South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN), Asia’s largest genre film fest, once again served up more than 200 films from around the globe this summer. Between July 12 and 22, the fest offered horror, science fiction, dark comedy, fantasy, thriller, and other movies. This article looks at three of the offerings, along with some of the fest’s award winners.
Ockerisms and other Australian cliches abound — along with creature feature tropes aplenty — in writer/director Chris Sun’s (Charlie’s Farm ) Boar, but this doesn’t stop the film from being a fun, fast-paced thrill ride. Fans of overgrown wildlife run amok, including the 1984 Aussie cult classic Razorback, should find plenty to enjoy here.
John Jarratt and Roger Ward are the stars of the first half of the film, portraying two drunken farmers who discover what is left of a group of young campers. They also meet the huge titular beast and do their best to keep it from killing other people. Jarratt and Ward are terrific here, providing plenty of laughs before taking a turn into unexpected poignancy.
The second half of the film focuses on the Monroe family, headed up by token American Bruce (Bill Moseley in an usually subdued role) and his wife Debbie (Simone Buchanan, who gives an excellent turn as the heart of the family unit as well as of this part of the film), with brother-in-law Bernie (Nathan Jones) providing, quite literally, extra muscle for the group. The adults and the couple’s children, along with the daughter’s obnoxious boyfriend, go for a day at the river. Their plans of relaxing are soon changed abruptly by the appearance of the boar. It isn’t much of a leap to imagine that former professional wrestler Jones is going to have a heroic go at the giant boar, and that is part of the fun of the third act.
Sun knows his way around a horror film, and he does an ace job of balancing comedy, family drama, and suspense in Boar. The performances are all solid, and the relationships between characters are well written. The main knock on the film would be occasional shortcomings in both the CGI and practical effects work. Most of the time the boar looks great, scarred from previous battles and seemingly always angry and hungry. Other times, however, it looks a bit silly in its CGI rendering, or has the camera stay on it just a tad too long during practical effects sequences, though seasoned creature feature fans have certainly seen far worse.
Director Preston DeFrancis finds the fine balance between dishing out slasher tropes galore and subverting and playing with them in impressive manners in the sly American shocker Ruin Me. Horror fan Nathan (Matt Dellapina) convinces his girlfriend Alex (Marcienne Dwyer), who is no fan of the genre, to accompany him on an overnight immersive game in the woods called “Slasher Sleepout.” There they meet a small group of other players, including obnoxious goth Pitch (John Odom) and his outgoing — to say the least — girlfriend Marina (Eva Hamilton).
The group starts out following the rules of the game, which is a sort of elaborate scavenger hunt, but soon enough, things go awry as players get injured and then offed. Alex’s fears are heightened by the fact that she spent time in rehab, which comes into play during the nocturnal escapades. Reality and fantasy blur together for her and the others, and DeFrancis, who cowrote the screenplay with Trysta A. Bissett, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as the puzzle deepens.
Ruin Me has an initial fun vibe that gradually moves into a more severe territory. It is a smart, exciting chiller that rewards viewers with a highly satisfying third act.
Canadian effort Summer of 84, from the trio of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell — who brought us the charming, whimsical postapocalyptic sci-fi comedy Turbo Kid — is a winning entry into the recently resurging kids-on-bikes subgenre of movies and television fare. This film, however, shows a great deal of restraint regarding nostalgic nods toward its 1980s setting, compared with other recent efforts such as Stranger Things. The result is a captivating, suspenseful story about a group of boys and their efforts to prove that a local cop is a serial killer known as the Cape May Slayer.
Fifteen-year-old newspaper delivery boy Davey (Graham Verchere) lives in a small town with his friends: borderline bad boy Eats (Judah Lewis), sensitive Woody (Caleb Emery), and brainy Curtis (Corey Gruter-Andrew). When Davey suspects policeman neighbor Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer) of being the boy-killer responsible for a slate of disappearances and murders, he sets out to prove his theory, with his friends in tow, sometimes eagerly, and sometimes reluctantly.
Mackey certainly seems to have circumstantial evidence against him, in the eyes of Davey, but he always has reasons for his gardening equipment and actions that seem to make Davey look ridiculous and even paranoid. Writers Matt Leslie and Stephen J. Smith offer up a solid story that depends more on cat-and-mouse tactics than numerous twists, with believable characters in realistic settings. The young cast is terrific, and Sommer nails his “Is he or isn’t he?” performance. Simard and the Whissells show that they are as adept at telling a lower-key exciting story as they are at the outlandish, gory fun that Turbo Kid offered. Summer of 84 is a blast, plain and simple.
BIFAN’s major Bucheon Choice awards included the Best of Bucheon award for Coralie Fargeat’s gripping, blood-soaked French thriller Revenge; the Best Director Choice award for the gritty Mexican dark fantasy Tigers are Not Afraid, directed by Issa Lopez; the Jury’s Choice award for Japanese ghost chiller The Sacrament, directed by Isora Iwakiri; and the Audience Award for Korean supernatural drama Ghost Walk, directed by Eun-jeong Yu.
The EFFFF Asian Award went to the giddy, ultimately heartwarming zombie outing One Cut of the Dead, directed by Shinichiro Ueda, with Japanese yakuza crime thriller The Blood of Wolves by director Kazuya Shiraishi getting a Special Mention.