Fantastic Fest: Day 1 Recap!

Reviews of the hottest movies from the festival: Human Centipede 2, Let The Bullets Fly, Manborg, Michael, Sleepless Night and Spoon Wars!

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


So I got off a plane and still managed to see four movies. Notice there are five reviews here, because I’m Fred Topel.


HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 – This is certainly the most highly anticipated sequel of the year. Good thing Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel locked in 2012 so they don’t have to compete with Human Centipede 2. You will not believe Human Centipede 2. It’s more shocking and uncomfortable than the original. The new killer, Martin (Lawrence R. Harvey) is gross even before he starts the centipede. He’s too far gone to be remotely sympathetic. Even though his background explains how he tragically ended up this way, still, don’t be centipeding people, dude. The meta take on a sequel is creepy, not winking at self-referential. Now I like wink wink meta movies but I’ve never seen one pull off creepy so I appreciate that. It still has some dark humor, but that’s not at the expense of believing in the world of the film. It’s in a warehouse, not a mansion, so it’s an uglier film. It’s not fun like the original mad scientist romp, even though the horror is wilder and crazier. There is exponentially more sh*t, literally, and it takes everything to the next level. Like it doesn’t just go to the next level, it wraps the next level in barbed wire and jerks it off.


LET THE BULLETS FLY – I actually saw this movie on a plane coming home from a vacation in Hong Kong earlier this year, so now Americans will get a chance to see it. It’s a modern Hong Kong action comedy, modern meaning special effects, production value and clean film. It’s still a period piece. There are a few memorable scenes but it does feel long. Maybe a lot of the dialogue and comedy doesn’t translate. Chow Yun-Fat plays a buffoonish character, which should make his Dragonball Z fans happy. [Editor’s Note: He has ‘Dragonball Z’ fans?] Let the Bullets Fly seems to have the same reverence for Chinese history that the recent crop of Hong Kong films have, so it’s nice to experience that with a humorous twist. It won’t be one of my favorites though, but if I’d known it would be at Fantastic Fest I wouldn’t have watched it on a plane.


MANBORG – This is exactly the kind of crazy I want to see at Fantastic Fest. That’s not to say I like it, but it’s clearly someone’s raw experiment. It’s not like a studio will release this, even on video. The homemade green screen style looks like the Japanese style of Mutant Girls Squad, so maybe it can be released in Asia. The filmmakers were going for a Cannon Films/Vestron Video vibe, but they ended up doing Roger Corman. Those Cannon Films were cheap but they still looked like movies. This consumer version CGI didn’t exist back then. In fact, not even big budget Hollywood CGI did. The prosthetics and stop motion are nice but it doesn’t look like a movie that would be made in the ‘80s, or even now. It’s more like a copy of an internet short. It seems they know all the stereotype characters from a ragtag gang of fighters, but I’m not sure they really have anything to say about battle team movies. There are some fun moments in between with the shy, nervous prison guard, but it’s more like you throw enough jokes at a movie, a couple of them will work. You’d think 60 minutes would be just enough time to keep the joke from getting old, but it still does.


MICHAEL – I just imagine how much Nora Ephron must hate that a German child molester movie has the same name as her John Travolta angel movie, and I love how much she must hate that. Whether you like it or not, this Michael will live on in infamy as the definitive movie named Michael. And I did like it. I mean, knowing the subject matter, you enter into a contract with the film that you’re on board and want to see how they handle it. Very matter of factly, the filmmakers outline the procedure Michael goes through to keep his child hostage prisoner. It goes there and acknowledges he’s a sexual deviant. The most interesting thing is that it has a dark sense of humor, and it works. There are whimsical moments that are just so wrong in this context, and that’s the power of a daring film.


SLEEPLESS NIGHT – This was one of the TIFF Midnight Madness films I missed, one of those nights I decided to, you know, get sleep. I’m glad I didn’t stay up until 2 AM, but it is quite good. A cop has to meet a drug dealer’s demands to rescue his son, but other gangs and police officers complicate the handoff. The film does a great job setting up every object the characters place around a nightclub called Le Tarmac. The ensuing action uses every inch of the club, every staircase, even bumping dance crowds. Everything pays off, even the cop’s jacket. One cool twist is when the cop double crosses the Corsicans, they end up screwing the Caribbeans inadvertently. But when the Caribbeans come after them, the Corsicans just assume the Caribbeans are running a double cross on them. Much more delicious when no one is trustworthy. I did have some trouble keeping up with the subtitles while I was following the action on screen, so that may be easier to ingest on DVD. There’s a lot of running down halls and fights in tight spaces. It’s nice to know we can turn to the French when American action fails us.



SPOON WARS – This sequel to The Horribly Slow Murderer With The Extremely Inefficient Weapon really takes the YouTube phenomenon to the next level. I only just saw the original just before this and I was blown away by the talent and filmmaking. The spoon killer (Brian Rohan)’s acting is wonderfully committed and the filmmaking is totally sincere. I should give credit to Paul Clemens also for taking the beating with sincere frustration. As the title suggests, Spoon Wars is a sincere take on sci-fi. The battle is epic with essentially two weapons on one stage, but finding every creative way to explore it. Writer/director Richard Gale has created a franchise that will be worth revisiting in any capacity he decides to explore.