'The Sacrament,' Ti West's follow-up to 2011's 'The Innkeepers,' feels like a more mature -- albeit still slightly flawed -- outing. A trio of reporters from bad boy news brand Vice head to a cultish compound in Africa to investigate when one of their sisters sends a mysterious letter beckoning him to visit. Inspired by Jonestown (as well as the Branch Davidians and numerous other cults), 'The Sacrament' isn't quite what you expect from West, known for his slow burn horror and sharp, stinging third acts ... and that's a good thing.
'Escape from Tomorrow' is a film that shouldn't be possible -- not just because it was filmed without consent at Disneyworld in Florida, but due to the sheer audacity of some of the (not always successful) ideas and visuals on display. The film follows Jim White, a middle-aged guy on vacation with his wife and two kids at the happiest place on earth. On the last day of vacation, Jim finds out he lost his job, an event that sends him into a spiral that's part mid-life crisis, part psychosis. 'Escape from Tomorrow' subverts expectations with its near-psychedelic transformation of Disneyworld from place of joy and comfort to hellish landscape of evil.
'Machete Kills,' Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to 2010's 'Machete,' ditches the grindhouse aesthetic and homage, and instead tries to emulate a late-'80s, early-'90s action flick -- basically, Rodriguez made the kind of movie he often makes. The result is an uninspired, joyless and oft-trashy exercise in self-indulgence. Rodriguez has spent his career making films the way he wants in his own backyard, and while you kind of have to admire the audacity of it all, the intent is questionable at best.
Fantastic Fest 2013 kicks off this week in Austin, Texas -- every year, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League and his selection committee choose a variety of genre films to present to movie fans and Drafthouse devotees at the festival, which takes place this year at the recently opened Lakeline location in North Austin. Fantastic Fest is the kind of festival where you'll see everything from Keanu Reeves' new martial arts film, 'Man of Tai Chi,' to independent gems like 'Detective Downs' (a movie about a private investigator with Downs Syndrome), and festival favorites like 'Escape from Tomorrow,' which was filmed guerrilla-style at Disneyland.
We had a chance to chat with Mr. League about what we can expect at this year's festival, the movie he's most excited to share with attendees, and the big events he has in store.
The Overlook Hotel does something to people. In Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining,' it drives caretaker Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) mad -- turning his writer's block into full-fledged, kill-your-family insanity. In Rodney Ascher's 'Room 237,' six different critics, historians and fans of Kubrick's horror classic share their own theories about -- and obsessions with -- 'The Shining.' All tell much the same story: they saw the movie once. They couldn't get it out of their minds. They watched it again and again. They couldn't stop. They developed elaborate theories to explain the film's mysteries and to uncover its hidden meanings. They were trapped in the Overlook, lost in its hedge maze, searching for some elusive truth. They still can't get out.
Quentin Dupieux, the mastermind behind last year's cult hit 'Rubber,' has returned with 'Wrong,' an absurdist follow-up in keeping with his debut. When Dolph awakens to find his beloved dog missing, it sends him on a journey that will affect the lives of a lonely pizza delivery operator, an eccentric zen master and his own landscaper. Filled with quirky characters, 'Wrong' embraces an even quirkier world that feels familiar but just out of reach -- much to its detriment.
British director Ben Wheatley isn't content to make the same kind of film over and over again. His last two films -- 'Kill List' and 'Sightseers' -- offered different tones and delightfully sinister surprises; the only consistency is Wheatley's attraction to dark, subversive material and his ability to capture that material with a particularly keen and appreciative eye. With 'A Field in England,' Wheatley returns with yet another unexpected work: an intense, abstract, and intensely abstract trip (literally and figuratively).
Sight and Sound Magazine: it's time for a recount in your decennial poll. 'Miami Connection' is clearly the greatest film ever made -- at least on whatever planet it came from. Hilarious yet oddly touching, goofy yet totally sincere, this is one of the most entertainingly bizarre movies I've ever seen; not so much so-bad-it's-good as so-strange-it's-brilliant. The fight scenes are memorable, the dialogue is quotable, and the rock songs about tae kwon do and ninjas are impossibly catchy. Made and released in the late 1980s and then immediately forgotten, it would have been doomed to eternal obscurity if not for the efforts of Drafthouse Films, who recognized the inspired lunacy that everyone else had somehow missed. For their efforts, they've now got an unmissable cult classic on their hands.
The capper to the second-to-last night of Fantastic Fest 2012 was a "work-in-progress" screening of 'Paranormal Activity 4,' the latest installment of the insanely lucrative found footage horror franchise. Since the movie is unfinished, it would be unfair to write a review.
Here, instead, are some notes on the film and the screening:
Ethan Hawke's Ellison Oswald may have the coolest name of a film character this year, but he's having a streak of professional bad luck. His first true crime book, 'Kentucky Blood,' was a best seller than accomplished what the police couldn't do in tracking down a murderer at large. That was years ago, however, and his follow up books haven't just been duds, they've led to wrongful actions that have put the public at risk. There's little love for him among police captains, particularly of the small town where he's just schlepped his family.
If you've ever seen a horror movie, you should know what happens next. Don't ever move to a new house. That's one of the lessons of the goofy, yet effective, supernatural horror flick 'Sinister.'