Let the Games Begin
After a fun weekend at the Bloor Cinema, my first round of Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012 coverage features reviews of Cockneys vs. Zombies, Inbred, Doomsday Book, Lloyd the Conqueror, REC 3: Genesis.
Cockneys vs Zombies
Director: Matthias Hoene
I’m used to sitting in theatres where slow creeping zombies are usually only funny, not scary, and their luridness is lost to a long forgotten time where public fears of the dead walking the Earth have been replaced by trepidation of cannibalistic junkies on bath salts. This is why when director/ producer Matthias Hoene introduced the late night premier of his film Cockneys vs. Zombies TADFF, a movie he describes as a new breed of “cockney adventure” or his “zombie-venture,” you can expect no shortness of brisk hilarity to follow from this foul mouthed cockney experiment in zombiedom.
Terry (Rasmus Hardiker) and Andy Macguire (Harry Tradaway) are two-bit hustlers from London’s East end who are planning a bank heist. They enlist the help of crime experience psychopathic gangster Mental Mickey (Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas) to make sure the robbery goes off without a hitch. Aided by their bad ass cousin Katy (Michelle Ryan) and dimwitted buddy Davey (Jack Doolan), the youths are determined to use the money to help their feisty granddad Ray (Alan Ford) and his friends keep their East end retirement home open. Just when the robbery seems to have gone awry, an ancient plague unleashed from an uncovered tomb on an East end construction site discharges a zombie infection. The teens find themselves torn between dealing with their hostage situation, the zombie outbreak and saving granddad Ray and the seniors.
Hoene proves he’s a talented filmmaker and is a winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion Award for his commercial “Doggy style” about a lothario dog. Hoene rotates and plays the teens’ funny survival off of the seniors and his quick cutting and hilarious flashbacks are what keep this zombie flick bumping for all 88 minutes. Terry, Andy, Davey and Kate prove an impeccably well-oiled machine of laughs that feed off each other’s pizzazz so well. But C vs Z hits gold twice with the equally as goofy antics of the seniors, many of whom are seasoned British actors like Honor Blackman. Amiss a mass blood, guts and bullets, C vs. Z’s greatest quality is the enjoyably, loud-mouthed cockney attitude that drips from every deliberate and well planned pore of this inventive zombie apocalypse movie. Best described in Hoene’s own words, C vs. Z’s screams “It’s fucking Zombies! So fuck off!”
Director: Alex Chandon
Inbred is about a group of more or less harmless youth offenders going for a ‘quiet’ weekend retreat. You can let your imagination do all the blood-filled gutter wandering it needs to do to turn this placid set up into a weekend of terror: zombies, asylum escapee psychopaths, Honey Boo Boo- all the usual ghouls who have haunted our screens come to mind. But director and co-writer Alex Chandon captures something much more disturbing with this caret-hued bath of gore and brains in the splatter/torture porn fest that is Inbred.
Kate (Jo Hartley) and Jeff (James Doherty) are social workers who take four troubled youngsters to the isolated village of Mortlake, Yorkshire. The teens are an eclectic mix: Tim (James Burrows) is a smart but rebellious young man with anger issues, Zeb (Terry Haywood) looks and acts like the leader of Da East Staines Massiv from Ali G Indahouse and is best buddies with Dwight (Chris Waller), who is a douchebag teen hell bent on corrupting everything around him. Finally there’s Sam (Nadine Rose Mulkerrin), an extremely introverted teen with an uspoken thing for Tim. Everything in Mortlake is dilapidated and looks like a village straight out of a Resident Evil video game. Worse, the locals are all deformed, unwelcoming and generally creepy. When they meet The Dirty Hole bar owner Jim (Seamus O’Neill), this devil-in-disguise brutally proves to the outsiders that you shouldn’t go poking your nose where it don’t belong.
Director Alex Chandon is best known for his ‘microbudget’ splatter fest films, and one of the great things about Inbred is that this movie sees Chadon get to execute his disgusting ideas on a grander scale. Most of Inbred’s excitement—if we can call it that—follows the Rob Zombie equation of terror: put ‘normal’ people in a room with physical deformed ‘freaks’ and then hit record. Inbred sees a town of maggot eating, cannibalistic misfits rise out of the shadows to trap and torture the unsuspecting teens and naïve social workers. But where things take a particularly Zombian twist would be with Seamus O’Neill’s character, Sam, who operates with the same vaudevillian grotesqueness as House of 1000 Corpses’ Captain Spaulding. Donning charcoal make up for a bizarre black face routine, Sam acts as the show runner for this circus deranged townsfolk who watch the teens die slow and excruciating deaths. Not without a many ridiculous laughs, Inbred succeeds because of its witty and unpredictable slaughter.
