With this article, my first in-person coverage of TIFF in 2022 comes to an end. What better way to end than with two Midnight Madness films? It was a terrific festival overall, and I’m delighted to be able to talk about two very inventive films. Although very different, Wolf hunting project and Leonor will never die both reminded me, again, why I love movies so much. One is a gory thrill ride and the other is a charming ode to filmmaking. Thanks as always for reading!
Wolf Hunting Project (Kim Hong-sun)
Wolf hunting project was truly a bloody, bloody explosion. There were a lot of elements that reminded me of different action and thrillers we’ve seen in the past, and yet it was new and fresh, and intensely entertaining.
Written and directed by Kim Hong Sun, it is a film which, in spite of its two hours, hardly allows itself to breathe. For a movie like this, there’s really just pacing (and for some, too much violence) but you really get what you came for. Yes, what you came for was a lot of blood and carnage.
A group of dangerous prisoners are transferred to a freighter after the first failed attempt, from the Philippines to South Korea. Sure, the inmates and the cops escorting them (along with a doctor and a nurse) are at odds, but when another party enters the equation, what then?
On the high seas, it’s a battle of guards against inmates against…a scientifically enhanced individual who was being secretly transported. And he’s someone who has no discrimination, no agenda, except to kill. There’s a sprawling cast (including Jung So-min, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo In-guk, Sung Dong-iland Park Hosan, and many others) and no one is safe. The film manages to elude your expectations, and the suspense of what will happen and how such force will be stopped is quite the ride.
It is truly a macabre ordeal. Wolf hunting project has no qualms about brutally killing someone you thought would come to an end. It’s like Air conditioning by the water, but with more grain and gore. As one of the bloodiest efforts, it has a massive body count. There’s an interesting underlying narrative about a secret part of the government and the tests they do to extend human life that adds to the sci-fi part of this genre mashup.
With an assortment of personalities, motivations and stories, Wolf hunting project is pure pandemonium, unleashing a “monster” in an already brutal rivalry, complete with fantastic special effects and fight choreography, undoubtedly eliciting physical reactions from most viewers. To some it might seem like just a chaotic sequence of murders, but there’s a certain charm and narrative distinction that makes Wolf hunting project more than that.
It’s full of splashes, gross moments and absurdities. This film is inventive and extravagant, but nevertheless Wolf hunting project is pure gory entertainment. A wildly engaging nightmare on the sea.
Project Wolf Hunting hits theaters in the US on October 7.
Leonor will never die (Martika Ramirez Escobar)
Leonor will never die turned out to be a nice surprise. It’s in the Midnight Madness section, and I understand that because the movie is a quirky, fantastical dream machine. At the end of the day, what really stuck with me was the love letter to be filmed at the heart of it all. It’s a moving story, and that’s what makes the moments of silly nostalgia heartfelt.
Leonor (sheila francisco) is a retired filmmaker in the Philippines struggling to make ends meet. She lost a son Ronwaldo (Antoine Faucon) who frequently appears as a ghost to many characters (another way this film pushes the envelope) and lives with his son Rudie (Bong Cabrera). He is particularly worried and pushes her to get her bills paid. As she plans to finish an old script, a freak accident hits her in the head and Leonor falls into a coma. There, the fantastical, magical realism begins as she enters her story and becomes part of the narrative as she completes it. As this goes on some aspects get pretty amazing as editors step in and plans are redone but when you’re in the creator’s head is there anything that can’t be do ?
It’s very meta and is decidedly unapologetic about being as weird as it wants. The throwback feels and the music was such a delight. The love of ’80s action movies really shines through in the handling of the film and makes for a wacky, sometimes bumpy ride. Once Leonor was in her script, it really wrapped me up and I had a lot of fun. It was the perfect final film to end the festival because I could feel the joy and the feeling that went into it.
Is it perfect? No but, Leonor will never die is designed with love. The purity of imagination and the power of it shines through and is inspiring. Add a nice piece of music and a dance number at the end, and it’s truly a lovely, movie-like embrace.
That’s it for this year’s TIFF, can’t wait to come back and cover more!
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