All posts by Giles Edwards

Film major & would-be writer. 6'3".

A QUICK CHAT WITH GORE MAESTRO YOSHIHIRO NISHIMURA (2017)

Before leaving Montreal, I had the pleasure of a quick chat with the director of Kudoko Meatball Machine, , through his translator.

366: Hello, I’m with these people, [Present business card with Japanese translation on it] I hope I wrote that correctly.

Translator: Yes, yes. [Hands card to Nishimura]

366: First of all, thank you for sitting with me. Last night was the first of your movies I’ve ever seen, but my boss is very familiar with your work and he wanted me to ask, regarding the state of independent/low budget film-making in Japan, would you say it’s in healthy shape? Has it been evolving in any way?

Yoshihrio NikimuraYoshihiro Nishimura: It’s in a very bad shape.

366: Bad shape since the start—the get-go?

YN: Twenty years ago in Japan, Tsutomu Miyazaki killed four little girls, and when the police investigated his apartment, they found a lot of “splatter” movies, so the media accused those kinds of movies very openly, and since that time it has been very bad. At that time, splatter movies were having a boom, but since that time school boys have been told not to see splatter movies, so now in their 20s and 30s, they have a very bad opinion of those movies.

366: I was told some names: , , and . Would you say these film-makers are part of your film “movement” all together?

YN: [Laughs] You forgot ““. Actually, the people who categorize us together are the media, not us. So I cannot answer that.

366: Now, your working relationship with Sono, how did that develop?

YN: Sion Sono is a good friend, we met in film school, and we’ve made movies from then through now.

366: Are you surprised—and hopefully happy—at how much your work has infiltrated North America? Certainly there were a lot of people last night very happy to see Kodoku Meatball Machine. And are you at all concerned North Americans and foreigners might miss references that a native would pick up on?

YN: Rather surprised [at the popularity], yes. For example, in my last movie, in Japan it is an insult to say someone is “bold”, but here it is not an insult.

366: What started your interest in the human body and its malleability—morphing from the organic to the mechanic kind of thing?

YN: and Johannes Vermeer were two artists that inspired that interest.

366: Regarding this sub-genre of “body changing”, you’ve no doubt been asked a lot about Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Would that be the starting point of these films?

YN: Before I made Tokyo Gore Police, I made Anotomia Extinction, and Tetsuo was released before I was finished, so a lot of people said Anotomia Extinction was copying Tetsuo, but I feel it’s different, because I started it before Tetsuo came out.

366: Any quick word about upcoming projects?

YN: I’m going to be doing a story about embalming.

366: There’s a question from my brother-in-law, can you recommend any good restaurants in Tokyo —

Translator: The brother-in-law is…

366: …my sister’s husband.

Translator: Big sister or small sister?

366: Younger.

[Translates]

YN: [Laughs] I can only tell you about ramen. “Kanda Kikanbo.” [writes name in my note-book] This is the best ramen. It’s very good.

366: I think that finishes the questions I was given. Thank you for your time!

YN: Thank you!

2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: MOVIES & MAYHEM IN MONTREAL, VOL. 2

7/19 & 7/20 : Preparing for another Long Weekend

Although it may come back to haunt me, I did not brave the swarms of fan-boys and girls that flocked to ‘s new space epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Wednesday evening. I did, however, stay out late to catch Ufuk Genç’s German-language martial-arts movie, Plan B. It was truly “a mix of action und comedy”, but unlike Rainier Wolfcastle’s mediocre McBain: Let’s Get Silly!Plan B has no shortage of hilarity (and, indeed, action). A trio of wannabe kung fu movie stars are trapped doing dirty work for a gang of vicious criminals and have constant run-ins with another gang of vicious criminals. Police detective Robert Kopp looms in the background wondering what these idiots could possibly be up to.

Still from Free and Easy (2017)On Thursday night, just one feature—a weird one. Geng Jun’s Free and Easy plays like it was shot from a screenplay whipped up by when he was doing his post-college backpacking trip around Northeast China. (Note: there is no record of Beckett back-packing around Northeast China). In a ghost town of some dozen people, around half of the inhabitants seem to be con-men; two bored policemen encounter victims of knock-out soap (literally). Free and Easy had a fair number of laughs, but as the screen darkened, the normally clapping crowd was silent, not quite knowing what to do: there was one clap, then silence during the incongruous Mandarin rap song that played over the credits.

7/21 : Triple Feature; All Hail “NongShim”

Technically it’s 7/22: just returned from the final film of a triple feature this evening, and I feel like my brain should be soaked in a cool bucket of ice. Things started around 7 o’clock with the Cambodian jailhouse action extravaganza Jailbreak. Very martial arts, not very weird, but those who like well choreographed (and non-hyper-edited) combat should check it out.

