So, the time has come and the Fantasia Festival 2017 is now over, with this being the last day of movies being screened; so let’s take a look at several of the films premiered during the course of the festivals’ run:
Punk Fu Zombie
Announcing his presence with a vengeance, Canadian filmmaker Gabriel Claveau has provided his first feature film as a decidedly overt homage to a host of glorious B-films of the past as is widely evident in Punk Fu Zombie. Bravely mixing sharp political commentary with the splattery B-movie glory days of the past, the film shows all the signs of being a classic in the hallowed circles of it’s own insulated fandom.
Hochelaga, Quebec, Canada, 2048. It’s been over 20 years since Quebec finally gained independence through the efforts of a movement led by the powerful Charles Maurice (Stéphane Messier). His eventual rise to Prime Minister, however, may not have been all that legal. This major political upheaval will shake up the social classes and bring out demonic creatures that attack the population. One man will become the beacon of peace amongst the chaos overtaking this new country. That man is Zach (Xavier Dumontier) Charles’s son, an irresponsible bum who becomes the leader of an elite team whose mission is to re-establish peace between the ninjas, punks and rat-people who are trying to survive this zombie infestation. Growing up during this adventure, Zach will quickly discover that the enemies aren’t necessarily who they seem and that his dad may not be the messiah he built himself up to be.
Frankly, this one wasn’t all that bad but doesn’t really have all that much to really like. One of the best aspects here is the enthusiasm this one dives into the material with, coming with the idea of the zombie invasion and a post-apocalyptic storyline all set alongside some rather nice social commentary concerning the government’s treatment of the citizens. That does manage to get some great zombie action here with the troops encountering them out in the wilderness and the big final showdown where the true threat leads the remaining zombies against the last troops left which really allows this one to wallow in plenty of silly special effects featuring all the limbs being ripped off, the blood spurting in streams and splashing all over the place while the terrible CGI for the laser blasts, explosions and other inclusions make for a fun time with the inherent goofiness of it all. The fact that this one is so goofy and silly might be an issue for some, and along with the really troublesome final half that seems to wander through way too many ideas without the budget to cover it all, this one does get lowered because of these issues yet doesn’t really detract it all that much.
Punk Fu Zombie had it’s premiere screening July 18, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.
2/5 Zombie Heads
Kodoku Meatball Machine
One of the biggest names in the underground Japanese splatter scene, director Yoshihiro Nishimura has crafted a career for himself directing or providing the effects for a slew of over-the-top, high-energy exploitation affairs that mix bizarre imagery, cyberpunk ideals and messy, grotesque splatter effects. His newest directorial effort, Kodoku: Mîtobôru mashin, or known internationally as Kodoku Meatball Machine, is a worthy sequel to the original film that kickstarted the Japanese splatter genre.
Lonely Yuji Noba (Youji Tanaka, from “Kill Bill 1 & 2”) only wants to gain the affection of bookkeeper Kaoru Mita (Yurisa.) who he sees everyday. Struggling in his job, he soon finds his life complicated by the arrival of a strange alien ship in the Tokyo sky. Shortly afterward, the ship releases a strange organism into the city which starts to turn the citizens into a mixture of human and insectoid alien beings who begin to tear both each other and the unturned citizens to pieces in gory fashion. Himself partly turned due to the cancer in his body keeping him from being a full-on creature, he decides to fight off the creatures in order to save the woman he loves who is still left alive in the city.
Frankly, this is one of the craziest and most bizarre films in Nishimura’s catalog. Much like the original, this one trades on a never-ending series of utterly extreme, over-the-top gore gags that are just insane, focusing on the prosthetic effects for the cyborg creatures which are as colorful, unique and creative as can be expected. The deformed creatures, a fantastic mixture of cybernetic alien parts over their human frame which results in some utterly unique and downright bizarre deformities that pile on the screen with such ravenous creativity that it really prevents this one from ever dragging or featuring any kind of lull. As well, that it features some of the craziest, most jaw-dropping action scenes that ever occurred that are filled to the brim with some great gore-gags throughout here which provides plenty of high-intensity delirious thrills. The main issue here is that there’s such a nonsensical and confusing ending tacked on where it shows the bizarre alien infomercial gives this a rather obvious tonal shift that’s rather a downer to end this on. Beyond this, there’s not much to dislike here.
