Fantasic Fest '18 Capsule Reviews: BLOOD LAKE Is An Eighties Treasure And A Screening First
The luck of the ticketing draw wasn’t kind to me over the weekend, and though I saw some great stuff, it wasn’t all Ghastly Grinning material. But such is the nature of the fest, where part of the fun is going with the flow and letting yourself be surprised. So while I didn’t catch any new horror on Saturday or Sunday, three repertory screenings reminded me that some of the most pleasant surprises are films from decades past.
The American Genre Film Archive and Bleeding Skull! Video have teamed up to give us the gift of a no-budget, shot-on-video slasher from 1987. Blood Lake is not the kind of movie that overcomes its limitations to achieve greatness. Rather, it simply has so much fun within those limitations that it’s hard not to be won over.
We are treated to endless footage of characters waterskiing and playing quarters, a hilariously vulgar preteen perv with a mullet, and a soundtrack full of cheese metal by a hopelessly obscure band called Voyager. Plus, the killer is just a dumpy dude in a hat with the least threatening demeanor of any horror villain I’ve seen. Some of the entertainment value might be unintentional, but the laid-back hangout comedy vibe can easily be appreciated without irony.
Most importantly, there’s a can-do spirit and infectious charm to the whole thing. Even when you’re laughing at an awkward line reading or the obvious runtime padding, you’re on these guys’ side. Gather a few friends and perhaps more than a few drinks, and you’ll be in for a great time.
Quit Your Life
This year’s repertory lineup boasts a rare treasure: the world’s first English-subtitled screening of Quit Your Life, a South Korean action/revenge film from 1971. Director Park Nou-sik also stars as a man out for vengeance, armed only with a noose and a deep well of righteous bloodlust.
While the protagonist is avenging the death of a friend, his motivations are rooted in a broader anger over Chinese colonialism. The story is an artifact of a time when those historical wounds were still fresh, and as such, you can’t expect much in the way of political nuance. What you can expect is twisted psychosexual melodrama and a heaping helping of gleefully ridiculous action.
Quit Your Life is rough around the edges, but it’s never less than enjoyable, and it offers a fascinating look at the roots of South Korean revenge films like Oldboy and I Saw the Devil that have made such an impact on Western genre fans. Here’s hoping this festival showing inspires somebody to put out a Blu-ray so more people can experience the film firsthand.
There may not be a better midnight movie at this festival. Deadly Games (originally titled 3615 code Père Noël) is a 1989 French film that has sadly remained largely unavailable in the US due to a legal dispute over writer/director René Manzor’s (justifiable) belief that its story was ripped off by John Hughes for Home Alone.
That story follows Thomas, an imaginative, Rambo-obsessed kid living in a labyrinthine mansion with his mother and her frail, half-blind father. When a crazed man in a Santa Claus suit breaks into the house while his mother is out on Christmas Eve, Thomas must step up to protect himself and his grandfather.
The premise is ripe for humor, and the film takes advantage of that throughout with its dialogue, staging, and soundtrack. But Deadly Games is also dark and legitimately intense, with skillful direction and cinematography continually ratcheting up tension and selling the danger of the situation, even when we are watching Thomas wage battle against Santa Claus with toys.
Though there is still no US release, an all-region German Blu-ray was released last year, so any determined cinephile can and should make this movie a Christmas tradition. I know I will.