Follow Gazette managing editor Rod Lott as he live-blogs Austin's Fantastic Fest all weekend long!
Got into Austin at 3 p.m. Thursday and went straight to pick up my press
badge. You can tell that Fantastic Fest isn't your average film
festival because they required everyone to pose with a "shaky face." You
achieve that by letting your face go really loose and limp, and whip
your head back and forth fast. It hurts; now I understand the whole
shaken baby syndrome thing.
Worse than that is that it's hot here. Back-sweaty hot.
Since my first screening wasn't until 9 p.m. ("The Human Centipede II:
Full Sequence"), I killed a lot of time at the neighboring Highball
bowling lounge, where Fantastic Fest is holding its Arcade, showcasing
some really wild indie games (example: "Jesus vs. Dinosaurs"). Most of
the games are housed in classic arcade stand-ups, but one was projected
on the wall.
Around happy hour, the Fandago mascots crashed the place. I didnt know
they had mascots. One looks like a Chinese dragon; the other, a paper
sack. I don't know, but they gave me some free koozies.
Speaking of free, the Highball happy hour party was sponsored by
PlayStation 3, so I got a free T-shirt for some game called "StarHawk."
Although I know nothing about the game, I like the shirt — mainly
because it's not black. The other two free shirts I got upon check-in
were black. It's a terrible color on me. But no, you can't have them.
Finally, while waiting for "Centipede," I got to test Mitsubishi's new
3-D TV, via scenes from the '80s schlock Western, "Comin' at Ya!" The
movie looks fun; as for the TV, save your money. —Rod
I can't imagine a more appropriate movie to serve as Fantastic Fest's
official opener than "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)," a
near-immediate sequel to the instant cult hit that entered the
pop-culture lexicon before it even saw release.
Last night's 9 p.m. crowd was pumped, but perhaps not quite primed, for
whatever in-attendance writer/director/producer Tom Six had conjured up
this time. Anyone who has read my original review of the first
may recall that I think that film's events weren't as graphic as
everyone expected — that they could've been much
Well, welcome to the "much worse." But more on that in a moment.
Awaiting each viewer was an official "Human Centipede II" Survival Kit, a
branded barf bag containing a staple remover and a peppermint. I ate
We also each received a "Human Centipede II" T-shirt, bearing the pun
tagline, "The Deuce Is Loose." Anyone who didn't get the reference would
within 90 minutes. Naturally, the shirt is brown. No, you can't have
Before the show, FF and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League coerced lil'
"Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood to join him onstage from his spot
in the audience. Wood complied, soon giving way to an all-audience
re-creation of the actor's now-infamous "Puppet Master" dance from
kiddie show "Yo Gabba Gabba!" The sight was surreal, especially since —
this being the Alamo — subliminal shots of exploding heads from
"Scanners" and the like made their way into the footage before taking
Then we experienced the movie. When Six promoted the original film by
saying the sequel would make it look like "My Little Pony" by
comparison, that wasn't just a good soundbite. Part two makes part one
look positively innocent. To Six's credit, he didn't simply remake his
own movie. Instead, he completely flipped it and went meta.
"THC II" begins with Martin (newcomer Laurence R. Harvey), a sweaty,
bug-eyed, obese parking garage attendant in London, watching the tail
end of the first "THC" on his laptop at work. When it's over, he watches
it again. He's obsessed with it, to the point that he keeps a scrapbook
of the film hidden underneath his bed, as if it were porn.
Martin doesn't utter a word. He doesn't need to. His story is so simple
— a lifetime of abuse and ridicule — that he doesn't have to. The gist
of "THC II" is that he begins to wonder about testing the movie's "100%
Medically Accurate" advertising claim, so he seeks out some unwilling
test subjects from the labyrinthian parking garage. Whereas the movie's
Dr. Heiter had but three victims, Martin seeks a dirty dozen.
Whereas the first film was clean and antiseptic in look and design, this
sequel is bleak and grimy. Whereas the first film was in color, this
sequel is in black-and-white — except for one scene, à la the girl in
the red dress from Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," but I leave it
to your imagination. Whereas the first film showed next to nothing,
this sequel shows everything. I do think it goes too far, and from a guy
like me who has a strong tolerance for horror, that's saying something.
(However, I should note that most of the audience members were more
troubled by a pre-show short of a medical education film about the
vasectomy procedure, step by scissoring step.)
