#NZFF – Incredibly Strange
Far Out Far East
Double feature action. Two for the price of one.
Henge. Old school fans of Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man (see it sometime if you haven’t already) can celebrate the arrival of this great new lo-fi body horror from Japan. Yoshiaki and his wife Keiko are a couple in domestic bliss until Yoshiaki starts experiencing spasm attacks and producing otherworldly sounds. Director Ohata piles on the shocks as he fuses Kafka (Metamorphosis) and Kaiju (giant monster movies) into a unique and tragic love story.
Followed by Young Gun in the Time. A Korean time-travel thriller about a one‑handed detective whose fiscal troubles (matched by his dress sense: Hawaiian shirt, trilby, tie) force him to take any assignment on offer. A beautiful scientist requests he find a unique wristwatch and dispose of its owner. Entertaining, funny and highly imaginative, this slice of science fiction noir is all the more remarkable for being created for under $30,000.
Blisteringly funny throughout, this hysterical Danish comedy will appeal to those who think Curb Your Enthusiasm and films like The Hangover don’t push the envelope enough. KLOWN stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen as fictionalised versions of themselves: comedians with extremely tolerant girlfriends. Frank is the bumbling square and Casper is the narcissistic extrovert who plans a lads’ canoe trip to the greatest brothel in the world. In the first of many bad twists, Frank, to impress his sceptical girlfriend, invites her sister’s prepubescent nephew, Bo, along. Casper’s incessant horn-dog nature propels the three of them into ever murkier waters. Crashing through comedy walls with taboo-busting humour, the film eventually becomes a sweet affirmation of fatherhood in its examination of male insecurities.
The Cabin In The Woods
If you want to watch a film that takes all your perceptions of the horror genre (the riches and the clichés), then rewrites the genre’s laws and creates an entirely new universe, full of twists, shocks and, most surprisingly, big laughs, then there’s a Cabin in the Woods with your name on it. New Zealand horror/Buffy/Avengers fans went Hulk-apalooza to get Joss Whedon’s acclaimed genre subversion onto the giant Embassy screen where it belongs. If you can avoid reading up on this film in advance, your enjoyment of the shenanigans that lie ahead will increase tenfold. We begin as an archetypal group of college students – the jock, the scholar, the slut (NZ’s own Anna Hutchison), the funny pothead and the virgin (sounds familiar right?) – gather at a remote cabin for fun and games. But before a bong is hit or a top removed, this classic horror structure begins to crumble and the meta-fun of Whedon and Goddard’s playful script comes blazing into full effect.
Last Days Here
This heart-wrenching exploration of territory mined by the doc Anvil! The Story of Anvil replaces Spinal Tap laughs with a brutal peek into the frozen life of Bobby Liebling. A one-time singer of just-on-the-cusp- of-breaking-out 70s hard-rock group Pentagram, now a meth-ridden Gandalf-esque junkie, he has been hiding out in his parents’ basement for 30 years. There had been little sign of Liebling until an amiable young metalhead called Sean decided to re-release Pentagram’s out-of-print back catalogue. Standing in his way is Liebling himself, a mesmerising yet frustrating contradiction whose dreams of musical resurrection clash with his desire to simply stop being a burden on the world. Poetic, poignant and thankfully uplifting, LDH instantly goes into the pantheon of great rock docs. It has every cliché you’d expect, yet still manages to make the sincere desire of all involved for Liebling’s redemption completely fresh and original.
This Ain’t California
A punk odyssey of three boys, Nico, Dirk and Dennis, and their unwavering passion for skateboarding under the oppressive regime of the German Democratic Republic. Growing up inside soulless cement housing blocks, they escaped by free-boarding concrete catacombs on home-made skateboards. This epic coming-of-age saga, documenting their friendship from the 70s through to their last summer together in 1989, comes off like The Big Chill of skater docs: director Persiel reunites the group to reminisce about a friend who has recently died. Primarily told through Nico’s perspective, the film features a stunning mix of film techniques: animation, Super 8, archival fused with an eclectic soundtrack of frenzied tunes. It is Dennis whose star shines the brightest as the group’s wild-eyed, handsome, fearless and highly sexual leader. A love letter to skateboarding and to a dear friend, this engrossing tale reaches an emotional payout that will leave many teary-eyed.
Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers continues the filmmaker’s winning streak re kitchen-sinkifying genre movies. Setting out on their first holiday together, sheltered 34-year-old Tina (Alice Lowe) and her overly enthusiastic, socially awkward boyfriend, Chris (Steve Oram), pack up his caravan and hit the road to Yorkshire. Along the way, Chris runs over a fellow traveler (to be fair, he was littering) and bludgeons a snooty camper to death; Tina soon learns that these aren’t the first murders he’s committed. But hey, you’ve got to stand by your man, and with two people now indulging their homicidal urges in the name of true love, the body count quickly escalates.
Everyone described Wheatley’s 2009 debut Down Terrace as Mike Leigh does The Sopranos… This is what Leigh’s version of Natural Born Killers might have looked like, and once again, Wheatley blends horror, black comedy, working-class realism, actor improvisations and social satire into an oddball meditation on l’amour fou, suburban English serial-killer style. It’s the funniest thing to have played at Cannes.
Sundance shocker V/H/S brings together an interesting mix of indie genre hotshots and gives each free rein to tell any creepy tale as long as it might be one discovered on a ‘found’ videocassette. The anthology’s wraparound story has four douchebags who love vandalising, burglarising and uploading their anarchy online being hired by a mystery person to break into a house and recover a tape. After breaking in, they find not one but many vhs tapes, as well as something rotten. And so begins a night of fun… for the audience. Featured directors are Adam Wingard (Pop Skull), Ti West (The Innkeepers), David Bruckner (The Signal), Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead) and filmmaking collective Radio Silence. V/H/S has enough genuine thrills and chills to redeem the horror anthology format.
Pang Ho-cheung (the John Waters of Hong Kong) delivers a deliriously offensive comedy about the lengths a producer will go to secure funding for a feature film. Shot off the cuff in only 12 days, the film is a series of raucous vignettes presented by producer To Wai-cheung to a group of film students relating to the nutty saga of financing his latest magnum opus, a remake of the 70s sex flick I Want More! To satisfy the demands of heavy investor Brother Tyrannosaurus he must endure major degradation… This wild and brutally funny critique of the film business manages to make mincemeat out of the soul-selling necessary to make a feature film.