The Over The Top film festival opens tonight, and for many, the draw is going to be Crispin Glover, who is bringing the two completed films from his It trilogy to the Royal, starting on Friday night with What Is It? at 7:00 p.m. (followed by It is Fine! Everything is Fine on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.). They’re $20 each, but it’s particularly worth noting that the rest of the festival is far more reasonable, starting with tonight’s opening film, I Think We’re Alone Now (at $10) and the rest of the films, which start at $6 each or $10 for all screenings at a theatre on the day (so, for example, to see all 7 screenings on Saturday at the NFB it’s only $10!). Check out the Over The Top Fest website for more details, and after the jump we have reviews of I Think We’re Alone Now, Frownland, Pop Skull (our top pick) and Hokuro Brothers: Full Throttle.
I Think We’re Alone Now (9:30 p.m., Royal) – This is a strange little documentary. It looks at two obsessed fans of 80’s star Tiffany—Jeff Turner, a 50 year-old man diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and Kelly McCormick, who was born intersexed—and it meanders along painting a portrait that’s likely to have you initially recoiling in horror at the “creepy stalkers”, before you start to see them as just lonely and confused. But by the end, more than likely (especially in Turner’s case), you’ll consider them completely deranged. As a result of a distinct lack of access with the object of their desire, Tiffany, there are only brief glimpses of a deeper documentary; one which examines her relationship with obsessed fans (as seen at her lame gigs, almost all that are left) as well as their relationship with her. It doesn’t manage to “say” anything as a result of the gaps, but was interesting in an exercise examining our own views on people with obsessions (i.e. they need help, really). 2.5/5
Frownland (9:15 p.m., Royal) – Critically lauded (at, for example, SXSW, where it won the Special Jury Prize) Frownland is two hours of excruciatingly painful boredom, irritation, and annoyance, but that’s not, generally, considered a valid criticism, as it’s been largely created to be so. After all, if films can intentionally make us feel joy, sadness, or fear, those other emotions are valid intentional responses too, right? Frownland follows Keith, a young man with problems. He sleeps in his kitchen. He works a dead-end door-to-door job. He can’t say anything straight; he splutters, he gets confused. As annoying as he is, he’s a fine dramatic centre for the work; unfortunately, in an attempt to make the film even more aimless, there are long digressions with other characters that just feel like they’re messing up a perfectly good (if still narrative-free) structure. At nearly 2 hours this is just too long to spend making us feel bored, irritated and annoyed—cut down it would be sharp as hell. 2/5
Pop Skull (9:00 p.m., Innis Town Hall) – Pop Skull actually makes a fantastic counterpoint to Frownland. Here we have a young man with a similar problem of disconnection with the world around him. He pops pills just to get through the day, his girlfriend left him, there might be ghosts in his house… You know, the usual problems we all have. Here, though, the tone wasn’t created to just make you bored and annoyed, but to take you into his world completely, and it’s a smashing success at doing so. They warn “Pop Skull contains strobe effects and persons with epilepsy and/or heart conditions are advised to attend another Over The Top Fest event.” And we couldn’t agree more. The strobe effects are more intense than we’ve ever seen and it’ll be amazing in a cinema (don’t take any drugs before you come either, you’ll freak out) but more than that the cinematography alone is fantastic. It’s a simple story but you’ll stay interested till the end. Director Adam Wingard is one to watch—this is probably our favourite film about troubled youth since The Tracey Fragments. 4/5
Hokuro Brothers: Full Throttle (11:00 p.m., Innis Town Hall) – In our old age, our taste for extreme gore has been lost, so we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to watch 100 Tears. However, we’ll talk about the short which precedes it. It’s seven short episodes of stand-up comedy from a pair of (CGI) Japanese comedians. If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese stand-up this is basically it—two guys yell non-sequiturs at each other and fight for about half an hour. It’s pretty intense. And confusing. Our favourite section is the sole episode that features the brothers off-stage, where they’re quiet and reserved; there’s an interesting story there (which is completely ignored in almost every other episode.) Not sure why this is paired with 100 Tears, really! 2/5