Fantasia: July 25

Slackers get horrified in DIY drama Resolution, and Fantasia’s patented brand of Japanese insanity is explored in Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter.

by Malcolm Fraser
and Esther Splett


From slacker alien-invasion flick Monsters to the “mumblecore horror” movies of Adam Wingard (spotlighted at last year’s Fantasia), there’s been a recent micro-trend of meshing genre cinema with the tropes of DIY indie film. Resolution, from co-directors Justin Benson (who also wrote the script) and Aaron Scott Moorhead (also cinematographer), continues to explore this fertile ground with a satisfyingly unpredictable and suspenseful blend of genres.

Michael (Peter Cilella) travels to the countryside to visit his best friend Chris (Vinny Curran), who’s been on a self-destructive binge of hard drugs in a dilapidated shack. Michael has concluded he has to take matters in his own hands, so he handcuffs Vinny to a pole to force him to clean up. While not fending off Vinny’s irate drug dealers and pissed-off native neighbours (turns out the shack is on tribal grounds), Michael explores the surrounding area and discovers documentation showing the sinister fate of previous inhabitants—and, in an echo of Lynch’s Lost Highway and Haneke’s Caché, evidence that he and Vinny are also being watched.

When the big reveal comes, it’s a bit on the clever side. But if the buildup is more enjoyable than the payoff, that’s true of most suspense films. The two leads are great — Curran, in particular, provides a dark and sympathetic version of a Galiafanakis-esque “wacky best buddy” type — and the filmmakers are skilled at keeping us guessing and shifting in our seats. (MF) 7:45 p.m., Hall Theatre (1455 Maisonneuve W.)


Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter

Yasuharu Hasebe’s Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter is the third in a series of five girl-gang-themed 70s exploitation films, all starring the sultry Meiko Kaji, who became a major figure in later Japanese genre classics like Female Convict Scorpion and Lady Snowblood.

Unlike former entries in the Stray Cat Rock series that followed traditional Japanese genre templates, structuring themselves after yakuza gangster films, Sex Hunter models itself after foreign genres like the American Western — if Westerns were missing cows, horses, meaningful dramatic stakes and cohesive plots. Instead, we get Meiko Kaji smoldering under a jaunty Western inspired hat, drawn out 60s girl-pop song and dance sequences, psychedelic smoke-filled bars, a gang of racists who drive around in jeeps terrorizing the town, endless beatings, and “rape parties.”

The storyline is loosely driven by the tension between two small-town gangs — the Alleycats, a tough girl gang led by Mako (Kaji) and the Eagles, a gang of jeep-driving racists lorded over by the cackling, mego-maniacal Baron (Tatsuya Fuji). When one of the Alleycats spurns the advances of an Eagle by falling for the racially mixed, half-black Ichiro, an infuriated Baron terrorizes the town’s “half breeds” with brutal gang beatings, while staking out exclusive sexual access to the Alleycats.

There’s also a plot involving a mixed-race stranger, Kazuma (Rikiya Yasuoka), in search of his estranged sister, which never gelled into anything I was able to make sense of, leaving me completely bewildered.

Sex Hunter feels like shredding a Western into Japanese using Babel Fish and being left with a series of cliches and tough-guy posturing, with characters heavy-handedly announcing things like, “it’ll be like a Western!” before gunfights, pop-cultural archetypes wandering lost-at-sea in a stew of nonsense-gibberish.

A mostly tedious historical oddity, Sex Hunter is at least beautifully filmed and littered with odd verbal and visual pop-cultural references (Coca-Cola is a constant motif), embodying its own kind of foreign invasion. The stilted cultural quotations can sometimes be part of Sex Hunter‘s particular brand of obnoxious charm, like when Mako tries to leave Baron and he protests, “But I bought you a cool leather jacket! And perfume, too — Dior’s Diorissimo!” (ES) 8:30 p.m., Cinémathèque Québécoise (335 Maisonneuve E.)

If you’re free for an afternoon screening, see also our rave review of Black Pond, screening at 3:15 at the Hall Theatre (1400 Maisonneuve E.)

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