Those posters are just a sampling of the series Mondo Tees has created for this year's Fantastic Fest, which officially opens this evening with Matt Reeves's Let Me In and runs through next Thursday, when the largest genre film festival in the US will close with Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins.
"What was once in Swedish is now available in English," sighs Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "There are two ways to look at Reeves's uncanny remake of the moody cult horror/emo film Let the Right One In: 1. It's a faithful adaptation, honoring the story nearly to the letter and retaining the slow, methodical tone (and bursts of ultra-violence) of the original... 2. However, Let the Right One In still exists." And what's more, "the Swedish version is the better of the two."
On the other hand, "while neither film is perfect both are pretty damn good and a host of people unfamiliar with the story are about to get a treat," argues Twitch's Todd Brown.
Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek's "gut sense is that Reeves has put his own subtle stamp on the material.... [H]e allows the eerie, velvety quiet of the story's Los Alamos setting to provide a kind of near-silent background hum. The picture has a persistently throbbing pulse that you can almost hear. There's something else, too: Setting the story in a specific time and place actually makes it seem more timeless rather than less, largely because Reeves has peppered the soundtrack with lost songs from late 70s and early 80s top-40 radio: They're not used for kitsch value; instead, they place the movie in a neverending present that happens to be nearly 30 years in the past."
More from Mark Adams (Screen), Alex Billington (FirstShowing), Richard Corliss (Time), Peter Debruge (Variety), Anthony Kaufman (Wall Street Journal), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Michael Rechtshaffen (Hollywood Reporter) and Kim Voynar (Movie City News). Terrence Rafferty talks with the film's makers for the New York Times.
Marc Savlov introduces the Austin Chronicle's cover package: "As previous years' attendees know, FF provides a relentless barrage of the crème de le sang of genre films, stars, and directors (notably, lifetime achievement award winners Roger Corman and wife/co-producer/co-conspirator Julie Corman, plus HK martial arts director and choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping); extremely questionable yet undeniably cool surprise events (among them this year: fun with handguns and crucified ungulates); an orgy of gaming and parties (oh, God, so many parties); and, lest we forget, more righteously kickass filmmaking than you will ever have time to watch." Also: Richard Whittaker on the Norwegian spotlight and James Renovitch on the Fantastic Arcade.
For the Wall Street Journal, Todd Gilchrist picks "10 Films to See"; Cinematical's Peter Hall has another ten; and the Austin American-Statesman has capsule previews of its staff's choices.
Updates: Marc Savlov on Golden Slumber: "Yoshihiro Nakamura's apocalyptic punk rock Fish Story blew minds and converted non-believers at last year's Fantastic Fest and here the master of the Japanese genre-flick mashup returns with a film that's, if anything, even more impressive than its predecessor."
Richard Whittaker on Takeshi Koike's Redline: "If Jack Kirby had been the artistic director for F-Zero GX, you'd get this a nitro-boosted sci-fi speedster that proves that hand-drawn animation can still burn off CGI." And on Tetsuo: The Bullet Man: "You never forget your first Tetsuo. Director Shinya Tsukamoto's 1989 industrial classic The Iron Man was a cold, hard slap across the face of film and music. Nearly two decades after the sequel, Body Hammer, he returns to his searing indictment of modernity and destructive capitalism."
Updates, 9/24: "Let Me In is an astounding accomplishment for all involved and one of the best horror films of the year," argues Peter Hall at Cinematical.
"At least it's well-made," offers IFC's Matt Singer. "Its director is Matt Reeves, who is emerging as a significant craftsman of modern horror movies. His skill lies not in inventing but refining, in taking familiar ideas and presenting them with uncommon care and ingenuity. There were fake found footage horror movies before Reeves's Cloverfield, but few with its scale and sheer visual audacity."
Todd Brown at Twitch: "Built on a fascinating premise but never quite certain how to maximize it, Damir Lukacevic's Transfer had the chance to make a splash as a stellar example of meditative, mature science fiction a la Never Let Me Go but instead has to settle for being an interesting and well crafted but ultimately fairly minor entry into the genre."
