Far Out Films from the Far East Invade Gateway
Have you found yourself on a bus with uniform-clad school children headed to a blood match? Has that shadowy corner of your ceiling begun unfurling tangled black locks? Do decomposing children climb from your TV and crawl toward you? If so, you may indeed be inside an Asian Extreme film.
You, by the way, are undoubtedly doomed.
For the rest of us, though, we can safely take in the best of one continent’s horror/action/thriller output simply by attending Asia Extreme, a film festival running from Thursday, August 8, to Tuesday, August 13 at the Gateway Film Center (1550 N. High Street).
Why this particular focus? According to the Gateway press release, it’s because, “Asian filmmakers have been pushing the boundaries of style and substance with works of stunning originality for decades.”
Says Chris Hamel, Gateway president, Asia Extreme may be the largest festival of its kind in Central Ohio. “There are 25 awesome films in this series. We really tried to group these together by country, director, genre, but most of all we just wanted to present great, influential films.”
The program boasts premiers, favorites, and the rare opportunity to take in Chan-wook Park’s complete Vengeance Trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance.
“Personally,” says Hamel, “I want to see the Vengeance Trilogy on the big screen with a crowd and a beer. That is going to be amazing.”
Local filmmaker and festival co-curator Jason Tostevin agrees.
“I am a huge fan of the Vengeance Trilogy, and to watch them all together on the big screen is a big deal,” he says. “I think Oldboy is accessible, and quintessential to the Asia extreme experience. I’m really excited about that. And they can see it before the remake comes out in November.”
Tostevin won the Gateway’s Homemade Horror Short Film Festival in 2012, and has been a theater mainstay since. He met with Hamel earlier this year to pull together a tentative lineup, and Gateway promises the finished product will “freak you out, flip your lid, and shock your sensibilities.”
It’s been a long love affair for Hamel.
“In the early 90’s, when I was really getting into film, one of my close friends, Melissa Starker, told me to watch The Bride with White Hair. While the film is more fantasy than horror, it opened my eyes to what was going on in the Asian film market and I wanted to see more.”
Tostevin, another longtime fan of the genre, agrees.
“I’m a horror guy,” he says, “and I don’t know if you can be a horror person and not know about these movies.” Like Hamel, Tostevin discovered the films through word of mouth from like-minded, movie loving friends.
“That’s how I found Battle Royale and all those originals,” he says. “These are rip-roaring films. There is shock and gore here, but there is also some of the most beautiful film craft of the last 30 years.”
The final list samples the explosive, boundary-pushing best from the continent. The series runs the gamut, from infamous genre mainstays like Battle Royale and House, to films that inspired American remakes – Ringu, Shutter, Ju-On: The Grudge, Oldboy – to premiers.
“We were able to secure several US premieres and no less than 15 films making their big screen debut in Columbus,” says Hamel. “That is exciting for our city.”
A deep dive into several of the best-regarded filmmakers rounds out the program. Alongside the trio from Park, Asia Extreme programming shares two from Joon-ho Bong (Mother, The Host), and three from Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil, Doomsday Book).
“I am a huge, huge fan of I Saw the Devil,” says Tostevin, who’s also excited for the Midwest premier of Doomsday Book. “I have never seen Doomsday Book, which won the top prize at Fantasia – the premier genre festival – last year.”
For Hamel, Asia Extreme is the fruition of a years-long goal.
“I decided back then that if I ever had my own venue, I would do something that featured the best of Asian action and horror in a movie theater, which is the way these films were intended to be watched,” he says. “Asia Extreme is the realization of that goal.”
The full line up:
Thursday, August 8
7:30 PM BLOOD C: THE LAST DARK (2012)
10:30 PM BATTLE ROYALE (2000)
12:00 AM HOUSE (1977)
Friday, August 9
1:30 PM MOTHER (2009)
4:30 PM I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)
7:30 PM DOOMSDAY BOOK (2012)
10:30 PM A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003)
12:00 AM THE HOST (2006)
Saturday, August 10
1:30 PM RINGU (1998)
4:30 PM JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002)
7:30 PM HORROR STORIES (2013)
10:30 PM IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT (2013)
12:00 AM THE SLIT MOUTHED WOMAN (2006)
Sunday, August 11
1:30 PM SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002)
4:30 PM OLDBOY (2003)
7:30 PM LADY VENGEANCE (2006)
10:30 PM THE RED SHOES (2006)
Monday, August 12
1:30 PM PULSE (2001)
4:30 PM SHUTTER (2004)
7:30 PM BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (2010)
10:30 PM THIS GIRL IS BAD-ASS!! (2012)
Tuesday, August 13
1:30 PM ELECTION (2005)
4:30 PM WHISPERING CORRIDORS (1998)
7:30 PM MEMENTO MORI (1999)
10:30 PM WISHING STAIRS (2003)
For tickets and information, visit www.gatewayfilmcenter.com.
Note/Disclaimer: Hope Madden served as co-curator for Asia Extreme and is an unrepentant, incurable fan of the genre.
A full slate of movie reviews is available on my website www.maddwolf.com.