On the heels of this violence was some more violence—of less quantity, but far more grisly. Lowlife is looking to be the high point of the Festival, and I’ll remark more on it later once I’ve had a chance to shut down. Suffice it to say, I think America has a new go-to director for unsettling violence fused with smart script-writing and quirky wit. Lowlife also gives us one of the nastiest bad guys to come out on film in a long while.

Rounding out the evening was the hyper-bizarre, hyper-violent, and ultimately tender movie, Kudoku Meatball Machine. This film introduced me to the creativity of , whom I will have the pleasure of interviewing in under ten hours. I’ll provide details on the last two later this weekend. Now, though, I’m signing off and passing out.

7/22 : Laid-back Conversations

On Saturday-proper, I had intended to watch three movies: Dead Continue reading 2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: MOVIES & MAYHEM IN MONTREAL, VOL. 2

BREAKING IT DOWN: AN INTERVIEW WITH GRAHAM SKIPPER (2017)

After a long night out on the town, Graham Skipper is still able to meet with 366 in the Fantasia Film Festival media lounge for a chat about his directorial debut.

Graham Skipper366: It is the 20th of the July, Thursday and I’m here with Graham Skipper, director of Sequence Break [reviewed here] for an interview about the motion picture and whatever else comes up. Hello, Graham!

Graham Skipper: Hello!

366: This is your directorial debut?

GS: Yes it is.

366: So you’ve disowned Space Clown?

GS: [Laughs] No, I wouldn’t use that term… Space Clown was a good experiment that definitely helped me to learn more about film-making. But Sequence Break is definitely my first real directorial effort that’s indicative of what I’m trying to do.

366: I noticed you had a bunch of acting credits to your name, short films, TV shows, and things, and then on your website—congratulations on getting “GrahamSkipper.com” before the other guy, by the way…

GS: [Smiles] Thanks, thank you.

366 : …you’re listed as an “Actor/Writer/Director”; are you interested in shuffling those words around at any point?

GS: I love all three of those things. I love acting very much, I really loved being able to direct, and along with that, writing—the seed that grows in that sandbox. But they’re different skills and different adventures, so I want to continue doing all three.

366: You mentioned before the screening your role as Herbert West [in “Re-Animator, the Musical”]—you’re the first person in the role of Herbert West on stage. I take it you must be a fan of the original Re-Animator movies?

GS: Absolutely.

366: And , who obviously doesn’t show up on screen nearly often enough.

GS: Oh yeah. I wish that — I could watch Jeffrey Combs read the phone book. He’s amazing.

366: Have you read the original story? What did you think of it [compared to the movie]?

GS: I have. It’s very different. I like it, it’s very pulpy. I like that it leans so heavily to the Frankenstein archetypes. I like the war time elements, the Zombie war during [World War I].

366 : I recently finished reading all the Lovecraft works…

GS: Oh cool.

366: …and there’s a rich vein there that has barely been tapped, cinema-wise.

GS: I think Lovecraft is really hard to adapt, so much of Lovecraft is, Continue reading BREAKING IT DOWN: AN INTERVIEW WITH GRAHAM SKIPPER (2017)

LIST CANDIDATE: SEQUENCE BREAK (2017)

DIRECTED BY: Graham Skipper

FEATURING: , , John Dinan,  Lyle Kanouse

PLOT: A young electrical technician unwisely installs a mysterious circuit board that arrives at an arcade game refurbisher and finds himself getting increasingly absorbed by the machine and its game–literally.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Here’s a list of nouns: nipple console buttons, white goo circuitry, and coital gaming seizures.

COMMENTS: From the first man to star as Herbert West in Re-Animator: the Musical comes a science fiction debut catering directly to the Cronen-bourgeoisie. A millennial update to the classic Videodrome (and to eXistenZ), Graham Skipper’s Sequence Break is a creepy love letter to the 80s tech-gore genre. There are tips-of-the-hat to those who have come before—Skipper’s most obvious inspiration is David Cronenberg (explicitly stating as much in his introduction to the movie’s world premiere)—but there are elements of Steven Lisberger’s Tron, and even John Hughes-style romance between the teenage-acting, 20-something boy and girl nerd leads.

Osgoode (Chase Williamson) works at “Jerry’s Arcade Spot,” using his technical prowess and tunnel vision to bring old upright consoles back to life. Tess (Fabianne Therese), an out-of-work geek girl, enters his life just as Jerry (Lyle Kanouse) tells him that he’s going to have to close the place. A mysterious zealot (John Dinan) delivers a circuit board on a night Jerry is supposed to be out of town. After an unfortunate murder the parcel is forgotten until Osgoode makes the mistake of installing it in an empty frame. Playing the game, reminiscent of the arcade classic “Tempest” by way of a Tibetan mandala, Osgoode finds himself increasingly absorbed—first metaphorically, then in dreams, and then physically—and his grip on life outside his machines loosens considerably. Does he have the focus to regain control? More importantly, is there the possibility of a second play-through?

