With this article my 2022 first in-person coverage of TIFF ends. What better way to end than with two Midnight Madness flicks? It was a terrific festival overall, and I’m delighted that I get to talk about two very inventive films. While very different, Project Wolf Hunting and Eleanor Will Never Die both remembered me, again, why I love movies so much. One is a bloody thrill ride and the other, is a charming ode to movie-making. Thanks as always for reading!
Project Wolf Hunting (Kim Hong-sun)
Project Wolf Hunting was truly a bloody, bloody blast. There were a lot of elements that reminded me of different action and thrillers we have seen in the past, and yet it felt new and fresh, and intensely entertaining.
Written and directed by Kim Hong-sun, this is a film that despite being two hours, barely lets itself up for air. For a film such as this it really only struggles with some pacing (and for some, too much violence) but, you really get what you came for. If, what you came for was a lot of blood and carnage.
A group of dangerous prisoners is being transferred on a cargo ship after the first attempt goes awry, from the Philippines to South Korea. Of course, the inmates and the cops escorting them (along with a doctor and nurse) are on opposite sides, but when another party is entered into the equation, what happens then?
On the open seas, it’s a battle of guards versus inmates versus… a scientifically enhanced individual who was being secretly transported. And he’s one that has no discrimination, no agenda, except to kill. There’s a sprawling cast (including Jung So-min, Jang Dong-yoon, Seo In-guk, Sung Dong-iland Park Ho San, and many more) and no one is safe. The film manages to evade your expectations a lot, and the suspense of what’s going to happen and how such a force will be stopped is quite a ride.
This is truly a grisly order. Project Wolf Hunting you have no qualms about brutally killing someone you thought would make it to the end. it’s like with Air by water, but with more grit and gore. As one of the most consistently bloody endeavors, it’s got an enormous body count. There’s an interesting underlying narrative about a secret part of the government and the tests they are doing to prolong human life that adds in the science-fiction part of this genre mashup.
With an assortment of personalities, motives, and backstories, Project Wolf Hunting is pure pandemonium, unleashing a “monster” into an already brutal rivalry, with some fantastic special FX and fight choreography, undoubtedly incurring physical reactions from most viewers. For some, this may seem like just a chaotic sequence of killings, but there’s a certain charm and narrative distinction that makes Project Wolf Hunting more than that.
It’s full of splatters, disgusting moments, and absurdity. This film is inventive and extravagant, but nonetheless Project Wolf Hunting is sheer bloody entertainment. A wildly engaging nightmare on the sea.
Project Wolf Hunting will be in theaters in the United States on October 7th.
Leonor Will Never Die (Martika Ramirez Escobar)
Eleanor Will Never Die turned out to be a lovely surprise. It’s in the Midnight Madness section, and I understand it because the movie is a quirky, fantastical dream machine. At the end of the day though, what really stuck with me was the love letter to film at the heart of it. It’s a moving story, and that’s what makes the moments of silly nostalgia feel sincere.
Eleanor (Sheila Francisco) is a retired filmmaker in the Philippines struggling to make ends meet. She’s lost one son Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon) who frequently appears as a ghost to many characters (another way this movie pushes the envelope) and lives with her son Rudie (Bong Cabrera). He is especially concerned and pushes her to get her bills paid. As she’s considering finishing an old screenplay, a freak accident has a TV hitting her in the head and Leonor slips into a coma. There the fantasy and magical realism begin as she enters her story and is a part of the narrative as she completes it. As it continues some aspects become quite unbelievable as editors step in, and shots are redone, but when you’re in the head of the creator, is there anything that can’t be done?
It’s very meta and is decidedly unapologetic about being as weird as it wants. The throwback feels and the music was such a delight. The love of 80’s action films really comes through in the handling of the film and makes for a kooky, sometimes bumpy journey. Once Leonor was in her screenplay it really enveloped me and I had a lot of fun. It was the perfect final film to end the festival with because I could feel the joy and feeling put into it.
Is it perfect? No. But, Eleanor Will Never Die is lovingly crafted. The purity of imagination and the power of that comes through and feels inspirational. Throw in a piece of nice music and dance number at the end, and this is really charming, embrace of a film.
That’s it for this year’s TIFF, I can’t wait to get back and cover more!
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