Celluloid Diaries: April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BIFFF 2010 - 28th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival

I gave an introduction to several movies at the 28th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) in April. It was also an opportunity to do TV interviews, to reunite with friends, to watch movies, and to sip After Liquid Chocolate Liqueur in the VIP bar.

Here are the films I got to see. What do you think are the best BIFFF moments?

BIFFF 2010

The Fourth Kind claims to be a re-enactment of actual alien abduction cases which occurred in the northern Alaskan town of Nome. The film uses split screen techniques to show actress Milla Jovovich playing out specific situations alongside supposed documentary footage. The movie is intriguing as long as you believe that the documentary parts might be real, but once the story becomes farfetched the creepy atmosphere in the vein of The Mothman Prophecies dies out.

An entertaining mix between CubeSaw and Home Alone. A burglar breaks into a chic mansion that has been turned into a lethal trap: machetes are sweeping through the air, knives are swinging from the chandeliers, and a murderer is lurking somewhere in the shadows. Best scene: the one with the cat.

Survival of the Dead has some good ideas, but George Romero brings nothing new to the genre. If you like his previous zombie movies (especially the latter ones), the might like Survival of the Dead as well.


I can understand why this movie gets so many awards at other fantastic film festivals and why Entertainment Weekly classified it among the 25 best zombie movies of all time. It's intriguing, fast-moving and higly original.

Daybreakers is so original that it reinvents the horror genre, but I never really got into the movie. From the Spierig Brothers (Undead).

I was a little suspicious about this fairy tale from director Neil Jordan, but I found myself being captivated by its beauty. Alicja Bachleda-Curus is perfect as the selkie.

Patrick Van Hauwaert and Koen Wijnants

The Human Centipede started as silly but entertaining and ended up as one of the most disgusting movies I've ever seen (even though everything is suggested instead of shown). These words are often used to describe almost any gore flick, but this was the first film where I felt nauseous watching it. The sequel to The Human Centipede is already in the making.

Another romantic film at the BIFFF. This time it's about a nifty, little gadget that can predict the day you will meet the love of your life and what you do when the timer of the person you fall in love with isn't indicating the same date. Timer is a clever comedy with a very high romance factor. Very much recommened for everyone who's into this type of film.

I have to admit that I've only watched half of this boring Dario Argento film about a serial killer. What happened to the Argento of CreepersTrauma and The Stendhal Syndrome?

Lance Henriksen

My friends found this Faust-like film too slow-paced and most of them even left before it was finished. I liked it though, especially the mysterious atmosphere, the look of the demons, and Jim Sturgess' touching performance.

Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre is a slasher film from Iceland about a family of whalers that kills whale watchers instead of whales. The idea for the movie is hilarious, but director Julius Kemp doesn't take advantage of the setting and the premise with the result that the film becomes nothing more than an ordinary slasher.

A bloodthirsty monster terrorizes a poor family and its neighbours. All the elements are there to make a fun horror movie (monsters, witchcraft, black magic, an original social-realist setting), but we never really get to care for the characters and the story.

Vanessa Morgan

A deeply religious catholic priest turns into a vampire. I loved Park Chan-Wook's Sympathy For Mr. VengeanceOld Boy and Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, but my mind just kept wandering off while watching Thirst.

Valhalla Rising

Slow-moving actors, hardly any dialogue, misty images... Some people call this film hypnotic and overwhelmingly beautiful, others call it painfully boring and meaningless. Even though I have to admit that the images are gorgeous, that the atmopshere is dreamy and that there are several layers to the story, it's still a bit of a drag to sit through.


Very entertaining paint-by-numbers film about an orphan who manipulates her new family. The twist ending makes Orphan stand out. Winner of the BIFFF 2010.

Stephane Halleux

Several inhabitants of an apartment building commit suicide in this Korean film about possession and black magic. Nothing special.

Life And Death Of A Porno Gang

It looks like Serbian films are the new fad in today's horror cinema. I missed the best and most violent one at the BIFFF (A Serbian Film), but I had the chance to see the less stylish Life and Death of a Porno Gang. The first half of the film is pornography, the second half is about Serbians decapitating people with chainsaws. Weirdly enough, both A Serbian Film and Life and Death of a Porno Gang are about porn stars making snuff movies. It's common knowledge that the porn industry is very much alive in Serbia; who knows what else they are doing over there.

When Michael Winterbottom makes a film, we just know it's going to be good. This story about a killer who thinks he's clever in hiding the traces of his murders but who's actually the talk of the town, is no exception to his talent. With Casey Affleck, Elias Koteas, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson and Bill Pullman.

Tour & Taxis


Fake documentary about the vampire community in Belgium. Vincent Lannoo takes place behind the camera and comes up with some very funny ideas... and some really annoying ones. The result is an unbalanced film that moves way too slow to be good.

I expected something more twisted from this remake of the 1973 George Romero classic about a biological weapon that turns the inhabitants of a small, American town into crazy, murderous people.Not really bad, but not good either.

Evil - In the Time of Heroes

The Greek zombie film Evil / To Kako was an immediate cult hit, even though it was extremely low budget. As the finances for the sequel Evil - In the Time of Heroes increased, the quality of the film improved as well. Some of the scenes look as if Guy Ritchie was behind the camera, but not the whole film is on the same level. Just the fact that the movie takes place in modern-day Athens, makes Evil - In the Time of Heroes worth watching.