Beyond its arcade premise, Sequence Break is a throw-back in many ways. Most of the special effects are of the practical sort, an art that—thank goodness—keeps coming back to life despite the assault of ever-advancing CGI nonsense. The sexual goo and manipulation of the “haunted” arcade console feels real as we see the controls squishify in Osgoode’s able hands. Simple editing and camera techniques create an increasingly jarring perspective: flash-cuts, image-distortion, twin-screen action, and most hauntingly, facial disintegration. Like Osgoode, we become unsure of what’s real, what’s a dream, and what’s in the machine.

The organic-mechanical world of classic Cronenberg is a frightening thing, and Graham Skipper pulls off the tricks nicely. Combined with the sickly-sexual imagery is a story of a young and talented fellow who only seems to have discovered human love well after adolescence. In a way, Sequence Break is a “love-conquers-all” kind of romance, where the male protagonist has to find the desire and focus to choose the real world over a sticky facsimile. As a directorial debut, Graham Skipper’s effort is an impressively unsettling but ultimately uplifting piece of low budget sci-fi cinema.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The grand finale, in particular, goes into deliriously weird territory, in the best possible way.”–Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat (Fantasia)

HIGH ON THE FARM: A CHAT WITH KAREN SKLOSS (2017)

Meeting on the patio of the Irish Embassy 1)Not the actual embassy, but a nearby pub where Fantasia-types gather most every night., I enjoyed an extended conversation with Karen Skloss, the director of The Honor Farm (2017, reviewed here).

Karen SklossAll right, this is Giles Edwards from 366 Weird Movies here with the director of The Honor Farm, Karen Skloss. We’re going to discuss the first fictional feature she’s directed, having previously directed Sunshine, a 2009 documentary that played on PBS and elsewhere concerning the nature of pregnancy, your daughter…

Karen Skloss: And changing family values, I guess, and looking at motherhood and women’s place in the family and structures…Kind of like a personal essay film. A very personal story; the “personal is political” kind of thing.

366: I read, courtesy of IMDB, that you did a little of previous work in film editing. Is that how you started in the filmmaking business?

KS: I still do it, right now I’m editing Andrew Bujalski’s new movie, I’m really excited about it.

366: Now is what do you think will be your future career? Focusing on editing? Focusing on directing feature films?

KS: I guess it’s a slow transition to… [At this point, bar noise grew excessive] …I kind of wonder if we should be outside.
I guess we’ll take a field-trip with this recorder and keep our fingers crossed. [Traveling outside, far quieter.]
Now we’re talking! I had a vision, and no one separates a director from her vision.

366: Except for the producers and money-men, right?

KS: [Laughs] Right! Now, this is more like a cafe interview.
Yes, 2009 was my last feature, my directorial debut, with lots of editing in between, and now some more editing. But it’s cool, because I’m going to get another one off the ground soon. I would love to direct as my “bread and butter”, but I also love editing, so it’s totally fine.

366: Your preceding movie went back about a decade, with the family ponderings. You mentioned [at the screening] your daughter was a teenager now, so I presume she was born well before the movie that concerned her and you.

KS: Yeah. It’s funny, I started shooting while I was pregnant. It was one of those projects that happened slowly while I was working as an editor and doing other projects. I was slowly doing this personal essay over many years.

366: Obviously getting into film is a dream for a lot of people. Did Continue reading HIGH ON THE FARM: A CHAT WITH KAREN SKLOSS (2017)

References   [ + ]

1. Not the actual embassy, but a nearby pub where Fantasia-types gather most every night.

2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: MOVIES & MAYHEM IN MONTREAL, VOL. 1

7/13 : Arrival

Nine hours in a train, thirteen hours securing Wi-Fi, and a whole ton of walking. All this adds up to your correspondent’s arrival to the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival. No sleep? No problem. This party’s got everything you need to stay on your feet.

Things began with a power-house slaughterfest, Doom-style, with Jung Byung-Gil’s latest picture, The Villainess. Countless dead bodies filled this tale of deadly women, murder agencies, and betrayal. Disarmingly introduced by the commendably low-key director, The Villainess is an ultra-violent assassin revenge movie with a strange “rom-com” interlude. I strongly suspect that would give Byung-Gil a high five after watching it.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable was introduced by no less than Japan’s consulate general, whose gracious speech was followed by some snazzy fantasy-rock violin. Unfortunately, things began to disappoint immediately thereafter; so much so that, having given Jojo a chance for half its length, I had to  duck out. Somehow I didn’t get the memo that most of the other attendees received: that this movie was amusing, stylish, and worthwhile. Ignorance of the series no doubt worked against me; the only other culprit I can think to blame is my sobriety.

