/slash 2017 – Day 4: Dave Made A Maze

Dave Made A Maze
USA 2017
Written by Steven Sears & Bill Watterson
Directed by Bill Watterson
Watched on 24.09.2017

“Dave Made A Maze” was one of the biggest surprises and discoveries of the festival (so far) for me. While the concept sounded nice, I really didn’t know what to make of it beforehand, but it turned out to be a great, highly entertaining and truly original film that I enjoyed very much. I already loved the setup, of Dave building this maze that’s waaaaay bigger on the inside, but that – literally – was just the beginning. I really loved the art direction with all those cardboard-rooms, which also very highly distinctive and varied rooms. I especially liked the one with the forced perspective, but there were many brilliant, funny and original ideas. It was also great how they handled the (potential) splatter in a G-rated manner. Also, the story isn’t just entertaining, but also offers some food for thought. The way Dave gets caught in his own creation – and is ultimately the key to his own salvation – is a great metaphor not just for creating art, but rather every kind of obsession (or addiction). Bill Watterson (who, at the Q&A which followed the screening, proved to be a really nice, funny and entertaining guy; gosh, it’s great to like the movie of a charming and likeable director for once!) does a great job directing the picture (and in his feature film debut, at that), I liked the cast, the acting is good – but ultimately, as said before, its biggest strength definitely is the art direction (which, in a just universe, would get an Academy Award nomination). The only thing that bugged me a little bit were a couple of unfinished storylines (a couple of characters, like the hobo in the apartment or the flemish tourists, simply vanish from one scene to the next). Apart from that, it was – wait for it – a-maze-ing!
8/10

IMDB

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/slash 2017 – Day 4: This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy

This Giant Papier-Mâché Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy
USA 2016
Written by Andrew Beszant & Christian Nicolson
Directed by Christian Nicolson
Watched on 24.09.2017

More than anything else, I’m a fan of Science Fiction, be it the new stuff or the classics. Thus, as SF-nerd, “This Giant Papier Mache Boulder Is Actually Really Heavy” was just my cup of tea. Now, obviously, the concept is a rip-off of “Galaxy Quest” (which in itself was the Sci-Fi-equivalent of “Three Amigos!”), just this time, it’s not the stars, but the fans, who get sucked into a SF-B-movie, but for me, that worked really well.

I especially liked the black-and-white-portion. The set of the ship was absolutely awesome, taking recognizable real-world things and putting them there as part of some sort of futuristic device (just as the films and TV-shows of the 50s and 60s often did, out of necessity – just like the makers of this homage), and with lots of funny details in the background (advice: take note of what’s happening in the small windows of the spaceship). It combines elements from all different kinds of movies and TV-shows of that period, as well as the 60s, 70s and early 80s. For instance, the main bad guy clearly is a riff on Emperor Ming from “Flash Gordon”, but that really is just one tiny example (I really don’t want to give too much away). I also really liked the space scenes, which again were very old-fashioned, with models on a string. All of that made the movie incredibly charming. Next to the first half hour or so, my favorite part of the movie was the “Arena”-homage, which was absolutely awesome. Granted, not every gag hits home. Also, one thing that didn’t really work for me was the way some of them, after being transferred into this b-movie, start becoming the characters they inhibit. I think I would have preferred if they would have just stayed themselves, using their knowledge of the SF-genre to get out of tricky situations, et cetera. It also would have been nice if the biggest nerd would have turned out to be the big hero, at least in this scenario. Also, the characters were all rather one-dimensional and not particularly interesting. And, like so many movies at this year’s festival, it’s a tad too long. You could have easily cut 15 minutes without losing anything essential. Then again, whenever I thought that the movie started to drag (which happened more frequently with increasing runtime), the next random weird shit (including a Benny Hill-reference), which made me laugh or at least smile, was just around the corner. Thus overall, despite its weaknesses, I mostly had a blast.
7/10

