The Night Watchmen [Fantasia International Film Festival Review]

The Night Watchmen could end up being the next horror/comedy cult favorite. There are admittedly some storytelling flaws, but the movie — which is kind of like a far more violent version of Killer Klowns from Outer Space — effectively mixes good old-fashioned carnage with a cheerfully kooky sense of humor. If you don’t care too much about plotting and only want to see some glorious cinematic lunacy, Mitchell Altieri’s film delivers the goods, and then some.

Baltimore’s favorite clown, Blimpo, has mysteriously died while touring Romania. When his body is shipped back to Charm City, it’s accidentally delivered to the offices of the city newspaper. The night watchmen, including new guy “Rajeeve” (Max Gray Wilbur), agree to keep an eye on the casket until the next morning. But Blimpo rises from the dead and starts snacking on the building’s employees, turning them into bloodthirsty vampires. The watchmen are primarily concerned with making sure the office hottie, Karen (Kara Ruiz), stays alive.

To give you an idea of how utterly crazy The Night Watchmen is, here’s one small example. The guys are trying to figure out how to slay their attackers. One of them shoots a vampire, who is tied to a chair, in the head. Blood starts spurting everywhere, so he sticks his finger into the bullet hole, where it promptly becomes stuck. And the victim still isn’t dead. The film repeatedly mixes gore with off-kilter comedy, making you squirm and giggle simultaneously. The longer it goes on, the more over-the-top things become.

There isn’t any depth here, which is the primary drawback. The Night Watchmen could have introduced the characters better and developed them more. For instance, playing up the idea that Rajeeve’s first day at his new job ends up being so perilous would have given the central joke even more punch. There really needed to be some kind of arc for the humans here, rather than simply having them try to survive.

Then again, if you’re going to see a movie about a vampire clown, the most important thing is that the picture provides a healthy dose of violent mayhem. On that count, The Night Watchmen delivers. It’s relentless in devising insane, tongue-in-cheek, bloody entertainment. In fact, this is a perfect film to watch with a group of friends who all share an affinity for such things. You’ll have a blast.

For more information on the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival and the titles screening, please visit their official website.

Follow me on Twitter: @AisleSeat

Drib [Fantasia International Film Festival Review]

Amir Asgharnejad is a performance artist who released a series of videos several years ago in which he provoked strangers to the point of violence. They became a viral sensation, leading an energy drink company to approach him with a novel marketing campaign that was, like “Springtime for Hitler” in Mel Brooks’ The Producers, specifically designed to fail, thereby generating a ton of publicity. He neglected to tell the company that the videos were all staged, especially since they intended to pay him. Things went disastrously wrong. Asgharnejad’s friend, filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli, wanted to make a movie about these events. The prankster agreed, on the condition that he play himself. The result of all this is Drib, a picture that’s half-documentary, half-dramatization.

That set-up is really fascinating. Unfortunately, once you get past it, everything goes downhill quickly.

Drib, named for the fictitious company in the storyis an example of the current trend of “anti-comedy” in which laughter is mined through the presentation of absurd things in a manner that intentionally isn’t funny. (Some people get this approach, others do not. I acknowledge mostly being in the latter category.) There are plenty of opportunities for jokes — the way an obnoxious advertising executive (Brett Gerlman) attempts to put the unconventional Amir into a conventional box, the myriad poor ideas that cause the campaign to fall apart, etc. Rather than assembling these things into a humorous cautionary tale about the perils of trying to force something to go viral, Drib plays out as a series of long conversational scenes. Characters talk and talk and talk, oftentimes saying things that are either of little direct connection to the ostensible plot or belabor their point needlessly. That completely robs it of comedic momentum.

Of course, the question of whether any of this is true looms over the entire film. That’s another element Drib could have explored in a much more intriguing fashion. Asgharnejad is an avowed prankster. What if none of this really happened? Did Borgli have any doubts about the tale’s veracity, and if so, why not openly grill his subject about them during the documentary moments?

Drib is certainly an outside-the-box movie, which means it deserves at least a bit of respect. One can’t shake the feeling, though, that it could have been a really stinging satire about the manipulative nature of modern advertising, rather than just a rambling, unfocused missed opportunity.

For more information on the titles screening at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, please visit their official website.

Follow me on Twitter: @AisleSeat