This weekend’s horror, sci-fi and exploitation festival has everything a cinephile’s dark heart could wish for. Our film editor gives you an insider’s rundown of the upcoming bloodshed.
Looking for a reason to head back into kinos with friends, temporarily forget about the pandemic, and get your mind off of the fact that coming months could see the real-life horrorshow of ego-goblin Kayne West debate even-more-horrific ego-goblin Donald Trump in a bid for the Oval Office? You’re in luck. Taking place in Berlin this weekend, as well as in six other German cities, is the wildly popular Fantasy Filmfest Nights. The eclectic two-day festival now has new digs at the Kino in der Kulturbrauerei, because of the closure last December of CineStar Sony Centre, and features all the horror, sci-fi and exploitation movies a cinephile’s dark heart could wish for.
The lineup begins on Saturday at 1pm with The Man Standing Next, a true crime political thriller set in the 1970s by Woo Min-Ho. Based on Kim Choong-Seek’s book KCIA Chiefs and featuring Lee Byung-hun (I Saw The Devil), this moodily shot film follows high-ranking officials of the Korean government and the Korean Central Intelligence Agency 40 days before the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. Sticking stringently to real-life events, Woo Min-Ho manages to create a historically accurate cloak-and-dagger story that benefits from a palpable sense of paranoia linked to the KCIA’s reign of fear. Its powerful slow-build should delight fans of John le Carré, and the film once again boasts Hallyuwood’s vibrant output.
Berlinale Competition title The Intruder (El Prófugo) follows at 3.30pm. It’s an audacious, Brian De Palma-esque psychological noir by Natalia Meta that enticingly blurs the lines between reality and delusion. The horror-infused beats work. Frustratingly though, its reach exceeds its grasp and the film never quite capitalises on its atmospherically weighty opening.
Also screening on Saturday is Keith Thomas’ debut feature The Vigil (8pm), a creepy haunted house chiller billed as a “Jewish horror movie” that benefits in no small part from The Eyes of my Mother cinematographer Zach Kuperstein’s eerie craft, as well as Marc Meyers’ 1980s-set horror-comedy We Summon The Darkness (10.45pm). Set against the backdrop of the Satanic Panic, it’s a playful B-movie about a trio of metalchicks who meet three young rockers at a gig and want keep the party going until the early morning. Not all of them will make it out alive. The film’s big rug-pull works up to a point, but the end-result – consistently entertaining though it is – isn’t as subversive as it could have been.
Our must-see pick for the first day is True History of the Kelly Gang (5.45pm), a punkish and breathtakingly violent reimagining of the life and crimes of notorious outlaw Ned Kelly. Directed by Aussie director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) and adapted by Shaun Grant from Peter Carey’s 2001 Booker prize-winning novel, the film opens with the statement “Nothing you are about to see is true”. It’s an opening gambit which knowingly undermines its title but allows for some bold narrative flourishes in a story that touches upon myth-making and serves as a sly indictment of toxic familial bonds and toxic masculinity. Overlong yet both compelling and disturbing, this is one outback Western you’ll need to brace yourself for, especially if you’re squeamish about prolonged bodily harm.
Sunday’s programme features Tomohiko Itō’s new anime Hello World (3.15pm), a colourful sci-fi time travel adventure that’s well worth your time, and The Other Lamb (7.45pm), an artful and chillingly effective sect horror film by Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska, which deftly blends oppressive tension with a tale of abuse centered around a toxic male leader of an all-female cult. Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Martha Marcy May Marlene will find plenty to love here.
Our top recommendation for Sunday is Belgian production Yummy (5.30pm), which flaunts the tagline “Facelifts, boob jobs and zombies.” Catchy. Make no mistake – this is not the strongest film on show on Sunday (prioritise The Other Lamb) and it will leave you dizzy from the stupid. However, it’s the kind of ridiculous, crassly exploitative, OTT grindhouse throwback you secretly ache for on a Sunday night at Fantasy Filmfest. The splatterfest sees a young couple travel to an Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery, where they’ll unwittingly unleash a zombie virus when they help a victim of an experimental rejuvenation treatment. The humour throughout is more miss than hit, and it never equals the heights of some of its influences, chiefly Shaun of the Dead and Planet Terror. Still, Lars Damoiseaux’s stylistically muddled B-movie wastes no time in campily pushing the boundaries of good taste and it achieves what it sets out to accomplish: keep gorehounds up to their ears in buckets of blood.
Fantasy Filmfest Nights / July 11-12 / Kino in der Kulturbrauerei (Schönhauser Allee 36). Full programme at http://www.fantasyfilmfest.com/