Fantastic Fest 2013: Final Recap

By the end of Fantastic Fest, I’ve seen a lot of the movies I wanted to see, and heard about others that I might not have considered otherwise. For my last recap of Fantastic Fest Films, I made sure to see Award winners The Dirties, Detective Downs, Why Don’t You Play in Hell and Kids Police, but I couldn’t miss the outrageous sounding Moebius and Confession of Murder either.


Confession of Murder

Confession of Murder has some impressive action scenes, and a dramatic plot crazy enough to work, though it maybe drags on a bit and relies a little too much on CGI. A serial killer waits until the statute of limitation on his crimes expires to write a tell all memoir. When the killer/author becomes famous, the cop who was pursuing him and some victims’ family members all try to come after the killer.

Two particularly memorable action sequences involve a car chase with an ambulance with people fighting on the moving cars, and another car chase with a truck in a tunnel. Assuming the Fantastic Fest program book is correct that these were all filmed as real stunt sequences, that is some daring and creative work. Imagine doing The Matrix Reloaded freeway chase on real cars without green screen! The camera and editing is unfortunately a little choppy so it doesn’t highlight the practical work as much as you’d like, and it is unfortunate they felt the need to throw in some CGI gags because the real stunts were thrilling enough.

The plot about the statute of limitations seems to me like a revenge fantasy if O.J. Simpson had gotten away with writing his If I Did It book. There are enough crazy twists to keep the plot interesting between action scenes too, but perhaps too many in a middle section that drags on with exposition.

The Dirties

It takes some real balls to do a satire about high school violence, and I think The Dirties has something to say in a daring way. When Matt (director Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams) get in trouble for making a violent film for a class project, Matt starts joking about planning a school shooting. The idea is that they’re such outcasts and jokesters that nobody’s paying attention to them anyway, but the more we get to know them, the audience becomes privy to the danger behind Matt’s veneer.

Because the characters are high school filmmakers, The Dirties gets away with a shaky handheld camera. It’s ironically amateur, get it? The improv between Johnson and Williams feels rough, and they’re not quite getting to the point. That passes for “natural.” The thing is, they end up being pretty insightful and self-reflexive once it comes to a head. The content of the film is so strong, we can be a little patient with the format. By the time Matt sets up his final shots, the steadiness and clarity become uncomfortable. Well done.

Detective Downs 

Robert (Svein Andre Hofso Myhre) is a hard boiled detective with Down Syndrome. He can’t get cases because clients are turned off by his condition, but when one family hires him to locate their lost patriarch, they didn’t count on his actual detective skills to pay off.

Detective Downs is confronting, making audiences face what may be an uncomfortable way to perceive someone, namely that you’re not allowed to feel sorry for Robert. You have to accept him with the agency of a movie hero. The film hits all the noirish beats, the saxophone and slow jazz, Robert’s voiceover, the blonde mol femme fatale and a Chinatown-esque conspiracy. There’s an awesome love scene, and I’m not giving anything away by saying so. Just look for it.

Hopefully Detective Downs will translate internationally and make great strides towards diversity in entertainment. Now can we please have a gay action hero?

Kids Police 

Kids Police is adorable. It lives up its promise of showing kids in cop movie scenarios and playing it straight. It’s certainly got the beats of the cop genre down, and the gravitas of the police chief, even though he’s an adolescent. Action-wise, Kids Police has nothing on Thailand’s Power Kids but it compares favorably to the likes of Spy Kids.

I do wish we had seen the characters as adults first. The film opens with an animated prologue explaining how a group of police are gassed and turned into children. Perhaps it would have been wasteful to cast a group of adult actors only to dump them for the child cast, but that’s what I was thinking.


Kim Ki-duk’s latest movie has no dialogue, but when the movie is about chopping off dicks, what do you really need to say? A woman catches her husband having an affair, so she tries to cut his penis off, but he fights her off. So instead she cuts their son’s penis off. Researching his son’s prospects, the father finds surgery unreliable but stumbles onto an online community that teaches him to create orgasms by inflicting pain on himself. Namely, they use rocks to scrape their foot and forearm skin off until they come.

Now that was a mouthful for me to explain, so imagine the triumph of conveying it all nonverbally. There are a few computer screens full of text but it’s not a cheat and the English isn’t even correct. You find the dialogue isn’t even necessary, because when the mother and father confront each other, what is there to say? They each know what she did.

Moebius actually made me gag, which is saying a lot because I’m tough when it comes to graphic film content. I sit through Saw, Hostel and nip/tuck with nary a squirm, but scraping that skin off with a rock really got to me.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

With a title like that, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? has to deliver a lot to live up to it. The plot is just a little too cute for me. A group of childhood friends grew up dreaming of becoming filmmakers, so they end up filming a real Yakuza war. That would make it really hard to get coverage of a scene once somebody is killed for real, but Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is only concerned with take one.

The plot is crazy enough and full of colorful moments to remain entertaining. There’s a childhood commercial star whose toothpaste add is really catchy. One of the actors does a fairly good Bruce Lee, and the action climax is chaotic and violent enough but not particularly well choreographed. Considering how much it cribs from Kill Bill Vol. 1, they’d have to get Yuen Woo-ping on their ass to impress me. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.