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I made it to the Fantasy Filmfest again this year and despite the fact that I did not watch quite as many films as I wanted to and also despite the fact that the films on offer were not quite as good as in past years (Yes, yes, I know that there is a contradiction hidden in here.), it was a delightful experience once again.

And here are some of the films I managed to see:

Grabbers: Tentacled alien monsters attack a remote irish island and it is up to two Gardas, a drunk, a posh doctor and a landlord to defeat them.
The premise is already silly and with Richard Coyle (of "Coupling"-fame) starring, I expected a silly film. Unfortunately, it only just about met even those expectations. Bluntly put, the film has one idea beyond the basic premise but has no real idea what to do with it, let alone develop the characters or tell a thrilling stories.
Positive aspects include pretty decent CGI, a (comparatively) interesting and strong female character and a "Yay!"-worthy "Aliens"-reference, but all in all it's a film to be watched with others while drunk and possibly with somethis else to watch afterwards.

Killer Joe: A young Texan needs money to pay a debt with a mobster, so he hires a hitman to kill his mother in order to collect the insurance. Things don't go to plan and the killer might have his own agenda.
It's based on a play (Not that you could tell until the last scene.), starts slightly generic but soon picks up to become quite weird and interesting. Matthew McConaughey makes up for all the dreadful romcoms he has been in by being the coolest killer in quite some time, while Gina Gershon is given a role so trashy it would normally end up being played by Jennifer Tilly. Juno Temple gets the most out of a part which might have turned into a real cliche in other hands. It comes recommended but is not for the fainthearted.

Excision. About a young woman with a definite interest in anatomy but little interest in fitting in at school.
Difficult mixture of what is at times a satire of small-town America in parts (including John Waters as a priest charged with counselling the protagonist), an actually quite moving look at a difficult family at others and a look into a seriously disturbed mind (complete with glossy dream sequences full of gore and naked models). In the end it does not fully satisfy on anyof those levels but for those looking for something out of the ordinary, it is definitely worth a look. You might not see a stranger film this year.

Comedown: ASBOs go to party in an abandoned tower block, only to find it not quite abandoned. People die.
Yawn. Absolutely generic and trying to make up for its lack of tension with gore. Next!

Stitches: A clown (Ross Noble) who died during a children's birthday party returns from the dead years later to take his revenge.
There is a sequence in the last third of the film where it seems like it is briefly thinking about having a plot and possibly introducing a smidgen of peril/tension. Then it goes "Nah! Fuck it!".
The film has the thinnest of plots, none of which stands up to any kind of scrutiny, the characters are quckly sketched and their interactions (except for the obligatory love interest) are negligible. In effect the film just needs to set up the party and the clown in order to give Ross Noble to chance to deliver puns and kill teenagers in cartoonishly extreme ways.
It was the funniest thing I have seen in a while and reminded me of Funny Man. Absolutely bonkers and worth watching together with others.

The Possession: A young girl buys a wooden box with strange hebrew letters on and soon finds herself at the arse-end of a possession.
Okay, I have to differentiate: The film is solidly made, glossy, well acted (particular praise to Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the father and Natasha Calis as the possessed girl) and ticks all of the boxes normally required, even if it's not particularly scary or terribly well-scripted on any level.
My problem with it is that the author and director clearly know all the films about the subject matter that came before (in particular "The Exorcist" and "Drag me to Hell" and even bits of "Constantine") but I know those films, too, and know that they were much, much better. There really are no surprises or thrills to be found here and films that use the "Well, you know, kids go a little crazy when their parents divorce" and the "Evil young girl" (Because we know that girls going through puberty are basically possessed by evil spirits) tropes in order to explain why parents do not notice that there is something wrong with their child have already pretty much lost in my book. Not worth it.

The Aggression Scale: Mob hitmen come to wipe out a family but find that the young son of the family may well be more than they can handle.
You remember "Home Alone"? Imagine that played straight with a more violent and very resourceful Kevin. "Home Alone: First Blood" actually describes it pretty well. The film is not perfect by any means but well executed with a good concept. Definitely worth a watch.

