ENJOY THE SHOW
Each year we get to see a new selection of films criticizing modern society, governments, and everything else wrong with the way things work. But only a few of these films deserve to be crowned and called the crème de la crème of cinema. The Platform is the latest film worthy of the label, a conceptually innovative film like Saw and Cube before it that has already instantly cemented itself in halls of cinema history playing to rave reviews back-to-back at the Toronto Film Festival (where it won the Midnight Madness Audience Award), at Fantastic Fest, and finally at the Sitges Film Festival. For those wondering – yes, it does live up to the hype, and then some. But don't expect some big, flashy, eclectic film – this contained horror drama is as minimal as Saw and Cube, taking place entirely inside the barren rooms of an insidious vertical prison called The Pit.
Just when you think, "they've done it all", someone will come up with some other crazy-as-shit idea and turn it into a movie. The next evolution in the wild action comedy subgenre is a movie titled Guns Akimbo, this time coming from New Zealand (though it was filmed partially in Germany in addition to New Zealand). Guns Akimbo is the second feature film from a New Zealand visual effects artist-turned-filmmaker named Jason Lei Howden, following up his debut film Deathgasm from 2015. The crazy-as-shit concept in this one involves a random guy waking up one day with guns bolted to both of his hands - he can't remove them or do anything because they're drilled right into his bones. But, why? What happens next? Will he survive? You'll find out in Guns Akimbo, which is as totally insane and as totally entertaining as that concept sounds.
In the tall grass lurks monsters, demons, horrors aplenty – but scariest of all is a fear of confusion, unknown forces, an inability to figure out where to go or what to do or how to escape. I've been a big fan of director Vincenzo Natali ever since discovering Cube, and while he did not work on either of its two sequels, I've been hoping one day he might return again, as it really is his original idea. An alternative, however, is this film - In the Tall Grass. Adapted from the novella written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, this frightening film is a thrilling stuck-in-one-location horror. Somewhere in the middle of America, and endless field of tall grass lures unsuspecting victims inside. Once you're in, you can never get out. The grass tricks everyone into hearing sounds/voices that aren't there, making them go crazy as they desperately try to find a way out.
There are film festivals and then there are genre film festivals. They both show great films from all over the world, and they both highlight cinema as one of the finest forms of modern art. What makes the Sitges Film Festival stand out in particular is the audience. Celebrating its 51st year, Sitges has been around for a while. It has a strong reputation and its known around Europe as the top genre festival. Horror fans from Spain and other nearby countries travel in to catch the latest, greatest offerings from talented directors, and catch up over drinks and pintxos (and tapas). This year was my second year back to Sitges, and I decided to stay the entire time to relax and catch a bunch of films over the full 10 days it runs. After my unforgettable experience last year (attending for my first time), I had to return, I couldn't stay away. And as usual, I'm very glad I did. I still love film festivals and Sitges is now one of my favorites in my regular yearly rotation.
Play this movie as loud as you can. Turn the volume all the way up, strap in, and prepare for an extremely intense cinematic experience. I am a sucker for World War II movies, pretty much any/all of them, so I will happily admit I probably enjoyed this a bit more than most will, unless you're also a fan of WWII movies. With that said, it's an awesome movie anyway. Overlord is a WWII horror movie from Australian director Julius Avery, making his first big studio movie after Son of a Gun in 2014. This time he collaborated with Bad Robot and producer J.J. Abrams to deliver an intense, extra loud, uber violent, enrapturing WWII action movie spiced up with some gnarly horror. It hits real hard, right from the start, but never drags. You have to go see this movie in theaters - the big screen, big sound experience really, really makes a difference.
Not all heroes live a heroic life. Not all heroes get a big parade and go on talk shows and end up in history books. The Man Who Killed Hitler & Then The Bigfoot is one of most undefinable films of this year, no question. It's part drama, it's part action film, it's part horror, but at it's core it's really a character study about a lonely man at the end of his life looking back on everything. Sam Elliott plays Calvin Barr, indeed the very man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot. He spends his days drinking at a bar and relaxing with his adorable yellow lab dog, because no one knows that he killed Hitler. It was covered up by Germany and America, because there was more at stake. As he states in the film, he just killed a man that day, that's all. And he has had to spend his life dealing with the substantial feelings, as they slowly chip away at his psyche.
