Not Quite Dead Yet and Hotel Poseidon are screening as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival that runs Aug. 5 to Aug. 25.
Not Quite Dead Yet
In Shinji Hamasaki’s Not Quite Dead Yet, the CEO of a pharmaceutical company dies after taking an experimental drug meant to temporarily kill its user for 48 hours. As a result, his daughter Nanese (Suzu Hirose) is forced into his role, despite her desires to do anything else with her life (her main goal being to head a successful metal band). However, when Nanese learns of a possible hostile takeover of the company by her father’s enemies, she hatches an elaborate plan to prevent her father’s cremation and bring him back from the dead.
Not Quite Dead Yet is a charming film with its fair share of indelible humor. But it is also a bit too cutesy for my blood. Given its wholesomeness, the film’s use of a metal aesthetic is somewhat ironic, even as it fits into Nanese’s character archetype of a rebellious young person (an archetype which takes some warming up to). Ultimately, this is a family comedy with a lot of personality that overstays its welcome slightly. But I can’t deny that the film, and Suzu Hirose’s performance, won me over in the end. I was even charmed by the incessant joke of the repeated “Death!” slogan.
Not Quite Dead Yet: B-
It took me some time to figure out exactly what it was about Hotel Poseidon that rubbed me the wrong way. It is certainly competently constructed from first time feature director Stefan Lernous. The set design is great, effectively illustrating the disgusting environment we will be subject to for 90 minutes. And there are a handful of shot choices which are expertly executed.
Nevertheless, I did not find the movie enjoyable. Essentially every character in this is a cipher with no discernible goals or motivations save for what the script decides for them in the moment, an excusable tact given that the film is presenting, to some extent, as surrealism. We follow Dave (Tom Vermeir), the owner of a closed down hotel he inherited from his father and whose personality is kept largely under wraps.
The film eventually comes to a head in its final act with two major set pieces. The first is a party which is more or less mother! in a hotel bar. The second is the film’s strangest, and most intriguing, move. It involves the imprisonment of Dave by a few other characters, and it is the closest the film comes to achieving narrative coherence. Still, the issue remains that all of these characters are so closed off that the actions they take have little impact. Watching Dave meander around a hotel that appears more and more like a surreal, waking nightmare proves to be not altogether interesting.
Hotel Poseidon is weirdness for its own sake, eluding tangible meaning with its closed off cast of characters. Sometimes this formula can work—the films of Yorgos Lanthimos come to mind—but these successful “weird wave” movies perform a tonal balancing act that is more complex than the films themselves let on. I don’t think Poseidon makes it across that tightrope.
Hotel Poseidon: C+
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)