I’ve been a casual fan and observer of “Death Note” since the mid-aughts and have always been fascinated with its premise and the moral dilemmas it props up for the audience and its characters. It’s almost like “The Box” but with a hit of adrenaline and more complex ideas and philosophies. Director Adam Wingard adapts “Death Note” for a new audience, taking the material from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, and adding his own quirks, ideas, and dashes of dark comedy. What we get is a stark, entertaining horror movie that is very much a “Death Note” tale, but one that works in its own rhythm for a broader audience, without alienating the core fan base.
In the modern social and political climate, Patrick Rea’s “Justice Served” is going to play well and perhaps stir up some much needed controversy. While director Rea delivers his usual slick special effects and morbid tone, “Justice Served” is a brilliant commentary on society and how far we’ve come. Society is nothing but people exploiting people, exploiting people, we’re devils and devil’s advocates. Director Rea creates a backward world where the society we witness is shockingly not that different than what we’re seeing today.
Written by Doug Taylor and director Jeff Kopas, the film works with themes of family, grieving, mental illness, trauma, and related ones. As it delves into the family dynamics and relationships between daughter and father, sister and brother, and others, the film develops characters that all have a connection one way or another and whose relationships are strained to say the least. The characters created seem a bit limited as they pretty much only exist in relation to each other, except for the lead who is a somewhat more fully fleshed character. Her trauma and evolution are central to the story here, so she makes a decent lead. Her story is interesting and the twists keep the attention, however, the story feels like something is missing. But, by the end, things feel more complete in a way.
Sheena fans are in for a treat when Mill Creek releases a collection of Sheena entertainment on DVD. Are there Sheena fans? Are there enough to warrant a big crowd surrounding the TV hoping for Sheena? In either case, for fans of pulp comics and just all around good old fashioned camp, the “Sheena: Queen of the Jungle Collection” packs a ton of content in to a small package, and spans a pretty hefty time period where Sheena was portrayed in various mediums beyond the comics. The 1984 movie “Sheena: Queen of the Jungle” is a camp and cult classic that’s managed to re-emerge over the years mainly for being such a weird and awful movie.
Director and writer Jeremiah Kipp creates a very stark and somewhat creepy tale of loss, grief, and child abuse with “Slapface,” a short that is destined to grab a lot of people’s attention. At only eight minutes, “Slapface” tells the story of a young boy still coming to terms with the loss of his mother. One day he ventures out deep in to the woods and calls to something in the shadows, goading it to come out of hiding and before long is greeted by a vicious, ugly ogre in tattered clothing and long hair that zealously grasps him to the point of making him lose consciousness.
A prequel to the prequel to The Conjuring films, the story here is that of how the evil doll Annabelle came to be. Years following a tragic accident, a doll maker and his wife take in a group of orphans needing a new place to live with the nun who watches over them. As they are forbidden to go in a specific room, the young girls get curious and something is awakened.
Written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas and directed by Antonio Negret, Overdrive is a fun car heist film with exhilarating chases, twists, turns, and beautiful vintage cars. It takes a few cues from The Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds, the Transporter series, etc and makes them all its own. The use of the car is definitely a plot device, but it works quite well here. The characters are not particularly deep, but as the film is mostly action car porn, it doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is that they are believable enough to take the viewer through the story and its twists and turns while being entertaining and fun to watch. This film is one of those that is made for the fun of it and not to pass on some kind of grand message, something that is perfectly fine and well done here.
Each year Fantasia showcases a ton, almost a literal ton, of shorts films. Reviewing them can be a bit demanding, so it has been decided to review them in groupings. The following shorts were attached to feature films that played the fest and were viewed on the big screen.