, Kim Sumi gets a phone-call which summons her back to Korea… to a reunion with her granddaughter and a trip to the weird old mansion (“a place fit for a monster”) where she lived as a young woman 47 years before. The memories flood back. She recalls her awkward relationship with Jitae, the family’s obnoxious benefactor, who expects to marry her–and her even more awkward relationship with Cheolsu, the feral boy they found living in one of the sheds. The wolf-like boy needs to be taught to speak, to wash, to dress, in short, to become civilized. The 19-year-old Sumi gradually overcomes her fear and disgust and begins to care for the lad. But others don’t overcome their fear and disgust, and there’s a dark secret in Cheolsu’s past.

How can the idiosyncratic talent which gave us Don’t Step Out of the House! (VIFF 09) and End of Animal (VIFF 10) translate his vision to a commercial movie? A Werewolf Boy is how. The first big-budget feature from Jo Sunghee finds the unexpected middle-ground between Truffaut’s L’Enfant sauvage and Marvel’s Wolverine. This remarkable entertainment features an undying love, suspense, a sci-fi mystery, tenderness, fur… and some very jagged teeth. — Tony Rayns

Check out the trailer…

***DESIGN OF DEATH*** 

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

Chinese comedies today tend to glossy commercial star vehicles designed to train audiences in luxury consumption fantasies. Director Guan Hu couldn’t be more different: his subversively witty black comedies, though thoroughly entertaining, resonate with deeper meanings. Guan probes topics that wouldn’t normally pass Chinese censorship but gets away with it by lacing his movies with comic gusto, Chinese mainstream humour (lots of vigorous physical comedy) and star power.

Audiences who enjoyed director Guan Hu’s previous adventure The Cow (VIFF 09) will be familiar with Guan Hu’s main actor Huang Bo, one of China’s most bankable comic movie stars. Here he plays a trickster, a seemingly indestructible clownish prankster named Niu Jieshi. Niu who is constantly upending the primitive traditions and rituals of Long Life Town, a fantasy place in western Sichuan with a medieval feel (though the film is ostensibly set in the early 1940s). If Niu isn’t peeping on his fellow townspeople’s illicit sexual encounters, he’s rescuing sacrificial maidens or spiking their drinking water with horse aphrodisiac, with predictably orgiastic results. He’s pure id, a 20th-century Monkey King, a spirit of absolute freedom, desire and anarchy. The town’s leaders, naturally, need to get rid of him. Their complex scheme is slowly revealed to us by a visiting medical investigator (HK star Simon Yam). The film unspools its action in a wild swirl of mixed chronologies, with flashbacks within flashbacks. Guan Hu’s camera swoops freely from the roofs to the cisterns of the surreally picturesque setting. But don’t let the frenzied editing and not-so-easy-to-parse narrative get in the way. The film’s abandon, its go-for-broke energy and its irresistible economy of desire are giddy entertainment and more. — Shelly Kraicer

Check out the trailer…

*** A FISH***

Synopsis (taken from The Vancouver International Film Festival website)

Professor Lee has walked out on his students in mid-class. Now he’s driving south to rendez-vous with the seedy gumshoe he hired to track down his missing wife. His mouth is very, very dry. Things are not going well. Apparently his wife has been initiated as a shaman; Lee himself feels like he’s losing touch with reality. And the detective seems to be a psychotic menace: he has a violent altercation with the captain of a ferryboat, and does and says odd things. By the time the two men reach the shamanist enclave on Jindo Island, Lee is so baffled by the weird people he’s met and so disorientated, he might as well be in Twin Peaks…

Park Hongmin’s mystery thriller (originally shot in perfect, homemade 3-D, but we sadly can’t screen that version) is a phenomenal achievement: it’s skillfully plotted, designed and cast and delivers more frissons-per-minute than most Hollywood neo-noirs. As it goes along, the elements of mystery proliferate: who exactly are the two guys fishing from a platform on the sea and speculating about the dreams of fish? The respectful depiction of shamanism makes it very Korean, but the psychological issues it raises are absolutely universal. Not exactly a genre movie, but not exactly “arthouse” either, A Fish is startlingly different from other recent indie features. The latest wave in Korean cinema starts here. — Tony Rayns

I could not find a trailer for A Fish.

12 Responses to “The Vancouver International Film Festival is coming!!!”

  1. You are so lucky GG….I would so wanna go to that…Our area that I live is not that organized for that size of a Film Festival…Enjoy yourself and give a full report on how it was…

    • It’s always a fun experience seeing films at the film festival. Sometimes you even get a QA with the director or actor/actress as a bonus. I’m going to try to post reviews for the films as close to the screening as possible…will see how that goes, but that is the goal.

  2. Grabbers is great fun (and it was shot in my sister’s hometown too). It’s the only one from your list that I’ve seen so you’ll have to let us know about the rest! I really want to see Antiviral in particular

  3. Quite a few Japanese indie films here and they all look interesting. Of the films screening, I’ll be seeing Key of Life at the LFF. I’ll have to crank out a preview for this. Thanks for reminding me this was coming up!

  4. Antiviral looks really intriguing. David’s kid seems to be well versed in his dad’s films.

  5. I’m excited for this year’s festival. Maybe not very much horror, but it’s a very strong lineup overall. Can’t wait to see Antiviral and Berberian Sound Studio

    • There is never much horror. I just don’t have a lot of time alloted to films I can’t write reviews for or use for lists etc. I might stretch the criteria and cover something weird and/or violent if it fits my blog’s vibe. There were at least a half dozen flicks that were not genre films that I would like to see (and just might yet). I didn’t list Holy Rollers but will probably go see it on the final night.

  6. Too bad I didn’t have time to attend Toronto’s film festival which had similar program (as far as I know) to VIFF. Some of the Asian films look really intriguing, I always liked the absolutely opposite approach in comparison with Canadian and american films. The slow meditative camera, longer shots, usually less words, but still more emotions. Somehow it felt more relevant, more realistic. On the other hand, I am curious about Antiviral. David Cronenberg has a really specific touch to his films and I am looking forward to see the work of his son.

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