Toronto Film Festival – Day #2 – A Viggo and Charlize sandwich between crazy-ass Spanish and Australian Horror buns

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on September 13, 2009

So, I decide to start my second day at TIFF with the Spanish film, REC 2. Now, for me this is a highly anticipated sequel (as they say in PR land). But there’s no one in the theatre. I mean it is seriously sparse with reviewers in here. I don’t get it, because I really liked the first film. Hunted a PAL DVD of it down at a Fangoria convention and felt like I was buying contraband the way the transaction went down, but it was worth it. Just a solid shot of virus-laden zombie-fied paranoia-filled, claustrophobic, no holds barred horror adrenaline delivered straight to your region-free machine (in my case).

So, I was genuinely curious as to what Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza were going to come up with for their second visit to the quarantined apartment building filled with rabid zombie tenants.

The film picks up immediately where the last film left off, where the television hostess that suffered and struggled through the last film was the “last man dragged off”. Literally.

And then we cut to the SWAT team getting locked and loaded as they race to the scene of the whatever-the-hell-it-is they’ve got sealed up in there.

So it’s the ALIENS treatment, right? The cops are all cocky with their firepower and body armor and ignorance of the horror that lies in store. That always spells a good time. And, of course, the idea is that we are watching recorded footage so they have to tell each other over and over “Record everything!” So we’ll be fine with the fact that they are focusing on the auto focus while trying their best to keep from getting bitten or something – rather than throwing the camera at one of the crazies before running away from it while peeing down their leg.

“Record everything!”

You almost expect someone to reply, “What about when I getting killed?” Stern answer: “Record everything – ESPECIALLY while you’re getting killed!” But our directing tandem knows you’ve seen this bit before so they’re gonna give you a little extra. And that is…

Picture-in-picture horror.

That’s what I’m talking about! I get to watch one isolated group fight for their life while keeping tabs on the other unfortunates surrounded by gory monsters with the munchies in another part of the building. Fun!

Anyway, the SWAT guys are escorting some Health Official into the building to find out what the source of the plague is so they can stop it, blah, blah, blah. Okay, fine, we’ve got our excuse, let’s go play with the bad things.

And no sooner do the SWAT guys get into the penthouse apartment where the doctor lived that launched this little plague when our health official reveals he is actually a priest and that we don’t have the zombie virus version of the common code – no, this is actually a biological extension of demonic possession.

That’s right, the devil’s virus. What will The Vatican think of next?

But before we can dwell on that silliness, a zombie kid attacks from the ceiling (check your ALIENS’ playbook) for a thrill ride scene to throw you right out of your seat. And that’s the beauty of this film. Is it ridiculous as all get out? Yes, of course, it is. But it’s full of ideas, madly derivative, or not. And it keeps them AND the adrenaline-fueled gore-ified action coming. And coming. And more coming around the corner. Think you’ve seen every way there is to kill a crazed zombie person? How about by bottle rocket?! How about a demon zombie that can do impressions? What’s that you say? Okay, but other that Rich Little? Anyway, REC 2 successfully does that even up to the very last shot. Which, I won’t spoil for you. Just get the popcorn, strap yourself in and enjoy.

Next up is John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. Your first image of Viggo Mortensen’s ashen, skeletal face of survival basically asks “Would like some cream with your bleak?”

I’m sorry, I meant to say “Would you like some cannibalism with your bleak?” And I hope your answer is yes, because apparently when the neo-cons get done playing nuclear Frisbee with the rest of the world then scorched earth means nothing left to eat.

But each other.

“Are we still the good guys?”

This is a question that Viggo’s character’s son frequently asks throughout the film. In other words, have they still managed to hold on to their humanity despite the fact they are starving. And not just for food. Frequent flashbacks to the time when their nuclear (pun very much I intended) family included Charlize Theron’s mother character – both pre-disaster and post-disaster add to the gut-wrenching heartbreak the father and son endure. But they continue on, painstakingly making their way to the coast, trying to find food and steering clear of other people that might want to eat them along the way. Occasionally, they’ll happen upon a bountiful harvest of canned goods or maybe a can of Coke (which apparently, just like cockroaches, will be one of the few things to survive the apocalypse) or a kindly old coot (an unrecognizable Robert Duvall), but this imagining of what that kind of future holds contains no kindness. At one point Mortensen asks Duvall’s old man character, “Ever wish you would die?” And his reply sums it up: “No. It’s foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these.”

So, we’re left to ponder what would keep us going and clinging desperately to life. And wonder if a father’s love for his son and his stalwart sense of hope for something, anything – would be enough. THE ROAD takes the bleakest, most arduous path to pose that question and it is an endurance test to be sure. But ultimately, I think it’s worth asking.

After the screening, I ran into Joe Leyton, longtime (and I mean, loooong time…) film critic for Daily Variety and as more than a few film legends would attest: THE film critic for the state of Texas. He is a true professor of film, has talked to or interviewed everyone at some time during the last thirty or so years, and can speak at length about the entire package – and do so lovingly and entertainingly. So it was very cool to have a nice long conversation with him with anecdotes abounding. Those meet-ups and subsequent conversations are one of the things that make going to film festivals a constant thrill for me.

The final film of the day was the Australian thriller, THE LOVED ONES. Directed by Sean Byrne it’s your basic awkward girl with a crush on the unattainable cute boy has daddy abduct him for her own private DIY prom…uhmm, story.

Now, the object of her obsessions has his own issues, having caused his father’s death by wrecking the family car while trying to avoid hitting what turns out to be one of our girl’s previous “boyfriends”.

So, now he can work out those feelings while he tries to escape teenage MISERY. And as he tries to mollify her to stay alive and buy time to attempt an escape, daddy is making moony eyes at his lethal little girl while princess makes loony eyes back at papa.

Let’s just say it out loud: Australians know crazy.

And Byrne is not shy about letting his crazies play. A little fried chicken meal with the happy couple, daddy and a lobotomized mommy, a little alternate hardware use with a hammer and a power drill, etc. And, of course – what do-it-yourself prom would be complete without carving your initials surrounded by a heart in your date’s chest and then salting the wound – literally?

Trust me, there’s more. All kinds of dance with a teenage psycho girl more. And under a sparkly disco ball.

Which is exactly as it should be.

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