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Infestation: Fantasia Fest 2016: Part One

Despite STILL not being able to make it up to Montreal to take part in their yearly Fantasia Fest (a longer sister festival to Austin’s own Fantastic Fest), we did get sent screeners for some films that folks are talking about there. So, let’s take a look at some of the films you might expect to see coming up at your local festivals…

Empty Space



File this one under, “For a VERY select crowd”. But that crowd is gonna love it. How does one even begin to describe a movie this bizarre and twisted, unquestionably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before? I’m gonna do my best here but bear with me. Words cannot, indeed, do this justice.

Noe Hernandez (Sin Nombre) plays a guy living in a totally wrecked…erm, warehouse? Hard to say for sure. He’s full on crazy town and seems to be making gasoline from…meat maybe? He trades it through a hole in the wall with persons unknown for eggs and other goods. One day, two teenage siblings (Maria Evoli and Diego Gamaliel) show up looking for assistance. Seems the world outside is, presumably, somewhat post-apocalyptic. The madman takes them under his wing, but living here ain’t free. The kids slowly come under his spell, a strange one to be sure as Hernandez is like a crazed troll that became a cult leader.

They build out of broken furniture and tape what amounts to a giant womb in the middle of the place and from there, things get weird to the point that the construction project seems like the plot of a Full House episode by comparison. Graphic scenes of incest and violence abound and none of it entirely makes sense, although there seems to be a deeply obscured political message of some kind about Mexico.

For the lover of extreme oddities in cinema, this very well could be a don’t miss. I’m looking at you, Eraserhead fans. But for anyone not deeply dedicated to that type of surreal horror, I’d have to advise staying far, far away.

Empty Space



Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa has had a long career in Japanese horror, most notably helming two of the classics, Cure and Pulse. His latest movie is based on a popular mystery novel and pulls away from the supernatural (I think), delving into the world of a chemically charismatic serial killer.

A retired police detective, Koichi (Hidetoshi Nishijima), who has turned to teaching criminology instead of pursuing criminals, has moved out to the suburbs with his wife (Yuko Takeuchi). Their attempts to make friendly overtures to the neighbors are greeted with cold indifference. One of their neighbors (Teruyuki Kagawa) is unpredictably hostile, then sweet, then bizarre. He has a teenage daughter who acts the same way. The detective and his wife can’t really make heads or tails of him but Koichi can tell something is way off. More off than he could have predicted. In a rather unlikely coincidence, it seems like this guy might be connected to the unsolved disappearance of a few families from some years back that Koichi has been coerced into reopening the case for.

A real slow-burner, Creepy isn’t anywhere near as creep-inducing as the title might lead you to believe. Running at over two hours, it seems to be an interminably long time before the film shows its hand as to what’s going on here, but once it does things definitely get more interesting. There are shrink wrapped bodies and some kind of slave-making drug at work here and while it’s all awfully unconvincing in any real world scenario, it seems clear that director Kurosawa is more interested in saying something about how loneliness and apathy are affecting Japanese culture and have led to people being all too easily taken advantage of by predatory types. I suppose it might resonate more if you lived there. As is, I found myself having a hard time diving into Creepy with its underwritten characters living in a world that can’t exist just as so.

Empty Space



The one thing all three of these films share as a theme is isolation and The Eyes of My Mother is the film that most deeply, disturbingly, and realistically explores it. Writer/Director Nicolas Pesce has created a minor masterpiece in severe, cold, black and white.

Francisca (Olivia Boand) is a very young girl living with her two parents in a secluded country home. The days seem to blend into each other with sameness but are disrupted when a young man shows up and murders Francisca’s mother. When Dad arrives home, he subdues the killer, chains him in the barn, and leaves him there. Francisca, confused about what happened and desperately lonely for any sort of companionship, adopts him as her pet, feeding him, asking him questions about the murder, and gradually growing up into adult Francisca (Kika Magalhaes).

Living with a chained, blind, serial killer as a pet and a sad, all but silent father as your only companions into adulthood does strange things to Francisca who grows up with odd ideas about friendship and love. When her father dies, she really spins out in her need to connect with someone, anyone, but having some rather twisted ideas on how to do so.

Deeply influenced by Polanski’s Repulsion as well as by Ingmar Bergman films, The Eyes of My Mother may, on one hand, actually turn away some of the audience I suspect it might have had by nature of its more arthouse decisions. Many scenes just cut off; much is left to the viewer’s conjecture. As well the pace is at points, glacial. On the other hand, the intellectual crowd will not particularly care for some of the extremely graphic moments and ideas on display. This isn’t the sorta thing you discuss over lattes afterwards, but rather a film that requires a hot shower and a good amount of time shopping online for brain bleach (spoiler: they haven’t invented it yet, sorry).

With all that being said, while this is once again a film that might have trouble finding it’s niche audience, those for whom this kind of art-horror is ideal will find this to be a major entry in the genre. Maybe even a new classic.