However: "With 2006 feature Cruel Winter Blues director Lee Jeong-Beom made his pitch to be considered Korea's answer to Takeshi Kitano, blending gangster tropes with a meditative arthouse style. With 2010 blockbuster The Man From Nowhere Lee serves notice that he's got some John Woo in him, too, and though only two films into his career Lee has clearly established himself as one of the leaders of Korea's young generation."
At the Austin Movie Blog, Matthew Odam's "best of Fantastic Fest: a roundup."
Hitfix's Drew McWeeney on Golden Slumber: "I'd call it Hitchcockian, and there's certainly some element of the 'wrong man' model here, but the script, adapted by Kotaro Isaka from his own novel, is not content to just run its characters through familiar genre beats. Instead, it tries to tell a much bigger story about old friendships and conspiracy theory and innocence and guilt and celebrity and love, and while I'm not sure the film ever quite connects all the dots, there is so much here, and so much of it is so good, that Golden Slumber is automatically going on the list of films I need to see again this year, just to wrap my head around it completely."
"Part of the remit of Fantastic Fest is to shock: And it's hard to imagine that anything this year will push more buttons than Serbia's The Life and Death of a Porno Gang." Richard Whittaker: "Porno Gang treads very similar ground to A Serbian Film, the extreme shocker that stretched even the hardest of genre fans to breaking point at this year's SXSW. Both deal with the traumatic melding of sex and death in the post-civil war Balkans, as a bunch of sexual libertines get themselves caught up in the strange and fetid world of snuff cinema. That said, Porno Gang is far less gruesome than Serbian Film. That also being said, that's rather like describing a blast furnace as cooler than the surface of the sun."
Marc Savlov on Fire of Conscience: "Fans of Dante Lam's explosive, anthropomorphized bestiary (Beast Cops, Beast Stalker) will not be disappointed with this ratatat descent into the grimy-slick underworld of Hong Kong lawbreakers and the damaged cops who finally say enough's enough and let their 9mms go bang."
Covered in Peter Martin's first roundup for Cinematical: Golden Slumber, Ong Bak 3 (in short, very disappointing) and Ip Man 2: "For action junkies of all nationalities, the first hour or so of the picture is glorious. [Donnie] Yen facing off against Sammo Hung, as the leader of the martial arts masters, is a particular highlight. The rest of the film is taken up with some overblown fisticuffs, an 'East vs West' boxing match involving a nasty Western pugilist and the purity of an Asian master. Even in those fights, however, the filmmakers carve their own initials into the signature sequences."
Updates, 9/25: "It is not a common thing for a festival to give an entire slot over to just a single half hour film," notes Todd Brown. "And it is not a common thing for a festival to bring in cast and crew and give that film the full on gala treatment. And yet that is exactly what Fantastic Fest has done with Zombie Roadkill. And they've done it for a very simple reason. Because David Green's Sam Raimi-produced, Thomas Haden Church-starring film — actually an edited together version of a web series due to premiere on FEARnet October 4th — is a hysterically funny tour through everything that makes splatter comedy fun distilled down into its simplest, most direct form without any of that boring stuff that people load into these things to pad the running time."
"Director Darren Bousman clearly has trust issues," writes James Marsh, also at Twitch. "Almost without exception, every character in his latest film — a remake of Troma's Mother's Day — is happy to screw over their fellow man in order to save themselves. In fact, Bousman's lack of faith in humanity is so prominent that only his villain, Rebecca DeMornay's titular matriarch, has any sense of morality, albeit one that is dangerously skewed. In that respect, Mother's Day is a step back for the director after his daring failure Repo: A Genetic Opera, returning to the themes prevalent throughout the Saw franchise, in which he was so heavily involved."
"Fire of Conscience is typical of a certain kind of HK melodrama," finds IFC's Matt Singer: "characters brood to the sounds of soulful guitar solos until it's time to get into awesome gun battles. And Lam's gun battles are awesome; loud, sweaty, and harrowing. There's an intensity to the violence — the way bullets thwack into concrete walls and grenades knock people around like rag dolls — that's missing in a lot of action films. This is not a John Woo fantasia where characters can systematically mow down entire buildings full of henchmen without getting hurt. Characters die, suddenly and painfully. Police work is a dirty business."
Joe Gross gets a brief chat with Yuen Woo-Ping at the Austin Movie Blog.
