Day three of Fantastic Fest was thematically all over the place…
First up, Markus Dunstan’s follow up to his much loved but not much seen 2009 slasher film, The Collector. Writers Markus Dunstan and Patrick Melton penned Saw IV, V and VI. They were also co-authors with my friend and fellow Austinite, Stephan Romano, on the novel Black Light. So when it comes to horror you better believe they know what they are doing.
The Collection follows the story of Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), who, when stood up by her boyfriend, goes to a secret nightclub with one of her girlfriends. Little do they know, The Collector has the place booby trapped and some massive rube-goldberg style carnage ensues. I have no doubt that this scene in particular is what will be talked about most when people start to see this film as it’s one of the most uniquely horrifying devices of death I have ever seen on the big screen. While all this is going on, Elena finds a trunk in one of the side rooms inside of which is Arkin (Josh Stewart). Arkin gets away but The Collector captures Elena. Elena’s rich father (Christopher McDonald) hires some special forces guys to rescue her and they recruit the reluctant Arkin to help them find her, as Arkin is the only person ever taken by The Collector who has ever managed to escape. They’re led into a maze of an abandoned hotel filled with horrors and booby traps The Collector could only have set up there with a significant amount of time. And one by one the rescue team discovers what they all are.
The Collection is more gruesome than scary… one of those movies where you recoil at the brutality, not jump out of your seats at unexpected frights, though there are a few of those. If you are a horror fan you’ll probably find it right up your ally. Stylistically it’s unnerving, with some great art direction and very effective cinematography. And what I liked most was that it wasn’t just window dressing, everything was used. It all had a purpose. The devil’s in the details on movies like these and Dunstan and Melton worked it all out pretty damn well. But what was missing for me was any kind of subtext or psychological investigation of who The Collector ultimately is and why he is doing these completely insane things (not that it’s not legitimate to make a horror movie without those elements, it totally is, and not having seen the first one it’s totally fair to say I’m missing something). I did, however, find the character of Elena a welcome change to the types of young women I typically see in horror films, and Emma Fitzpatrick did an excellent job.
Next up, Berbarian Sound Studio… a psychological thriller set in a 1970’s Italian film studio and starring Toby Jones, who is pretty much brilliant in everything I have ever seen him in. Mr. Gilderoy (Jones) is a sound engineer that is hired by a well known Italian film director to work on the sound for his new Giallofilm, which is not the type of film Mr. Gilderoy usually works on. So in addition to having a difficult time with the films subject matter he also has a difficult time with the people working on the film, cast and crew alike. In fact he seems to be caught in the middle of some rather shady filmmakers with some incredibly large egos and some serious drama happening between all of them. And not speaking much Italian makes it all that much harder for him to take. All of this is just the catalyst, however, for when the time comes in the film where we aren’t sure what is real life and what is the film being made. Life imitating art imitating life and all that. The film gets serious points for ambition and a wonderful performance from all players, most especially Jones. And the scenes of the foley artists smashing watermelons and other various food items is stylistically very cool. But it’s 90 minute run time felt more like four hours and I had to seriously fight to stay awake. So yeah, it’s kinda slow and kinda boring but not without merit, though ultimately I left the theater feeling a bit disappointed.
Finally, Paris By Night, a French cop thriller that follows one particular Vice officer, Simon (Roschdy Zem), on his rounds around the city one night. For some time after the film started I kept waiting for something to happen that would tell me why I was watching this movie… what this movie was about… but it just kept following Simon and his young driver, Laurence (Sara Forestier), as they drove all over the city, going to night clubs, talking with various characters, some legitimate business people, some members of the criminal underground, all of whom seemed to owe Simon money or favors. So for most of this film it felt like all they were doing was getting in the car, getting out of the car, smoking, talking, smoking some more, having a drink, then getting back in the car. But slowly something started to happen. All the different characters (and there are a lot of them, it was a little difficult to keep up at first), all the places he was going, the people he was talking to, they all started to come together, and a pattern was revealed. It’s not just that he is a corrupt cop. He is a puppet master, and all the morally ambiguous and often highly illegal things that he is doing, is in service of both an idea that he has about the way justice is metered out, but also in service of the one man who may be his only true friend in the world, Tony (Samuel Le Bihan of Brotherhood of the Wolf). Admittedly almost an hour in to the film I was thinking about not finishing it, but I am really glad I did because it turned out to be really great once I understood what the movie really was. It’s not a really a thriller about a corrupt cop… it’s a psychological study about how one man views the world, how he has learned to make sense of it and use his position to contribute to the well being of his beloved city.
Check out the trailers below…
Berbarian Sound Studio…
Paris By Night (Une Nuit):