Fantasia 2022 Capsule Reviews 2
Compulsus, What to Do with the Dead Kaiju, Mercenaries from Hong Kong
What to do with the Dead Kaiju? (Satoshi Miki, 2022)
This kaiju film (without a living Kaiju) gets lots of credit for a fantastic premise. The kind of idea that makes people who have seen their share of kaiju films wonder, “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” Well with the countless kaiju films and countless big monster fights, many of them occurring in Tokyo, what happens to all those dead Kaiju corpses? I’ve never seen Godzilla pick up his latest conquest and carry off with it. He just leaves it behind and scampers back into the ocean. And yet in the next film Tokyo is clean of any kaiju leftovers and everything is back to normal (actually, a sequel to this could be, “How do they rebuild Tokyo so quickly?”). This is the premise of What to do with the Dead Kaiju?”. As the film begins a kaiju who has been terrorizing Tokyo has mysteriously died, collapsed in a twisted mess of contorted limbs in a riverbed. After a brief period of happiness that this terrorizing force is dead, people begin to fret over the impact of this huge carcass, which is proving to be a different type of threat. With the huge amount of gaseous build-up in it body, what will happen the carcass explodes? Will the gasses when released in the air be toxic for humans? Does it contain any nuclear aftermath? Where it recalls Shin Godzilla is in how the government reaction to Godzilla’s presence proves less than efficient. The bickering between various levels of government over whose responsibility it is to dispose of the carcass, or who will benefit from it (think of the tourism opportunities!) makes What to do with the Dead Kaiju? an engaging blend of kaiju parody and social commentary.
Compulsus (Tara Thorne, 2021)
Compulsus is unique in that while it is a rape revenge film it is works remarkably well also a lesbian romance where the love is born out of a shared sense of injustice by the leading lesbian couple. Lesley Smith is awesome as Wally, a spoken word poet who slowly slips into a double life of female avenger/folk hero. Kathleen Dorian is her bisexual lover Lou, and her two straight besties are Mackenzie (Koumbie) and Kinnon (Kathryn Macormack). The other character of note is Wally’s sister Dev (Hilary Adams) who we only see in one scene but is a constant presence through phone messages with Wally. What’s especially interesting about this film is how tightly focused it is around the viewpoint (and psyche) of the female. Shore directs the male characters to be largely invisible. The only men we see (although they are rarely ‘seen’) are potential aggressors who become victims of Wally’s vigilante attacks. And all the men’s facial identities are obscured by lighting, clothes they wear (a hoodie), darkness or obscured framing. Men are de-objectified. In a world run by men they are stripped of their usual power in what here is depicted as a female-centric world. And director Tara Thorne sculpts every aspect of her film, from performance to character identity to visuals, to underscore the film’s strong political statement. There have been a lot of post #metoo horror films released in the past several years that give women space to explore changing gender dynamics, but Compulsus really stands out as a political cry, a call to arms for women to unite in the struggle against their male oppressors (and the film is smart to include men as victims too of excessive patriarchal entitlement). Without giving away anything, the Brechtian ending which sees the characters step beyond the fourth wall and directly address the viewer is meant as an unsettling call to arms rather than a comforting feel good ending (though the ending also feels pretty kick ass).
Mercenaries from Hong Kong (Wong Jing, 1982)
Count yourself lucky (and smart!) if you caught the 35mm midnight screening of the totally batshit martial arts, action, buddy film Mercenaries from Hong Kong. Good bad guys meet bad guys with money and honor at stake. The plot recalls the classic “round up the gang” scenario of The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, and The Dirty Dozen, while foreshadowing the same dynamic found in the contemporary Fast & Furious franchise. Ti Lung as Luo Li is the hero and is a safe bet to be the only one who gets out alive from a supercharged mission that involves breaking into a criminal compound in the jungles of Cambodia to kidnap bad guy Naiwen (Phillip Ko) for a pot of gold being offered by rich and beautiful daughter of a recently murdered tycoon, played by Yue Wong. As to be expected, people and motives are not what they appear, so be ready for twists and double crosses. Great fights, vehicular chases and crashes and wild and wooly stunts and a whole assortment of weapons, from steel rods to nunchucks to swords to bazookas. And lots of fists and feet. Capped off with a great final freeze frame of our hero walking off into a (literally) blazing sunset (I won’t spoil things by revealing what he is carrying).