After overdoing it at THE MIND’S EYE, it was uncertain whether I’d make it to Sunday’s press screening. 7am comes mighty fast. At Fantastic Fest, you power through.
MAN VS SNAKE is the third entry in the Twin Galaxies Trilogy. In 1984 Timothy McVey who garnered the world record on the now-forgotten Nibbler coin-op. It only took McVey one quarter… over the course off 44-and-a-half hours. Over the years, several challengers to McVey’s throne come to light: an Italian kickboxer, Enrico Zanettie, and “video game bad boy” Dwayne Richard. The film focuses on McVey’s friendly rivalry with Richard, and his quest to retain his world-record high score. MAN VS SNAKE hits a lot of the same beats of THE KING OF KONG but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Both McVey and Richard are infinitely more likeable than Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell (who of course makes an appearance in the documentary). Smarmy Twin Galaxies founder, Walter Day, is of course there to make sure the book does all of the record-breaking. MAN VS SNAKE breaks no new ground but it’s an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday morning.
Fellow Daily Grindhouse scribe Jason Coffman and I skipped the first Sunday’s first screening so that we could conduct an interview with Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn is down at Fantastic Fest promoting his new book, THE ART OF SEEING, the most expensive movie poster book featuring movies that nobody has ever seen. Refn is quite charming and affable, very easy to talk to and absolutely loves exploitation trash. The Daily Grindhouse interview with Refn will run October 5th.
The “slavesploitation” subgenre is an interesting one at that. MANDINGO and DRUM were both big studio releases, and there was the Fred Williamson picture THE LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY, which felt more in line with the blaxploitation films of the era. As the ‘70s went on, a more serious look at the America slave trade, the television miniseries ROOTS, became a cultural phenomenon. FAREWELL, UNCLE TOM is a fascinatingly bizarre film. Roger Ebert called it the most racist film he had ever seen. Is it racist? I don’t think so. Is it exploitative? Absolutely. The premise of the film is truly out there; a documentary film crew from Italy crosses time and space via helicopter in order to document slavery in America. There’s no explanation as to how it’s done, it just happens. What follows is a brutal look at how black slaves were treated in America. The documentary feels like a tour of one of the worst historical re-enactment museums of the South. You almost have to chuckle at the audacity and ridiculousness of the proceedings. It would appear that the filmmaker’s hearts are in the right place; there weren’t many films by 1971 that portrayed the atrocities of slavery in America. The problem is that the film is obviously cheap and its reputation proceeds in that the Haitian actors and actress portraying the slaves were reportedly not treated well at all by the filmmakers. There seems to be an actual glimmer of talent in some of the shots in the film, but overall, the message that slavery is bad ultimately lost in the more exploitative elements. A fascinating look at not only what the American slave trade and more interestingly what was thought to be acceptable in 1971.
Up next was the horror anthology SOUTHBOUND. Anthologies are notoriously uneven and SOUTHBOUND is no exception. A collection of stories based around what can only be assumed is the road to hell, the standout segment is one featuring a girl band stranded on the side of the road who are taken in by an odd family — including comedian Dana Gould — for the night. This segment is the only one that touches that great mix of gallows humor and horror that made films like CREEPSHOW and certain episodes of TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE so enjoyable. Aside from that, despite some very impressive CGI creature effects and pretty good gore, SOUTHBOUND ultimately feels empty. The film attempts to tie each of the stories together, which basically means that each segment doesn’t have a conclusion with a great E.C. Comics punch line. Quite forgettable.
When you’re watching movies all day, it’s nice to get out of the darkened theatre for a bit, even if it’s only to go to a darkened bar. Texas Chili Parlor has notoriety, though, as that’s one of Stuntman Mike’s favorite hangouts in Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF. I of course ordered the nacho platter, but I don’t do virgin piña coladas, so three margaritas it was.
After a quick cab ride back to the Alamo, THE DEVIL’S CANDY was up. THE DEVIL’S CANDY is a frustrating film. Ethan Embry and Kiara Glasco turn in wonderful performances as a metalhead father and daughter, who along with mother Shiri Appleby, purchase an idyllic new house at a discounted rate. Of course, something awful happened in the house years prior, and demonic forces are afoot in the family’s new home. It’s infuriating, as Embry and Glasco play father and daughter so well, but the rest of the film just never makes a cohesive statement and seems to mish-mash horror tropes simply for the sake of doing it. There are plenty of creepy scenes to insinuate possession and other evils are occurring, but the perpetual pandering to metalheads is annoying, and the by-the-numbers third act doesn’t make good on any of its promises.
Sunday’s midnight selection was OFFICE from South Korea. OFFICE is a sort of Korean giallo. All the elements are there; a pretty heroine, gruesome killings, and a stoic cop and his smart-ass partner investigating the whole thing. The film displays quite a bit of visual flair ,as well as cool, neon drenched shots of the city at night, but it’s an extremely slow burn that never really delivers on the office satire it promises.
Coming up on Day 5: A sweet bit of blasphemy, a Mario Bava remake, and the Fantastic Feud.