Directors: Kim Ji-woon, Yim Pil-sun
Awarded the prestigious Cheval Noir award at the Fantasia Festival 2012– directors Kim Ji-woon and Yim Pil-sung’s South Korean sci-fi anthology Doomsday Book binds three short films about the misgivings of mankind in today’s technological age as a smooth, seamless dream. But don’t let the sober topic of these two crafty filmmakers’ visions fool you, Doomsday Book is laced with many laughs amongst its sordid truths. Featuring unforgettable and vastly different performances from Ryu Seung-beom, Park Hae-il and Kim Kang-woo, Doomsday Book is one of those few and far between films that makes watching the world set ablaze somehow laughable.
Brave New World
Director: Yim Pil-sun
In Yim Pil-sung’s Brave New World, we see dorky military researcher Yoon Seok-woo (Ryu Seung-beom) made to mind the house while his bougie mother, father and sister head overseas on vacation. Forced to dispose of the family’s mounds of trash and decomposing food, Yoon Seok-woo’s only solace is a blind date he goes on with a beautiful youn lady named Kim Yoo-min (Go Joon-hee). After practically consuming a whole cow for dinner, Yoon Seok-woo violently attack and bite those around him–just the first in a Korea-wide outbreak of zombie attacks supposedly caused by mistreated meat. Full of goofy laughs, yet ever contemplative on the gross and ignorant nature of human consumption, Brave New World’s ultimately proves that we are what we eat.
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Smoothly piggy backing off the creepy-comical atmosphere Yim Pil-sung builds in Brave New World, Kim Ji-woon’s Heavenly Creature takes a comparatively sombre tone. Set some time in the near future, we meet Park Do-won (Kim Kang-woo) who a repairman working for UR: a robot manufacturing company. Park Do-won is called to a Buddhist temple where a robot named RU-4 (Park Hae-il) has studied, preached and lived as a member of the Buddhist community. UR finds RU-4 to be a threat and seeks his execution because of UR company director Min Yoo-ni (Kim Seo-hyung) fears that RU-4’s spiritual enlightenment represents the ultimate danger to mankind. Sleekly composed, crisp and perfectly paced– Heavenly Creatures is easily Doomsday Book’s most philosophical and gut wrenching entry. Particularly, when RU-4 and company director Min Yoo-ni duke it out in a battle of the laws of theology, evolution and mankind’s ultimate goals on this Earth, Heavenly Creature sees this well revered filmmaker hitting new and profound highs.
Director: Yim Pil-sun
The final segment of Doomsday Book sees Yim Pil-sung making his final contribution to this anthology. Traversing three different time periods, we begin with young Park Min-seo (Jin Ji-hee) who accidently breaks her father’s 8-ball and orders a replacement online in panic. Only 2 years later, a meteor in the shape of giant 8-ball is now quickly approaching the Earth and its collision threatens mankind with all out extinction. In an underground bunker with her parents and dorky uncle (Song Sae-byuk), Park Min-seo’s family plays out Ym Pil-sung’s rollicking sardonic vision of the end of the world via the coverage of various Korean news channel. Yim Pil-sung does a formidable job of tying off this high and low collection of shorts with this parable about importance of family and Happy Birthday sees this collection of South Korean films taking a Simpsonsesque approach to the meaning of family during the apocalypse.
REC 3: Genesis
Director: Paco Plaza
REC 3: Genesis marks Spanish found footage trailblazer Paco Plaza’s third and very different entry into his hand held horror film series. In lieu of the teetering and dim footage effects afforded by a camcorder, REC: 3 Genesis sees Plaza capturing flesh eating zombies with smooth and properly lit camera sequences. It’s taking this markedly different approachto style that Plaza’s previous two zombie tenement films bloodily established which will undoubtedly divide REC fans’ trust in both Plaza and this frightening series. REC 3: Genesis is a different type of terror and those who appreciate the slower and at times purposely farcical nature of the zombie flick will dig it. But those expecting REC’s gritty, demonic, zombies-right-in-your-face jolts should look elsewhere for their bloody fix.
