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NYAFF ’08 Recap: Evil Babies, Gore Police, Action Boys and More

Earlier this week I blogged my excitement for this year’s NYAFF. Thanks to my BFF, The Barnes, I ended up seeing four films that thrilled me and made visions of decapitated villains dance in my dreams.

Two of the four films that I saw at NYAFF were based on Japanese manga. Reviews are after the jump:

Tamami: The Baby’s Curse
This film is based on based on a Kazuo Umezzu manga, one of Japan’s greatest horror manga creators.

In Tamami, a fifteen year old orphan named Yoko is suddenly brought to her birth family where she discovers her mother is insane, the house is ruled by a creepy housekeeper and her father is a professor of… something or other. We never really find out. Oh yes, and there is a monster baby named Tamami who is actually the same age as Yoko. Tamami may be small but this doesn’t prevent her from hunting her new sister, aided by a giant claw hand along with the ability to fly like a horrid bat from rafters and through trees.

Even the house is a chilling character of it’s own, complete with a room full of scary dolls. If you are a fan of 80’s horror kitsch then you will definitely love Tamami: The Baby’s Curse. From the candelabras, creaking doors, soft-focus composition and buckets of blood – there are enough thrills to keep you jumping in your seats and chuckling at the bizarre but routine choices the soon-to-be-dead often make.

There is one scene on it’s own that is enough for me to recommend that you add Tamami to your nexflix que as soon as possible: a genius parody of the E.T. moonlight/bicycle silhouette. Trust me, just get the movie and check it out. You will thank me later, and you will do it with chocolate or mixed .mp3 .zip file downloads.

Tokyo Gore Police
This film is an homage to the 80’s & 90’s sci-fi films made by Paul Verhoven (RoboCop, Starship Troopers) that satirize the future and the operations of law enforcement and the military.

Eihi Shiina of Audition stars as Raku, the top female police agent of the Tokyo Gore Police, a private corporation just like the future Detroit cops in the RoboCop series.
Married to the job, she hunts down “engineers” (much like blade runner Rick Deckard hunted replicants). When the “engineers” are wounded, their bodies form unique & deadly weapons around the wound. They are very difficult to kill and are all (save the ultimate “engineer”) blood crazed madmen and women.

In addition to hunting the “engineers”, Raku is on a quest to avenge her father, a former policeman who was murdered right in front of her. Aside from the insane effects and fight scenes, the best part about Tokyo Gore Police are the hilarious television commercials promoting everything from corporate suicide to teens slitting their wrists with the latest cartoon-branded wrist cutters (makes your blood taste sweeter!).

The gore police propaganda videos and billboards are also entertaining and reminded me of the Starship Troopers commercials.Along the way, Raku herself undergoes a startling physical and emotional transformation that leads to an epic showdown.

The best part, for me, about Tokyo Gore Police is a beautifully shot scene where Raku, after being manhandled by a pervert on a subway, drags the creep into a dark alley and orchestrates the most cinematically breathtaking decapitation I have ever seen.

If I could get a still from every shot in that scene I would wallpaper my room with it. In fact, I may figure out a way to do that.

Action Boys
This low budget but heartfelt documentary follows five young Korean stuntmen from their audition tapes all the way through stunt school. We then follow them out into the world and onto the sets of some of Korea’s most famous movies.

– (image taken with my cell at a weird setting from the front row at NYAFF)

Actor/stuntman Kwak Jin-Seock, producer Lee Ji-Youn and director Jung Byung-Gil, producer were present for a Q&A after the film ended.

Let’s just say that after watching this film, any remaining fantasies I had about being a stunt woman are now completely gone. Watching these poor guys lose teeth, break limbs and spurt real blood from real wounds given to them by untrained actors was enough for me to decide that behind the camera is where I belong.

There was a surprising element to this doc that I wasn’t expecting but really enjoyed – the back stories behind each of the characters varied wildly and were more interesting (to me) than their stunt careers.

An example of that is from Kwak Jin-Seock, who was present at the Q&A. He is a former hairdresser who we find out chose that profession after falling in love with Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice. How this had anything to do with being hairdresser I had no idea, until he explained that he then saw Edward Scissorhands and how all of Edward’s love for the fair Winona poured through his wildly snipping scissor hands onto her head. I can’t explain it the way he did but it was so touching and bizarre that I would have watched the documentary just for that single scene.

Kwak Jin-Seock is no longer stunting and is now acting in regional theater and running his own online clothing site.

This film is a reinvention of the Japanese 70’s action icon Sasori (The Female Scorpion in Female Convict 701 Scorpion) from the controversial 80’s and 90’s HK Category III films.

The Sasori character is also known for influencing Quention Tarantino when he created the Kill Bill films.

Young Nami leads a charmed life, that is until her boyfriend’s father is brutally murdered in front of her and in a cruel twist she is forced to kill her boyfriend’s sister right in front of him. This sounds confusing and it only becomes more so as she is dragged to an all female prison that has all the brutal violence of 1960’s & 70’s lesbian pulp novels times a hundred but without any of the girl-on-girl-action (sigh). There are some incredible female fight sequences, including a nightmarish scene that involves the metal headplate of another inmate.

Nami eventually escapes through her supposed death, after her carcass is dumped by guards in a forest. She is rescued by a mysterious stranger, the corpse collector, who after realizing that she isn’t dead nurses her back to health and helps to transform her into the ultimate killing machine of vengeance. She meticulously begins hunting down and killing the people responsible for her incarceration but eventually runs into her lost love, who through hypnotherapy has forgotten all about his painful past, including her.

Watching Nami leaving a trail of blood in her wake is especially enhanced by her amazing outfits. How do women kick so much ass in vinyl tops and six inch stilettos? I don’t know, but they look amazing doing it and that is what matters.

Although I enjoyed watching Sasori, the ending was disappointing, especially for someone who has never seen the original films it was based on to provide some sort of context. You are built to a climax through several overlapping subplots and then left without any real resolution. Since this was the last film of the festival I had slightly higher standards for it than with the others, but in any case I enjoyed the experience of watching Sasori and will probably get it again on neflix when it becomes available.

Some films that I wanted to see at the NYAFF but didn’t get to were:

*X-CROSSfeatures a fresh-faced Lolita wielding a five-foot-long pair of scissors

*THIS WORLD OF OURSwritten/directed produced by a 19-year-old hikikomori (literally an anti-social individual who locks themselves in their room and won’t come out)

*SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (costarring Quention Tarantino) – speaking a “Hooked on Phonics” version of English, the cast wades into this cross-cultural mash-up with guns blazing, slaughtering anything that moves and taking no prisoners in this off the hook Western

*CHANBAR BEAUTYa zombie romp complete with bikini girls with samurai swords and motorcycle mamas with machine guns

*THE BUTCHERa low-budget, digital feature by unknown Korean director Kim Jin-Won shot alternately from the perspective of the torturers and their victim

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