Fantastic Fest Report: Lovely People, Moebius Redux, Five Across the Eyes, Flight of the Living Dead
Sure, I could write endless paragraphs on the beauty and effervescent personalities of the Alamo Drafthouse's tireless workers and the endlessly busy yet pleasant and enthusiastic Fantastic Fest staff and volunteers -- especially one volunteer in particular who is even more gorgeous this year than last -- but I'm supposed to be writing about film, so let me bring it back to the filmmakers.
One of the joys of Fantastic Fest is the ready access to the filmmakers. They tend to be down to earth film lovers who stand in line waiting to see other people's movies right along with everybody else. Sometimes you can fall into conversations with them even before realizing that they've made a film. At some other festivals, the filmmakers are isolated from "the public," which may be appropriate in certain circumstances, but it's an added bonus to see directors chatting easily with such a wide variety of people.
Great conversation (in the form of well-directed one sided dialogue) lays at the heart of Hasko Baumann's documentary Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures. It's easy to see why the doc won two awards at the recent Comic-Con; it examines the life of French artist Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius) in a very refreshing manner that manages to be both breezy and deeply informative. I thought I didn't know the artist's work at all, but after he made his mark in graphic arts, he did design work on Hollywood productions like Alien, Tron, and The Fifth Element.
Long before that, Giraud created and drew groundbreaking art for the comic Blueberry and was involved in the forerunner to the Heavy Metal graphic books, among many other notable works. He worked on Alejandro Jodorowsky's planned Dune project as well as various Marvel comics. Giraud gives a good interview, but the other interview subjects -- Jodorowsky especially, but also his long-time friend and colleague Philippe Druillet, writer Dan O'Bannon, and artist Mike Mignola -- are especially forthcoming, especially about Giraud's faults. (For example, he became involved with a controversial cult in the 1980s.) I found it to be thoroughly absorbing and entertaining.
Five Across the Eyes is a good idea in concept -- five high school girls driving home in a rural area at night are terrorized by a crazy woman -- and a noble, zero budget effort in result. I thought it promised more than it was able to deliver, but there's no doubt that some in the audience fell under its homemade, homespun horror spell. It would be great to see what co-directors Ryan Thiessen and Greg Swinson could do with a little money.
Once the flesh-eating carnage begins, Flight of the Living Dead really starts to sing. Until then, the opening exposition is a bit lengthy. Conceived long before Snakes on a Plane, Flight opens with a Paris-bound jet in the air. This is the pilot's last flight, the co-pilot is making moves on one of the flight attendants, the flight attendants are all friends, the passengers include a cop handcuffed to a white collar prisoner, a nun, and two hot young couples. The cargo bay holds a scientific experiment in regenerating dead body parts that goes horribly wrong, unleashing a plague of the undead.
Truly a fantastic premise, one that is exploited to the fullest extent possible by director Scott Thomas, even given the limitations of a tight budget and shooting schedule. Gorehounds should get a kick out of the multitude of bloody kill scenes, though the film establies such an unpretentious flow that it should appeal to a wide horror audience.