Fantastic Fest: Day Seven - Strippers, Zombies, and British Gangsters

Day Seven was devoted to catching some of the award-winning films at the fest that I hadn't seen yet. Extreme horror is not really my thing, so I skipped Human Centipede (First Sequence), which sounds like a goretastic smorgasbord, if you're into that kind of thing. You can watch a trailer for it right here and make up your own mind. I may have made a mistake, since people seem to really love the biological horror it provides, but someone told me it nearly made them puke so I took a stand. Which was probably good since I had a pizza during Yesterday, and that alone nearly made me sick.

With just one day remaining, I tried to pack in a wide variety, although I've been lucky enough to score a stack of screeners, which means I'll be watching Fantastic Fest movies long after they've changed the marquee and started planning for next year. I'm not exactly sure these are the types of films you can watch next to someone on a plane, but I look forward to seeing 'em.


On paper, this movie sounds like a winner. A Russian girl travels to Canada to avenge the death of her sister, who had been forced to become a stripper. The Russian girl has to pose as a stripper to find out what happened and then kill the guilty parties involved. So you've got revenge, murder, and a lot of nudity. What's not to like, right?

Despite the ample amount of bare boobs on display, this just didn't hold together. Mostly because the director inexplicably decided to make Karma, the lead character played by Shera Bechard, a mute. She's extremely attractive, to be sure, but I have a very sneaky feeling that she didn't speak because... she can't act. She can emote things like distress or anger, but I don't know if she could have had us dramatically on the edge of our seats - although she certainly had everyone holding their breath during her big dance number. Also, Karma was raised without parents, yet also found the time and money for a boob job and a belly piercing? Shera Bechard, who plays Karma, ended up winning the audience award for Best Actress, and I'm still scratching my head over that one. Skip this one unless you need a dose of skin in your Netflix queue.


This Canadian movie is a low-budget zombie horror film shot on 16mm cameras, and at first glance it looks like a student film effort at best. And to be sure, that's about the level of the acting and the filmmaking in this thing. But the real story is how much of a labor of love the whole thing was. Shot for an all-in costs of $25,000, the production crew broke several of their cameras during production, and they still managed to finish it. It's not particularly well-acted, but there are some very funny moments throughout, and a couple of a dramatic performances that aren't half-bad.

The effects are also fairly impressive for a microbudget movie, and there's one scene where a man is crushed between two cars and half of his ribcage is exposed in the process. It's surprisingly gory with gallons of blood, but the story is where things fall apart. We follow random groups of survivors until some of them meet up (only guys, no women), and they seek refuge in the woods while things devolve in the city. Of course, things don't go right out in the woods (do they ever in a horror movie?) and that's where the climax happens. Watch the trailer for a glimpse of what you'll get.


This movie won the "Next Wave Best Picture Award" at Fantastic Fest, and I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but that also means it beat out films like Breathless and Private Eye for that award. What?! Down Terrace is a dramatic piece about aging British gangsters, but don't start thinking that it's anything like a Guy Ritchie film. This mostly takes place in the narrow flat of aging British thug Bill, where he lives with his wife Maggie and his son Karl. You soon find that they live in a world they are increasingly unsuited for: their leading rough guy / hitman Pringle now has a baby to take care of, the police are closing in, and Karl himself is soon to be a father.

Down Terrace is more about the relationships between the figures in the movie than any action scenes, and although there are a few murders in the film, they happen quickly and quietly. Soon you start thinking of them as just another dysfunctional family, and you might even compare them to your own. They face the same problem we do, it's just that they also tend to kill people from time to time. There's one chilling scene where Maggie slips poison to someone in his tea, and calmly talks about where he went wrong while he dies on the floor. Certainly not bad, but honestly I've seen better at the Fest.

Day Eight, the final day of Fantastic Fest, looms ahead like a chilling spectral vision in a ghost movie. It's something you're afraid to look at, but are also eager to see at the same time. I've heard tons of rumors about what the final Secret Screening will be, and I'm also hearing that Dolph Lundgren has been spotted in town. Coincidence? Probably not. We'll find out tomorrow as the festival draws to an end and eager anticipation for next year begins. The countdown has already started, and if you're thinking about attending Fantastic Fest, start preparing yourself now. You'll love it.

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