Sitges 2009: The Romero dissapointment

October 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Another beautiful day here in Sitges. It’s Friday, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The festival has been awesome so far – the films are great, the screening quality is impressive, and so is the audience. Pretty much every single movie at the Auditorium attracts huge crowds – there are at least 700-800 people even for the midday screenings, while the evening screenings are always sold out, and that’s not an easy task – the main theater has almost 1.500 seats. What I really love about the audience is the way they behave. I’ve already seen almost 20 movies here, and I never heard a phone ring during the screenings. Not once. Everyone applauds when it’s necessary, and people really get involved in the stories. After all of this, I doubt I’ll ever enjoy a horror film in Romanian theaters from now on.

No press conferences today – actually there are a couple, but with Spanish directors, the kind of conferences foreign journalists don’t even bother to attend to, because they aren’t translated.

So, as soon as I got to Sitges (around noon), jumped straight in for the first film: George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead. I’m a huge fan of Romero’s zombie flicks, their originality, their political and social commentaries. This one has nothing. It’s by far Romero’s worst film of at least the last decade. It looks and feels more like a sequel attempt by a beginner director, than an original film from the master himself. The story surrounds a bunch of guards (those who stopped the van of the kids doing the documentary of the last Romero flick, Diary of the Dead), and their attempts to find an area not infested with zombies. They eventually find an isolated island, but stumble in the middle of a useless war between two local Irish gang leaders and their silly feud. One of them thinks the zombies should be killed, the other doesn’t, and they each want to prove the other wrong by increasingly horrible means. Add a rebellious daughter (and her dead twin sister – in one of the silliest “revelations” I’ve seen lately) to the mix – and you get the full picture of a disappointing movie in which the only good thing is the variety of ways to kill zombies. However, if that’s all I’m gunning for, I’d rather wait for Zombieland. From Romero, I expected a lot more.

Cold Souls is another movie I was expecting more from. The premise is superbly inventive and original: a sad and hopeless Paul Giamatti, playing as himself, decides to use a service that gets rid of people’s souls, only to find out afterwards that his soul has been sent to Russia and might end up on the black market. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as interesting as the idea. Most of the time, the story feels hollow and meaningless, although all the elements were in place for something really fun and wild. Other than that, Paul Giamatti is as amazing as always, providing another proof of the great actor he is.

Next film, a Hong Kong thriller called Accident, produced by Johnnie To. A beautifully shot movie about a group of contract killers, that murder their targets by staging fancy accidents. However, things get complicated after a hit goes horribly wrong, and the team leader suspects he has been betrayed by his teammates. During a couple of the assassinations, I felt like watching a human Final Destination, with very inventive, but maybe a bit forced staging of accidents. The film looks great, with dark, convincing shots of the claustrophobic and busy metropolis. The story holds well together – the only thing that didn’t convince me were the characters, well underdeveloped. However, a good, fun watch.

Last film of the day, one of the most talked about low-budget horror movies of the year, Paranormal Activity. What, another film shot by the main character with a handy cam? Yep. But is it working? YEP. Just like Blair Witch, this couldn’t have been made otherwise. It works simply because shooting everything with a camera by the character makes everything look and feel real. And that’s the only huge asset this film has: it looks and feels real. That’s what makes it scary and intense, that’s what makes you feel for these characters. If your downstairs neighbor would buy a handy cam and start shooting his apartment, that’s how it would look like. The film is extremely effective, although most scares can be seen coming. There are however some that can’t, and they are really well done. The packed Auditorium (almost 1.500 people) literally screamed a couple of times, shrieked a few other times, and seemed really caught in the events. It’s hard not to – the film is very effective. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a very good flick for all horror enthusiasts.

In this report: Survival of the Dead 5/10, Cold Souls 6/10, Accident 6/10, Paranormal Activity 8/10.

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1 Comment

  1. bhuttu said,

    Din cum le-ai descris, cred ca mie mi-ar placea mai mult alea care nu ti-au placut tie. Big director, big budget bate no-budget handycam la orice ora. 🙂 Iar Cold Souls suna a un fel de Being John Malcovitch, care e tare.

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