Entertainment

Schlock and horror: The
festival of cheap thrills

 A cursory glance at the Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival told me to be afraid — to be very afraid. One suspected rivers of blood, unfathomable non-sequiturs in plot and dialogue and dubious attempts to flout cinematic convention.

Thankfully, all of these expectations were met — perhaps even exceeded — with unabashed aplomb at this year’s festival. It was an unbridled gore-fest of epic proportions, delivering on every freaky and frightening promise made to a youthful, ravenous audience at Grand Indonesia’s Blitzmegaplex.  

The Indonesia International Fan-tastic Film Festival (iNAFFF), is in its fourth year, attracting 12,000 spectators across Jakarta and Bandung.

The festival was a showcase of 25 films across the genres of sci-fi, horror, thriller, fantasy and anime from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Iceland, Thailand, Japan, USA and the UK. 

The end result? An experience that yielded simultaneously terrifying and hilarious results.

Some of the films on offer included the unremarkably titled Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, an Icelandic thriller centered around an implausible plotline featuring tourist-hungry whales.

The gratuitous violence, low production values and the bizarrely humorous horror sequences lent the film a grindhouse feel, which was further accentuated by a rowdy audience who whooped and wolf-whistled at each bloodthirsty turn.

 A similarly boisterous reaction was elicited by Japanese slasher favorite Mutant Girls Squad, in which a bullied teenager wakes up one morning to discover her arm has become a gnarled, razor-sharp claw. As it turns out, revenge is a dish best served bloody, raw and finely sliced. The result was Kafkaesque, with a dash of gore.

“While the standard of a few of the films deserved the dubious honor of going “straight-to-video”, the spirit cultivated by the iNAFFF was enthusiastic and energetic.”

For those who tastes are inclined towards traditional hand-to-fang combat, the conflict in Seiji Chiba’s Alien versus Ninja was bound to satisfy.

It could be politely described as a sci-fi comedy, where fanged aliens test the agility of Japan’s greatest cultural export: ninjas. The aliens have rendered the ninjas’ swords impotent, thus completely redrawing the battlelines in their favor.

Chiba’s remarkable suspension of disbelief ensured the audience was too engrossed in the acute ridiculousness of the plot and the S&M costumes to be barracking for an eventual conqueror. But the audience — who seemed fully cognizant of all of the film’s egregious flaws — embraced the schlock-horror joyride wholeheartedly.

Surprisingly, the Indonesia In-ternational Fantastic Film Festival also featured films with an ideological bent. In this time of spiralling private and public debt — fuelled by avaricious corporations under laissez-faire capitalism — it was perhaps predictable that yet another hackneyed treatise against corporate greed would grace the silver screen.

Scottish film New Town Killers features two bankers who engage in sadistic cash-for-torture games with the disenfranchised folk of Edinburgh’s housing estates.

The film’s ham-fisted grasp of class warfare in a capitalist society makes Oliver Stone (director of Wall Street and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) look like the master of nuance.

At least Switzerland’s Cargo — a film that portrays an uninhabitable Earth in the year 2267 as a result of irreparable ecological destruction — spares audiences the tedium of a clumsily politicized lecture on global warming.

Instead, it sticks to a formulaic sci-fi/thriller narrative that promises shock, horror and redemption.  With a gestation period of over nine years and a budget of US$5 million, one can honestly say that it looks very expensive, even if the story arc yields less bang for one’s buck. The filmmakers of Cargo would do well to dispose of leaden morality tales in favor of some much-needed comic relief.

While the standard of a few of the films deserved the dubious honor of going “straight-to-video”, the spirit cultivated by the Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival was enthusiastic and energetic.

Perhaps what was most pleasing about the festival was that it encouraged an informal atmosphere, where the audience — mostly in their late teens and twenties — could scream and laugh with abandon.

It was as if they had forgotten they were in the pleasant but sterile surrounds of Blitzmegaplex — the mood seemed more akin to being in a drive-in movie theater where hooting and hollering was of foremost importance.

The Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival seemed to be onto a winning formula, catering to a strong niche audience by providing affordable ticket prices to a diverse array of films sourced locally and internationally.

And for those of us whose desires were markedly less sanguine, it was certainly a novel way to kill time in a mall.



The Indonesia International Fantastic Film Festival 2010 will be screening movies from Nov. 26 to 28 at the Blitzmegaplex Paris Van Java, Bandung.

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