The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, on through Aug. 6.
Take a break from the gore, the horror, the revenge killings, the creepy Ju-On ghost boy and other assorted oddities dished out by Asian cinema with this fluffy, family-friendly Korean film directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk. Imagine Big reversed or 17 Again minus Zac Efron… and targeting Korean grandmothers.
Oh Mal-soon (Na Moon-hee) is a cheeky, loud-mouth grandmother who drives her family crazy with her constant, obnoxious observations and repetitive chastising of her daughter-in-law’s fish soup recipe (!). When she gets her portrait done at a mysterious studio, it magically morphs into her 20-year-old self (played by Shim Eun-kyeong). Renaming herself Oh-Doo-ri, a Korean interpretation of Audrey Hepburn, she then gets into all types of trouble, even with a boy! That silly goose!
This is obviously the kind of premise that allows all sorts of amusing pratfalls and kooky situations where Eun-kyeong takes the opportunity to look a nice balance of fiery and adorable. The young actress perfectly mimics the mannerisms of a Korean grandmother, with her wild gesticulating and old-fashioned expressions. While it starts out as a light-hearted farce and eventually even develops a K-Pop sub-plot (for the Korean teen audience, probably), it also becomes very melodramatic with the final message highlighting the importance of motherhood over the frivolity of youth. It’s a cute and somewhat funny film with an incredibly high level of cheese that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but chances are you know what you’re walking into with a film titled Miss Granny. (Roxane Hudon)
Miss Granny screens today, Friday, Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, Aug. 3, 11:45 a.m.
South Shore native Maude Michaud’s debut feature Dys- is a slow, creeping horror film that becomes increasingly claustrophobic and agonizing as it progresses. It uses a viral outbreak (in a very recognizable Montreal) and the ensuing quarantine situation as the catalyst that forces the discordant couple, Eva (Shannon Park) and Sam (Alex Goldrich), to confront that which has been plaguing them. Set in the present day, the nonlinear narrative unfolds the past through a series of flashbacks.
While Dys- is interesting throughout, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable, delving into territory involving rape, torture and a botched abortion. Nevertheless, its focus remains on the multiple facets of its title: all the characters are sick in some form or other. The stark depiction of psychological breakdown is somewhat muted by the non-linear narrative, but remains unnerving. It also has feminist elements, especially in relation to women’s bodies, sexuality and motherhood, which serve as the foundation of some pretty intense scenes of graphic horror. These are counterpointed by clearly misogynistic elements.
The film is very much reminiscent of early Cronenberg body horror (location included!). The framing concept is also similar to that of The Signal. Michaud’s own background and interests — feminism, gender, sexuality, and horror — clearly drive the film. Although derivative at times, Dys- is definitely provocative and makes Michaud a talent to watch for in the future. (Katie Ferrar)
Dys- screens tonight, Friday, Aug. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Bros Before Hos
Dutch filmmakers Steffen Haars and Flip Van der Kuil are known for the New Kids series and movies, a gleeful affront on all standards of decency. Their latest shoehorns their particular brand of juvenile, brazenly offensive humour into the slightly more palatable genre of the bromantic comedy.
Max (Tim Haars) and Jules (Daniël Arends) are two brothers who made a childhood pact never to settle down in a relationship. Now in adulthood, they’re arrested adolescents still staying true to the agreement with a lifestyle of inane banter and pick-up artistry missions. One day, the lovely Anna (Sylvia Hoeks) enters the picture and upends both brothers’ commitment to their pact.
Where New Kids was all about pushing buttons, this film tries to hit a few genuine emotional notes, with mixed results. Max is a somewhat sympathetic character, but all the other male characters are pretty despicable, while the female ones never rise above the level of caricature.
If rampant misogyny, white people repeatedly dropping n-bombs and humour at the expense of the mentally challenged are problematic to you, I seriously advise you to stay well away. Trying to offend absolutely everyone is a noble enough artistic tradition, but John Waters did it better 30 years ago when people actually had moral standards. Ultimately, this film is like a kid who should be old enough to know better taking a dump in the middle of the floor to get attention. (Malcolm Fraser)
Bros Before Hos screens tonight, Friday, Aug. 1, 10 p.m.
If nothing else, WolfCop has one of the best trailers for any movie at Fantasia this year. It’s a story that lends itself to giddy, rapid-fire exposition. It’s about an alcoholic small-town police officer named Lou Garou (get it?) who becomes the victim of a ritual that transforms him into a werewolf. In his new bloodthirsty guise, he strikes back against the crime and corruption that blight the town.
Made through a crowdfunding campaign that stressed that premise, WolfCop unfortunately doesn’t deliver. It hurtles along with a lot of energy and bravado, as if to distract you from how poor the dialogue is and how flimsy the characters and situations are. Like a lot of glib, deliberately so-bad-it’s-good movies made today, the film makes you miss the innocent lack of self-consciousness in the collected works of Ed Wood. Even the movie’s badness feels phony.
For all its maddeningly variable acting and its relentless kidding of the viewer, one aspect of WolfCop is worth further mention. It’s the latest example of a fascinating new subgenre of exploitation/underground films, like Bloody Knuckles and The Demon’s Rook, which hearken back to ’80s horror through their focus on fantastic prosthetic effects. Unlike their ’80s predecessors, some of these newer films are knowingly self-mocking comedies. The transformation sequences are certainly the best part of WolfCop — these are the scenes displaying sheer skill and love for the craft. Garou’s first changeover in a seedy tavern bathroom is particularly memorable. The scene is worthy of American Werewolf in London, with its witty detail work and its ingenious deployment of gross-out effects. For fans of FX master Rick Baker, WolfCop is certainly worth a look. (Mark Carpenter)
WolfCop screens tonight, Friday, Aug. 1, 11:55 p.m.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $10 each, or online ($11 each), here.