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/slash 2017 – Day 3: Verónica

Verónica
Spain 2017
Written by Fernando Navarro & Paco Plaza
Directed by Paco Plaza
Watched on 23.09.2017

“Verónica” offers very typical horror-fare, but since it’s well made and also quite elegant and charming, I have a hard time being too angry with it. It almost seemed like a spanish “Conjuring”-movie to me, with its very similar setup (e.g. claiming to be based on true events, and during the credits even showing real crime scene pictures), but also the way the scary moments are staged. Thus, fans of that particular horror franchise should feel right at home here. It’s very competently shot by Paco Plaza (of “[Rec]”-fame), has a stunning lead actress in Sandra Escacena, and a couple of really well staged and pretty scary scenes, without having to rely on cheap jump scares with the volume turned up to acute hearing loss-levels. Granted, I would have liked if they’d have kept the question of what really happened here more open. There would be a nice interpretation of Veró dealing with paranoid schizophrenia that unfortunately, due to the filmmakers shoving the fact that something actually supernatural happened down our throats, never really registers. It’s too obvious that, even if Plaza and Navarro shouldn’t believe in a supernatural explanation themselves, they definitely want to sell it to their audience. Personally, I would have preferred it if I’d have been allowed to make up my own mind. Which is a flaw (and another similarity) that it shares with the aforementioned “Conjuring”-films. Overall, while “Verónica” definitely is nothing special, it at least is very effective in what it wants to be – and that definitely counts for much.
7/10

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/slash 2017 – Day 3: The Tingler

The Tingler
USA 1959
Written by Robb White
Directed by William Castle
Watched on 23.09.2017

For their special screening of “The Tingler” (one of the three films out of the program which were chosen by John Waters), the /slash-crew really went all the way. They recreated the experience as it was intended by William Castle, not only using the “percepto”-device in selected rows, but also having a shill who started to scream during the screening, which made them halt the movie and bring in a couple of doctors to get her out. Which really made this one of the best and most special and memorable /slash-screenings that I’ve ever attended. Awesome! However, I also liked the movie itself, even if it’s rather dated. I mean, yes, obviously, the entire idea of the tingler was ludicrous, and completely bonkers – but in such a charming way that I simply couldn’t fault the movie for it. It definitely helps that I have a soft spot for black and white-films, and old (practical) effects, thus I also really liked all the scenes with the tingler itself (which looked remarkably like the Ceti Alpha-eels from “Star Trek II”; seems they were quite inspired by “The Tingler”), even though you could see the strings on which it was propelled forward. The few scenes with color in an otherwise black and white picture (like red blood) were awesome, too. I’m also a huge fan of Vincent Price, and as usual, found him absolutely awesome in this. I also really enjoyed the highly dysfunctional relationships of both married couples; especially Warren and Martha had a couple of great scenes and lines. The writing in general was pretty good. And there were many funny moments, many of them intentionally, some of them unintentionally – but, again, the movie was much too charming to hold that against it. Overall, I had a great time with “The Tingler”, and found it to be very entertaining.
8/10 for the film, 10/10 for the /slash-experience.

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/slash 2017 – Day 3: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable – Chapter 1

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable – Chapter 1
Japan 2017
Written by Itaru Era, based on the manga by Hirohiko Araki
Directed by Takashi Miike
Watched on 23.09.2017

