Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on July 22, 2005, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

The weather during the first part of my time in Montreal for this year’s Fantasia film festival (see Part One of this report) has been blazing hot and/or oppressively humid, with the occasional monsoon-like storm, so spending time at the movies has been an even more appealing prospect. (Of course, once it gets more comfortable outdoors by midweek, hitting as many flicks as possible is still the primary goal.) Filmmaker Scooter McCrae and his Sixteen Tongues producer Alex Kuciw join our gang on Wednesday, and the terrors continue…

First up on Tuesday is Creep (pictured above), which seems an appropriate way to follow up the previous night’s The Devil’s Rejects, since both are Lions Gate releases in the U.S. and are among the few unsubtitled features I’ll be seeing this whole week. Writer/director Christopher Smith’s film isn’t as good as Rob Zombie’s, though, despite the presence of Franka Potente, a favorite from Run Lola Run, in the lead role. She plays an upper-class Londoner who heads out on the “tube” (subway) in an attempt to hook up with George Clooney (!) and instead finds herself trapped underground after the system has closed down—with a half-human freak pursuing her. The first half hour or so makes atmospheric use of real subterranean locations (apparently in both Britain and Germany), but once the monster shows up—and we’re given too many good looks at him—the action becomes contrived and the movie loses its grip. Smith makes an attempt at a statement about the haves and the have-nots, but this sort of thing was done better 30 years ago in the very similar Death Line.

The follow-up feature, Ghost House, is something else entirely. It’s directed by Kim Sang-jin, who helmed previous Fantasia fave Attack the Gas Station and hasn’t lost his touch for dead-on comedy and human observation. The opening half is a parody (inevitable and welcome) of the Ringu/Ju-On genre, as a young man finally fulfills his ambition of moving into a house of his own, only to find it inhabited by an angry female spirit. The torments she visits upon our poor hero are hysterically funny, particularly one that incorporates a scene from Attack into a Ringu spoof with a perfect punchline. As the movie goes on, the protagonist and the spirit forge more of a connection, and the proceedings become poignant as well as humorous while avoiding oversentimentality. This was the film’s North American premiere, and it should not be missed when—as will no doubt happen—it shows up at other Asian fests and before—as will also probably no doubt happen—it gets snapped up for U.S. remaking.

I was lured to Wednesday afternoon’s showing of the Spanish thriller El Lobo by an action-packed trailer shown earlier in the fest, though as it turns out, the movie’s few minutes of gunplay were all packed into that one coming attraction. No matter, though, because this production of genre-specialist Filmax is pretty gripping without a lot of mayhem. It’s yet another fact-based movie to play here, dramatizing the story of a man who, using the titular code name, infiltrated the Basque terrorist group ETA in the early 1970s. While delivering the suspense, director Miguel Courtois doesn’t play up the situation in black-and-white terms, however tempting that might have been in these threatened times; there’s a certain amount of sympathy for the ETA members chafing under the rule of dictator Francisco Franco, and the police and government officials overseeing El Lobo’s mission are sometimes as ruthless and callous as their terrorist targets. Holding it all together is a strong central performance by Eduardo Noriega, recognizable from Spanish fear fare like Open Your Eyes and The Devil’s Backbone.

Next up is the Thai chiller P, which boasts one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes stories of this year’s entries. Writer/director Paul Spurrier was a former British child actor who traveled to Thailand and not only learned the language but became well-versed in both the bar scene, where young girls work as dancers and escorts, and the local supernatural legends. He pours both into this tale of a young girl from the rural Khmer region who goes to Bangkok to earn money for her sick grandmother, becomes a dancer at a club and begins dabbling in black magic to avenge herself against those who wrong her—with unfortunate results. The club atmosphere is well-caught and intriguing without being overly exploitative (though it is a tad creepy that Spurrier casts himself as the Westerner who sexually initiates our heroine), and though the horror iconography is familiar and the ending doesn’t really work, the milieu is unique and the characters sympathetic enough to make this an above-average horror entry. Key to the latter are the naturalistic performances—resulting from the fact that most of the girls in the film are first-time actresses, including several actual bar workers.

From these two films at the J.A. de Sève theater, it’s back over to the Concordia Hall to catch Ti West’s The Roost. I’ve already seen and enjoyed the movie (read the review here), but it’s cool to see it on the Hall’s big screen with West giving a Q&A afterwards, with the added bonus of the preceding short film The Resurrection Apprentice. Written and directed by Roost digital FX creator Glenn McQuaid (also here for the show), it’s an atmospheric little piece in which Roost exec producer Larry Fessenden (doing a fine British accent) introduces a new young assistant to the tricks of the graverobbing trade.

Thursday brings another Korean director’s follow-up to an accomplished previous film: Some by Chang Yoon-hyun, who won attention for his serial-killer chiller Tell Me Something. This one tones down the horror elements to present another charged urban saga of a cop and a traffic reporter who become tangled up in drug theft and the pursuit of an incriminating photo. Oh yes, and the reporter has a touch of the psychic about her, continually having mental flashes of events soon to come. All this is interesting on a surface level, with bursts of effective action, but after a while the story becomes so convoluted that it’s hard to make heads or tails of what’s happening. By the end, I was wanting to change the title to Tell Me More.

I get called away to a special dinner and miss The Eye 2 (which I later hear mixed but generally positive things about), but I make sure to get back in time for the North American premiere of Trouble, by Belgian writer/director Harry Cleven. This one’s a psychological creep-out in which the normal family life of a young man named Matyas is turned upside down when Thomas, the twin brother he never knew of before, suddenly turns up. Not only does Thomas’ appearance lead to the unraveling of Matyas’ existence, it also directs the latter to uncover seriously disturbing secrets about his past. Best not to say any more, except that this one deserves much wider exposure, and should be sought out by all Fangorians. Cleven proves to be a thoughtful and articulate guy after the screening; too bad the bulk of his post-movie Q&A is conducted in French.


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