The end of Fantasia, for me at least, really means the end of summer. Oh sure, there’s still a month or so of getting to spend days on end sitting around in my underwear re-watching The X-Files, but the heady, intoxicating nights bingeing on fine cinema before stumbling back home are over, and really that’s what summer’s all about.
Endings are important; they put the proper button on experiences and no matter how good something is, if it doesn’t end well there’s the sense the whole thing was a waste. I mean, just look at look at…well, The X-Files, come to think of it. But I’m happy to report that not only has Fantasia 2014 ended well, it’s ended superbly, going out on a much suitable note of low-brow fun, indie weirdness and Asian period action. So let’s take one last look before sauntering off into the night to begin the wait ’til next year.
I think Zombeavers may end up as the most quintessentially “Fantasia” movie I’ve seen all year. An intensely low-brow but even more enjoyable tongue-in-cheek horror romp about a bevy of attractive and usually barely clothed co-eds falling under attack by zombie beavers while on a cabin trip.
Like Dead Snow 2 before it, Zombeavers knows exactly what it wants to be (fun, crass and incredibly silly) and goes about achieving that with as much gusto as a low-budget horror comedy can, which in this case is a whole lot. The cast are the usual assortment of good girls, bad girls, dudebros and shotgun-wielding hill-folk, and all of them perform about as admirably as you’d want them to. Despite the tongue-in-cheek drum the film is furiously beating on, none of them ever feels like they’re phoning it in. What I rather like the most is how the film actually keeps you guessing until the very end about which of the female protagonists will be the survivor and throws the occasional curve ball into your expectations, probably cracking them on the jaw in a way that will require some expensive dental work.
It’s just clever enough that it doesn’t become an attempt at some Cabin in the Woods-esque meta-commentary and isn’t dumb enough that you feel yourself edging towards the exits before the first undead aquatic rodent rears its ugly head.
As we’ve covered before, South Korean cinema is becoming big business. In my experience, that business has been a store specializing in unflavoured rice cakes and saltines. But at the last moment a Korean film came along that impressed me with its personality and charm, that being the period actioner Kundo.
On paper, it plays out like Star Wars with more bamboo groves: evil empire oppressing the people, scrappy band of rebels fighting for equality and justice, seen through the eyes of a normal joe on the ground floor. Except the normal joe in this case is a former butcher turned top-notch cutting swordsman who heaves around a pair of cleavers that look like they’re a few bangles away from something out of an early Final Fantasy game. Which sounds a bit dull, but is pulled off with a fiery energy that mixes rapid-fire editing, a score with echoes of a Spaghetti Western, and some surprisingly coherent fight scene photography.
Of course, it takes a good while to get off the ground, devoting the entire first act to the overly-drawn out origin of our hero. Once the landing gear comes up and the flight attendants let us go to the bathroom and use our smartphones again, you’re in for a pretty darn entertaining martial arts movie with some good fights and memorable characters.
I want you to imagine for a moment a sect of monks, raised in the furthest reaches of the globe and trained from birth in the art of nonsense. While other men and women have trains of thought, these proud warriors of the random have Jackson Pollock paintings of thought, with no notion or idea they have being in any way related to what came before or after in their seething, chaotic mindscapes. Sensibility and reason are their sworn enemies, which they regularly trounce at all opportunities.
Now imagine the greatest of these monks are brought to the Western world, given a budget consisting of 50 bucks, an old Kit-Kat wrapper and a pat on the back, and told to make a film. I Am A Knife With Legs is about as close you’re going to get to that film. To describe the plot almost seems futile and the best I can do is that it centers on a European pop star named Bene who goes into hiding after the love of his life is killed and a Fatwa is taken out on his life. Left mostly alone in an LA apartment, Bene can only contemplate his impending death, sing odd songs only vaguely related to the plot at large and find some way to escape the approaching “SSN”.
I Am A Knife With Legs is that one wild summer fling you only half-remember as a storm of madness and confusion, as some girl with a mad gleam in her eyes and an intoxicating smile pulled you kicking and screaming from your comfort zone into a succession of things which seem frightening and strange at the time, but can be described as “adventures” once the scars have healed and the hair dye washes out. It’s pure, concentrated, madcap lunacy that can’t ever be predicted and God damn, do you love it for that. It’s the kind of completely singular experience that film festivals like this exist to bring about, the kind you rave about to friends who are probably questioning your sanity more with every word. And really, “experience” is the best way I could hope to describe I Am A Knife With Legs. You don’t watch it; you live it, and remember living it, even if you don’t entirely remember what “it” was, for the rest of your life.