I have no worries, though. Peeking ahead at the weekend, I find I will be booked solid with very promising titles. As midnight approaches, my first festival day winds down to a close. Tomorrow: three movies, with the action starting at 10 AM. Wish me luck out here; I’ll keep the reports coming.

7/14 : Travel-Size Review, The LaPlace’s Demon

Awkwardly titled, pleasantly unnerving. Giordano Giulvi’s The LaPlace’s Demon is a through-the-looking-glass take on the horror genre, replacing the fear of the supernatural with the terror at the hyper-rational. Eight souls are lured to an ominous mansion high atop a peak on a deserted island and trapped inside. Within, they find a clock-work model of their opulent prison, with eight white pawns. The all-knowing Professor Cornelius explains, via video-tape, they are part of an experiment to see if free will exists. As the pawns inside the model begin moving in sync with the visitors, real fear sets in when one pawn disappears—and an ominous Continue reading 2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: MOVIES & MAYHEM IN MONTREAL, VOL. 1

LIST CANDIDATE: THE HONOR FARM (2017)

DIRECTED BY: Karen Skloss

FEATURING: Olivia Grace Applegate, Louis Hunter, Katie Folger, , Mackenzie Astin

PLOT: After a disappointing senior prom, Lucy and Annie ditch their dates and join up with a clutch of hearse-driving students who are heading to the haunted prison, the Honor Farm, to take psychedelic mushrooms; Lucy slips in and out of reality as events take alternatingly sinister and joyful turns.

Still from The Honor Farm (2017)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LISTThe Honor Farm is an unlikely fusion of “teen-coming-of-age” drama and “teens-in-danger” horror. Combined with the rampant symbolism (a prom, a stag, and a donut), things might just be weird enough for us.

COMMENTS: Shroom-chomping teenagers, a dreamy hearse ride, an abandoned prison, and a looming stag adorn the universe of The Honor Farm. This fun mix of ingredients from filmmaker Karen Skloss jumbles together with gusto, emerging as a horror-tinged and symbolism-soaked high school drama. The New Age blood-dream opening sets the ambiguous tone of calm and dissonance that continues throughout the feature.

Waking from a dream at the dentist’s office—a girl does have to have her teeth as white as possible for prom, you know—Lucy (Olivia Applegate) seems all set for the first big night of her adult life. After her beau nearly vomits on her in the back of their rented limo, Lucy and her friend Annie (Katie Folger) run off to a nearby gas station and encounter a group of senior girls in an old red hearse. One City of Women-style ride later, the gaggle of teen ladies arrive at the outskirts of the “Honor Farm”, an old prison with a bad history of brutality. Lucy meets dreamy (and interesting) high school boy J.D. (Louis Hunter), who doles out the mushrooms. After a bout of faux-intellectual philosophizing, teen-style, ambiguous events begin in earnest. Cue the horror music.

Narrative tricks and references abound. When one young woman attempts to channel to a dead boy, J.D. leads Lucy through a tunnel opening in parallel. As we see the tunnel exit collapsed, the ritual, too, is interrupted. We award points both for the arrival of a dentist with laughing gas as well as a vision of a sacrifice victim posing the riddle, “What has no end, beginning, or middle?” Answer? A donut, obviously. And oh yes, Skloss also tucks in faerie ring imagery (mushrooms, again), the goddess Diana-as-Stag spirit guide, and a flaming playing card with a purpose. (This last example could almost be a meta-reference to “The Simpsons” “Twin Peaks” parody: “this suit burns better.”)

Though I may be rambling here, Skloss never does. Those who’ve read my reviews know that I’m a big fan of efficient films. At 77 minutes, The Honor Farm certainly isn’t over-long, but neither does it skimp on narrative and character development. Lucy is at a new place in her life, wanting to “feel something real.” Ironically, it takes unreal experiences to satisfy this craving. The Honor Farm has just the right levels of teen-comedy, scares, myth, and ambiguity to sit well with itself. Kudos.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“While there are definitely some interesting aspects to The Honor Farm, it often succumbs to a lack of focus, ultimately feeling like a mishmash of five different movies with none of the elements coming together in a truly complimentary way by the end of the film. Skloss offers up a hypnotic coming-of-age tale with shades of horror—there’s some supernatural stuff thrown in, as well as a weird cultish subplot… I just wanted more for Lucy on her journey of self-discovery than what we ultimately get here. The film does offer up some stunning cinematography, particularly during The Honor Farm’s more surreal moments during Lucy’s fantasy…”–Heather Wixson, Daily Dead (SWSX screening)