Chattanooga Film Fest 2017: Day 3

The Big Day on Planet M.E.A.T. (Short)

It’s the Mustache people versus the Chin army. The Mustaches are holding some of the Chins hostage, and the Chins have a power source that the Mustaches need. There’s a battle, a double-cross, and a dinosaur.

It’s a movie by kids produced from a script written by a ten-year-old. And it feels like it. I’m sure it’s quite the accomplishment given the ages of the people involved, and maybe I might have enjoyed/tolerated it more if I’d known any of the people involved, but it’s just not that good a movie to show to unsuspecting festival attendees.

My Life as a Zucchini

Zucchini’s dad is a womanizer who’s not around anymore. His mom is a drunk who dies in an accident. So he’s hauled off to live in a group home with several other kids who haven’t had the best luck in their lives so far, either. There’s some bullying at first, but soon they become great friends who stick up for each other. Then Camille shows up, and it’s love at first sight for Zucchini.

This one surprised me. The claymation is done very well, and the story is surprisingly deep. It gets very dark at times, especially when dealing with some of the things the kids have been through, but then it can turn on a dime to become sweet and uplifting. It works on just about every level, its pacing is tight, and it might just leave you with some emotions.

Buster’s Mal Heart

Jonah (Rami Malek) worked as the nighttime concierge at a hotel, which was just about the only job he could get. He really wanted to be able to provide for his wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) and his daughter, with the hope of someday buying a house on their own property, but he just couldn’t get ahead in his dead-end job, and his body couldn’t adjust to the hours, so he wasn’t much more than a sleep-deprived zombie most of the time. Then some things happened, and he started living alone in the woods, living off the land when it was warm enough, and breaking into unoccupied vacation homes when it got too cold. And when he started calling into radio shows with his crackpot ideas about a wormhole, he picked up the nickname Buster.

I’d heard good things about this one from last year’s Fantastic Fest, and it mostly lived up to the hype. Its nonlinear structure can be a bit confusing at times, while at the same time making it much too easy to guess at least one of the film’s twists, but it’s still entertaining even when you’ve got a pretty good idea about what’s coming. Also featuring DJ Qualls and Lin Shaye.

Score: A Film Music Documentary

The title pretty much says it all. This is a documentary about film scores and some of the most prominent people who make them, including the likes of Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Quincy Jones, Randy Newman, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross, plus a lot of talk about the all-time greats like John Williams and Bernard Herrmann.

The documentary is interesting and informative, but it’s also too long and too repetitive. While it does feature interviews with some of the greats, the majority of them are with composers attached to much less impressive films, like those featuring tiny blue creatures who live in the forest or a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea (and those composers often seem the douchiest and most self-important of them). It’s also loaded with clips from movies and actors that I can’t stand, so I found myself looking away from the screen for a substantial portion of it.

Another Evil

Dan (Steve Zissis) is a renowned artist with a remote vacation home, where he occasionally stays with his wife (Jennifer Irwin) and son (Dax Flame). But it turns out that the cabin is haunted, so they hire Osgood (Mark Proksch), aka Os, to try to rid them of their unwanted guests. After a while, Os becomes just as unwanted as the ghosts.

It’s a mildly funny movie, leaning more toward the amusing than the hilarious, and often venturing into uncomfortable awkwardness. The scarier aspects of it actually work pretty well, although it works more in suspense than gore or effects, so it’s the kind of film that’s more effective because of what your mind turns it into than what’s actually shown on screen.

The Transfiguration

Milo lives with his older brother Lewis in a poor New York neighborhood. Their parents are dead (their father through sickness and their mother by suicide), so they’re left to fend for themselves, which leads to Milo often being bullied. Milo is obsessed with vampire movies and lore, and he really wants to become a vampire himself, but his attempts thus far haven’t been all that successful. Then he meets Sophie, a new girl who’s moved into his building to live with her abusive grandfather.

This film reminds me a lot of Park Chan-wook’s Thirst in that it’s primarily a drama, and although vampirism is a key part of the film, it’s actually pretty incidental to the plot most of the time. The way that Milo is treated by others, and his relationship with Sophie, have almost nothing to do with vampires and would have been just as at home in a film that didn’t use the V word at all. But the way that it does incorporate that subject into its plot works really well and makes it all the more meaningful when it is necessary.

Feeding Time (Short)

New parents Dale and Vicki want to go out for the night, so they hire a sitter, Sasha, who comes highly recommended. She’s a typical high school kid, concerned with her boyfriend and the upcoming homecoming dance, but that’s not going to get in the way of her duties. So when she hears a noise upstairs, she goes to investigate and gets more than she bargains for.

It’s a very simple film with some rather crappy effects, but I like it a lot, and there are a couple of good reveals toward the end that gave it an extra bump just when you thought it was over. And it works well when paired with the feature film Sequence Break because Graham Skipper, who wrote and directed the feature, plays dad Dale in the short.

Sequence Break

Osgood (aka Oz, played by Chase Williamson) is a whiz at restoring and fixing old arcade games. Not only does it provide him with a job that he loves, but it also introduced him to his nerdy, game-loving girlfriend, Tess (Fabianne Therese). Then one day Oz finds a mysterious circuit board for a game that becomes a life-changing experience.

This movie is very much The Bishop of Battle (a segment in the Nightmares horror anthology) crossed with eXistenZ. I like both of those things a lot, and that probably has something to do with why I liked Sequence Break so much. It doesn’t seem like it knows how to end, so it does go a bit too far into the Cronenbergy end of the spectrum before copping out with a kind of “mega-happy ending” a la Wayne’s World, but by that point I’d already been won over by everything prior that the end didn’t diminish my enjoyment all that much.

The Night Watchmen

A couple of blundering delivery men accidentally drop a coffin off at a Baltimore newspaper office instead of the next-door medical laboratory. Inside that coffin was a clown, who had recently died on a trip to Romania. But the clown isn’t dead because Romania is where vampires come from, and this vampire clown also seems to have contracted a severe case of zombie. Now the office is under attack, and four night watchmen, along with a hot girl who works for the newspaper, have to try to survive the night.

Boy is this movie awful. It seems like it’s trying so hard to be funny, but it soon becomes obvious just how lazy those attempts are because the “comedy” consists only of the most obvious, lowbrow, and effortless things. Things like the zombie vampire clowns farting whenever they get killed or giving each of the watchmen some quirk (like the black guy who can’t quite seem to say “black things” without screwing them up). The comedy is almost as bad as the horrible fake teeth everyone is using, and maybe even worse when it’s coming from James Remar, who really should have known better. It’s like one of those awful spoof movies, but I really don’t think that’s what it was trying to be. At any rate, there’s no reason to see it, and it offers no redeeming value of any kind.