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AFI Fest 2017 Preview and Recommendations

Jason McDonald

The annual American Film Institute Festival kicks off this week on November 9th here in Los Angeles, California and if you’re in the area there are definitely a few interesting selections for us horror fans.  From premieres to conversations, here are a few recommendations to keep your eye on.

Of course the main thing people come to film festivals for are the films.  However, one of my favorite opportunities is to attend the conversations and special screenings where writers, directors, and actors turn up to discuss their craft and provide insight into filmmaking.  This year there are two big notable ones that horror film fans might be interested in attending.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner + Cinema’s Legacy: A Conversation with Jordan Peele.”

Guess Who

Despite coming out near the beginning of the year “Get Out” continues to be a hot property for director and writer Jordan Peele.  At this years AFI Fest he’ll be presenting a screening of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” which served as a partial inspiration for his film.  Here’s how the event is described:

GET OUT director/writer Jordan Peele sits down for an in-depth conversation about his film and the impact and legacy of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967), the groundbreaking, Oscar® winner about an interracial romance starring Sidney Poitier that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER will screen following the conversation.

The conversation will take place on Friday, November 10, at 8:30pm. Check here for more details.

“On Acting: Bringing Apes to Life- Andy Serkis, Terry Notary, Matt Reeves, Joe Letteri.”

See ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Early in Los Angeles

The recent “Planet of the Apes” series has seemingly flown under the radar, but it’s been one of my favorite sci-fi film series in recent years.  So, if you’re like me, you might be interested in hearing the men behind the film explain how they brought the apes to life through not only visuals effects, but through acting.

Actors Andy Serkis and Terry Notary, director Matt Reeves and Senior Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri of the critically acclaimed and visually stunning WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES sit down for a panel discussion on how performance capture and visual effects bring complex and emotional characters to life.

The event will take place on Sunday, November 12, at 11am. Check here for more details. 

And while these talks sound pretty awesome, we’re here for one thing and that’s to check out the films.  This year the horror selection is a little thin with a total of only about six films playing and maybe one or two being definite horror films while the others seem a bit more loosely connected. The Midnight selection, which is the traditional breeding ground for horror films, is an interesting mish-mash of films that are all foreign entries.  Here’s a breakdown of the films you can expect to see playing during AFI:

“Let the Corpses Tan”

Let the corpses tan

A French film that seems to take some inspiration from Spaghetti westerns and grindhouse films of old.  Here’s how AFI describes it:

Filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani trade in the crushed velvet and bloody shadows of their previous films (AMER, THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) for a sun-soaked adventure fueled by machine-gunfire and creaking leather. A small group of robbers pull off a daring roadside heist, then flee to a hillside villa, pulling its unwitting inhabitants into a hellish and kaleidoscopic shootout. This ambitious risk of a film pays off in spades, proving that the duo’s filmmaking prowess has never been contained to one single aesthetic but instead evolves as the worlds they create expand. A brutal but striking experience not to be missed, LET THE CORPSES TAN will keep you up all night.

Here’s a trailer that gives you a good sense of the tone.  As you can see, doesn’t have a real horror vibe to it, but the grindhouse influences are pretty evident.  You can find more details here.

 

“Good Manners”

Good Manners

This one comes by way of Brazil and I’ve seen it listed as a “werewolf” film elsewhere, but you don’t really get a sense of that in the description provided by AFI.  The trailer, though, seems to make that a bit more evident.  I don’t know what to expect of this one, but whenever you combine pregnancy and horror the results are always interesting.

Clara is a quiet nurse with a thin résumé from the outskirts of São Paulo. When she’s hired by high-class and seemingly sheltered Ana to be a nanny for her unborn child, the two develop a surprising relationship. Ana’s increasingly strange behavior, including an intense hunger for meat, leads to a fateful night that changes Clara’s life forever. The genre-bending twists and pleasures of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s latest feature are better experienced than told. With a classic Hollywood look and a fantastical story, GOOD MANNERS is grounded in the real world of great divides and inequality where people are still capable of love, sacrifice and compassion.

Check out the trailer below and head to the site to learn more:

“V.I.P.”