From inception, REC 3 takes off from an intriguing and new premise: a zombie outbreak during a wedding. Taking place in an old castle complex, Adrián (Àlex Monner)– cousin of the groom Koldo (Diego Martín)–cruises around the ceremony and wedding reception interviewing friends and relatives and making for some funny pre-carnage viewing. Capturing odd sightings of men walking the premises in hazmat suits, and Koldo’s uncle slowly degenerating in to blood thirsty madness, REC 3: Genesis unravels into a bloody survival drama after Koldo and his glimmering bride Clara (Leticia Dolera) are separated after the zombie outbreak hits and desperately try to reunite.
While it’s nice that Plaza tries to change things up by using a more cinematic perspective, REC 3 would be about 10 times scarier if it had been shot with his typical hand held style. Still, Plaza’s switch from shaky to steady cam is great because it showcases a whole other side to this director’s obvious talent. Plaza’s eye for cinematic detail is clear cut and calculated, and while the feeling of all out chaos that accompanies the first two REC films isn’t quite established in REC 3: Genesis, Plaza shows us that his eye for classic horror is just as sharp. REC 3 also benefits from exquisite acting on the hands of all its characters. Protagonists Koldo and Clara make a convincing couple surviving the zombie apocalypse, and everyone down to the zombie extras are plausibly performed. As Clara mows down zombies with a chainsaw, all the while wearing her wedding dress, Plaza shows that he can at least do something memorable with REC 3: Genesis. Although lacking in Plaza’s expected conventions, I’m happy to see REC 3 more as an entertaining pledge from this skillful filmmaker to keep his style fresh.
Lloyd the Conqueror
Director: Michael Paterson
Cinema goers got their first taste of on-screen LARPing back in 2008 with David Wain’s Role Models. Although just a sub plot on Wain’s comedy, I believe that fantastical world LARPing—a now better known acronym for those who participate in live action role playing—would make an excellent subject for a feature film. This is why I was so excited to hear about Lloyd the Conqueror:director and co-writer Michael Paterson’s unabashedly Calgarian take on the LARPing community. With marginal performances from much of the cast and a particularly disappointing acting from the very laughable Mike Smith (Bubbles), Lloyd the Conqueror comes as a much too tame and shy deposition on a topic where a potential wealth of easy belly laughs could be tapped.
Lloyd (Evan Willaims) attends the Calgary Collegiate Institute with his goofball friends Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scotty Patey). The crew are poster boys for community college slackers: the suck back bears and devour pizzas, play lots of video games and try to complete ridiculously easy book reports the night before they’re due. Their malevolent English Literature teacher Derek (Mike Smith) gives the boys a failing grade on their half assed assignment—a problem for the lazy dorks only because they need to maintain at least a C average in order to receive financial aid. Making a bargain he feels is a sure bet, Derek–also known in the local LARPing community as Derek the Unholy—challenges the boys to enter a LARPing match with the promise of a passing grade, if they win. Enlisting help from LARPing OG Andy the ‘white wizard’ (Brian Posehn), the boys enter an exciting world of blood gods, elves and tin foil ball lightning bolts in the ultimate battle for laziness.
From the moment that cuddly-stupid Oswald opens his mouth or smart-ass Patrick talks smack, it’s obvious that co-writers Andrew Herman and Michael Paterson have at least some idea about the funny types of characters they want for Lloyd the Conqueror. Its Lloyd in particular, with his always optimistic and ‘glue of the group’ mentality who shows that Herman and Paterson could even do a concise job at at doing these dopey characters justice. But the potential for Lloyd the Conqueror quickly falls flat because of issues like poor joke delivery and tame and boring subject matter. Sure there are lots of mentions of dicks, balls and pussy—but Lloyd the Conqueror doesn’t take much time to develop style or any particular flare to the mentioning of these unmentionables.
As a pretty big Trailer Park Boys fan, I was also excited to learn that Mike Smith would be acting as Derek– an evil and annoying antagonist—something I felt Smith would execute with flying colours. Delivering only a few light chuckles, Smith fails to grasp at a performance indicative of his well showcased talent. The biggest problem with Lloyd the Conqueror is that its story remains tightly attached the rails. We see Lloyd rally up the boys, meet the girl, get a problem thrown in his face and then fights against the seemingly impossible odds only to triumph at the last moment. For a film about such a creative modern day phenomenon, Lloyd the Conqueror takes a lazy approach to what could be a very funny conquest.