Not all spy movies are like every other spy movie. And not all spies are the same. The Spy Gone North is an impressive, riveting spy thriller from Korea, made by filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin (of The Unforgiven, Beastie Boys, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time, Kundo: Age of the Rampant). This first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in their Midnight category earlier this summer, but I just caught up with the film at the Sitges Film Festival. The more I think about, the more I love this film. It's such a slick, superb spy film that draws you into the story and keeps you intrigued with anticipation, on the edge of your seat the entire time. And there isn't much action, which works well for this fascinating story, yet it's thoroughly compelling from start to finish. This film really stands out above so many others - in the way of spy films and thrillers.
After attending for my first time last year and enjoying every minute of the fest, I'm back in the town of Sitges, Spain (or Catalonia) to kick off the 51st Sitges Film Festival. It's the Spanish cousin of the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest with all kinds of genre films playing over the next 10 days. Lots of horror and sci-fi and action and more. I'm really excited to be here. I'm really excited to see a bunch of these films. It's just an excellent film festival, right on the beach, with enthusiastic audiences that love genre films. And this year I decided to stick around the entire time (and not head up to the London Film Festival like last year) so I can fit in more films and enjoy this charming little beach town. Plus it's October - the perfect time to watch horror movies and discover something new and wild and amazing in the mix. Time to jump right into Sitges.
There's an adorable little beach town, about a half hour south of Barcelona, called Sitges. Every year, this town hosts a film festival in October called, of course, the Sitges Film Festival. Officially it's known as the Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya (website here). Sitges is a "genre" festival, in the same vein as Fantastic Fest, screening horror, action, sci-fi, thrillers, and any other wacky, weird little features they find around the world. This year Sitges celebrated its 50th year, and for that reason I decided to finally attend this festival that I've been hearing about for a while. Oh my goodness, it's amazing. One of the best festivals in the world, almost so good that I don't want to tell you about it, because part of it what makes it perfect is that it isn't overrun with people (yet). But, it is my job, so I will reveal a little bit about it.
Brains roasting on an open fire; zombies nipping at your nose; yuletide carols being sung by the undead. Anna and the Apocalypse is a horror comedy film from Scotland that is, as far as I know, the first ever zombie Christmas musical. Yes, indeed, you heard that right – a musical set at Christmas about a zombie apocalypse – and it's awesome. Well, it's not perfect, but it is damn good and the whole thing is just so much crazy fun, that I can't help but say I enjoyed this film from start to finish. It takes a little while to get going at the start, but once we get into it, Anna and the Apocalypse becomes an instant blood-splattered smash hit. It's worthy of being called Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land, with wonderful songs and kills galore.
The power of love. It's such a relief to watch a film and discover it's truly as wonderful as everyone has been saying. Joachim Trier's Thelma has been getting rave reviews ever since premiering at the Toronto Film Festival and Fantastic Fest (Jeremy wrote a glowing review already). I caught up with the film at the Sitges Film Festival and it's now one of my favorite films of the year, a wonderfully exhilarating, gripping sexual awakening story. Joachim Trier is a very talented Norwegian filmmaker who has already made a name for himself with the films Oslo August 31st and Louder Than Bombs, but continues to get even better with each new film he makes. Thelma is his finest work yet, one of the year's best that is worth your time to discover.
Bring down the whole damn house! Indie filmmaker Joe Lynch's (Everly, Knights of Badassdom) new film is another violent, deranged, totally crazy, totally fun film titled Mayhem. The title, which is a bit vague, doesn't have much to do with the plot - which is actually about a guy who works at a sleazy legal corporation that decides to take on the executives when a virus causes everyone to go crazy. I saw this film at 1AM with a crowd of horror fans at the Sitges Film Festival, which is the perfect time and place to see this kind of film, because they cheered at all the right moments. If you watch this one at home, it just won't hit as hard, but it's still a thoroughly entertaining horror action comedy mashup with a worthwhile message at the end of it.