At about this point in the festival, time tends to expand, whole sections of the day feel lost, and I begin trying to balance the excitement of upcoming screenings with the excitement of having a day to rest my eyes. And I was a relative Fantastic Fest wimp, topping out at 17 films and a handful of events. Some folks saw 30+. So I can’t vouch for the accuracy of when these screenings took place anymore–I only know that they did in fact happen.
Invasion of Alien Bikini – The title suggests something that might come out of Japan’s notorious low-budget, low-brow imprint Sushi Typhoon, but in fact this is a Korean film. Not only that, it’s a wonderfully-weird Korean film shot for nothing and thrown up on the screen with aplomb.
The story centers around a lonely do-gooder who happens upon a beautiful woman whose interest in him should be immediately suspect. But as a nerdy guy who likes to play Jenga, doesn’t know how to talk to a woman, and has taken a vow of chastity, it takes our hero about half of the film to figure out that his new friend is probably not interested in a long-term relationship. You’d think the fact that she keeps repeating “I need your sperm” to him would have been a clue.
Invasion of Alien Bikini does not in fact feature a bikini of any sort. Nor does it really depict an invasion. However, it does feature an alien and a lovely woman who strips down to her underwear and then tries to tie up and rape our hero. Oddly, the film shifted tone a lot between some funny adult virgin type humor, some creepy bondage and torture, and a couple of genuine moments of pathos. In short, it was off-kilter but I liked it a lot!
Hong Kong Screening 4 [Title Redacted] - Since we were asked to keep the title of the final film in the Hong Kong retrospective a secret, I will. I noticed that someone spoiled it on Twitter about 20 minutes after the movie was over, so what can you do? All I can say about the movie is that it was fucking great and one of the highlights of the festival for me. If you scour your local, decent video rental store for HK action movies from the 80s and see one that isn’t about cops or kung-fu, you might be close!
Grady Hendrix (who publishes some pretty fun stuff on his website) brought the goods with his Movies on Fire retrospective. I missed out on the Nikkatsu retrospective in 2007 and I kicked myself later because I’ve since caught and loved some of those films on DVD. I vowed not to miss Hendrix’s program of action films from the 1980s. I didn’t catch all of them since the middle two were more of the sleazy Category III type that I can do without, but the martial arts film Dreadnaught and this final action film were spectacular. It can be tempting to squeeze into secret screenings and early premieres at a festival like this, but really, I can see Paranormal Activity 3 in a theater in a month and I will probably never, ever get the chance to see these films with an audience again.
A Boy And His Samurai – Hands down my favorite film of the festival, this one seemed to take a lot of folks by surprise. Fantastic Fest is full of movies where people get brutally murdered, raped, eaten, turned into monsters, and sometimes all of the above (and not necessarily in that order.) It’s a festival where pedophilia, vomit, and testicular trauma can be played for laughs. So it came as a huge surprise that the single most heartwarming and family-friendly movie of the festival took home the Audience Award! Maybe everyone just needed a break after Human Centipede 2.
On the surface, A Boy and his Samurai is a pretty straightforward fish-out-of-water story that finds a time-traveling samurai from the Edo period stuck in modern day Tokyo. In lesser hands, that’s all it might be. But director Yoshihiro Nakamura executes the film so perfectly and effortlessly that it’s able to go a lot deeper than that. It’s not only clever and funny and awfully cute, but it has something to say about the balance of work and family life, about duty and compassion, and about the basic problems we face as human beings don’t really change much over dozens of generations.
In one wonderfully simple scene, two kids are acting up in a restaurant and being the kind of nuisance that kids often are when french fries and soda are involved. The moms are used to tuning the noise and annoyance out but the samurai can’t believe the children’s insolence. When he snapped at them and then reprimanded pretty much everyone in the room after apologizing for their behavior, the audience actually exploded into applause. We could all use a samurai sometimes, I guess.
I wanted to see the closing night film, Morgan Spurlock’s new Comicon documentary, but I’m so glad that I skipped that to catch this gem. This was the one film from Fantastic Fest that I might actually watch with my mom some day, which is weird but somehow also really nice. Thanks, Fantastic Fest!