Inbred: A group of young offenders on a re-socialisation programme take a trip up to rural Yorkshire. Not all the locals are friendly.
It will do for Yorkshire tourism what "House of 1000 corpses" did for Texas. Setting everything up takes a while but once it gets going, it is deliciously bonkers. Ee by Gum! :-D Consider that a recommendation.
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There were actually people at the Agra handing out flyers saying: "Bats need no gasmasks" and "Schlauchköppe? Nein, danke!" ("Hose-heads? No thanks!") with a symbol of essentially "No cybers!" inbetween.
Now, I have no problem with cybers. It really isn't my cup of tea and I do greatly enjoy the fact that one can find many a industrial-disco in Berlin where one does not run the risk of having to listen to Combichrist et al. all night long, but as long as I know which clubs I have to avoid and which to frequent, it is all the same to me. I sometimes feel that, if you need a symbol for what has gone wrong in the "Gothic Scene" in terms of mainstream sexist bullshit suddenly being very prominent in it as well, the whole Cyber thing might be a prime candidate, but then maybe my experiences with equal-opportunity-moshing metalheads are not representative. (In related news, check this out.
Combichrist and Nachtmahr both also played WGT. Adversary was not invited. In terms of the responses, Andy Combichrist comes over quite reasonable in this. YMMV on his point of view but he seems to really take in and consider what is being said about him. Thomas Nachtmahr, on the other hand, comes across like a spoiled brat.)
In any case, on the one hand, I could not help but feel slightly impressed by the fact that some private individual actually felt strongly enough about "their" scene to go to all this effort, on the other hand, I obviously think that this is all pretty pointless and ill-considered.

One thing that impressed me in Leipzig and I guess that this must be a common experience is just how much visible the festival is all over the city and with how open a pair of arms all the "weirdos" are greeted with (Yes, yes, I know: lots of money). The feeling of pretty much every way a visitor wishing to express themselves being accepted and tolerated is quite impressive, even compared to Berlin.

For me, this was particularly notable during the neofolk and industrial concerts. In Berlin you get a fair few Haus Arafna and Crunchy Techno shirts but people tend to be hesitant when it comes to wearing much else. During the WGT there really is the whole range of band t-shirts and patches on display with nary an eyelid batted (outside Connewitz, but I suspect they don't want any goths or other outsiders in their area full stop). Quite besides the fact that the record stalls in the Agra sell a fantastic range of albums and merchandise. So much of my money was left there. :-D

WGT 2012

Jun. 1st, 2012 02:18 pm
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So, that's my first Wave Gotik Treffen over and done with. And on the whole, it was fab. We were lucky with the weather and there was rarely a concert or event where I did not know at least one person there. On the other hand, looking at the pictures and videos that other people shot, I occasionally get the feeling that they were at a different festival. But then, I tended to visit the more leftfield and less showy concerts.
There was shitloads that one could do and see and trying to do it all would probably be a rather futile effort. Personally, I was mainly there for the concerts although the Heidnische Dorf (Pagan Village) was visited on two occasions and used for perambulation and pigging out on fruit wine and roast pig (Mmmmh, Mutzbraten!). In hindsight, more could have been done in terms of socialising but on the other hand I was there with a group of friends who I saw a fair bit of anyway.

There will be another post on the issue of tolerance at the WGT soon but for the moment, I'll just give you a quick overview of the bands/concerts:

Les Jumeaux Discordant: Neo-classical, ambient industrial, ritual: Quite decent, I thought. Good enough to buy their CD, in any case.
Gallerie Schallschutz: Industrial. Okay, but nothing special.
Cut Hands: A side project of Whitehouse, only far less noisy and with a strong african beat. I've seen them before and was quite keen on seeing them again in a different setting. This is an act that IMHO really works far better live with background projection than on record. Are they trying to say something about the way that Africa and its inhabitants have been treated over the years or the way they are seen in Europe? Maybe, but if there was a message, I did not get it either time. This time round there was also a gogo-dancer on stage for two songs. I assume that she was supposed to look cheap, crass and uncoordinated, possibly to say something about popular culture in Africa. Maybe not.
In Slaughter Natives: On CD they may sound different, but live they were like a death metal band with the guitars substituted with ambient drones and noises. Quite good.

