South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) — Asia’s largest genre film fest — will take what it calls a hybrid approach for its July 9–16 run. Because of COVID-19 concerns, 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.”
As always, BIFAN is offering a treasure trove of intriguing horror films. Here are five that I am looking forward to watching at the fest, with program notes from the official BIFAN site.
Tomaz is a homeless man in London who suffers from PTSD from his military days. A kind nun offers him a position to be a live-in caretaker of an old house occupied by a young woman named Magda and her dying mother, tucked away in isolation. As Tomaz settles into his job, he is torn between having romantic feelings towards Magda and the feeling that something sinister is taking place in this isolated house and that it is too late for him to leave, either way.
Romola Garai is an award-winning actress turned writer-director whose feature debut Amulet defies any cinematic conventions. Her goal isn’t just making a formulaic horror tale; rather, she takes chances playing with human emotions in the film, getting maximum heart-warming, repulsive, and astonishing performances from each character. These characters provide multifaceted performances, led by Carla Juri as Magda and Alec Secareanu as tortured soul Tomaz, leading to their interactions accumulating toward a shocking closure. Some may find the first half difficult to follow due to the film’s deliberately slow and fragmented nature, but patience will be rewarded with one of the most original horror films to come out in recent times. (Jongsuk Thomas Nam)
Deathcember Vol. 2
In December, there is a tradition that Western children desire. This is the Advent calendar. From December 1st to Christmas, they can raise their expectations by opening 24 small rooms with small gifts hidden, one at a time. Born on the Advent calendar, this is an omnibus collection of 24 directors from around the world, each making a 10-minute short. From science fiction to haunted houses, from slasher to gore animation, it is a movie that encompasses a variety of subgenres and is a perfect summer Christmas gift for horror movie fans. Don’t underestimate these short stories. A considerable number of these films are horrifying. Don’t get up off your seat once the ending credits start. The BONUS short film follows.
Deathcember Vol.2 includies directors Lee Sang-woo from Korea, Milan Todorovic of Zone of the Dead (2009), Lucky Mckee, and Julian Richards from Daddy’s Girl, which screened at BIFAN 2019. (Jin Park)
Alison, who has an F-cup bra size, feels the weight of her unusually big breasts and is terrified by the way men look at her, so she goes to a cosmetic clinic with her disapproving mother and reluctant boyfriend Michael. Just before she gets her dream breast reduction to cup size B, she has to escape from zombies created through the clinic’s clandestine experiments.
Set in a cosmetic clinic, where body damage is usually most welcome, Yummy follows a standard route of classic comic zombie splatter movies: a feast of intestines fill the screen like exploding firecrackers, with severed body parts flying around, compounding the satisfaction expected of a typical splatter movie. Contrary to the title, watching Yummy on a full stomach is not such a good idea; there’s plenty of vomit on screen, so it’ll be hard to avoid chucking up, too! (Jin Park)
Julia, wife of a wealthy lord living near the Iguazu Falls, has nightmares for several days. The lord builds a fence to ward off the indigenous people, the Guarani tribe, but Julia is still anxious about her son Manuel’s safety. One day Manuel suddenly disappears, and when searching for him, Julia runs into her maid, Kerana, who was believed to have died one year before, under the falls.
Set in a mountainous area of Argentina in the early 20th century, The Returned focuses on Eurocentric hypocrisy, timeless motherhood, and colonial experience in South America using typical horror movie subject matter, such as native people seized with evil spirits, a woman with a nervous breakdown, and a missing child. This three-episode narrative is led by women’s powerful solidarity shared through having children. Julia expresses the essence of the film through an image of confrontation, stabbing a knife to the ruling western power. (Jin Park)
Leap of Faith
Even after its release in 1973, The Exorcist is a truly fascinating and frightening film deserving its plateau as the most shocking horror film ever made. It is the first-ever mainstream film about demonic possession, religion, and faith, opening the door for the creation of a new occult genre still popular today. The first horror film ever to be nominated as Best Picture at The Oscars, its director William Friedkin also became a household name with this and his previous work, The French Connection. Alexandre O. Philippe brings a unique method to learn more about the film and the filmmaker through this one of a kind documentary film.
Mr. Philippe, whose heralded previous works include Memory: The Origin of Alien and 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, brings a lyrical and spiritual cinematic essay on The Exorcist utilizing an up close and personal interview with Mr. Friedkin. He lets him discuss his iconic film then creates witty pictures of narration with archival footage that works superbly. As a single interviewee, Mr. Friedkin is able to add to the mythology of his classic film as well as his illustrious career through his mind’s eye; it is up to viewers to appreciate the film and his life. We are in for a fantastic ride, for sure. (Jongsuk Thomas Nam)
For more information about Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, visit https://www.bifan.kr/eng/.