The Edinburgh International Film Festival: rounding up the dross

Carl's seen some good films at 2008's EIFF. And, er, he's also seen these...

So, I’ve been here three days now, and while I’ve seen such great films as Blood Car, The Wackness, The Appeared, Tiramisu and A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, I’ve missed out a few reviews as the good balances out the bad from my experience. So far, it’s five good, five bad, and I’m going to get around to the rest of the good soon. But first, I need to throw out the trash.

The King of Ping PongI’ll start off with this, the most light-hearted of the lot, as it was the one I enjoyed the most. Then again, it’s on the bad list, so it can’t be that good, right? The story focuses around Rille and his family, living in Sweden. Rille holds the key to the ping pong cupboard at the local community centre, hence the name, and lords it over the rest of the kids when they want to play. Rille is not the fittest of kids though, as we see when he tries to do six sit ups and fails. His father is off somewhere, separated from his mother, who is currently seeing a local shop owner. Rille and his brother have a strong dislike for him, and barely talk to him, causing a rift between them and their mother. His dad comes back for a while, he lets them drive, there’s an argument, end of film.


It’s a film that sorely lacks any really feeling of emotion, and the actors do little to portray that there should be an emotional involvement anyway. As for the fact of the movie’s title, this film has very little to do with ping pong, which boggles my mind to be perfectly honest. There are a few nice moments, but for the most part there is little entertainment value in this film.

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What is nice about the film is that the direction and cinematography are fantastic, there’s no denying it, Being able to do so much with a country with a whole lot of white is pretty damn good. Unfortunately, that’s the only redeeming feature.

Fear(s) Of the Dark

Coming highly recommended by Guillermo Del Toro, Fear(s) of the Dark is a collection of black and white animation creations from a few different artists. The film explores fears and worries that the filmmakers obviously have in their own lives. These include getting lost in a strange dark house and getting locked inside, spiders, dog rape, plus dead spirits of samurai murderers coming back to life and inhabiting your body and killing your family and insects. An interesting line up, it has to be said.

While the film does try hard to use the tools at its disposal to scare the audience, it doesn’t do it very well. At one point I almost fell asleep, which is kind of the opposite effect. Still, much can be said for the animation, which uses various styles to portray different fears. Again, this isn’t much of a redeeming feature to hold an entire movie together, and it really doesn’t.

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Gloss: The Director’s Cut

I really didn’t know what to expect walking in, but I didn’t expect what I received. The basic story is that Galya, a pretty, young girl from a coal-mining town goes to Moscow with dreams of becoming a supermodel. Along the way she meets an interesting array of people, most of whom are, for lack of a better word, arseholes.

Of course this could be the film’s purpose or point, but while it does take a slightly satirical look at the fashion industry, it also glamourises the attitudes and actions taken by said arseholes within. At one point, Galya becomes a pimp and has a nice conversation over dinner about how many girls she has sold, and how much money she has made. Hurrah!

Bluntly, it’s hard to tell whether the film was taking a jab at the industry or congratulating it.

Still, putting that to the side for now, the rest of the film isn’t much better. The narrative goes off on random tangents, and instead of following the main character of the story, we see other characters doing things that have no relevance whatsoever. And just when you think, right at the end when Galya might really look at the situation she is in and say “No, this is a horrible life and I don’t want it”, they actually have a scene where she waves at her former self, waving goodbye to her old life in order to live a superficial one. Awful, awful tripe.

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The saying ‘Save the best for last’, would never work in this article, as the best experience of a bad film often means the film was terrible. That couldn’t be truer of this showing of Spike.Let me set the scene. You run to the filmhouse for a showing of a horror film, you think is going to be a little trashy, but at least inventive, maybe enough for three stars. Surprisingly enough, the director is here and he tells the audience how good it is to have a receptive crowd for this, the world premiere of his film. He also mentions that he’ll be available for a Q and A afterwards. How nice, you think, as you settle down to enjoy the film.

What follows next should go along these lines. The film starts; the kids get lost in the woods and attacked by the monster, Spike. Then, they all get picked off and we learn some sort of twist towards the end. Not a radical idea, but one that is surely a winner.

Instead what we are given is this. The kids get lost in the woods and attacked by the monster, Spike. Then, one of the four runs off to find another of the four who was captured, and the other two stay behind to argue. She catches up to Spike, and for 20 minutes or so they exchange no words, but Spike heals a snake bite she got clambering through the woods, and offers her some new clothes. Strange, you think, maybe he’s actually a good guy and there’s another baddie lurking in the woods, great!

Oh no, it turns out that she’s known him since childhood! And the entire rest of the film is him begging her to stay with poetry.


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This is not only my sentiment, as at the moment this was revealed, about half the audience either sighed, moaned or whispered ‘What?!’ to the person beside them. The film goes on for another hour and then he ends up killing her with a hug anyway, so what’s the point?

So, let me set the scene as the end credits begin to roll. Silence. This is the quietest I’ve ever heard a cinema, sitting in disbelief. Usually common courtesy gives way and people begin to clap. A minute has gone by and no-one has moved or done anything. Then someone up the back finally lets out a big sigh and gives a pity clap. A few seconds of clapping and in a minute the room has almost entirely emptied of people. I was one of the last out, and looking back at the room, eight people were left for the Q and A. I have never felt sorrier for anyone in my entire life. The film was dreadful, and is in line for taking the crown from The Edge of Terror as the worst film I have ever seen in my entire life.