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Two Extremes for Halloween

Two Extremes for Halloween

Tonight, I experienced a double feature that unintentionally fit perfectly with the current Halloween vibe:

I finally caught Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman’s Mirrormask, a month after its release. I’ve been tempted to see it since Sundance, but it sort of disappeared until re-emerging late this summer. A co-production with Jim Henson’s production company, I was excited to get what I hoped to be a glimpse into a new visual landscape. It is. Between graphic artist McKean, comic book legend Gaiman, and the Henson dynasty, you have pretty much what you’d expect. But unlike similar films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Labyrinth or The Neverending Story, the character development and dialogue are pretty thin.

Regardless, Mirrormask is a spellbinding piece of visual beauty, punctuated with tender moments of comic relief and a cosmic score by Iain Ballamy. It’s essentially a family film, though not what you’d expect from one. It’s scary and epic. This is probably the kind of family film that Matthew Barney and Bjork would eagerly take their kids to see. But, with tone and atmosphere, it’s a film for adults. And because of this vague distinction, the film hasn’t found the kind of audience it deserves. And, let me tell you, this is very much the kind of movie you want to experience in a theater versus DVD. It also makes a nice Halloween treat. So, seek it out, if it’s still playing at your local arthouse. I know it will be at The Dobie for three more days. I urge anyone in Austin who’s been curious about it, to go ahead and take the plunge.

Not long after Mirrormask, I popped into the Austin Film Festival & Screenwriters Conference advanced screening of Three… Extremes. This Asian horror anthology opens in America on Friday, luckily just in time for Halloween. Featuring vignettes by three Asian masters (Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park, and Takashi Miike) the film is mixture of scare tactics, genres, and lots of blood. Fruit Chan’s segment, “Dumplings,” probably features a premise far too disturbing to really describe in detail. Let’s just say it involves diets, abortions, and Bai Ling. Takashi Miike’s segment, “Box,” is surprisingly less jarring and more of an old-school Japanese horror piece.

Meanwhile, Chan-wook Park’s “Cut” is a masterpiece. It offers Park a chance to show off the same skilled craftsmanship that made his feature Oldboy such an engaging experience. Plus, it features a set-up that feels like classic Hitchcock. And, at times, it’s funny as hell. A priceless 40 minutes. But don’t be confused… Three… Extremes is on the other side of the Halloween spectrum, compared to Mirrormask. The three directors enjoy shocking audiences, and they never miss an opportunity. Hopefully you won’t, either.

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