VIP

Park Hoon-Jung, the writer behind “I Saw the Devil,” returns to Korean cinema with a new killer thriller.  The description for “V.I.P.” is pretty vague and the trailer manages to be even vaguer, but the most interesting part that seems to be glazed over is that Peter Stormare is in the film. Here’s how it’s described:

The son of a high-ranking North Korean official, the creepily charismatic Kwang-il is committing brutal serial murders around the world. Drawn into this fraught crisis are three different enforcers: Jae-hyuk, a by-the-book, buttoned-up Korean federal agent; Inspector Chae Edo, a world-weary but extremely effective local cop; and a lone-wolf wildcard whose origin is at the heart of this mysterious thriller. Despite the indisputable evidence against his prime suspect, Edo is forced to release Kwang-il. Edo’s hands are further tied when he finds out that his own government is protecting the culprit. Soon, the enigmatic final third member of this law enforcement group emerges from the shadows, proposing a joint investigation to capture the serial killer by any means necessary

Check the ever so brief trailer below and check the site for more details.

 

“The Endless”

The Endless

This marks our first “American” film.  “The Endless” comes by way of directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead who you might recall directed critical darling “Spring” and “Resolution.”  So this is definitely a high profile release for horror fans.  Here’s how AFI describes it:

Filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return with another elevated and fiercely original, genre-busting sci-fi horror film. Struggling in Los Angeles, two brothers receive a mysterious recording from the cult they escaped as children. Each remembering it differently — as either a UFO death cult or loving commune — they decide to visit, one for confirmation and the other for closure. They arrive to find that while eerily little has changed, everyone smiles just a little too often and the land is subject to its own natural laws. As stranger occurrences manifest, the brothers are led to an existential crossroads. Accomplished with an unsettling, minimalist aesthetic, this dark and entertaining film will be a particular delight to fans of Benson and Moorhead’s 2012 breakout RESOLUTION

The trailer does a good job of building up the mystery and you can check that out down below.  You can find more about the films release here.

“Thoroughbreds”

thoroughbred

This definitely doesn’t fall into the “horror” bracket, but if you were a fan of “Heathers” then this will certainly be up your alley.  Also it features a few people who have become quite familiar to horror fans: Anton Yelchin, Olivia Cooke, and Anya Taylor-Joy.  Check out the trailer and description for “Thoroughbreds” down below:

Amanda and Lily haven’t been friends since an incident that occurred during childhood, but are forced back into each other’s lives when Lily needs tutoring to prepare for college entrance tests. As their friendship rekindles, Lily’s harsh stepdad Mark threatens to send her away. When the pair hatch a plan to be done with him for good, their former issues bubble to the surface, throwing a wrench into their entire operation. The film features fantastic lead performances by Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, who perfectly embody the ennui of being teenage girls. A darkly comic thriller à la HEAVENLY CREATURES (1994) and HEATHERS (1988), THOROUGHBREDS looks at the complicated dynamic of female friendships — with a healthy dose of murder-plotting for good measure.

Here’s the trailer and more information for you to check out.

“The Shape of Water”

Shape of Water

Probably my most anticipated movie of the year is this screening of Guillermo Del Toro’s next creature feature “The Shape of Water.”  If you’re any kind of Del Toro fan you’ve probably heard about this one by now and if you’re in the LA area this is as good as time to see it as any.  Check out the description and trailer down below.

The luminous Sally Hawkins stars as Eliza Esposito, a mute cleaning lady living in a nondescript coastal city ensconced in 1950s Cold War paranoia. Her work at a government lab brings her into contact with an unusual government asset, a mysterious Amphibian Man. When Eliza forms a bond with the soulful creature, her need to prove Amphibian Man’s humanity to the cold and clinical outside world becomes clear — no matter the cost. With a terrific supporting cast that includes Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones, Guillermo del Toro’s immaculately crafted update on THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) gives the impression of a sunken city, and pulses with the buoyant power of outsider love

Here’s the trailer and the AFI site for ticket and showtime information.

And that’s it for the ones I thought horror fans would be most interested in seeing. Of course there are many more films being showcased at AFI and you can find them listed on their website.

 



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