Updates, 9/26: "Red Hill is a straightforward modern revenge western that provides plenty of slick thrills and pacey action, with racial undertones and perhaps the most startling animal appearance of the year... if that's even a category." James Dennis at Twitch: "Essentially an update of High Plains Drifter."
At Cinematical, Brian Salisbury finds Mother's Day to be "not the best, but overall it is a slick, gory, and ultimately satisfying horror remake."
"Even in rural Japan, it seems like everyone has email, two blogs and a Tumblr account," writes Richard Whittaker. "The remarkable Summer Wars may be one of the first movies to really approach that ubiquity, and not come off as bad cyberpunk."
Peter Martin for Twitch on Josh Reed's Primal: "Razor-toothed rabbit? Check. Skinny dipping with leeches at night after seeing razor-toothed rabbit attack your friends? Check. Slowly realizing you might not survive the night because your friends are turning into monsters? Check." Also: "Like Jackie Chan, the six drummers in Sound of Noise believe in using everyday objects to make mayhem. As one of them says in a recruiting pitch, 'it's dangerous, it's illegal, and it will change the world.' If that quote's not quite accurate, it still captures the spirit of the Swedish-language film, directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nilsson."
The Oregonian's Shawn Levy is there and posts a batch of capsule reviews: "I must say that for a movie event so rife with images of blood, murder, mayhem, cannibalism, evil and the like it's got a remarkable family feel."
Todd Brown at Twitch: "The joy of the festival experience is the thrill of discovery, those moments when you find something special that you knew virtually nothing about before hand and realize that you were just part of something that you're going to be hearing much more about over the coming months. Last year the Fantastic Fest discovery was Tom Six's Human Centipede. And this year that honor belongs to Spaniard Miguel Angel Vivas and Kidnapped." For Matthew Odam at the Austin Movie Blog, it's "an engaging and thrilling take on a movie that nevertheless felt somewhat familiar."
Updates, 9/27: Marc Savlov on Bedevilled: "Jang Cheol-so has fashioned an absolutely riveting horrorshow that plays like Southern gothic on the skids, Korean-style. And because the story has both feet planted firmly in the real world — as opposed to containing an element of the supernatural — Bedevilled generates true empathy in the audience: the very definition of horror."
"Whatever it is you may expect from Eugenio Mira's Agnosia, chances are good it is not quite that," writes Twitch's Todd Brown. "An unusual amalgam of elements and influences the picture is one part lush period piece, one part wildly inventive corporate espionage thriller, and one part romantic drama with all of those elements centering on the beautiful Joana Prats (Barbara Goenaga) a young woman with a most unusual medical condition."
Updates, 9/28: Fantastic Fest has announced a whopping round of awards.
"Hoping to rekindle the romance with his ex-girlfriend, Michi makes a surprise visit to her apartment in the city. Bad timing as a zombie outbreak hits Berlin." Andrew Mack at Twitch on Marvin Kren's Rammbock: "It doesn't break any new ground but it certainly doesn't bury the genre."
"Thank God Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a total hypocrite," writes IFC's Matt Singer, reviewing Ip Man 2. "He may preach nonviolence, but in practice, Ip's ready to throw down at any time for almost any reason. A kid comes to his school curious about his skills, he fights him. The same kid brings more friends to test Ip, he fights them as well. The same kid gets into a scuffle with a rival school, Ip fights the entire school.... Yen's in top form and the fights and stunts throughout are stellar. And, despite Ip's personal philosophy, there's an awful lot of them."
Listening (20'53"). At GreenCine Daily, Aaron Hillis talks with Let Me In director Matt Reeves and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Update, 9/29: "Outrage may be Takeshi Kitano's return to the yakuza movie on which his international reputation as a filmmaker was built, but it's not a return to the elegiac, melancholy tone those movies embraced," writes Alison Willmore at IFC.com.
Update, 9/30: Red, starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren and opening on October 15, is "an engaging, well-made action comedy that benefits from the talents of its decidedly mature cast members, even if it unspools with a pace better suited to their generation than the moviegoers that grew up watching their earlier movies," writes Todd Gilchrist at Cinematical. More from Richard Whittaker.