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FILMART 2014: show us yer stiffs

Hong Kong is a free port, as its post and VFX houses will regularly remind international visitors. As the territory still operates to (mostly) Western standards when it comes to film censorship, Filmart is one of few Asian market events that will pander to most buyers’ tastes or, if you prefer, it’s an equal opportunity offender.

The genre titles on offer this year fall mainly into three low-budget camps: Asian horror/thriller, western horror/thriller and adult. The universal spoof/ripoff category, much in evidence last year, has diminished considerably – with one major exception. Yes, it’s time to return to The Asylum.

The Asylum has a proud track record of low-budget entertainment titles, often including the words “vs”, as in Airplane vs Volcano, Asteroid vs Earth. Occasionally, a title breaks free of its natural milieu of VOD, DVD and lower-rating TV channels to cross over into mainstream consciousness.

Bcause there's never enough of a good thing. Or sharks.

Bcause there’s never enough of a good thing. Or sharks.

Last year at Filmart, many visitors got a first glimpse at The Asylum’s Sharknado, which made that jump. If sequels are good enough for big budget producers, they’ve been the stock in trade for genre producers for just as long.

Sharknado 2: the Second One is therefore on its way, although there are no plans yet for TsunamCroc, SpiderQuake or CyclOctopus.

Asian stiffs
You’re never alone in a horror movie, even when you really, really wish you were. The dead, the undead, the unsure but extremely bloody are always lurking.

From the Taiwanese director of the crowd-funded Zombie 108 (it’s unclear whether that’s intended as a recommendation or a warning) comes Zombie Fight Club. Good luck explaining that there is no fight club to a zombie.

There's always a price to pay

There’s always a price to pay

The film is produced by Hong Kong producer Paco Wong, whose fingers are found in many local pies including Fruit Chan’s HKIFF opener The Midnight After. Wong is an astute commercial producer and adheres to the beliefs of Michael Caine when it comes to producing: “I haven’t seen Jaws 3, but I’ve seen the house it bought and it’s beautiful.”

Thailand has a long track record in horrors, and this year’s offer is predominantly of the 3D variety. Two years ago Thai production house 5 Star opened Thailand’s first 3D horror Dark Flight (aka 407 Dark Flight). It was shot by Hong Kong company 3D Magic, as Thailand didn’t have any camera rigs or 3D expertise at the time. Two years later, a full 50% of the Thai horror offer at Filmart comes in 3D, including 5 Star’s 3AM: Part Two, Long Weekend and Ghost Coins.

Fellow Thai production house Phranakorn delivers Make Me Shudder and Still, tag-lined ‘Ghost in the Air Vent’.

David Blyth's latest feature has its market debut at FILMART

David Blyth’s latest feature has its market debut at FILMART

Unless you’re a Chinese film censor, ghosts are a much-loved title element for horrors, as is ‘Wedding’ for feelgood titles. Ghosts abound at Filmart, although there is a share of wedding-themed titles too. Covering both bases is David Blyth’s latest, the Asian-themed Ghost Bride, making its first market appearance.

Indonesia also adheres firmly to the ‘ghost in the title’ approach, with an offer including Deaf Ghost, Mud Ghost and Jakarta Ghost Net. With Indonesia about to launch one of the year’s most anticipated genre titles later in the week in the form of The Raid 2: Berandal, there’s a bump in interest at Filmart which sees buyers keen to check out what else the country’s industry has to offer.

When it comes to Asian horror, it’s long been hard to go past some of the classic Japanese titles. Indeed, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghost House Pictures (more ‘ghost in the title’ fans) has recently announced it will be taking another bite at the Grudge cherry.

Playing by slightly different rules to much of the rest of Asia, Japan has a tradition of titles falling somewhere between horror and porn, often involving school students. The suggestion of sex is never far away, nor is the promise of gushing blood. Those who like both at the same time are also catered for.

You lift me up where I belong ...

You lift me up where I belong … as sung by the cast of The Raid 2: Berandal

The Ultimate Dilemma, Puzzle, Girl’s Blood, High Kick Angels and Pure White Bikini School all fit the bill. For those tiring of the procession of similarly-themed and -titled offerings, there’s It’s a Beautiful Day (“not a typical Slasher movie by far”, according to the flyer) or even Nayato Fio Nuala’s 2009 Indonesian title Virgin 2: Not a Porn Movie.

From Noburo Iguchi, who last year deliveredDead Sushi, comes the far tamer-sounding LIVE, written by Yusuke Yamada, who also wrote Puzzle above. While the title might disappoint, Iguchi has not sacrificed his trademark ingredients: plenty of teenagers, blood and a strong aversion to plausible plot-lines.

Let’s Kill the White Guy!
Among the Western fare on offer, there’s a similar level of aversion to plausibility. Iguchi would approve.

Check in. Gross out.

Camping it up to death.

Also, European and American filmmakers don’t discriminate. They’ll kill off anyone: white, black, brown, male, female, somewhere in between, young or old, even the already dead – just to be sure. A prime example of equal opportunity mayhem on offer at Filmart is Jaymes Thompson’s oldie but goodie The Gay B&B Of Terror.

Among Multi-Visionnaire’s mostly genre catalogue and scoring high on the innuendo-meter is Tom Tavee’s Kiss My Snake, a deceptive title since the film turns out to be about people boxing snakes. It seems some people actually do that, because it’s a documentary.

From the same distributor comes the more recent FDR: American Badass, featuring Barry ‘Rocky Horror’ Bostwick and Kevin ‘Hercules’ Sorbo. It stretches the credibility envelope that Sharknado and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter merely nudged. The blurb promises a WWII setting, “polio carrying Nazi werewolves” and “the Axis of Lycan Evil led by Werewolf Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito.”

The same company also has Confederacy of the Dead, which sounds not dissimilar to FDR but with American Civil War costumes.

This is not award-winning fare, but it’s all commercially viable – which is, of course, the raison d’etre of a market.

Finally, for sheer does-what-it-say-on-the-box chutzpah, and not especially for the Hong Kong market, we do return to the Asylum for a look at some upcoming titles: Asian School Girls (“Revenge was never sweeter!”), The Co-Ed and the Zombie Stoner and “a modern adaptation of the Emily Bronte classic”, Wuthering High School.

Delivering 3 stereotypes for the price of one admission

Delivering 3 stereotypes for the price of one admission

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