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men and chicken

Posted on November 18, 2015

Top Five Films Screened at the Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival

Dawn

I just got back from a weekend at the Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival, where some amazing films were in the lineup. Thanks to Hughes Barbier for putting together such a stimulating event.

Here are my top five, all of which you should watch when they become commercially available:

1. The Invitation, directed by Karyn Kusama (USA). Grade: A+

Michael Gingold of Fangoria introduced The Invitation at IIFFF, saying it was one of the best horror films of the last couple of years. I agree (though I still think the standout horror film of 2015 is David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, which I review here).

Gingold also said that the less you know about The Invitation going into it, the better—and I wholeheartedly agree with that too. I (purposefully) hadn’t read any reviews of the film ahead of time, and so I got to experience the disconcerting and disorienting events just as the protagonist did. It’s very difficult to write anything about the film without giving too much away and thus spoiling it, so I guess the two principal things I want to convey here are: (a) see the film (which will apparently get general release in March 2016); and (b) don’t read any reviews of it before you do.

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Posted on November 14, 2015

Men and Chicken (2015): Reviews from #IIFFF

Dawn

104 min   | Anders Thomas Jenson     |   (Denmark)   |   2015

Grade: A

Men and Chicken is written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, who also wrote and directed Flickering Lights (2000) and Adam’s Apples (2005). While I liked both of his earlier films, Men and Chicken is vastly better, my favorite film at #IIFFF so far.

It’s hard to categorize this brilliant film: it’s a family drama and a black comedy, as well as a horror film. It’s about a mad scientist (aptly named Evilio Thanatos) and about creating monsters. Men and Chicken inevitably evokes Frankenstein (as all mad scientist films do), but, still more directly, it echoes H. G. Wells’ novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and the film based on it, The Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932). The Island of Lost Souls, and Wells’ novel, deal particularly with a scientist bent on creating human-animal hybrids—also the project of Thanatos. His name (the word Freud used to signal the death drive) says everything about the success (and the costs) of his experiments.

In the aftermath of their father’s death, two brothers, Gabriel (David Dencik) and Elias (Madds Mikkelsen), discover that he was not in fact their biological father. They travel to the Island of Ork to find their real father, but Evilio Thanatos, it turns out, is dead—which Gabriel discovers in a moment evocative of Lila’s discovery of Norman Bates’ mother in Psycho, another film about the creation of monsters. The three other sons of Thanatos—Franz, Josef, and Gregor (names evocative of Franz Kafka, the protagonist of “The Metamorphosis,” and Josef Mengele)—are still alive, however, and so Gabriel and Elias decide to stay with what’s left of their family, in an abandoned asylum that is also home to chickens, pigs, goats, rabbits, and a massive bull named Isak.

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