Continuing our coverage of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival, here are reviews of three festival selections: Hail to the Deadites, Dinner in America, and Monster Seafood Wars.
Hail to the Deadites
In documentary, the choice of subject can sometimes be the majority of the battle. A good documentary requires a great subject. Hail to the Deadites is a passionate film made by fans of The Evil Dead for fans of The Evil Dead. Unfortunately, its subject does not provide a wealth of content.
The film interviews fans and actors of The Evil Dead franchise. Occasionally, it mines a strong, compelling anecdote out of an interview subject. But most of this reads as non-essential viewing, even for Evil Dead fans. The community of fans surrounding the franchise seems strong and probably contains many lovely people. But a doc presenting a fandom to no meaningful end is a hard sell for me, a much more casual fan of Evil Dead than anyone in front or behind the camera of this film.
Hail to the Deadites: C
Monster Seafood Wars
Listen. Sometimes you’ve just gotta watch a giant octopus fight a giant squid. Then, you know, you just have to watch an elite (?) group of scientists and government officials shoot vinegar out of a cannon at a giant octopus, a giant squid, and a giant crab. And sometimes (sometimes!) you need to watch a giant robot cook box these seafood kaiju. It’s a necessity.
Monster Seafood Wars is a deliriously silly send-up of low budget kaiju movies. Partially established as a mockumentary, but also flashing back to events as they happened, the narrative structure is uneven. But it is hard to quibble with this when the film is as silly as this. I mean, the film pauses for well over 10 minutes to show people enjoying the scrumptious delicacy that is monster meat. Narrative coherence is not necessarily what director Minoru Kawasaki is going for.
The only times when the film loses its fun energy is when it focuses on a limp love triangle involving two insecure men posturing and ignoring a woman’s agency by making a bet to see who gets the right to date her. Less of this, and more people in kaiju costumes flailing their limbs at each other, and I would adore this humorous romp.
Jumbo Cook, people. Jumbo. Cook.
Monster Seafood Wars: B-
Dinner in America
“You really need to take it down a notch.” This is the mantra of 20-year-old Patty’s (Emily Skeggs) family. A somewhat ironic refrain for Dinner in America, a film which by any measurement is not concerned with taking anything down a notch, the phrase is indicative of Patty’s sheltered existence. This, perhaps, explains her arrested adolescence and love of punk music. Nevertheless, her childlike personality is a hindrance to the film, particularly after fellow punk and soon-to-be love interest Simon (Kyle Gallner) enters her orbit.
Using these two idiosyncratic characters, Dinner in America strikes an odd tone which is at once off-putting and fresh (one could, I guess, call it punk rock). The film flails around histrionically to keep up with them as they wreak havoc on a small suburban town. It is an engaging, if not unfulfilling, experience. On the plus side, the music is quite good, with one recurring earworm that really grew on me.
Dinner in America: C+