Kodoku Meatball Machine had it’s premiere screening July 21, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.
4.5/5 Zombie Heads
Broken Sword Hero
It should be noted from the very beginning that this is clearly a vehicle for 4-time Muay Thai champion Buakau Banchamek, as he employs so much screentime here that director Bin Bunluerit is not at fault for committing to him as the country’s next Tony Jaa. An absolutely close call does come here, but it’s not for trying as this Thai effort, Thong Dee Fun Kao or Broken Sword Hero, brings his skills to the forefront considerably.
During the Ayothaya period, young Joi (Buakau Banchamek, from “The Sword of Ayothaya”) finds himself continually at odds with Cherd, (Nantawut Boonrubsub) the governor’s son who continually beats him down. By the time he’s reached the age of adulthood, their battles are now so one-sided that Cherd commissions an entire army to help him deal with his enemy and forces him into hiding deep in the jungles of Thailand where he changes his name to Thong Dee to avoid his captors. Training with various masters of the craft, he learns various forms of Muay Thai which enhance his skills to the point of him being able to take on his age-old enemy one last time for the fate of the country.
In terms of being a showcase for Banchamek’s Muay Thai skills, this one certainly works exceptionally well. His continuous fighting, from the opening montages showing him beating up the guards or other fighters around the villages, the forest battle when he saves the traveling camp under attack or the spectacular final battle that forces all his skills to be put to the test, the amount of full-contact martial arts prowess on display here is rather fun. The story is basically an extension for allowing that to happen as being constantly trailed and letting the fights develop from the army on his every step, but it draws up a distressing plot point. This develops into going from one boxing camp, spars with the master’s best student as an audition, trains, gets into a bigger fight and then moves on to the next one in order to save them which gives this an incredibly scattershot story. Granted, you’re supposed to be focusing on his throwing elbows into peoples’ faces or kicking someone in the stomach those themself are somewhat disappointing by the fact that there’s way too much slow-motion during these scenes which does lower their impact only slightly since there’s still a lot to like about this one overall in spite of these issues.
The effort screened July 23, 2017 at the Fantasia Festival.
3.5/5 Zombie Heads
The Night Watchmen
After a minor departure away from the genre, Mitchell Altieri, one-half of the popular late-2000s horror directing duo The Butcher Brothers alongside Phil Flores, finally returns to the genre once again with the spectacular horror comedy The Night Watchman. Offering plenty of humor alongside it’s horror-based thrills, the acclaimed effort finds itself a part of the prestigious Fantasia Festival.
Just starting a new job, ‘Rajeeve’ (Max Grey Wilbur, from ‘Thrill Kill’) joins up with the other night-watchmen in his stead, Ken (Ken Arnold, from ‘Lovely Molly’) Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts, from ‘Law & Order: SVU’) and Luca (Dan De Luca, from ‘Crazy Eights’) to work the nightshift at a local warehouse. When they receive a strange casket delivery by accident, the inept group finds that a series of strange incidents around them has them convinced something strange is going on, and it soon dawns on the group that a gang of clowns killed in an overseas accident have been turned into vicious vampires and begun feeding on the staff. Soon, with only Karen (Kara Luiz, from ‘Jerks with Cameras’) left alive with them, they must band together to save the city from the vampire threat.
This was quite the entertaining vampire-based comedy. This does have a great sense of comedy with the group being so inept and lazy that it really provides some nice laughs that really carries throughout the whole film once they become involved with the vampires. Letting this one stay trapped in the warehouse and featuring plenty of encounters that are rather nice and bloody, this one moves along rather nicely with a pronounced threat that still has a lot of laughs. The vampires are vicious and aggressive, giving this the kind of imposing threat that’s at the forefront of the film and also provides this one with some nice bloodshed as well. There’s a few flaws to be found, starting with a few rather lame gags and storylines that don’t need to be there because the film is so short and doesn’t really stand-out all that much. However, there’s not a whole lot else to really hold this one down.
The Night Watchman premiered on the festival screens August 2, 2017.
4/5 Zombie Heads