02nd Aug2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Harpoon’ & ‘Riot Girls’ Review

by Phil Wheat

As our Fantasia Fest coverage winds down, here’s a double-bill of two new films from actor Munro Chambers, who came to prominence back in 2015 with a little film called Turbo Kid. His latest films see the actor embrace both ends of the character spectrum: hero and villain. Or do they?

HARPOON

Stars: Munro Chambers, Christopher Gray, Emily Tyra | Written and Directed by Rob Grant

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Wealthy Richard (Christopher Gray) is prone to fits of violent anger, particularly when he believes his girlfriend Sasha (Emily Tyra) is cheating on him with his best friend Jonah (Munro Chambers) — who’s been having worse luck than even his Biblical namesake. Once they reassure him that his fears are unfounded, Richard invites Sasha and Jonah on an excursion aboard his yacht The Naughty Buoy to make amends. What starts out as a pleasure cruise becomes a fateful trip when festering suspicions and resentments bubble to the surface, and the trio become stranded on the open sea with a dead motor, extremely limited food and water, and one of them grievously injured.

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and the [bizarrely] true story of Richard Parker and the cannibalistic death he suffered at the hands of his crew mates after the sinking of the Mignonette, which also inspired the name of the tiger in Life of Pi(!), Harpoon is a three-character play wrote big on the screen, one that forces its performers to carry the tale through the lulls, the quiet moments and the tension… And there’s plenty of tension. There’s also a lot of VERY black comedy! The kind of black comedy that makes the situation within seem even bleaker, even nastier and even funnier. So sardonic is this film, it’s hard to believe it was made by an American! I joke of course, writer/director Rob Grant is Canadian!

But this film is not all laughs. Harpoon actually gets grimer and nastier the longer it goes on as writer/director Rob Grant unspools his film slowly and with purpose until it reaches a crescendo of violence, ultimately ending on blackest of black comedy notes – and one that, honestly, is the only fair outcome for this tale of misery masquerading as happiness. Thankfully leads Munro Chambers (giving THE standout performance of the film), Christopher Gray and Emily Tyra carry off this story with aplomb, really getting their teeth into their respective roles and bringing out the [eventual] nuances of the characters and the fractured realtionship between the trio.

**** 4/5

Harpoon screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival on Saturday July 27th.

RIOT GIRLS

Stars: Alexandre Bourgeois, Munro Chambers, Ajay Friese, Madison Iseman, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Evan Marsh, Jenny Raven | Written by Katherine Collins | Directed by Jovanka Vuckovic

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In an alternate 1995, a mysterious disease has wiped out all of the adults… When Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois) is captured by a rival gang led by the devious jock Jeremy (Munro Chambers), his sister Nat, her friend Scratch and the lovable new member of the community Sony (Ajay Friese) set out to save him. The three young punks now must brave enemy territory and face off against an armed-to-the-teeth squadron of fascist jocks sporting letterman jackets and a whole lot of squarehead hatred.

Jovanka Vuckovic has made quite a name for herself in the horror community, from former editor of Rue Morgue Magazine to short film director, to part of the all-female horror anthology XX. With Riot Girls she takes her first steps into full-length features and, surprisingly, she doesn’t take the reins of another horror flick, instead turning her hand to a fantasy film that has echoes of horror but takes its cue from the Young Adult novels that inspired the likes of The Hunger Games and the Divergent series.

Riot Girls starts off with a bang, with characters introduced via freeze frame and comic book panel stylings – all of which are pure short hand for delivering swift characterisation, for the film itself leaves little time for it. Instead Vuckovic’s story focuses more on the rescue mission, the territory crossing adventures of Nat, Scratch and co. Unfortunately for writer Katherine Collins and director Jovanka Vuckovic Munro Chambers’s OTHER “teens in a post-apocalyptic future” film, Turbo Kid, told this story in a much more fun and interesting way.

Vuckovic’s film – despite some stunning early scenes – eventually falls flat, turning into something of a clone of a myriad of other “heroic teen” movies with a distinct lack of jeopardy for anyone involved, even with the number of psychos and killer teens roaming the land. Which means the audience, ultimately, loses interest in this films players and the game.

**½  2.5/5

Riot Girls screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival on Sunday 28th July.

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