Daily reviews of some of the best and worst movies to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival
The Skin I LIve In
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet
If there was an award handed out for the most perverted movie to appear at TIFF this year, then The Skin I Live In would be a major contender. Though the festival never shies away from graphic horror, there aren’t really any specific images that I can point to in The Skin I Live In that are particularly shocking.
Much loved Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has described his film as “a horror story without scares or frights,” and I completely see what he means. There are no big jump scares here and very little blood. Instead, we simply get a story with such depraved twists that you’ll find yourself deeply disturbed and thinking about it for days. For a guy who has never attempted this genre before and doesn’t necessarily plan on revisiting it again, that’s a pretty damn impressive achievement.
The film reunites Almodovar with Antonio Banderas, who the director discovered long before Hollywood. They had a bit of a falling out when Banderas left Spain and Almodovar has written such a disturbed character for him to play here that I can’t help but feel that it’s almost a bit of a private joke.
Banderas plays a plastic surgeon with a beautiful girl secretly locked in a room in his house who he’s created a full body skin suit for and leers over constantly. I’d love to say more, but honestly it wouldn’t be fair. Rest assured that Banderas plays one of the most disturbed mad scientists I’ve ever seen on the big screen and does it with such a detached cool that you’ll never suspect how deep his madness goes until it’s too late.
Almodovar brings his typical flamboyant and colorful style to the project, which translates to the horror genre well. His almost fetishistic attention to detail when crafting images ensures that the tale is carefully constructed by the hands of a master in every frame. The Skin I Live In will take you on a wild ride in ways that you’d never expect.
The film should both expand the director’s audience and scar viewers attending the latest Almodovar movie unaware just what they are getting themselves into. This isn’t the type of film that wins awards, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have a more memorable night at the movies in 2011 (whether you like it or not.)
Director: Huh Jong-ho
Stars Jung Jae-young, Jeon Do-youn
Over the last decade or so South Korea has been responsible for some of the finest thrillers to emerge worldwide, like I Saw The Devil, The Host, or the soon-to-be remade (or ruined) masterpiece Old Boy.
Countdown falls firmly into that tradition starring a no-nonsense Korean ass-kicker in a suit on a mission with an offbeat dark comedy tone. The character in question is a debt collector who learn that he has liver cancer and will die in three months. He sets out on a mission to find a donor and ends up with a skilled lady con artist as his target, which gets him entangled in all of her various debt, feuds, and bad blood.
For about 100 minutes Countdown is a tense and oddly hilarious thriller that fits in well with the rest of the recent brilliant batch of Korean thrillers. Then just when the movie is about to hit its climax, it unexpectedly transforms into a weepy melodrama about being a good parent that feels completely false. If everything before the odd ending weren’t so tense and exciting, I’d write the movie off entirely.
As it stands, it’s a strong piece of entertainment with a rather major flaw at the finish line. Countdown is the directorial debut of Huh Jong-ho, so I’d say the misstep is forgivable. Hopefully he learned from the mistake and will make something a little more consistent next time. The guy is definitely a talent to watch and flawed first films are so commonplace that his glaring error is completely forgivable this time.