I’m not against contemporizing “King Kong,” but director John Guillermin shows us how to take a very simple concept like “King Kong” and completely botch it from minute one. It’s not like “King Kong” has a complex story. It’s a fairly exciting adventure about a giant monster, the woman he loves, and New York being torn to shreds by this out of place animal. Apart from being utterly abysmal, “King Kong” is also way too long, with a premise retrofitted for the seventies that stretches the limits of suspension of disbelief. For a movie about a giant ape climbing the Twin Towers, it’s sad that the whole plot to get King Kong in to New York is the most far fetched element I had difficulty buying in to.
Oliver Blackburn’s survival horror film is an engaging and tense thriller with a deceptively simple premise. It is mostly a single setting horror film, but implements its college setting to feel terrifying and completely alien. Even when we’re watching heroine Justine walking around campus with utmost familiarity and soaking in the peace of the usually crammed halls, once the darkness falls, it feels like one of the most terrifying hunting grounds for evil ever depicted. “Kristy” is set during Thanksgiving break, where young Justine is stuck in college. With all of her friends and boyfriend off to see their families, Justine has the campus to herself, along with two random security guards. Haley Bennett is fantastic as young Justine, a seemingly random victim of a group of hooded masked killers.
Kenji, a karate master who keeps to himself, learns of his little sister’s disappearance so he flies to the US to find her and kill anyone who gets in his way. Writer/director Kurando Mitsutake builds a crazy fun action film. His film not a character study and that is perfectly fine. It’s build like an 80’s action film on steroids which mean the characters are okay, the bad guys are really bad and the good guys are not so numerous. However, the fight scenes are many and highly entertaining. The film is built to showcase the fighting and the action, the kidnapping of the little sister is only a reason for the lead to go nuts and fight everyone in his path to get her back. The film is in both Japanese and English adding an angle to Kenji’s travel to the US as he does not speak English and must rely on other Japanese people for most of his communications. The cultural differences are there from that but also seem to be exaggerated for the sake of entertainment.
Years after a group of people is murdered in a clothing factory, a group of students goes to the warehouse to hunt for ghosts, finding only a box full of knucklebones with which they summon the titular character who proceeds to dispatch them and other visitors to the factory in violently gruesome ways. Writer/director Mitch Wilson creates an interesting, low-budget supernatural slasher with Knucklebones.
Originally released in 1981, The Killing of America is a “documentary of the decline of America.” The film is a collection of news footage and interviews about violent events that have happened in the United States up until the murder of John Lennon in Manhattan in 1980 and the violence at the gatherings following his death.
Hey, if Sylvester Stallone can get “Creed” why can’t Jean Claude Van Damme get his own go around? “Kickboxer: Vengeance” is a remake/reboot of the “Kickboxer” series where we’re given essentially the same narrative as the original Van Damme action film, except with a few roles switched here and there. As a bid of respect, Van Damme returns to the series playing the enigmatic Master Durand, a martial arts trainer who manages to train hero Kurt for his fight to avenge his fallen brother. Van Damme’s performance is top notch in “Vengeance” and he manages to get some prime action scenes in the film, including one involving an ambush in his temple by a lone fighter.
Phoenix, Arizona. A group of kidnap victims are taken in a house like many others. There they are kept captive, beaten, and forced to contact family and friends for their ransom. Part of the group is an expecting couple who are split up as they keep the men and women separately. The father-to-be does everything he can to protect his wife and unborn child.
In the only logical location for Kaijyu attacks, Japan, a Kaijyu wakes up and eats teenagers in a forest. A scientist and his assistants look into the event and get involved in the fight against the Kaijyu. The film is directed and co-written by Minoru Kawasaki who also worked on The Calamari Wrestler, a film with a very particular story line. With his co-writer on Kaijyu Mono, Takao Nakano, they create a delightfully bizarre tale that only makes sense when screening at Fantasia.
The story they build here is full of surprises and twists, not all of which make sense but they somehow fit in this film. It’s hard to explain, but it works, possibly because the whole premise is completely crazy. The characters they have created are not particularly original or deep and they feel like crazy caricatures which brought this viewer to the conclusion that it’s a wanted thing. They add so many odd selections to their film that it all has to be planned.
The cast for this is composed of Saki Akai, Bin Furuya, Shinzo Hotta, etc. They all are a bit cartoon-y and definitely do so on purpose as this is what the story lend itself to. That being said, the acting, within its confines and limitations, is quite good. It cannot be easy to keep a straight face when the elder actor on set shows up dressed as Sailor Moon for example.
The titular Kaijyu us fun, but not particularly original. It looks similar to many Kaijyus seen before, which is most likely a wanted thing as a throwback to old school Kaijyu films. This particular monster is clearly a man in a suit and it shows, adding charm to its appearances and to its fight sequences. In these sequences, the monster fights a giant man, made so by shots in the story and by using cool maquettes in the film techniques, bringing even more nostalgia to the proceedings. The fights themselves are more like wrestling than martial arts even though they do through some of that in there, they are very exaggerated, but quite entertaining.
Kaijyu Mono is a fairly simple film, keeping proceedings to a minimum of locations and characters. It’s fun and entertaining but doesn’t re-write the book on its genre or bring much new elements to the table. It’s silly, many elements are just there to be funny or look cool, but it works in a sense that it’s entertaining non-sense with a strong sense of nostalgia. Fans of old Kaijyu films should love Kaijyu Mono.
Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 14th until August 3rd, 2016 and will be back in the summer of 2017.