Day 6 of Fantastic Fest 2010 beat me up and made me want my mommy. Kidnapped, Mutant Girls Squad and Cold Fish each elicited such an unpleasant emotional response that afterwards, the only answer was to run away from the Drafthouse and hang out with friends. That’s probably a valid response to what Fantastic Fest is all about, though, films that rock you to your core and portray brutality. Still, despite their graphic nature, two of the films were actually pretty incredible. The other? Not so much. Hit the jump to read about three movies that took me to Hell and back.
If nothing else, Miguel Angel Vivas’ Kidnapped (or it might be called Hostages, which is what the title card said) is a technical masterpiece. Much like Hitchcock’s Rope, the film is done entirely in long takes, about 12 in total, each one more impressive than the last, and the story is that of a home invasion, something we’ve seen numerous times before even at this festival – The Strangers, Mother’s Day, the list goes on and on. Kidnapped, though, trumps them all with a level of graphic violence very reminiscent of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible. A family moves into a brand new house and on the first night, three men take the place over. While one robber takes dad to clean out all the bank accounts, the other two are left home with mom and daughter. Of course, things don’t go as planned and the scenario spirals out of control. The best part about Kidnapped is the way it’s told. The long takes give the film a frightening basis in reality and make the violence much more disturbing. Morally though, the film really doesn’t take a stance. It’s not saying anything like Funny Games, a film that it obviously draws on. And in that lack of message, it fails. Still, it’s a technical marvel with some incredible performances and I figured would be the most disturbing movie I saw all festival. I was wrong.
The second film of the day, Mutant Girls Squad, wasn’t that disturbing, it just made me mad. Not in the way a film like Kidnapped made me mad, just mad because I was sitting in a film that I’m not the audience for. Co-directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, Tak Sakaguchi and Noboru Iguchi, Mutant Girls Squad is low budget, low rent, B movie horror. It looks like crap, the story is crap, the effects are crap, and all the girls are really attractive. It’s like a porno without the sex. Still, we’re all aware that fans out there love movies about hot girls who are mutants and decide to fight the human race with ass chainsaws and booby swords with an infinite amount of spraying blood, I’m just not one of them. I always felt that a schlocky movie needed to have some kind of heart or story to justify its gratuitous reaction shots. Mutant Girls Squad doesn’t. It’s like Troma, but without the sense of humor. Fans of this kind of movie will probably eat it up, but for me, I was just infuriated.
In retrospect, that emotional state was not the best way to walk into Cold Fish, the latest film by Sion Sono. It tells the true story of a Japanese fish dealer who murdered over 50 people and the people he strong arms into helping him get away with it. At the beginning, what is so striking about Cold Fish is that you don’t know who the antagonist or protagonist is. There are two fish dealers and the mystery isn’t solved until almost an hour into the film. That uncertainty makes watching the film nerve wracking and uncomfortable. Once it’s revealed, though, the films’ dynamic totally changes. And later, it changes again, and not for the better. Cold Fish shook me to the core. The violence, the themes, the characters, they all combined into a movie that not only had me exit the theater thinking, but wanting to wash my brain of it at the same time. It’s not on par with some of the over the top terrible visuals movies like Serbian Film or Antichrist portray, but Sono gets us so wrapped up in the characters that by the time they turn on each other, we literally can’t believe what we are seeing. And there’s the flaw. By the time the film pays off, I didn’t believe the characters were capable of what was happening. If I can ever muster up a second viewing, maybe that will clear things up. But I’m not sure if I ever want to revisit Cold Fish. Brutal, effective but altogether engaging and interesting, it’s one of the best films of Fantastic Fest.
Though I was scheduled for two more movies after those three, as I stated above, I just couldn’t muster up the courage. So my friends and I headed out into the city of Austin to take in some of the local flavor. We ate at the Mexican restaurant where Death Proof was shot, bought some CD’s and DVD’s and then talked about the movies we’d seen. After a day like day six, that decompression was totally necessary.
Two days remain. Check out our previous days of coverage by clicking on the links below: