With concern for the current COVID-19 climate and an eye on the future, South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) — Asia’s largest genre film fest — has announced a hybrid approach for its July 9–16 run. The fest will screen 174 features and short films from 42 countries on cinema screens, and offer 69 of those movies on a Korean online platform.
According to the fest’s official website, “BIFAN 2020 would like to present the blueprint for future film festivals: a ‘hybrid’ film festival that keeps pace with the changing media environment, a festival that effectively combines offline and online events . . . Overseas directors who cannot travel to Korea will be meeting audiences by introducing their films and giving talks online.”
Among the 89 features on offer this year from BIFAN are loads of terrific horror films. Here are five that yours truly is looking forward to catching at the fest, with program notes from the official BIFAN site.
Maya, who grew up without knowing who her parents were, learns that she is to inherit an old mansion in the hometown she left a long time ago. Hiding her identity, she visits the town with her friend Dini to get more information from the locals, but as she is gradually exposed, the girls are threatened with horrible deaths. What is the curse that has haunted the village for years? How will Maya and Dini escape with their lives?
This latest feature from the master of Indonesian genre film, and winner of the 2009 BIFAN Competition section Grand Prize with The Forbidden Door, Joko Anwar, was co-produced by CJ ENM. Impetigore is a well-made horror with all the mystical and grotesque tones of the film’s main subject matter, Indonesian traditional puppet theater. (Ellen Y. D. Kim)
JC is a young Filipino man forced to take over a remote motel in the wilderness of the northern U.S.A., owned by his tyrant father. Assumed to be providing shelter to illegal immigrants on their way to Canada, JC and the guests soon discover the motel is a home to a dark and ancient spirit. As the blizzard traps the guests, their desperate fight for survival begins.
The second feature from Bradley Liew, a Philippine-based Malaysian director of critical hit debut Singing in the Graveyard, Motel Acacia is an ambitious horror tale combining Filipino tree demon folklore with the current issue of anti-immigration policies of the U.S.A. JC is torn between seeking acceptance from his estranged right-wing father and doing the right thing for the unfortunate immigrants. In the end, we see that true evil lies not in the form of a monster but in greedy human nature. A coproduction between several countries in multiple continents, Motel Acacia is also an ex-official selection of BIFAN’s NAFF It Project. (Jongsuk Thomas Nam)
As a school festival is about to begin, high school teacher Shimobe shows a group of 36 students a video in the AV room. The grotesque and depressing contents of the video lead to the suicide of a student and confusion among the rest of the group. Shimobe then reveals he has hypnotized them to commit suicide following certain signals in the video. Chaos erupts as the students realize there are more than 100 signals and only one student can survive and be released from the spell, but on the condition that the rest of the group dies.
Signal 100 creates its own unique tone by adding the interesting idea of hypnosis to the Battle Royal-like premise of killing classmates to survive. The game of survival as they go through the 100 signal-induced deaths presents a diverse spectrum of entertainment, while alluding to the state of confusion in adolescents on the brink of adulthood. (Martin Lee)
Members of female punk rock band engage in a rowdy brawl with local hoodlums during their bar gig and spend the night at an auto repair shop with a kind passerby offering to fix their broken-down van. Upon waking up, they realize rather than getting their car fixed, they are in an arena made of junkyard cars and are mutated to be modern-day gladiators with mechanical parts replacing their limbs. Surrounded by a bloodthirsty crowd and a local dictator named The Emperor, bloody battles ensue as they are thrown into the survival of their lives while they try to find the means to escape.
Spare Parts is Andrew Thomas Hunt’s second feature effort since his acclaimed 2009 Sweet Karma as he pays the tribute to 1980s dystopian action thrillers in convincing ways, such as a modern-day Gladiator. Set in an auto-wrecking yard, the film’s atmosphere brings genuine apocalyptic suspense, and fight sequences are well-choreographed and thrilling in a convincing way. Members of Ms. 45, the punk rock band, endure physically demanding roles in excellent fashion, effectively bringing tension and beauty throughout the film. Spare Parts is not to be missed for anyone with a craving for B-movies and action films with ample violence and gore. (Jongsuk Thomas Nam)
Tasya Vos is an expert hired assassin who operates by implanting her consciousness into others and forcing them to commit the actual killing. She’s best at it and is in high demand, yet she wants some normalcy in her life as well, like getting her estranged husband and child back in her life. Such distraction begins to show instability in her business and when she is assigned to inhabit the body of Colin, things go sideways in violent and bloody fashion.
Seven years after his shocking, bloody feature directorial debut with Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg comes back swinging with his tour-de-force body-horror film Possessor as he relentlessly stabs audiences’ collective eyes like Tasya stabs her victims. If there’s a film to cause forced trauma then this is it; multiple ghastly imageries are shown through film’s superb visual effects and will no doubt linger on in viewers’ mind, including an unforgettable abstract grapple between Tasya (played wonderfully by Andrea Riseborough) and Colin (Christopher Abbott in the role of his life) within Colin’s mind. One of the most violent, extreme gore-fests to come out in recent years, Possessor is bound to be an instant classic for anyone with tastes in the horror genre. The Cronenberg name is well represented here and further greatness is to be expected from it. (Jongsuk Thomas Nam)
For more information about this year’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, visit http://www.bifan.kr/eng/.