Sunday, October 5, 2008

Don’t remember…take it to your grave…

Sundance on Demand is offering some pretty interesting flicks this month, including the Oscar-nominated No End in Sight (2007), which I’m planning to take a look at this evening and maybe have a post ready in a day or two. The documentaries are my favorite movies on Sundance, and though the ones currently On Demand seem to center on the world of fashion there are still some intriguing titles to check out, like 14 Women (2007) and The Unforeseen (2007).

The Unforeseen sounds a lot like a horror film—and Sundance on Demand has plenty of those, too—so much so that I spent yesterday watching some of them; a trio of Asian films (all from 2004) that range from Feh! to Well Worth Your Time. The first of these (which grabbed the coveted Feh! trophy) is Sei mong se jun (AbNormal Beauty), which tells the tale of a photography student (Race Wong) who casually snaps a picture of a car wreck…only to find her personality transformed as she obsesses about death and a traumatic incident from her past. Beauty shows a lot of promise in its first half; demonstrating a palpitating suspense not unlike Repulsion (1965) or Blowup (1966)—but then it switches course and descends into the usual sadomasochistic torture showcase so prevalent in horror films today. (The identity of the student’s tormentor is handled in an interesting fashion, I will admit.) If you enjoy this kind of horror film, go for it. But I’m sure you can do better—I’d give it a star for the effort shown in the first half.

Movie numero dos was more science-fiction than horror (though it does have some horrific elements); it’s Zebraman (not to be confused with Zebrahead, a far superior 1992 non-science-fiction film starring Michael Rapaport and N’Bushe Wright), a quirky send-up of all those cheapo, badly-dubbed Japanese TV shows we adored as kids—starring Sho Aikawa as an ineffectual dad/nebbish schoolteacher who’s made himself a superhero costume based on a short-lived TV show from 1978…but finds himself playing the role for real once his township is invaded by menacing green aliens. Zebraman stays on a roll for the first ¾ of the film, but winds up with one of those Ghostbusters-type climaxes that wreck the whimsy of what proceeded; it is certainly in need of some judicious editing. If you love the kitsch of, say, Ultra Man you’ll definitely get a kick out of it. Two-and-a-half stars.

I coincidentally saved the best film for last (honest, it just happened that way): Ryeong (The Ghost), which I have to say is one of the creepiest films I’ve seen in recent memory. A college sophomore (Ha-Neul Kim), suffering from amnesia, begins to see visions and spiritual apparitions at the same time the members of her high school clique start dying off…in ways that suggest drowning accidents. This one’s a little tough sledding at first (I had to watch it twice to put all the pieces together) but if you stick with it you’ll be rewarded with a goose-pimply chiller stuffed with unnerving atmosphere and supernatural elements. Four stars for this baby.

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