Thursday, September 13, 2012

MOTELx'12, day one: "Vampire", "The Butterfly Room" and "REC 3: Genesis"

I opened my viewership on MOTELx 2012 with what promised to be a vampire drama with a unique touch of sociological background - the modern online relationships and the sadly timeless suicide. Vampire (2012), by Shunji Iwai, navigates those seas and unfolds the story of a human being apparently obsessed with drinking human blood - he's no vegan like the Cullens. It feels somewhere between a ritualistic experience and a vice. He goes into an online discussion group, Side by Cide, arranges a suicide pact, preferably with a girl, and convinces her to die first by draining her to a corpse. Any supernatural moments vaporized  at twilight while the camera work and the art department did a good job on keeping it interestingly realistic. But that's when the piano didn't go on a loop, or the minimalist transcendental slow motions stalled the pace even more than many boring dialogues, or incomprehensible slanted shots threw globules of randomness on this often anemic movie. Although it pushed up really dark-funny moments and even grasped a worthy gloomy sweetness between Simon and Ladybird, there were too many underexplored characters and angles, certainly because it tried to cover way too much than its 120 minutes could afford. It never had a proper focus, never picked up something small to try to convey something bigger, and thus never foresighted the land of moral I felt it wanted to come ashore at. The Japanese girl provided a very intense scene from which new dramatic questions could have been raised (they sparkled) on the value of life, death and assisted suicide. But it never took off organically and had to force its way in with cheesy moments defining the character arcs and evoking a sloppy irony in the end (being caught for giving blood).

The evening went by with The Butterfly Room (2012), written by Jonathan Zarantonello, Paolo Guerrieri and Luigi Sardielli, directed by the first. The thriller began by setting a fine tone with its geometrical capturing of the apartments, the mysterious assassin vibe from an amazing Barbara Steele and the dead delicacy of dozens of colorful butterflies hanging on a wall of a forbidden room. Then the plot takes two ways: present and flashbacks covering the last days before the beginning of the film. They mirror each other and rhyme with the wicked backstory of the main character. Aesthetically amateur and structurally dispensable, the storyline of the flashback turned out to be miles more interesting than the main one. Steele's character was more genuinely flawed, the girl Alice was absolutely fascinating and intriguing, their relationship and the surprising state of global affairs evolved into a bizarre contrivance of love, obsession, paranoia and blackmail. The present didn't care for no subtlety and relied on overdramatic exposition and scenes that balanced between tense and stupid (I hated the way music was handled). When the two stories came together in the butterfly room, it was visually great but no sooner did the resolution destroy everything with a forced fatality just like "Vampire".

I shall go to bed claiming REC 3: Genesis (2012) was the surprise of the day. I loved the first movie and didn't watch the second one - I rarely trust unplanned sequels. But this was the opening ceremony and I had a scratch behind my hear wanting to know the origins of the virus. I was expecting the usual dim found-footage visuals, the religious mystique that bubbled by the end of the first part and supposedly strengthened during the second one and answers for who the Medeiros girl was. A prequel, with all it takes. Well, turn around and bon voyage. Not only "Genesis" stands for the biblical event the priest evokes to justify the zombie apocalypse happening during a marriage, as the story happens at the same time as that of the first movie (the dog is the link), as there's seldom found footage aesthetics and as this is a pure horror-comedy where scary slow paced shadows shifts turns with gory action. Despite the uncountable cheesy love moments, how can you not laugh when a newly-wedded groom, wearing a stolen third century army of St. George, crunches the face of a drunk zombie with all sorts of kitchen cookware? Or when Beatrix Kiddo finally gets a teammate, a short-haired, pale, pissed bride on her white dress, walking on heels and carrying a yellow chainsaw?

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