Fantasia: Horror, Spandex and a Surprise Gem

V/H/S

If there’s two things Fantasia‘s all about, it’s Horror and Asian movies. And Asian Horror movies, technically. As the festival trundles on, let’s take a look at one of the more hyped movies this year, as well as an unexpected gem and a bright, gleaming fire of spandex-clad justice.

V/H/S

An anthology movie made up of found-footage horror shorts? Jeez, there’s being damned from the start and then there’s having a sniper rifle trained on your mother’s nether-regions before she even goes into labor.

I’ve written before about found-footage movies, and trust me I was being charitable back then. But anthology movies come with their own set of baggage, even if you have some kind of incredible super-star tag-team of film makers working on it. Which, admittedly, V/H/S comes with.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that the finished product is kind of a wet fart, sporting such names as Ti West and David Bruckner.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some interesting ideas here. The first segment (not counting the framing story, which is a whole lotta nothing) is fairly creative, as well as one that eschews hand-cam style and is instead assembled out of Skype sessions. That last one even scared me once or twice.

But everything else is either painfully mediocre or just laughably bad. The absolute low point is one segment in the woods that admittedly -almost- goes somewhere interesting with the whole “kids on a camping trip beset upon by demonic killer” angle, but ended up being a half-baked bore

And that’s really the key word here, half-baked. And no, I’m not talking about the mental state of half the audience and probably cast for that matter. If just one or two of the weaker segments had been removed, perhaps some of the interesting ideas found in the other segments could have been more properly fleshed-out.

As it stands, this is just a bowl of partial ideas held together with a gimmick that hasn’t so much out-stayed its welcome as it has died on the sofa and messily soiled itself.

Young Gun in the Time

It tends to always be the ones you least expect that surprise you the most. I never got a chance to see Invasion of Alien Bikini, director Oh Young-Do’s contribution to last year’s fest, and this film’s quasi-predecessor. Not to mention that when I went in to his new film, Young Gun in the Time, I had almost entirely forgotten the synopsis. So when I left the theatre all but assured this would end up being one of my favourite films of the festival, I couldn’t have been more surprised if a bright green monkey leaped down from the popcorn machine and made violent love to my right ear.

The titular Young Gun (who shares a name and actor with Invasion of Alien Bikini’s lead) is a small-time detective with a mechanical right hand and a beautiful but domineering secretary. When a strange woman enters his office with an unusual request, Young Gun quickly finds himself embroiled in a case unlike anything he’s faced before, including dangerous assassins, conspiracies and time travel.

The film has a wonderful visual style, with the kind of offbeat quirkiness that usually charms the pants off me. The soundtrack is somewhat limited, but has enough catchy tunes to keep me humming some of them later. But what really makes it is the hero, an affable, perpetually confused-looking antidote to your usual hardboiled detective type. Something about him is just endearing and makes me want to see more movies with the character.

The movie isn’t perfect, mind you. The fight scene photography isn’t great, far too kinetic and wild for my taste. Also the time travel elements often don’t totally make sense when you think hard about them.

Those small complaints aside, this is definitely not one to miss.

Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie

Japanese superheroes are something of an acquired taste, like Guinness or certain things you can only do in the seedier areas of Bangkok. Unlike their American counterparts, which often seem to consider such things as brightly colored spandex or straightforward good vs. evil story lines beneath them, our friends in the east embrace all the cartoony-ness, larger-than-life spectacle and just plain silly elements that are (for me anyway) an essential element of a good superhero mythos.

No surprise then that Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend the Movie was near the top of my “to watch” list at this year’s fest. A part of the now over 45 year old Ultraman series, the film is an awe-inspiring spectacle of heroism, special effects and men in red and silver onesies beating up rubber-suit monsters. And if I’m not making myself clear enough, I fucking LOVE it.

Describing it would be almost impossible, but it’s part of my job so here’s my best go: far off in the M78 nebula, the Planet Ultra (Yes, the Planet Ultra) is guarded by a mighty race of warriors called Ultramen. For countless eons, they have upheld peace and justice. But now, the corrupted Ultraman Belial has been released from his prison and only Ultraman Zero, son of the legendary Ultraman Seven, can stop him.

For people who are into this kinda thing, this is an absolute treat. The fight scenes are dynamic and energetic, breathlessly choreographed and filled to the brim with special effects. The story is an epic space opera, populated by mythical characters who shout out things like “You are in violation of Ultra Justice!” without even the merest hint of irony. If you let it take you, this is about as pure and fun a superhero movie as you’re bound to see.

But I’m not above admitting this isn’t for everyone. Hell, this isn’t even for most people. But if you’re looking for an antidote from the grim n gritty superheroes that largely populate movie screens here in North America, give this a try.

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