Joseph reviews three films from Brazil’s Fantaspoa film festival, all of which are well worth seeking out!
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Sylvia Caminer
Follow Her blends together an entertaining mash-up of horror, a modern version of classic screwball comedy, and suspenseful mystery as it takes a satirical stab at social media, particularly of the monetized variety. Jess Peters (Dani Barker, who also wrote the screenplay), better known as J-Peeps to her many live-streaming followers, has made a reputation for herself online as someone who records her interactions with fetishists. She takes care to hide their faces, until one time she slips up and decides to let the views rack up rather than removing the video because they could send her into a higher money-making category. In need of cash because her father and stepmother are selling the apartment that she lives in, Jess answers an ad placed by filmmaker Tom Brady (Luke Cook), who is looking for someone to help him finish a Hitchcockian screenplay. He is a tad eccentric, to put it mildly, and within hours of meeting, the two find themselves entangled in a knot of role playing, mind games, sexual attraction, and cat-and-mouse. Director Sylvia Caminer does an admirable job of keeping events puzzling and fast-paced, and Barker and Cook have dynamite chemistry together. Pitching that the proceedings are supposed to have a Hitchcokian feel is a very tall order, and though Caminer and Barker don’t quite reach those heights (Who does?), they do get pretty close to flirting with Brian De Palma territory, which itself is no easy feat.
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
The final chapter in director Takashi Shimizu’s “Village Trilogy,” Ox-Head Village (Japan, 2022) finds high schooler Kanon (Kôki, who gives a solid cinematic debut performance) traveling to the titular horror hamlet to solve the mystery of who a girl who looks exactly like her — who was seen on a viral clip that featured that girl and two others who disappeared while investigating an eerie abandoned building — is, or was. Shimizu blends folk horror with social media and crafts a creepy tale loaded with suspense and surprises. Following Howling Village (2019; which Liz reviewed here) and Suicide Forest Village (2021), Ox-Head Village is a fine updating of classic-era urban-legend J-horror from one of the original masters, the filmmaker behind Ju-on: The Grudge (2002), Marebito (2004), and many other shockers. Shimizu proves that there is still life in the subgenre.
Yellow Dragon’s Village
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Yugo Sakamoto
This movie rules! It’s an absolute blast and a shoe-in for my top 10 films of the year list, regardless of genre. Speaking of genre, this one hops seamlessly from one to another, and I would hate to spoil any of its fun, so know that I recommend going in as cold as possible to this one. I even advise giving the trailer below a pass so that all of the film’s surprises hit you as hard as possible. Here’s the set-up: a group of university-age friends — Yuki (Atomu Mizuishi), Takanori (Takuya Matsumoto), Urara (Mayu Suzuki), Nagomi (Yuni Matsuri), Kento (Inou Masayuki), Keisaku (Yoshiki Umemoto), Makoto (Shioka Ishizuka), and Mutsuo (Kenta Osaka) — set off one morning on a rather impromptu camping trip. After requisite vehicle problems in a remote rural area, the friends find themselves invited to be dinner and overnight guests of the titular village, whose residents worship a quite unusual god. Sound familiar? Fear not! Director Yugo Sakamoto (Baby Assassins; Hangman’s Knot) has loads of surprises in store for viewers. Yellow Dragons Village starts out seeming like a found-footage film with yet another bunch of annoying twentysomethings on a doomed road trip, but the found-footage element is dropped after mere minutes, and the genre-hopping and jaw-dropping character arcs take over. There’s no shortage of horror and violence, and Sakamoto sprinkles in some laughs and amusing twists, as well. If you are a genre-film fan, Yellow Dragon’s Village (Japan, 2021) is sure to leave you with a smile on your face and that ecstatic feeling of why you love movies.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Follow Her, Ox-Head Village, and Yellow Dragons Village screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022. For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.