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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 09.27.13]



The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF for short), opened yesterday and will run for a couple of weeks in beautiful (and rainy) Vancouver. It's a great year for the fest with a large number of titles we're very excited to check out (The Congress (trailer) is very high on our lists) but it's a pretty special year for fans of genre fare because for the first time in over a decade, the festival is introducing a genre track.

"Altered States" kicks off tonight with a screening of Bobcat Goldthwait's Willow Creek at 11:30PM (Goldthwait will be in attendance for a post screening Q&A) and continues throughout the festival. We've had a chance to preview most of the line-up (with the exception of Willow Creek and Big Bad Wolves which we'll be seeing throughout the festival) and it's pretty great.




Ben Wheatley has been a bit of a favourite of mine since the release of Down Terrace in 2009 but I haven't loved everything the director has done. I didn't care much for Kill List (despite the nearly universal love from genre fans) though Sightseers has a great chance of making my top ten list for the year.

His newest offering, the period drama A Field In England (trailer), focuses on a group of deserting soldiers at the height of the English Civil War who meet an astronomer and end up searching for mythical gold.

Wheatley's film isn't without great moments, it has some fantastic scenes and a comedic bend reminiscent of "Black Adder" but it's also very slow and very talkie and not in a way that makes a lick of sense if you're not familiar with the Civil War. Sure, there's bawdy talk of STDs and cocks falling off and a fantastic drug infused sequence which provide the most interesting moments of the movie but A Field In England didn't work for me.

A Field In England plays September 28 at 11:30PM and September 29 at 4:20PM.



I'm not really sure what to make of Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman. This bizarre pseudo fantasy opens with a guy hiding underground who is chased out of town by a trio of unlikely hunters. We never learn what he's doing there or why they've chased him out. The next thing you know he finds himself in a rich neighbourhood where he spins a magical weave of some sort over a woman and her children and slowly, he starts to take over their lives.

Borgman is weird. It has some great moments and a fantastic performance from Hadewych Minis as Marina, the wife and mother who falls until Camiel Borgman's (Jan Bijvoet)spell but we never find out how Camiel has the powers that he has, what those powers are exactly or why he's praying on this particular family. Is it convenience or does he have a grand plan? It's an enigma but I must admit I rather enjoyed the oddball humour and the flashes of violence that come out of left field. It's a very enjoyable watch even though at the end of it, I wasn't sure what I'd just seen.

Borgman plays October 4 at 11:30PM and October 5 at 3:45PM.



I've always though of myself as a woman of strong stomach. I love blood and guts and heck, I even sat though The Human Centipede (review) but something about Sebastián Hofmann's Halley (trailer) made me very, very uncomfortable.

Beto is a friendly, quiet man who works security at a 24-hour gym but there's something clearly wrong with him. He's dead but he's not a zombie per say. He's just a guy whose body has given up on him and he's had enough of pretending to be alive. He gives himself a week of life among the living before finally giving up on his daily routine of looking normal - the work to upkeep the semblance of humanity and the mental strain is just too much. It's the scenes of maintenance that make Halley particularly difficult to watch. The baths, the picking of maggots and flies from his body and the covering up of wounds, aren't particularly graphic but there's a reality to them that is completely unnerving and I had to look away on more than one occasion.

For its graphic images, Hofmann's film is also remarkably humorous but what's most poignant is the director's social commentary: the fact a man in Beto's condition can even manage to survive as long as he has with no one taking notice is an indicator of society's indifference to the "different."

Gorgeous but also grotesque, this is not for the weak of stomach.

Halley plays October 6 at 11PM and October 7 at 4:45PM.



Though XL chronicles a period of life for an Icelandic politician, it's exactly the kind of living you'd imagine of a rock star.

Leifur is the bad boy politician. He's a big guy who loves his drugs, his alcohol and his women and he likes them all in excess. He's loud, brash, and completely corrupt and his life is quickly spiralling out of control and director Marteinn Thórsson takes us down the rabbit hole of darkness as Leifur freefalls towards rock bottom.

Though not quite as stylish, or dirty, as Trainspotting, Thórsson's XL is just as troubling, chronicling one man's fall from grace and his eventual redemption.

XL plays October 8 at 4:15PM and October 10 at 11:30PM.



Of the "Altered States" titles I've managed to see, my favourite of the bunch is hands down Cody Calahan's Antisocial (trailer) which pits a group of college students against a world full of zombies who have become infected via a social networking site reminiscent of Facebook.

It all starts on New Year's Eve when a group of friends get together for a party. Before the crowd arrives, one of them is sent a link to a weird video online and the next thing they know, a friend of theirs on the outside finds himself in the middle of what seems to be a zombie epidemic. The friends barricade themselves in the house and watch as the world falls apart around them before the infection makes its way into their ranks.

True, the zombie thing has been done to death but Antisocial brings some interesting ideas to the conversation (namely the concept that with our reliance on technology we're becoming zombies and that the infection is spreading faster than any illness) but it's also a really well made thriller. The location adds a layer of claustrophobia, the kills are entertaining and some of the visuals (particularly the vision that strikes the afflicted before they go full zombie) are fantastic. It's a great time and a fantastic way to wrap the series.

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