I'm still processing "THC II." Six has made the darkest of black
comedies, set in "Eraserhead"-type surroundings of societal misery, and
then stitched on a Grand Guignol grand finale that had many unsure
whether to laugh or recoil, so they did both. Harvey gives a remarkably
brave performance; we alternately feel sorry for him and want to kill
him. I think I liked the movie — it's arty, clever
and unique — but so much of its third act crosses the line that the
angel on my shoulder tells me I shouldn't. You'll never look at sandpaper the same way again.
Actually, the afterward appearance of Six, Harvey and four lovely
centipede segments onstage took some of the sting out of it. There's a
reason why they call it "special effects." Those butts sure looked real
The highlight of the Q-and-A was when League asked Six about how he
found Harvey, who resembles Alfred Hitchcock by way of Batman comics'
The Penguin. Six said Harvey walked into auditions, "and then I asked
him to rape a chair. He went at it full-force." And the rest is cinema
history. —Rod Lott
This is a fun weekend, so much so that I wish I could clone myself to
catch more screenings, and I'm already raring to come back in 2012. That
10. The ticketing system is several levels too difficult.
9. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged.
8. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged.
7. Much of the audience is just as rude, loud and inconsiderate as
regular moviegoers — just with better knowledge of obscure nude scenes
and dragon sequences.
6. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged.
5. Despite hot Austin weather, the in-theater A/C isn't cranked as high as I'd like.
4. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged.
3. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged.
2. Most of the free T-shirts are black.
1. Much of the audience is hygienically challenged. And combined with
No. 5, that's a recipe for ick. —Rod Lott
Writers/directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury finally follow up
their 2007 hit, "Inside," with another French horror film in "Livid."
While not a sophomore slump, it doesn't pay off on their debut's
promise. Most of that is because the new movie makes so little sense.
On one hand, that's good, because you're not quite sure what's going to
happen next. On the other hand, when stuff does happen, you may ask
Appealing young actress Chloé Coulloud is Lucie, a new home-care nurse
being trained by a jaded veteran of elderly diaper-changing (Catherine
Jacob, "Who Killed Bambi?"). On day one, the most memorable stop is that
of the Jessel mansion, where a 100-year-old lives in a vegetative state
by herself (credibility alert!) on the top floor. The pro tells the
newbie of a rumored treasure somewhere within the massive estate.
After sharing this news with her frustrated boyfriend, Lucie find
herself as part of a trio breaking into the place amid the witching hour
to hunt for the riches. They find something else. If a senior citizen
in an oxygen mask is the stuff of your nightmares, prepare to soil your
From there, the story unfolds in a manner audiences may not expect, but
"Livid" becomes less lucid. The nonsense speeds up as the pacing slows
to a near-crawl. I'm all for acts of the supernatural, but not without
some context as to what is occurring before our eyes. Bustillo and Maury
are unclear, perhaps in an attempt to be arty. The team pulls off some
outstanding visuals, but ghost stories cannot work on those alone.
The title "Livid" has no proper connection to the movie's events; it's
as if someone wanted a word that sounded like "Insidious." Now that's a
flick that yielded fright while containing all other necessary
ingredients. As for "Livid," let's chalk it up as a somewhat noble
misfire. —Rod Lott
Movies aren't all dreary and eerie at this film festival. A few are pure
comedies, and so far, I've caught two, neither from these United
First, "New Kids Turbo," a Danish delight about five slackers with
mullets who are too lazy to get and/or keep a job, and welfare checks
just don't support their beer-swillin' lifestyles, so they decide to
stop paying for anything anymore. Not only does this attract the
attention of the authorities, but the idea catches on with the
recession-weary populace. Politically incorrect slapstick ensues, and
the jokes are lobbed at rapid fire. The quintet of rude, crude losers
breaks several rules of things you should never do in movies (i.e. kill
the dog), but they get away with it and have you laughing all the way.
Nothing gets lost in the translation.
And then there's Japan's "Karate-Robo Zaborgar," equally as silly and
satisfying. This one's both an update and a spoof of a kiddie
live-action series from yesteryear, à la "Ultraman," so the approach is
both reverent and respectfully raunchy (think "The Brady Bunch Movie").
It's about the love story between a man and his fighting, transforming
robot, and all the enemies they fight (or attempt to) along the way. One
of them is Diarrhea Robot, so named because of ... well, you'll see
when this hits USA DVD before long. —Rod Lott
What’s up, doc? You didn’t put me in the Halloween mood.
Documentary Rod Lott
There's a great documentary to tell the true story of Bram Stoker and
his enduring creation, but “Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode” isn't
it. What’s a “voivode”? You’ll find out, but that should be one
indication as to this film’s lacking level of accessibility.