“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” once again suffers from the seeming inability of eastern cinema to chew out a movie that’s considerably shorter than two hours. As a 90-minute-feature, it could have been quite entertaining, but as it stands, it’s simply far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far far too long. It starts off well enough. I liked the idea of those “Stands”, the introduction of the characters (with Koichi’s crush on Jojo so obvious that it’s not really subtext anymore, but rather text), and like all Miike-movies, it’s really well shot. For a while, it’s quite entertaining, and offers a couple of funny moments. For about an hour, while not exactly spectacular, it was nice enough. However, as soon as they reach the mansion, the movie started to drag considerably. Even then, it offered up a couple of cool ideas and funny moments (the toy soldiers, the egg), but everything is so drawn out that I was looking for the fast forward-button so that it would move along with regular speed. Every scene is far too long, every dialogue plagued with (seemingly dramatic) pauses, and it completely drains the movie from every bit of tension and entertainment value. It also has too many endings – an impression that, granted, is at least partly due to the fact that by that time in the film, I just wanted it to be over. Which is a shame, because it really had the potential to be a worthwhile (and pleasantly different) take on the superhero genre. But unfortunately, the second part of the movie mostly ruined it for me. Before the screening, we were told that while the movie has a runtime of 120 minutes, someone on the internet meant that it felt more like 20 minutes. In that case, those probably were the longest twenty minutes of my life.
4/10

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/slash 2017 – Day 3: My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea

Mayhem
USA 2016
Written by Dash Shaw
Directed by Dash Shaw
Watched on 23.09.2017

I’m afraid this animated feature wasn’t really my cup of tea. The story was rather unimaginative and uninteresting, the inherent social criticism too on the nose, and the characters very one-dimensional and not particularly interesting and/or likeable. Mostly though, I didn’t care for the animation style all that much. Even in scenes where nothing was going on, it was very fidgety, with the constantly shifting lines. Furthermore, the longer the movie went the more abstract it got, until it reached a point where it was nigh impossible for me to discern what is supposed to go on. Thus, it unfortunately started to get tiresome rather quickly. Now, the voice cast – obviously – is awesome; not just top-class, but also doing a great job depicting their characters. And there were a couple of nice gags and funny lines throughout the movie which burst through my boredom at least occasionally. Mostly, though, I found “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” to be rather tiresome, despite its short running time. The fact that I reached the movie theater rather rested (it was the first screening of the day, after all), and afterwards would have been ready to crawl back to bed, speaks volumes. Then again, maybe the animation style will speak more to you than it did to me. Thus, it’s probably best to give the trailer a try, and see for yourself. But for me, in this case, the trip to the theatre wasn’t really worth it.
3/10

IMDB

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/slash 2017 – Day 2: Mayhem

Mayhem
USA 2017
Written by Matias Caruso
Directed by Joe Lynch
Watched on 22.09.2017

“Mayhem” turned out to be the perfect midnight movie. A funny, entertaining and highly energetic romp from start to (almost) finish, it managed to grip and excite me despite my ailing constitution (due to my cold).

Joe Lynch’s previous feature, “Knights of Badassdom”, wasn’t quite as badass as I hoped it would be, and rather disappointing (I gave it a 4/10). With “Mayhem”, however, he delivered. In spades. It’s a brilliant farce about working in a big, corrupt corporation and slowly selling your soul – until one day, this virus allows Derek to break free in the most violent manner possible. The first scene of the movie was already perfection: The (mostly) black and white photography, the use of a nice, calm classical piece (I don’t mention which one on purpose) which contradicts the violent images on the screen, the slow-motion celebrating said violence – awesome! But even though that probably already was the best scene of the movie, the rest was great too, offering lots of funny moments and pleasantly violent scenes. There’s just something very enjoyable and cathartic about seeing these uptight corporate types let loose in such a wild manner. Also, both Derek and Melanie were very sympathetic characters, which made it easy to root for them. I think it’s great that they cast Steven Yeun (which I enjoy watching anyway) as the lead, without ever making any big deal of his asian heritage. That’s diversity done right. Both he and Samara Weaving were awesome in their respective roles, and really fun to watch (as was the entire movie). The only thing that was a little bit of a letdown was the showdown, which didn’t really compare to the frantic mayhem that came before. Other than that, “Mayhem” proves to be an awesome, very brutal, really funny and highly enjoyable takedown of working in such a terrible workplace. Highly recommended!
9/10

IMDB

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