Thierry Phlips

What a brilliant movie this was! Everything was perfect about it. It reminded me a lot of the French movie Un prophète, but Celda 211 was more engaging than the latter. The movie received 8 Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscars) and a reward from the thriller jury at BIFFF.

The Detour

I was hoping to find at least one good idea in The Detour - just one would have been enough - but all I got was a succession of clichés. The premise looked engaging though: a young couple takes a detour and ends up in the woods where a crazy family has installed dozens of surveillance cameras with the idea of tracking their human prey.

The closing film of the 28th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival pokes fun at the comic book superheroes. It's impossible not to laugh with Kick-Ass, although it doesn't deserve the buzz it currently gets. Based on Mark Millar's comic book series.

Special thanks to Patrick and Nadine from the RAZOR REEL FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL (RRFFF) for the pictures.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Top 10 Favorite Moments in Lisbon

favorite moments in lisbon

So, I just figured I could use a blog once in a while to post pictures and reviews of my trips, visits to film festivals, etc. I just came back from a trip to Lisbon, so this week is a good one to start posting.

My top 10 favorite moments in Lisbon...

Strolling through the Alfama

One of the particularities about the Alfama is the smell of grilled sardines wafting its way through the meandering streets. I loved strolling through those local, charming roads and discovering places such as the Casa dos Bicos, the Miradouro de Santa Luzia and the castle of São Jorge.

alfama lisbon

I could oversee the Alfama and the Tagus from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, located near the access road up to the Castelo de São Jorge.

miradouro de santa luzia lisbon

The beautiful Castelo de São Jorge was built around the 10th century by the Moors as a means of defense and is now one of the best viewing points in Lisbon.

castelo de são jorge lisbon

Dining in Mouraria

I stayed in an apartment in Mouraria, a picturesque and multi-racial part of Lisbon just outside of the Alfama district. The view from my kitchen was amazing as it overlooked the entire city.


In front of my apartment was the restaurant São Cristó Vão, a favorite place among locals where you can choose between Portuguese and African food. The restaurant was tiny and simple and the atmosphere addictively local. It was also very cheap: no more than 7 euros for a main dish and only 1 euro for a pint of beer. São Cristovão, Rua de São Cristovão 28-30, Mouraria, Lisbon.

Shopping in the Baixa

The Praça da Figueira was only a few minutes away from the apartment. The square led to the bustling Rua Augusta where street sellers touted souvenirs, drinks, and snacks.

praça da figueira

At the end of the Rua Augusta, I drifted through the Arco Triunfal archway into the airy, neo-classical Praça de Comércio, a large square on the bank of the Tagus (Tejo) featuring the statue of king Dom José I.

arco triunfal lisbon

Discovering Belém

I took the bus 714 at the Praça da Figueira to go to Belém. During the ride of half an hour along the Tagus, the only attraction was the Ponte de 25 de Abril, a huge bridge which name refers to the day the revolution broke out in Portugal.

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) of Belém was first erected in 1940 for display during the Portuguese World Exhibition. Its final version was completed in 1960 for the celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. An elevator took me to the top of the monument where I could oversee Belém, the Cristo Rei statue, and the tiling in front of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos depicting Portugal's Golden Age of Discovery.

monument to the discoveries

The Torre de Belém appeared small from a distance but seemed huge once I had to climb all the watchtowers, battlements and arrow slits. It was originally built on a small islet in the middle of the Tagus, but the earthquake and flood of 1755 made it shift so it is now on the bank.

torre de belem lisbon

Taking the funicular in the Bairro Alto

Because Lisbon is built on seven hills, there are several funiculars that take you to the top or the bottom of those hills. The yellow funicular Elevador da Bica was certainly the most charming one.

funicular bairro alto lisbon

Admiring the Elevador de Santa Justa

I'll probably never tire of the Elevador de Santa Justa, so I was lucky that my apartment was close to this cast iron elevator (I could even see it from the balcony in my kitchen). It bridges the differences in height between the Baixa district and the Bairro Alto. The Convento do Carmo, next to the upper exit of the Elevador de Santa Justa, was also worth visiting.

elevador de santa justa lisbon

Exploring the Jardim Zoológico (Lisbon Zoo)

No city trip could ever be complete without a visit to the local zoo. The decorations of the Jardim Zoológico reminded me a lot of those from the Barcelona Zoo. Apparently, there's a funicular that takes you round the zoo and keeps you hanging just above the lions. Unfortunately, the funicular was closed when I visited the Jardim Zoológico.

jardim zoológico lisbon

Sipping Ginjinha in the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão

I loved sitting beside the Rua das Portas de Santo Antão in the thin spring sunshine and sipping Ginjinha as an apéritif. For those of you who wouldn't know, Ginjinha is the famous Portuguese cherry liquor. The Rossio district is well-known for its tiny bars that specialize in this delicious drink.

rua das portas de santo antao lisbon
rua das portas de santo antao

Sunbathing in Cascais

Cascais sells itself on its image of yachts swaying gently in the harbor, champagne on the terraces, and sports cars speeding across the coastal road.

I was shown the best places in Cascais: the Praia do Guincho beach, the Museu Conde de Castro Guimarães, the Farol de Santa Maria, the Casa da Guia (a complex on the beach with bars and restaurants) and the restaurant A Carvoaria, known for Portugal's juiciest steaks (if you want to know what the spiciest sauce ever tastes like, try the Devil Hot Ostrich at your own risk).