The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

rochefort [Celluloid 10.03.12] documentary

There were many great documentaries throughout Fantastic Fest 2012. Here, Rochefort discusses his festival favorites.

The American Scream
Directed by: Michael Paul Stephenson

For his latest, the director of "Best Worst Movie" takes his camera to a neighborhood in Fairhaven, MA, home to a small number of "home haunters", resourceful and diligent amateur craftsmen who every Halloween transform their homes and yards into intricate spooky theme parks.

Stephenson follows three haunters, one of them casual, one kooky, and one, Victor Bariteau, who every year throws himself into his haunted house with legitimate and palpable artists' fervor, creating frequently breathtaking facades, scenes and sculptures. We're witness to the planning, building and setbacks that are a part of each of their respective projects, and as Halloween gets closer and closer watch as the pressure starts to show on their faces.

This is probably the sweetest movie I've ever seen about people who set out to scare other people, and it's hard not to grow to like these guys who simply want a few hundred kids to have a fun time one night out of the year.

The Exorcist in the 21st Century
Directed by: Fredrik Horn Akselsen

There's nothing sensationalist or bombastic in this mature but rather disappointing doc about a handful of modern Catholic priests and the church's current stance on exorcism. Much of the runtime consists of interview footage with church leaders and a couple of actual exorcists, most of whom reiterate the strict series of steps that must be followed before an actual exorcism can be approved. Not surprisingly, very few are, especially when politics and geography sometimes play a part in who can even be considered for review. Interspersed throughout is the story of Constanza, a young woman who has suffered for years from sporadic mania and seizures that she believes are signs of a legitimate demonic possession, who seeks the aid of Father Fortea, an expert in the field of demonology and exorcism she hopes can rid her of her affliction. Despite all the potentially compelling food for thought, very little of the burning questions are ever asked or answered.

I kept hoping for a richer exploration of the history of recorded demonic experiences, the church's relation and reaction to them, and a more in-depth look at the training of an exorcist, just to name a few. What we get instead, probably due to the Vatican's caginess as well as the generally delicate subject of just how much a possessed person would want to have on camera, is an overly-mannered doc that plods and meanders way too much for such a fascinating subject.

The Final Member
Dir. Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math

Icelander Sigurdur "Siggi" Hjartarson runs the world's first and only Phallological Museum, a collection of mammalian penises from throughout the fossil record. Hjartarson's collection only lacks one specimen to be complete: a human member. This doc chronicles his quest to obtain the final and most prestigious piece, and is also the story of the two men in a long-distance competition to be the first human to donate his schlong for posterity. One is an elderly adventurer playboy who hopes to grace the museum after his death, the other a fairly strange Californian who is seriously considering having his own healthy penis amputated in an effort to get it into the jar first.

There are some undoubtedly wackadoo moments in "The Final Member", but also some surprisingly insightful and even moving ones, and Hjartarson turns out to be a rather interesting and intelligent fellow. In the midst of this battle to donate the first johnson, provocative questions are raised about the paradoxical modern compulsion to simultaneously flaunt and demonize the male organ, and how inhibitions can hold society back.

If you can get past the fact that Hjartarson's walking stick is a large penis bone, you might find this one rather stimulating. Heh.

Room 237
Directed by: Rodney Ascher

More of a video essay than what one might traditionally expect of a documentary, "Room 237" is a collection of critical analyses of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" and what some believe are its hidden symbols and clues. A very scattershot talking heads doc where we never even see the heads, the commentators are all clearly in awe of Kubrick's accomplishment, and divulge their theories on how the film is a metaphor for the Native American conquest, how Kubrick used numbers, props, floor patterns and continuity errors to enhance and surpass the eeriness of Stephen King's novel, and why the film is a coded apology for Kubrick's own rumored side-job as the man who directed the fake Apollo 11 moon walk.

Bearing a great deal of similarity to a conspiracy doc, "Room 237" does definitely draw attention to some fascinating parallels and puzzles, but just as often plays like an articulate but nonetheless pot-fueled blog rant. But please don't let this deter you; as a reminder of Kubrick's mind-boggling and exhaustive work ethic, "Room 237" is a fairly wonderful appreciation of just how much information the man packed into every frame, as well as a fantastic argument for why the best filmmakers deserve the freedom to take extensive artistic license with certain source material.

You might also like

Leave a comment