Junk Head

First, let me start by saying I would see Junk Head again at this festival, breaking a long time self-imposed rule about using my festival time slots for as many different films as possible. Why? Simply because I consider it a contender for my favorite film at FF 2017. This stop-motion animated sci-fi movie tells the story of a dystopian future where human life has been extended indefinitely through genetic manipulation, but at the cost of sterility (oops). So the humans send a probe down the subterranean depths to obtain fresh genetic material from the workers class who left the surface some 1200 years ago, and haven’t been seen since. Thus the stage is set for one of the most unique dystopian sci-fi visions I’ve seen in a while. The industrial production design is highly imaginative, reminding me a little of the movie Brazil (1986), and the once-human denizens who inhabit this underground world are both scary and hilarious. The story and tone fit the adventure perfectly, as does the stop-motion animation. If I were to describe it in one word, that word would be: “COOL.” 8/10

 

Haunters

This is a documentary about the recent trend in “extreme” haunted house attractions created by DIY haunters. These are not even haunted houses, but rather a full-contact assault on the patron: including activities that would be defined as kidnapping and torture in the name of terror and thrills. What, you didn’t know haunted houses have become passé and that thrill-seekers are now demanding to be (literally) waterboarded or fed shit until they vomit and pee in their pants? Neither did I. Frankly, I don’t even know why they call the documentary “haunters,” as there’s nothing spooky going on. Haunters covers its subject pretty thoroughly from different perspectives, and finds its narrative threads. 7/10

 

Juvenile

Youth and crime are the subject of this well-made drama about kids on the wrong side of the tracks. Blake Jenner stars as Billy, who is torn between his friendship with the Mikey, his violent criminal friend, and his blossoming romantic relationship with Jennifer (Melissa Benoist). Jennifer offers him a way out, while Mikey offers only a life of crime. Billy’s relationships are put to the test when a personal tragedy strikes. The story is pretty straightforward, but like Wheelman, works on the strength of the actors and creative (nonlinear) editing. A solid entry that is worthy of the crime genre. 7/10

 

V.I.P.

This film was an automatic pick for this time slot simply because South Korea has a long history of elaborate and clever crime dramas and procedurals unrivaled by any other country, bar none. And V.I.P. is no exception. It isn’t a procedural, however, as the police already know who the killer is. Instead, it’s a custody battle for the killer: a rather smug North Korean defector and the son of a high-level government official, who is ultimately under the protection of the CIA, and he knows it. From this basic situation comes several epic showdowns and battle of wits between the gruff Seoul Police detective, the South Korean Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and a mysterious agent from North Korea. Another masterpiece from the writer of I Saw The Devil. 9/10

 

REVENGE

A modern and less-exploitationy take the rape-revenge genre, Revenge adds new elements we haven’t seen, including a healthy dose of dark humor, gore, and body horror. Squirmy, in-your-face-I-dare-you-to-look gore. This keeps the movie firmly in modern horror genre territory, less grindhouse fare. The setup: a wealthy French businessman and his young American mistress are dropped off in a swanky remote desert vacation home for a weekend getaway. Then two of his hunting buddies show up a day early. I have no idea what they’re hunting in the middle of the Morroccan desert, but pay attention because you’ll probably see those rifles used later in this revenge movie (lol, wink). Yeah, despite the predictable setup, writer-director Coralie Fargeat still finds ways to make it interesting to watch, and you will want to see the payoff for the setup. I especially like the performance by actress Mathilda Lutz, who carries a good deal of the movie solo. The final 15 minutes are (quite literally) a bloodbath, but Fargeat still finds moments of levity in that. This is a strong contender for best midnighter at the festival. Believe the hype from TIFF. 8/10

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