The Kuppelhalle of the Volkspalast is an ace venue, by the way, even though it really wasn't used to full effect this time round. The speakers should be directed into the dome or there should be a band without acoustic sound-sources taking advantage of the natural reverb. Where is Test Dept. when you need them? Or Apoptose with the Fanfarenzug Leipzig?

Minamata: frantic industrial noise with hints of breakcore and a well utilised back-projection. Definitely worth checking out.
Ex.Order: Much calmer industrial, a bit like power electronics without the aggression. Didn't really win me over.
Cent Ans de Solitude: This did. It was already a joy to watch that man set up with amplified metal things but it was even more of a joy to watch him elicit all kinds of sound from it. Back projection of industrial ruins and a performer who took the applause in an almost embarassed manner, as if he was surprised that people really enjoyed his music.
He had no sense of time-keeping though and had to be reminded by the stage manager that his time was up, something he ignored for a while until they started setting up the next band while he was still playing.
Which was a bit of a shame, as the next band was Thorofon, who except for one or two "hits" I found relatively forgettable and almost poppy. For my money, CADS should have just carried on.
And then came Brighter Death Now. What he produced in terms of sound was noisy and atonal but never really took off IMHO. What was far more of a problem, though, was that he was completely off his face, stumbling around the stage and taking occasional naps at the back of it. The stage manager had her hands full with him. She had also found it necessary to fill the orchestra pit with all the security personnel they had at their disposal staring at the audience. Presumably this was in order to prevent anybody from taking a shot at Mr. BDN (an idea which must have occured to a few people) but it also added wonderfully to the aggressive atmosphere. Possibly all of this was just an act to antagonize the audience, and if it was, it worked. All in all, a memorable but unsatisfying experience.

Solblot (Swedish Folk): This one I did not watch but only listen to from the hall. There is nothing wrong with it, it's very pleasant and ticks all the boxes but at the same time it's nothing special.
Vurgart (German Neofolk) Do you like Sonne Hagal? Then you might like this. It's essentially a side-project of some SH-people, slightly more rock-orientated. Meh!
Ain Soph (Italian Rock): They were okay but I was always hoping for them to become more industrial/noisy/ritual, which they never did, hence I felt disappointed. Maybe I should give them a second chance on CD. This was rock, plain and simple.
Gnomoclast and Luftwaffe were essentially the same band in terms of people involved, both playing more or less neofolk. I slightly preferred Luftwaffe, as they had a bit more power towards the end. And noisy elements.
Derniere Volonte (french military pop): More than decent, especially in light of the less-than-ideal show I saw at New Year but they are becoming more and more of a synth-pop band with each release, which sadly also means they are becoming more generic and less satisfying.

At this point I started to suspect that I just wasn't in a neofolk mood and would probably not enjoy Of the wand and the moon, so I relocated to the big Agra Hall and watched Diary of Dreams. Which was pretty good, a rock concert putting me in mind of my teens, slightly cheesy but very well done. And there were pyros! :-D I rocked my little socks off and had a bloody good time doing it.

Subheim and Legion I didn't really see. I was too late for the first and too bored by the latter. This is not to say that they weren't good, just that I really wasn't in a mood for electronic drone industrial then.
Bad Sector did something similar but with more of a noise/glitch slant and an interesting back projection.
Tzolk'in did something similar to Cut Hands but used live tribal drums and a more melodic basis. I think there was something about the Mayan Apocalypse that they tried to communicate but the music would have been good without it, too. Think a chill-out version of Winterkälte.

Download/Dead Voices on Air: Techno/IDM with some abstract elements and distorted vocals once DVOA entered (after about an hour). I like DVOA and I like Skinny Puppy but this left me mostly cold.

Näo: Best new discovery of the festival in my book. Beat-orientated electronic music with krautrock/shoegazer influences. Had me and the Kuppelhalle bouncing in no time and left us literally screaming for more.


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