Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2015 Fantastic Fest. For more information on the festival visit fantasticfest.com and follow Fantastic Fest on Twitter at @fantasticfest.
Love & Peace
Dir. Sion Sono
Sion Sono makes fun, crazy films and Love & Peace fits that description. The lead character is unhappy with his life. He’s an introvert, frequently the butt end of jokes from his co-workers. During his lunch break buys a turtle from a merchant. He and his turtle become quick friends. They do everything together and go everywhere together. Sono takes the elements of the cute dog in a film and applies it to the turtle. The friendship is endearing. He names his new friend, “Pikadon.” - Named after the explosive element of an atomic bomb. The young man doesn’t mean anything by it, he just thinks it’s a cool name for his turtle friend.
He vows to change his life by exploring his rock n roll roots, with the ultimate goal of playing at the new Olympic stadium in 2020. He writes a song and while a local rock band drags him along to play with them he wows the public with his song about Pikadon that the public misinterprets as social commentary on the atomic bomb that devastated the country during world war II. The young man begins his path to fame while being separated from his best friend, Pikadon. In a fit of embarrassment, he flushes Pikadon down the toilet where Pikadon encountered his next adventure.
Pikadon eventually washes up at the end of a tunnel in the sewers only to find talking animals, talking toys and a magical man named “Pa” who made it all possible with his magic candy. Yep, audiences are in for one heck of a ride. These abandoned pets and toys represent the unwanted toys from previous birthdays and Christmases. Pikadon received a warm welcome while the young man struggles to maintain his identity on his path to stardom.
There is a lot going on in this film. Nuclear Holocaust is no stranger to Japanese cinema. Turtles are symbolic of wisdom and old age. The young man goes viral with his first song that was a complete accident, strong commentary on how quick we are to idolize overnight celebrity. Sono manages to write more catchy songs that will be a major hit for Sono fans. There is even a song from one of his previous films that makes a cameo. There’s our world, and the Sono world; his world is a blast to visit.
Love & Peace is a charming movie anchored by terrific performances all around. Of the few Sono films I have seen, this is his most family-friendly film. Is this Sono’s equivalent to Scorsese’s Hugo? Like Scorsese, Sono films tend to be ultra violent. The missing violence is replaced with a warm and fuzzy boy and his pet story, with talking stuffed animals and a freaking cool Kaiju sequence. Love & Peace may sneak up on you because the relationships are so strong, there’s so much at stake and Sono gently tugs the heart-strings while embracing his audience.
Dir. Mickey Keating
The film opens with a rich New York woman (Sean Young), instructing a new caretaker on some rules of the house. In passing she mentions an incident took place with the last caretaker. With a brief introduction, Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) takes the keys to the lush, multi-story house, she seems desperate to take this job.
The woman discovers an upside down crucifix necklace in her room and from there everything goes south in a hurry. There are vibes in the house, there’s a presence, even a mystery room that is locked and inaccessible by any key provided by the homeowner. Writer and director Mickey Keating toys with the audience with creaking doors and the threat of something behind every shadow.
The black and white cinematography is stunning. Carter is a beautiful woman, Keating and cinematographer Mac Fisken do a fantastic job of capturing iconic images of Carter and the house. As Darling slowly becomes a psychological thriller, the audience is treated to a barrage of sudden and frightening images. The film shifts from moody psychological thriller to a classic nightmare sequence. If you have seen any promo shots, or movie clips you know you’re in for a nasty genre film. Carter is terrific in the lead role as she is in nearly every frame in the movie. Much like Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), Carter can be gorgeous and crank up the terror with a flip of a switch.
Darling delivers the goods in an unconventional way. It’s not easy to tell a non-linear horror narrative while slipping under the skin of the collective audience. The sound mix and score are aggressive and help shift the tones and keep this film steaming ahead. Darling doesn’t tell an A to B narrative so it may turn off some audience members who require a rigid structure — this is not the kind of film you watch, you simply must experience it. Keating shows much promise in an early career.
Dir. John S. Rad
We all have our cult movies we share with friends and family. Some of these films are under-appreciated classics, others are the kind of films that are a mess from a critical standpoint, but they’re endlessly watchable. Drafthouse Films has a knack for unearthing these films that are so much fun to watch with an audience: Miami Connection, Roar and now, Dangerous Men. The film is the product of John Rad, 20 years in the making. Even the opening credits are hilarious because John Rad has 7 or 8 credits. Much like the previous titles, this needs to be watched with a full theater or at least a few friends.
Instead of a three act structure, this film takes a three film structure; none of which has a beginning, middle and end. Dangerous Men starts out with a couple in love, their walk on the beach is spoiled by a couple of bikers with rape and murder on their minds (fair warning: this film has an excessive amount of attempted rape, even going as far as recreating attempted rape scenes with the same setup and dialogue). The lead actress who survives rape goes on a killing rampage that terrorizes the streets. In a weird, twisted way the first film plays like a pulpy, feminist revenge film.
The rest of the film involves detectives that are hell-bent on catching the men responsible for the opening death, it’s a coincidence that the victim’s brother is also a detective. There are odd moments like the detectives talking about going on vacation, and an even more bizarre sequence where one of the detective’s wives convinces him to come home for a gratuitous love scene. A villain is introduced named Black Pepper, he’s sure to become a cult favorite.
Dangerous Men is funny, absurd and highly entertaining. It’s a hang out movie, gather some friends, hit up your local theater or catch it on demand when it’s available. You’ll marvel at the truly bizarre decisions made by Rad. This is a film 20 years in the making, thank goodness it exists. If you have a difficult time getting into movies like Miami Connection or Roar you can skip this one. If you appreciate the films listed above, see it as soon as you can.